She was the wife of the famous Abu Darda’ and was learned in the sciences of hadith. Imam Bukhari referred to her as an authority in sahih al Bukhari: “Umm darda … she was an expert theologian.” Ibn Adbul Barr calls her “an excellent scholar among women, and a woman intellectual, being at the same time extremely religious and pious.” (al isti’ab fi asma’ al as hab)
Umm Ad-Darda’ was held by Iyas ibn Mu`awiyah, an important scholar of hadith of the time and a judge of undisputed ability and merit, to be superior to all the other hadith scholars of the period, including the celebrated masters of hadith like Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Ibn Sirin.1
Umm Darda, taught in both Damascus, in the great Umayyad Mosque, and Jerusalem. Her class was attended by Imams, jurists, and Hadith scholars. The powerful Caliph Abdul Malik b. Marwan, who ruled an empire stretching from Spain to India, had a teaching license from Abdullah b. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, who was considered the greatest jurist of his time in Medina. When ‘Abdullah reached old age, the people asked him: “Who should we seek religious verdicts from after you?” He replied: “Marwan has a son (Abdul Malik), who is a jurist so ask him.” Hence, Abdul Malik was endorsed by Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him. Yet even Abdul Malik b. Marwah would attend the classes of Umm Darda and he would never feel ashamed of learning from her. Furthermore, he would humbly serve her. It has been recorded that when Umm Darda was teaching she would lean on the shoulder of Abdul Malik b. Marwah, due to her being advanced years, to go to mosque for Salat. He would help her return to her place of teaching after the prayer. The fact that these women taught men who were themselves regarded as great scholars indicates the respect and status they had attained.
The prohibition Umm Darda gave to Abdul Malik ibn Marwan against cursing the servant.
Abdul Malik ibn Marwan invited Umm Darda, she used to sleep in the company of his wives, so she went. And one day she heard him cursing his servant so she forbade him from doing so.
Imam Ahmad related from Zayd ibn Aslam that he said, ‘`Abd al-Malik used to send an invitation to Umm Darda and she would spend the night in the company of his wives, and he would ask her questions about the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wasallam.’
He said, ‘He arose one night and called his maid servant but she came slowly and he cursed her, so she said, ” I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The invoker of curse would neither be witness nor intercessor on the Day of Resurrection.2
1- Suyuti, Tadrib, 215.
2 al-Musnad 7/448. Imam Muslim related something in his Sahih. See Sahih Muslim, the Book of Duty, Relationships and Etiquette, [Chapter] The Prohibition of Cursing Pulling Animals etc.. No. 85 (2598), 4/2006.