thegreenvalleyOver a number of years, while listening to talks, reading books and articles, time after time again I came across the name ‘Hafsah bint Seereen’. This continued to be the case until recently I quickly scribbled down her name on my sticky-pad with the intention of doing some thorough research about the life of such a great, yet to many in the west, unknown personality. And so, I began writing this article with the hope of raising ignorance from myself, and hopefully others. Little did I know... I was to stumble upon a treasure from the treasures awaiting in the books of our pious predecessors.

It was as though I was sitting for a long time in darkness when all of a sudden I was blessed to see spectacular scenery, the beauty and awe of which left an indelible and lasting impression on me. This is because, although there are many role-models from among the righteous men of this Ummah, it is truly inspirational to have come across such an inspirational role model from among the righteous women of this Ummah. What amazed me the most was her extensive ‘ibaadah (worship).

I pray Allah, the Most Glorious and Able, bestows upon all of us the ability to worship Him with sincerity, conviction and with a strong will and drive. Aameen!

The Freed Slave of Anas, Sireen

Her agnomen (kunyah) was Umm Hudhayl, which means ‘The Mother of Hudhayl’ and her proper name was Hafsah, the daughter of Sireen.  She was the sister of the renowned Successor (Tabi’ee) and scholar, Muhammad ibn Sireen.

To understand the amazing upbringing Hafsah (rahimaha Allah) was given it is important to note that her father was the freed slave of the illustrious Companion: Anas ibn Maalik (radhiAllahu ‘anhu). Anas ibn Maalik was the son of the righteous Sahaabiyyah of Madinah, the Ansaariyyah: Ghumaisah bint Milhaa, also known as Umm Sulaim, the wife of Abu Talhah.

In the following hadeeth, we learn how the mother of Anas ibn Maalik gifted him at a very young age to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), so that he would serve the Noble Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and also learn from him about religious matters. Indeed, what a clever mother Umm Sulaim was! She understood that by her child serving the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) in no way would this bring about in him an inferiority complex, nor would this belittle his rank and standing in society. Rather, as Islamic history testifies, Anas (radhiallahu `anhu) would receive an unparalleled upbringing, due to which he possessed a refined and lofty character and was blessed in this life and will be in the next, because of a special supplication the Noble Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) made for him. All of this is due to the acute intelligence of his mother in sacrificing her child’s days of play and fun, in order for him to sit under the shade of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).

From this, dear Sisters, we should learn the great benefit of allowing children to sit and benefit from the company of scholars and the righteous and how this can truly impact their characters and morals. Have we forgotten the mother of Imaam Maalik of Madinah, ‘Aaliyah bint Shareek ibn ‘Abdur Rahman al-Azdiyyah? She sent Imaam Maalik to Rabee’ah ibn Abee Abdir-Rahmaan, also known as ‘Rabee’ah Ar-Ra’ee’ (which means: ‘Rabee’ah, the subjectively opinionated’) due to his strong sense of subjective opinion, jurisdictional ruling and reasoning. Before sending Imaam Maalik to him, she tied his turban around his head, and presented him with his very first rule to apply when sitting with scholars and the people of knowledge. She said:

“O my son! Sit with Rabee’ah and take from his manners, dignified bearing and humility, before you take from his knowledge.” (Ibn Farhoon has mentioned this in Ad-Deebaaj al Madhab 1/20)

Truly! The reward for such mothers lies with their Lord the Most High.

In fact the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said regarding the mother of Anas ibn Maalik: “I entered Paradise and heard the noise of steps.  I said: ‘Who is it?’ They said:

‘She is Ghumaisah, daughter of Milhan, the mother of Anas b. Malik.’ (Saheeh Muslim, Book 031, Number 6011.)

She would use her headdress in order to prepare her child for the noble task of serving the Prophet (sallallahu a'lyhi wa sallam). A task which undoubtedly became a source of honor for her in this life and the next. Anas (radhiAllahu a’nhu) said: ‘My mother Umm Anas came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). And she prepared my lower garment out of the half of her headdress and (with the other half) she covered my upper body and said:

“Allah's Messenger, here is my son Unais (Unais is used for the diminutive and the diminutive here is being used out of love); I have brought him to you for serving you. Invoke blessings of Allah upon him.”

Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: “O Allah, make an increase in his wealth, and progeny.” Anas said:

'By Allah, my fortune is huge and my children, and grand-children are now more than one hundred.’ (Saheeh Muslim, Book 031, Number 6063.)


Many years later, this illustrious Companion purchased a slave from the Companion of the Prophet (sallallahu a'lyhi wa sallam), Khalid ibnu Waleed (radhiAllahu ‘anhu). This slave had been captured in one of the deserts of Iraq, and his name was Seereen. Overtime he freed himself and his family by paying Anas ibn Maalik a certain amount of wealth, yet truly he could never pay back Anas ibn Maalik for the great beneficial knowledge he and his family gained from him. For, the concept of slavery in Islaam was and is very different from the concept of slavery as practiced in non-Muslim lands, especially America. In Islaam, slaves are treated well and are able to purchase their freedom. They are treated as humans who have rights, rather than sub-humans stripped of their dignity and self-respect. They were educated in religious matters and were given freedom to practice their faith. On the other hand slavery still exists in America, in its cruelest form. A closer look at the 13th amendment will show as falsehood the oft-propagated myth of the abolishment of American slavery. ((AMENDMENT XIII: Passed by Congress January 31, 1865, ratified December 6, 1865. Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.))

In contrast, let us look at the following statements and wise words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu a'lyhi wa sallam):

Abu Mas'ud al-Ansari reported: "When I was beating my servant, I heard a voice behind me (saying): ‘Abu Mas'ud, bear in mind Allah has more dominance over you than you have upon him.’ I turned and (found him) to be Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). I said:

‘Allah's Messenger, I set him free for the sake of Allah.’

Thereupon he said:'Had you not done that, (the gates of) Hell would have opened for you, or the fire would have burnt you.’’ (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4088.)

If a Muslim beats his slave or slaps him on the face, then he must set him free:

"Zadhan reported that Ibn Umar called his slave and he found the marks (of beating) upon his back. He said to him: ‘I have caused you pain.’ He said: ‘No.’ But he (Ibn Umar) said:

‘You are free.’

He then took hold of something from the earth and said: ‘There is no reward for me even to the weight equal to it. I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:“He who beats a slave without cognizable offence of his or slaps him, then expiation for it is that he should set him free.”" (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4079.)

The above statements of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) are clear and decisive. If a Muslim beats his slave, then the gates of hell will open for him. Muslims must not mistreat their slaves, because slaves in Islam are like brothers:

Narrated Al-Ma'rur: At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, "I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names." The Prophet said to me, 'O Abu Dharr! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.'" (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 29.)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: "When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) - (another narrator) Dawud said:" i. e. a morsel or two". 4097. (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4096.)

Narrated Abu Dharr: 'The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Feed those of your slaves who please you from what you eat and clothe them with what you clothe yourselves, but sell those who do not please you and do not punish Allah's creatures." (Translation of Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitab Al-Adab, Book 41, Number 5142.)

The Noble Quran not only allows slaves to request their freedom from their Muslim masters but also orders the Muslim masters to pay their slaves money to help them stand on their two feet and to be able to face life with a good jump start.

Let us look at Noble Verse 24:33 {Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until God gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which God has given to you. …} In this Noble Verse, we see that if a slave requests his freedom from his Muslim master, then his master not only must help him earn his freedom if there is good in the Slave, but also pay him money so the slave can have a good start in his free life.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom)." (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Food, Meals, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 286.)

"The law of slavery in the legal sense of the term is now obsolete.  While it had any meaning, Islam made the slave's lot as easy as possible.  A slave, male or female, could ask for conditional manumission by a written deed fixing the amount required for manumission and allowing the slave meanwhile to earn money by lawful means and perhaps marry and bring up a family.  Such a deed was not to be refused if the request was genuine and the slave had character.  Not only that, but the master is directed to help with money out of his own resources in order to enable the slave to earn his or her own liberty." (The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an.  Foot note #2991, page 875.)

Therefore, although Muhammad Seereen and Hafsah bint Seereen are referred to as the ‘freed-slaves of Anas’, we will come to see how this did not stop them from being empowered by means of knowledge, so much so that those who were of more dignified social bearing would flock to them for knowledge and religious guidance. Such respect for scholars who may have been slaves/freed slaves does not only apply to the family of Seereen, but also applies to many other scholars of Islaam, as history testifies.

A Blessed Marriage with Blessed Offspring

Seereen married a pious woman by the name of Safiyyah, who was the freed slave of Abu Bakr (radhiallahu `anhu). Eighteen Sahaabah, who had participated in the battle of Badr, attended their marriage ceremony. Heading these eighteen Sahaabah was Ubayy ibn Ka’b, the great Companion who had collected the Qur’aan into book form and who had witnessed Badr, Uhud and the Pledge of 'Aqabah

The fruit of this marriage was pure in that Allah (a'zza wa jall) blessed them both with a daughter, who they named Hafsah, in 31AH during the Caliphate of Uthmaan (radhiallahu `anhu). She received and was provided with the best nutrition: the spiritual nutrition of the Qur’aan and Sunnah. (At-Tabaqaat (8/193), Tahdheeb Asmaa’ wal Lughaat (1/83) and Al Ma’rifah wa at-Taareekh (3/27).) She had many brothers and sisters, including half-brothers and sisters, all of who became trustworthy narrator (ruwaat thuqaat) of the narrations of the Noble Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). (Please refer to: Tahdheeb Al-Asmaa’ wal-Lughaat (1/83).)

Her brother Muhammad ibn Seereen was also a great scholar and her sister Kareemah bint Seereen was also an a’abidah (worshipper). Mahdee ibnu Maymoon said regarding her sister:

“Kareemah bint Seereen, the sister of Hafsah bint Sireen, stayed for fifteen years without leaving her prayer mat except to fulfil a need/the call of nature (li qadhaa’ haajah).” (Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah, Vol 2, Page 710.)

A Woman of Rare Knowledge

The knowledge of Hafsah (rahimahaAllah) was such that Iyaas ibn Mu’awiyyah said: 

‘I did not meet anyone whom I can prefer over Hafsah.’ He was asked: ‘What about Hasan al Basri and Muhammad ibn Sireen?’ He said: ‘As for me I do not prefer anyone over her. She learnt the Qur’aan by heart when she was twelve years old.’ (Al Mizzi, Tahdheeb al-Kamaal, xxxv. 152.)

He said this even though the brother of Hafsah (rahimahaAllah) had met thirty Companions of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) (Siyar, vol 4, page 606) and even though A’wf al-A’rabi said: “Ibn Seereen had good knowledge (hasanul i’lm) in Law of Decent and Distribution (al-Faraaidh), Jurisdiction (al-Qadaa’) and Estimation (Al Hisaab).” (Siyar, vol 4, page 609.)

And Hishaam ibnu Hassaan said:

“I saw Al-Hasan (Hasan al Basri), and (Muhammad) ibnu Seereen, and I did not see anyone that I thought was cleverer than Hafsah.” (Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah, Vol 2, Page 709.)

Not only had she memorized the Qur’aan by the age of twelve but she had deep knowledge pertaining to the recitation of the Qur’aan. Hishaam narrates that when Ibn Sireen (her brother) would find something difficult and ambiguous (ashkala ‘alayhi) regarding the Qiraa’ah (recitation), he would say, “Go and ask Hafsah how to recite.” (Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah.)

She was both a great muhaddithah (scholar of hadeeth) and faqeehah (jurist). She had learnt many ahaadeeth from the great Companion Anas ibnu Maalik. (Ibn Hibbaan, K. al-Thiqaat, iv. 194.)


This is why ahaadeeth narrated by her from Anas ibnu Maalik can be found in Saheeh al Bukhari, for example, ‘Aasim narrates  from her from Anas that the Prophet said:

‘Plague is martyrdom for every Muslim.’ (Al Bukhari, Saheeh, Tibb, baab: maa yudhkaru fi al-ta’oon.)

All six books of hadeeth mention her name as well as the books of Sunan and Masaaneed. One of the famous ahaadeeth she has narrated is the famous hadeeth regarding the washing of the dead, which she narrated from Umm A’tiyyah al Ansaariyyah. All the chains for this hadeeth go through Hafsah bint Sireen.

Akram Nadwi, in his book ‘Al-Muhaddithat’ wrote:

‘Though born a slave, Hafsah bint Sireen made the best of the opportunity presented to her and became one of the most important scholars of her time. Some considered her superior to Hasan al Basri.’ (Akram Nadwi, Al Muhaddithat, pg 101.)

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