One of the richest men in Medina (Bukhari), a strong man and accomplished archer (Bukhari), was looking for a bride – and he knew exactly who he wanted to marry. She belonged to the same clan of Banu Najjar as him – the clan whom Prophet Muhammad (saw) would one day declare to be, “the best family of the Ansar” (Bukhari). She was also a widow and had a young boy. Surely, she would say yes.
But Hazrat Umme Sulaim (ra), the blessed mother of Hazrat Anas bin Malik (ra), was no ordinary woman. When asked for her hand in marriage, she replied, “By Allah, a man like you is not to be rejected, O Abu Talhah, but you are a disbeliever and I am a Muslim, and it is not permissible for me to marry you. If you become Muslim, that will be my dowry, and I will not ask you for anything else.” The response impressed Hazrat Abu Talha (ra) who then became a Muslim and Hazrat Umme Sulaim (ra) accepted her dowry to be Hazrat Abu Talha’s (ra) conversion. Thabit, a narrator of this hadith expresses a view that perhaps many others share, “I have never heard of a woman whose dowry was more precious than Umm Sulaim (whose dowry was) Islam” (Nisai). The two would enjoy a blessed marriage, having nine boys who lived to adulthood and all of whom became hafiz (Bukhari).
Hazrat Umme Sulaim’s (ra) behavior exemplifies the hadith, “Verily Allah does not look to your bodies nor to your faces but He looks to your hearts” (Muslim).
In the same vein, Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) once asked Hazrat Ata bin Abi Rabah (ra), “Shall I show you a woman of the people of Paradise?” He replied, “Yes.” Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) then pointed to a black woman who had once asked Prophet Muhammad (saw) to pray for her to be cured of epilepsy. Prophet Muhammad (saw) responded to her by saying, “If you wish, be patient and you will have Paradise; and if you wish, I will invoke Allah to cure you.” She said, “I will remain patient, but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered” and Prophet Muhammad (saw) prayed accordingly (Bukhari).
On another occasion, a man passed by Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked a sahabi sitting near him, “What is your opinion about this man?” The sahabi replied, “He is one of the noblest men. By Allah he is certainly a proper person for (a girl) being given in marriage if he seeks to marry, and his recommendation is fit to be accepted if he recommends.” Prophet Muhammad (saw) remained silent. Sometime later, another man passed by and Prophet Muhammad (saw) again asked, “What is your opinion about this man?” The sahabi replied, “O Messenger of Allah, he is one of the poor Muslims. He is not a proper person (for a girl) to be given in marriage to, and his recommendation would not be accepted if he makes one; if he speaks, he is not to be listened to.” Prophet Muhammad (saw) said regarding the second man, “He is better than the former by earthfuls” (Bukhari, Muslim).
Reading these stories, a spiritually fit Muslim is reminded to value people based on their piety, as Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “[no man is superior] except by piety and good action” (Farewell Sermon).
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