We are speaking today about a highly distinguished woman whose sons are identified by her instead of the normal identification by their father. Afraa’ belonged to Madinah where she married Al-Harith ibn Rifa’ah from the Najjar clan of the Khazraj. She gave him three sons: Mu’adh, Mu’awwidh and Awf. These three are always known by their mother. We say Mu’adh ibn Afraa’ and Awf ibn Afraa’. When she was divorced she went to Makkah where she married Al-Bukayr ibn Abd Yaleel, giving him four sons: Aqil, Khalid, Iyas and Amir. All four embraced Islam in its early days and were among the Muhajireen when the Muslims of Makkah immigrated.
The amazing thing is that those four lived in Makkah and knew about Islam when it started. Nevertheless they could not outbid their half brothers from Madinah. In fact, Awf ibn Afraa’ was among the six pilgrims who met the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Makkah and were the first people from Madinah to accept Islam. When he went back home, his two brothers followed his example. Thus none of the seven brothers hesitated to accept Islam when they learned of it. Indeed, all seven fought in the Battle of Badr, the first major battle in the history of Islam.
The events of the Battle of Badr are amazing. Just before the battle started in earnest, three distinguished figures from the unbelievers came forward and challenged the Muslims for duels. There will always be Muslims to take up such a challenge. Here we find that the three who came forward from the Muslim side were Afraa’s three sons from Madinah: Mu’adh, Mu’awwidh and Awf. However, the challengers wanted to fight some of their own people. Therefore, these three did not take part in the individual duels. When the battle started in earnest, the three showed great courage.
Two of them, Mu’awwidh and Awf, wanted the head of the man who was most hostile to Islam, Abu Jahl. They asked some of their fellow Muslims from Makkah to identify him for them. He was surrounded by a number of fighters who felt that he must be protected. Still the two brothers aimed hard at him and were able to get to him. They mortally wounded him, but both were killed in the battle. Abu Jahl was finished off by Abdullah ibn Masoud. The Prophet said: “May God bestow His mercy on the two sons of Afraa’, as they took part in killing the Pharaoh of this nation, the most hardened unbeliever.’ He was asked who else took part in his killing. He said: “The angels and Abdullah ibn Masoud.
Was this all the sacrifice Afraa’ offered in this battle? By no means. One of her four Makkan sons, Aqil, was also a martyr in the Battle of Badr. Thus, three of her seven sons were among the 14 Muslim martyrs. As martyrs, they are assured of an everlasting life in heaven. Therefore, Muslim mothers are comforted by this thought. When she met the Prophet after the battle, she asked him: Are my sons who remained alive my worst ones? He said: “No.” It is as if she wanted them all to earn the great prize of martyrdom. That was a mark of her profound faith.
Yet, even when a mother is comforted by the thought that her martyr son is in heaven, the loss is tragic. For Afraa’ to lose three of her sons was certainly a painful tragedy. But she accepted that with fortitude. Sawdah, the Prophet’s wife, went to her and stayed with her to give her support and solace. May God bless Afraa’s soul and accept her sacrifice.