From Merchant to Messenger

Wives of the Messenger

and revelations they inspired

#4 Hafsa

From Merchant to MessengerHafsa is probably most famous for being the custodian of the first copy of the Koran. Hafsa was the daughter of Umar, the second Caliph (leader of the faithful), second successor to the Prophet Muhammad. God’s Messenger married the nineteen year old Hafsa who had lost her husband at the infamous battle of Badr. Abu Bakr would have taken the young widow in marriage had she not caught the Prophet's eye.

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:

Umar bin Al-Khattab said, "When (my daughter) Hafsa bint Umar lost her husband Khunais bin Hudhaifa As-Sahrni who was one of the companions of Allah's Apostle and had fought in the battle of Badr and had died in Medina, I met Uthman bin Affan and suggested that he should marry Hafsa saying, "If you wish, I will marry Hafsa bint Umar to you,' on that, he said, 'I will think it over.'

I waited for a few days and then he said to me. 'I am of the opinion that I shall not marry at present.'

Then I met Abu Bakr and said, 'if you wish, I will marry you, Hafsa bint Umar.'

He kept quiet and did not give me any reply and I became more angry with him than I was with Uthman.

Some days later, Allah's Apostle demanded her hand in marriage and I married her to him.

Later on Abu Bakr met me and said, "Perhaps you were angry with me when you offered me Hafsa for marriage and I gave no reply to you?'

I said, 'Yes.'

Abu Bakr said, 'Nothing prevented me from accepting your offer except that I learnt that Allah's Apostle had referred to the issue of Hafsa and I did not want to disclose the secret of Allah's Apostle, but had he (i.e. the Prophet) given her up I would surely have accepted her."

Bukhari 59.342

The first written version of the Koran was begun during the reign of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. He was prevailed upon to create a written record of what was revealed by Allah to His Messenger after, according to writer and convert Yahiha Emerick, “70 of the most prominent memorizers” had been killed during a rebellion against Islamic rule in southern Arabia. Until that time, it was felt there was no need to put anything in writing because of the tradition established by God’s Messenger that the Koran should be committed to memory, a tradition that endures to this day.

A scribe of Bakr by the name of Zayd ibn Thabit is said to have gathered the recollections of what the Prophet had said and these recollections became the Koran. He gave his pages (there is some disagreement as to whether it was paper or parchment) in no particular order to Umar (Bakr’s successor) who gave them to his daughter and widow of God’s Messenger, Hafsa, for safekeeping.

Hafsa is also famous or infamous for being married twice to the Prophet. God’s Messenger is said to have spent a lot of time with Hafsa. “One source (Fida Hussain Malik, Wives of the Holy Prophet) writes: ‘The Holy Prophet kept her posted about the latest revelations and held frequent discourse with her.’”

The Prophet’s illiterate’s fascination with people who could read and write did not stop him from divorcing the high-spirited girl, if only for a brief period. He took her back after being urged to do so by Gabriel. The angel’s exact words to God’s Messenger according to Ibn Sa’d [784 - 845] Islamic scholar and biographer were: “O, Muhammad, take Hafsa back. She fasts and prays at night and she is one of your wives in the Garden (Eden is assumed).”

Hafsa died in 665 or 666, almost thirty-four years after her husband.