Lady Fidda was originally from Ethiopia. It has been narrated that she was of royal blood, but was captured and brought to Arabia. She was freed by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and afterwards served his daughter, Sayyidna Fatimah (AS), as her maid-servant. Sayyidna Fatimah divided her house work equally between herself and Lady Fidda, and they would take turns to do the chores. She remained faithful to the household of the Prophet and even accompanied them to Kerbala and to prison of Syria. She also had the honor of taking part in the “Three Days Fast.” When they were children, Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS) fell sick, and the Prophet suggested that Imam Ali (AS) make a vow to fast for three days when the children recovered. When they were better, Imam Ali, Sayyida Fatimah, Imam Hasan, Imam Husain and Lady Fidda all fasted to fulfill the vow.
However, on each of the three days, when they sat to break their fast, a hungry person called at their door. The first said he was poor, the second said he was an orphan and the third said he was a freed captive. Each time, the big-hearted members of the house, including Lady Fidda, gave away their food and broke their fast with water. In praise of this selfless action Allah revealed the 76th chapter of the Holy Qur’an. The incident is described as follows:
They who fulfill their vows, and fear the day, the woe of which stretches far and wide. And they give away food, out of love for Him, to the poor and the orphan and the captive, (saying), “We feed you only for the sake of Allah, we do not want anything from you, not even thanks. Verily we fear from our Lord a stern day of distress.” So Allah will guard them from the evil of that day and give them freshness and pleasure. (76 : 7 – 11)
Abdullah Mubarak related a very interesting dialogue between himself and Lady Fidda. He states: “I saw a woman passing through the desert who had fallen behind the caravan and asked her, “Who are you and where are you from?” She replied: “And say, “Salaam” for they shall soon know!” (Surah Zukhruf, 43 : 89).
I learned that she expected me to greet her and say “Assalaamu Alaykum” first, before any question. I did as she reminded, and then enquired why she was in the desert. She answered: “And whomsoever Allah guides, there can be none to lead astray!” (Surah Zumar, 39:37).
On hearing her reply, I asked her, “Are you from mankind or from the jinn?” She replied: “O Children of Adam! be adorned at every time of prostration” (Surah A’raf, 7: 31). I understood that she was human and then asked her, “Where are you coming from?” She replied: “Those who are called to from a place far off” (Surah Ha Mim 41:44). I asked her, “Where are you intending to go?” She said: “And (purely) for Allah, is incumbent upon mankind, the Pilgrimage of the House” (Surah AI-Imran, 3 : 97). I asked her how many days she had been travelling. She told me: “And indeed We (Allah) created the heavens and the earth and what is between them two, in six days” (Surah Qaaf, 50: 38).
I asked her, “Do you feel hungry?” She replied: “We (Allah) did not make them such bodies that ate no food.” (Surah Anbiya, 21 : 8). I gave her food and asked her to hurry up to catch the caravan but she replied: “Allah does not task any soul beyond its ability” (Surah Baqarah, 2: 286).
I suggested that she sit on the camel behind me, but she said: “Had there been gods therein besides Allah, there would have been disorder in both (the heavens and the earth)” (Surah Anbiya, 21: 22). I realized that, because we were not husband and wife, it was Haraam for both of us to ride the camel. So I got off and mounted her on it. As she sat on the camel, she said: “Glory to Him Who subjected this to us” (Surah Zukhruf 43: 13).
When we reached the caravan, I asked her, “Do you know anyone among them?” She called out in reply: “O Dawood, Verily, We have appointed you a vicegerent in the earth. (Surah Saad, 38: 26) And Muhammad is not but a Messenger.” (Surah Al- Imran, 3 : 144) O Yahya! Hold the book with firmness!” (Surah Maryam, 19 : 12) O Musa! Verily I am Allah, the All-Mighty.” (Surah Naml, 27: 9)
I began to call out these four names at which four youths came out of the caravan and ran towards Lady Fidda. I asked her who they were and she replied: “Wealth and children are the adornment of the world” (Surah Kahf, 18: 46). I realized that they were her sons. The woman turned to the youth and said: “O my Father, employ him, verily the best of those who you can employ is the strong man and the trusted one” (Surah Qasas, 28 : 26). She thus made them understand that I had helped her. Then she told them: “And verily God increases manifold to whosoever He wills.” (Surah Baqarah, 2: 261)
The sons understood their mother’s hint and paid me well. I asked them who this noble lady was, and they replied, “She is our mother, Fidda, the maid-servant of Lady Fatima (Alaiha Salaam). She has conversed in nothing but the Holy Qur’an for the last 20 years.”
Written by Ahmad Mubarak.
This piece was originally published as part of the series “Muslim Personalities Who Were Black in Early Islamic History.” The page was started for Black History Month to share blog entries about prominent black figures in the early history of Islam.