Barakah: A Remarkable African Muslim Woman

Habeeba Husain

 

She was one of the first people to accept Islam. She was the first person to hold the Prophet Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) in her hands. She was a Companion who remained by his side from cradle to grave. She was a solace for his mother. She was a devoted adherent to the faith. She was Barakah, later known as Umm Ayman.

The Prophet (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) called Barakah ummah, or mother. She was the mother after his mother. He respected her to the utmost degree and treated her with love, care, and affection. On many occasions, he would excitedly greet her, “Ya Umm Ayman, ya Ummi! [Oh Mother of Ayman, oh my mother!] Indeed for you is a place in Paradise!” He encouraged the Companions to marry her, even though at the time she was a fifty-year-old widow, “Should one of you desire to marry a woman from the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman.” A young Companion named Zayd ibn Harithah complied and married her.

Brought to Arabia as a young Abyssinian girl, Barakah was a servant in the home of Abdullah, the son of Abd al-Muttalib—the future father and grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him). Upon Abdullah’s marriage to Aminah, Barakah was sent to take care of the affairs of the new couple. Soon after marriage, Abdullah needed to embark on a journey with a caravan, and Aminah grew very sad about living away from her husband. In her most lonely days, she confided in Barakah, who provided her comfort and solace regarding the hardships and heartaches she endured without Abdullah at her side.

During her husband’s journey, Aminah learned she was pregnant after having a dream. This dream showed light emanating from her abdomen and illuminating the lands in and around Makkah. After Aminah relayed this dream to Barakah, she was told she will deliver a blessed child. That child would end up being Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him). But before his birth, Aminah received tragic news of Abdullah’s death. Barakah did her best to console Aminah, and eventually helped her deliver her baby. Bakarah was the first person to ever touch the Messenger of God (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him), as she held the newborn and placed him in the hands of his mother.

When Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) was six, Aminah was determined to visit the grave of Abdullah, even though it meant trekking on a journey of about ten days through the desert with her child. Barakah accompanied her, and for most of the travel, the young Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) slept with his arms around Barakah’s neck. She was a woman who brought such comfort to both Aminah and her beloved son (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him).

The three successfully made it to Yathrib, where Abdullah’s grave was. While Aminah visited the gravesite, Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) spent time with the maternal side of his family who lived nearby. They soon set out to return to Makkah, but the journey back would prove more difficult. Aminah fell ill with a very high fever. She knew her life was coming to an end and told Barakah, “Be a mother to him, Barakah. And don’t ever leave him.”

Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) tearfully clung to his mother, who soon passed. Barakah also wept, digging Aminah’s grave with her own two hands and laid her to rest. The two then continued their journey back to Makkah, where the future Prophet (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) was taken to live with his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib. Within a couple years, Abd al-Muttalib also died, and Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) lived with his uncle Abu Talib until he married Khadija. In each of his homes, Barakah stayed with him, just as his mother requested.

After Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) and Khadija married, Barakah married Ubayd ibn Zayd and gave birth to a son, Ayman. Thus, she was known as Umm Ayman. Her husband unfortunately also passed away. Later in her life, she married Zayd ibn Harithah, as mentioned earlier. Their son Usamah grew to be one of the commanding leaders of the Muslim army and the youngest general to be appointed by the Prophet (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him).

It is important to note that Umm Ayman was one of the first Black Muslim women in Islam, and she played a key role in the life of the Prophet (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him). He respected and honored her like his own mother, as she was his caretaker. She was even given the glad tidings of Paradise! Muslims today should also hold her in a high regard, and recognize her race. Unfortunately, because racism still exists in many communities, including the Muslim one, people are quick to pin stereotypes on those unlike themselves. We forget the words of the Prophet (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) from his last sermon, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” To truly live by these words, we need to bury the preconceived ill notions we hold of people, and realize they were the building blocks of this religion from the get-go.

Throughout her time in this world, Umm Ayman showed complete selflessness and dedicated her life to caring for the Prophet (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) and his family. She was the one who looked after his mother throughout pregnancy, the loss of a husband, childbirth, and death. She was the one who cared for Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him) as a child who lost his mother and grandfather and the one who supported him as the Messenger of God (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him). She was alongside him in all steps of his blessed life, from even before his birth until after his death.

Source

[1] Companions of the Prophet by Abdul Wahid Hamid

2018-02-20T14:56:26+00:00 February 20th, 2018|African Americans, Muhammad, Notable Muslim Women, Prophet Muhammad|