47 – Deaths and Marriages

One of the immediate acts of the Prophet on his return from Badr had been to visit the grave of his daughter Ruqayyah, and Fatimah went with him. This was the first bereavement they had suffered within their closest family circle since the death of Khadijah, and Fatimah was greatly distressed by the loss of her sister. The tears poured from her eyes as she sat beside her father at the edge of the grave, and he comforted her and sought to dry her tears with the corner of his cloak. He had previously spoken against lamentations of the dead, but this had led to misunderstanding, and when they returned from the cemetery the voice of ‘Umar was heard raised in anger against the women who were weeping for the martyrs of Badr and for Ruqayyah. “‘Umar, let them weep,” he said, And the he added: “What cometh from the heart and from the eyes, that is from God and His Mercy, but what cometh from the hand and from the tongue, that is from Satan.”[1] By the hand he meant the beating of the breast and the lacerating of the cheeks, and by the tongue he meant the vociferous clamor in which all the women joined as a social gesture.

Fatimah was the youngest of his daughters, and she was at this time about twenty years old. To his family he had already spoken of ‘Ali as the most fitting husband for her, but there had been no formal contract. Abu Bakr and ‘Umar had both asked for her hand, but the Prophet had put them off, not by saying that she was already promised to another but by telling them that he must wait for the time appointed by Heaven. It was only in the weeks which followed his return from Badr that he became certain that the time had come and he then spoke words of encouragement to ‘Ali in the wish that he should formally ask for her hand. ‘Ali was at first hesitant on account of his extreme poverty. He had inherited nothing from his father, for the law of the new religion forbade a believer to inherit from a disbeliever. But he had acquired a humble dwelling not far from the Mosque and, since there was no doubt about the Prophet’s wishes, he allowed himself to be persuaded. After the formal contract had been made, the Prophet insisted on a wedding feast. A ram was sacrificed and some of the Helpers brought offerings of grain. Abu Salamah, cousin to both bridegroom and bride, was anxious to help, the more since he owed so much to ‘Ali’s father, who had given him protection against Abu Jahl and other hostile members of his clan. So Umm Salamah went together with ‘A’ishah to make ready the house for the bridal couple and to prepare the food. Soft sand was brought from the river bed and they scattered it over the earthen floor of the house. The bridal bed was a sheepskin and there was a faded coverlet of striped cloth from the Yemen. For a pillow they stuffed a leather cushion with palm fiber. Then they laid out dates and figs for the guests to eat in addition to the main meal, and they filled the waterskin with water that they had perfumed. It was generally agreed that this wedding feast was one of the finest held in Medina at this time.

When the Prophet withdrew, as a sign for the guests to leave the bridal pair alone together, he told ‘Ali not to approach his wife until he himself returned, which he did shortly after the last guest had departed. Umm Ayman was still there, helping to set the house in order after the celebrations. The Prophet had many special relationships in his life which were not shared by any except himself and the person in question. One of these was with Umm Ayman. When he asked permission to enter, it was she who now came to the entrance. “Where is my brother?” he said. “My father and my mother be thy ransom, O Messenger of God,” she said, “who is thy brother?” “Abu Talib’s son ‘Ali,” he said. “How can he be thy brother,” she said, “when thou hast even now married thy daughter to him?” “He is what I said,” replied the Prophet, and asked her to bring him some water, which she did. Having taken a mouthful and rinsed his mouth, he spat it back into the vessel. Then, when ‘Ali came, he bade him sit in front of him; and taking some of the water in his hand he sprinkled it over his shoulders and breast and arms. Then he called Fatimah to him and she came, tripping over her robe in the awe and reverence she had for her father. He did the same to her as to ‘Ali, and invoked blessings upon them both and upon their offspring.[2]

In the year which followed the return from Badr the family of ‘Umar suffered two losses. The first of these was the death of his son-in-law Khunays, the husband of his daughter Hafsah. He had been one of the emigrants to Abyssinia, and it was on his return that the marriage had taken place. Hafsah was only eighteen years old when she became a widow. She was both beautiful and accomplished, having learned like her father to read and write; and seeing that the death of Ruqayyah had left ‘Uthman so disconsolate, ‘Umar offered him Hafsah in marriage. ‘Uthman said that he would think about it, but after some days he came to ‘Umar and said he thought it was better that he should not marry again for the moment. ‘Umar was very disappointed and also somewhat hurt by ‘Uthman’s refusal. But he was determined to find a good husband for his daughter so he went to Abu Bakr, whom he counted as his best friend, and proposed the match to him. Abu Bakr answered him evasively, which hurt ‘Umar’s feelings even more than ‘Uthman’s definite refusal, though at the same time it was more understandable, for Abu Bakr already had one wife, to whom he was deeply attached, whereas ‘Uthman was now single. Perhaps he could be made to change his mind and the next time ‘Umar was with the Prophet he gave vent to his grievance. “Behold,” said the Prophet, “I will show thee a better son-in-law than ‘Uthman, and I will show him a better father-in-law than thee.” “So be it!” said ‘Umar with a smile of happiness when, after a moment’s reflection, he divined that the better man referred to in both cases was none other than the Prophet, who would himself take Hafsah to wife and who would become, for the second time, the father-in-law of ‘Uthman by giving him in marriage Ruqayyah’s sister Umm Kulthum. It was after this that Abu Bakr explained the reason for his silence to ‘Umar, namely that the Prophet had confided to him, as a secret not yet to be divulged, his intention to ask for the hand of Hafsah.

The marriage of Umm Kulthum and ‘Uthman took place first; and when the legally necessary four months had elapsed since the death of Khunays, and when an apartment had been added to those of Sawdah and ‘A’ishah adjoining the Mosque, the Prophet’s own marriage was celebrated, a little less than a year after the Battle of Badr. The arrival of Hafsah did not marr the harmony of the household. ‘A’ishah was pleased to have a compaion nearer to her own age, and a lasting friendship was soon developed between the two younger wives, while Sawdah, who had been something of a mother to ‘A’ishah, now extended a share of her maternal benevolence to the newcomer, who was nearly twenty years younger than herself.

It was about the time of this marriage that ‘Umar’s brother-in-law died, Hafsah’s maternal uncle, ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un. Both he and his wife Khawlah had always been very close to the Prophet, and ‘Uthman was the most ascetic of his Companions. He had been an ascetic before the Revelation of Islam, and since his emigration to Medina he had become so bent on suppressing earthly desires that he asked permission of the Prophet to make himself a eunuch and to spend the rest of his life as a wandering beggar. “Hast thou not in me a fair example?” said the Prophet. “And I go into women, and I eat meat, and I fast, and I break my fast. He is not of my people who maketh men eunuchs or maketh himself a eunuch.” But the Prophet had reason to think that ‘Uthman had not fully understood him, so on another occasion he put the same question: “Hast thou not in me an example?” ‘Uthman fervently assented, then asked what was amiss. “Thou fastest every day,” said the Prophet, “and keepest vigil every night in prayer.” “Yea, that indeed I do,” said ‘uthman, for he had heard him speak again and again of the merits of fasting and of night prayer. “Do not so,” said the Prophet, “for verily thine eyes have their rights over thee, and thy body hath its rights, and thy family have their rights. So pray, and sleep, and fast, and break fast.”[3]

As an expression of the primordial religion, the Revelation continually stressed the importance of giving thanks to God for all the most elementary blessings of life.

He hath given you hearing and sight and heart-knowledge that ye may be thankful.[4]

And of his signs is His creation for you of consorts from amongst yourselves, that ye may find rest in them, and His ordaining of love between you and mercy. Verily therein are signs for people who reflect.[5]

Say: Have ye thought, if God made night everlasting upon you till the Day of the Resurrection, who is a god beside God to bring you light? Will ye not then hear? Say: Have ye thought, if God made day everlasting upon you till the Day of the Resurrection, who is a god beside God to bring you a night wherein to rest? Will ye not then see? And of His mercy hath he made for you night and day, that therein ye may rest and that ye may go seek His favors, and that he may be thankful.[6]

For primordial man the natural enjoyments, consecrated by thankfulness to God, are modes of worship; and with reference to himself the Prophet spoke of the pleasures of the sense and of prayer in the same context: “It hath been given me to love perfume and women, and coolness hath been brought to mine eyes in the prayer.”[7]

Immediately after the death of ‘Uthman, before his funeral, the Prophet went with ‘A’ishah to visit Khawlah, and ‘A’ishah said after wards: “The Prophet kissed ‘Uthman when he was dead, and I saw his tears flowing over ‘Uthman’s cheek.” At his funeral the Prophet heard an old woman address the dead man with the words “Be glad, O father of Sa’ib, for Paradise is thine.” The Prophet turned to her somewhat sharply and said: “What giveth thee to know that?” “O Messenger of God,” she protested, “it is Abu s-Sa’ib!” “By God,” he said, “we know naught but good of him.” Then, to make it clear that his first remark had been in no sense directed against ‘Uthman but merely against her for saying more than she had right to say he turned to here again and added: “It would have been enough for thee to say: ‘He loved God and His messenger.'”[8]

‘Umar confessed to having been somewhat shaken in his high regard for his brother-in-law by the fact that he had not been blessed with a martyr’s death. He said: “When ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un died without being slain he fell immeasurably from my esteem and I said: ‘Behold this man who was severest of us all in abstaining from the things of this world, and now he hath died and was not slain.'” And so he remained in ‘Umar’s opinion until the Prophet and Abu Bakr had both died natural deaths, and he upbraided himself for having lacked a true sense of values, and said to himself: “Out upon thee, the best of us die!” -he meant ‘die naturally’- and ‘Uthman returned in his estimation to the place he had formally held.[9]


[1] I.S. 8, 24
[2] I.S. 8, 12 – 15
[3] I.S. 3/1, 289
[4] Qur’an 16 : 78
[5] Qur’an 30 : 21
[6] Qur’an 28 : 71 – 73
[7] I.S. 1/2. ‘Coolness of the eyes’ is a favorite term of the Arabs for expressing joy, delight, etc.
[8] I.S. 3/1, 289 – 290
[9] ibid.

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