31.6 Umm Salama and the Orphans
Umm Salama is the heroine of a sad tragedy. When Quraysh were persecuting Muslims, she decided to emigrate with her husband and her little son to Medina. On the way her tribe intercepted them and forbade her husband to take her with him. In retaliation, her husband's tribe decided to take away her little son. The two tribes pulled at the child's arm, until they dislocated it. Finally her husband's people were able to take him away, and her husband had to leave for Medina without her. She was now alone deprived of husband and child, and for more than a year she used to sit on the outskirts of Mecca and cry from morning till evening. She would not give up Islam nor could she forget her husband and child.
One day a passer-by took pity on her and kept after her tribe until they agreed to allow her to join her husband. Then and only then did her husband's people return her son to her and the family was finally reunited in Medina where she bore him several more children.
Abu Salama was a brave soldier of Allah, who fought valiantly at Uhud and was given the command in the operation against Banu Asad. He was able to defeat the Banu Asad and prevent their raid on Medina, but his exertions reopened a wound received at Uhud, and he died of that wound after returning to Medina. Mohamed sat by his deathbed until the last moment and prayed over him.
Some months later, to do honor to his name according to the customs of the Arabs, Abu Bakr sent to ask for the hand of Umm Salama, but she gently refused. Next Umar ibn Al-Khattab, a man equally worthy of the widow of such a great man, asked for her hand, but he also was refused. She was a widow, alone, with many children and without any resources, Abu Salama having left nothing to support them. She could not be left in this plight, so Mohamed asked for her hand, and again she apologized to the emissary he had sent her, saying that she was old, of a jealous nature, and had many children.
The reply Mohamed sent was,
"As for you being old, then I am older than you; as for you having a jealous nature, then Allah will cast jealousy out of your heart; as for the children, they belong to Allah and His Messenger."
As always, he kept his word. He was so good to those fatherless children, treating them as his own, that some believe he married her for their sake. He could have sent them financial support, but to a proud people like the Arabs, it would have hurt their pride and position in the Muslim community. To make them his own by marrying their mother was the only way he could help them without seeming to be giving them charity. The Muslims emulated Mohamed in everything, and by such devices the widows and children of those who died in war were not left destitute, unprotected or fatherless.