Lessons from the life of Aminah bint Wahb (#beboldforchange)
This is the first of a series of articles from Dear Chereen’s contributors in honor of International Women’s Day. With the hashtag #beboldforchange, we are highlighting bold women, embracing the power of femininity, and celebrating women around the world.
Written by: Sofiyya Hassanali
As women, who do we look to for inspiration? We’re constantly being told it’s a man’s world, and society is always trying to pressure us about our rights and roles in our own homes. Our husbands, brothers, sons, bosses, spiritual leaders–all men.
But we are more than just mothers, daughters, and wives. We are doctors, lawyers, business owners, and people with our own needs and wants. So where do we find women to look up to? Angelina Jolie, Michelle Obama, Queen Rania: These are some great women, standing up against injustice and setting examples for female empowerment, but it’s a shame that when you ask Muslim sisters about their female role models these are their only answers.
Many women today credit our empowerment to the suffragettes or the rise of feminism, but it goes much further back than that. The first Muslim women were the most empowered women of their time, and we should learn about them and be proud of them. We should use them as our inspiration and teach our daughters to rise up, use their voices, and be strong. We need to educate ourselves about the most important women in the life of Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alayhi wa salam–peace and blessings be upon him and his family) and harness their strengths. Please join me for a look into the life of Aminah (RadiAllahu ‘anhu–may God be pleased with her), the mother of our final prophet. She was strong and resilient. She was bold and blessed. She’s the kind of person we should embody for International Women’s Day!
Her story could easily be a romantic Hollywood movie. Her life was brief, but her impact was great. Aminah bint Wahb came from a noble lineage of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. And, as in all romances, there was someone she was interested in: Abdullah bin Abdul Muttalib, who was one of the most sought after men in all of Mecca because of his good looks, chastity, and moral upbringing. Women all over the Arabian peninsula had their eye on him, and he was being pushed by his father to choose a bride. The Torah, sooth-sayers, and fortune-tellers all predicted that a descendent of Prophet Ishmael would be the next prophet. Many said Abdullah himself had the light of prophethood shining from his face, but nobody except God knew that within him was the seed of prophethood, which had been passed down to him through generations and generations. He was very religious, disregarding the ignorant ways of the Quraysh. He was noble, disregarding all the women who threw themselves at him. He knew his decision was an important one and took it very seriously. Out of all of the beautiful and wealthy women, it was Aminah bint Wahb, of the Zuhr clan, that he chose to be his wife.
It wasn’t long after their wedding that Aminah became pregnant. While she was pregnant, Abdullah went on a trip to Syria to trade. On his way back, he fell ill and stayed with his mother’s brothers in Yathrib (Madinah). Abdullah did not survive the illness and his young wife was left a widow, and the kicking baby in her womb, an orphan. Can you imagine the strength she must have had to endure such a hardship? Losing a husband while pregnant, grieving while carrying a child–she had every reason to wallow in despair, but she was steadfast and strong.
Through the heartbreak and pregnancy, Aminah sought comfort and support in her father-in-law, Abdul Muttalib, who took care of her as if she was his own daughter. Despite the emotional burden of her husband’s death, and the dim future of having to raise this child alone, her pregnancy was an easy one. The emotional burden far outweighed the physical. The bodily burden was small. She often noted that she felt light, as if she wasn’t carrying a baby at all.
One day, an angel came to her in her sleep and said, “You are pregnant with the leader and the Prophet of this Ummah (nation).” He came to her again before her birth and said, “Say after you have delivered him, ‘I seek protection for him with the One (God) from the evil of every jealous creature.’ Then name him Muhammad.” After this, she had several dreams that brought her comfort and solace. They gave her patience and encouragement.
Aminah went into labor on the 12th day of Rabee Ul-Awwal around dawn, 2 months after the passing of her husband. According to Aminah’s narrations to Haleemah, her wet nurse, Aminah said that when she delivered him, “A light came out with him that illuminated what is between the east and the west. The light illuminated palaces and markets in Syria until I saw the necks of the camels in Basra. I saw three flags erected: one in the east, one in the west, and the third over Mecca.”
Abdul Muttalib took the baby boy and walked around the Kabah holding him, saying, “Praise be to God, who gave me this greatly important boy! I seek God’s protection for him.” Abu Lahab, Abdullah’s brother and now the prophet’s uncle, was so excited over the birth of his nephew that he freed Thuwaybah, the slave who brought him the good news. Thuwaybah ended up staying with Aminah for the first few days after delivery and breast-fed the baby until he was given to his wet nurse, Haleemah. When Muhammad (S) was returned to Aminah, she held him and she felt that same closeness and warmth she had when he was in her womb. (Mothers, is there any bond stronger than that between you and your child?) Aminah knew her son was a blessing and that he was destined for greatness.
When Muhammad (S) was a boy of six, Aminah took him to Yathrib to visit Abdullah’s grave. They brought with them their servant Barakah, who was like a second mother to Muhammad and lived with him into his old age. Aminah mourned her husband’s death and Muhammad (S) wept at the sight of his mother crying and in sadness for the father he never knew. Aminah had buried her pain for months. Motherhood, with all its blessings and mercies, isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. We seldom have the opportunity to shed the tears we want to. Every day mothers are on the verge of tears, whether it is because we need to cook for dinner after a long hard day, find money to pay the grocery bill, or in longing for the company of loved ones. It takes a lot of strength to hold it all together, and you do, until you can’t anymore.
Shortly after, Aminah was afflicted with a fever that was going around. She did not realize she had caught it until after they left the city. She passed away on the way home to Mecca. Young Muhammad (S) had to bury his mother himself. There was no one around except Barakah. He cried bitterly and the angels that surrounded him cried with him in sympathy for losing both of his parents at such a young age. But there was a very important reason for the Prophet (S) to endure hardship at such a young age, and there was a reason for him to be an orphan.
In this story, we are reminded of the importance of choosing a good spouse and how the children are often a reflection of their parents. Like Aminah and Abdullah, Muhammad (S) was patient, charming, and kind. We also learn that motherhood is a sacrifice, but when you do your best, it’s worth it. Giving your children the foundations they need will set them up for success. Aminah was only with her son for a few short years, but she loved him dearly. She protected him and provided for him the best she could.
As a mother, when you are carrying and raising a child, you have no idea of the greatness your child can achieve. We’re so caught up in feeding and clothing each child that we forget she or he could be the next leader or the greatest scientist to create beautiful changes in the world. It is so important that we nurture our children and keep them on the straight path. May God reward all of you mothers for raising strong children, and may He keep all our children on the straight path.
At the same time, don’t lose yourself in sacrificing for them. Your children need healthy and happy parents around them. Take the time you need to ensure that you are well. Don’t ever sell yourself short. Even the smallest deeds of motherhood are full of blessings. Even the shortest lives, like that of Aminah’s, is enough to bring unbelievable good to the world.
WATCH THIS EPISODE ON THE STORYTIME WITH SOFIYYA YOUTUBE PAGE: RAMADAN 2016: Women in the Life of the Rasool (1) – Aminah R.A.
Quṭb, Muḥammad ʻAlī. Women around the Messenger. Riyadh: International Islamic House, 2007. Print.