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 slave who was gifted to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 628 by Muqawqis the Copt, the Christian ruler of Egypt at the time. She bore him a son, Ibrahim who died in childhood, and then she died almost five years later.
Status as Wife
Islamic jurist and historian Ibn Kathir, who chronicled the life of Muhammad in his book Al-Bidāya wa-n-nihāya, relates that:
"Maria al-Qibtiyya (may Allah be pleased with her) is said to have married the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and certainly everyone gave her the same title of respect as the Prophet's wives, 'Umm al Muminin' 'Mother of the Believers'."
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.
In honor of Maria and their son Ibrahim, the Prophet of Islam esteemed the people of Egypt.
Abu Dharr reported Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him, as saying: You would soon conquer Egypt and that is a land which is known (as the land of al-qirat). So when you conquer it, treat its inhabitants well. For there lies upon you the responsibility because of blood-tie or relationship of marriage (with them). And when you see two persons falling into dispute amongst themselves for the space of a brick, than get out of that. He (Abu Dharr) said: I saw Abd al-Rahman b. Shurahbil b. Hasana and his brother Rabi'a disputing with one another for the space of a brick. So I left that (land).— Sahih Muslim : Book 031, Number 6174
- Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, p. 653.
- Tabari, p. 131.