For those who read the books of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) such as the books of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, and Riyad as-Saliheen, Umm Hani is a name they frequently come across. Reading her name in the books of Hadith piqued my interest to find out more about who she was and why she was so important.
As for those who have not heard her name before, she is an amazing woman in the history of Islam; she is considered a companion (sahabiyyah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Her name was Fakhitah, daughter of the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Talib. She was the older sister of the two great men in Islam, Ali and Jaafar, sons of Abu Talib. As a child, after the Prophet (peace be upon him) was orphaned, and after his grandfather died, he grew up with his kind uncle, Abu Talib. He was loved in their home, and his uncle treated him as one of his own.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reciprocated the love that he was shown in their household, and he was very fond of his cousins. He (peace be upon him) had much gratitude and respect for his uncle. As a young man, he tried to help his uncle in the home as best he could and he was trustworthy in carrying out his uncle’s business transactions.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked for Fakhitah’s hand in marriage.
His uncle, Abu Talib, turned down his offer and instead accepted the offer from Hubayra bin Abi Wahb to marry his daughter. Hubayra was from the Makhzoum clan and this clan had previously given one of their daughters in marriage to Abu Talib’s tribe. It was tradition among the Arabs to return the favor and to maintain good ties between two tribes by also sending over one of their daughters in marriage to the other tribe.
So, Fakhitah married Hubayra. They lived in Makkah and they had four sons, the eldest named Hani, and thus her well-known name of Umm Hani, the mother of Hani.
When revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his uncle supported him and protected him from the people of Quraish, but he did not embrace Islam. Although he did not convert to Islam, all of Abu Talib’s children entered the folds of Islam, as did his wife.
Umm Hani became Muslim but her husband did not, and he did not chastise her for joining the faith of the Muslims. She had a spacious and comfortable house with her husband and sons, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was always welcomed in their home.
After the death of the Prophet’s beloved wife, Khadijah, he was devastated, and he often found solace in Umm Hani’s home. Her family supported him during his grief.
Umm Hani is such an important figure in the history of Islam. It was from her home, under her roof, that one of the most wondrous miracles took place; her home must have been a blessed place. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been visiting at Umm Hani’s home, he prayed the night prayer and slept. That night, in her home, Angel Jibreel came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and took him on the miraculous journey to Jerusalem and the ascension to the Heavens (Israa and Miraj). By the crack of dawn, he was returned again to her house.
In the morning he told Umm Hani what happened. She believed him but she begged him not to tell the people of Quraish because she feared that they would not believe him, ridicule, and harm him.
However as a Prophet, he had the obligation to deliver the message of Allah, to inform the people, and conceal nothing. The people of Makkah did not believe him, and they tried to test the validity of his story. They asked him questions of what the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem looked like, since Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon) had never traveled there before but they had on business. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) described the mosque to them in such intricate detail which matched exactly with what they knew of the Aqsa mosque. They were dumbfounded and although they tried to refute his claim, they did not harm him.
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Muslims migrated to Madinah, Umm Hani did not. She remained in Makkah with her husband and sons and she continued to practice her religion, Islam.
Years later, after the Muslims grew in numbers and strength in Madinah, the Muslim army led by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) entered Makkah victorious, and almost no blood was shed.
During the conquest of Makkah, two disbelieving men who refused to convert to Islam ran to hide in Umm Hani’s house and they begged her for protection. She had the wisdom, far reaching vision, and mercy of a true hero. She gave them the refuge they were seeking. Ali bin Abi Talib, her brother, found out and he came charging to her house to capture the men and kill them.
With all her might, Umm Hani grabbed hold of her brother and refused to let him go near the two men.
She demanded, “I have already promised them protection!”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) heard the loud voices and the scuffle, so he rushed to address the dispute. The Prophet (peace be upon him) sided with the woman’s judgment over the man’s, and he (peace be upon him) said, “We grant protection to whomever Umm Hani has granted protection.”
The two men, who had been cowering behind Umm Hani saw what had just happened. They were so moved by this woman and by the Prophet (peace be upon him) that they wholeheartedly embraced Islam.
After the conquest of Makkah, Umm Hani’s husband refused to convert to Islam, he fled Makkah, and he left her and their children. Umm Hani, with her sons, migrated to Madinah to live the rest of her life in the capital of the new Islamic state. She raised her children well, single-handedly.
In Madinah, Umm Hani became a staunch supporter for the cause of Islam; she was a source of strength and knowledge. She became a scholar and a transmitter of the sayings and the way of life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). That is why the name Umm Hani will live on forever in the books of Islamic literature.