Umm Salamah, whose name was Hind bint Abu Umayyah ibn Al-Mugheerah, was a woman who combined beauty with character, noble birth and a wealth of experience.
Her deceased husband was one of the early converts to the new faith when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) began preaching his message in secret.
Both Umm Salamah and her husband, Abdullah ibn Abd Al-Asad, were among the very early Muslims. Her husband was a cousin of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). His mother was Arwa bint Abd Al-Muttalib, the Prophet’s paternal aunt. Both husband and wife were in the first batch of Muslim immigrants to Abyssinia.
Being a woman of sagacious mind, she joined him in declaring her belief in Islam, realizing that idolatry is an absurdity, which defies human logic. Her father was a man who earned great honor in his own right.
He was given the nickname Zad Al-Rakb, which means the “provider for all travellers.” When he went on a trip, he would not allow anyone who joined his caravan to take any food with him. He provided all the food necessary for them all. His generosity and hospitality was of the highest order.
It is well known that the Prophet first preached his message in secret for three years. When he later went public, he met very strong opposition. In the fifth year of his message, the Prophet advised a section of his followers to immigrate to Abyssinia.
All sources recording the events of the Prophet’s life treat this immigration as one of weak and vulnerable elements fleeing from persecution. The fact that Abu Salamah and his wife were among the first to immigrate, and that most immigrants belonged to distinguished families who enjoyed influential positions in Makkah disproves this claim.
These were people who feared no physical or mental persecution. They could easily defend themselves and their clans were certain to come to their support. The immigration to Abyssinia had a different goal.
The Prophet wanted his Companions to leave Makkah and go to Abyssinia for two objectives. The first was reducing tension in Makkah, where the unbelievers began to view his new faith as a threat to their established way of life.
The second was to demonstrate the universal nature of Islam by establishing a new base for it in a totally different social environment. The immigrants returned at different times, some staying only a few months while those who were the last to return spent no less than 15 years in Abyssinia.
We cannot pinpoint a date when Umm Salamah and her husband returned from Abyssinia, but their stay did not last more than three or four years. Their first son, Salamah, was born there.
They returned in order to be with the Prophet supporting him in his struggle to make the divine message known to people and call on them to believe in God and accept Islam.
Yet the hostility of the people of Makkah grew more fierce and determined. They ridiculed the Prophet and his teachings. They suppressed the new faith; prevented travelers who visited Makkah from meeting the Prophet or listening to him; tortured the weaker elements in the Muslim community; brought various types of pressure to bear on Muslims of noble descent; imposed a social boycott of all those who lent tribal support to the Prophet and even plotted to kill him.
The Prophet, however, continued his efforts undeterred by the strong opposition he encountered.
Ultimately, the message of Islam began to find a new home in Yathrib, which was later to be known as Madinah. New recruits were won every day and almost every family in Madinah found one or more of its members declaring their belief in Islam.
Within two years, the Muslims of Madinah felt that they could no longer allow the Prophet and their brethren in Makkah to continue to face all that hostility.
Therefore, they invited them to come over to them where they would have the most welcoming reception. The Prophet accepted the pledge of total support given by the Muslims of Madinah, and he told his companions in Makkah to start their exodus.
The immigration of Umm Salamah and her husband took place, but her husband died shortly after it.
Such a woman would not stay unmarried for long. The fact that she had four children, one of them was still newly born, was no hindrance in the Arabian society, which accepted polygamy as normal.
Hence, when her waiting period of four months and ten days was over, a succession of suitors sent their proposals. These included Abu Bakr and Umar, but Umm Salamah politely and gently rejected them all. She had lost a husband of great character, whom she dearly loved.
She reports that her husband had told her of a hadith he heard the Prophet stating:
“Whoever meets a misfortune should resort to what God has ordered in such cases, saying, ‘We all belong to God and to Him we all return. My Lord! Grant me support in my misfortune and compensate me with something better.’
“If he does so, God will certainly give him support and is sure to give him better compensation.”
Continuing her report, she said:
“When my husband died, I frequently said this prayer. Then I thought who could be better for me than Abu Salamah? Yet I hoped that God would give me support to bear my loss.” (Muslim)
A different report mentions that before his death, her husband said this prayer: “My Lord! When I have died, give Umm Salamah a man who is better than me, who would take care of her and give her nothing to upset her or cause her grief.”
When Umm Salamah’s husband died, she wondered who could be better than him.
Yet this is exactly what happened to Umm Salamah. After rejecting a succession of suitors, she received an offer of marriage no Muslim woman could refuse. It was the Prophet who wanted her to join his household as a new wife.
Recognizing the great honor such a marriage would give her, she was delighted. Yet at the same time she felt reluctant. She sent him word saying: “I am too jealous, and old, and I am mother of several children.”
It was an answer that meant no refusal, but provided grounds for the Prophet not to proceed with his proposal. The Prophet sent her a kind reply saying: “God may take away your jealousy. As for your age, I am older than you. And you may entrust your children to God and His Messenger.”
Who could take better care of any widow’s children than God? Who could be a better stepfather than God’s Messenger? Hence, the marriage was soon celebrated and Umm Salamah realized that God had compensated her with a husband who was much better than her first husband, great indeed as Abu Salamah was.