The real name of “Hala Sultan”, whom we know as the spiritual guard of Cyprus, is “Umm Haram”. This great mujahid of Islam, who went as far as Cyprus from Madinah though she was old in order to be one of the people the Messenger of Allah mentioned, is the maternal aunt of Anas bin Malik, the great Companion. She is also the sister of Haram bin Milhan, one of the great Companions. She is one of the relatives of the Prophet through her maternal aunts and she is also the foster-aunt of the Prophet. She was married to Amr bin Qays before Islam. She became a Muslim in the first years of Islam in Madinah. She asked her husband to become a Muslim but he did not accept it. Umm Haram, who did not want to live with a polytheist, did not hesitate to leave her husband. After a while, she married Ubada bin Samit.
He sometimes took a nap in her house. Umm Haram always showed respect to him and entertained him in her house. He regarded it as honor to serve him.
Once, the Prophet visited her in her house and talked to her. After a while, he slept. When he woke up, he was smiling. Umm Haram was surprised. She asked,
“O Messenger of Allah! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! Why are you smiling?”
The Prophet answered:
“O Umm Haram! I saw some of my ummah boarding ships and sailing in order to fight unbelievers.”
Umm Haram became excited. She wanted to be among them. She said,
“O Messenger of Allah! Pray to Allah so that I will be one of them.”
The Messenger of Allah accepted her wish and prayed:
“O Lord! Make her one of them!”
Then, he slept again.
After a short while, he woke up smiling again. Umm Haram asked him why he was smiling.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
“I saw some of my ummah going to war pompously like kings sitting on their thrones.”
Umm Haram asked the Prophet to pray for her again. She said she wanted to be among them.
However, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not accept this. He said,
“You will be among the first ones.”
Many years passed. After the death of the Prophet, her husband Ubada bin Samit was appointed to Homs for Islamic service. They went to Homs together. They worked there to spread Islam for a long time.
It was during the caliphate of Hz. Uthman. The boundaries of the Islamic state expanded thanks to the conquests beginning from the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr. However, there were many more places to be conquered. One of them was Cyprus, due to its strategic importance. Hz. Muawiya, the governor of Damascus, wanted to conquer this island very much. He made an offer to Hz. Uthman about it but Hz. Uthman did not accept it thinking that it was too early. However, when Muawiya insisted, he gave the permission.
Hz. Muawiya became very glad when he got the permission. He established an armada. Ubada bin Samit and his wife Umm Haram joined this navy. Hz. Umm Haram was 86 years old then.
The expedition of Cyprus was the first sea expedition of Muslims. Therefore, they underwent a lot of difficulties during the expedition. Umm Haram was too calm for her age. She did not complain at all about the difficulties of the expedition. She remembered the good news given to her by the Messenger of Allah and wanted this good news to be realized. She thought about the grace of Allah Almighty to martyrs and ignored the difficulties. This state of hers set an example to mujahids and increased their patience.
After a long and tiring voyage, the armada reached Cyprus. First, they asked the Cypriots to become Muslims. When they rejected it, they asked them to pay jizyah (a kind of tax). The Cypriots did not accept it, either. Fighting was inevitable. Umm Haram could not stand still; she felt impatient for fighting. Finally, fighting started. The mujahids attacked suddenly and beat the Greek armada. Then, they made a landing operation. The fighting continued on the land. The Greeks could not resist any more.
They accepted to pay jizyah and offered peace. Thus, Cyprus was conquered in the 28th year of the Migration.
After the war, the Islamic army started to return to Damascus. Umm Haram felt very sorry that she could not be a martyr. However, she was destined to be a martyr and it was going to happen. As a matter of fact, her horse became restive. Umm Haram fell off her horse and became a martyr. Thus, she joined the caravan of martyrs, about whom Allah Almighty said,
“Do not say they are dead.”
( Tabaqat, 8: 433-434; Musnad, 6: 361; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 5: 574; al-Isaba, 4: 441; Muslim, Imara: 160. )
Cyprus was ruled by Muslims for many years. Once, it was invaded by Christians. However, it was conquered again by the Ottomans in 1570; it became Muslim land again. The Ottomans restored the tomb of Umm Haram. They called it “Hala Sultan”. It is narrated that the Ottoman ships saluted her by cannon fire when they passed near it.
May Allah be pleased with her!
*Special thanks to basicsofislam for giving me permission to post some of their posts!*