Ramlah bint Abu Sufyan
Ramlah Bint Abu Sufyan
Abu Sufyan ibn Harb could not conceive of anyone among the
Quraysh who would dare challenge his authority or go against his
orders. He was after all, the sayyid or chieftain of Makkah who
had to be obeyed and followed.
His daughter, Ramlah, known as Umm Habibah, however dared to
challenge his authority when she rejected the deities of the
Quraysh and their idolatrous ways. Together with her husband,
Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, she put her faith in Allah alone and
accepted the message of His prophet, Muhammad ibn Abdullah.
Abu Sufyan tried with all the power and force at his disposal to
bring back his daughter and her husband to his religion and the
religion of their forefathers. But he did not succeed. The
faith which was embedded in the heart of Ramlah was too strong
to b e uprooted by the hurricanes of Abu Sufyans fury.
Abu Sufyan remained deeply worried and concerned by his
daughter's acceptance of Islam. He did not know how to face the
Quraysh after she had gone against his will and he was clearly
powerless to prevent her from following Muhammad. When the
Quraysh reali zed though that Abu Sufyan himself was enraged by
Ramlah and her husband, they were emboldened to treat them
harshly. They unleashed the full fury of their persecution
against them to such a degree that life in Makkah became
In the fifth year of his mission, the Prophet, peace be on him,
gave permission to the Muslims to migrate to Abyssinia. Ramlah,
her little daughter Habibah, and her husband were among those
Abu Sufyan and the Quraysh leaders found it difficult to accept
that a group of Muslims had slipped out of their net of
persecution and was enjoying the freedom to hold their beliefs
and practice their religion in the land of the Negus. They
therefore sen d messengers to the Negus to seek their
extradition. The messengers tried to poison the mind of the
Negus against the Muslims but after examining the Muslims
beliefs and listening to the Quran being recited, the Negus
concluded: "What has been revealed to your Prophet Muhammad and
what Jesus the son of Mary preached came from the same source."
The Negus himself announced his faith in the one true God and
his acceptance of the prophethood of Muhammad, peace be on him.
He also announced his determination to protect the Muslim
The long journey on the road of hardship and tribulation had
finally led to the oasis of serenity. So Umm Habibah felt. But
she did not know that the new-found freedom and sense of peace
were later to be shattered. She was to be put through a test of
the most severe and harrowing kind.
One night, it is related, as Umm Habibah was asleep she had a
vision in which she saw her husband in the midst of a fathomless
ocean covered by wave upon wave of darkness. He was in a most
perilous situation. She woke up, frightened. But she did not
wish to tell her husband or anyone else what she had seen.
The day after that ominous night was not yet through when
Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh announced his rejection of Islam and his
acceptance of Christianity. What a terrible blow! Ramlah's sense
of peace was shattered. She did not expect this of her husband
who pre sented her forthwith with the choice of a divorce or of
accepting Christianity. Umm Habibah had three options before
her. She could either remain with her husband and accept his
call to become a Christian in which case she also would commit
apostasy and - God forbid - deserve ignominy in this world and
punishment in the hereafter. This was something she resolved she
would never do even if she were subjected to the most horrible
torture. Or, she could return to her father's house in Makkah -
but she knew h e remained a citadel of shirk and she would be
forced to live under him, subdued and suppressing her faith. Or,
she could stay alone in the land of the Negus as a displaced
fugitive - without country, without family and without a
She made the choice that she considered was the most pleasing to
God. She made up her mind to stay in Abyssinia until such time
as God granted her relief. She divorced her husband who lived
only a short while after becoming a Christian. He had given
himse lf over to frequenting wine merchants and consuming
alcohol, the "mother of evils". This undoubtedly helped to
Umm Habibah stayed in Abyssinia for about ten years. Towards the
end of this time, relief and happiness came. It came from an
One morning bright and early, there was a loud knocking on her
door. It was Abrahah, the special maid-servant of the Negus.
Abrahah was beaming with joy as she greeted Umm Habibah and
said: "The Negus sends his greetings and says to you that
Muhammad, the Messenger of God, wants you to marry him and that
he has sent a letter in which he has appointed him as his wakil
to contract the marriage between you and him. If you agree, you
are to appoint a wakil to act on your behalf."
Umm Habibah was in the clouds with happiness. She shouted to
herself: "God has given you glad tidings. God has given you glad
tidings." She took off her jewelry- her necklace and bracelets -
and gave them to Abrahah. She took off her rings too and gave th
em to her. And indeed if she had possessed all the treasures of
the world, she would have given them to Abrahah at that moment
of sheer joy. Finally she said to Abrahah: "I appoint Khalid ibn
Said ibn al-Aas to act as wakil on my behalf for he is the clos
est person to me."
In the palace of the Negus, set in the midst of beautiful
gardens and luxuriant vegetation and in one of the lavishly
decorated, sumptuously furnished and brightly lit halls, the
group of Muslims living in Abyssinia gathered. They included
Jafar ibn Abi T alib, Khalid ibn Said, Abdullah ibn Hudhafah
as-Sahmi and others. They had gathered to witness the conclusion
of the marriage contract between Umm Habibah, the daughter of
Abu Sufyan, and Muhammad, the Messenger of God. When the
marriage was finalized, th e Negus addressed the gathering: "I
praise God, the Holy, and I declare that there is no god but
Allah and that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger and
that He gave the good tidings to Jesus the son of Mary.
"The Messenger of God, peace be on him, has requested me to
conclude the marriage contract between him and Umm Habibah the
daughter of Abu Sufyan. I agreed to do what he requested and on
his behalf I give her a mahr or dowry of four hundred gold
dinars." He handed over the amount to Khalid ibn Said who stood
up and said: "All praise is due to God. I praise Him and seek
His help and forgiveness and I turn to Him in repentance. I
declare that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger whom He
has sent with t he religion of guidance and truth so that it
might prevail over all other forms of religion even if the
disbelievers were to dislike this.
"I have agreed to do what the Prophet, peace be upon him, has
requested and acted as the wakil on behalf of Umm Habibah, the
daughter of Abu Sufyan. May God bless His Messenger and his
"Congratulations to Umm Habibah on account of the goodness which
God has ordained for her."
Khalid took the mahr and handed it over to Umm Habibah. The
Sahabah thereupon got up and prepared to leave but the Negus
said to them: "Sit down for it is the practice of the Prophets
to serve food at marriages."
There was general rejoicing at the court of the Negus as the
guests sat down again to eat and celebrate the joyous occasion.
Umm Habibah especially could hardly believe her good fortune and
she later described how she was eager to share her happiness.
She said: "When I received the money as mahr, I sent fifty
mithqals of gold to Abrahah who had brought me the good news and
I said to her: 'I gave you what I did when you gave me the good
news because at that time I did not have any money.'
"Shortly afterwards, Abrahah came to me and returned the gold.
She also produced a case which contained the necklace I had
given to her. She returned that to me and said: 'The King has
instructed me not to take anything from you and he his commanded
the women in his household to present you with gifts of
"On the following day, she brought me ambergris, safron and
aloes and said: 'I have a favor to ask of you.' 'What is it?' I
asked. 'I have accepted Islam ,' she said, 'and now follow the
religion of Muhammad. Convey to him my salutation of peace and
let h im know that I believe in Allah and His Prophet. Please
don't forget.' She then helped me to get ready for my journey to
"When I met the Prophet, peace be on him, I told him all about
the arrangements that were made for the marriage and about my
relationship with Abrahah. I told him she had become a Muslim
and conveyed to him her greetings of peace. He was filled with
joy a t the news and said: 'Wa alayha as-salam wa rahmatullahi
was barakatuhu and on her be peace and the mercy and blessings
of God. "