When the rulers demanded that Fatima Zahra (s.a.) produce witnesses in support of her claim on Fadak, she advanced Umm Ayman as a witness, among others.
Before we venture into the Fadak testimony, it is worthwhile to review Umm Ayman’s stature in Islam.
Who is Umm Ayman?
Umm Ayman was the maid of the Prophet (s.a.w..a.). Her name was Barkah bint Tha’labah.
She was an immigrant, who had the honour of migrating twice – first to Ethiopia, later to Medina. She witnessed the battles of Hunain, Ohad and Khaibar. She was among the ladies who gave water to the Muslim soldiers and tended to the wounded.
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to address her as ‘Mother’ and used to say – She is my mother after my real mother.
Ibn Hajar records: She narrated traditions from the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and others like Anas Ibn Malik, etc narrated on her authority.
She is mother to Ayman (from earlier marriage to Ubayd bin Zaid) and Osama Ibn Zaid. It is narrated that she was the maid of Abdullah Ibn Abdil Muttalib (a.s.), the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) father. The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) got her as inheritance.
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed the Muslims about her: One who wants to marry a woman of Paradise, should marry Umm Ayman.
Zaid Ibn Harith married her and Osama Ibn Zaid was their son.
She passed away in the early part of the third ruler’s tenure. According to some reports, she died six months after the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
- Al-Isabah v 4 p 415
- Tehzeeb al-Tehzeeb v 12 p 459
- Osod al-Ghabah v 5 p 567
Umm Ayman’s Fadak testimony rejected by rulers
Umm Ayman on being summoned to give witness on Fadak tells Abu Bakr:
I will not give witness O Abu Bakr, until I complete my proof against you based on what the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed (about me). I implore you for the sake of Allah, aren’t you aware that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said – Umm Ayman is from the women assured of Paradise.
He said: Yes
She said: I bear witness that Allah, the Almighty, revealed the verse on his Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on which he granted Fadak to Fatima (s.a.):
وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَى حَقَّهُ
And give to the near of kin his due (Surah Isra (17): 26)
The incident continues with the ruler initially handing over Fadak to Fatima Zahra (s.a.) based on the witnesses of Umm Ayman and Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).
However, his companion walks in and tears apart the letter on the pretext that a woman’s testimony is not reliable and Ali (a.s.) will obviously testify in his wife’s favour.
- Al-Ehtejaaj v 1 p 90-95
It is shocking how a lady assured of Paradise was deemed an unreliable witness. She spent more time in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) company serving the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Muslim soldiers than many of the companions put together. The rulers did not even give her due consideration as a companion and companions are deemed almost infallible according to many reports like this:
The consensus of the Ahle Sunnah regarding all the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is that they were just. None opposes this view except the most deviated of innovators.
- Al-Isabah p 17
Indeed, the witness of Umm Ayman and Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) as also Fatima Zahra (s.a.) on Fadak, has placed Muslims in a quandary. If companions are just then why are the witnesses of these truly just companions rejected. And if they are deemed unreliable, then how can they claim that companions are just.