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Heroic Deeds of Muslim Women

Syed Sulaiman Nadwi

The history of Islam abounds in scores of such gallant actions on the part of Muslim women, but, unfortunately, they are not commonly known.

Prior to Islam, the Arab women used to accompany men to the battlefield. With their children, they remained behind the fighting lines and looked after the wounded soldiers, attended the horses, comforted their valiant husbands, roused their spirit by narrating the thrilling achievements of their ancestors, disarmed the dead soldiers of the enemy, rallied the panic-stricken fugitives, and guarded the prisoners.

The famous poet of Arabia, Umar ibn Kulthum, recites in pride:

"Behind our ranks are beautiful and whitefaced women; we are always afraid lest they should be insulted, and the enemy take possession of them. These women have taken oaths from their husbands to show gallantry in the field of battle. They accompany us, so that they may take possession of, and arrest, enemies' horses and armaments.

These are the ladies of the family of Jashm b. Bakr, who not only possess beauty, but also have traditions both of family and religion. They look after our horses and they say, 'If you cannot protect us from the enemy you are not our husbands'."

Islam also maintained this tradition. Women always followed men in the Jihad. In the battle of Uhud, according to Bukhari, A'isha (radiAllahu anha) carried a leather bag full of water to quench the thirst of wounded soldiers. She was helped in the task by Umm Salim and Umm Salit.

The traditionist Abu Naeem relates that in the battle of Khaibar, half a dozen women of Madinah followed the marching army. The Prophet did not know of this and, when he was informed, he angrily asked them why they had come at all. They reverently answered that they had medicines with them, that they would nurse and dress the wounded, take out arrows from the bodies of the soldiers, and arrange for their rations. The Prophet allowed them to accompany the army, and, when Khaibar was conquered, he gave a share of the war booty to these women also. [1]

 

In a number of battles, Umm Salim and a few other ladies of the Ansar rendered similar service.[2] Rabi, daughter of Muaz, along with other women, performed the duty of carrying the martyrs and the wounded from the battlefield of Uhud to Madinah.[3] Umm Raqida had a pavilion for the wounded, where she washed and dressed their wounds.[4]

 

Umm Zaid, Ashjiya, and five other ladies helped the Muslims during the battle of Khaibar, by working at spinning wheels. They picked up arrows from the field, and offered grain flour (Sattu) to the soldiers. [5] Umm Attiya cooked for the Companions in seven battles. [6]

Tabari writes of one occasion when the corpses of the Muslim soldiers lay in great numbers in the van. The group of men appointed for burying the martyrs commissioned women to look after the wounded. In the battles of Aghwath and Armath, fought in connection with that of Qadisiya, women and children dug graves. [7]

The battle of Qadisiya is described thus by a woman w o was present: "When the battle was over, we (women) rushed forward daringly to the battlefield with rods in our hands and picked up the wounded Muslim soldiers." [8]

The above incidents, however, not only testify to the religious zeal, national enthusiasm, and heroism of Muslim women, but also detail the various duties they were called upon to perform from time to time. They did not shirk the humble and unpleasant chores: the digging of graves and the procurement of rations for the army. Not only did the women nurse the wounded in the rear, they also brought in the casualties from the battlefield. Not content with urging men to take a firm stand, sometimes, they actually helped them by joining in the battle. In short, no task was too difficult or too unpleasant for them to attempt.

If you examine the battles of the early period of Islamic history, you will find women engaged in these duties in the rear. The last mentioned services rendered by Muslim women require, however, some elaboration, and we will go into detail to show how nobly the weaker sex among the Muslims discharged this task.

The mother of Anas b. Malik (the Prophet's servant), Umm Salim, usually accompanied the Prophet to the field. When Taleeb b. Umair adopted Islam and informed his mother of this, she said, "You have sided with the man who deserved the most. Would that I had the strength and the ability of man, I would protect him and fight for him."[10]

In the battle of the Ditch, the Prophet and his Companions were fighting against the Jews, when Banu Quraiza advanced to the place where Muslim women and children had entrenched themselves. There were no soldiers to protect these women against Banu Quraiza.

Meanwhile, a Jew chanced to appear near them. It was feared that the Jew might betray them to Banu Quraiza who would then attack at the earliest opportunity. Safia, the aunt of the Prophet, and the mother of Zubair, asked Hassan b. Thabit to kill the Jew. Seeing his hesitation, Safia herself climbed down with a pole of the pavilion in her hand and killed the Jew with it. This was the first heroic action, says the historian Ibn Athir, done by a, Muslim woman. [11]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Abu Dawud, Fathi Khaibar.

[2] Abu Dawud, Vol. 1, p. 252

[3] Bukhari, Kitab at-Tib.

[4] Abu Dawud, Vol. I p. 270.

[5] Sahih Muslim, Vol. 11, p. 105 (Egypt)

[6] Tabari Vol VI, p. 2317 (European Edn.).

[7] Tabari, Vol. V, p. 2363.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Usud ul-Chabs, Vol. V. p. 591.

[10] Isti'ab Taleeb, b.Umair.

[11] Usud ul-Ghabn, description of Safia, Vol. V. p. 591

 

 

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