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The Prophet’s Wives Series

Discovering the Personality of Hafsa bint Umar

Part Four

Read all parts here

We often are introduced to the people around the Prophet (PBUH) through his life and perspective. While there is good reason for this, it can also be of great benefit to learn about the

companions of the Messenger as individuals. They were the people who Allah (SWT) calls in the Quran, “[…] the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind.” (Qur’an 3:110)

It can be especially important to look to the lives of the honorable and honored wives of the Prophet (PBUH) to understand that they too were human beings who lived, ate, laughed and struggled to please Allah (SWT). After the Prophet, can there be a better example for us than the mothers of the believers who were all promised paradise?

Continuing in our journey to find out if our mothers were funny, sensitive, outgoing, Introspective, self-doubting, or fearless, we take a look at Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her). Hafsa was known for being studious, trustworthy, tough, and very devout.

Hafsa was studious

In a time when most men and women were illiterate, Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her) could read and write. Hafsa devoted herself to learning the literary arts when it was not a necessity of life and was very rare indeed especially for women to have this knowledge.

But her studious habits went further than reading and writing. When she migrated from Mecca to Medina, Hafsa made special arrangements to memorize the verses of the Qur’an as they were revealed. After memorizing each verse, she would think deeply about them, paying special attention to its meaning, implications, and interpretations.

Hafsa’s devotion to knowledge went above and beyond what was required of her. She worked tirelessly to acquire knowledge and to preserve that knowledge for future generations.

Hafsa was very inquisitive

Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her) never shied away from questioning. She was often discussing the finer points of Islamic law or asking the Prophet (PBUH) for clarification. Once, Hafsa, another female companion, and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were sitting and chatting together.

During this chat, the Prophet (PBUH) told his wife and this companion that everyone who had given the pledge of loyalty at Hudaybiyah would enter Paradise. She asked how that was possible. Hafsa could see that The Prophet became piqued, but she did not give up her line of questioning. She quoted a verse from Surah Maryam, “There is not one of you but will pass over it (Hell)” (19:71), as her reason why she was curious about his statement.

In response, the Prophet (PBUH) quoted the very next verse from Surah Maryam as clarification to her question,

“Then We shall save those who use to fear Allah and were dutiful to Him. And We shall leave the wrongdoers therein to their knees (in Hell)” (19:72)

She was never at a loss for words, and was not afraid to contend with the Prophet (PBUH). But she never questioned the Prophet out of defiance. Hafsa just needed to know. Whether or not it was aggravating, she just truly felt a strong urge to satisfy her inquisitive nature.

Hafsa was trustworthy

After her arrangement in Medina to memorize each verse as it came down, Hafsa naturally became hafiz of the Qur’an (someone who has memorized the Quran in its entirety). Because she was literate, hafiz, and a part of the Prophet’s household, she was entrusted with the palm branches, slates, and other materials upon which the revealed Qur’an had been written.

Hafsa protected the documentation of the revelation of the Quran during the Prophet’s life “until the time of ‘Uthmaan when he (may Allah be pleased with him) decided to compile the Qur’an into a single book form”.

The Qur’an is the most important and treasured thing the world could ever contain. And Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her) was entrusted with its verbal and written forms. She was considered the custodian of the Quran and the primary source in both verbal and textual forms. If she had not been of the utmost trustworthiness, the Prophet (PBUH) and the Companions would not have given her this momentous task of safekeeping the Qur’an.

Hafsa was tough

Hafsa’s personality reflected her father’s, who was renowned for his toughness, and her namesake. Hafsa, meaning “young lioness” in Arabic, meaning strong and tough.

One day, while speaking to Hafsa’s mother, Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “I think I shall so and so”. Whereupon his wife replied, “But it would be better if you did such and such”.  “Are you arguing with me, woman?” said Umar. “Why not?” she answered. “Your daughter keeps arguing with the Messenger of Allah until she upsets him for the whole day.”

Umar immediately put on his cloak and went directly to his daughter’s house. “Is it true that you argue with the Messenger of Allah?” he asked. “Indeed I do,” She replied.

Umar was just about to chastise her for what he considered were bad manners, when the Prophet (PBUH) came into the room and would not allow him to touch her.

So Umar went around to visit Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her), […] in order to try and influence Hafsa’s behavior through her. “I wonder at you, Ibn Khattab [Umar],” she [Umm Salama] said, after she had listened to him. “You have interfered in everything. Will you now interfere between the Messenger of Allah and his wives?”.

Umar, when relating this incident, continued, “And she kept after me until she made me give up much of what I thought proper.”

Hafsa stood her ground when it came to her right to discuss issues with her husband and even argue with him. She was brave and tough even in the face of her father’s anger. But she didn’t back down and maintained that not everything her father thought proper should or could happen in her own marriage.

Hafsa was devout

Angel Gabriel described her to the Prophet (PBUH) as frequently performing (voluntary) fasting and night prayers, and that she was to be one of his wives in Paradise.

Hafsa had her flaws, but she was also a strong woman, who knew her own mind, and would not allow anyone to convince her of something without evidence. She was a true slave of Allah and follower of the messenger of Allah (PBUH). She stands out in history as a truly great and dynamic woman.

First published: January 2017







About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for AboutIslam.net and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.