During Black History Month, I have the intention of writing brief summaries, not in depth biographies, of some of the early figures in Islamic history who were black. My usage of the word black, for the sake of what I plan on writing, will not be restricted to Nubians and Abyssinians but also for Arabs who had black and brown colored skin in which in contemporary times would be perceived as black such as Sudanese who are both Arabs and blacks.
The first luminous figure in this series that was a companion is Barakah also known as Umm Ayman. Umm Ayman was Abyssinian and a servant of Abdullah bin Abdil Muttalib, the father of the Prophet . When Aminah, the mother of the Prophet died, Umm Ayman took over as primary care-giver of the Prophet . Umm Ayman was later emancipated at the time of the marriage of the Prophet to Sayyidah Khadijah bint Khuwaylid .
Umm Ayman was one of the early adherents of Islam in Makkah and was one of those who faced persecution from Quraysh. She was among those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah.
Umm Ayman’s first marriage was to Ubayd bin Zayd who was from Bani Khazraj, a prominent tribe in the Hijaz. According to ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wa An-Nihayah and others, Ubayd (RA) himself was black in color or Al-Habashi though his lineage was from Bani Khazraj, a prominent Arab tribe in the Hijaz. Umm Ayman and Ubayd bore a son named Ayman who was also black. Ubayd was martyred at Ghazwah Khaybar, and Ayman was martyred at Ghazwah Hunayn. Umm Ayman participated in Ghazwah Uhud and Ghazwah Khaybar.
After Ubayd’s martyrdom, it’s reported by Ibn Sa’ad in At-Tabaqat Al-Kubra that the Prophet said to the companions that if anyone wanted to marry a lady from the People of Paradise then marry Umm Ayman . Zayd bin Harithah , the man who the Prophet emancipated and raised like a son, was then married to Umm Ayman . Though Zayd was Arab and there are some conflicting descriptions about his physical appearance, Tanwir Al-Ghabash min Fadl Al-Sudan wa Al-Habash by ibn Al-Jawzi and others states that Zayd was short with a flat nose and had dark skin.
Umm Ayman had a particularly close relationship to Ahl al-Bayt, the Household of the Prophet . She shared intimate moments with Ahl al-Bayt such as being present at the marriage that the Prophet conducted between his daughter Sayyidah Fatimah and Imam Ali . At the time of the passing of the Prophet , she grieved alongside Ahl al-Bayt.
There are conflicting narrations about Umm Ayman’s passing.