Umm Saleem bint Malhan - An Independent Decision
Lady Knights

Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Where a mighty army was gathering on the outskirts of the town of Al-Madinah. As the warriors arrived, laden with weapons and supplies there were nods and respectful smiles as the tough veterans recognized one another and calmly prepared to once again fight for what they believed in.

However, there was one seasoned veteran who was neither calm nor smiling. He was moving about in a fretful manner that brought to mind a hen fluttering over a wayward chick.

"You must go back!" Abu Talha said insistently to his wife. "You cannot march to war!"

Umm Saleem, herself a veteran of several wars, calmly tightened the dagger-belt she wore strapped around her very pregnant belly and gave her husband a firm look, "I can, and I will."

Umm Saleem had been a grieving widow with two small children when Abu Talha had come to her and proposed marriage. Umm Saleem told Abu Talha that men such as he were not to be refused, then she added that the only dowry she would accept would be for him to become a Muslim. At the time, she was a deeply devoted Muslim and he was a practicing pagan.

Abu Talha was a rich man with a reputation for bravery, generosity and honesty and he had come prepared to pay any dowry Umm Saleem might name. This dowry though was a strange one, and he did not know what to make of it. After some thought, he went to see Muhammad and learned from him what it meant to be a Muslim. That very day, Abu Talha became a Muslim and then hurried joyfully back to his new bride and small, bright stepsons.

All of this was on Umm Saleem's mind as she steadfastly refused to be left behind. She would go where he went. If that meant marching off to war, weighted down with their unborn child, then so be it. She had already had two babies and she well-knew what she could and could not do. This, she could do.

As the argument between the married couple dragged on, there was more than one amused look cast in their direction.

Finally, despairing of his wife ever changing her mind, Abu Talha sought out the Prophet Muhammad and appealed to him. Abu Talha knew that Umm Saleem would listen to Muhammad if to no one else.

"O' Messenger of God, here is Umm Saleem and she has a dagger!" said Abu Talha in great agitation, his tones pleading and aggrieved.

Muhammad looked at the armed pregnant woman standing defiantly by her husband, "What is the dagger for?" he asked her gently.

"O' Messenger of God," said Umm Saleem with a proud tilt to her chin, "If an enemy approaches me, I will stab him in the stomach!"

With a surprised laugh, Muhammad offered no objections. Umm Saleem was a grown woman and could make her own decisions. As to her unborn child, who could possibly care about it more than its own mother? If she chose to march to war with her husband rather than be left behind, then no one had the right to try and force her to stay.

Therefore as the army marched boldly away from Al-Madinah later that day, Umm Saleem strutted along proudly next to her anxious husband (in so much as a pregnant woman could strut).

During the march and subsequent battle, Umm Saleem worked just as hard as the other women who had gone with the army. Later, when the army returned victoriously to Al-Madinah, Umm Saleem returned with it. She was tired but unhurt and still heavily pregnant as she triumphantly marched side-by-side with her admiring husband.

*Written by © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Umm Saleem bint Malhan: أم سليم الغميصاء بنت ملحان بن خالد من بني عدي بن النجار.
    • Abu Talha: أبو طلحة الأنصاري.
    • Muhammad : خاتم الأنبياء الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم
  2. Many would have sent the pregnant woman home as though she were a misbehaving child. In contrast, the Prophet Muhammad in his wisdom recognized that Umm Saleem was an adult who was capable of making her own decisions and dealing with any subsequent consequences, both good and bad.

    This decision set an important precedent and gave Muslim women rights that no other women in history have ever enjoyed: The right to do whatever they want to do, without the interference of others. To this day, decisions are often made for women, especially pregnant ones, with the excuse that it is "for their own good". But on that long ago day, Umm Saleem made her own decision (which many disagreed with) and her right to decide was upheld by Muhammad .

  1. Halbi, M. (2006 AD, 1427 H). المائة الأوائل من صحابيات الرسول [The Hundred First Lady Contemporaries of the Messenger] (2nd Ed). Beirut: Dar El-Marefah Publishing & Distributing. Page 107-108.
  2. Al-Suhaibani, A. (2004 AD, 1425 H). صور من سير الصحابيات [Brief Biographies of Lady Contemporaries]. Riyadh: Dar Aalam Al-Kutub Publishing and Distributing. Page 139.

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