Hafsah was one of the daughters of the great Companion and Khalifah 'Umar ibn al-Khattaab. She was also one of the Mother of the believers as she was married to the Prophet, peace be upon him.
In Arabic, Hafs is one of the names given to the lion. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), would often address 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) as Abu Hafs (the father of Hafs, i.e. Hafsah).
Her Marriage to the Prophet
Before being married to the Prophet (peace be upon him) she was married to a man known as Hisn ibn Hudhafah. He witnessed the Battle of Badr and then fell ill at Madeenah and died, leaving Hafsah widowed. In those days it wasn’t looked down upon to offer ones daughter or sister in marriage to a man the woman’s guardian approved of. Arabs liked to marry their daughters off at an early age and if they were widowed, to get them married as soon as possible. This is why, when Hafsah became a widow it worried and distressed ‘Umar. One day he walked to the house of Aboo Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) and offered his daughter in marriage to him. Aboo Bakr remained silent and did not say a word. ‘Umar left his house quite and upset and confused.
He then went to ‘Uthmaan and thought that since the Prophet’s daughter Ruqayyah, who was ‘Uthmaan’s wife, had passed away, he would probably respond favorably. But 'Uthmaan replied, "I do not want to marry today." This was because ‘Uthmaan was still not over the death of his beloved wife. ‘Umar, clearly upset, left and this was when the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw him and asked him as to why he looked so worried. 'Umar informed him of what had happened and the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) said, "Hafsah shall marry someone who is better than 'Uthmaan and 'Uthmaan shall marry someone who is better than Hafsah." ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) left the Prophet’s company relieved, but confused over what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had meant. When ‘Umar met Aboo Bakr he told him about what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said. Abu Bakr smiled and said,
"I have heard the Messenger of Allah (salallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) mentioning Hafsah. But I did not want to reveal his secret. If he had not shown his interest in marrying her, I would have married her. So do not bear any grudge against me."
'Uthman came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), clearly sad and distressed over his wife’s death. He said to the Prophet (peace be upon him),
"My marriage relationship with you has come to an end with the death of Ruqayyah, 0 Messenger of Allah!"
The noble Messenger (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) sympathized with him and then said, "I have given you her sister, Umm Kulthoom in marriage. If I had ten daughters I would have given them to you in marriage (one after the other)."
That is how the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) married Hafsah and 'Uthmaan married Umm Kulthoom. Hafsah now luckily had the prestigious title of being called the ‘Mother of the Fathful’.
A Pious Woman
Hafsah (may Allah be pleased wih her) was a devote worshipper. She was very pious, fasted during the day and prayed at night. She was closest to 'Aa'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) from the Prophet’s wives. In fact it was as if both were real sisters! This is because they always agreed and never disagreed.
However, Hafsah’s personality had a tinge of what her name suggested, as she had a strong and tough personality. Perhaps she had taken after her father, ‘Umar al-Faarooq. It was because of this that the Prophet (peace be upon him) divorced her once and then took her back.
Ibn Sa'd recorded that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) divorced Hafsah once and then took her back because the Angel Gabriel said to him,
"Take Hafsah back, for she frequently fasts and prays in the night and she is your wife in Paradise."
Humayd ibn Anas narrated that,
"The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) divorced Hafsah and he was thereafter commanded to take her back, and he did so."
'Uqbah ibn 'Aamir narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) divorced Hafsah, 'Umar's daughter. When 'Umar heard this, he scattered sand over his head and said,
"Allah will no more care about 'Umar and his daughter after she has been divorced [by the Prophet (sallallhu ‘alyhi wa sallam)]."
So Angel Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) the following day and told him,
"Allah commands you to take back Hafsah as a way of showing compassion to 'Umar (her father)."
Abu Saleel, in his version of the narration said, "'Umar entered Hafsah's place while she was crying and asked whether the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) had divorced her. He said to her,
'He divorced you once and has taken you back only because of me. If he divorces you again, I will never speak to you again."
After this, Hafsah was keen never to annoy the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) again until he died.
Here, dear reader, we need to point out the aspects of Hafsah's personality which still make her a great role model for out Muslim sisters.
The Custodian of the Book of Allah
Angel Gabriel described her to the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) as frequently performing (voluntary) fasting and night prayers, and that she was to be one of his wives in Paradise. Also, unlike other men and women at that time, she could read and write. This was quality which was very rare among womenfolk at that time, even among the men. Also, it was in her home that the palm branches, slates and other materials upon which the Qur’aan had been revealed were kept.
SubhaanAllah, she was entrusted with the most honorable and greatest thing this world can contain, the words of Allah. She was given this duty because she was worthy and respected by the Companions. She was entrusted with this material in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), right up until the time of ‘Uthmaan. When ‘Uthmaan (may Allah be pleased with him) decided to compile the Qur’aan into a single book form, the verses which were with Hafsah were considered primary resources to be relied upon when undertaking this great and momentous task.
She was thus known as being the custodian of the Book of Allah. She preserved the Qur'aan in her heart, aswell as in her house. Whenever we open a copy of the Qur'aan and before we begin to read it, we should try and remember the Angel entrusted with the Revelation (Gabriel), his reverberating sound, the impact the verses had on the heart of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) and the scribes of the Revelations, such as 'Ali, Zayd and others. We must remember Abu Bakr and 'Umar and their compilations of the Qur'an and 'Uthman’s resoluteness, trustworthiness and sense of duty and among all these names the name of Hafsah, Ummul-Mu’mineen and her preservation of this Divine Book can’t be forgotten and must be mentioned.
It was at the beginning of the 44 A.H. that the Mother of the Believers Hafsah departed from this world and joined the company of her most dear ones, her Husband and Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions.
May Allah be pleased with her and with them all. Aameen.