Umm Atikah bint Zaid (ra) was the daughter of Zaid ibn Nufayl, and the sister of Saeed ibn Zaid (ra), one of the ten lucky ones about whom the Prophet (sa) confirmed entry into Paradise. She was also related to Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) through her father.
Her father Zaid ibn Nufayl was a righteous man. Even when Islam had not come he struggled to find the right religion and kept away from Shirk (association of partners with Allah swt). He would say:
Is there one Lord or yet a thousand Lords
For me to worship in my many woes?
I turn away from Lat and from al-Uzza
I am one who is patient and endures.
I worship not al-Uzza nor her daughters,
Nor the two idols held by Ibn Amr,
Nor Ghanam who had been for us a Lord
From ancient times until but recently.
I worship God, the Beneficent Lord
So He, Forgiving Lord, might waive my sins.
He approached a Jewish Rabbi and a Christian priest individually to inquire about the correct religion. They both said that it was the Hanif religion. When Zaid ibn Nufayl asked them to elaborate which religion was that, they said it was the religion of Prophet Ibrahim (as) who was neither a Jew nor a Christian, and he worshipped none except Allah (swt). Zaid ibn Nufayl declared he will follow Prophet Ibrahim’s religion. He said,
I turn to Him who Ibrahim appealed to
For refuge, facing the Ka’bah, standing in prayer,
Saying: I am humble, resolute
Whatever must befall me I’ll endure.
About him the Prophet (sa) said that he would be raised as an independent nation on the Day of Judgement because he lived in a period before the advent of Islam.
Early in the story, we learn the importance of staying away from Shirk and trying our best to holding on to only that which the Prophet (sa) taught us. This means we must also be careful of our speech and actions. When a calamity strikes, who do we turn to? Is it Allah (swt) or the people? Who do we depend on more, Allah (swt) or the people?
Prophet Ibrahim (as) was also keen on protecting himself and his family from associating partners with Allah (swt). While people pray for wealth and other worldly blessings, Ibrahim (as) specifically asked Allah (swt) to protect his children from Shirk. He prayed, “O my Lord! Make this city (Makkah) one of peace and security, and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols.” (14: 35)
Umm Atikah (ra) also has the honour of being the widow of martyrs. About her it had circulated that whoever wished martyrdom should marry her. Her first marriage was to Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr (ra), when he was martyred she married Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra). She then married Zubair ibn al-Awwam (ra). After his martyrdom Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra) proposed her, but she declined the proposal and later married Hussain ibn Ali (ra).
The Emigrant Poetess:
Umm Atikah (ra) was beautiful both inside and out. She was gorgeous on the outside and a person of magnificent conduct. She was one of the early embracers of Islam. When the instruction for migration came she also moved to Madina to remain close to the Prophet (sa) and learn the matters of the religion. The great exegete Ibn Katheer describes her as a religious person.
Experiencing the martyrdom of one husband after another turned her into an elegiac poetess. A person’s real talent comes out only when he is placed in an inconvenient situation.
Lessons to draw: In this family, we find a keen desire to be closer to the commands of Allah (swt). First, the father leaves his comfortable living in search of finding the true religion. Then the daughter leaves her hometown to be where the Prophet of Allah (sa) was. How keen are we in enduring hardships to learn the teachings of the religion? Many a times, we do not even attend the Qur’an class or a lecture that is happening in our own neighbourhood.
(Adapted from the book: Seerat e Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu by and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi: Seerat e Sahabiyat)