as muslims grow up, they are told stories about prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) and his role as a doting father and strong leader as head of his family. we hear a lot about lady fatimah and a little less about lady zainab. we also hear about his three sons, alas, all three of them died during their infancy.
much less is heard of lady ruqayyah and umm kulthum, the two middle daughters of the prophet. their lives were the shortest of the four girls and it has been reported that neither of them bore children, or their babies had died during infancy. thus their lineage perished with their deaths.
once in a while, their names and short stories about them do surface in islamic history books, and one reads about their valiant battles during their early years as islam was introduced in makkah. yet, there is not very much emphasis on their own personal quests or victories unlike fatimah and zainab.
however, they were part of prophet muhammad's household, and daughters of lady khadijah binti khuwalid, the prophet's first wife and one of the most recognizable iconic muslims of all times. thus, their importance in history should not wane alongside the stories of other muslim women who witnessed the religion of islam flourish through prophet muhammad.
the man of two lights
just prior to the first revelations of islam, ruqayyah and umm kulthum were said to have been either married or betrothed to the sons of abu lahab, the prophet's uncle. it was the cultural norm during the time where children as young as 8 or 9, had already been contracted to be married, normally amongst clans or relatives.
fortunately, the first revelations chimed in just in time for the two girls and saved them from marriage to the children of one of the most ardent enemies of islam.
they further remained with the prophet's household as he and his family continued to engage in advocacy for islam to the parties and individuals who took more of an interest in islam as compared to those who strongly opposed this new ideology.
but the most prominent thing about the stories of ruqayyah and umm kulthum were their marriages to the same man, much later on in history. they were not married to him at the same time, but rather, became wives of uthman bin affan consecutively.
ruqayyah, being the elder of the two, was married to caliph uthman first, and she and her husband were two of the handful of muslims who first migrated to abyssinia when they were under the most strenuous threat in makkah.
they did reunite with the majority of muslims when the civilization of madinah was being established, but ruqayyah, however, passed away not too long after, during the battle of badr. she had fallen sick prior to the army march towards the wells and prophet muhammad had quickly instructed uthman to remain by her side in madinah in the event that he would miss her passing.
through the prophet's wisdom, uthman saw his wife through her final hours and was even forgiven for not participating in the battle of badr, due to the fragility of his personal predicament at that time. he was also given glad tidings that the blessings of his loyalty to ruqayyah at the time of her ailment were equal to the blessings of a warrior during the battle.
prophet muhammad, having lost his daughter during a triumphant battle, had more news for uthman when the muslims regrouped in madinah. prophet muhammad had always cherished his son-in-law, and had even once reported that he felt "shy" around uthman (al-bukhari) due to uthman's modesty. in a well-known hadith, prophet muhammad relayed that even the angels held high regards for the modesty of uthman.
with such high reverence of uthman, it was only befitting for him to be further married to another one of the prophet muhammad's daughters: umm kulthum.
that was when uthman was given the name dhun-nurain, meaning, "the man of two lights", the two lights representing the two daughters of prophet muhammad.
when umm kulthum died later, prophet muhammad, being the human he was, was swayed by grief. he had lost yet another daughter and this particular kinship with uthman. he even went on to say that if he had had any more unmarried daughters (fatimah and zainab were already married), he would have given their hands to uthman in marriage.
parents and marriages today
many civilizations later, muslims still talk about marriage with high reverence. however, the concept though the same in the quran and through the hadiths is a little different in practice.
muslim parents often want their girls to be married to good men, which is an undeniable responsibility of every muslim mother or father. however, not all marriage choices weigh towards the piety of the prospective spouse. in fact, when it comes to marriage, we often see parents clamoring for the bachelor with the largest house or the highest status or the haughtiest lineage, or basically the biggest bling-bling.
when it comes to the wedding, it has to be lavish to project that socialite image, and please the masses with regards to the newly found status of their family. the dowry has to be exorbitant and the wedding reception has to be exquisite. then there is the issue of the new residence, which has to be trimmed to perfection, with matching furniture and hanging chandeliers. imported crockery completes the icing of the wedding cake.
daughters have to marry the men who can afford them, materialistically, and without that extra cash, the new son-in-law is seen as nothing more than a less ordinary future for their beloved child.
yes, it is important to look at wealth, status, upbringing, education and even the size of one's house before betrothing our daughters to their future husbands. after all, they — the men — are the ones obliged to provide for their wives. however, there is so much more to materialistic features of a marriage, and a man for that matter.
the person's faith outweighs any diamond ring, any amount of dowry, any number of precious gifts, and any membership to any exclusive club. and with faith comes sources of income, the natural sustenance that is provided by allah for those who request humbly from him.
during the prophet's time, a woman could be married off for a scripture of the quran, as long as she consented to it. and, to be fair, the women of that time never asked for a lot, fearing that their greed would overtake them in the eyes of allah.
the same would have been for ruqayyah and umm kulthum, two very cultured women of islam. yes, caliph uthman was known to be a rich merchant, yet his piety outweighed the amount of material possession he had, and his charity was undoubtedly one of the most generous.
it was even reported that he would continue to spend his wealth on muslims no matter how hefty his business profits rolled in. he even had set up one of the first public amenities for muslims, fully sponsored and sustained with his own money. during his caliphate term, he never once accepted his royalties from the bait-ul mal, the government's safe.
uthman was a rich man, but that was not the reason prophet muhammad clamored to have him as a son-in-law twice. that was how precious his children were, including the two less sung daughters, ruqayyah and umm kulthum.
their silent passing
just like the other noble women of their time, ruqayyah and umm kulthum leave their names behind in the history of islamic civilization. it was reported that their younger sister fatimah, had named two of her daughters after their names, out of adoration of her sisters.
in fact, both their names remain popular with muslims in our time. we hear them in muslim communities and are popular choices for converts too.
so even without their personal biographies of their own hardship and quests, ruqayyah and umm kulthum continue to light up the darkness that continues to invade the muslim world today.