The Story Of Umm Habibah; A Loyal Wife By All Means
Umm Habibah was married to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the proxy of the Emperor of Abyssinia. She was the daughter of the chief of Makkah.
Her name was Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan. She was born 25 years before the Hijrah. Being the daughter of a prominent merchant and leader of her people, Umm Habibah enjoyed a very easy and comfortable life.
She — herself one of the few literate Arabs at the time — was married to a wealthy Makkan who was versed in the knowledge of major religions of his time. Despite the fierce resistance the Makkan polytheists showed to Islam and the fact that her own parents were among the arch enemies of Islam, Umm Habibah was one of the early converts to Islam.
Out of fear for his followers, Prophet Muhammad advised them to emigrate to Abyssinia on the Western Arabian side of the Red Sea that separated the Peninsula from Africa.
Umm Habibah was one of the emigrants along with her husband, Ubaidullah ibn Jahsh. To her misfortune the husband, for some reason or another, apostatized and took to drinking.
Thus, Umm Habibah had to suffer not only separation from her home and family at Makkah, but she also suffered alienation from a beloved husband. Yet, as a courageous Muslim, she bore all these difficulties with patience and perseverance, finding solace in the freedom she enjoyed along with the other emigrants in Abyssinia under the protection of Emperor Negus who was an open-minded Christian.
Parenthetically, we may add that according to Muslim historians the Emperor of Abyssinia (known today as Ethiopia) did convert at a later date to Islam in secrecy, out of admiration for Islam and its teachings, which explains why Prophet Muhammad asked the companions to pray for him upon his death.
During the year of truce between the Muslims and the Makkan polytheists, Prophet Muhammad, sent messages to the heads of the big powers of the time, Khosrau of Persia, the Byzantine emperor and the ruler of Abyssinia.
Along with the missive calling Negus to Islam, the Prophet asked him to act proxy for him in the marriage to Umm Habibah. For Prophet Muhammad realized the agony she was going through in that far and strange land.