Umm Sulaim bint Milhan Al-Ansariyyah – Only Syahadah My Mahar
Rumaysa [Ar-Rumaysho’/ Ar-Rumaydho’] bint Milhan, popularly known as Umm Sulaim RA, was one of the earliest women converts to Islam in Yathrib (Madinah). Umm Sulaim was first married to Malik ibn an-Nadr and her son by this marriage was Anas ibn Malik, a notable companion of Rasulullah SAW.
Umm Sulaim RA was noted for her courage and bravery. During the battle of Uhud, she carried a dagger in the folds of her dress, giving water and tending to the wounded and attempting to defend Rasulullah SAW when the tide of battle was turning against him.
Rasulullah SAW said:
“When I entered the Paradise, I heard someone’s footsteps – It was explained to me that she was Ghumiysa’ bint Milhan.(Umm Sulaim RA)
Umm Sulaim RA came from an illustrious family who sacrificed it’s all for Islam. Her son was the famous Companion Anas bin Malik RA and her brother was the eminent Companion Haram bin Milhan.
Umm Sulaim RA first marriage was unhappy; there were constant quarrels between husband and wife because she became a Muslim. Umm Sulaim RA husband, Malik bin Nadr, tried his very best make her recant and give up the new religion to which she had vowed allegiance, but he failed and Umm Sulaim RA remained loyal to her new faith. On the other hand Umm Sulaim RA started persuading her son, Anas Ibn Malik RA as well to convert to Islam,. Her persistence finally paid off, and Anas ibn Malik RA read the words signifying acceptance of Allah as the One Supreme Being and Rasulullah SAW as His Messenger.
There were frequent violent scenes in the house, but Umm Sulaim RA she stood her ground, patiently and calmly. Finally her husband left her and migrated to Syria where he was murdered. The Ansari ladies used to call her Sehlah, Ghumiysa’, Rumiysa’ Ramlah and Sahlah, but finally she came to be known only as Umm Sulaim.
After Umm Sulaim RA husband’s murder in Syria she dedicated her son, Anas Ibn Malik RA to the service of Rasulullah SAW. Anas ibn Malik RA lived the next ten years of his life in his service, and these were the best years of his life. Umm Sulaim RA requested Rasulullah SAW to supplicate to Allah for an increase in knowledge prosperity for him, both in this world and the next. And Allah SWT answered his prayers in ample measure. Anas ibn Malik RA lived to the age of a hundred and three and had eighty children. Anas Ibn Malik RA had a magnificent palace in Basrah and huge beautiful gardens. He was a fastidious man who loved to dress well and dye his hair with henna. Among his sons, many became learned scholars. After his death he became an heir to the gardens of Paradise.
Back to the early years of Umm Sulaim RA in Al-Madinah there was a handsome young man called Abu Talhah, who was the leader of his tribe. He had not yet converted to Islam, but knew that the widow, Umm Sulaim RA had many admirable qualities. Umm Sulaim RA integrity, her loyalty, her courage, all of these appealed to him, and he sent her a proposal of marriage. Umm Sulaim RA said it was not possible because she was a Muslim and he was a disbeliever. When he insisted Umm Sulaim RA asked him what kind of a man he was; sometimes he worshipped trees growing in the earth, at other times he worshipped stone idols which other people carved out. Umm Sulaim RA asked him if he had ever considered how these things could solve his problems when they were themselves helpless.
Following the death of her first husband, Zayd ibn Sahl, known as Abu Talha ibn Thabit, resolved to become engaged to her before anyone else did. Abu Talha ibn Thabit was confident that Umm Sulaim RA would not pass him over for another. Abu Talha ibn Thabit was quite rich, an accomplished horseman, and a skillful archer and he belonged to the same clan as Umm Sulaim, the Banu Najjar. Following Abu Talhah’s acceptance of Islam, the two married and were considered a model Muslim couple. Abu Talhah RA died while he was on a naval expedition during the time of the Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan RA, and was buried at sea.
When Abu Talhah heard these arguments he had no answer. He tried his best to persuade her, but she was adamant. Umm Sulaim RA told him that normally a proposal from a man of his stature would not be rejected, but she was helpless. Umm Sulaim RA dedicated her life to Islam and he was, up to that time, deprived of this great blessing. Finally, he asked her if she would marry him if he converted to Islam. Umm Sulaim RA was very happy at this; she said the Mahar for her would be his acceptance of Islam, and told Anas Ibn Malik RA to arrange for her marriage. Rasulullah SAW often used to visit her and prayed for prosperity and the blessings of Allah for her.
Umm Sulaim RA had a happy second marriage and soon the couple was blessed with a son, Abu ‘Umair. One day Rasulullah SAW visited the house and found Abu ‘Umair looking very dejected. Rasulullah asked why the little boy was upset. Umm Sulaim RA told him that his pet bird, which he loved to play with, had died. Rasulullah SAW caressed him and tried to console him lovingly.
After some time Abu ‘Umair fell sick, and one night his temperature shot up very high and he passed away. Umm Sulaim RA displayed exemplary patience and control. Umm Sulaim RA did not inform anyone or scream and shout in her grief. Umm Sulaim RA did not want to upset her husband when he came home after a hard day’s work. On his return home, he asked her how the child was and she told him he was better than before. Then she served him dinner and chatted with him. When he had enjoyed himself in her company in peace and tranquility, she asked him “whether, if a person entrusted one with something, and then came to claim it, should one return it?” He answered “that certainly one should return it gladly.” Then she took him to the room where the son was lying in a peaceful eternal sleep and said in a trembling voice” that Allah had taken back the son He had entrusted to their care.”
In the morning they went to see Rasulullah SAW and he prayed for Allah’s blessings and prosperity for the couple. And soon another son was born to them. Anas carried him in his lap Rasulullah SAW; he softened a piece of a date and gave it to the newborn, and named him ‘Abdullah. He prayed that Allah grant him prosperity. And by the grace of Allah when he grew up and married he had nine sons; all of them were memorizers of the Quran.
Anas Ibn Malik RA narrates that his mother had a goat. One day she made ghee from its milk and collected it in a little leather bowl. When it was full she sent it as a gift for Rasulullah SAW with her adopted daughter. Rasulullah SAW told his family to empty the bowl and return it with the little girl. She brought back the empty bowl and hung it by a nail on the kitchen wall.
Umm Sulaim RA saw that the bowl was still hanging and it was full – in fact it was overflowing and dripping. Umm Sulaim RA asked her daughter why she did not carry out her instructions. The little girl said that she had taken the’ ghee to Rasulullah’s house as instructed and brought back the empty bowl and hung it. Umm Sulaim RA was amazed by this mystery.
Umm Sulaim RA went to Rasulullah’s house and told him about this strange incident. Rasulullah SAW said the little girl brought the gift which he accepted and left with an empty bowl.
Umm Sulaim RA swore by Allah Who sent him as a Messenger of the one True Religion that the bowl was full and dripping even then. Rasulullah SAW then told her that she should not be amazed; she had sent a gift for Allah’s Rasul. He in turn had sent a gift for her. She should eat it and feed others also with it. Umm Sulaim RA says she emptied this bowl of ghee into a larger vessel. It lasted them for two months and others also ate from it.
Anas Ibn Malik RA narrates that one day Abu Talhah RA came home and told Umm Sulaim RA that Rasulullah SAW sounded very weak, possibly he was hungry. If there was some food in the house they could have the honor of having him over for a meal. Umm Sulaim RA answered that she had some bread wrapped up in cloth. Abu Talhah RA went to the mosque and invited Rasulullah SAW to join him.
Rasulullah SAW accepted and invited the people sitting there to join him at the house of Abu Talhah RA. All of them rose to go with Rasulullah SAW. When Abu Talhah RA saw this he became nervous, because he did not have enough food for so many people. When he went home he expressed this fear to his wife Umm Sulaim RA. Umm Sulaim RA smiled and told him not to worry; they would just put out all the food they had in the house. And this was what she did. Rasulullah SAW came in and made a supplication to Allah for plenitude. Then he asked Abu Talhah RA to call in ten people from outside. So, ten people came in to a satisfying meal. After they finished he asked Abu Talhah, to call in ten more. And so it went on till about seventy or eighty had taken their fill of the delicious food. And there was food still left over!
When Rasulullah SAW got married to Zainab bint Jahsh, Umm Sulaim RA made a special dish of dates and ghee and sent it to him as a gift. And after the battle of Khaybar when he married Safiya it was Umm Sulaim RA who dressed her up as a bride. Umm Sulaim RA also played a very active role in the battlefields of Islam. Anas Ibn Malik RA says that in the Battle of Uhud his mother and ‘Aisyah RA used to fill leather bottles with water and give it to the thirsty wounded soldiers. Umm Sulaim RA was pregnant at the time but that did not deter her in any way. Umm Sulaim RA took an active part in the Battle of Hunayn as well. Umm Sulaim RA carried a spear and when Abu Talhah RA saw this he told Rasulullah SAW about it. He asked her why she was carrying a spear. Umm Sulaim RA answered that if any enemy soldier came before her she would slit his belly. Rasulullah SAW smiled at her spirit.
Anas Ibn Malik RA reported that Rasulullah SAW used to visit them often. When someone asked him for the reason, he said he felt pity for her ever since he saw her brother, Haram bin Milhan RA killed before his eyes. Haram bin Milhan RA last words have become immortal in Islamic history. He said,
“I swear by the Sustainer of the Ka’abah I have become successful.”
His brother Sulaim bin Milhan also was martyred in the same battle.
In Sahih Muslim, the Book of Fada’il talks about the beads of perspiration of Rasulullah SAW. One afternoon Rasulullah SAW went to visit Umm Sulaim RA; she was out and he dropped off to sleep white waiting for her. When she came home she found him sleeping and in the heat his perspiration was dripping on a small piece of leather. She was very happy to see him in her house and started collecting the beads of perspiration in a small bottle to preserve them.
Rasulullah SAW woke up to find her doing this. Rasulullah SAW asked her what she was doing. Umm Sulaim RA replied she was collecting the drops of his perspiration to put them into some perfume. If Rasulullah SAW passed on a road or street he left a trail of perfume in the atmosphere and people would sense that he had passed that way. When Anas ibn Malik RA realized he was dying he made a will that some of these drops should be added to the water with which his body would be bathed.
On the occasion of the final pilgrimage, when Rasulullah SAW shaved his head, Abu Talhah RA collected his hair and took it back to Al-Madinah. There he gave it to Umm Sulaim RA to preserve it. Umm Sulaim RA put it away safely as a memento.
Anas Ibn Malik RA mentioned that one day when Rasulullah SAW visited their house he took a drink of water from a leather bowl kept in the courtyard. His mother cut out the section that his lips had touched and preserved it as well.
On another occasion when he visited them Umm Sulaim RA offered him dates and ghee. Rasulullah SAW said she should put them away as he was fasting that day. Rasulullah SAW stood in a corner of the room to pray, then he spent a long time making supplications to Allah SWT to bless the members of the family both in this world and the next. Umm Sulaim RA then requested him to pray for her son. Rasulullah SAW prayed so long for his welfare both here and in the Hereafter that Anas felt he must have asked Allah for the best possible good for him in both this world and the next.
Umm Sulaim RA and her son Anas Ibn Malik RA:
The spring of pure love continued to gush forth copiously and abundantly. Umm Sulaim RA actually brought her son, Anas Ibn Malik RA who was only a ten-year old boy to Rasulullah SAW and said,
“O Rasulullah! This is Anas; I brought him to serve you!”
Rasulullah SAW excellently received him and accepted him into his household.
Anas bin Malik RA remained with Rasulullah SAW serving him throughout the ten years which Rasulullah SAW spent in Madinah, after his migration from Makkah until the demised of Rasulullah. Never did Anas Bin Malik RA leave his company whether Rasulullah SAW was at home or on a journey. No wonder that he was able to memorize many Ahadith (Prophetic Narrations) about the deeds and sayings of Rasulullah SAW. Anas Bin Malik RA was in fact, an authority and a treasure of this blessed knowledge.
A narration attributed to Anas ibn Malik reports:
The son of Abu Talha RA who was born of Umm Sulaim RA died. She (Umm Sulaim RA) said to the members of her family: Do not narrate to Abu Talha about his son until I narrate it to him. Abu Talha RA came (home); she presented to him the supper. He took it and drank water. She then embellished herself which she did not do before. He (Abu Talha) had a sexual intercourse with her and when she saw that he was satisfied after sexual intercourse with her, she said: Abu Talha, if some people borrow something from another family and then (the members of the family) ask for its return, would they resist its return? He said: No. She said: I inform you about the death of your son. He was annoyed, and said: You did not inform me until I had a sexual intercourse with you and later gave me information about my son. He went to Rasulullah SAW and informed him what had happened. Thereupon Rasulullah SAW said: May Allah bless both of you in the night spent by you!
Anas bin Malik RA said: Umm Sulaim RA became pregnant. Rasulullah SAW was in the course of a journey and she was along with him and when Rasulullah SAW came back to Madinah from the journey he did not enter (his house) (during the night). When the people came near Madinah, she felt the pangs of delivery. Abu Talha RA remained with her and Rasulullah SAW proceeded on.
Abu Talha RA said: O Lord, you know that I love to go along with Rasulullah SAW when he goes out and enter along with him when he enters and I have been detained as Thou sees. Umm Sulaim RA said: Abu Talha, I do not feel (so much pain) as I was feeling formerly, so better proceed on. So we proceeded on and she felt the pangs of delivery as they reached (Madinah) and a child was born and my mother said to me: “Anas, none should suckle him until you go to Rasulullah SAW tomorrow morning”.
And when it was morning I carried him (the child) and went along with him to Rasulullah SAW. Anas Ibn Malik RA said: I saw that Rasulullah SAW had in his hand the instrument for the cauterization of the camels.
Rasulullah SAW saw me. Rasulullah SAW said: “This is, perhaps, what Umm Sulaim has given birth to”. I said: Yes. Rasulullah SAW laid down that instrument on the ground. I brought that child to him and placed it in his lap and Rasulullah SAW asked Ajwa dates of Madinah to be brought and softened them in his mouth. When these had become palatable Rasulullah SAW placed them in the mouth of that child. The child began to taste them. Then Rasulullah SAW said: See what love the Ansar have for dates. Rasulullah SAW then wiped his face and named him ‘Abdullah.
The House of Milhan:
Milhan’s house which was also the home of Umm Sulaim RA and Umm Haram RA was the only house that Rasulullah SAW used to enter besides the apartments of his wives, for which there was a reason. Anas Ibn Malik RA her son, spoke about this when he said,
“Rasulullah SAW would visit Umm Sulaim RA who would present him with something she specially made for him.” Anas Bin Malik RA added, “Rasulullah SAW did not use to enter any house except that of Umm Sulaim, and of course, those of his wives. When Rasulullah SAW was asked of that he said, “Her brother was killed while he was fighting on my side.”
Ibn Hajar said in al-Isabah:
“And I say that the reason for his visiting Umm Haram and her sister, Umm Sulaim, is that both sisters lived in the same apartment.”
Dear reader, these blessed visits of Rasulullah SAW would of course take place in the presence of mahram(s). For, it is illogical that Rasul of Allah of mercy, guidance, excellent morals and pure laws could have visited women who were not members of his household in the absence of their mahram(s). Rasulullah SAW was as described by Allah SWT:
“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah [Muhammad] you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for [the meeting with] Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much”
(Qur’an 33: 21)
Umm Sulaim RA Wisdom and Patience
We will now learn a new lesson of faith from this great Sahabiyyah. It is a lesson that is full of wisdom and an understanding of the fundamentals of the marital relationship, which should be built on tranquility, love and affection. Allah says:
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy”.
(Qur’an 30: 21)
The Islamic home in its social and family context is the foundation stone for building the Ummah and its strong and solid structure. Women like Umm Sulaim RA are successful and wise in achieving this.
Selected Hadiths Narrated and Attributed To Umm Sulaim RA.
Found In: Sunan at-Tirmidhi (Jami-al-Tirmidhi) Chapter No: 1, Taharah (Purification)
Hadith no: 122
Narrated: Um Salama
said that Umm Sulaym bint Milhan (RA) came to the ‘Prophet (SAW) and said, “Messenger of Allah! Allah is not ashamed of the truth. Is it wajib for a woman to have a bath if she has sexual dream as a man does?” He said, “Yes, when she sees signs of mani, she must have a bath.” Sayyidah Umm Salamah (RA) said that she remarked, “O ‘Umm Sulaym! You have disgraced women.” [Ahmed26675, Bukhari 282, Ibn e Majah 600, Muslim 313, Abu Dawud 237, Nisai 197]
Found In: Imam Malik’s Muwatta Chapter No: 49, The Description of the Prophet, may Allah Bless Him and Grant Him Peace
Hadith no: 19
Yahya related to me from Malik that Ishaq ibn Abdullah ibn Abi Talha heard Anas ibn Malik say that Abu Talha had said to Umm Sulaim, “I have just been listening to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his voice was very weak. I recognized hunger in it, so, do you have anything?” She replied, “Yes,” and brought out some barley loaves. She took her long head scarf and wrapped up the bread with part of it and put it into my (Anas’s) hand and gave me part of it to wear. Then she sent me to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.” Anas continued, “I took it, and I found the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sitting in the mosque with some people. I watched them. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Did Abu Talha send you?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘For food?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to those with him, ‘Let us go.’ He set off and I went among them until I came to Abu Talha and told him. Abu Talha said, ‘Umm Sulaim! The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has brought people and we have no food. What shall we give them to eat?’ She said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ ” Anas continued, “Abu Talha went out and met the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, approached with Abu Talha until they entered. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Come now, Umm Sulaim, what have you got?’ She brought out bread. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ordered it to be broken into pieces, and Umm Sulaim squeezed out onto it a container of clarified butter which she had seasoned. Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said whatever Allah wished him to say, and said, ‘Will you give permission for ten of them to come in?’ He gave them permission, and they ate until they were full and then left. He said, ‘Give permission to ten more.’ He gave them permission, and they ate until they were full and left. Then he said, ‘Give permission to ten more.’ He gave them permission and they ate until they were full and left. Then he said, ‘Give permission to ten more.’ He gave permission and they ate until they were full and left. There were seventy or eighty men.”
Found In: Imam Malik’s Muwatta Chapter No: 20, Hajj
Hadith no: 238
Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr from his father that Abu Salamah ibn Abd ar-Rahman told him that Umm Sulaim bint Milhan asked the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, for advice one time when she had begun menstruating, or had given birth to a child after she had done tawaf al-ifada on the Day of Sacrifice. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave her permission to leave. Malik said, “A woman menstruating at Mina stays until she has done tawaf of the House. There is no escape from that for her. If she has already done the tawaf al-ifada and she starts to menstruate afterwards, she may leave for her country, since permission for the menstruating women to leave has been transmitted to us from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.” He added, “If a woman starts her period at Mina before she does the tawaf al-ifada, and the period lasts longer than usual, she has to stay longer than the time that bleeding would usually detain women.”