Within the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his life and the incredible stories of many of his companions, the sahaba, stood the test of time and inspired Muslims throughout history. For the women around the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the sahabiyat, especially, their bravery, piety, knowledge and strength remain reflected in the characters and hearts of the young Muslim women today and the legacy future generations will also carry.
Being a man of the highest conduct and noblest character, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), was blessed with many sahaba (companions) who pledged their loyalty to him and assisted him during his journey of prophethood. Rich and poor, young and old, the Sahaba came from all different walks of life, united in their dedication and belief in Allah (SWT).
Among the greatest of sabaha also included the women near and dear to the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) – his wives, his daughters, his mother figures and all those who fought for and sought to be the most knowledgeable in Islam and its teachings. In honour of these great women, this article highlights ten of the many inspiring sahabiyat (female companions) who went above and beyond in serving their community and were revered as exemplar Muslims, among both women and men.
1. Fatima bint Muhammad
Fatima bint Muhammad was a woman highest in knowledge, purity, patience and piety. Following the example of her parents, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and Khadijah (RA), her resilience towards the worldly hardships her family endured and her continued adherence to simplicity and asceticism for the sake of Allah (SWT) earnt her a place as the leader of all believing women in Jannah. For her courage and noble character, she is an ideal example for not just Muslim women, but indeed for all Muslims.
2. Aisha bint Abu Bakr
Scholarly and inquisitive, Aisha bint Abu Bakr was considered one of the greatest teachers of her time. As the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), she continued to carry on his message 44 years after his death, narrating 2210 hadiths on matters not only related to his private life, but also on topics such as inheritance, pilgrimage, and eschatology. In addition to her depth of understanding of Islam and the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), she was highly praised by early luminaries for her intellect and knowledge in other reputable fields, including poetry and medicine.
3. Umm Salama
Noble at birth, learned, wise and skilful, Hind bint Abi Umayya – better known as Umm Salamah – was one of the earliest converts to Islam. Being one of the first Muslims, she battled the taunts from the people of her home city and even left her home twice to seek religious freedom, being among those companions who migrated to Abyssinia and to Medina. For her efforts in pursuing the pleasure and reward of Allah (SWT), she became one of the most influential female companions of Muhammad, narrating over 300 hadith and was considered one of the best jurists on Islamic law.
4. Umm ʿAmmarah
An incredible warrior, Nusaybah bint Ka’ab – better known as Umm ʿAmmarah – was honoured for her presence in many great battles fighting for the side of the Muslims. But her most noble deed came in the battle of Uhud, where she ran to the defence of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and took up arms, along with her husband and two sons. That day, while she was gravely injured and wounded, she emerged victorious from batter and would continue fighting for the sake of Islam in many battles to come, unyielding in her duty to protect the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the Ummah.
5. Asma bint Abu Bakr
Bestowed with the title of ‘Dhat an Nitaqayn’ (The Possessor of the two scarves), Asma bint Abu Bakr was vital in the survival of the Prophet (S.A.W.) during his migration from Makkah to Madinah. During the trip, when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and her father, Abu Bakr (RA), concealed themselves in the cave of Thawr for three nights to hide from murderous enemies, Asma provided them with food and water despite the risk. Even when one of their greatest enemies, Abu Jahl, assaulted her for knowledge of where her father and Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were hiding, she kept silent and faced him bravely, unwavering in her resolve to protect them for the sake of Islam.
6. Umm Ayman
Barakah bint Tha’alaba – better known as Umm Ayman – was the only person who knew the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) from his birth up until his death. Initially born in Abyssinian and put up in Makkah as a slave, she was bought by the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) father, Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib, and helped raise the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) after the death of his mother Aminah. She was highly regarded by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as his “mother after my own mother”, and, in addition to being one of the first converts to Islam, remained by his side all throughout his prophethood.
7. Asma bint Umais
Named one of the ”the Believing Sisters” by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Asma bint Umais was among one of the earliest Muslims. She was also among the first group of Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia and spent her honeymoon with her husband, Jafar ibn Abi Talib, in the hardships of travel and emigration to a new land, only for the sake of Allah (SWT). Likewise regarded as a wise and intelligent woman, she became an active teacher within both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities of Abyssinia for fifteen years, before migrating to Medina to rejoin the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
8. Umm Sulaym
One of the earliest women converts to Islam in Medina, Rumaysa bint Milhan – popularly known as Umm Sulaym – was known for her excellent character and her independent attitude of mind. Even though her first husband did not accept Islam, her belief in Allah (SWT) was strong and uncompromising, and thus was able to raise her son as a pious Muslim. For her dedication to her faith and resistance to indulging in worldly riches, Umm Sulaym was a model Muslim, wife and mother.
9. Umm Hakim bint Al-Harith
Umm Hakim bint Al-Harith accepted Islam on the day of the conquest of Makkah despite having been present at the battle of Uhud opposite the Muslims. After unlearning her previous biases, she changed her beliefs with grace, remaining strong in her dedication to Allah (SWT) even after the devastating loss of her husband, brother and father in the battle of Yarmouk. Likewise, when her second husband, Umayyad commander Khalid ibn Said, was martyred on the day of their wedding, she, with her strength of character, single-handedly killed seven Byzantine soldiers who attacked them with a tent pole during the battle of Marj al-Saffar.
10. Asma bint Yazid
A multi-faceted woman, Asmaa bint Yazeed was distinguished for her sagacity and eloquence, and strength of character and wisdom. She joined Muslim armies on several occasions, even accompanying the Prophet on his expedition that led to the fall of Makkah to Islam and participated in the great Battle of Al-Yarmook. In addition to her war efforts, she, one of the best learned of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) female companions, was also a reliable reporter in hadith, with major scholars, such as Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi, relating a total of 81 Hadiths of her reporting.
In briefly visiting the stories of these incredible women, we can hope that we still carry the spirit, generosity and bravery of the sahabiyat – the female companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) – in us, as we strive forward in our lives, both as Muslims and members of the community.