Maria bint Sham'ûn, better known as Maria al-Qibtiyya (Arabic: مارية القبطية) (alternatively, "Maria Quptiyah"), or Maria the Copt, (died 637) was an Egyptian Coptic who was gifted to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 628 as a slave by Muqawqis the Copt, the Christian ruler of Egypt at the time. She bore him a son, Ibrahim, who died almost five years later in his childhood .
Year of the deputations
In the Islamic year 6 AH (627 – 628 CE), Muhammad is said to have had letters written to the great rulers of the Middle East, proclaiming the new Faith and inviting the rulers to join. Texts of some of the letters are found in Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari's History of the Prophets and Kings. Tabari writes that a deputation was sent to an Egyptian governor named as al-Muqawqis.
Tabari recounts the story of Maria's arrival from Egypt:
In this year Hātib b. Abi Balta'ah came back from al-Muqawqis bringing Māriyah and her sister Sīrīn, his female mule Duldul, his donkey Ya'fūr, and sets of garments. With the two women al-Muqawqis had sent a eunuch, and the latter stayed with them. Hātib had invited them to become Muslims before he arrived with them, and Māriyah and her sister did so. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him, lodged them with Umm Sulaym bt. Milhān. Māriyah was beautiful. The prophet sent her sister Sīrīn to Hassān b. Thābit and she bore him 'Abd al-Rahmān b. Hassān.— Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings.
Maria in biography of Muhammad
Maria is mentioned with detail in Martin Lings' Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. According to this biography:
Muhammad sent a letter to Muqawqis, summoning him to Islam, was answered evasively; but with his answer the ruler of Egypt sent a rich present of a thousand measures of gold, twenty robes of fine cloth, a mule, a she-ass and, as the crown of the gift, two Coptic Christian slave girls escorted by an elderly eunuch. The girls were sisters, Mariyah and Sirin, and both were beautiful, but Mariyah was exceptionally so, and the Prophet marvelled at her beauty. He gave Sirin to Hassan ibn Thabit, and lodged Mariyah in the nearby house where Safiyyah had lived before.— Abu Bakar Sirajuddin, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, LXXI/277-278
The author, in later chapters, gives details of Muhammad's son (with Maria) Ibrahim and his passing away.
- Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, p. 653.
- Tabari, p. 131.