Sawda bint Zamʿa
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|Wives of Muhammad|
Migration to Abyssinia
Marriage to Muhammad
Sawda bint Zam'a, had been the first woman to immigrate to Abyssinia in the way of Allah. Her husband had died and she was now living with her aged father. She was a tall and large woman, with a jolly, kindly disposition, and just the right person to take care of the Prophet's household and family.
So Muhammad gave permission to Khawla to speak to Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and to Sawda on the subject. Khawla went straight to Sawda and said, "Would you like Allah to give you great blessing, Sawda?" Sawda asked, "And what is that, Khawla?" She said, "The Messenger of Allah has sent me to you with a proposal of marriage!" Sawda tried to contain herself in spite of her utter astonishment and then replied in a trembling voice, "I would like that! Go to my father and tell him that." Khawla went to Zam'a, a gruff old man, and greeted him and then said, "Muhammad son of Abdullah son of Abdul Muttalib, has sent me to ask for Sawda in marriage." The old man shouted, "A noble match. What does she say?" Khawla replied, "She would like that." He told her to call her. When she came, he said, "Sawda, this woman claims that Muhammad son of Abdullah son of Abdul Muttalib has sent me to ask for you in marriage. It is a noble match. Do you want me to marry you to him?" She accepted, feeling it was a great honor.
Muhammad married Sawda in Ramadan in the tenth year after his prophethood (i.e., in April/May 620), a few days after the death of Khadija. According to Ibn Sa’d Sawda died in the year 54 after Hijra, If she lived to become an octogenarian she must have married Muhammad at the age of 27. If she reached the age of 90 then she could not have been older than 37 when she married the prophet who was 50 years old at that time. 
Sawda went to live in Muhammad's house and immediately took over the care of his daughters and household, while Aisha bint Abu Bakr became betrothed to him and remained in her father's house. There was great surprise in Mecca that Muhammad would choose to marry a widow who was neither young nor beautiful. Muhammad, however, remembered the trials she had undergone when she had immigrated to Abyssinia, leaving her house and property, and crossed the desert and then the sea for an unknown land out of the desire to preserve her deen.
When she was older, Muhammad was worried that Sawda might be upset about having to compete with so many younger wives, and offered to divorce her. She said that she would give her night to Aisha, of whom she was very fond, because she only wanted to be his wife on the Day of Rising.
Later life, widowhood
After Muhammad's death, Sawda received a gift of money, which she spent on charity. Muawiyah I, the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, bought her house in Medina for 180,000 dirhams. She and Aisha always remained very close.
She died in Medina in September or October 674.
- Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa’l Muluk. Translated by Landau-Tasseron, E. (1998). Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors vol. 39 p. 169. New York: SUNY Press.
- Vacca, V. "Sawda Bint Zamʿa." Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936). Brill Online, 2012. Reference. 2 October 2012.
- Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa’l Muluk. Translated by Landau-Tasseron, E. (1998). Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors vol. 39 pp. 169-170. New York: SUNY Press.
- Ibn Kathir, Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
- Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa’l Muluk. Translated by Landau-Tasseron, E. (1998). Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors vol. 39 p. 170. New York: SUNY Press.
- Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat Vol.8 page 56. Persian translation by Dr. Mohammad Mahdavi Damghani. (1982). Tehran Iran Farhang va Andiheh Publications.