Umm Ayman, Baraka

Editor’s note: Muslim societies today are not free from the sickness of racism. The following post introduces a little known character of Islamic history, whose position in the nascent Muslim community serves as a model for race relations in our contemporary society.

Among the early Muslim women of African origin was Umm Ayman.  She was the nanny of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and took care of him from the time of his birth. The Prophet ﷺ in turn loved her and was very kind to her.  Indeed, he used to praise her in front of his Companions.  It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Whoever desires to wed a woman from Paradise, then let him marry Umm Ayman.’  So Zayd bin Haritha married Umm Ayman and she bore him a son, Usama bin Zayd. (Related by Ibn Sa’d.)  And what greater honor is there than being a woman of Paradise!

When Usama bin Zayd was born, the Prophet ﷺ used to love him so much that he was known as ‘the Beloved of the Prophet’!  No wonder, for his father was Zayd bin Haritha, who was so loved by the Prophet ﷺ that he adopted him, until the command was revealed in Qur’an to attribute everyone to their father. And Usama’s mother was Umm Ayman, who was greatly respected and treated as a second mother by the Prophet ﷺ.  We can see this love in the following authentic narration:

وعن عبدِ اللَّهِ بنِ عمرَ رضي اللَّهُ عنهما، قال: ( بَعَثَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بَعْثًا، وَأَمَّرَ عليهِم أُسامةَ بنَ زيدٍ فَطَعَنَ بعضُ النَّاسِ في إمارَتِهِ، فقالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: « أَنْ تَطْعُنُوا فِي إِمَارَتِهِ فَقَدْ كُنْتُمْ تَطْعُنُونَ فِي إِمَارَةِ أَبِيهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ، وَايْمُ اللَّهِ إِنْ كَانَ لَخَلِيقًا لِلْإِمَارَةِ وَإِنْ كَانَ لَمِنْ أَحَبِّ النَّاسِ إِلَيَّ، وَإِنَّ هَذَا لَمِنْ أَحَبِّ النَّاسِ إِلَيَّ بَعْدَهُ» .  رواه البخاري ومسلم.

Narrated ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him and his father):

“The Prophet ﷺ sent an army and appointed Usama bin Zayd as their commander. When some people criticized Usama’s leadership, the Prophet ﷺ said: ‘If you are criticizing Usama’s leadership, then you used to criticize his father’s leadership before. By Allah, he (Zayd) was worthy of leadership and was one of the most beloved persons to me, and now this (i.e. his son, Usama) is among the most beloved to me”  (Bukhari and Muslim).

From Umm Ayman and her family, we see that Islam gives equal status to everyone, and people excel one another by nothing but piety and righteousness.  Indeed, discrimination based on color, race, or gender has no place in Islam.

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسولَ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « المُسْلِمُ أخُو المُسْلِمِ: لا يَظْلِمُهُ، ولا يَخْذُلُهُ ولا يَحْقِرُهُ، التَّقْوَى ههُنَا، التَّقْوَى ههُنَا، ويُشِيرُ إلى صَدْرِهِ، بِحْسبِ امْرِيءٍ مِنَ الشَّرِّ أَنْ يَحْقِرَ أَخَاهُ المُسْلِمَ، كُلُّ المُسْلِمِ عَلَى المُسْلِمِ حَرَامٌ: دَمُهُ، وعِرْضُهُ، ومَالُهُ، إنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَنْظُرُ إلَى أجْسَادِكُمْ، وَلا إلَى صُوَرِكُمْ، وأَعْمَالِكُمْ، ولكِنْ يَنْظُرُإلَى قُلُوبِكُمْ».  رواه البخاري ومسلم.

 

Narrated Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him, nor humiliates him, nor looks down upon him.  Piety is here (and while saying so he pointed towards his chest).  It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim.  All things of a Muslim are prohibited for his brother in faith: his blood, his wealth, and his honor. Verily Allah does not look to your bodies nor to your faces and actions but He looks to your hearts.”  (Bukhari and Muslim).

It is well-known that Bilal, the freed African slave, had great status with the Prophet ﷺ.  And now we learn about Umm Ayman, the African nursemaid of the Prophet ﷺ, who had a similar high regard and status with the Prophet ﷺ. Suffice it to say, these examples serve as important lessons for us today in our interaction with others.

The Most Important Obligation

    عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه، قال: سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: « إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَا يُحَاسَبُ النَّاسُ بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ أَعْمَالِهِمْ: الصلاةُ، قَالَ يَقُولُ رَبُّنَا جَلَّ وَعَزَّ لِمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ: انْظُرُوا فِي صَلَاةِ عَبْدِي أَتَمَّهَا أَمْ نَقَصَهَا، فَإِنْ كَانَتْ تَامَّةً كُتِبَتْ لَهُ تَامَّةً، وَإِنْ كَانَ انْتَقَصَ مِنْهَا شَيْئًا قَالَ: انْظُرُوا هَلْ لِعَبْدِي مِنْ تَطَوُّعٍ، فَإِنْ كَانَ لَهُ تَطَوُّعٌ قَالَ: أَتِمُّوا لِعَبْدِي فَرِيضَتَهُ مِنْ تَطَوُّعِهِ، ثُمَّ تُؤْخَذُ الْأَعْمَالُ عَلَى ذَاكُمْ» .  رواه أبو داود والترمذي والنسائي وأحمد.

Narrated Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say:

“The first thing people will be asked to account for on the Day of Judgment of their deeds is the prayer (Salah).  Our Lord the Exalted says to His angels, even as He knows all: ‘Look into the prayer of My slave: has he performed it fully or has he been negligent.’ If the slave performed the prayer fully, then it will be written for him as complete.  But if he has been negligent, then Allah says to His angels: ‘See if you find any voluntary deed of My slave.’  And if he has voluntary deeds then Allah says: ‘Complete his obligatory prayer with his voluntary deed.’  Then the rest of the deeds will be judged according to that.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Al-Nisa’i, and Ahmad in an authentic narration).

After the shahada (testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad ﷺ is the Messenger of Allah), the second and most important pillar of Islam is the obligatory prayers. Therefore, the first thing the slave will be asked about after death is the Prayer, and the first thing to be accounted for on the Day of Judgment is the Prayer. The Prophet  mentioned that if the Prayer is sound and complete, then the Muslim has achieved success and happiness; but if the prayer is incomplete or lacking and there are no voluntary deeds to compensate for it, then he or she has failed and may be punished–as other deeds are dependent on this great deed.

The nation of Muhammad ﷺ was honored with this great worship five times a day, but it is equal in reward to fifty prayers. It is prescribed at five times only, but its reward and benefit encompass the whole day and night.  And while some angels are always standing, some always kneeling, and some always prostrating, our prayer combines all of those forms of worship.  Moreover, the prayer includes all forms of remembrance (dhikr), such as the Qur’an, glorification, praise, thankfulness, prayer upon the Prophet, and supplication (du’a).  Thus, one simple act is a treasure of reward containing a mine of actions that bring the slave closer to his or her Lord if the Five Daily Prayers are fulfilled according to their right.

The Five Daily Prayers are a time-out from our busy worlds and a chance to remember the real world: the Hereafter.  When we get too involved in worldly affairs and start forgetting about the Hereafter, the Five Daily Prayers remind us of the world to come and bring our attention back to religion.  When we are overcome with problems and troubles of the world, the Five Daily Prayers act as a soothing medicine that soon makes us forget those troubles and focus on more important things to come.  When we are sad and overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of the world, the Five Daily Prayers offer us a direct means of communication with our Lord, and a chance for du’a and supplication.

Despite all of these benefits, many of us are careless about this great worship.  Some perform the Five Daily Prayers only because it is an obligation, with no attention, no reverence, no care, and no love.  Some may neglect the Five Daily Prayers by delaying it, missing it, or forgetting about it altogether.  But according to the hadith, the Five Daily Prayers are either a source of comfort, mercy and reward, or a source of discomfort, punishment, and Hell.  For those who perform it with attention and devotion, the Prayer is a source of comfort and a chance to communicate with the Lord.  But for those who neglect the prayer, then it is a source of discomfort and punishment, both in this world and the Hereafter.

The Muslim should feel the greatness of this worship as he is standing before our Lord, and show his humility and reverence for such a great act. The Muslim should not only look at the Prayer as something she must do, but also as something she loves and longs to do. Indeed, the Prayer offers the Muslim the closest communication with his or her Lord and a great chance to become closer to the Lord of the Universe. If the Muslim performs the Prayer with such devotion and love, then the Prayer becomes a source of comfort and happiness for him in this world, and a source of great reward and Paradise in the Hereafter.  And Allah knows best.

The Foundations of Islam

‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: “Once while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, a man dressed in pure white clothes, with very black hair, without any sign of travel, and whom none of us recognized, appeared before us.  He sat with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. He rested his knees against the knees of the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ, placed his palms on the thighs of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and said:

‘O Muhammad, inform me about Islam.’  The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

‘Islam is to testify that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, to establish the prayer, to pay Zakah (the obligatory charity), to fast the month of Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage to Makkah if you are capable of it.’

The man said: ‘You have said the truth.’  ‘Umar said: We wondered at him, asking him and then confirming it as the truth!

Then the man said: ‘Then inform me about faith (Iman).’  The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

‘It [Iman] is to believe truly in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His messengers, in the Hereafter, and to believe truly in the Divine Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’

The man said: ‘You have said the truth.  Then inform me about Ihsan.’  The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

‘It [Ihsan] is to worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you do not see Him, He, verily, sees you.’

The man said: ‘Then Inform me about the Hour (of the Day of Judgment).’  The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘The one questioned knows no more than the questioner.’   The man said: ‘Tell me some of its indications and signs.’  The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, and that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herders vying with one another in the construction of lofty buildings.’

‘Umar said: Then the man went on his way and I stayed with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ for a long while.  The Messenger of Allah ﷺ then said to me: ‘O ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I replied: Allah and His Messenger know best.’  He said: ‘That was the Angel Gabriel, who came to you in order to instruct you in matters of your religion.’ ”  (Muslim, Abu Dawud,Tirmidhi, Al-Nisa’i, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad).

 

THE scholar Al-Baghawi said: “The Prophet ﷺ defined Islam as a term that describes outer good deeds, and he defined Iman as a term that describes inner beliefs.”

Imam al-Nawawi said: “The scholar Abu ‘Amr Ibn As-Salah said: ‘This hadith states the origin of Iman, and that is inner affirmation and belief; and it states the origin of Islam, and that is outer surrender and submission to Allah. Islam is determined and judged by the outer testimony that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger.  But the Prophet ﷺ added into the [basic] definition of Islam the five daily prayers, Zakah, Hajj, and fasting of Ramadan because these are the most apparent and greatest rituals of Islam.  Thus, complete surrender is achieved by their performance, while leaving them makes submission incomplete or deficient.’”

Al-Mubarakpuri said in his book Mir’at al-Mafatih (a commentary on Mishkat al-Masabih): “The coming of this man happened at the end of the Prophet’s life ﷺ, as indicated by the narration of Ibn Mandah in the Book of Faith.  So this event took place after the revelation of all the rulings of Islam that had been conveyed at different times, to state and summarize the essential points of Islam in one setting to ensure they are preserved and retained.”

Qadi ‘Iyad said: “This hadith contains all the kinds of outer and inner forms of worship, including the conditions of Faith (Iman), outer good deeds performed by the limbs, sincerity of the inner self, and the avoidance of major sins; therefore, all religious knowledge is based on this hadith and branches out from it.”

 

Beginnings

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

“Profit” in common parlance refers to benefit or gain, especially monetary. As a verb, “to profit” is to make a financial gain, but also to benefit, as in: “He greatly profited from his preparation for the exam.”

The analogy of financial benefit (or harm) to other types of benefit has also been used in the Qur’an and in the Hadith. Allah says, for instance:

O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know. He will forgive for you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence. That is the great attainment. (Qur’an, 61:10-12).

And the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

The learned are the heirs of the prophets, and the prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, [but instead] leave only knowledge, and he who takes [this knowledge] takes an abundant portion. (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah).

The aim of this blog is therefore to profit, but in the Prophetic way: through knowledge. The blog aims to ease the following of the Prophetic path by providing relevant and inspiring articles, stories, discussions, and original translations.

We ask Allah for tawfiq.