This is the woman the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) described as “My Mother after my own Mother. She is the rest of my family.”
Her name was Barakah, but was known as Umm Ayman after the birth of her first child (may Allah be pleased with her). She was the first person to hold our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in her arms when he was born and the only person who remained with him from his birth until his death. She was one of the few Muslims who were given the promise of Paradise by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
In her youth, the Abyssinian slave girl was sold to Abdullah, the father of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Umm Ayman (RA) not only looked after Abdullah, but also the mother of the Prophet (SAW), Amina, upon her marriage to Abdullah.
Abdullah and Amina treated Umm Ayman like a daughter and she was incredibly dedicated and loyal to them. When Abdullah had to leave for Syria soon after their marriage, it was Umm Ayman who comforted Amina and kept her company. She served her and cared for her when Amina found out that she was pregnant with the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
When the news came of Abdullah’s death at Yathrib (Madinah), Umm Ayman was there for Amina and gave her strength and support. She would sleep at the foot of Amina’s bed and make sure that she was her constant companion. Amina and Umm Ayman were inseparable. She was there when the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was born and was the first to touch him and hold him. From that day the Prophet had two mothers to care for him and love him. She was his caregiver and playmate.
As the Prophet (SAW) grew, he faced tragedy upon tragedy, Umm Ayman was always there for him. When the three embarked on a journey to visit Abdullah’s grave at Yathrib, Amina became ill on the way home. Knowing she was on her last breath, she turned to Umm Ayman and said:
“Be a mother to him, Barakah, and don’t ever leave him.” Umm Ayman pledged that she would never leave his side and she kept her promise to Amina for the rest of the Prophet Muhammad’s life (SAW).
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 (SAW).
It was only after the Prophet (SAW) married Khadija (RA) that she married, and that too, on their insistence. She married Ubayd ibn Zayd of Yathrib and they had a son named Ayman (this is why she was called Umm Ayman).
Her husband died in battle two years after their marriage and she returned to Makkah. This was the only time that son and Mother were separated from one another for an extended period of time. When the Prophet (RA) received the Prophethood, Umm Ayman was among the first Muslims. She is known to be the first among the African population at the time to accept Islam. She suffered much because of this, but she was strong and did not give up on Truth.
She migrated to Madinah following the Prophet Muhamamd (SAW) and was greeted with an overwhelming welcome from the Prophet Muhmmad (SAW) himself. During the Battle of Uhud she gave out water to the thirsty soldiers and took care of the wounded. She stood to defend the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) even in battle. She accompanied the Prophet on some expeditions. They had a very special bond and he looked to her for comfort and support. She was not only his mother, but she was also his best friend who knew him like no other.
She was dedicated to Islam and was willing to do anything for the cause of Allah. During visits from the Prophet, he would ask her: “Ya Ummi! Are you well?” and she would reply: “I am well, O Messenger of Allah so long as Islam is.”
When she was in her 50s, the Prophet (SAW), when speaking to his Companions (RA) said, “Should one of you desire to marry a woman from the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman.” It was Zayd (RA), the boy that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) raised like a son, who stepped forward and agreed to marry her. They had a son named Usamah, who was described as “the beloved son of the beloved.” In other words, the Prophet loved both he and his father very much.
She became a widow again, after Zayd (RA) was killed during the Battle of Mutah in Syria. She also lived to see her son Ayman’s (RA) martyrdom at the Battle of Hunayn.
Umm Ayman lived to see her other “son” die as well: the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). She was seen sitting alone and crying after his death. When asked why she cried, she said, “By Allah, I do not cry for the Prophet (SAW) for I knew he would die, but I cry because there will be no more revelation coming to us from now on.” This was her love for Allah and for Islam. Her dedication to Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was unlike any other Sahabah.
Umm Ayman (RA) died when Uthman (RA) was Khalifa.
This was Barakah or Umm Ayman as she is most often called. She cared for our Prophet (SAW) from the cradle to the grave, she was the wife and mother of warriors, yet she isn’t remembered the way she should be. She is not honored the way she should be. Perhaps, this is because Allah (SWT) wants to save the entire honor He will bestow upon her for the Jannah.
We love her, because the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) loved her and because she loved him and cared for him when he had no one. The colour of her skin, her lineage or her status did not matter to him in the least. It was her heart and her dedication that made him call her: Ummi (Mother).
Allah knows best and He does everything for a reason. These are the people that came to break down barriers and show us what true love and unity is. A Black Woman from Ethiopia named Barakah raised your Prophet (SAW). This woman fed him, bathed him, changed him, wiped his tears, held him in her arms, and she loved him as he loved her. I mention these things for a reason, because I don’t see this same love in our communities.
I want to know, why is it that Muslims today cannot even stand shoulder to shoulder to pray next to someone who is a different race? Why is it that we cannot eat from the same plate? Why is it that we do not welcome each other into our homes and mosques just on the basis of skin colour or nationality? Why is it that when a black Brother comes to ask for our daughter’s hand in marriage we cannot digest it let alone accept it? Why do we find it offensive? Why do we have to explain these prejudice and racist attitudes to our children? Why do our kids even have to ask us what we would say if they wanted to marry a black man or woman?
Where do we get this hate and bigotry? Not from Islam, not from our Beloved Prophet (SAW), not from his Companions (RA). We are very good at disguising it, but it is a truth we all face in our community everyday and it has to stop. The point of this article, the story of Barakah, was to show us all that this is the reality of the man that we claim to follow. He was an Arab who was raised by an Abyssinian woman. This was our Prophet Muhammad (SAW), so who are we to spread ignorance and intolerance in such a way?
Please remember the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his Final Sermon on Arafat at the Farewell Hajj:
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action.”
I pray Allah removes this disease from our hearts, may He unite us on Truth and the way of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), may He guide us and show us Mercy, may we be united with the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Umm Ayman (RA), and all the pious men and women of the Ummah in Jannah, Ameen.
Your Prophet (SAW) was raised by a black woman.
Shaikh Bilal Assad has also shared her story. Please do listen, it is beautiful, Masha’Allah.