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Daughters of the Prophet (ﷺ): The Remarkable Life of Ruqayyah (RA)

by in Soul on 23rd May, 2024

Ah-ul-Bayt, the beloved family of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) hold a special place in our hearts as well as Islamic history. The remarkable daughters of the Prophet (ﷺ), Zainab (RA), Ruqayyah (RA), Umm Kulthum (RA) and Fatimah (RA) were one of the earliest Muslims, who demonstrated incredible righteousness, resilience and compassion through the many hardships they faced.

In our ‘Daughters of the Prophet (ﷺ)’ series, we will explore the lives and legacies of these four women, who were strong, knowledgeable and greatly loved and cherished by their beloved father (ﷺ). Their lives are filled with profound lessons that are relevant to this day, guiding and inspiring us as we navigate our lives as Muslim women, hoping to personify some of their characteristics of faith and steadfastness.

Ruqayyah bint RasulAllah (RA) was the second child of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), and the second of his (ﷺ) four daughters. Like her eldest sister Zainab (RA), she spent the first half of her life raised within the comforts of her parents’ home. Their beloved mother, Khadijah (RA), was still one of the wealthiest people of Makkah and they enjoyed the privileges that came with that, essentially living like princesses. 

Ruqayyah’s (RA) life was marked by both joyous moments and intense challenges. Despite belonging to the noble household of the Prophet (ﷺ), she experienced hardship and persecution alongside her family in the early days of Islam in Makkah. Even when she faced the tragic loss of her infant son, Ruqayyah (RA) radiated strength, patience, and unwavering faith. Her story serves as a testament to the strength of character and unwavering tawakkul in Allah (SWT)’s plans in the face of all sorts of adversity.


When Ruqayyah (RA) and her sister Umm Kulthum (RA) were old enough to be considered for marriage, RasulAllah’s (ﷺ) uncle Abdul ‘Uzzah ibn Abdul Muttalib (later known as Abu Lahab, the father of fire) approached RasulAllah (ﷺ) with a proposal – that his two sons marry Ruqayyah (RA) and Umm Kulthum (RA). Cousin marriages were very common back then, as they still are in many parts of the world.

Khadijah (RA) was hesitant at first due to the reputation that Abu Lahab’s wife, Umm Jameel, had who was known for being sharp-tongued and a mean-spirited person. However, given the society’s standards related to marriage it was considered dishonourable to turn down a marriage proposal from another honourable family, especially when they were already connected in some way. Therefore, she did not oppose the betrothals.

Persecution and Divorce

Not much later, RasulAllah (ﷺ) received nubuwwah: the blessed, sacred duty of Prophethood. When he (ﷺ) shared the pure message of Islam with his closest family and friends, Abu Lahab and Umm Jameel were amongst the first to not only reject the message, but chose to wage war against Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (ﷺ). Umm Jameel used to scatter thorns on the Prophet ’s (ﷺ) doorstep so that he (ﷺ) would be injured as soon as he (ﷺ) stepped out of the home. Abu Lahab sought to humiliate RasulAllah (ﷺ) at every turn and warned away anyone who might stop for even a few minutes to listen to RasulAllah’s (ﷺ) blessed words.

During this time, Ruqayyah (RA) and Umm Kulthum (RA) were living in Abu Lahab’s home with their husbands, although the marriages had not yet been consummated. Seeking to further disgrace RasulAllah (ﷺ), Abu Lahab and Umm Jameel commanded their sons to divorce the two girls. Instead, RasulAllah (ﷺ) and Khaijah (RA) were overjoyed to have their daughters back home, safe and sound, and to live with the spirit of Islam. Ruqayyah (RA) and Umm Kulthum (RA) were also relieved to be pulled out of the toxic environment of Abu Lahab’s home. In response to the evil behaviour of Abu Lahab and Umm Jameel, Allah (SWT) revealed Surah al-Masad:

May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he.

His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained.

He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame

And his wife [as well] – the carrier of firewood.

Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fiber.

(Surah Masad 111:1-5)

This surah is an eternal curse against Abu Lahab and Umm Jameel, warning of their eternity in hellfire.

Divine Comfort

As for Ruqayyah (RA), Allah (SWT) quickly replaced what she had lost with something so much better. He (SWT) provided her with Uthman ibn al-Affan (RA) as a husband instead: a noble, handsome young man of the Quraysh, known for his kindness, modesty and good character. 

Uthman (RA) and Ruqayyah (RA) loved each other deeply, and were amongst the earliest Muslims. Eventually, they were of the earliest believers who made the first hijrah to Abyssinia whilst the Prophet (ﷺ) was alive. Moving from Arabia to Africa and experiencing a new culture and language, Ruqayyah (RA), Uthman (RA) and the other Muslims had to adjust to this entirely new society. It is a testament to Ruqayyah’s (RA) strength of iman, her resilience, and her trust in Allah (SWT) that she was able to make the incredible sacrifice of leaving behind everything she knew and loved, including her father, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), her mother, and her younger sisters, to make this hijrah for the sake of Allah (SWT). The journey was long, arduous, and fraught with uncertainty: these were the first refugees of Islam, and it was an experience unlike any other.

Thankfully, anNajaashi, the Abyssinian king, was extremely welcoming to the Muslims, pledging protection to them against their Makkan persecutors, and secretly accepted Islam himself.

Trials and Loss

When Hamza ibn AbdulMuttalib (RA), another famous uncle of the Prophet (ﷺ) accepted Islam, several of the Muslims in Abyssinia decided to return to Makkah, thinking that their persecution would ease. But alas, this did not happen. Instead, Ruqayyah (RA) returned to her parents’ home to devastating news: her mother Khadijah (RA) had returned to her Creator, starved from exile in Shi’b Abi Talib, a valley in between the Mount Abu Qubays and Mount Khandama in Makkah

In the midst of this grief, Ruqayya (RA) gave birth to a son and shortly after that, she and Uthman (RA) were left heartbroken by his death. A time of joy became a time of grief. Remembering her own parents’ experiences with the loss of their sons, Ruqayya (RA) turned to her Lord with her pain, beseeching Allah (SWT) for comfort and knowing that she would meet her child in Jannah.

Hijrah and Death

Two years later, RasulAllah (ﷺ) urged the Sahabah to make another hijrah to Madinah. Uthman (RA) and Ruqayyah (RA) dutifully went to the desert oasis now known as “The City of the Prophet.” When the call went out for the jihad of Badr, Uthman (RA) was eager to set out with the other Companions but Ruqayyah (RA) was terribly ill at the time, and RasulAllah (ﷺ) bid him to remain with her and care for her. After a fierce battle, the Muslims won against all odds and returned to Madinah with the triumphant call of victory… only for RasulAllah (ﷺ) to come back to his home and see Uthman’s (RA) grieving face and realise that his daughter Ruqayyah (RA) had passed away. The victory of Badr was offset by the heartbreak of Ruqayyah’s (RA) death. With heavy hearts, RasulAllah (ﷺ) and Uthman (RA) buried Ruqayyah bint RasulAllah (RA).

The story of Ruqayyah bint RasulAllah (RA) is a testament to what it means to be a woman of quiet yet indomitable faith and strength: to give up the comforts of this world and choose the Hereafter with Allah (SWT); to sacrifice one’s own familiar surroundings for an unfamiliar place with the freedom to worship Allah (SWT); to make the choice, over and over again, to prioritise Islam over all else. In Ruqayyah (RA), we learn what it is to live and die for Islam, out of love for Allah (SWT) alone.

Zainab bint Younus

Zainab bint Younus

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She has taken a social media sabbatical but can still be found on Instagram (@bintyounus) and at her blog: IG: @bintyounus