Umm Atikah bint Zaid (rtaf) was the daughter of Zaid ibn Nufayl and the sister of Saeed ibn Zaid (rtam), one of the ten lucky ones for whom the Prophet (sa) confirmed entry into Paradise. She was also related to Umar ibn al-Khattab (rtam) through her father.
A Husband’s Testimony about His Wife
When Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr (ra) saw Umm Atikah (ra), he sent her a proposal of marriage which she accepted. Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr’s fondness for his wife, however, made him slacken in his religious duties. He would remain at home more often, reduced participation in the battles, and would not hasten for the prayers like before. When Abu Bakr Siddiq (rtam) noticed this, he was deeply upset and feared for his son’s religion. Upon learning that this was due to Abdullah’s (rtam) fondness for his wife, Abu Bakr (rtam) instructed that they should be separated.
Obeying his father’s command, Abdullah (rtam) divorced Umm Atikah (rtaf) and again became active in his religious commitments. However, this did not last long, as he missed his beloved wife deeply. Her absence turned him into a poet. He uttered verses in her praise and testified that she was a woman of good habits, wisdom, and high moral character. He admired her truthfulness and her acceptance of the separation.
Once, when in the late hours of the night, Abu Bakr (rtam) had gone to the roof to offer Tahajjud, he heard Abdullah (rtam) uttering these poetic verses. The man known for his generosity and soft-heartedness felt his son’s pain. He instructed Abdullah (rtam) that he could reconcile with his wife. Abdullah (rtam) reconciled with Umm Atikah (rtaf) and freed his slave Aimen as an act of Sadaqah.
One his way to her house, he recited more poetry, praising Umm Atikah’s (rtaf) beauty, soft speech, and temperament. He complimented that she was among those whose matters were resolved by Allah (swt). And those who have been honoured by Allah (swt) cannot be disgraced.
Lessons to draw: Being appreciated and praised by one’s husband is an honour from Allah (swt) that strengthens marital ties and raises a woman’s ranks with Allah (swt). Abdullah (rtam) not only praised Umm Atikah’s (rtaf) beauty but also her fine character, wisdom, and temperament.
We also see that Abdullah (rtam) obeyed his father. He did not argue when he was told to do something which displeased his heart. Was Abu Bakr (rtam) unfair in his demand? Before answering the question, one must remember Abu Bakr (rtam) was no ordinary person – he spent his entire day side by side with the Prophet (sa). He would never advise something that could be in contradiction to our religion. This act of Abu Bakr (rtam) is verified by the Quranic verse: “Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa), and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah (swt) brings about His Decision (torment).” (At-Taubah 9:24)
Parents who force their son to divorce his wife must first check their level of Taqwa. Is it as high as Abu Bakr’s (rtam)? Abu Bakr (rtam) did not suggest separation on some egotistical motive. He felt his son’s religious commitments were endangered. Allah (swt) must be given priority in every matter of life.
Martyrdom of the First Husband
Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr (rtam) was martyred by an arrow that struck him in the Battle of Taif. It was now Umm Atikah’s (rtaf) turn to utter verses in praise of her husband. She called him the best man after the Prophet (sa) and Abu Bakr (rtam) and praised his gallantry in wars.
Lessons to draw: Wives should also appreciate their husbands. There is no shyness in expressing your love to your spouse.
Marriage to Umar ibn al-Khattab (rtam)
When Umm Atikah (rtaf) had completed her mourning period, Umar (rtam) proposed to her. She informed him that she owned a garden, which was a gift from her first husband with a condition that she would not marry anyone in case he died. Umar (rtam) advised her to consult a scholar. He held the opinion that she could not make something impermissible that had been made permissible by Allah (swt). Umm Atikah (rtaf) then consulted Ali ibn Abu Talib (rtam), who advised her to return the garden to Abdullah’s (rtam) family.
Marrying Umar (rtam) opened up more doors of wisdom and knowledge for Umm Atikah (rtaf). She learnt asceticism through him.
Umar (rtam) and Umm Atikah (rtaf) lived a happy marital life. Her second husband was also pleased with her companionship. Devoted to worship, Umm Atikah (rtaf) would seek her husband’s permission to pray in the mosque. Umar (rtam) would say that even though he didn’t like her going to the mosque, he could not stop her from doing something which is permissible. In reply, Umm Atikah (rtaf) would say that she would keep seeking his permission.
After the martyrdom of Umar (rtam), Umm Atikah (rtaf) said elegiac poetry in his memory, too. She remembered him as someone with a radiant face, who recited the Quran, who turned to Allah (swt), who was kind to the weak and strong against the enemy, and who was steadfast in trials and agreeable. In his speech, she found no contradiction. He would hasten to give charity and did not deal with callousness.
Lessons to draw: Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr (rtam) was right when he called her a truthful woman. She did not conceal the property that she had been given or the condition that had been placed. She returned the property to the rightful owner when she could not fulfil the condition any longer.
In Umar (rtam), again we see honesty. While he was a learned man himself, he advised Umm Atikah (rtaf) to consult someone else on the matter. He did not give her his own opinion. Secondly, he also did not make her break a promise because his argument was that we cannot make the permissible impermissible on our own. This is similar to the Prophet’s (s) incident of honey mentioned in Surah at-Tahrim: “O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself) that which Allah has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives?…” (At-Tahrim 66:1)
We also see that Umm Atikah (rtaf) was highly respectful of her husband. She did not stop asking Umar’s (rtam) permission for going to the mosque.
Adapted from “Seerat e Sahabiyat kay Darakshan Pehlu” and lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi “Seerat e Sahabiyat”.