Lessons of Faith from Umm Sulaym Bint Malhan (ra)

blueflowersMother’s Sacrifice for Her Orphan Son

Umm Sulaym (ra) grieved for her unbelieving husband, for they had spent many years together under the same roof despite their differences. She turned her attention to little Anas (ra) and said, “I will re-marry when my son Anas allows.” She nourished him with the Quranic verses and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) until Anas (ra) grew up into a trustworthy young man.

Blessed with intellect and wisdom, it struck Umm Sulaym (ra) to request the Prophet (sa) to accept Anas (ra) in his service. The mother desired the best for her son. What could be better than learning directly from the Prophet (sa) while also serving him? The Prophet (sa) accepted this young man who grew up with the Quran and Sunnah.

Lessons to Draw: When being tested, people leave whatever good they are doing and devote their time to mourning over their loss and in depression. Umm Sulaym (ra) teaches us to rise up in the face of calamity. She focused her attention on the other blessings of Allah (swt) that she enjoyed – her son. She had him to be thankful for, look after and nurture.

What is our attitude in affliction? What has Allah (swt) given us that we are ignoring?

While at one point Umm Sulaym (ra) says she would not re-marry (that is separate herself from her son) until her son permitted; she later gave her beloved boy to the Prophet (sa). She knew she could give him love, but she could not raise or educate him better than the best of mankind. She picked the best teacher for her son and endured the temporary separation for his betterment. We must pay attention to our children’s education. If they are not being homeschooled, what kind of school have we chosen for them? Who are their teachers? Do they instil the love of Allah (swt) in their little hearts along with education? What kind of education are they being delivered?

While at one point Umm Sulaym (ra) says she would not re-marry (that is separate herself from her son) until her son permitted; she later gave her beloved boy to the Prophet (sa)

The Best Dowry of All

One of the richest men from the Ansar (the helpers of Madinah) had heard of Umm Sulaym’s admirable virtues. Her integrity and her courage, appealed him. When he learnt that she was a widow, he decided to marry her. Being affluent, he had no qualms about the dowry. He had decided he would present her with as much gold and silver as she desired. He was confident that his proposal would certainly be accepted. Umm Sulaym (ra), however, surprised him.

When this man approached her, the woman of Taqwa said, “A man like you cannot be refused, the problem is that you are an idol worshipper. It does not befit me to marry a polytheist.” The man requested her to re-consider and offered to present her with as many jewels as she desired. Umm Sulaym (ra) replied, “My dowry is Islam. Accept Islam. I will marry you. Upon your becoming a Muslim, I will not demand any other dowry.”

We must pay attention to our children’s education. If they are not being homeschooled, what kind of school have we chosen for them? Who are their teachers?

She then talked about his idols. The gods that he worshipped were crafted by people with their own hands. When they required firewood, they would throw their idols into fire and cook meal. The man agreed that it was indeed true. Umm Sulaym (ra) continued and asked him if he did not feel embarrass to prostrate to a wooden piece that grew from the Earth. A wooden piece that could not help its own self, could not solve his problems either.

The man held his head low and did not utter another word. Umm Sulaym (ra) again presented her proposal to him that if he agrees to embrace Islam, she will accept his marriage proposal. The man asked for some time to think and then accepted Islam. Anas (ra) was called and instructed to arrange the Nikah of his mother with Abu Talha Ansari (ra).

Abu Talha (ra) then approached the Prophet (sa) and inquired about the unique dowry that he had been demanded. The Prophet (sa) accepted ‘Islam’ as Umm Sulaym’s dowry and conducted their Nikah.

Lessons to draw: Allah (swt) replaced an unbelieving, unkind husband with him who was much better in many ways. One person abandoned her, Allah (swt) sent another to take care of her. We keep complaining to people that they are not giving us our right or not helping us, but we don’t ask Ar-Razzaq – He, who provides all kinds of provisions. Umm Sulaym (ra) did not remain undeterred because of a grudge. Her sacrifice was for her religion. She loved Allah (swt) more. He who loves or hates someone or something for the sake of Allah (swt), his sacrifices are never ignored by Him. The only condition is the standard of our Iman (faith). How sincere are we?

Have Tawakkal on Allah (swt) if future appears bleak today, it would not remain so forever. Allah (swt) will bring relief to us when He thinks it is right for us with what He chooses for us.

Umm Sulaym (ra) proved that to her faith mattered. Through her Dawah abilities, she convinced the man to come to the truth ‘before marriage’, not later.

We also see that Umm Sulaym (ra) gives no attention to the financial standing of Abu Talha (ra). She rejects him on the basis of his faith. Many a times, we put the faith behind thinking we can work on it later and go ahead with the marriage. When later arrives, girls have either fallen to a lower level of faith or marital conflicts have emerged. Umm Sulaym (ra) proved that to her faith mattered. Through her Dawah abilities, she convinced the man to come to the truth ‘before marriage’, not later.

(Adapted from the book: Seerat e Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu by Mehmood Ahmad Ghazanfar and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi: Seerat e Sahabiyat)

The Demon of Dowry

Vol 4-Issue 3 The Demon of DowryIt all starts with the birth of a girl. “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief.” (An-Nahl 16:58)

Preference for sons prevails mostly in India, China, Pakistan and the Gulf States. Deliberate abortion of female fetuses is not rare: every year, approximately a million female abortions are reported in India alone. “When the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) is questioned: ‘For what sin was she killed?’” (At-Takwir 81:8-9)

It’s not just men, who perceive the births of girls this way; women are also perpetrators of the ‘sons-are-better’ ideology for several reasons. One of them is the anticipation of a future financial burden on the father. A girl has to be provided for by her guardian; she does not mature into a breadwinner. Rather, she goes into another family. Thanks to the Hindu custom of ‘Jahaiz’ or dowry, marrying a girl off after she has been raised can be an even bigger hurdle. The father starts stressing years in advance, about how he will provide each of his daughters with a ‘proper’ dowry.

Dowry is an amount of money, goods or possessions given to the bride by her family at the time of her marriage, in order to attract a good husband. All of which, in effect, become the property of the husband or his family after marriage.

In actuality, the matter of fathers giving their daughters monetary gifts, property, enormous wedding feasts or furnished homes should be left to their own discretion. However, girls are given dowries because they are deliberately left out of the family inheritance. Although, Islam enjoins that each heir be given his share of inheritance – male or female – and prohibits ostentation, extravagance and unlawful acquisition of wealth. To some extent the custom of dowry involves all three of these vices.

A gift is something someone happily and willingly gives; it is not demanded. When Jahaiz is demanded by the bridegroom’s family, it’s a way of acquiring wealth by twisting another’s arm. How can one expect a marriage to be blessed, when at its initiation it best resembles a business transaction, in which each party tries to maximize its own profit?

Even if the bridegroom’s family wants to adhere to Islamic injunctions and renounces dowry, at times the bride’s female family members insist on the custom. The absence of a grand trousseau and an impressive banquet displayed to their social circle is a sign of disgrace for them because: “What will people think?”

Hearsay at weddings involves typical questions: “How many dresses have been made for her trousseau?”, “How much did the crockery cost?”, “How many jewellery sets did she get?”

The bride is sometimes trained to treat everything provided by her in-laws with disdain. She starts her married life expecting only her parents ‘proudly’ provide her with everything she needs. Gifts given by in-laws are usually discarded or not used.

In Islam, it is the husband who provides for his wife after marriage. He has to give her a monetary gift known as dower or Mahr, which the Quran describes as a Fareedah – an obligatory due. “And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridAl-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any harm (as Allah has made it lawful).” (An-Nisa 4:4)

“All others are lawful, provided you seek (them in marriage) with Mahr (bridAl-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) from your property, desiring chastity, not committing illegal sexual intercourse, so with those of whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed.” (An-Nisa 4:24)

Whenever a Companion wanted to get married, Prophet Muhammad (sa) would ask him, what he had which could serve as Mahr. When Ali (rta) was marrying Fatimah (rta), the Prophet (sa) went so far as to help him provide modest household items for her, as he was Ali’s (rta) guardian. This proves that if a Muslim bridegroom needs help in setting up a home for marriage, he should be helped, especially by his own guardian.

Sometimes the bride’s family demands an exorbitant Mahr for her, ignoring the spirit of Ihsan endorsed by Islam. This makes it difficult for younger men to marry, thus opening the door to such evils as dating and fornication.

Prevalence of the dowry custom not only jeopardizes the lives of future female infants and makes marriage difficult for girls in general, but also becomes a menace to low-income groups. Despite the existence of laws that prohibit excessive dowry, it is not unusual to find every mother under severe pressure of ‘honorably marrying off’ her daughters. She goes asking door-to-door for monetary help, incurring huge debts to throw lavish wedding feasts and live up to societal expectations.

What can we do to eradicate this custom? In 1976, the government of Pakistan passed a law – the Dowry and Bridal Gifts Restriction Act – that prohibited dowry above a specific amount. Sadly, to little effect. Existence of laws can only be effective, if people have Taqwah. The change can come about only if Muslim families truly fear Allah (swt) when performing marriages. How?

By giving precedence to piety over materialism, Allah’s (swt) pleasure over people’s expectations, and fully trusting in Allah (swt) for girl’s well-being after marriage.

Not asking questions about dowry when attending a wedding.

Remembering that girls are provided for and protected by the Best of Providers – Allah (swt).

Even if a few marriages take place with an average Mahr and no dowry, the bridal couple accepting an initially mediocre standard of living can set a trend for others to follow.

Maybe then the birth of a daughter would bring genuine happiness.