Maria al-Qibtiyya belonged to a wealthy family and was the daughter of an Egyptian man and a Greek woman who resided in Egypt. She was given to the court of Muqawqis – who was the ruler of Egypt at the time – at a rather young age. Maria al-Qibtiyya is one of the controversial figures in the history of Islam because of how she became the wife of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
It so happened that after the signing of Treaty of Hudaibiya, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was ordered by Allah Almighty to spread the message of Islam to the world at large and to move beyond his immediate geographical territory. When the time was right, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gathered his companions and told them that he (PBUH) will be sending various delegations to rulers of non-Muslims countries so that they enter the fold of Islam. One of the delegations, headed by Hatib bin Abi, was sent to Egypt which was ruled by the Muqawqis at the time. The Archbishop of Alexandria George bin Menaa responded to the delegation and its message in a radically different manner. He acknowledged the Holy (PBUH) as the Last Prophet and welcomed Hatib bin Abi with open arms. The delegation was treated well and they returned bearing gifts for the Prophet (PBUH). The gifts included two slave girls Maria al-Qibtiyya and her sister Sirin, a white mule, a donkey, some money as well as various Egyptian products. He explained that the reason for his non-conversion to Islam was due to his fear of being discharged by the superior authority. Somehow his position as a leader was under threat if he were to convert to Islam. Hence the delegation returned back to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) bearing gifts, courtesy of George bin Menaa.
On the way back to Madina, Hatib bin Abi convinced the two slave girls – Maria Al Qibtiyya and her sister Sirin – to accept Islam and upon their arrival, they formally came under the fold of the religion of Islam. When the slave girls were presented to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he decided to marry Maria al-Qibtiyya and gave away her sister (Sirin) to Hassan bin Thabit.
Maria al-Qibtiyya was almost 20 years old when she came to Madina with the delegation in 628 AD. She was known to be a beautiful, kind hearted and charitable woman who stayed loyal to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) even after his demise – as she did not marry ever again. Unlike the other wives of the Prophet (PBUH) who lived around the mosque, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave Maria al-Qibtiyya a residence in the outskirts of Madina which is known to us today as Mashrabat Umm Ibrahim.
By the grace of Allah Almighty, Maria al-Qibtiyya gave birth to a beautiful baby boy after her marriage to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). As she was previously a slave girl, Maria al-Qibtiyya’s status as the Prophet’s (PBUH) wife remained disputable initially. However, after she gave birth to the baby boy in 8 Hijri, her status was raised to that of a free wife and indeed she became one of the most favored wives of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) too was ecstatic upon hearing the news of a son and named him Ibrahim, after the ancestor of Islam.
Ibrahim’s birth was celebrated by giving away grains to the poor and needy of Madina. And the Holy Prophet (PBUH) visited the house of Maria al-Qibtiyya every day after the birth of his son and took care of him and loved him like any great father would. The joy that Ibrahim’s birth brought to the Prophet (PBUH) and his wife did not last very long. For soon Ibrahim fell seriously ill and was taken care off by his mother and aunt Sirin. With each passing day, his condition worsened and when it became evident that he would not survive, the Prophet (PBUH) was called. The Prophet (PBUH) held Ibrahim in his arms as he took his last breaths and let him go as a will of God Almighty. The death of Ibrahim was a great loss for both the Prophet (PBUH) and his wife, who loved the child dearly.
After the death of Ibrahim, the non-believers started mocking the Prophet (PBUH) and said that his God had cut him off and he had no one left to carry his name forward. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was devastated and so Allah Almighty revealed the following verses of Surah al-Kausar (abundance) in favor of the grieving Prophet (PBUH):
“Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], al-Kawthar. So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]. Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off” (Quran 108:1-3).
It is indeed true that Allah does not leave His creation alone in the time of need just like He did not abandon the Prophet (PBUH) when the non-believers were on his case after the death of his only son.
Maria al-Qibtiyya was an honorable and respectable woman who only spent three years of her life with the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as he too left this world a few months after the death of his son. After she had lost the two most important people in her life, Maria al-Qibtiyya bound herself to the four walls of her house. In the five years that she outlived the Prophet (PBUH), she only went out to visit the grave of her beloved son or her husband. She died in 16 AH and her funeral prayers were led by Umar bin Khattab. She too was buried in Jannat-ul Baqi.