I was recently studying the story of Umm Salamah (ra) for my class with young kids, and while I always remember the Dua she made when her husband passed away as the most beautiful part of the story, so many other points resonated with me this time around.
Umm Salamah (ra) and her husband, Abu Salamah (ra), were one of the earliest converts to Islam. As with all of the early Muslims, their commitment to Islam brought upon them severe persecution from the Quraysh in Makkah. To escape this oppression, Umm Salamah (ra) and her husband sought refuge in Abyssinia, where they found temporary solace.
However, their hearts yearned to be with the Prophet (saw) and the growing Muslim community in Makkah. When there were rumors that the persecution in Makkah had eased, Umm Salamah (ra) and her husband decided to return with a group of other emigrants, only to face renewed hostility.
The Prophet (saw) eventually permitted his companions to migrate to Madinah, and Abu Salamah (ra) prepared to leave with his wife and son for Hijrah.
Here are some of the lessons we can learn and apply from her story:
- Being authentic in emotional expression.
- Choosing faith over fear.
- Knowing your worth as a Muslim woman.
- Never, ever despairing or feeling hopeless.
- Accepting your feelings without judgment.
Lesson 1: Being authentic in emotional expression.
The first lesson in emotional intelligence we learn is when she set out with her son and husband for Hijrah to Madinah and her tribe intercepted them, which resulted in separation from her husband and later her son (who she was still breastfeeding, he was just an infant).
She was so overcome with grief that she’d go to the place where this tragedy took place and cry every single day for a year.
She didn’t “get over” it. She didn’t bottle up her feelings to put on a “brave” front of Sabr, as we tend to understand it.
No, she was human. She knew it was from Allah, but this didn’t stop the natural feelings of grief, dismay, and anguish this incident arose in her.
She was authentic with her emotions, expressing her grief and misery so much that finally someone pitied her enough to convince her tribe to let her return to her husband.
We can spare ourselves so much pain if we stop resisting, suppressing, and trying to change our natural, human, messy, imperfect emotions.
Lesson 2: Choosing faith over fear
The second lesson we learn is when she set out for Madinah all by herself with just her infant son. There was no one else, and this was a journey set to take place over several weeks.
Rather than let her fear stop her and keep her stuck in place, she braced herself, had Tawakkul, and left Makkah. She couldn’t have foreseen this, but when she trusted Allah (swt) so completely, he ensured her protection and safety in the form of a noble man, Uthman bin Talha (who later accepted Islam but was a non-Muslim at this point), who guided her camel all the way to the outskirts of Madinah where her husband was.
This teaches us that when we take that one step out of faith and Tawakkul, when we’re so willing to play OUR part in walking away from an abusive situation, Allah provides a way out.
When one door closes, another one opens, even when you can’t see it at all. This is the Sunnah of Allah – when you place your trust in Him, He will suffice.
فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“Once you have taken a decision, place your trust in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who place their trust in Him.” [3:159]
Lesson 3: Knowing your worth as a Muslim woman.
The next life lesson we learn as Muslim women from the example of Umm Salamah (ra) is when she was finally reunited with her husband, but he passed away a few years later from his wounds at the battle of Uhud.
She now had 4 young children to look after, but even in her desperation, she didn’t settle when she received proposals from both Abu Bark (ra) and then Umar (ra). She knew her worth, she didn’t let her fear of poverty or being unprotected force her to settle for anyone who she couldn’t see as measuring up to her beloved husband, Abu Salamah (ra).
It was only when the Prophet (saw) himself, the best of mankind, proposed to her that she agreed.
So ladies – don’t settle. Don’t settle. Know your worth and place your trust in Allah. You deserve understanding, compatibility, happiness, love, and spiritual intimacy. Don’t settle for less.
Lesson 4: Never, ever despairing or feeling hopeless.
She says herself that even when she prayed the Dua her husband taught her for reward after a calamity and the replacement of it with something better, she would wonder to herself, “Who can possibly be better than Abu Salamah?”
إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُوْنَ، اَللَّهُمَّ أْجُرْنِيْ فِيْ مُصِيْبَتِيْ وَأَخْلِفْ لِيْ خَيْرًا مِنْهَا.
“To Allah we belong and unto Him is our return. O Allah, recompense me for my affliction and replace it for me with something better.” [Sahih Muslim]
You know when you’re facing a difficult situation and you can’t see a way out, but you make Dua to Allah (swt) anyway?
That’s how she felt. That’s how WE feel. What incredible validation to know this! What a human experience.
The important thing is that even if you can’t see a way out or a replacement for your present sorrow or grief, you don’t let this make you despair or turn away from Allah.
You STILL make Dua, you still call out to Him. You can have doubts, but never despair. And again, Allah suffices.
وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ
“And whoever places his trust in Allah, He is sufficient for him.” [65:3]
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Lesson 5: Accepting your feelings without judgment.
The final lesson in emotional intelligence we can learn from her story is when the Prophet (saw) proposed to her, and she mentioned to him that she was a jealous woman. Rather than berate her for her jealousy or tell her to actively fight it, he said he’d make Dua to Allah to lessen it for her.
Compare this to our own natural human emotions, and how we think they must be “fixed” or suppressed. Rather than just accepting them as a natural part of our human experience, we feel we have to be some sort of perfect Muslims who never feel a negative emotion to be loved by Allah.
Subhan Allah, what a contrast between us and the Sahabah Karaam who were openly human, so accepting of their flaws, and humbly turning to Allah with their weaknesses.
May we be blessed with their love for Him, their contentment with His Decree, and their emotional depth and intelligence. Ameen.
Which of these lessons resonated with you the most? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!