She waited fearfully, tomorrow her fate would be decided. There were many like her, boys and girls, Arabs and non-Arabs, who were captured and brought to the slave market of the city to be sold. A terrible fate awaited some who ended up in the hands of cruel masters or mistresses. Many exploited their labor and treated them with the utmost harshness. A few in that inhumane environment were rather more fortunate. They were taken into the homes of more gentle and caring people.
Barakah رضي الله عنها, the young Abyssinian girl, was one of the more fortunate ones. She was saved by the generous and kind Abdullah, the son of Abd al-Muttalib. In fact, she became the only servant in his household and when he got married to the lady Aminah رضي الله عنها , Barakah رضي الله عنها looked after her affairs as well. Two weeks after the couple were married, Abdullah رضي الله عنه left with a trading caravan that was leaving for Syria.
Two months after the departure of Abdullahرضي الله عنه , Aminah رضي الله عنها called me at dawn one morning and, her face beaming with joy, she said to me: “O Barakah! I have seen a strange dream.” “Something good, my lady?” I asked. “I saw lights coming from my abdomen lighting up the mountains, the hills and the valleys around Makkah.” “Do you feel pregnant, my lady?” “Yes, Barakah,” she replied. “But I do not feel any discomfort as other women feel.” “You shall give birth to a blessed child who will bring goodness,” I said. Barakah رضي الله عنها stayed beside Aminah رضي الله عنها . She slept at the foot of her bed
“When Aminah رضي الله عنها heard the painful news about her husband’s death, she fainted and I stayed by her bedside while she was in a state between life and death. There was no one else but me in Aminah’s house. I nursed her and looked after her during the day and through the long nights until she gave birth to her child, When Muhammad ﷺ was born, Barakah رضي الله عنها was the first to hold him in her arms.
When Muhammad ﷺ was six years old, his mother decided to visit the grave of her husband, Abdullah, in Yathrib, The caravan took ten days to reach Yathrib. On the way back to Makkah, Aminah رضي الله عنها became seriously ill with fever. Halfway between Yathrib and Makkah, at a place called al-Abwa, they stopped. Aminah’s health deteriorated rapidly. Barakah رضي الله عنها related: “She whispered in my ear: ‘O Barakah, I shall depart from this world shortly. I commend my son Muhammad ﷺ to your care. He lost his father while he was in my abdomen. Here he is now, losing his mother under his very eyes. Be a mother to him, Barakah. And don’t ever leave him.’
“My heart was shattered and I began to sob. Aminah رضي الله عنها gave one last moan and then was forever silent.”Barakah رضي الله عنها wept. With her own hands she dug a grave in the sand and buried Aminah رضي الله عنها . Barakah رضي الله عنها returned with the orphan child to Makkah and placed him in the care of his grandfather. She stayed at his house to look after him. When Abd al-Muttalib died two years later, she went with the child to the house of his uncle Abu Talib and continued to look after his needs until he was grown up and married. Barakah رضي الله عنها then stayed with Muhammad ﷺ and Khadijah رضي الله عنها . “I never left him and he never left me,” she said. One day Muhammad ﷺ looked at his wife Khadijah رضي الله عنها and said to her: “This is Barakah رضي الله عنها . This is my mother after my own mother. She is the rest of my family.”
Barakah رضي الله عنها married Ubayd ibn Zayd رضي الله عنه and went with him to Yathrib. There she gave birth to a son whom she called Ayman and from that time onwards people called her Umm Ayman. Soon her husband died and she returned once more to Makkah to live with Muhammad ﷺ.
When Muhammad ﷺ was blessed with Prophethood, Barakah رضي الله عنها was among the first to believe in the message he proclaimed. They bore with the early Muslims the persecution which the Quraysh meted out to them. One night the mushrikun blocked off the roads leading to the place where the Prophet ﷺ gathered his companions regularly to instruct them in the teachings of Islam. Barakah رضي الله عنها had some urgent information which had to be conveyed to the Prophet ﷺ. She risked her life trying to reach this gathering. When she arrived and conveyed the message to the Prophet ﷺ, he ﷺ smiled and said to her:
“You are blessed, Umm Ayman. Surely you have a place in Paradise.” When Umm Ayman left, the Prophet ﷺ looked at his companions and asked: “Should one of you desire to marry a woman from the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman.”
All the companions remained silent. Umm Ayman was neither young nor attractive. She was by now about fifty years old and looked rather frail. Zayd ibn al-Harithah رضي الله عنه however came forward and said: “Messenger of Allah, I shall marry Umm Ayman. By Allah, she is better than women who have grace and beauty.”
Zayd and Umm Ayman رضي الله عنها were married and were blessed with a son named Usamah رضي الله عنه. The Prophet ﷺ loved Usamah رضي الله عنه as his own son. Often he played with him, and fed him with his own hands. The Muslims would say: “He is the beloved, son of the beloved.” From an early age Usamah رضي الله عنه distinguished himself in the service of Islam, and was later given huge responsibilities by the Prophet .
Eventually Barakah رضي الله عنها migrated to Medina. She made the long and difficult journey through the desert and mountainous terrain on foot. The heat was killing and sandstorms obscured the way but she persisted, borne along by her deep love and attachment for Muhammad (SAW). When she reached Medina, her feet were sore and swollen and her face was covered with sand and dust.”Ya Umm Ayman! Ya Ummi! Indeed for you is a place in Paradise!” exclaimed the Prophet ﷺ when he saw her. He wiped her face and eyes, massaged her feet and rubbed her shoulders with his kind and gentle hands.At Madinah, Umm Ayman رضي الله عنها contributed her full part in the affairs of the Muslims. At Uhud she distributed water to the thirsty and tended the wounded
After the Prophet ﷺ , May Allah bless him and grant him peace, had died, Barakah رضي الله عنها would often be found with tears in her eyes. She was once asked, “Why are you crying?” and she replied: “By Allah, I knew that the Messenger of Allah would die but I cry now because the revelation from on high has come to an end for us.” Barakah رضي الله عنها was unique in that she was the only one who was so close to the Prophet ﷺ throughout his life, from birth till death. Her life was one of selfless service in the Prophet ﷺ’s household. She remained deeply devoted to the gentle and caring Prophet ﷺ.