Throughout history, Muslim women have played a vital role in various aspects of the development of their community. Surrounding our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) were men and women of unparalleled faith, commitment, and love for Allah and His Messenger. These men and women were always courageous, charitable, chivalrous, and compassionate.
Books on early Islamic history praise the contributions of the male Companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is crucial that we seek to study about the contributions of the female Companions of the Prophet as well. Nusaybah bint Ka`b (may Allah be pleased with her) was among the best of companions. She, along with her family, are appreciated for humanitarian and charitable deeds.
Who was Nusaybah?
Known as ‘Umm `Emarah’ in books of Hadith and seerah, Nusaybah converted in the early days of Islam. She traveled with a group of men from Madinah to Makkah to join the community of Muslims with the Prophet.
Nusaybah was by far the most distinguished of women because of her many superior qualities, especially because of the bravery she demonstrated in defense of the Prophet during the Battle of Uhud. In his book The Ideal Muslimah: The True Islamic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur’an and Sunnah, Dr. Al Hashimi notes that joining the Muslim community in the Battle of Uhud her main objective was humanitarian work. Along with other women, she delivered water to the soldiers and attended to their wounds.
It was uncommon for women to actually fight in wars, but they had a very important role in rallying the troops, boosting their morale with chants, quenching their thirst in times of extreme heat, and ultimately serving as important helpers to those wounded in battle.
We know of Nusaybah’s bravery during the Battle of Uhud because so much did not go well during this battle. In the process, the life of the Prophet was constantly at risk. Although we will not recount the various stages of the battle, it is important to note that when the archers under the command of `Abdullah ibn Jubair (may Allah be pleased with him) disobeyed the order of the Prophet and left him totally vulnerable, the enemy’s commander, Khalid ibn Al-Waleed moved in with his troops.
An authentic hadith records that more than 70 Companions were injured and many others were martyred (Al-Bukhari, Book no. 59, Hadith no. 322).
Seeing the Prophet left to fend for himself, Nusaybah armed herself, joining the circular formation that was protecting him. Dr. Al Hashimi relates that Nusaybah fought bravely and selflessly in the Prophet’s defense
Victorious in the end, the Muslim fighters’ many lessons learned at the Battle of Uhud are forever recorded. Etched in that record is the role that Nusaybah and her family played in defending the beloved of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
In the course of defending the Prophet, Nusaybah suffered wounds, but she did not complain or lose heart. Asking the Prophet to make du`aa’ that she and her family would join him in Paradise, he did so.
Nusaybah is in our Islamic history as being among the pioneering, famous warriors. She is also cited as a woman of tremendous forbearance and spirit of preference of others over herself. One of her sons became a martyr during a subsequent battle, and she exhibited the highest degree of trust in and reliance on Almighty Allah, accepting the news of his death with dignity and grace.
The life of Nusaybah is not chronicled in detail. What remains is authenticated and well documented due to her participation in key events in the life of the Prophet and in the early days of Islam. Respected by the Prophet, and even after his death, the two immediate caliphs, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq and `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra), accorded tremendous respect to Nusaybah. She is honored in her role as an individual dedicated to the cause of humanity, her bravery in personally defending the Prophet’s life, and making an ultimate sacrifice in the form of her son’s martyrdom.
Throughout history, Muslim women have played a vital role in various aspects of the development of their community. However, no one else holds the special title of being the defender of the Prophet himself as Nusaybah did. She withstood the pain of multiple wounds to ensure that no harm would reach the Prophet.
During the Battle of Uhud, what began as a humanitarian role for Nusaybah soon transformed. By the will of Almighty Allah, she is now a historic figure of a courageous role. The ummah is grateful to this day for sacrifices that she made in the cause of Allah.
Al Hashimi, Muhammad Ali. The Ideal Muslimah: The True Islamic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Translated by Nasiruddin Al Khattab. Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 1997.
First published: July 2012