بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
This is a (brief) narration on the life of one of the most inspirational women of our ummah: Asma’, daughter of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq.
Asma’ belonged to a distinguished Muslim family. Her sister was ‘A’ishah, wife of the Prophet (saw). Her father was Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, the Prophet’s (saw) closest companion and most trusted friend. Her husband, Zubayr bin ‘Awam, was a companion of the Prophet, as was her son, ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr. Every member of her family was a trusted confidante and companion of the Prophet (saw), and she herself was no exception.
Asma’ was born twenty-seven years before the Prophet (saw) migrated to Madinah. Her mother’s name was Qatilah bint ‘Uza and her father, Abu Bakr, married her before the advent of Islam. For a long time her mother did not accept Islam; finally after the conquest of Makkah she pledged allegiance to the Prophet (saw). Asma’ entered the fold of Islam long before her mother, because of the influence and teachings of her father. We can see how a great woman like Asma accepted the truth and had fear only of Allah, and not of the society around her, even though her own mother had not yet accepted Islam.
Asma’ had many qualities that Islam admires and commends, among them piety, intelligence, courage, integrity and generosity. In this story we will see how women had an important role to play in all aspects of society, and were not confined to just one aspect of life. When her father and the Prophet (saw) took refuge in the cave of Thawr after leaving Makkah to migrate to Madinah, it was Asma’ who went far in to the wilderness, risking her life, to deliver fresh food to them. As soon as they had left for Madinah, Abu Jahl came to the house of Abu Bakr looking for them, breathing fire and fury. He demanded Asma’ to tell him where her father was. She answered that she did not know. He gave proof of his barbaric nature by slapping her hard. However she faced him with steadfastness, courage and tolerance, so as not to betray her secret. Her strength at this moment was one of the ways Allah protected the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr.
Asma’ came to be known by the title Dhat an-Nitaqayn. In Arabic, the belt, or girdle worn by women around the waist is called a nitaq. When the Prophet (saw) and Abu Bakr (ra) prepared to set off for Madinah, Asma’ packed food for them in a leather bag, but there was no rope with which she could tie up the mouth of the bag. So she tore her girdle into two pieces and used one part to tie up the leather bag. The Prophet (saw) blessed her and said that in place of this one girdle that she sacrificed, she would get two in Paradise, thus implying that she would go to Paradise. As Allah says in the Qur’an, “… I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female…” (Qur’an, 3:195)
Once her father and the Prophet (saw) had left, Asma’ was left with her blind and aged grandfather, Abu Quhafah. When he realized that his son had migrated he was saddened and concerned whether or not he had left any cash for expenses. In truth, Abu Bakr had, with the strongest faith in Allah, taken all his wealth with him to spend in the way of Allah and His Messenger. However Asma’ comforted the old man and allayed his fears by saying there was plenty in the house, and that nothing was lacking. In order to convince him, she collected some pebbles that were of the size of dinars; she placed them in a pot and spread a cloth over them. Then she guided his old hands over the cloth; Abu Quhafah was pleased and relieved that his son had not neglected them.
Asma’s husband, Zubayr bin ‘Awam, the Prophet’s friend and Companion, was the son of Safiyyah bint ‘Abdul Muttalib. He was of the 10 who were promised Paradise. When they migrated to Madinah, they had few belongings, the only real possession being a horse. It was the duty of Asma’ to tend to the horse and feed him. One day she was walking home with a bundle of hay on her head when the Prophet (saw) saw her. He immediately made his camel sit down so that he could let her ride. But she was embarrassed and thought it would displease her husband, who was a very proud man. Look at the strength of their marital relationship, and how she refused the offer and preferred to walk. She then told her husband about it, he said she should have got on to the camel, it would have been better than walking with a bundle of hay.
Asma’ would pray with full concentration. We often hear how Abu Bakr (ra) had so much devotion and khushoo’ in his prayer that he would always weep, and Asma (ra) was the same. Zubayr bin ‘Awam relates that when he came home one day he saw her praying and weeping; she kept on repeating these words from the Quran again and again:
“Allah has blessed us and saved us the torture of the burning winds.” (Quran, 52:27)
When he saw her thus lost in the presence of Allah, he left the house and went to the market. He came back much later and found her still lost in prayer. What an amazing woman to look up to.
Asma’ had a very sharp memory. If she heard anything even once she would never forget it. Very much like her sister ‘A’ishah, she has many Hadiths attributed to her. Many Companions of the Prophet (saw) would come to her for guidance and verification of Hadiths.
When Asma’ was migrating to Al-Madinah, near the valley of Quba she went into labour, and gave birth to a son ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr. This was a very special occasion for the Muslims. For a very long time no sons had been born among the believers. Everyone was excited, as was the Prophet (saw).
‘Abdullah bin Zubayr grew up to be a man of learning, understanding and courage. Later his mother came to live with him. When he moved to Makkah she also accompanied him. He did not accept Banu Umayyah as the caliph (the ruling dynasty that came after the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, who did not ascend to power through shura or consultation but through lineage and force) and tried to set up his own caliphate; he succeeded in winning the support of most people since they acknowledged him to be a God-fearing, learned and brave man. However, when ‘Abdul Malik bin Marwan ascended the throne, he took over some of the provinces. He sent Hajjaj bin Yusuf as his representative to Hijaz. Hajjaj took command of the Syrian forces and besieged, attacking it from all sides; an intense battle ensued between the two forces.
At this, critical juncture, ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr went to see his mother. When she told him that she was sick, he replied that human beings could find peace and rest after death. She smilingly asked him if he wished her to die. She said she wanted him to live and wanted to live herself, because she had to see the end result of his struggle. If he were martyred she would accept it with patience and fortitude, and if he routed his enemy in this battle she would be happy.
A desperate battle was being waged now in Makkah itself and ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr’s army was facing defeat. He went to see his mother who was at the mosque and asked her if he should surrender. She replied that if he was in the right he should not worry about dying. He said he feared that the enemy would cut up his body after death. She answered wisely it was irrelevant what they did with the body. Once a goat is slaughtered the skinning cannot cause it any pain. She added that fear of death should not stand in the way of a truly courageous man. Death with honour was better than a life of peace with dishonor. A disgraceful peace did not suit a young hero like him. So ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr returned to the battlefield with renewed ardour and advanced through the ranks fighting courageously; but since they were outnumbered he died the death of a martyr. The cruel Hajjaj bin Yusuf hung up his body for all to see, and did not take it down even after three days. On the third day the aged mother Asma’ Bint Abu Bakr went to try and recover the body of her valiant and noble son. Since she lost her eyesight due to age she could only feel her way around. She faced this great torture with characteristic strength and fortitude. She truly is an exmaple for the Ummah.
Asma’ bint Abu Bakr As-Siddiq died in the year 73 AH. She was almost a hundred years old, but even at that age she had a full set of teeth and a sharp memory.