Published in  
October 14, 2020

Hafsah – A Comprehensive Look at the life of The Lioness

Hafsah bint ‘Umar- the young lioness of a mighty father ‘Umar bin al-Khattab, the fourth wife of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, and sister to Abdullah bin ‘Umar whose excellence was declared by the Prophet himself. Having been surrounded by such great men, one can expect nothing but the best from her, and she does not disappoint. ‘Aisha (رضي الله عنها) had said that among all of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, Hafsah was the only one who could compare with her. She was an excellent orator, writer and hafidhah of the Quran, who had also memorized around 60 ahadith on behalf of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم. Among his companions, she was also considered one of the ulema (scholars of Islam). This brings us back to my favorite point, which I have repeated time and again- Islam does not forbid women from seeking knowledge and imparting it to others. If anyone tries to tell you anything else, whack them on the head (just kidding). But seriously, apart from being a renowned Islamic scholar, another honor that was bestowed on her which was unique to her was the guardianship of the first and only written manuscript of the Qur’an, after the death of her father (رضي الله عنه). SubhanAllah.

Much of a person’s character and morals are determined by their upbringing, more or less. This was the case with Hafsah (رضي الله عنها) as well. Her character was molded and shaped mostly by her father ‘Umar. ‘Umar’s greatness is not unknown to us, but an idea of how precious he was to the Prophet can be gained from the fact that he Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم referred to ‘Umar as his “blessing” [Sahih al- Bukhari 7006, Sahih Muslim 2391]. ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) was also one of the few people in Makkah who could read and write, which meant that he was very invested in making sure that his children i.e. Hafsah and Abdullah, were literate as well.

Lesson to be learnt: Parents have a serious responsibility upon them to bring up kids with the best possible morals and raise them with good Islamic values. What must be noted is that a common undercurrent point in the upbringing of Hafsah and ‘Aisha (رضي الله عنهما) (and many other companions as well), is how critical a role the fathers played, along with the mothers. This is something very contradictory to what we see in most households nowadays (most, not all). According to society and culture, a father’s responsibility is limited to bringing the bread and butter home to the family. I am not, in any way belittling what fathers do and their responsibility. The point is, fathers need to be more involved in their children’s lives- they need to open up that communication link between themselves and their kids, which will stay open and functional for the rest of their lives in sha Allah. Rather than coming home from work and spending all the time in front of the TV, or the laptop, or the mobile, keep a portion of your time dedicated to your little bundles of energy. Get to know them, ask them questions, know how they feel about things. In the long run, this is going to make sure that your kids turn to you when they face any problems in life. Also, by raising kids according to Islamic values, and inspiring them to constantly work for the betterment of the ummah, you’re guaranteeing a source of sadaqa jaariyah for yourself, even after death! Allah has made it so so easy for us to gain rewards upon rewards. All we have to do is work a little bit for them.

Hafsa bint ‘Umar was previously married to Khanees bin Hezafah Sehmi, who had accepted Islam influenced by the teaching of Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه). Khanees (رضي الله عنه) was from among the Ashaab al-Hijratayn (The People of Two Migrations)- the first one being to Abyssinia, and the second being to Madinah. She set off with her husband to Madinah, and lived happily with him until he was martyred in the Battle of Badr. At this time, she was barely twenty one years old.

She was grief-stricken, naturally. But she turned this tragedy into something to bring her closer to her Creator, her Lord. Rather than lamenting over the what-if’s and the why-me’s, she chose to immerse herself in prayer and in strengthening her connection with the Almighty. Such was her courage and her faith (رضي الله عنها).

However, ‘Umar could not bear to see his young daughter in such a state of loneliness. After she completed her ‘iddah, he decided to find a good husband for her. He decided to approach ‘Uthman bin Affan (رضي الله عنه) since he had lost his wife too, and ‘Umar thought that this grief would help bring them together. However, ‘Uthman answered that he wasn’t presently planning on marriage. This angered ‘Umar, but he went ahead to Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) and offered his daughter in marriage. Abu Bakr refused similarly as well, which took ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه)’s anger to a higher level. Incensed and extremely worried, he set off to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم and explained his problem.

Why was ‘Umar angry? Isn’t it their choice as to who they want to marry? His anger was due to the sole fact that he lost two good potential suitors for his daughter. Not because they refused. An important lesson to take from this, as parents and girls (eligible for marriage) is- the first things you need to see when getting your daughter married to someone are his Deen, his akhlaaq, and the type of Muslim he is. Instead, what we find nowadays is that a large number of good God-conscious men are unmarried or rejected because one of the following reasons:

  • “His salary is too less. My daughter’s always been brought up in luxury. How can he keep her happy?”
  • “He’s just a student now. He doesn’t have a job. How will my daughter live?”
  • “He cannot afford the mahr. How can I expect him to keep her happy?”

News flash: Money is not a constant in life. It never is. Billionaires today can very possibly be bankrupt tomorrow. You daughter’s happiness, rather, depends on the Deen and the morals of the young man. I’m not saying that money is not important. Nowadays, it definitely is. But it should not be the ONLY thing that is considered. Your daughter’s rizq has been written by ar-Razzaq himself, and nothing can be added to it, nor subtracted from it. A particularly annoying trend in our desi countries (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc) is how a man (even a girl, in some places) is not considered eligible for marriage at all if he/she is a student! Isn’t it better to get your child married when he/ she wants to (even if they’re still studying), rather than have him/ her fall into fitnah? Alhamdulillah, I’ve seen parents who readily agreed to their sons’ requests and fulfilled them, without ridiculing them. I’ve even heard of so many girls who want to get married but are unable to do so- either because of societal age limits, or because the parents don’t find ANY of the suitors appropriate. It’s extremely heartbreaking to see such people lose faith in ever getting married and experiencing this beautiful blessing from Allah.

The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم assured him that he would find a man better than ‘Uthman for his daughter, and in turn, ‘Uthman would find a woman better than Hafsah as his wife. This satisfied ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه). He later saw that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم had married his daughter Umm Kulthoom to ‘Uthman (رضي الله عنه), fulfilling half of the Prophet’s prediction. He saw the second half come true when the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم himself proposed marriage to his beloved daughter. ‘Umar’s joy knew no bounds over the fact that his daughter was to join the select group of the ummahaat ul mu’mineen (Mothers of the believers), who were given glad tidings of Paradise.

Hafsah had a curious lively mind and often questioned the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم regarding the finer points of religion. It also followed that after her marriage to the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, she became even more dedicated to absorbing and studying all that she possibly could.

From the narrations of Hafsah bint ‘Umar regarding the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, we realize a critical point- the Prophet used to lead by example. For example, Hafsah (رضي الله عنها) said that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, towards the end of his life, would pray Tahajjud sitting down, not standing. There are several other such examples which are observations of what the Prophet used to do; not his direct sayings.

Lesson to be learnt: Make ‘Lead By Example’ the motto of your life. This method is far more effective when dealing with almost all categories of people. Children tend to emulate you by your actions, not your words. Be a great role model to your younger siblings. If you’re going to be yelling and snapping at your parents, don’t be shocked when they start doing so too. If you’re going to limit your vocabulary to only swear words, don’t be appalled when they start cursing too. Practice what you preach, act on what you say; because if you don’t, you’re just being a hypocrite, like Bani Israil.

“Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?” [Surah al- Baqarah 2: 44]

An important incident that took place in the life of Hafsah was in the 9th year after Hijrah. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم and his family had been living in dire conditions with barely enough food and comfort, but around this time the granaries in Madinah were full, and the Islamic government was prospering. Most of the wives of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم had been bought up in rich households, so when they saw this, they longed for some luxury too, and asked the Prophet for an increase in their allowances. On hearing this, ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) advised his daughter against such demands and told her that she should ask him for whatever she needed, rather than distressing the Messenger of Allah. Such fitnah greatly distressed the Prophet and he secluded himself for around 29 days. This caused rumors to float around that the Prophet had divorced his wives. When ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) came to know of this, he became alarmed and went to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم to verify the authenticity of the rumors, which he denied. Relieved, ‘Umar cleared the air, and the Prophet soon came down to his wives.

An important lesson we learn from this is forthrightness. Whenever in doubt, clear your doubts by asking, rather than resorting to speculation and rumor-mongering. This does nothing but increase you in stress, and causes misunderstandings and fall-outs. Someone told you that someone else said some stuff about you? Investigate it, instead of harboring a grudge in your heart or worse, taking the tit-for-tat route. Communicate. Put your thoughts, feelings and ideas across. In fact, Allah explicitly commands us against making assumptions.

“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin.” [Surah al- Hujuraat 49: 12]

There were a couple other incidents that occurred during the lifetime of Hafsah (رضي الله عنها) as well, but we will not delve into their details, as that would make the article much longer, and furthermore, I would feel more comfortable if a student of seerah were to analyze and extract the lessons from these two incidents. These events can be read about in detail in the tafseer of the first 3-4 aayat of Surah Tahrim in sha Allah.

Following the death of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, Hafsah lived until the 41st year after Hijrah, till the ripe age of 59. The depth of her bond with her father was reflected after his death when she, one of the ummahaatul mu’mineen had to be reminded of the etiquettes of mourning the death of a loved one; so deep was her grief.

During the khilafa of Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه), ‘Umar persuaded him to have a manuscript of the Qur’an penned down. After much persuasion, he agreed, and the first copy of the glorious Qur’an was penned down. After his death, the book was handed to ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) and after the death of ‘Umar, the copy was guarded by Hafsah (رضي الله عنها). His daughter, and not his son. This just goes on to explosively silence all those misogynists who claim that women are not fit for anything but the house and the kitchen. They can seek education, they can teach others, and they are responsible for bringing up entire generations. This goes on to silence all those critics who claim that Islam oppresses women. The guardianship of the only copy of the single most important book to the Muslims was given to a woman, subhanAllah. The respect given to women by the Sahabas was such that even the Khalifa of the time, Uthman bin Affan used to take her permission to see the Qur’an. People would come to her house to copy pages from the Qur’an, to study from it, and to read it. She was also one of the five wives of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم who had memorized the entire Qur’an (حفظهم الله).

A final important lesson we can derive from this is that we too can become protectors of the Qur’an- by memorizing it as much as we can, by striving to correct our recitation of the Qur’an and reading it with tarteel, by reading and pondering over its ayaat (tadabbur), and by applying what we’ve studied in our daily lives.

We ask Allah to make us from among the People of the Qur’an- the People who are one the most beloved to Allah جل و علا.





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