Ramla bint Abi Sufyan

Ramla bint Abi Sufyan (رملة بنت أبي سفيان) aka Umm Habiba (أم حبيبة) (c.594-666) was a wife of Muhammad and therefore a Mother of the Believers.

Early life

She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and Safiyyah bint Abi al-'As.[1] Abu Sufyan was the chief of the Umayya clan, and he was the leader of the whole Quraysh tribe and the most powerful opponent of Muhammad in the period 624-630. The first Ummayad caliph, Muawiyah I, was Ramla's brother, and Uthman ibn Affan was her maternal first cousin[2] and paternal second cousin.

Marriage to Ubayd-Allah ibn Jahsh

Her first husband was Ubayd-Allah ibn Jahsh,[3] a brother of Zaynab bint Jahsh, whom Muhammad married in 627.

Ubayd-Allah and Ramla were among the first people to accept Islam. In 616, in order to avoid hostilities from Quraish, they both emigrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), where she gave birth to her daughter, Habibah bint Ubayd-Allah.[3]

Ubayd-Allah later converted to Christianity.[3] He tried to persuade Ramla to do the same, but she held on to Islam. His conversion led to their separation. They all continued to live in Abyssinia until Ubayd-Allah's death in 627.[3]

Marriage to Muhammad

Muhammad sent Ramla a proposal of marriage, which arrived on the day she completed her idda (widow's waiting period).[4] The Negus (King) of Abyssinia sent his wardrobe-mistress, Abraha, to carry the message. Ramla gladly accepted the proposal, and gave her silver bangles and rings as a gift to the messenger.[3]

The marriage ceremony took place in Abyssinia even though Muhammad was not present. Ramla chose Khalid ibn Said as her legal guardian at the ceremony. The Negus read out the Khutba himself, and Khalid ibn Said made a speech in reply. The Negus gave Khalid a dower of 400 dinars and hosted a huge wedding feast after the ceremony. He also sent musk and ambergris to the bride through the slave Abraha.[3] Muhammad did not give a dower larger than this to any of his other wives.[5]

The Negus then arranged to send all thirty of the remaining immigrant Muslims back to Arabia. They travelled to Medina in two boats.[6] Shurahbil ibn Hasana accompanied Ramla on this journey. According to some sources, she married Muhammad one year after the Hijra, though she did not live with him until six years later, when Muhammad was sixty years old and she was thirty-five.[7] Tabari writes that her marriage took place in 7 A.H. (628) when "she was thirty-odd years old."[8]

Life in Medina

On one occasion, Abu Sufyan visited his daughter Ramla in her house in Medina. "As he went to sit on the apostle’s carpet she folded it up so that he could not sit on it. 'My dear daughter,' he said, 'I hardly know if you think that the carpet is too good for me or that I am too good for the carpet!' She replied: 'It is the apostle’s carpet and you are an unclean polytheist. I do not want you to sit on the apostle’s carpet.' 'By God,' he said, 'since you left me you have gone to the bad.'"[9][10]

Ramla died in the year 45 A.H. (664 or 665 C.E.) during the Caliphate of her brother, Muawiyah I.[11] She was buried in the Jannat al-Baqi cemetery next to other wives of Muhammad.[3]

Legacy

The Hadith literature includes about sixty-five hadiths narrated by Ramla. Muhammad al-Bukhari and Muslim b. al-Hajjaj agreed on two of them, and Muslim took two of them alone.[3]

Sunni view

It is said that she was a courageous, virtuous and charitable woman and that she was very attached to Muhammad.

References

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