Saudah Bint Zam’ah is one of the Mothers of the Belivers that we hardly hear and talk about. Even I, have to admit that it is only just a few years back that I knew about her. Yet her nobility and selflessness is second to none, and there is a lot to be learnt from the life of this great woman.
HER EARLY LIFE
She was born to Zam’ah ibn Qays of the Quraysh tribe –Banu Amer bin Loii; and Shammoos bint Qaus of the tribe of Bannu Najjar. She was among the first Muslims to accept Islam.
She was first married to her cousin, Sakran bin Amar. She accompanied him when emigrating to Abysinnia and was among the eight people of the Banu Amer tribe who left their homes and properties, and went on that journey in order to preserve their religion.
Saudah and her husband were blessed with a son named Abdur-Rahman. They lived in Abysinnia for a long time before returning to Makkah. Sakran later fell ill, and passed away. At that point of her life, she was filled with so much grief and sorrow.
HER MARRIAGE TO THE PROPHET (S.A.W)
A friend of hers, Khawlah bint Hakim –the wife of Uthman bin Madh’aon- was the one to suggest her as a suitable wife to the Prophet (S.A.W.).
It was said that no one had the confidence to suggest to the Prophet (S.A.W) that he married another wife, after the demise of Khadijah (R.A.). But only Khawlah was confident enough to meet the Prophet and suggest to him that he took on another wife, to ease his loneliness and grief.
When the prophet (S.A.W) asked Khawlah who he could possibly marry, she told him that she had someone in mind. When the Prophet (S.A.W.) learnt it was Saudah, he agreed. Kawlah went to her friend’s house happily and told her that she had a great proposal for her. When Saudah learnt that the proposal was from the Prophet (S.A.W.) himself, she felt so honored to have received such great fortune. She told Khawlah to also inform her old father, who was only too happy that his widowed daughter had been chosen to become the wife of the Prophet (S.A.W).
She was the only wife of the Prophet (S.A.W.) after Khadijah bint Khawaylid, for about three years before he married Aisha bint Abu Bakr.
As a good wife and mother
Saudah served the Prophet’s household and took care of his daughters. She pleased the Prophet (S.A.W) and helped him to keep calling people to the path of Allah. Sometimes she would tell the Prophet (S.A.W) stories about his daughter Ruqayyah and her husband, Uthman bin Affan, of the times she knew then when she was in Abyssiniah.
Her sense of humor
Saudah had a light-hearted sense of humor. She would often make the Prophet laugh (S.A.W) by her humorous views of situations.
One time, Ibn Sa’ad narrated about how she was offering voluntary night prayers with the Prophet (S.A.W), standing behind him. The next day, she told him of how his long prayer made her fear that her nasal vein would burst and cause her nose to bleed! So she said that she held on to her nose while in the bowing position. This caused the Prophet (S.A.W) to laugh based on the comical image with which she presented herself.
As a playful woman
Aisha (R.A.) describes her as being a lively woman with an enjoyable company. There was a day when the Prophet (S.A.W), Aisha, and Saudah (R.A.) were sitting together and chatting. Aisha cooked a special dish and offered it to Saudah, but she refused. Aisha jokingly threatened to force-feed Saudah. And when Saudah continued to remain indifferent, she actually splashed it all over her face! It was said that the Prophet (S.A.W.) moved back a little to allow Saudah to retaliate and allowed them to have their fun. This shows how lively and fun the Prophet’s household was.
As a co-wife
When Saudah feared that the Prophet (S.A.W) may divorce her due to her old age, she gave the time allotted to her (to spend with the Prophet S.A.W.) to Aisha. She had no malice or jealousy against her co-wives. She wanted to be raised up on the Day of Judgment as part of the Prophet’s wives, and one of the Mothers of the Believers.
Narrated ‘ibn ‘Abbas:
“Sawdah feared that the Prophet (S.A.W) was going to divorce her, so she said: ‘Do not divorce me, but keep me and give my day to Aishah. So he (S.A.W) did so, and the following was revealed: Then there is no sin on them both if they make terms of peace between themselves, and making peace is better [4:128]. So whatever they agree to make peace in something then it is permissible.”
There are five authentic hadiths attributed to her, according to Imam Thahbi. She was generous to the extent that she distributed a bag of money that was given to her by Umar bin Khattab -among the poor and needy. She is one of those that had the distinction of performing two hijrahs (migration for Allah’s sake) during her lifetime –one to Abyssinia, and the other to Madinah.
Saudah lived to the old age of 80 years. She died during the caliphate of Umar ibn Khattab and was buried in Jannatul Baqi’.
There is a lot to be learnt from the life of this wonderful woman. How she related with her co-wives. How she was generous enough to give her time to Aisha. Her generosity, loyalty and liveliness sets a beautiful example for us to emulate.
R.A. Radillahu annha/anhum (may Allah be pleased with her/him)
S.A.W. Sallahu alayhi wa salam (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him)
Ghadanfar, M. A. (2001). Great Women of Islam. Riyadh: Darussalam.
The Early Muslim Women; Compiled and Translated by Dr. Abdel-Hamid Eliwa. Egypt: Dar Al-Manarah.