BARIRA THE BONDMAID

Aisha, Prophet Muhammad’s wife, had a bond maid (a slave girl,) named Barira who was married to a slave like herself. One day, Barira got lucky enough to escape slavery and become a free woman. Originally, a man slave was allowed to be married from among slave women only but in Barira;s case, she was already married to a slave when she became a free woman. So, Barira was given to choose whether to continue with her husband or to be separated from him because of her new condition.

Barira chose to be separated and her husband became so much unhappy that he followed her whenever she walked down the streets. He looked at her from a distance and cried. When Muhammad knew about the husband, he took pity on him and he asked Barira if she would take him back. Barira said, “Is this an order? Or only a request that I can refuse?” Muhammad answered, “It isn’t an order; it’s only a request that you can answer.” Barira said, “O, Messenger of Allah! I don’t want to be back to him!”

Barira had just escaped slavery but she showed good understanding of religion and considerable amount of self confidence and freedom. Besides, when her legal rights allowed her to do something, no one had the right to stop her or to intimidate her not to.

Women’s freedom was real. They exercised it with confidence and a sense of entitlement. Bond maids and slaves were not excluded from that, look at how Muhammad’s plea was rejected by Barira.