The Sahabiyyat (Women Companions) were the noble women who were the contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam). They were the pure, ideal muslim women, and were honored during the very lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) with the prediction that they would live forever in Paradise in the Hereafter.
Their achievements and influence are found in every sphere of that momentous period in the history of the world, when the whole of humanity would be transfigured forever. They were as active in religion as in politics, as courageous in war as in the peaceful and persuasive propagation of the teachings of Islam. These noble selfless women could be found in the battlefields among the foremost ranks of those taking part in Jihad. They were to be found in the political arena, in the field of education, in the courts of Islamic jurisprudence, in the interpretation of Shari’ah, in trade and commerce, in agriculture, in medicine and in nursing.
In short there was no sphere that did not benefit from their intellect, their wisdom and their gentle yet firm strength of character.
In Religious Field
Among the many services that one can render to Islam, is to fight in the battlefields. Few, if any, examples of such zeal, determination, perseverance and courage can be found in history.
When the disbelievers attacked the Muslims during the Battle of Uhud, only a few devoted followers were left to fight with the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam). At this critical stage the Women Companion Umm ‘Ammarah shielded him with her body and warded off the enemy with her sword as well as her bow and arrows. When Qaniah got within striking distance of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) it was she who bore the brunt of his attack. She had a deep wound on her shoulder, yet she continued to attack him with her sword. But he was well protected and she could not make a dent in his armor. Against Musailmah Kaththab she fought so courageously that she suffered a dozen wounds and lost an arm.
In the battle of Ahazab (the battle of Trench), the Companion Safiyyah displayed brilliant military strategy in handling the Jewish attack, and slew one of the Jews.
In the Battle of Hunayn Umm Salim set out to attack the enemy with her sword.
In the battle of Yarmook, Asma’ bint Abu Bakr, Umm Abban, Umm Hakeem, Khawlah, Hind and the Mother of believers Juwairiah displayed extraordinary valor. Asma’ bint Yazid killed nine enemy soldiers.
In the year 28th after Hijrah, Umm Haram took part in the attack on Cyprus.
The Mother of the believers ‘Aishah, Umm Salim and Umm Salit were among those who were very proficient at nursing the wounded.
The Sahabiyyat usually accompanied the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) on his (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) military expeditions and took part in battles both on land and at sea.
Besides taking an active part in the war, there were many other services that the Sahabiyyat performed, like giving medical aid to the soldiers, nursing the wounded on the battlefields and providing food and water to the wounded and thirsty.
Standing side by side with the soldiers they would hand them arrows, nursing the wounded and generally help to keep up the morale of the army. They also helped to carry the martyred and the wounded back to Al-Madinah.
Umm Atiyah took part in seven battles, and fought during the rule of the Caliphs ‘Umar Farooq the women and even the children helped to bury the dead.
They spread the message of the new religion and through example converted many of the disbelievers to Islam. It was Fatimah bint Khattab who converted her brother ‘Umar bin Khattab he was to become one of the bravest and most faithful of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam). It was Umm Salim who influenced Abu Talhah, and it was Umm Hakim who convinced her husband, Ikrimah to accept Islam. Umm Shareek Dosiah very discreetly worked among the women of the tribe of Quraish to spread Islam.
Another aspect of missionary work is to preserve the religion in its pristine form, and protect it from any modifications, impurities and innovations that may creep in because of cultural or traditional practices already prevalent in society. This very important work of preserving the purity of Islam was performed by many of the Sahabiyyat; most prominent among whom was Aishah . In the year 35th after Hijrah, when Caliph Uthman was martyred and there was chaos and confusion over who was next in the line of succession, it was she who brought unity into the ranks by influencing the Muslims of Basrah (Iraq) and Makkah.
Leading the prayers and calling the Athan, or the call for prayer, is another important aspect of religious life. Although women cannot lead men in prayers, they can do so with assemblies of women. Many women contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) performed this task as well. ‘Aishah, Umm Salim, Umm Waraqah and Sa’dah bint Qamamah were some of the most prominent among these. In fact, Umm Waraqah turned her house into a place of prayer for women; the Athan was given there by a lady Mu’aththin for the women’s congregation, and Umm Waraqah performed the duties of the Imam in lead the prayers.
In Political Field
The Sahabiyyat (Women Companions) played a prominent role in politics as well.
Caliph Umar so valued Shifa’ bint ‘Abdullah for her political intelligence and insight that he very often consulted with her. He often gave her the responsibility of running the affairs of state relating to trade and commerce.
Before the Hijrah (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) to Al-Madinah, the disbelievers wanted to lay siege to his house, it was Ruqayyah bint Saifee who warned him. The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) then secretly left for Al-Madinah, leaving ‘Ali asleep in his (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) place.
Vast political rights are granted to women in Islam. A woman even has the right to grant shelter to an enemy, if she so wishes. A historian, Abu Dawood relates that Umm Hani the sister of Ali , had given refuge to an enemy disbeliever and the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) said, “If you have guaranteed sanctuary and safety to a person, then we stand by you.”
This is the law of Islam that the lmam or leader has to stand by the guarantee offered by the woman.
Education, Knowledge and the Fine Arts
There are various subjects, an understanding of which are essential for a thorough knowledge of Islam and its tenets. Qira’at interpretation and commentary, Shari’ah, Fiqh, study of Hadith, all are important aspects of Islamic studies. Many of the women Companions were experts in these fields.
‘Aishah memorized the Qur’an as did Hafsah, Umm Salmah, Umm Waraqah, Hind bint Aseed, Umm Hisham bin Harithah, Zaidah bint Hayyan, Umm Sa’ad bint Sa’ad, all knew portions of the Qur’an by heart. The latter used to regularly lecture on the Qur’an.
In the sensitive interpretation of Hadith, all were expert, but ‘Aishah and Umm Salmah were exceptional masters of interpretation and commentary. With the former, 2210 Ahadith are associated and 378 with the latter.
‘Aishah was an expert on interpretation and commentary due to her close association with the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam). Much of the Book of Tafsir in Sahih Muslim contains narrations from her.
Asma’ bint Abu Bakr (sister of ‘Aishah), Umm ‘Atiyah, Umm Hard and Fatimah bint Qais also had extensive knowledge of Ahadith.
In Islamic jurisprudence or Fiqh ‘Aishah’s verdicts could fill several volumes. The same could be said of Umm Salmah’s recorded verdicts.
The invaluable verdicts of Safiyyah, Hafsah, Umm Habibah, Juwairiah, Fatimah [the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam)’s daughter], Umm Shareek, Umm ‘Atiyah, Asma’ bint Abu Bakr, Laila bint Qai’f, Khawlah bint Tuyait, Umm Darda, ‘Athikah bint Zaid, Sahlah bint Sohail, Fatimah bint Qais, Zainab bint Jahash, Umm Salmah, Umm Aiman, Umm Yusuf could fill several volumes.
‘Aishah was also well versed in the law of inheritance and many renowned and respected Companions consulted her on the finer points of the law.
Besides being masters of Islamic law and of the finer points of Fiqh, the women Companions had skill and ability in other branches of knowledge.
Asma’ bint Yazid bin Sakan was an expert in making speech; Asma’ bint ‘Umais was famous for her interpretation of dreams. Several Companions were noted for their skill in medicine and surgery. Aslamiah Umm Matta’a, Umm Kabshah , Hamnah bint Jahash, Mu’aathah, Ammaimah, Umm Ziad, Rabi’a bint Mu’awath, Umm ‘Atiyah, Umm Salim were some of them, well known for their skills.
Rufaida Aslamiah’s tent, set up as a surgery with all the necessary instruments, was situated close to the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam)’s Mosque at Madinah. The arts were not neglected by any means.
Some of the most noted poetesses were, Sa’adi, Safiyah,’Atikah, Bint Zaid, Hind bint Athathah, Umm Aiman, Kabashah bint Rafi’a, Ummamah Maridiah, Hind bint Harith, Zainab bint ‘Awam Azdi, Maimoonah and Ruqayyah .
A book of verses by Khansa, the best known among them has been published.
Industry, Trade and Commerce
The women Companions also practiced the practical or survival skills as we know them today.
Agriculture, business, trade and commerce, writing, editing, cottage industries like weaving, manufacture and designing of clothes – all these are mentioned in the Musnad (collection of Ahadith) of Imam Ahmad.
Agriculture was not so common, but was mainly practiced in the rural fertile areas around Al-Madinah, especially by the women of the Ansar. Among the immigrants, or Muhajir as they were known, Asma’ also practiced farming.
The era before the advent of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) was known as the age of illiteracy, but some of these worthy women were highly educated and skilled in the arts of penmanship and calligraphy. Shifa’ bint ‘Abdullah gleamed to read and write even during these dark ages and was celebrated for her skill at this art.
Hafsah, Umm Kulthum bint ‘Uqbah and Karimah bint Miqdad were all literate. ‘Aishah and Umm Salmah could not write but they could read. Both of them were blessed with remarkable memories and inquiring minds; and because of their close association with the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam) many of the authentic Ahadith originated from them.
Some of the Sahabiyyat also ran businesses. Khadijah was a very successful businesswoman and used to send trading caravans to different countries. Khawlah, Maleekah, Thaqafiyah, and Bint Fakhariyah used to trade in the oriental oil-based perfumes known as ‘Itar. Saudah operated a leather tanning industry.
The daughters of the Ansar would compose verses and poems for festive occasions and sing. According to the Hadith narrated by Fri’ah bint Ma’auth they recited their poems in the presence of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa Sallam), who had appreciated their literary skills.
Umm Salmah loused to recite the Qur’an with Tajweed, which was a difficult skill and much appreciated.
Thus there was no sphere of activity – social or cultural – that was not influenced and assisted by the presence of these great ladies. May Allah have Mercy on their souls!
Allah will be pleased with them and they with Him.
Taken from the book : GREAT WOMEN OF ISLAM