Hababa Salma bint Habib Ibrahim bin Aqil – Ustadha Muniba Ahmed

This was delivered by Ustada Muniba Ahmed on 3rd Ramadan 1442 as part of the Dar al-Zahra (Liverpool) ‘Awakening the Hearts’ series.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. And salutations and greetings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions.

I intend to study and teach, take and give a reminder, take and give benefit, take and give advantage, to encourage the holding fast to the book of Allah and the way of his messenger, and calling to guidance and directing towards good hoping for the countenance of Allah and His pleasure, proximity and reward, transcendent is He.

Salam alaykum wa rahmatullah to our beloved sisters from around the world. We send you greetings and blessings from the blessed lands of the awliya, Tarim. May Allah make this Ramadan the most blessed Ramadan and elevate us. Ramadan Mubarak! May He uplift the tribulations the ummah is going through.

We are very glad to meet with you again in Ramadan and continue this journey on speaking about the women of virtue. In sha Allah, we will be discussing life of a daughter, a wife and the mother of Habib Tahir; Hababa Salma bint Habib Ibrahim bin Umar bin Aqil. Her father was a great mufti of Taiz who passed away 50 years ago. He was also the guide and teacher of many great scholars including Habib Umar. She was also the wife of a great wali (Habib Muhammad al-Haddar), and was the mother of our beloved teacher Hababa Nur. She was also the mother of Habib Tahir and Hababa Talha in Abu Dhabi.

Hababa Salma was born in 1363 in north Yemen in a town called Hudaydah. She passed away at 77, 3 years ago. We had several opportunities to sit with her in public and private gatherings. People benefited from her immense life and character though she did not talk a lot but just by gazing upon her.  

Her father’s lineage

Before we begin speaking about Hababa, we would like to speak of her parents. Habib Ibrahim was born in a small town called Masila. His father passed away when he was young and he was raised by his paternal and maternal grandmothers who were the granddaughters of Habib Abdullah bin Tahir – and he would say about this that Habib Abdullah gave birth to me twice. 

Habiba Abdullah bin Umar bin Yahya was the nephew of the great Imam Habib Abdullah bin Tahir. His mother would wake him up for Qiyam ul Layl and walk with him in the dark to the masjid and tell him not to come home until after sunrise. When Habib Ibrahim became older, at 19, he travelled to Tarim and different parts of Hadramawt to seek knowledge. He then moved to where his uncle lived. He would correspond with his beloved mother through letters, updating her on his journey and to ask for her prayers.

Whilst studying, he married from the descendants of Imam Isa’s cousins. He married a woman of strong faith and courage who served her husband with great sincerity as well as their many guests. They raised their children with great compassion. She lost 8 or 9 of her children when very young, some as infants, others at age of 2 or 3. 

Shee would accept (the decree) with complete patience, washing and shrouding each with complete patience. Once a child died when they had guests in the house, she finished cooking and then when her husband finished his dinner she told him. He was firstly upset that she had let him finish his dinner but then she reminded him of the reward of patience. Once on a journey, one child was sick and she knew the child wouldn’t make the journey, so she took extra water and a shroud just in case. When he did pass away, she washed and shrouded him and buried him on the journey and they carried on. When we hear these stories, we are reminded of the companions. The great companion Umm Sulaym, when her husband returned, he rested, ate etc., and then she said someone gave something to another, and now needs it back, should they return it? He said yes of course. She said same thing has happened with our child, it is time to return. He was upset and told the Prophet ﷺ about it. When the Prophet ﷺ heard he made great dua for them and Allah granted them a child that night.

Habib Ibrahim had a daughter called Rabab and told his mother in a letter. She wasn’t happy with the name, and she wrote back to say change the name to Salma. By this time she was 2 years old, talking and walking. His wife was worried that she would be confused but Habib Ibrahim was insistent and responded that if my mother was to tell me to change my name from Ibrahim to Salma I wouldn’t hesitate, I would be pleased and wouldn’t respond to anyone calling me anything other than Salma. Hababa Salma grew up knowing her name was given to her by her blessed grandmother who she hadn’t met but developed an attachment to. When she was older the family moved to another part of Northern Yemen. In her last years Hababa Salma’s mother was bed ridden and her children looked after her.  

Hababa Salma grew up in a family of knowledge and learning. She learned to read and write from a very young age and loved to read the Quran. When Hababa Salma was 16, Habib Muhammad al-Haddar asked for her hand in marriage – the contract, nikah and walima all took place in same day. At first they remained in Taiz where Habib Muhammad would visit often and where she gave birth to a daughter. Then they moved to Bayda; her husband’s home town. She became pregnant and her father wrote to her and said in your womb is Tahir, meaning the pure one. He also wrote to her husband to tell them of this. After Habib Tahir, she had 4 other daughters. she raised her children with great compassion and love just as her parents raised her, and with great adab. One of her daughters said my mother was never a big talker, she would raise and discipline us through her gaze, never lied, backbit or talked badly about anyone. When someone would say something bad to her, she would say don’t say anything bad about them, it is enough that they say there is no god but Allah. After a while, she began to have difficulties because of the cold weather in Bayda. She was called back to her father in Taiz who would use natural remedies to get her better and after that wouldn’t speak about her illness. Habib Tahir also moved back to Taiz after permission from his father to open a Dar there and look after his mother. 

She would never speak badly about anyone, she taught knitting of hats to many women who would sell it and be independent. She was very independent and never liked asking anyone for help. She would eat, drink and dress on her own even when movement became difficult for her. Her daughter in laws and daughters would help her during the end of her life, when they would try to help her to dress she would make her left side stiff and right side loose, to indicate to them to start with the right in accordance with sunnah and so to when undressing. Even at the most difficult time of life, she never liked to miss the chance to peform the sunnah acts such that she would wear a headband under her scarf so her hair was never showing.

About 6 years ago, when the conflict in northern Yemen reached Taiz, she was forced to move back to Bayda. People were very happy but the weather wasn’t suiting her health condition. When Hababa Nur and Habib Umar heard, they suggested moving her to Tarim. She welcomed this and stayed with them for almost 3.5 years. Her sons and daughters and many relatives would come and visit her often. Every Friday after Asr, a gathering of sending salawat upon the beloved ﷺ would happen in the house she was staying in. Shortly before she passed away, a gathering was held in courtyard of the Dar al Zahra where she was present and very happy with that.

In the 2 months before she passed away, she visited many of her family members, great Maqamaat in Tarim. Her favourite place to visit was the Zambal and Bashar. When she would come back from Bashar, she would chant “Zambal Zambal”  and would be very happy she had visited the great awliya there. In her last month, she visited the maqam of her ancestors, such as the maqam of Habib Ibrahim al Tahir in al Masila which is a 15 – 20 min drive from Tarim. The family spent a day there, remembering her beautiful childhood memories and reciting qasaid. Shortly after and during her sickness she never complained of pain. She was always welcoming guests with a beautiful smile.  

On the 3rd of Rajab, about 2 years ago, she took her last breath with the final words of the shahada, surrounded by Habib Tahir and her beloved daughters. Her janaza came to Habib Umar’s house where so many men and women continued to read Quran on her behalf in Tarim and Dar al-Zahra. The next day they prayed in Dar al-Mustafa and then buried her in Zambal where many of the great awliya are buried.

When people used to visit her during her lifetime, we would ask her to give us advice. She would always give these 3 advice; 3 things she’d always give everyone.

1. Say La ila ha il Allah abundantly
2. Pray the 5 prayers on time
3. Treat your neighbors and everyone in the greatest manner.

Whenever I used to be distressed, I used to go visit her and ask her for dua. She would simply say, but greater in meaning – may Allah give you relief from your worries, forgive your sins and veil your faults. That was her dua. She would always entrust us to Allah – may Allah be pleased with her, reward her with the best of reward and join us with her in paradise. Ameen. 

The day following her janaza, there was a huge funeral gathering for women. Habib Abu Bakr Adani al- Mashur gave a speech and mentioned within it a few of her traits and encouraged us to learn about her life, write it down and share it amongst women. Thus, I made intention to do so in this generation and the women who come after. From amongst the profound moments with her, after being absent from Tarim for about 3 months, I went to a mawlid and was coming back. I wanted to give quick salaam to her but the adhan of isha was calling. Yet, I wanted to see her face, so I went and asked for her dua and told her I have a ride back to Tarim in safety. As I asked permission to leave, she said to her daughter-in-law to bring her dinner from my dinner. She insisted I have dinner, and asked her daughter-in-law to pack the food so I could take it away and eat at home. I asked permission again and Hababa Salma said no, I want you to eat it in front of me. So, I began to eat it in front of her. After I had a few bites, I said I will finish it at home because I was full. She said, no, finish it. So, I forced myself to finish it. I didn’t leave a grain of rice. She was watching me so strongly. I felt that she was feeding me with her own hand. It left such a deep impact in me and when I finished everything she said I have permission to go. So, just as I said, she didn’t talk much, but looking at her was a big lesson.   

The mushaf would always be by her bedside. She would hold the mushaf so tightly with her hands even when she was ill and unable to read it you’d see the strong attachment she had to it. She would be embracing it or have it by her bed stand.

She had a beautiful and warm smile. Everyone who visited her, even if she didn’t talk to you, her presence would bring you comfort and warm your heart. You would leave the majlis in a different state to when you entered. Sometimes in order to make dawah or have an impact, we don’t need to talk much. Sometimes, it is the state of your heart that can change other people’s hearts, by making that kind of dua and the connection you build with others.

So many sisters have mentioned their personal experience, whenever we had any questions, after visiting her we feel like our questions are answered, duas answered and problems solved. This is one of the benefits of being surrounded and sitting with the people and friends of Allah.

We will end this majlis by listening to the eulogy that her son Habib Tahir wrote after her funeral.

Picture of Habib Tahir

To comment on some of the lines that Habib Tahir mentioned in the description of his mother. He said that her soul was escorted in the sacred month of Rajab, Salma the one Allah raised in creation, the one who the whole creation was protected from her speech, her limbs protected from haram, her limbs followed with taqwa and love of the Quran, her great lineage – that were her connection to ahl bin Tahir and al Ahdal. As well as, how Hababa Salma never used to complain or lose her temper or speak much, she never had any desires or cravings like that of her peers either as she lived, how she dressed or any desire for this world. She had many great tribulations and trials but took them all with patience. How fortunate are you O Salma in having a pure heart, it will benefit you when you stand before your Lord, you have taken provision from your faith and doing good and this was your goal in your life. O my mother you used to be my concern and occupation all the time, every morning you would entrust me to your Lord and the Prophet ﷺ, and whenever her children or any of her children would leave her majlis she would entrust them in this way. You prayed for me with a heart filled with love and compassion, a heart free from rancour or holding a grudge or having any conflict with anyone. 

He mentions how much we will miss her light, presence and beautiful smile, and the great concern that she had for her children and all those that were around her. We will miss your prayers. In the end, he says, who is going to replace me with a mother like her, there is no one, it is impossible. He also said how he was pleased and happy to lead her in prayer and bring her food, he was happy to carry her on his back when they were doing ziyarah, and he would be very happy when he would see her name flashing on his phone. It would increase him in love. She would call all her kids, no day would pass by except that she would call them or they would call her and make Fatiha. Furthermore, he said when I would return from a long trip, gazing upon your face would take my worries and tiredness away. Did I lose everything if I was addicted by your presence and your words? You used to be my light that would brighten my life. We ask that this light is never extinguished and replaced by darkness. We thank Allah, all the matters are with Him, and we are pleased with His decree the beginning and ending. On the day of your farewell, there was a great tajali, the prayers being recited, the Quran. All who came to read your janazah were filled with great praise.

She was and is praised, no one ever said anything bad about her. The tongue of the creation is a witness for the deceased as Allah tells us, and for her to be buried in Bashar where her noble ancestors were buried.

The resting place of Hababa Salma

May He reward her with the best of rewards that He rewards mothers. We ask Allah to have mercy on her and send peace to her soul always. We ask Allah to grant us pleasure by His decree and remove from us all the sickness by the intercession of the Prophet ﷺ; the cure for hearts, the chosen one.

SubhanAllah, it is a great honour to talk about these great awliya of Allah. We ask Allah to continue to benefit us and to take from their life a lesson that will last us in sha Allah for a lifetime.

We ask Allah just as He made them known to us in this world that He make them known to us in the hereafter. We ask Allah that they remember us on the Day of Judgement.

Jazakum Allah Khayran for listening. I ask Allah for forgiveness in any shortcomings. 

Please keep the transcriber and her family in your prayers.
These are notes. Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from Treasures for the Seeker. Please correct us when you spot any mistakes.