Most Fortunate Stepchildren
“I have the best family line ever: My father is Muhammad (peace be upon him), my mother is Khadeejah, my brother is Al-Qasim and my sister is Fatimah. Who can have a family line to rival mine?” These were the words of Hind ibn Abu Halah, the Prophet’s first stepson. These words are indicative of the sort of relationship the young stepson had with his stepfather, Muhammad, God’s last messenger.
It is well known that the Prophet married Khadeejah, Hind’s mother, 15 years before prophet hood. She was married twice before him, having had a daughter by her first marriage. This daughter came to be known as Umm Muhammad bint Ateeq. The very fact that she named her son after her stepfather is indicative of her great love of the Prophet. Hind was Khadeejah’s son by her second marriage to Abu Halah, who was also called Hind, a name most frequently used for girls. It is well known that Khadeejah remained unmarried for a period after her second husband’s death, during which she declined proposals by several distinguished figures in Makkah. Many were those who dearly wished to marry her, knowing that she combined beauty and wealth with maturity and noble descent. She declined as many proposals as she received, preferring to conduct her own business, sending her trade on the two famous trips that became part of the life of the people of Makkah. It was Khadeejah who then chose Muhammad and offered to marry him when she found in him a man of superior honesty and integrity, in addition to wisdom that belied his years.
Hind ibn Abu Halah was thus brought up from a young age in the Prophet’s home, and the Prophet took good care of him. Hind attained adulthood before the beginning of the Islamic message, benefiting greatly from living in a happy home. When the Prophet preached his message, Hind was one of those who responded positively, adopting Islam in its early days. How could he take any other attitude when he knew how true to his word his stepfather was? He realized that a man who never told a lie to people could never entertain inventing a lie about God. Besides, Hind was a man of literary talent who could easily realize that the Qur’an, which Muhammad started to recite, could have never been composed by a human being. It was exceedingly superior. Hence, he followed his good judgment and adopted Islam. Hind fought alongside the Prophet in several battles and he left us a very detailed description of the Prophet. The description suggests a genuine and deep-seated love of the Prophet.
After Khadeejah’s death, the Prophet married several wives, everyone for a special reason. The only one who had not been married earlier to someone else was c. Some of them had children by their earlier marriages. Sawdah, the first of these was a mature woman when the Prophet married her. Sawdah was among the early Muslims, and she went with her husband, Al-Sakran ibn Amr, on the first immigration to Abyssinia, but they returned sometime later. On their way back, and just before arriving in Makkah, her husband died. She was later the first woman to be suggested to the Prophet as a possible wife when he deeply felt his great loss at Khadeejah’s death. Sawdah had five children of her own. We do not know much about them as they are rarely mentioned in the books that discuss the Prophet’s life. However, we do not have any report that the Prophet ever showed any kind of dissatisfaction with their presence in his home, as often happens between children and their stepfather.
Ramlah was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, the man who led the Quraysh in one campaign after another in opposition to the Prophet, trying to subdue Islam. In one of these campaigns, the declared aim of the allied forces under his leadership was the extermination of Islam and Muslims. Yet she was a Muslim, and she immigrated to Abyssinia with her husband. However, in Abyssinia her husband, Ubaydellah ibn Jahsh converted to Christianity, and then died there. She was left there alone with her daughter, Habeebah. The Prophet felt for her and sent to Negus, the ruler of Abyssinia to arrange his marriage to her on his behalf after receiving her consent. When Ramlah and other Muslims came back and joined the Prophet in Madinah, she lived with him a very happy life. He took care of her daughter and treated her in his most kindly and generous way. Ramlah, or Umm Habbebah, as she is better known, transmitted 65 Hadiths, some of which were also reported by her daughter.
Umm Salamah was another wife who brought the Prophet four more stepchildren. Her eldest, Salamah, was a teenager when she married the Prophet. Her youngest was a suckling daughter named Barrah, but the Prophet changed her name to Zaynab. ‘Barrah’ means a dutiful and devout woman. The Prophet did not like names that were presumptive. Whenever a woman or a girl came under his care bearing that name, he changed it, mostly to Zaynab, which means ‘her father’s jewel’. He said to them: “You do not know who is devout or dutiful and who is not.” Umm Salamah’s children enjoyed good care by the Prophet. He taught them good manners and cared for their upbringing.
In total the Prophet had 12 stepchildren, two by Khadeejah, five by Sawdah, four by Umm Salamah and one by Ramlah. All of them were fortunate to join the Prophet’s household because they enjoyed the care of the most compassionate and caring stepfather they, or anyone else for that matter, could have ever had. The Prophet was kind even to his enemies. He was most caring of children and young people in general, and he was especially kind to his stepchildren.