Hafsah, Mother of the Faithful

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She is the daughter of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab.


In Arabic language, Hafs is one of the names of the lion. The Messenger of Allah, would often address 'Umar as Aba Hafs.


There is a story for behind her entering the household of prophethood as a wife of the Messenger of Allah (SAW).


She was married to a man known as Hisn Ibn Hudhafah who witnessed the Battle of Badr and then fel1 ill at Madeenah and died.


Hafsah then became a widow.


It has been part of Arab culture, either in the age of ignorance or after the emergence of Islam, that a man makes efforts to marry off his daughter, sister or any woman in his guardianship without any inconvenience - to someone he believed was good and suitable.


This is because; her continuous stay in his house as an unmarried girl or a widow is regarded a great shame.


So when Hafsah became a widow, it pained 'Umar and he was distressed. He went out one day heading for the house of the nearest person to him who was Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq. He informed him of what is in his mind and offered him Hafsah in marriage. Abu Bakr kept silent and did not utter a word. 'Umar left his house greatly distressed and embittered.


And 'Uthman came to his mind.


Since his wife, Ruqayyah, the Prophet's daughter was dead; he was in a better position to respond favourably to his offer. So he made for his house and offered him his daughter in marriage. But 'Uthman told him, "I do not want to marry today."


Who was she that can replace Ruqayyah in 'Uthman's house after both of them have enjoyed the life with each other for many years? And 'Uthman was in a psychological state that could not allow him to propose marriage or to marry.


'Umar's distress increased.


The Messenger of Allah (SAW) then saw him in that condition.


He asked him about the matter and 'Umar told him of his encounter with Abu Bakr and 'Uthman. Bitterness and rage against them could be noticed in his speech and the way he talked.


The Messenger of Allah (SAW) calmed him down and then said, “Hafsah shall marry someone who is better than 'Uthman and 'Uthman shall marry someone who is better than Hafsah.


'Umar stood up, somewhat calmed, but he was still scratching his head over the meaning of the Prophet's statement. When Abu Bakr met him, he approached him and they talked with each other.


'Umar informed him of what he heard from the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and he told Abu Bakr that he could not understand the statement.


Abu Bakr smiled and said, "I have heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) mentioning Hafsah. But I would not like to reveal his secret. If he had not shown his interest in marrying her I would have married her. So do not bear any grudge against me."


'Uthman came to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) in his softness, bashfulness and sorrow. He was tearful and gloomy. He said, "My marriage relationship with you has come to an end with the death of Ruqayyah, 0' Messenger of Allah!"


The noble Messenger, (SAW) sympathised with him and then said, "I have given you her sister, Umm Kulthoom, in marriage. If I had had ten daughters, I would have given them to you in marriage (one after the other)."

That is how the Messenger of Allah (SAW) married Hafsah and 'Uthman married Umm Kulthoom. And that is how Hafsah enter the household of the Prophet (SAW) as one of the mothers of the faithful.


Hafsah (RA) was a devoted worshipper, very pious, always fasting and praying in the night. She was the closest to 'A'ishah among the Prophet's wife. It is as if they were two sisters. They were always in agreement and never disagreed.


However, Hafsah had in her nature an aspect of the meaning of her name: She was somewhat stern and tough. Perhaps, she inherited that from her father 'Umar, al-Farooq. This sternness was increased by the death of her first husband, making her easily irritated.


It was this nature of hers that caused the Messenger of Allah (SAW) to divorce her once after which he took her back.


We need to wait a little bit concerning his taking her back, for there is something in it that shows the status of 'Umar.


Ibn Sa'd recorded that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) divorced once and then took her back because the Angel Gabriel told him, "Take Hafsah back, for she frequently fasts and prays in the night. And she is your wife in Paradise."


Humayd ibn Anas narrated that, "The Prophet (saw) divorced Hafsah and he was thereafter commanded to take her back, and he did so."


'Uqbah ibn 'Amir narrated that the Messenger of Allah divorced Hafsah, 'Umar's daughter. When 'Umar heard this, he strewed sand over his head and said, "Allah will no more care about 'Umar and his daughter after she has been divorced [by the Prophet (SAW).” So Angel Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah the following day and told him, "Allah commands you to take back Hafsah as a way of showing compassion to 'Umar (her father)."


Abu Salih, in his version of the narration said, 'Umar entered the place of Hafsah while she was crying and he asked her whether the Messenger of Allah (SAW) has divorced her. He said to her, 'He had divorced you once and took you back only because of me. If he divorces you again, I will never speak: to you again.'


After that, Hafsah was keen never to annoy the Prophet (SAW) again until he died.


Here, dear reader, we need to point to a new and illuminating aspect of Hafsah’s personality, in addition to her other values and qualities.


Angel Gabriel described her for the Prophet (SAW) that she was frequently performing (voluntary) fasting and night prayers, and that she is one of his wives in Paradise.


These are degrees and ranks, as well as practical attributes and spiritual activities.


Another quality you can add to her credit is the fact that she could read and write, a quality that was very rare among womenfolk then, even among men. The new thing that attracts our attention here is that her house was the place in which the revealed verses of Qur'an written on palm branches, slates and other materials were kept.


She was entrusted with the most honourable and the greatest thing. And she deserved that.


This was the case since the time of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) up to the time of 'Uthman. When 'Uthman was compiling the Qur'an and copying it in a single book form, those kept with Hafsah was the primary sources in doing so.


This role played by Hafsah, transcended her life in the house of the Prophet, unto Islam itself. It was full of religiosity, activities, orderliness and a course of action.


We cannot but make a stop, as a means of honouring the mother of the faithful, Hafsah. For, she was the custodian of the Book of Allah. She preserved it in her heart and in her house.


Whenever we open a copy of the Qur' an to read it, we have to remember the Angel entrusted with the Revelation (Gabriel) and his reverberating sound, the impact the verses had on the heart of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and the scribes of the Revelations: 'Ali, Zayd and others. We have to remember Abu Bakr and 'Umar and their compilations of the Qur'an; and 'Uthman and his resoluteness,

trustworthiness and sense of duty; and finally Hafsah and her preservation of the Book.


We have to remember and seek guidance from Allah, the Great in His Majesty.


At the beginning of the year 44 A.H., Hafsah departed from this world and joined the company of the loved ones, Muhammad (SAW) and his Companions.

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