She was one of the most distinguished women who took part in the battle of Uhud, if not the most distinguished of them.
Nusayba bint Ka'b (Umm Umara)'s mother was ar-Rabab bint Abdullah ibn Habib. Nusayba converted to Islam during the early days. She was present at the second pledge of Al- Aqabah at which she swore allegiance to the Prophet, Along with her first husband, Zaid ibn Asim who died after the Battle of Badr.
Her brother Abdullah bin Ka'b al Mazani fought with the Prophet in the crucial Battle of Badr, while her second brother Abdul Rahman was one of those devout early believers who would burst into tears when listening to the first recitations of the Holy Qur'an.
Umm Umara married Zaid ibn Asim, bearing two children, Abdullah and Habib, who were both Companions of the Prophet. Then she was married to Ghaziyah ibn Amr and bore him Tamim and Khawla.
The journals of the early believers do not rave about the beauty of her hair or the colour of her eyes or the smoothness of her skin. Instead many words have been written about the true values of womanhood which shone from her. Her glory was her courage and honour. The Prophet held this dear Woman of Distinction in such high esteem that he compared her piety and devotion to that of the greatest of his companions.
She was one of only two women who traveled with seventy-three ansar men to Makkah before the Hijrah to Madinah. They gave him the oath to support him and sacrifice for him with their wealthes, souls and families once he comes to them in Madinah.
Umm Umara set out to the battle of Uhud with her second husband, Ghaziyah ibn Amr, and her two sons, Abdullah and Habib.
Nusayba fetched water and tended the wounded the injured. Her intention had been to give water to the wounded, but Allah had planned for her a more rewarding role.
So she set out with her family with a waterskin and bandages, and arrived at the battle field during the beginning of the day. Nusayba had also bought a sword, a bow and a quiver of arrows, in addition to the bandages and water skin.
Not long after the battle had begun, she reached the place where the Prophet had taken up his position on relatively high ground, He was with his closest companions and the battle was going in favour of the Muslims. The Muslims continued to advance until the way into the enemy camp was opened.
The Muslims had the upper hand, and she went to see how the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was.
But then the Muslims committed a fatal error - they were tempted by the booty and began to surge into the enemy camp seeking plunder.
The fifty archers chosen to guard the rear of the army saw their companions taking spoils of war and felt that they would lose out. So neglecting the Prophet's command not to leave their posts and to remain on the hill no matter what happened, they left running towards the booty, assuming that the battle was finished. Their commander Abdullah ibn Jubair, was left with only a few archers.
Khalid bin Walid, (who hadn't embraced Islam yet), seeing the open flank, made a charge against the Muslims and suddenly the tide had swung towards the Quraysh.
The Muslims panicked and began to flee, leaving behind only the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and a handful of his Companions. Among these was Umm Umara.
The Qur'an described it: "Behold! You were climbing up the high ground, without even casting a side glance at anyone, and the Messenger in your rear was calling you back..." [ 3: 153] Seeing the Muslims flee, Umm Umara ran to the defense of the Prophet and took up arms, along with her husband and two sons.
Nusayba went forward, with her sword unsheathed and her bow in her hand, to join the small group who were standing firm with the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), acting as a human shield to protect him from the arrows of the mushrikin.
She tied her belt around her waist so that she would not trip, brandishing a sword at times and throwing arrows at others, she cut through the ranks of the enemy and took sides with the Prophet.
Nusayba got her sword and her quiver of arrows and started shooting. The battle was fierce, for the Muslims were on foot fighting for their lives against mounted soldiers.
The Prophet noticed that she had no shield, and so said to one of the retreating men: "Give your shield to the one who is fighting." So he handed her the shield, and she defended the Prophet of Allah with it, using also the bow and arrow along with a sword. She was attacked by horsemen, but never wavered nor felt fear. She later boldly claimed, "If they had been on foot as we were, we would have trounced them, Allah willing."
She fought fiercely that day, striking fatal blows to her opponents until she suffered many wounds. She was wounded thirteen times in the battle of Uhud.
She suffered so many deep cuts that her wounds required one painful year to heal. When the call to arms came again, she tried to join the ranks of the faithful, but she failed because she was bleeding so much.
Every time danger approached the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) she hastened to protect him. The Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) noticed this, and later said, "Wherever I turned, to the left or the right, I saw her fighting for me."
Nusayba herself related some of what had happened during that battle; "The people had left the Prophet exposed and only a few, not more than ten, remained my husband and my sons and I were among them defending him and the people were moving around in a defeated state. I did not have my shield with me. The Prophet saw a man with a shield, so he said, 'Give your shield to someone who is fighting?' So the man gave it to me and I used it to defend the Prophet ."
Nusayba continued fighting, treating the wounded and carrying water for them. Her son was wounded and his blood was flowing. However, she was totally oblivious to her son's condition until the Prophet said, "Bandage your wounded."
His mother ran to her son and bandaged his wounds, while the Prophet stood looking at her. After she had bandaged the wound, she commanded to her son, "Rise and fight the people my son."
Her own son, Abdullah ibn Zaid, related later more of her heroic behavior during the battle; "..The Prophet admired her sense of sacrifice, and commended her, "Who can endure what you can endure, Umm Umara?" ' I intercepted him and hit him in the thigh, and he collapsed. I saw the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) smiling so broadly that I could see his back teeth. He said, 'You have taken your revenge, O Umm 'Umarah!' Then we struck him with our weapons until we killed him, and the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: 'Praise be to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala), who granted you victory over him, gave you the satisfaction of taking revenge on your enemy, and let you see the vengeance for yourself." On this day, Nusayba herself received many wounds whilst she was fighting the people and striking their chests.
At one stage, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was left alone, so taking the opportunity, the enemy Ibn Qamiah charged at the Prophet, shouting "Show me Muhammad! May I not survive if he survives!" Then Ibn Qamiah recognised the Prophet and struck at him. The blow was averted by Talhah, who was standing next to the Prophet. Talhah then threw himself in the direction of the sword and they closed around the Prophet to protect him. Mus'ab ibn Umayr, along with some other of the Companions, dashed to the protection of the Prophet. Umm Umara was among them, and began fiercely striking at the enemy of Allah, even though he was wearing double armour.
Ibn Qamiah stuck her and she struck him, but he was wearing two coats of armour which protected him from her blows. Ibn Qamiah managed to strike a blow at her neck, leaving a serious wound. The Prophet quickly called on her son "Your mother! Your mother! Bind her wound! May Allah bless you, the people of a house! The stand of your mother is better than the stand of so-and-so. May Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) bless you and your household! Your mother has fought better than so-and-so.!"
Umm Umara, seeing the Prophet's pleasure on her determination and valour, earnestly requested "Pray to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) that we may accompany you in Paradise!" So he said "O Allah, make them my companions in the Garden." And this was the desire of Umm 'Umara, to which she replied "I do not care what befalls me in this world!"
The battle of Uhud was not the only occasion when Um Imarah showed her bravery. She was among those who gave the pledge of Ridhwan, when muslims swore to stand by the Prophet until martyrdom. She was also present on a number of other occasions, namely the treaty of Aqabah, Al-Hudaybiyah, and fulfilled Umra. She also witnessed the battle of Hunayn, Khaybar, and Yamamah.
When the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) passed away, some of the Arab tribes apostatized, at their head was Musaylimah The Liar - the one who claimed to be prophet of Yemen. Khalifah Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) rallied the Muslims to fight the renegades.
Nusayba took part in the fighting against Musaylimah in Yamamah. She went to Abu Bakr who was Caliph at the time, to seek permission to join the expedition with Khalid against Musailimah.
Abu Bakr said. "We know your worth in war, so go out, in the Name of Allah." Abu Bakr committed her to Khalid ibn Al- Walid's charge and she fought bravely at Yamamah. Umm Umara returned from the war having suffered eleven wounds inflicted by spear and sword, and having lost a hand, and her beloved son.
This battle was a great test for Umm Umara. The fight was hard and the two parties adamantly set to win it. She held her grounds, always advancing.
Now she heard that her son Habib fell prisoner to Musaylimah the liar. He asked him, "Do you testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?"
When he said that he did, he went on, "And do you testify that I am the messenger of Allah?" he answered, "I do not hear."
So Musaylimah began to cut him to pieces, organ by organ until he died. He asked him the same questions over and over, but he could not get a different answer.
After Musaylimah had been defeated and killed and the war was over, Nusayba returned to her house. Khalid ibn al-Walid came there to treat her hand with hot oil, to seal the wound and stop the bleeding.
The hot oil was more painful than having her hand cut off. There is a story that Ikrimah narrated, that Nusayba went to the Prophet, and said, "I see that everything goes to men, and I do not see anything mentioned for women." Then the verse was revealed:
"For Muslim men and Muslim women, for believing men and believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for patient men and patient women, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give sadaqah, for fasting men and fasting women, for men who guard their private parts and women who guard, and for men who remember Allah much and women who remember, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward." [Surah Ahzab, 33: 35]
When Nusayba was in Madinah between campaigns, the Caliph Abu Bakr used to visit her often to encourage her. Even that token of respect could not make any easier the ultimate sacrifice for a mother, which was the life of her son.
The mother cherished her son's martyrdom. She offered it proudly to the holy struggle to establish the Word.
Her courageous character earned her the respect of all the Companions, especially the Khalifa's who would visit her and pay special attention to her.
It is no surprise that the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) gave her the good news that she would enter Paradise, and that she was later held in high esteem by the Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq and his commander Khalid ibn Al-Walid and then by Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiAllahu anhum)!
This was the life of Umm Umara, the warrior who stood when many fled, who sent her wounded son back into the thick of the battle, and was prepared to lose her life to save the Prophet's.
Umm Umarah, Nusayba bint Ka'b, was a woman who was true to her words, a woman who occupies a special place in the history of Islam.
May Allah bless our women with such courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance.