Sawdah bint Zam'ah

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Sawdah bint Zam'ah
Mother of the Believers
سَوْدَةُ بنت زَمَعَةَ
تخطيط اسم سودة بنت زمعة.png
Sawdah bint Zamʿah

c. 566 - 580 CE
Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
(present-day KSA)
DiedShawwal 22 AH ; c. September/October 644 or 674 CE.
Medina, Hejaz, Arabia
(present-day KSA)
Resting placeJannat al-Baqi, Medina
Known forWife of the prophet Muhammad, Mother of the Believers
Titleʾumm ul-mumineen
  • As-Sakran ibn Amr (died 619 in Mecca)
  • Muhammad (m. 619-620; died 632 in Medina)
ChildrenAbdur Rahman ibn Sakran
  • Zam'ah ibn Qays (father)
    Al-Shamus bint Qays (mother) (from Banu Najjar)
FamilyBanu Amir (by birth)
Ahl al-Bayt (by marriage)

Sawdah bint Zamʿah (Arabic: سودة بنت زمعة) was the second wife of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and therefore regarded as, Umm-ul-Mu'mineen (Arabic: أمّ المؤمنين, romanized: ʾumm al-muʾminīn), "Mother of the Believers".

Early life[edit]

Sawdah was born and raised in Mecca in Pre-Islamic Arabia. There is a disagreement as to when she was born.[1] According to one source, when she was married to the prophet, her age was around 50, other sources claim her age during the marriage to be around 50 to 55 years old, which would only narrow her birthday to around 566-580 CE.[2][3] Her father, Zam'ah ibn Qays, was from the Amir ibn Lu'ayy clan of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. Her mother, Al-Shamus bint Qays, was from the Najjar clan of the Khazraj tribe in Madina.[4] Not much is known about her early life before Islam.

First Husband and First Hijra[edit]

She married As-Sakran ibn Amr, who was one of the early converts to Islam.[4] They had at least one son, Abdur Rahman ibn as-Sakran, who much later died in the Battle of Jalula in 637 against the Sassanids.[5]

Migration to Abyssinia[edit]

Sawdah and Sakran emigrated to Abyssinia[4] when Muhammad ordered many of the Muslims to perform Hijrah in order to avoid persecution by the Quraysh. Sakran left for Abyssinia by sea with Waqqas.[citation needed] Sawdah was one of the first women to immigrate to Abyssinia in the way of Allah.[6] Few years later they returned to Mecca, where As-Sakran died, and she became a widow for the first time in her life.[7]

Marriage to Muhammad[edit]

Few months after the death of Khadijah, Muhammad was suggested to marry again by Khawlah bint Hakim, and she suggested Sawdah and Aisha bint Abi Bakr's names as both widowed and virgin contenders for marriage. Sawdah's described as a tall and large, dark skinned woman, with a jolly, kindly disposition, and just the right person to take care of Muhammad's household and family.[6] So Muhammad gave permission to Khawlah to speak to Abu Bakr and to Sawdah on the subject. Khawlah went straight to Sawdah and said, "Would you like Allah to give you great blessing, Sawdah?" Sawdah asked, "And what is that, Khawlah?" She said, "The Messenger of Allah has sent me to you with a proposal of marriage!" Sawdah tried to contain herself in spite of her utter astonishment and then replied, "I would like that! Go to my father and tell him that." Khawlah went to Zam'ah, a gruff old man, and greeted him and then said, "Muhammad son of Abdullah son of Abdul Muttalib, has sent me to ask for Sawdah in marriage." The old man shouted, "A noble match. What does she say?" Khawlah replied, "She would like that." He told her to call her. When she came, he said, "Sawdah, 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.[6]

Muhammad married Sawdah in the month of Ramadan, in the tenth year of his prophethood (i.e., in April–May 620), a few months after the death of Khadijah.[8] According to Ibn Sa’d, Sawdah 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.[9] However, there are sources that put her death in the year 644.[10] Sawdah went to live in Muhammad's house and immediately took over the care of his daughters and household, while Aisha 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 wasn't beautiful according to society's standards. 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.[6]

It was after the Hijrah that the first community of Muslims rapidly grew and flowered and bore fruit.[6]

When Sawdah got older, and some time after Muhammad's marriage to Umm Salama,[11] some sources claim that Muhammad wished to divorce her.[12] According to Ibn Kathir Muhammad was worried that Sawda might be upset about having to compete with so many younger wives, and offered to divorce her.[6] Sawdah offered to give her turn of Muhammad's conjugal visits at night to Aisha, of whom he was very fond of,[6] stating that she "was old, and did not have needs for men; her only desire was to rise on the Day of Judgment as one of his wives".[12] While some Muslim historians cite this story as a reason of revelation, citing Quran 4:128, others like Rashid Rida dispute this whole account as "poorly supported", or mursal.[13] Some traditions maintain that Muhammad did not intend to divorce her, but only she feared or thought that he would.[13]

Later life and Death[edit]

After the death of prophet Muhammad, Sawdah along with other wives received a gift of money annually from the Caliphate, which she spent on charity.[citation needed] She, Aisha, Hafsa, and Safiyya always remained very close.[6] She lived a long life and died in 54 AH in Medina, where she was buried in Jannat-al-Baqi.[14] Ibn Sa'd puts her date of death to the year 674.[15] After her death, Muawiyah I, the reigning first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, bought her house in Medina for 180,000 dirhams.[citation needed] According to other sources, she died in Medina towards the end of caliph 'Umar's reign in 22 AH, 644 CE.[8][16]


  1. ^ Understanding the Islamic Law, Raj Bhala, Section: Sawda bint Zama.
  2. ^ Ibid. Understanding Islamic Law, Raj Bhala. pp. Quote. Mohammad next married this older widow, Sawda bint Zama. [...] Sawda was an older woman when she married Mohammad, yet her precise birthdate is unknown. Many sources claim she was older than Mohammad, who was about 50-52 years at that time.
  3. ^ Le livret de famille du prophète Mouhammad, Damas-Syrie, MR Antique Groupe, page 9.
  4. ^ a b c 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.
  5. ^ Vacca, V. "Sawda Bint Zamʿa." Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936). Brill Online, 2012. Reference. 2 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Ibn Kathir. "Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)". Archived from the original on 2 August 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b Al-Tabari. History of Al-Tabari, Vol. 39. pp. 161 & 170. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021.
  9. ^ Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat Vol.8 page 56. Persian translation by Dr. Mohammad Mahdavi Damghani. (1982). Tehran Iran Farhang va Andiheh Publications.
  10. ^ Adil Salih, Mohammad: Man & Prophet/Muhammad sceau des prophetes, p. 586.
  11. ^ Al-Shati, Bint (December 2006). The wives of the Prophet. Matti Moosa (trans.), D. Nicholas Ranson. Gorgias Press LLC. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-59333-398-0.
  12. ^ a b Vacca, V. (1995). "Sawda BT. Zamʿa B. Ḳayyis B. ʿAbd Shams". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 9 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 89–90. ISBN 90-04-10422-4.
  13. ^ a b Wessels, Antonie (1972). A modern Arabic biography of Muḥammad: a critical study of Muḥammad Ḥusayn Haykal's Ḥayāt Muḥammad. Brill Archive. pp. 105–6. ISBN 978-90-04-03415-0.
  14. ^ Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat Vol.8 page 56. Persian translation by Dr. Mohammad Mahdavi Damghani. (1982). Tehran Iran Farhang va Andiheh Publications.
  15. ^ Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat Vol.8 page 56. Persian translation by Dr. Mohammad Mahdavi Damghani. (1982). Tehran Iran Farhang va Andiheh Publications.
  16. ^ Adil Salih, Mohammad: Man & Prophet/Muhammad sceau des prophètes, Tawhid, pp. 585-586.

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