Umm Haani’ was Fakhitah bint Abi Talib, 'Alee ibn Abi Taalib’s sister and Nab’ah was her Abyssinian maid. I have mentioned both of them together, rather than separately, because the hadeeth concerning the Prophet’s Night Journey (al-Israa’) on the 27th night of Rajab in the 11th year after the Prophet’s migration revolves around both of them.
Al-Israa’ (the Night Journey) is one of the most important and fundamental events in the course of Da’wah. It is the event that attracts the attention of many among those whom Allah endowed with knowledge and understanding and who wish to derive lessons from it.
There are a number of narrations concerning al-Israa’, transmitted from a number of Companions. Among these Companions are: Anas ibn Maalik, Buraydah ibn al-Khaseeb al-Aslami, Jaabir ibn ‘Abdillah, Hudayfah ibn al-Yamaan, Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri, Shaddad ibn Aws, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, Abu Hurairah and 'Aa’ishah, Mother of the Faithful.
But it is the narration of Umm Haani’ which comes with numerous chains, each of which only have slight differences in their wording. Also, Muhammad ibn Ishaaq al-Muttalib - the leading scholar of the Seerah of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) - used the hadeeth narrated by Umm Haani’ in his Seerah and he is an authority in this field. Even other great scholars like Ibn Hishaam and Ibn Katheer chose the hadeeth narrated by her concerning the Night Journey. One of the reasons for this is because none of the contemporaries of Umm Haani’ from among the companions nor their followers disputed her narration.
As for Nab’ah, the Abyssinian maid servant of Umm Haani’, Abu Moosa mentioned her in adh-Dhayal. Aboo Moosa mentioned the narration through al-Kalbi from Aboo Salih the freed slave of Umm Haan’i bint ‘Abdul Muttalib concerning the Prophet’s Israa’ that Umm Haani’ said,
"The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was taken for the night journey while he was sleeping in my house that night. He performed the Ishaa prayer then slept and we also slept. When it was just before Fajr prayer, we awoke for Fajr and prayed behind him. He then said, “Umm Haani’! I prayed Ishaa with you, as you have witnessed, I then went to the Bayt al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem) and prayed there. I then returned so as to pray Fajr with you’.”
When the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was about to leave her house, Umm Haani’ said,
“O Prophet of Allah, do not tell people this, lest they disbelieve you and harm you.”
But he said, “By Allah, I will tell them.”
Umm Haani’ then told an Abyssinian maid-servant, known as Nab’ah to follow him and listen to what he informs the people and how he responds to their queries.
When the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed the people regarding his miraculous night journey and ascension, they were surprised and said, “What is the evidence for that, O Muhammad?!”
He (the narrator) then mentioned how the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) described Bayt al-Maqdis and how Abu Bakr attested to his description by saying,
“You have said the truth.”
This is when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon) said to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), “O Abu Bakr! Allah has named you as-Siddeeq (the truthful).”
Ibn Hajr comments on this by saying,
“This is more correct than al-Kalbi’s report. For there in Kalbi’s report (it mentions) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed ‘Ishaa and Fajr with them, while the prayers were only ordained during the ascension to the heaven (in the night of Israa’). Also the report that he slept at Umm Haani’s house is not correct. What is correct is that he slept in the masjid.”
Umm Haani' was married by her father to Hubayrah ibn ‘Amr, who was from the Banoo Makhzoom clan.
She embraced Islaam, believed in Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), and followed the guidance. Sadly, her husband remained a polytheist and so she stayed with her husband and children in Makkah and did not migrate (this was before it was revealed that Muslim women are not allowed to be married to non-Muslim men).
On the day of the conquest of Makkah, one of the polytheists escaped to her house, seeking her protection and fearing for his life. ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib (may Allah be pleased with him), who was her brother, followed this refugee to her home. But Umm Haani’ stood in front of him, preventing him from hurting the man. This caused an argument between Umm Haani’ and her brother ‘Alee and almost resulted in a fight. The Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then arrived and when he heard of her protection, he honoured her right of giving protection and said,
“We have given protection to those you have given protection to, Umm Haani’.”
She then felt relieved by the comforting words of the Noble Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
As we learnt earlier, Nab’ah was an Abyssinian maid. She possessed a comprehending heart, sharp listening skills and a retentive memory. She is famously remembered for her truthfulness, sincerity and precision in narrating the conversation which took place between the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and a group of the Quraysh regarding the Night Journey.
May Allah be pleased with both and please both - the safeguarders of the narration pertaining to the Israa' wal Mi'raaj. Aameen!