Maimunah bint Al-Harith became one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) seven years after the Muslims’ emigration from Makkah to Madinah (known to Muslims as the Hijrah). She had already been divorced once, after which she re-married and was later widowed. Many women would have given up on love by then, but Maimunah’s story was slightly different. When she became Prophet Muhammad’s wife, she was a vibrant and intelligent woman in her mid-20s and brought much wisdom to her third marriage. Through the example of Maimunah, devotion to Islamic teachings was relayed to Muslims, especially the blessing of absolute trust and faith in Islam.
Besides being known for her total submission to Allah (God) and her steadfast support for her husband, Maimunah bint Al-Harith is one of the Mothers of the Believers (an honorary title given to all the wives of Prophet Muhammad) who has narrated many hadiths (reported sayings or actions of Prophet Muhammad) — 76 to be precise. Many of these narrations have to do with the nature of the relationship between her and her husband so that Muslims can learn and emulate their example in their own relationships and reap the happiness that is promised to husband and wife.
According to Martin Lings, a prominent Muslim scholar, it was Umm Al-Fadl and her husband Abbas who approached the Prophet to marry Maimunah. Umm Al-Fadl believed such a union would bring great benefit to the Muslim community, which was being built slowly on sturdy grounds. Prophet Muhammad accepted her suggestion and pursued a marriage proposal with Maimunah herself. Prophet Muhammad was already very closely acquainted with Maimunah and Umm Al-Fadl’s family, as they too were amongst the first Muslims during the initial phase in Makkah. In fact, it was even narrated that Prophet Muhammad described Maimunah and her sisters as “the believing sisters,” which was an honor for the entire family.
Maimunah’s Marriage to the Prophet
Indeed, Umm Al-Fadl had been farsighted in initiating the relationship. Prophet Muhammad, through his marriage with Maimunah, was afforded opportunities to spread the teachings of Islam to the tribe of Banu Hilal (Maimunah’s tribe), and consequentially, another important Muslim community began to grow and integrate with the first one.
Aishah bint Abi Bakr, a wife of Prophet Muhammad, said: “Maimunah was the best amongst us, as she feared Allah most and maintained a close and continuous relationship with her kin” (Al-Hakim 8:181).
Aishah’s recognition of Maimunah did not end there. Aishah always praised Maimunah’s morals and dedication to Allah’s directives. Of course, the Mothers of the Believers were the most exemplary women, as they were all recognized as virtuous and strong Muslims who were hand-picked by Allah to teach and nurture the nascent Muslim community that was still learning about the faith. There were several occasions during which Maimunah stepped up as the Prophet’s confidante and aid to help dispel ambiguity in rulings and to allow Muslims to witness first-hand how Islam should be practiced. She “walked the talk,” always abiding by and demonstrating the teachings of the Quran, rushed to Prophet Muhammad’s aid when he needed her, and maintained her love for Islam above all.
She provides a wonderful example and testimony of a thriving marriage. Through her narrations, she speaks of intimacy between husband and wife such as washing up from the same container of water, and being aware of and sensitive to the emotions of one’s spouse. All this indicates that Maimunah was picked as a wife for because of her zeal in nurturing a strong marriage, and it was only through her piety and submission to God that she achieved that.
Maimunah Amongst the Muslims
Her complete submission to Allah and dedication to Prophet Muhammad encouraged her to denounce worldly pleasures and to worship and love for the sake of Islam only. Maimunah was known to the Muslims as a woman of charity. She freed slaves and cared for the poor. And it was through her actions that many other Muslims followed suit. Yet her participation in Muslim society was most fully apparent during war. During the battles that took place in the Prophet’s time, it was Maimunah who mobilized the first female group who would accompany the men to the battlefield and provide medical aid and emotional support for the wounded. For a woman who was later known to rarely leave her house after her husband’s passing, Maimunah was actively involved in travelling with the Muslim army when they needed the help the most. With her husband leading the battles, she felt that it was his right to have her by his side.
In so many ways she served Islam throughout her entire life, relaying important aspects of Muslim life so that the torch of Islam would continue to burn brightly. She took care of her kin and encouraged good relations amongst all Muslims. Moreover, she was always in the middle of action, leading by example and translating her fervor into action and practical application.
Unquestioned is Maimunah’s zeal for charity and serving the Muslim community. But she was also a romantic at heart. Her passion and emotional attachment to Prophet Muhammad, whom she outlived, endured for all her life. In the year 51 AH (after Hijrah), Maimunah fell ill in Makkah. She is reported to have then said, “Get me out of Makkah. I will not die in Makkah” (Ibn Kathir 4:261). She then asked to be transported to Sarf — the town in which she had spent her wedding night with her beloved husband, Prophet Muhammad — where she eventually passed away.