After listening to a talk by Shaykh AbdulAziz, this student was reminded of the Hadith of Umm Zara’.
The tradition goes as follows, from the collection of Sahih Muslim (Book 31, Number 5998):
‘A’isha reported that (one day) there sat together eleven women making an explicit promise amongst themselves that they would conceal nothing about their spouses. The first one said: My husband is a sort of the meat of a lean camel placed at the top of a hill, which it is difficult to climb up, nor (the meat) is good enough that one finds in oneself the urge to take it away (from the top of that mountain).
The second one said: My husband (is so bad) that I am afraid I would not be able to describe his faults-both visible and invisible completely.
The third one said: My husband is a long-statured fellow (i. e. he lacks intelligence). If I give vent to my feelings about him, he would divorce me, and if I keep quiet I would be made to live in a state of suspense (neither completely abandoned by him nor entertained as wife).
The fourth one said: My husband is like the night of Tihama (the night of Hijaz and Mecca), neither too cold nor hot, neither there is any fear of him nor grief.
The fifth one said: My husband is (like) a leopard as he enters the house, and behaves like a lion when he gets out, and he does not ask about that which he leaves in the house.
The sixth one said: So far as my husband is concerned, he eats so much that nothing is left back and when he drinks he drinks that no drop is left behind. And when he lies down he wraps his body and does not touch me so that he may know my grief.
The seventh one said: My husband is heavy in spirit, having no brightness in him, impotent, suffering from all kinds of conceivable diseases, heaving such rough manners that he may break my head or wound my body, or may do both.
The eighth one said: My husband is as sweet as the sweet-smelling plant, and as soft as the softness of the hare.
The ninth one said: My husband is the master of a lofty building, long-statured, having heaps of ashes (at his door) and his house is near the meeting place and the inn.
The tenth one said: My husband is Malik, and how fine Malik is, much above appreciation and praise (of mine). He has many folds of his camel, more in number than the pastures for them. When they (the camels) hear the sound of music they become sure that they are going to be slaughtered.
The eleventh one said: My husband is Abu Zara’. How fine Abu Zara’ is! He has suspended in my ears heavy ornaments and (fed me liberally) that my sinews and bones are covered with fat. So he made me happy. He found me among the shepherds living in the side of the mountain, and he made me the owner of the horses, camels and lands and heaps of grain and he finds no fault with me. I sleep and get up in the morning (at my own sweet will) and drink to my heart’s content. The mother of Abu Zara’, how fine is the mother of Abu Zara’! Her bundles are heavily packed (or receptacles in her house are filled to the brim) and the house quite spacious. So far as the son of Abu Zara’ is concerned, his bed is as soft as a green palm-stick drawn forth from its bark, or like a sword drawn forth from its scabbard, and whom just an arm of a lamb is enough to satiate. So far as the daughter of Abu Zara’ is concerned, how fine is the daughter of Abu Zara’, obedient to her father, obedient to her mother, wearing sufficient flesh and a source of jealousy for her co-wife. As for the slave-girl of Abu Zara’, how fine is she; she does not disclose our affairs to others (outside the four walls of the house). She does not remove our wheat, or provision, or take it forth, or squander it, but she preserves it faithfully (as a sacred trust). And she does not let the house fill with rubbish. One day Abu Zara’ went out (of his house) when the milk was churned in the vessels, that he met a woman, having two children like leopards playing with her pomegranates (chest) under her vest. He divorced me (Umm Zara’) and married that woman (whom Abu Zara’) met on the way. I (Umm Zara’) later on married another person, a chief, who was an expert rider, and a fine archer: he bestowed upon me many gifts and gave me one pair of every kind of animal and said: Umm Zara’, make use of everything (you need) and send forth to your parents (but the fact) is that even if I combine all the gifts that he bestowed upon me, they stand no comparison to the least gift of Abu Zara’.
‘A’isha reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to me: I am for you as Abu Zara’ was for Umm Zara’.
Small description of what each wife is saying:
- Wife One: her husband is unapproachable and not welcoming when she tries to talk to him.
- Wife Two: her husband is so full of faults that she fails to actually narrate his defects.
- Wife Three: her husband is quick to pronounce “divorce” such that she lives in fear of saying anything, even if it be the smallest thing, in case he pronounces divorce at her.
- Wife Four: her husband is the opposite to the husband of Wife One as Wife Four’s husband is approachable and makes her feel comfortable for being in his presence.
- Wife Five: her husband is strong outside in public (like a lion) and gentle when he’s in the home (like a leopard).
- Wife Six: her husband is selfish and only thinks of himself.
- Wife Seven: her husband is physically abusive.
- Wife Eight: her husband is gentle and kind (like a hare).
- Wife Nine: her husband is sociable and welcoming.
- Wife Ten: her husband is also welcoming and is generous in nature.
- Wife Eleven (Umm Zara’): her husband, Abu Zara’, is a man of beautiful character who treated her well and clearly is the best out of the eleven husbands.
In some traditions the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says “O ‘A’isha! I am to you like Abu Zara’ was to Umm Zara’ – except that Abu Zara’ divorced (her), and I will not divorce you.” to which Sayyidina ‘A’isha replies “O Allah’s Messenger! You are better to me than Abu Zara’ was to Umm Zara'” to show her appreciation of his favours on her.
To conclude, listening to the lesson and reflecting on this Hadith made me remember something Shaykh AbdulKareem said when talking about the breakdown of relationships. He said: “if you got a good man then don’t let him go (and vice versa).”
May Allah guide us to the best of characters, perfect our ettiquettes towards others, and grant us good in our families. Allahumma Ameen.