The honourable women who breastfed Allāh’s Messenger

By Mufti ʻAbd al-Qādir Ḥusayn

Arabian desertBeside the honourable mother of Nabi Muhammad SAW we find that there are four other women who breastfed Nabi Muhammad SAW. Namely: Thuwaybah RA, Halima Sa’diah RA – the most prominent lady to have breastfed Nabi Muahmmad SAW, Khawlah bint Munthir RA and Baraqah Hakunya Agdomin an Umme Aymin – an African woman.

Thuwaybah RA: breastfed Rasulullah SAW for seven days after his birth. Thuwaybah RA was the freed slave of Abu Lahab ibn Abdul Mutallib whom – it is reported – he set free upon hearing of the birth of Rasulullah SAW. Nabi Muhammad’s SAW uncle Hazrat Hamza RA was also nursed by Thuwaybah RA and thus became Rasulullah SAW foster brother. After Nabi Muhammad SAW married Khadijah RA, Thuwaybah RA used to visit him, and Khadijah RA would honour her and be very hospitable towards her. Nabi Muhammad SAW would send her gifts from Madina after the migration, until she died in the year 7 AH. Her son Masrooh RA died before her and he was the son whom she breastfed at the same time as Nabi Muhammad SAW.

Halima Sa’diah RA: On the eighth day after his birth Rasulullah SAW was placed in the care of Halima RA, from the Banu Sa’ad tribe. It was the practice of the Arabs to send their children away to the desert so that they would grow up strong and learn the refined Arabic of the Bedouin tribe. Halima RA found that since Nabi Muhammad SAW had joined her family there was baraqah (blessings) and prosperity in her home. Rasulullah SAW grew up with Halima RA children and often went out with them to tend the sheep and goats. After every six months Halima RA would take Rasulullah SAW back to Makkah to his mother Aaminah RA and to his grandfather Abdul Mutallib.

Khawlah bint Munthir RA

Barakah Umme Ayman RA – was described by Rasulullah SAW as the “mother after my own mother. She is the rest of my family” and was held in very high regard by Nabi Muhammad SAW. She was the first person to hold him in her arms when he was born and the only person who knew him from that point until his death. She was one of the few Muslims who the Prophet assured of a place in Paradise.

“Be a mother to him, Barakah RA. And don’t ever leave him,” Amina RA instructed her about her son as she lay dying. Umm Ayman did not fail in her responsibility.

Her beginnings were more than humble. In her youth, the black Abyssinian girl was put up for sale in Makkah as a slave. In pre-Islamic Arabia, slavery was no shame, and slaves were treated like animals.

But Barakah RA was blessed to be treated with kindness. She was bought by the noble and gentle Abdullah RA, the son of Abdul Muttalib, Nabu Muhammad’s SAW father. Umme Ayman RA not only took care of Abdullah’s affairs as a servant in his home, but after he married Amina RA, she looked after Amina RA also.

It was Umm Ayman RA who slept at the foot of Amina’s RA bed and comforted her when, only two weeks after her wedding, her husband was instructed to leave for that journey to Syria, after which he never came back. It was Umm Ayman RA who took care of Amina RA during her pregnancy.

It was Umm Ayman who gave Amina RA the news of Abdullah’s RA death at Yathrib, what was later to be known as Madinah. As Rasulullah SAW faced tragedy upon tragedy, Umm Ayman RA was there for him. From the time when his mother died when he was six, to when his grandfather Abdul Muttalib died when he was eight, Umm Ayman RA stayed with the Prophet.

It was only after the Nabi Muhammad SAW married Khadija RA that she married Ubayd ibn Zayd RA, on their insistence. They had a son named Ayman, thus her name Umm Ayman.

When Rasulullah SAW received the Prophethood, Umm Ayman RA was among the first Muslims, and like the others, bravely faced the punishments of the Quraish for those who dared to believe in Islam.

During the Battle of Uhud she gave out water to the thirsty soldiers and took care of the wounded. She tied her well-being to that of Islam. During a visit from Rasulullah SAW, he asked: “Ya Umme! Are you well?” and she would reply: “I am well, O Messenger of Allah so long as Islam is.”

Umm Ayman’s RA husband died not very long after their marriage. When she was in about her 50s, Rasulullah SAW, when speaking to his companions said, “Should one of you desire to marry a woman from the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman RA.”

It was Zayd RA who stepped forward and agreed to marry her. They had a son named Usamah who was described as “the beloved son of the beloved.”

She travelled with Nabi Muhammad SAW across the burning desert through sandstorms on foot from Makkah to Madinah. Despite the harshness of the journey she persisted, and was given good news when she reached her destination. Rasulullah SAW said to her, “Ya Umm Ayman! Ya Umme! (O Umm Ayman! O my mother!) Indeed for you is a place in Paradise!”

When Rasulullah SAW passed away she wept profusely. Sayyidina Abu Bakr RA and Sayyidina Umar RA visited her and asked her, “is Nabi Muhammad SAW not gone to a better place?” She replied, “By Allah, I knew that the Messenger of Allah would die but I cry now because the revelation from on high has come to an end for us.” Umm Ayman died when Uthman RA was Khalifa.

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