The only name she was known by was Barakah. There is no information about her parents or her ancestors and she did not know herself. She was Ethiopian. This suggests that she was descended from slaves to the extent that she had no idea of her lineage.
This seemingly insignificant and often forgotten woman, was the first person to hold the Prophet SAW and spent years raising and nurturing him.
One day she was bought in the market by Abdullah, the father of Muhammad SAW. She was around 9 or 10 years old at this time. Abdullah and Aminah, the parents of the Prophet SAW, were extremely kind and generous and they looked after Barakah as if she were their daughter.
Barakah grew to love Abdullah and Aminah intensely and was extremely happy in their household. She was the first and only slave of the family of the Prophet SAW. They offered to free her but she was adamant that she wanted to remain with them as their slave rather than face the prospect of be without them.
Barakah was very quiet and was noted to hardly speak. She was also extremely optimistic and would always find the positive in any difficult situation. When Aminah was pregnant, she had a dream that there was noor (light) coming from her belly which lit up Makkah and all of the surrounding area. When she awoke, she spoke of the dream to Barakah who then reassured Aminah and said that it was a sign of good tidings that she had someone important growing inside of her. Barakah was the first woman, and in fact the first person, to recognise and note this.
Abdullah passed away when he was travelling whilst Aminah was pregnant. Aminah went through a period of extreme grief and sadness. Throughout all of this Barakah was there for her. She gave her strength and reassurance and told Aminah that Allah had a plan for her.
When Aminah gave birth to Muhammad SAW, Barakah was her midwife throughout the labour. Barakah picked up Muhammad SAW as he was born, wrapped him up and then placed him on his mother’s chest. Barakah was the first person to see the Prophet SAW. She was the first person to touch him and hold him. When he SAW was born, Barakah said he was more beautiful than the moon and she told Aminah that her dream had come true.
Muhammad SAW was then given to Halima to look after him and Barakah also stayed with him. After two years he was returned to Aminah and Barakah helped to nurture and raise Muhammad SAW. He SAW treated Barakah like his 2nd mother.
When Muhammad SAW reached the age of 6 Aminah wanted to visit the grave of her husband and she wanted Barakah to go with her. On their way back, at a place called Al-Abwa, Aminah became ill. They rented a hut and her illness only got worse. At the peak of her illness, she gave Barakah her dying declaration. She stated that she knew she would soon pass away so she entrusted Muhammad SAW to her and she told her to be a mother to him the way she herself was and better; stating that she trusted no one else as she did trust Barakah.
When Aminah took her last breaths, Barakah comforted Muhammad SAW and from that day he called her ‘my mother after my mother’. Their relationship was like that of a mother and son as well as a friendship in which they would often joke with each other.
Barakah stayed with Muhammad SAW until he got married to Khadija RA at the age of 25. He introduced Barakah as his mother after his mother to his wife Khadija RA and he said to Barakah that it was time for her to get married as well. Khadija RA said she knew of someone for Barakah to marry and offered to pay for the wedding as well. At the prospect of this, Barakah said that she couldn’t bear leaving him but the Prophet insisted that she should get married for her own needs.
So Barakah did get married and had a child named Ayman, from then on she was known as Umm Ayman. Her husband, Abu Ayman, died in a battle after approximately two years of marriage and following this Barakah rejoined the Prophet SAW.
One day the Prophet was sitting with some of his young companions. Barakah entered and the Prophet SAW said something to her and then she left the room again. After this, the Prophet SAW asked his companions ‘who wants to marry a woman of Jannah‘. No surprises, all of the companions raised their hands. With this reaction, the Prophet SAW replied ‘good, she is my mother after my mother‘. After this statement, everybody’s hands went down apart from one.
Zayd RA, said he would marry her. Zayd RA was estimated to be in his early 20s at this time while Barakah was in her mid 30s. Barakah was not physically regarded as attractive or beautiful but her character was beautiful. Her character and her deen made her a woman of Jannah.
Following their marriage, Barakah gave birth to Usama ibn Zayd who became another young companion of the Prophet SAW.
When the Prophet SAW died, Barakah was still alive and was found to be crying immensely, in a state of extreme grief. Abu Bakr RA comforted her, reminding her that the Prophet SAW is in Jannah, that Allah is taking care of him and that she would meet him insha’Allah. Barakah replied that she was crying because now there would be no more wahi, no more revelation, to come down.
Unfortunately, Barakah is not widely talked about or recognised amongst the rest of the Sahaba. Considering her significant role and ongoing relationship with the Prophet SAW, her stories are not often told. Because she was Ethiopian? Because she was born a slave? Whatever her status with people was and still is, her status with Allah is what matters.