Get To Know: (Sawdah bint Zam’ah RA)

Physical Description/ Personal Facts:

  • Sawdah RA was a black-skinned, tall, heavy woman who would walk clumsily
  • She RA was easily recognized because of her unique figure
  • She RA was one of the first believers, accepting Islam in the first year of the Prophet’s preaching
  • Before marrying the Prophet PBUH, Sawdah RA married Sukran RA with whom she had her one and only child: Abdur-Rahman
  • She RA was older than the Prophet SAW and married him SAW at the age of 55
  • After becoming Muslim Sawdah RA called her brothers, Abd and Malik, to Islam. Malik RA was the one who accepted  but Abd threatened his siblings and opposed Islam (Although Abd did convert at a later date)
  • Khawla RA, the matchmaker of her time, suggested to the Prophet SAW to marry Sawdah RA because of two reasons: 1) Sawdah RA was extremely loving, caring, and innocent and 2) she RA was really, really, funny, always joking and upbeat/humorous
  • Her RA  character was very beautiful and she RA brought happiness and humor back into the life of the Prophet SAW after the passing of Khadijah RA and during the grief period
  • After the passing of Rasulullah SAW, Sawdah RA mostly stayed inside her home and was a private person
  • There is dispute as to when Sawdah RA passed away but the most agreed upon opnion is that she passed away at the age of 80 in the year 644 near the end of Umar RA’s khalifat
  • She RA had a very simple will: to connect her chamber to Aisha RA’s chamber, wishing to give Aisha RA more space

Life/Marriage with the Prophet SAW:

  • She RA and her husband, Sukran RA, were amongst those who migrated to Abyssinia because they were disowned by their tribesmen and faced  oppression in Makkah (the most prominent opinion is that they migrated with the second group)
  • After reaching Abyssina, Sukran RA passes away leaving Sawdah RA alone with her child in a foreign city
  • Sawdah RA then returns to Makkah and lives with her elderly father (who was blind)
  • At this point, Sawdah RA was not considered to be marriage-able at all
  • One night, Sawdah RA sees a dream that the moon had fallen into her lap. The day after Khawla RA came to ask for Sawdah RA’s hand on behalf of the Prophet SAW
  • When Sawdah RA heard the news, she accepted right away and was stunned that she had been asked for
  • The marriages’ mahr was 400 dirhams and Sawdah RA was represented by Sukran RA’s brother
  • Sawdah RA was the first wife the Prophet SAW married after Khadijah RA, making her his second wife
  • She RA was married to the Prophet SAW around 620, 10 years after the Prophet SAW received revelation
  • While Sawdah RA was still married to the Prophet PBUH when Aisha RA moved in. This caused them to become best friends and develop a special bond (they lived in separate chambers that were built next to each other)
  • Sawdah RA became like an older sister to Aisha RA and she took care of her while the both of them often joked/played around with each other
  • They did not feel threatened by each other and were very comfortable around each other and existed without any competition
  • Sawdah RA did not feel the need to be intimate with the Prophet SAW and so she gave her night to Aisha RA knowing the love between the two of them

Interesting/Cool Facts:

  • She RA was with the Prophet SAW during the time of his life when he migrated and when he went through Isra’ Wal Mi’raaj
  • When the Prophet SAW walked into a room where multiple wives of his were sitting, he SAW always greeted Sawdah RA first for she RA was a very special woman to him
  • Aishah RA said about her: “She always used to make the Prophet SAW laugh”
  • Sawdah RA lived longer than the Prophet SAW and Abubakr RA, passing away at the time of Umar RA
  • During Umar RA’s khalifat He RA would send Sawdah RA gifts who would then pass them onto the poor or the newly-wed women as she loved giving gifts to them 
  • Sawdah RA narrated 5 hadith
  • Verses revealed because of Sawdah RA: a) Ayatul Hijab b) Verse 145 of Surah An’am, which is a long ayah about halal foods that came down in response to her questions to the Prophet SAW
  • Sawdah RA was very scared of Ad-Dajjal. As a joke Aisha RA and Hafsa RA would scare her by making noises and telling Sawdah RA that the Dajjal was here. Sawdah RA would then rush to hide and when the Prophet SAW came home and ask “why is Sawdah hiding” Aisha RA and Hafsa RA would say “She thinks the Dajjal is here” and they would all laugh including Sawdah RA
  • Aisha RA said, “There is no woman I loved to be around or considered a rolde model more than Sawdah RA”

Source: Mothers of The Believers by Omar Suleiman (Bayyinah TV)

cute narration

‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, narrated: “Sawdah bint Zam’ah (the Prophet’s wife) visited us one day. The Messenger of Allaah ﷺ sat between me and her placing one of his legs in my lap and the other in her lap. I had cooked Hareerah (soup made from a variety of vegetables with lentils, chickpeas, and coriander) for her. I said to her, ‘Eat.’ but she refused, so I said: ‘By Allaah, you will eat or I will splash it on your face.’ She still refused to eat, so I took from of it and splashed it on her face. The Messenger of Allaah ﷺ  started laughing and protected Sawdah with his thigh and said to her: “Splash her face” so she did, and he ﷺ  started to laugh again. Suddenly, we heard ‘Umar saying, ‘O ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar (his son), O ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar’! The Messenger of Allaah ﷺ said to us: “Get up and clean your faces, because I think ‘Umar will come in now.””

Sunan al-Kubra an-Nasaa'ee #8868; Abu Bakr Ash-Shaafi’i (112) in his book Al-Fawaa’id. Al-Albaani ruled it as sound (Hasan) in his book As-Silsilah As-Saheehah (3131)

أَخْبَرَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَعْمَرٍ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ الْحَارِثِ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ قَالَ: قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ: زَارَتْنَا سَوْدَةُ يَوْمًا فَجَلَسَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَهَا إِحْدَى رِجْلَيْهِ فِي حِجْرِي، وَالْأُخْرَى فِي حِجْرِهَا، فَعَمِلْتُ لَهَا حَرِيرَةً، أَوْ قَالَ: «خَزِيرَةً» فَقُلْتُ: كُلِي، فَأَبَتْ فَقُلْتُ: “ لَتَأْكُلِي، أَوْ لَأُلَطِّخَنَّ وَجْهَكِ، فَأَبَتْ، فَأَخَذْتُ مِنَ الْقَصْعَةِ شَيْئًا فَلَطَّخْتُ بِهِ وَجْهَهَا، فَرَفَعَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رِجْلَهُ مِنْ حِجْرِهَا تَسْتَقِيدُ مِنِّي، فَأَخَذَتْ مِنَ الْقَصْعَةِ شَيْئًا فَلَطَّخَتْ بِهِ وَجْهِي، وَرَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَضْحَكُ، فَإِذَا عُمَرُ يَقُولُ: يَا عَبْدَ اللهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ، يَا عَبْدَ اللهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ فَقَالَ لَنَا رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «قُومَا فَاغْسِلَا وُجُوهَكُمَا، فَلَا أَحْسِبُ عُمَرَ إِلَّا دَاخِلًا»

#LadiesofLight: Sawdah bint Zamʿah

Usually when we think about the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) we think of Lady Khadīja or Lady ‘Ā’ishah, both prominent and towering figures in the life of the Prophet (ﷺ). They both bring a degree of romanticism to people’s view of marriage, but marriage is not just about love.

Sawdah bint Zamʿah by all accounts is the second wife of the Prophet (ﷺ) he married her after Lady Khadīja had passed away. It is important to understand that the Prophet (ﷺ) was incredibly sad when Lady Khadīja had passed away, she was his only wife and they shared a special bond that had developed, flourished and helped him immensely. Colloquially one could remark that she was his rock. So after she passed away a gaping hole was left in his life (ﷺ).

Lady Sawdah had previously been married to Sakrān bin ‘Amr, She had converted to Islam with her husband soon after the Prophet (ﷺ) begun to call to Islam. In addition to that, she was one of first women to have migrated to Abyssinia due to the persecution and oppression in Makkah. They were also amongst the first to return to Makkah, but her husband, Sakrān, had died in Makkah once they had returned. 

Many people were too nervous to talk to the Prophet (ﷺ) about marrying again, but it was obvious he needed to marry. More than anything his daughters Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fāṭimah needed a maternal figure. The idea of marriage was proposed by Khawlah, the wife of ʿUthmān ibn Maz’ūn, she had been very attentive to the needs of the Prophetic household and approached the Prophet (ﷺ) about it. She suggested Sawdah, a widow, and the Prophet (ﷺ) agreed. When Sawdah was asked, her response was: “I am at thy service, O Messenger of God.” They married before the Prophet (ﷺ) makes Hijra.

For the next 12 or so years, Lady Sawdah becomes a central personality in the household of the Prophet (ﷺ) she is not just a maternal figure for her adoptive children, whom she has grown to love and cherish as her own, but is a maternal figure to the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) that come later, namely Lady ‘Ā’ishah and Lady Ḥafsa. She was also instructed by the Prophet (ﷺ) along with a few others to prepare the noble body of his daughter, Zaynab for burial. Later on in life the Prophet (ﷺ) senses that she might be upset and uneasy having to compete with his younger wives, it is reported he (ﷺ) offers her divorce, but she declines saying, “O Messenger of Allāh, hold me. By Allāh, I did not seek to have a husband but I just hope that Allah may resurrect me as your wife on the Day of Judgment.”

Lady Sawdah spends the rest of her days in service to the Prophet (ﷺ), just what she said - her devotion to him (ﷺ) and his children, and later as a maternal figure to his wives is so very important. It allows the Prophet (ﷺ) to serve the community and spread the message of Allāh. 

She is described as a jolly figure, and some report she wasn’t known for her beauty. But what she may have lacked in physical appearance she more than made up for in heart, in her nobility, commitment, and service to the Prophet (ﷺ) and the dīn, for me is testament to her love for the Prophet (ﷺ). She outlives the Prophet (ﷺ), narrated 5 ʾaḥādīth from him (ﷺ) and reportedly dies during the Caliphate of ʿUmar.

Their union may have been a pragmatic one; it does not have the same romance and allure as others, but their blessed marriage, and her continued service to him (ﷺ), and the dīn – in my eyes, makes her one of the most important women in his life (ﷺ).

May God be pleased with her, and fill her grave with light. 

generosity in the wives of the Prophet ﷺ

Narrated `Āisha (may Allāh be pleased with her): Some of the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) asked him, “Who amongst us will be the first to follow you (i.e. die after you)?” He said, “Whoever has the longest hand.” So they started measuring their hands with a stick and Sawda’s hand turned out to be the longest. (When Zainab bint Jahsh died first of all in the caliphate of `Umar), we came to know that the long hand was a metaphor of practicing charity, so she was the first to follow the Prophet (ﷺ) and she used to love to practice charity. (Sawda died later in the caliphate of Mu’āwiya). [Sahīh al-Bukhari #1420, Sahīh Muslim #2452]

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَوَانَةَ، عَنْ فِرَاسٍ، عَنِ الشَّعْبِيِّ، عَنْ مَسْرُوقٍ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رضى الله عنها أَنَّ بَعْضَ، أَزْوَاجِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قُلْنَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَيُّنَا أَسْرَعُ بِكَ لُحُوقًا قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَطْوَلُكُنَّ يَدًا ‏"‏‏.‏ فَأَخَذُوا قَصَبَةً يَذْرَعُونَهَا، فَكَانَتْ سَوْدَةُ أَطْوَلَهُنَّ يَدًا، فَعَلِمْنَا بَعْدُ أَنَّمَا كَانَتْ طُولَ يَدِهَا الصَّدَقَةُ، وَكَانَتْ أَسْرَعَنَا لُحُوقًا بِهِ وَكَانَتْ تُحِبُّ الصَّدَقَةَ‏.‏

Imām an-Nawawī (رحمه الله) mentioned in his Sharh of Sahīh Muslim:

“In the beginning they thought that the Messenger of Allaah ﷺ was referring to the literal arm’s length. That is why they used to (physically) measure their arms in length, and Sawdah (may Allāh be pleased with her) had the longest arm. On the other hand, Zaynab (may Allāh be pleased with her) was the most generous of all, and when she passed away (she was the first to die after the death of Prophet ﷺ) they realized that it was a metaphor and that the Messenger of Allaah ﷺ meant by that the one who spent more in charity and is more generous.”

[2452] (قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَسْرَعُكُنَّ لَحَاقًا بِي أَطْوَلُكُنَّ يَدًا فَكُنَّ يَتَطَاوَلْنَ أَيَّتَهُنَّ أَطْوَلُ يَدًا قَالَتْ فَكَانَتْ أَطْوَلَنَا يَدًا زَيْنَبُ لِأَنَّهَا كَانَتْ تَعْمَلُ بِيَدِهَا وَتَصَدَّقُ) مَعْنَى الْحَدِيثِ أَنَّهُنَّ ظَنَنَّ أَنَّ الْمُرَادَ بِطُولِ الْيَدِ طُولُ الْيَدِ الْحَقِيقِيَّةِ وَهِيَ الْجَارِحَةُ فَكُنَّ يَذْرَعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ بِقَصَبَةٍ فَكَانَتْ سَوْدَةُ أَطْوَلَهُنَّ جَارِحَةً وَكَانَتْ زَيْنَبُ أَطْوَلَهُنَّ يَدًا فِي الصَّدَقَةِ وَفِعْلِ الْخَيْرِ فَمَاتَتْ زَيْنَبُ أَوَّلُهُنَّ فَعَلِمُوا أَنَّ الْمُرَادَ طُولُ الْيَدِ فِي الصَّدَقَةِ وَالْجُودِ