Barra: Juwayriyyah’s Original Name or Nickname?

More Groans for Zawadi

Sam Shamoun

In an earlier article we referred to Muhammad taking a Jewish captive woman as his wife and then cited this report:

Ibn Abbas reported that the name of Juwairiya (the wife of the Holy Prophet) was Barra (Pious). Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) changed her name to Juwairiya and said: I did not like that it should be said: He had come out from Barra (Pious). The hadith transmitted on the authority of Ibn Abi 'Umar is slightly different from it. (Sahih Muslim, Book 025, Number 5334)

We had noted that Muhammad’s conscious seemed to have bothered him for what he had done to the Jewess’ family and so was uncomfortable with her name Barra. He therefore decided to change it since he knew that what he had done to her people was anything but righteous or pious.

One Muslim polemicist named Bassam Zawadi tried to refute (*) our assertion by claiming that Muhammad changed her name Barra since he wanted to teach her humility, implying that she was being less than humble for having such a name.

We responded back (*) by questioning such logic. We asked how a birth name can be a sign of a person’s arrogance when the individual in question has no say in the name that the parents choose to give him/her at birth.

Zawadi took exception to this (*) and stated that the English version of the hadiths, specifically of al-Bukhari and Muslim,

Narrated By Abu Huraira:
Zainab's original name was "Barrah," but it was said, "By that she is giving herself the prestige of piety." So the Prophet changed her name to Zainab. (Sahih al-Bukhari , Volume 8, Book 073, Number 212)

Zainab, daughter of Umm Salama, reported: My name first was Barra… (Sahih Muslim, Book 025, Number 5336)

Translated the Arabic incorrectly since they inserted words into their translation which, according to Zawadi, changed the meaning of the narratives. If one is wondering why Zawadi was so anxious to mention these so-called mistranslations here is his reason:

This is important because the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not change her BIRTH name but a nickname that was given to her. This is the same with Juwayriah. Look at the narration that Shamoun posted earlier from Sunan Abu Dawud…

She introduced her self to the Prophet as Juwariyyah, not Barra. Barra was only a nick name given. (Source)

Zawadi’s entire case centers on the fact that Barra was allegedly not Juwayriyyah’s birth name but a nickname which she received later on in life.

In a follow up reply (*) we presented specific data to show that none of the narratives that we presented ever made the assertion that Barra was a nickname given to these women and challenged Zawadi to produce some evidence to support his position which, thus far, he has failed to do.

We further documented that the reports clearly attest that Barra was Juwayriyyah’s real name, and therefore her birth name, and also noted that the hadiths are contradicting themselves at this point since one of the narrations assert that Barra introduced herself to Muhammad as Juwayriyyah even before her name change.

We said that one possible way of reconciling these conflicting reports is to assume that the narrator of the hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud redacted the story by reading back into his report the name which Muhammad later gave to her.

It is not uncommon for writers to refer to a person’s later or most commonly known name when narrating an event when such a name wasn’t used or known at that time. To illustrate our point here is an example taken from the Holy Bible:

"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’" Romans 4:1-3

The Apostle Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, a time in which Abraham was still known as Abram:

"Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:4-6

And yet when the Apostle quotes the passage he refers to the name given to him later on:

"As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." Genesis 17:4-8

The purpose of this current article is to present additional evidence to prove that Juwayriyyah’s actual name was Barra. We will further demonstrate that the compiler of Sunan Abu Dawud did precisely what we had suspected, namely, read the name that Muhammad later gave to her back into an event when such a name was not in use.

Here are some specific Muslim sources which establish our case against Zawadi:

She is Barrah bint Al-Harith bin Abu Dirar bin Judhaimah Al-Khuza‘iyyah…

Among the captives taken when the Muslims defeated Banu Al-Mustaliq was a woman so beautiful that any man who saw her could not help being struck by her beauty. When the war booty was divided up, Barrah – who was twenty years old – fell to the lot of Thabit bin Qais bin Ash-Shammas. She attempted to save herself from the humiliation of captivity and the shame of slavery – for she was the daughter of the leader of her people – by making an agreement to buy her freedom from Thabit bin Qais, then she went to the Messenger of Allah and sought an audience with him and upon entering his presence, she said to him: "O Messenger of Allah! I am BARRAH bint Al-Harith bin Abu Dirar, who is the leader of his people and I have made an agreement to purchase my freedom, so please help me to meet the terms of the agreement." … The blessed marriage was completed and Barrah became one of the Mothers of the Believers; AFTER consummating the marriage, the Prophet named her Juwairiyah. (The Honorable Wives of the Prophet, edited by Abdul Ahad [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Jeddah, Sharjah, Lahore, London, Houston, New York, First Edition: October 2004], 85-87; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Notice that in this specific narration Juwayriyyah introduces herself as Barra, which supports our contention that the narrator in Sunan Abu Dawud took the name given to her by Muhammad and read that back into his narrative.

Another Islamic reference says that:

BEFORE her marriage to the Prophet her name was Barah, but Muhammad CHANGED it to Juveriah. Zainab bint Jahash, Zainab bint Umm Salamah and Maimoonah bint Harith were also named Barah, but the Prophet CHANGED their names as well. (Great Women of Islam Who Were Given Good News of Paradise, by Mahmood Ahmad Ghadanfar, revised by Sheikh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, edited by Muhammad Ayub Sapra & Muhammad Farooq [Darussalam, First Edition: January 2001], p. 109; capital emphasis ours)

In this next one a Muslim writer answers specific questions related to Muhammad’s wives. When asked what Juwayriyyah’s real name was the author without hesitation says that it was Barra:

Q. 2 What was the original name of Juwairiyah?

A. Birrah [sic]…

Q. 31 Is it true that the REAL name of Juwairiyah was Barrah and the Prophet changed her name?

A. Yes, it is true. (Q&A on the Mothers of the Believers, prepared by Shahid Qasmi, revised and checked by Muhammad Tahir Salafi [Darussalam, First Edition June 1997] pp. 79, 83; capital emphasis ours)

And now to quote our final source:

… Her name had been Barra (good) but he changed it to Juwayriyya… (Aisha Bewley, Muslim Women – A Biographical Dictionary [Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1 Wayne Road, London, January 2004], p. 87)

With the foregoing in perspective we are wondering what Zawadi will say next. Will he admit that one of his main arguments was blatantly wrong and therefore write a retraction or go back and edit his files? Will he acknowledge that it was hypocritical for Muhammad to change Juwayriyyah’s original name in order to teach her humility (as Zawadi erroneously asserted) while allowing others to address him as al-Amin ("the Faithful/Trustworthy") or for giving his friend Abu Bakr the moniker as-Siddiq ("The Truthful/Upright")?

The title of this article states it best… each rebuttal and article that Zawadi churns out manages to produce more groans for him and for his fellow Muslims. The readers should be able to see from the foregoing that no matter how hard Zawadi tries to defend his religion he inevitably ends up providing more evidence that Islam is a false religion and Muhammad a false prophet.

Remember Pinocchio? His nose grew longer with each lie he told. Trying to justify or cover up the old lies and falsehoods of Islam with new lies won’t help, it will only make Islam look increasingly ridiculous.

Rebuttals to Answering-Christianity
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page