UMM SULAYM (RUMAIYSA BINT MILHAN AL-ANSARIYYAH)
Umm Sulaym (R) was a model Muslimah, a model wife and mother. Her belief (and actions) in Allah was strong and uncompromising. She was not prepared to endanger her faith and the upbringing of her children for wealth and luxury, however abundant and tempting. She was devoted to the Messenger of Allahﷺ and dedicated her son Anas bin Maalik (R) to his service. She took the responsibility of educating her children and she played an active part in public life, sharing with the other Muslims the hardships and the joys of building a true Islamic community and living for the pleasure of Allah.
She came from an illustrious family who sacrificed it’s all for Islam. Her son was the famous Companion Anas bin Malik(R) and her brother was the eminent Companion Haram bin Milhan(R).
She was one of the first women to accept Islam in Madina and that was before the Prophet's Hijra. She accepted Islam in Madina when her husband was away. On return, her husband demanded that she returned to her former faith and she blatantly refused and in fact invited him to come over to Islam. Malik left furiously and never returned as he got killed in a feud.
Her first marriage was unhappy; there were constant quarrels between husband and wife because she became a Muslim. Her husband, Malik bin Nadhar, tried his very best make her recant and give up the new religion to which she had vowed allegiance, but he failed and she remained loyal to her new faith. On the other hand she started persuading her son, Anas as well to convert to Islam. Her persistence finally paid off, and Anas read the words signifying acceptance of Allah as the One Supreme Being and Muhammad (ﷺ) as His Messenger.
There were frequent violent scenes in the house, but 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', Rumaiysa' Ramlah and Sahlah, but finally she came to be known only as Umm Sulaim.
After her husband's murder in Syria she dedicated her son, Anas to the service of the Prophet (ﷺ). Anas lived the next ten years of his life in his service, and these were the best years of his life. Umm Sulaim requested the Prophet (ﷺ) to supplicate to Allah for an increase in knowledge prosperity for him, both in this world and the next. And Allah answered his prayers in ample measure. Anas lived to the age of a hundred and three and had more than hundred children. He 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.
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 had many admirable qualities. Her integrity, her loyalty, her courage, all of these appealed to him, and he sent her a proposal of marriage. She said it was not possible because she was a Muslim and he was a disbeliever. When he insisted she 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. She asked him if he had ever considered how these things could solve his problems when they were themselves helpless.
Abu Talha, one of the wealthy and most respected men of Madina, immediately came to request Rumaysa’s hand for marriage. Rumaysa refused on the ground that Abu Talha was not a Muslim. But Abu Talha thought that she needed wealth and promised her, in his words, "a lot of Gold and silver". She felt devalued and assured him that what she wants is not his wealth but his Islam.
When Abu Talhah heard these arguments he had no answer. He tried his best to persuade her, but she was adamant. She told him that normally a proposal from a man of his stature would not be rejected, but she was helpless. She 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. She was very happy at this; she said the Mahr (dowry) for her would be his acceptance of Islam, and told Anas to arrange for her marriage. The Prophet (ﷺ) often used to visit her and prayed for prosperity and the blessings of Allah for her.
Umm Sulaim had a happy second marriage and soon the couple was blessed with a son, Abu 'Umair. One day the Prophet (ﷺ) visited the house and found Abu 'Umair looking very dejected. He asked why the little boy was upset. Umm Sulaim told him that his pet bird, which he loved to play with, had died. The Prophet (ﷺ) 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 displayed exemplary patience and control. She did not inform anyone or scream and shout in her grief. She 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 then 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 the Prophet (ﷺ) 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 to the Prophet (ﷺ); 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 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 the Prophet (ﷺ) with her adopted daughter. The Prophet (ﷺ), 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 saw that the bowl was still hanging and it was full - in fact it was overflowing and dripping. She asked her daughter why she did not carry out her instructions. The little girl said that she had taken the' ghee to the Prophet's house as instructed and brought back the empty bowl and hung it. Umm Sulaim was amazed by this mystery.
She went to the Prophet's house and told him about this strange incident. He said the little girl brought the gift which he accepted and left with an empty bowl.
Umm Sulaim swore by Allah Who sent him as a Messenger of the one True Religion that the bowl was full and dripping even then. The Prophet (ﷺ) then told her that she should not be amazed; she had sent a gift for Allah's Prophet (ﷺ), so He in turn had sent a gift for her. She should eat it and feed others also with it. Umm Sulaim says she emptied this bowl of ghee into a larger vessel. It lasted them for two months and others also ate from it.
Anas narrates that one day Abu Talhah came home and told Umm Sulaim that the Prophet (ﷺ) sounded very weak, possibly he was hungry. If there was some food in the house they could have the honour of having him over for a meal. She answered that she had some bread wrapped up in cloth. Abu Talhah went to the mosque and invited the Prophet (ﷺ) to join him.
He accepted and invited the people sitting there to join him at the house of Abu Talhah. All of them rose to go with the Prophet (ﷺ). When Abu Talhah (ﷺ) 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 She 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. The Prophet (ﷺ) came in and made a supplication to Allah for plenitude. Then he asked Abu Talhah 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 the Prophet (ﷺ) got married to Zaynab bint Jahash, Umm Sulaim 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 Safiyyah it was Umm Sulaim who dressed her up as a bride. She also played a very active role in the battlefields of Islam. Anas says that in the Battle of Uhud his mother and 'A'ishah used to fill leather bottles with water and give it to the thirsty wounded soldiers. Umm Sulaim was pregnant at the time but that did not deter her in any way. She took an active part in the Battle of Hunayn as well. She carried a spear and when Abu Talhah saw this he told the Prophet (ﷺ) about it. He asked her why she was carrying a spear. She answered that if any enemy soldier came before her she would slit his belly. The Prophet (ﷺ) smiled at her spirit.
Anas reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) 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 killed before his eyes. His last words have become immortal in Islamic history. He said,
"I swear by the Sustainer of the Ka'bah 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 the Prophet (ﷺ). One afternoon the Prophet (ﷺ) went to visit Umm Sulaim; 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. The Prophet (ﷺ) woke up to find her doing this. He asked her what she was doing. She replied she was collecting the drops of his perspiration to put them into some perfume. If the Prophet (ﷺ) 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 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 the Prophet (ﷺ) shaved his head, Abu Talhah collected his hair and took it back to Al-Madinah. There he gave it to Umm Sulaim to preserve it. She put it away safely as a memento.
Anas mentioned that one day when the Prophet (ﷺ), 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 offered him dates and ghee. He said she should put them away as he was fasting that day. He stood in a corner of the room to pray, then he spent a long time making supplications to Allah to bless the members of the family both in this world and the next. Umm Sulaim then requested him to pray for her son. He 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.
"Allah will be pleased with them and they with Him." [Noble Quran 98:8]