Barakah, the blessed, the first lady to touch our beloved Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam at the time of his birth.
Barakah was an Ethiopian woman. Just as Bilaal RadiyAllaahu Anhu was a slave, so was Barakah. Bilaal however knew his lineage, his father was ibnu Rabaah. She did not even know her lineage as she was born into slavery. She is just known as Barakah al Habashee and later known as Umm Ayman. At just approximately 10 years old she was bought by ‘Abdullah, the father of Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Salaam. At this time slavery was widespread and very common among Persians, Romans, Arabs. Slaves were public property, they could not free themselves and had nowhere to go as they would always have that stigma of being a slave. But we look at her life and see how Islam has raised someone whom the world thinks nothing of, a slave. It is for this reason that one of the last words of Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam on his death bed was regarding the rights of slaves and of prayer (salaah). So slaves who were bought by merciful masters (as bad as it sounds) had a better chance of being treated well than those who were owned by merciless slave masters.
So Barakah now became a part of the household of ‘Abdullah who later married Aaminah. ‘Abdullah was known for his chastity and generosity and he treated Barakah like his little sister. Aaminah loved her just as much. Some narrations say that Aamina was a teen herself at the time of marriage others say in her early twenties. So she was a little older than Barakah. Nonetheless they were like sisters.
The first night she had spent with her husband, Aaminah saw a dream as though light was emanating from her belly, and it lit up the city of Makkah all the way to Iraq.
So she woke up, and the first person she told? Not her husband but Barakah.
Aaminah said to her: “O Barakah, come here. I’ve seen this dream, it lighted up throughout Makkah all the way to Yathrib and Iraq. What do you think this is?”
And Barakah’s first words were this, she smiled and put her hand on her shoulder saying to her:
“O Aaminah, this is a sign from above the heavens. You have someone important inside of you.”
The first woman to interpret this dream and give good tidings, in fact, the first person on the face of the earth to work out that there is an important man more beloved and more special than anyone on the face of the earth to come out was Barakah.
Barakah was a woman of little words. We know those who are wise and fear Allah and the Last Day are people who speak little but whose actions are more. She had this trait even before she accepted Islam. Now Barakah wasn’t a lady who was very attractive. She wasn’t someone that if you looked at, you would say “Wow” or immediately turn heads. She was however a very optimistic, positive person. And that’s exactly the type of person that Aaminah needed in was to come.
It was Barakah who first held him after Aaminah gave birth to Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam. She wrapped the baby up and gave him to his mother and complimented on his beauty, that he was more beautiful than the moon.
So in between staying at Haleemah RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa and coming for visits to his mother, Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam became extremely fond of Barakah especially when he was returned to his mother in Makkah. It was not long that they were reunited then Aaminah undertook the trip to visit the grave of ‘Abdullah.
At Abwaa’, Aaminah became ill. She realised that her death was near and she called Barakah and said “Yaa Barakah I am about to die. I entrust Muhammad to you. Be to him a mother as I was to him and better, as I know no one better who can carry this role”. Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam saw Barakah cry and he knew something was wrong. He looked at his mother, looked at Barakah, then looked back at his mother, looked back at Barakah and he started to cry.
On the second day, Aaminah called Barakah and asked her to bring Muhammad Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam to her and he saw his mother pass away before his eyes. Barakah began to weep profusely and Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam threw himself on the chest of his mother and said “Ummaah Ummaah” meaning “O mother!” Barakah dug Aaminah’s grave with her own two hands and laid her to rest. And from then on he called Barakah “My mother after my mother”.
Can you imagine this amazing woman who has been chosen to take care of Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam who now had the status mother? Allah Akbar! A slave who was not very attractive, with little standing among the Pre-Islamic Arabs… look at her status!
So Barakah and Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam were like friends but also like a mother to him. She was with him every step of the way. When Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam married Khadeejah RadiyAllaahu anhaa, he introduced her to Barakah. He said “O Khadeejah, she is my mother after my mother”. He then said to Barakah, I am married and you are still unmarried. Its time for you to get married. Khadeejah RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa suggested a good man that she knew in Yathrib. She suggested to spend and pay for everything. She said “How can I get married and leave you? I cannot bear leaving you?” But Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam insisted that it would be better for her.
So Barakah married Ubayd bin Zayd and they had a son whom they named Ayman. But after two years Abu Ayman passed away in a battle and she became a widow and back to the house of Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam she went but this time with a child.
One day Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam was sitting with some of the youth (young Sahaabah). This is after migration (hijrah) to Madeenah. Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam called Umm Ayman in, said something to her in her ear, then she left. Then he asked them “Who wants to marry a woman of Jannah?” All of them put up their hands. Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam said “Good. She is my mother after my mother”. All the hands went down. Only Zaid bin Haarithah (Radiy Allahu anhu) kept his hand up. Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam said “You will marry a woman of Paradise?” Zaid said “No one else but her”. And so they were married and from him she had Usaamah who grew up with the youth at that time.
Ibn Sa’d recorded in his book Tabaqaat:”When Umm Ayman migrated, she spent the evening at an-Nasr that lies before Ar-Rawhaa’. She was thirsty and she had no water. Since she was fasting, and had been weakened by thirst, a container of water with a white rope was sent down to her from the sky. She said: `And I took it and drank it until I was satisfied. I never felt any thirst after that. I had exposed myself to thirst through fasting in hot days but I did not feel thirsty.’
Barakah/Umm Ayman RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa was the first among the slaves to accept Islam. Umm Ayman RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa accompanied Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam in battles and continued to support him. she was with a small group of women who tended the wounded. As some of the Believers began to flee the battlefield when the going was hard, she rebuked them, urging them to go back and fight. Umm Ayman RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa became a widow again when Zayd RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhu was martyred during the Battle of Mutah in Syria. At the battle of Hunayn, she again joined the army, with her two sons fighting alongside Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam. Her older son, Ayman RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhu, was martyred in this battle (other historians say Battle of Khaybar). Usaamah RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhu was appointed commander of an army to march to the border areas of the Byzantine Empire. He was in his mid-twenties others say barely twenty, at the time.
She outlived Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam. She cried bitterly at his death. After the Prophet SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam had passed away, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhumaa visited her, just like Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam used to visit her. They wanted to inquire after her as they knew how Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam cared for her. When they were with her, she cried.
They asked her “Why are you crying at the death of Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam
Why are you crying? What is with Allah is better for His Messenger SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam. She replied “I am not crying at the death of Rasool SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam, I am crying because now there will be no revelations to come from above.” By this statement of hers, she drove them into tears and she started crying again and they cried along with her.
The second occasion on which Umm Ayman RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa cried was when ‘Umar RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhu was martyred while he was standing in prayer. Her crying that day attracted attention. When she was asked about that she said: “Today; Islam has been weakened.”
Barakah RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa lived through the Khilaafah (rule) of Abu Bakr and Umar RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhumaa and passed away during the Khilaafah of Uthmaan RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhu.
We learn from Barakah/Umm Ayman RadiyAllaahu ‘Anhaa:
- She was a person who only spoke what was necessary and that which benefitted.
- She was a person who did not make a show of her good deeds (Riyaa’ ostentation or being boastful doing for show).
- The merit of a person is not based on your colour, or your lineage, or your beauty, nor your wealth.
- In todays time we can say that Barakah RadiyAllaahu Anhaa had everything against her… A servant, dark skinned, a minority in Arabia, no parents, even has no knowledge of who they are, and a widow… but she had a positive attitude and she feared Allah.
- The merit of a person does not have to become known. Meaning, even though she was a pious lady, she was not popular. This does not mean that she was not loved by Allah. People overlooked her. Even today many historians don’t speak often enough of her life. But she was a noble woman in the eyes of Allah.
So for those who think “I am not pretty enough, I am not fair skinned, I don’t have money or status, or I am not popular, or nobody knows who I am or I feel like a nobody”… Remember you are SOMEBODY. Allah honours those He loves with high status in Deen. And by Deen, religion of Islam, I mean our inside and outside. Our relationship with our Creator as well as our relationship with people. Islam a religion of justice, WE NEED to bury the preconceived ill notions we hold of people. “The best among you are those who fear Allah most”. And only Allah is the Ultimate Judge.