Authentic or otherwise? Biting Words of ‘Umar’s Wife


Waqar Akbar Cheema


A story is popularly quoted on social media and in the cyberspace in general mentioning how a person came to ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (d. 23/644) – may Allah be pleased with him – complaining of the attitude of his wife and as he came to the house of ‘Umar he heard ‘Umar’s wife shouting at him. When the visitor mentioned all of it him, the story as usually quoted says, ‘Umar mentioned to him what all his wife did for him.

The earliest source for the report is Tanbih al-Ghafilin bi-Ahadith Sayyid al-Anbiya’ wa al-Mursalin (Admonition of the Neglectful with the Sayings of the Leaders of the Prophets and the Messengers) by a well-known Hanafi jurist Abu Laith al-Samarqandi (d. 373/985) which records no chain of reporters for it. With him it goes as:

ذكر أن رجلا جاء إلى عمر بن الخطاب يشكو إليه زوجته، فلما بلغ بابه سمع امرأته أم كلثوم تطاولت عليه، فقال الرجل: إني أردت أن أشكو إليه زوجتي، وبه من البلوى مثل ما بي، فرجع فدعاه عمر، رضي الله تعالى عنه، فسأله فقال: إني أردت أن أشكو إليك زوجتي، فلما سمعت من زوجتك ما سمعت رجعت، فقال عمر رضي الله تعالى عنه: إني أتجاوز عنها لحقوق لها علي: أولها: هي ستر بيني وبين النار، فيسكن بها قلبي على الحرام. والثاني: أنها خازنة لي إذا خرجت من منزلي وتكون حافظة لمالي. والثالث: أنها قصارة لي تغسل ثيابي. والرابع: أنها ظئر لولدي. والخامس: أنها خبازة وطباخة لي، فقال الرجل: إن لي مثل ما لك فما تجاوزت عنها فأتجاوز

It is reported that a man came to ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab to complain about his wife. When he reached his house he heard ‘Umar’s wife Umm Kulthum scolding him. The man said to himself, ‘I came with the intention of complaining to him about my wife but he is himself going through what I go through.’ He, therefore, returned but ‘Umar called him back, and asked him about the purpose of his visit. He said, ‘I came to complain to you about my wife’s behavior but when I heard your wife’s words I returned.’ ‘Umar replied, “I bear with her because of her rights over me. Firstly, she is my protection from Hell as she keeps my heart protected from the forbidden: Secondly, she is keeper of my house (especially) when I am away, and she is also protector of my belongings. Thirdly, she acts as bleacher for me and washes my clothes. Fourthly, she nurses my children. Fifthly, she cooks my food, and bakes my bread.” Thereupon, the man said: “It was same with me, however, I did not show forbearance to her. Now I will let it all go.”[1]

It was also quoted in a work attributed to al-Dhahabi (d. 748/1347) titled al-Kaba’ir,[2] and likewise mentioned by Ibn Hajar al-Haithami (d.974/1567) in al-Zawajir,[3] Al-Bujairimi (d. 1221/1806) in his gloss over Shah al-Manhaj,[4] and al-Shablanji (d. 1308/1891) in his Nur al-Absar.[5] None of these works, however, record any chain of narrators for the story. In all probability they quoted it from al-Samarqandi.

A story different but of somewhat similar nature has been related by ibn Abi Shaiba (d. 235/850) with a reliable (hasan) chain of narrators. Ibn Abi Shaiba reports:

 عن نعيم بن حنظلة قال : قدم جرير بن عبد الله على عمر فشكا إليه ما يلقى من النساء من سوء أخلاقهن ، قال : فقال عمر : إني ألقى مثل ما تلقى منهن ، إني لأتي قال : السوق أو الناس , أشتري منهم الدابة ، أو الثوب فتقول المرأة : إنما انطلق ينظر إلى فتاتهم ، أو يخطب إليهم ، قال : فقال عبد الله بن مسعود : أوما تعلم ما شكا إبراهيم من درء في خلق سارة , فأوحى الله إليه : إنما هي من ضلع فخذ الضلع فأقمه , فإن استقام وإلا فالبسها على ما فيها.

On the authority of Nu‘aim bin Hanzala: Jarir bin Abdullah came to ‘Umar and complained to him about the behavior of his wives. ‘Umar said “I also encounter what you do. When I go to market to meet people, to buy an animal, or some dress my wife says, ‘you go out to look at and talk to girls.'” [Nu‘aim added] ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud said, “Do you not know that when Ibrahim complained about the attitude of Sarah Allah revealed to him, ‘This is from the crookedness, so try to straighten it (politely) if it is straightened else live with her as she is.'”[6]


References & Notes:

[1] Al-Samarqandi, Abu Laith, Tanbih al-Ghafilin bi-Ahadith Sayyid al-Anbiya’ wa al-Mursalin, (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 2000) 517

[2] Al-Dhahabi, Shams al-Din, al-Kaba’ir, (Beirut: Dar al-Nadwa al-Jadida, n.d.) 179

[3] Al-Haithami, Ibn Hajar, al-Zawajir ‘an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 1987) Vol.2, 80

[4] Al-Bujairimi, Suleman b. Muhammad, Hashia ‘ala Sharh al-Manhaj, (Cairo: Matb‘a al-Halabi, 1950) Vol.3, 441-442

[5] Al-Shablanji, Mu’min b. Ahsan, Nur al-Absar fi Manaqib Aal-e-Bait al-Nabi al-Mukhtar, (Cairo: Maktaba al-Tawfiqiya, n.d.) 133

[6]  Ibn Abi Shaiba, al-Musannaf, Edited by Muhammad ‘Awwama (Beirut: Dar Qurtuba, 2006) Vol.10, 214 Hadith 19618; classified as hasan by  Muhammad ‘Awwama

On the issue of crookedness, see our article, Creation from a crooked rib: Does Islam deride women?

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