A Teacher Unlike Any Other:

In the life of a student of knowledge, the presence of a teacher plays a weighty and momentous role. It is under the shade of one’s teacher that not only does the individual gain knowledge but a refinement of mannerism and thought. This is why, before mentioning the biography of someone great, there is no harm in first mentioning the teacher. In fact, this is a source of respect for the one to be spoken about especially if the teacher holds great respect and awe within the hearts of the masses...such as our beloved mother Aa’ishah [radhiallahu `anha].

Seldom has history seen the likes of a female scholar with the calibre of our mother Aa’ishah [radhiallahu `anha].

This is not surprising since she had spent hours in the presence of the Messenger of Allah [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam]; the knowledge that she drank from the fountain of Prophetic guidance equipped her well for the significant and great task that came her way after the Prophet’s demise.

It was in her company that great narrators of hadeeth from amongst her students arose, who would narrate to the people the words of the Prophet [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam] by first mentioning the chain:

“I heard the Mother of the Believers Aa’ishah [rah] say that the Messenger of Allah…”

The great Taabi’ee and Scholar of Hadeeth, Imaam Az-Zuhri, who was entrusted by the Caliph Umar Abdul-Azeez to collect the words of the Prophet [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam] and compile them into book form, said about Aa’ishah [radhiallahu `anha]:

“If the knowledge of Aa’ishah were to be gathered [in comparison] to the knowledge of all [the rest of] his wives, and the knowledge of all women, the knowledge of Aa’ishah would be more superior.” [At Tirmidhi: [4]: 363-364]

Yes, it was upon the very chest of Aa’ishah [radhiAllahu `anha] that the Prophet’s [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam] soul was taken up to the heavens and the Prophet [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam] passed away. Therefore, it is of no surprise that in her company, this great taabi’yyah[1] arose; a student and a narrator of hadeeth unlike any other, a worshipper amongst the 'aabidaat [women worshippers] of this ummah.


I was surprised and amazed when I first came across the name of this Taabi’yyah briefly whilst studying 'Umdatul Ahkaam (A beginners text in Prophetic Narrations pertaining to Islamic Jursiprudence). My mind was amazed that history had even contained such a personality; thinking back into the files stored away in my memory I realised that I had never met a woman who had such belief or conviction as she did. The more I read about her, the more awe, amazement and respect I had for her. This is because it is very rare for a human to fight one’s desire from living in the comfort of this world and to sacrifice the company of ones beloved ones for Allah alone. Mu’aadhah [rahimahallah] was different; she was a Muslim woman who knew that in the hereafter was her real and final abode.

Having realised the importance and dire need to know more about this Muhaddithah [Woman Scholar of Hadeeth] and 'Aaabidah [worshipper], I dived into researching about her life and gathering as much information as I could about her. And as I began writing up this article, happiness engulfed my heart, which I wished and prayed would overrule the sadness that prevailed therein… the sadness that such great personalities are not mentioned and remembered as they should be by the masses… the sadness of seeing Muslim girls and women taking shallow undeserving role models to lead them - to what they think is success - but in truth leads to failure in this life and, Allah forbid, a painful punishment in the next.

The clock keeps ticking as two impending events are to befall us at any time and anywhere. Now’s the time to choose our role models with the utmost care before death overcomes us or the hour dawns, after which there is no turning back. Now is the time to gain strength upon the straight path and one of the ways to do so is to go back and study the lives of the righteous.

So let’s begin our journey into the life of this great taabi’yyah, a woman with strong eeman [belief], yaqeen [certitude] and tawakkal [reliance], a Wife, a Mother, the Woman Scholar of Hadeeth, the great Worshipper of Basrah,

The Mother of as-Sahbaa’,  Mu’aadhah bint Abdillah Al A’dawiyyah. [2]

An Undisputed Narrator of Ahaadeeth (Prophetic Narrations)

Before the time of Imaam Al Bukhaari [rahimahullah] the ahaadeeth of the Prophet [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam] were collected, such as the Muwatta’ of Imaam Maalik about which Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee [rahimahullah] said:

“There is no book of knowledge on the face of the earth after the book of Allah more authentic than the book of Maalik.” [3]

Such great books of hadeeth did exist but no one had as yet introduced the idea of collecting only authentic ahaadeeth. Imaam Al Bukhaari [rahimahullah] was the first to compile a hadeeth book with the intention of only recording therein narrations that were authentic. That’s why Imaam Al Bukhaari’s book of hadeeth is officially referred to as “Jaami’ as-Saheeh” – ‘Jaami’ because it contains chapters on various subjects and not just Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence], as is the case with Buloogh al Maraam and Muwatta’. As for the statement of Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee [rahimahullah] regarding the Muwatta’ being the most authentic book after the Qur’aan, then this was before the time of Imaam Al Bukhaari [rahimahullah].

The student of Imaam Al Bukhaari, namely Imaam Muslim [rahimahullah], also following his example compiled his book of hadeeth, although Imaam Muslim’s conditions were not as strict as Imaam Al Bukhaari’s. In fact, it is Imaam Al Bukhaari’s [rahimahullah] strict conditions which have made his book hold such weight, to the point that Saheeh Al Bukhaari is considered to be the most authentic book after the Qur’aan. For a hadeeth to be accepted by Imaam Al Bukhaari [rahimahullah], each narrator in the chain of hadeeth must have fulfilled his strict and stringent conditions. For example:

  • Each narrator must be trustworthy and reliable.
  • Each narrator must have precision when narrating.
  • Each narrator must have had a good and balanced character.
  • The narrators must have met each other and there must be proof and confirmation of that meeting – even if it was just once. (Whereas Imaam Muslim accepts a hadeeth into his book if the narrators had been in the same time period, since that in itself points to a great chance of these trustworthy people having met and narrated from each other.)

Therefore, it is not a light matter that Mu’aadhah’s [rahimahallah] name occurs in different books of hadeeth, the most famous of which are Saheeh Al Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim. This is a proof of her undisputed reliability and trustworthiness. Mu’aadhah [rahimahallah] met all requirements which qualified her to be a narrator for the most authentic books of hadeeth in the world; in fact, all the 6 famous books of hadeeth narrate ahaadeeth from her.[4] For example, Imaam Al Bukhaari [rahimahullah] has included in his book ahaadeeth narrated through her in his chapter on haydh [menses] and the chapter pertaining to the explanation of Suratul Ahzaab [chapter 33 of the Qur’aan]. The great scholar of hadeeth Ibn Ma'een [rahimahullah] said about her ‘thiqah hujjah’ [reliable and a proof]. Also Ibn Hibbaan [rahimahullah] has mentioned her as ‘fi al thiqaat’ [amongst the reliable women narrators].[5] And that is why Mu’aadhah [rahimahallah] is undeniably referred to and has been given the prestigious title of being from the Al-Aalimaat bil hadeeth [women who were knowledgeable regarding hadeeth].[6]

This is not surprising since some of the great personalities she narrated from included Sahaabah and Taabi’een:

  • Aa’ishah [radhiallahu `anha], the Beloved of the Messenger of Allah [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam]
  • Ali ibn abi Taalib [radhiallahu `anhu][7]
  • Umm A’mar [8] bint A’bdillah ibn Zubayr [rahimahallah][9]
  • Hishaam ibn A’aamir [rahimahullah][10]
  • And her husband: Silah ibn Ashyam [rahimahullah]

The Teacher of Teachers

Knowledge is like a beautiful emanating fragrance; the one who bears it, whether willingly or unwilling, will undoubtedly somehow share it. Mu’aadhah [rahimahallah] was a flower that willingly and gracefully distributed the precious fragrances that emanated from her heart, which she had collected from the righteous and in turn passed on to the righteous. And that is why the likes of the following great personalities narrated from her:

  • Hasan al Basri [11]
  • Yazeed ar-Rishq [12]
  • Abu Qulaabah [13]
  • Ayyub [14]
  • Sulaymaan ibn Abdillah al Basaree [15]
  • Ishaaq ibn Sa’eed [16]
  • A’aasim and a group [17]
  • Umm al Hasan [the grandmother of Abu Bakr al A’dawi] [18]
  • And others [19] from the people of Basrah. [20] [This is because she resided with her family in Basrah]

For those who have come across the names of these great personalities and their biographies will come to realise the status Muaadhah [rahimahallah] held amongst the believers. The combination of knowledge, worship and piety made her name stand out and shine within the hearts of the believers, especially those who desired to narrate ahaadeeth with a strong chain of narration up to the Prophet [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam]. This is why people flocked to her to hear from her the words of the Prophet [sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam], his Companions and those who followed after the Companions – the Taabi’een [rahimahumullah]. For example, Ja’far ibn Kaysaan [rahimahullah] said:

“I saw Muaadhah muhtabiyyah [with her legs drawn up and wrapped in her garment] and women were surrounding her.” [21]

What this means is that she was sitting down, as one would with one’s legs drawn up, and she was wrapped in a garment as women surrounded her. Just as her knowledge taught her not to comprise imparting knowledge, it also taught her not to compromise her hijaab. So it was with her hijaab embracing her that she wholeheartedly embraced the role of a teacher.

A Great Wife of a Great Man

When we read about the life of Muaadhah [rahimahallah] we sense the deep love she had for her husband. This isn’t surprising since he was the great taabi’ee: Silah bin Ashyam.[22] A Shaheed, the son of a Shaheed;[23] he would pray at night and do jihaad during the day; yes, he was a soldier during the day and a monk within the darkness of the night.[24] He also had the privilege of narrating from the illustrious Sahaabi: Abdullah ibn A’bbaas [radhiallahu `anhu].

The reason for first introducing Mu’aadhah’s [rahimahallah] husband is clear: he held a pivotal and important role in her life. Allah [azza wa jall] says in the Qur’aan:

“…They are a Garment for You and You are a Garment for them…” [25]

Truly for a wife her husband is like her garment; in this way, just as garments are similar, Mu’aadhah and her husband were similar…


Imaam adh-Dhahabi [rahimahullah] introduces Silah [rahimahullah] in his book ‘A’laam an-Nubalaa’ as:

‘The Ascetic, the Worshipper, the Role Model:Abu Sahbaa’ Al A’dawee Al Basree,the husband of the A’aalimah [knowledgeable] Mu’aadhah Al A’daweeyyah.’ [26]

May Allah [azza wa jall] shower His blessings on Imaam Adh-Dhahabi! Truly, he was blessed with words which were eloquent, succinct and rich in meaning, both in depth and breadth. The three concise terms Imaam adh-Dhahabi [rahimahullah] used to describe Silah ibn Ashyam [rahimahullah], the husband of Mu’aadhah, are:

  1. The Ascetic
  2. The Worshipper
  3. The Role Model

Anyone who reads his life will see that he was exactly these three:

1. The Worshipper

Although your eyes may have just briefly glanced over the term ‘Worshipper’, I’m sure the following examples will shock you, as they shocked me, as to the real depth of devotion Silah [rahimahullah] had in his worship of Allah [azza wa jall]. I pray Allah [azza wa jall] makes us too of His sincere worshippers, Aameen.

Mu’aadhah [rahimahallah] described her husband’s worship:

‘Abu Sahbaa’ would pray until he was unable to reach his bed except by crawling.’[27]

In fact, when the extensive prayer at night would take its toll on him and the period of weakness came upon him, he would take a whip and he would stand hitting his feet and would say,

‘By Allah! You are more deserving of being beaten than my riding animal – you tire me from Salaah!’[28]

So the feet had to make a quick choice: either take a beating or stand and pray!

His worship was so intense that when a lion came towards him whilst he was praying, he did not flinch away from his Salaah. Hammaad bin Zayd Al A’bdee said that his father narrated to him the following:

‘We went out on a military expedition to Kaabul, and in the army was Silah ibn Ashyam. He left the people after 'atamah [night time and it could also be referring to after Salaatul I’shaa] and then went to sleep. So people were covered with unawareness [due to sleep] until I said [to myself] that the eyes have rested so I rushed and entered the jungle that was near to him [i.e. Silah] and I followed his footsteps…

He was doing Wudhoo’ after which he stood and prayed. He opened [his prayer i.e. he began reciting Suratul Faatihah], when a lion came until it reached near to him so I climbed a tree. I said [to myself]: ‘I will see whether it [the lion] turns towards him or injures him when he prostrates.’ I said to myself: ‘Now it [the lion] will pounce upon him’, but nothing happened! Then he [Silah] sat and then said his salaam and said:

‘O lion! Search for rizq [sustenance] from another place.’

So it turned and certainly it had a roar, I said [to myself] the mountain has cracked because of it!

And he [Silah] didn’t cease praying like that until it was nearly morning; he sat and praised Allah with praises that I have not heard the like of except what Allah wishes. Then he [Silah] said:

‘O Allaah! I ask you that you ransom me from the fire, or the like of me who dares to ask you [for] the Paradise.’

Then he returned [to where the people were] and he entered upon the morning [in a state] as though he had spent the night on a mattress [i.e. sleeping]! And I awoke and with me was a kind of fatrah [slackness/weakness] regarding which Allah knows.’[29]

2. An Ascetic

An important trait a worshipper needs is reliance in Allah and to have conviction and submission in that which Allah [azza wa jall] decrees out of His wisdom for His slave. Silah’s [rahimahullah] brother passed away and a man came to inform him of the news of the death of his brother. What was the reply of this great taabi’ee? He [rahimahullah] said:

‘Come and eat, for I lamented my brother’s death a long time ago when I read Allah, the Most High’s saying:'Verily, You will die and Verily, they (too) will die.’ [Az-Zumar: 30]

This is because he knew of the verse,

“Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him, and Who removes the evil...”[30]

Surely Allah [azza wa jall] does respond to the one who is distressed, just as occurred in the following two recorded incidents that occurred with Silah [rahimahullah], he says:

1. ‘We came out into a village and I was on my riding animal in a time when the water was overflowing [i.e. there was a flood]…for a [whole] day I couldn’t find food, then I met a fellow who was carrying something on his neck so I said to him ‘put it down [i.e. unburden yourself]’ and it was bread. I said to him ‘feed me,’ then he said ‘if you want, but within it is pig fat’ so I left it. Then I met another person and I said ‘feed me’, he said ‘it is my provision for days, so if you reduce [from] it then you will make me [i.e. be the reason for me being] hungry,’ so I left it.

By Allah! I was surely moving on when I heard behind me a falling like the falling of a bird. So I turned and behold! It was something wrapped in white thread so I came down towards it… It was a dowkhlah [a receptacle made of palm leaves in which dates are placed] of fresh and ripe dates in a season in which there weren’t in the land ripe and fresh dates. So I ate from it, then I wrapped what was left and mounted the horse and carried with me the dates.’[31]

The cloth in which the dates came down was kept by his wife Mu’aadhah [rahimahallah] for some time.[32]

2. Once Silah ibn Ashyam was in a military expedition and his horse died. He turned towards his left and then his right and then said:

‘O Allah! Do not make the creation have a favour upon me. For certainly I am shy from asking other than you.’

Allah [azza wa jall] knew his sincerity therefore Allah gave life to his horse and so he mounted the horse till he reached his family. When he reached his family, Silah [rahimahullah] said to his servant [or son] ‘Detach the saddle for certainly the horse is a’ariyyah [free]’, and so he removed the saddle after which the horse fell down dead.

In this is no surprise, for whomsoever has tawakkul [reliance] in Allah and calls upon Him, He will answer his du’a and protect him, even if the heavens and the earth were to try to harm him Allah would certainly make for him a way out and an opening. [33]

3. A Role Model

He was from those who fought in the way of Allah and from those who awaited their reward from Allah [azza wa jall]. The way in which Silah [rahimahullah] and his son were killed is famous within the books of history and is commonly used today by lecturers and orators within their talks. This is because within this incident are great lessons for Muslims and an example of which we are in dire need today.


The fierce battle began and the enemies advanced; the believers stood strong within the raging battle. Within the blessed Muslim army was Silah [rahimahullah] and with him was the eldest of his four sons, As-Sahbaa’ [rahimahullah]. Weakness and cowardliness did not dare to try and sneak into their hearts, since their hearts desired only Paradise. They were racing towards Paradise, just as Allah [azza wa jall] commanded,

{Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous.}[34]

And truly they were from the righteous, since righteousness is determined by both word and action. On this great day both Silah ibn Ashyam’s words and actions were those of a man who desired good for his son and of course for himself. He turned to his son, the son who had drank the milk of a righteous mother, the son whose childhood had witnessed worship and devotion scarcely found in Muslim households today. He commanded his son to a goodness which rarely fathers command,

‘O My Son! Advance till I consider you [amongst the shuhadaa’].’

So the righteous son of a righteous mother and of a righteous father obeyed the command of his father and jumped into the delights of the hereafter. For one of his role models was Ismaa’eel [as] who, when told by his father that he saw him in a dream, and the dreams of the Prophets are true, that he was slaughtering him, Ismaael obeyed and laid down his cheek to be slaughtered:

{So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice)…}[35]

The father watched his son being killed and desired the same for himself – to be killed in the way of the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Silah [rahimahullah] advanced and was killed, in the year 62 AH.

Mu’aadhah [rahimahullah], the great Taabi’yyah awaits in her home the arrival of her beloved husband and her dear son.

What is her reaction to their martyrdom? How does she react towards those who come to console her? How does she continue her life after the death of her beloved husband and son?

In Part 2, inshaa' Allah.

More from this series:


[1] Taabi’yyah: This term refers to a woman who met at least one companion. Further, in order to qualify and deserve this title, the person who met the companion must have been a Muslim.

[2] Jaami al Usool Fi Hadeeth Ar-Rasool Vol 12, page 923

[3] Manaaqib Ash-Shaaf’iee lil Bayhaqi 1/507

[4] Sharh Sunnan Abee Dawood by Abdul Muhsin al A’bbaad vol 2, pg 260

[5] Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, vol 12, pg 401

[6] Al A’laam liz-zarkali, vol 7, pg 259

[7] Tuhfah al Ahwazee, baab al istinjaa bil maa’, vol 1, pg 77

[8] At-Ta’deel wa at-Tajreeh, vol 3, pg 1491

[9] Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, vol 12, pg 401

[10] Tahdheeb al Kamaal, vol 35, pg 308

[11] Sifah as-Safwah, vol 4, pg 22-24

[12] Jaami al Usool Fi Hadeeth Ar-Rasool Vol 12, page 923

[13] Tuhfah al Ahwazee, baab al istinjaa bil maa’, vol 1, pg 77

[14] Tuhfah al Ahwazee, baab al istinjaa bil maa’, vol 1, pg 77

[15] Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, vol 12, pg 401

[16] Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, vol 12, pg 401

[17] Al A’laam liz-zarkali, vol 7, pg 259

[18] Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, vol 12, pg 401

[19] Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, vol 12, pg 401

[20] Ath-Thiqaat li ibn Hibbaan, vol 5, pg 466

[21] Tabaaqaat vol 10, pg 447

[22] Ath-Thiqaat li ibn Hibbaan, vol 5, pg 466

[23] Duroos li shaykh ibn sa’eed ibn musfar, baab: Amthilah min hayaat as-salaf a’laa mujaahadatin nafs

[24] Duroos li shaykh ibn sa’eed ibn musfar, baab: Amthilah min hayaat as-salaf a’laa mujaahadatin nafs

[25] Suratul Baqarah: 187

[26] A’alaam An-Nubalaa’, vol 3, pg 497

[27] Ibn Sa’d vol 7, pg 1 – Saheeh.

[28] Duroos li shaykh ibn sa’eed ibn musfar, baab: Amthilah min hayaat as-salaf a’laa mujaahadatin nafs

[29] Mowsooa’h al Bahooth wal maqaalaat al I’lmiyyah, baab: ladhah at-ta’bbud I’nda as-salaf

[30] Suratun Naml, verse 62

[31] A’alaam An-Nubalaa’, vol 3, pg 497

[32] Awliyaa’ Ar-Rahmaan wa Awliyaa’ Al-Shaytaan, chapter: Karaamaat As-Sahaabah wat-Tabieen

[33] With slight adaptation from: Ali Al Qarni Muhaadaraat wa khutub

[34] Aal Imraan: 133

[35] As-Saafaat: 103