Umm Sulaym

“Closer than a Family Member”

by Ibn Saleh (Canada)

The Light (UK), August 2011 Issue (pp. 2–3)

She is universally known as Umm (mother of) Sulaym, but scholars differ with regard to her name and her title. She belonged to the Ansar (the Helpers), the Muslims of Madinah, but she accepted Islam well before the immigration of the Prophet [Muhammad] (pbuh) there.

From the moment she became a Muslim, she was keen to propagate Islam. She taught her young son to be a Muslim, and tried with her husband to accept Islam, but he refused. Soon after that he was killed while he was on a journey. A man called Zayd ibn Sahl, and better known as Abu Talha, proposed to her. She recognized that he was a man of good qualities. She told him that he was not one to be rejected, but she could not accept him as long as he remained an unbeliever. She explained to him that his religion of idol worship was without foundation. She said:

“Those deities you worship are statues carved for you by other people. If you put them in a fire, they will burn. How can they be of any benefit to you?”

Apparently, Abu Talha was attracted to her and was keen on marrying her. She kept telling him how ill advised he and his people were to worship such idols. One day, he told her that what she said was sound and that he was seriously considering becoming a Muslim. She said:

“If you accept Islam, then that will be my dowry. I will not ask anything else.”

After their marriage, people said:

“She had the most valuable dowry ever; Islam.”

When the Prophet (pbuh) settled in Madinah, Umm Sulaym gave him her son, Anas ibn Malik, to serve him. Anas was a young lad and he stayed with the Prophet (pbuh) throughout his ten years in Madinah, reporting more than one thousand Hadiths. The Prophet (pbuh) treated both Anas and his mother as family members. Some visitors to Madinah commented:

“We have stayed for sometime in Madinah, thinking that both Umm Sulaym and her son Anas belonged to the Prophet’s (pbuh) family, as we saw them very frequently coming in and out of his homes.”

The Prophet (pbuh) sometimes visited Umm Sulaym at home, having a meal with her family. He would pray for them and they were always delighted to receive him.

Umm Sulaym accompanied the Prophet’s (pbuh) army on several occasions. Her son, Anas, reports:

“During the Battle of Uhud, when people abandoned the battlefield, I saw Aishah, the Prophet’s (pbuh) wife, and Umm Sulaym (may Allah be pleased with them), having rolled up their skirts. I could see the lower parts of their legs. They carried water skins on their backs and poured drinks into people’s mouths.”

She also joined the army in the Battles of Khaibar and Hunayn. In the latter the Prophet (pbuh) noticed that she had a dagger, and he asked her why she had it. She said that she was ready to pierce it in the body of any enemy soldier who came close to her. Scholars have spoken highly of Umm Sulaym. Ibn al-Barr describes her as

“a woman with much wisdom,”

while Al-Nawawi says:

“She was one of the best women companions of the Prophet (pbuh)”.

It is not surprising that she is praised. In fact, she was a very thoughtful woman who tried hard to keep her family happy. Her young stepson was very ill. He then died when her husband was out. When he returned after a long day at work, he asked her how the boy was. She said:

“He is quiet and at peace”.

Then she served him dinner and took care of him for a nice sleep. In the morning she said to him:

“Have you heard of those people who borrowed something from their neighbour and used it for their purposes. When the owners claimed it, they found it hard to give it up.”

He said:

“That is unfair”.

She said:

“Your son was lent to you by God. Now He has claimed him back.”

Abu Talha reported this to the Prophet (pbuh). He commended Umm Sulaym and prayed for the couple:

“May Allah give you all the blessings of your night”.

Umm Sulaym soon gave Abu Talha a son, and he grew up to be a model son and a very good person. (Nur-i-Islam, July 2011)