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.
Although the books on early Islamic history often praise the contributions of the male Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), it is important that we exert effort to study the information available to us about the contributions of the female Companions of the Prophet. Among such Companions was Nusaybah bint Ka`b (may Allah be pleased with her), who — along with her family — was known for her humanitarian and charitable deeds.
Known as Umm `Emarah in the books of Hadith and seerah (biography of the Prophet), Nusaybah accepted Islam in the early days of the advent of this religion. She traveled with a group of men from what is now known as Madinah to Makkah to join the community of Muslims at the hands of 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 when she joined 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 for Muslims 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 that the Prophet was left to fend for himself, Nusaybah immediately armed herself and joined the tight circular formation that was protecting the Prophet. Dr. Al Hashimi relates that Nusaybah fought so bravely and selflessly in the Prophet’s defense
Although the Muslims were victorious in the end, the Battle of Uhud was forever recorded along with all the lessons the Muslims had learned. Etched in that record is the role that Nusaybah and her family played in defending the beloved of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
In the course of defending the Prophet, Nusaybah suffered wounds, but she did not complain or lose heart. She asked the Prophet to make du`aa’ (supplication) that she and her family would join him in Paradise, and the Prophet made such a du`aa’.
While Nusaybah is mentioned in the 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; however, what we know is authenticated and well documented because of her effective participation in very key events in the life of the Prophet and in the early days of Islam. She was respected by the Prophet, and even after his death, the two immediate caliphs, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq and `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with them), accorded tremendous respect to her in honor of her role as an individual dedicated to the cause of humanity, her bravery in personally defending the Prophet’s life, and most of all her 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 when she withstood the pain of multiple wounds to ensure that no harm would reach the Prophet.
What had begun as a humanitarian role for Nusaybah during the Battle of Uhud was soon transformed by the will of Almighty Allah into a historic and courageous role, and we are all grateful to this day for the sacrifices that she and her family made in the cause of Almighty 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