Asma bint Abi Bakr (r.anha)

There were some bright personalities among female Companions. They tried to learn Islam by facing all kinds of hardships and trouble in the Era of Bliss and formed their lives by it. One of them is Hz. Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma.  Hz. Abu Bakr brought up one of her daughters Hz. Aisha in a way that could be a spouse of the Messenger of Allah and he worked very hard to make his other daughter, Asma, serve Islam and belief.

The lesson of belief and Islamic manners Hz. Asma received from her father guided her throughout her life and elevated her to a distinguished rank.

The first service of Hz. Asma to Islam was during the Migration. She did her best to help the Prophet and her father.

When the Prophet was given the permission to migrate, he went to Hz. Abu Bakr’s house, passing by the polytheists; he said to Hz. Abu Bakr that he would migrate and gave him the glad tiding that they would migrate together. Hz. Asma was there when he said this. She became very happy when she heard that his father would accompany the Prophet during the Migration.

She took action at once. She helped the Prophet and her father to prepare food and drink for the journey. They prepared them quickly. However, they could not find any rope to tie the bag of food and the water-skin. Hz. Asma could not wait any longer. She removed the waistcloth around her waist that she liked very much and tore it into two. She tied the bag of food with one part of it and the water-skin with the other. The Prophet was watching Asma’s sincere deed. He became very happy. He said, “O Asma! You will be given two waistcloths in Paradise.” This compliment was very valuable for Asma. She was happy to hear the reward of her deed from the Prophet. From then on, she was called "Dhat an-Nitaqayn" (the Possessor of the Two Waistcloths).

The Prophet and Hz. Abu Bakr were going to leave soon. Abu Bakr (r.a.) took all of his money with him in case they needed it. His father, Abu Quhafa, who was not a Muslim yet, could not understand the self-sacrifice his son made in the way of Islam.  He did not want Hz. Abu Bakr to take all of his wealth with him and to leave his family in poverty; he was muttering to himself. When Hz. Asma heard her grandfather's words against her father, she felt disturbed. She feared that he would prevent her father from migrating. She thought she needed to do something to silence her grandfather. She picked up some small stones. She put them in the place where her father kept his money. She covered them with a cloth and took her grandfather, who was blind, there. Hz. Asma held his hand and made him touch the cloth and the stones. She said, “Grandpa! This is what my father left.” Thereupon, he said, “There is no problem if he left that.” After that, he kept silent.

These two muhajirs left Makkah and headed toward the Cave of Thawr after a while. Then, they arrived there. They wanted to stay there for a while.

Meanwhile, the polytheists who found out about the migration of the Messenger of Allah and Hz. Abu Bakr surrounded the area near Hz. Abu Bakr's house and started to look for them. They wanted to kill them when they found them. They went to Hz. Abu Bakr’s house. Hz. Asma opened the door. She saw the ferocious polytheists but she did not panic. The polytheists were furious. They asked harshly, “O Abu Bakr’s daughter! Where is your father?” They thought they would learn where he was from her. However, Hz. Asma was ready to face anything. She would rather die than tell where the Messenger of Allah and her father went. With the courage she took from her belief, she said, “I do not know where my father is.” Abu Jahl was there too. He got very angry when he heard her answer. He slapped her on the face. Asma's earring fell down due to the severity of the blow.  Hz. Asma was ready to suffer more for the sake of Allah and His messenger. The polytheists did not want to lose time. They left Abu Bakr's house realizing that they would not be able to learn anything.

Hz. Asma had fearful moments and prayed Allah Almighty so that the polytheists would not harm the Messenger of Allah and her father. After a while, she became very worried. She went to the Cave of Thawr at night taking some food and water. She had learned some news. She did her best to keep the news in her mind. She acted cautiously so as not to be seen by the polytheists. She reached the Cave of Thawr in excitement. When she saw that the Messenger of Allah, whom she loved more than her own self, and her father were safe and sound, she became very happy. She gave them the food. She told them what she had learnt. Then, she returned to Makkah from the same route without being seen by the polytheists.

After a while, these fearful days passed. For, the Prophet and Hz. Abu Bakr arrived in Madinah. When Hz. Asma was given this news, she became very happy. She thanked Allah Almighty for this. On the other hand, she felt a bit sad. Makkah was a land of loneliness for her after that. Her real hometown was where the Messenger of Allah was. It was a pain to live away from the talks of the Messenger of Allah. After a while, she also migrated. After a long and tiring journey, she arrived in the luminous city of Madinah.

The Prophet appreciated what Hz. Asma did during the Migration. She married her off to Hz. Zubayr, whom he praised by saying, “Every prophet has a disciple; my disciple is Zubayr.”

They were equal to each other. Both of them were real Muslims and students of the Prophet; they devoted their lives to the Quran. This marriage, which was proposed by the Messenger of Allah, would continue as a happy marriage. There was no reason why it would not. Hz. Zubayr was a believer who was given the glad tiding that he was a person of Paradise while he was alive.  Hz. Asma was given the glad tiding that she would be given two waistcloths in Paradise.

It is an irony of fate that her father was the closest friend of the Messenger of Allah, she was the sister-in-law of the Prophet, she was the wife of one of the closest Companions of the Prophet but her mother was not a Muslim. Hz. Abu Bakr had to divorce his wife because she did not become a Muslim. Therefore, Hz. Asma did not like her mother very much. She was the one who gave birth to her but belief prevented her from loving her mother.

Once Hz. Asma’s mother Qutayla came to visit her daughter with gifts that she could hardly carry.  Asma hesitated to allow her mother in and to accept her gifts. She did not find it appropriate to let her in without asking the Messenger of Allah. She sent somebody to Hz, Aisha, her half-sister, to ask the Messenger of Allah about the issue. The Prophet said,

“Tell Asma to let her mother in and to accept the gifts she brought.”

Hz. Asma obeyed the order of the Prophet. She allowed her mother in. She showed respect to her though she was a polytheist. Upon this incident, the following verse was sent down:

“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” (al-Mumtahina, 8.)[1]

Hz. Asma was one of the few female Companions who listened to the talks of the Prophet from time to time and who learnt from him. She often listened to his talks. One of the reasons why she often went to his house was that she was the sister-in-law of the Prophet. Once, she went into the presence of the Prophet wearing a thin dress. She thought there was no drawback to wearing a dress like that in the presence of her brother-in-law, the Prophet. However, when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saw her like that, he turned his face away from her and warned her as follows:

“O Asma! It is not permissible for a woman who started to menstruate (reached the age of puberty) to show any part of her body to non-mahram men except these two parts (he pointed the hands and the face).”[2]

After this warning, Hz. Asma always put on clothes in accordance with the advice of the Messenger of Allah. She obeyed the rules of tasattur until she died. Once, she refused a very expensive thin dress given to her by her son saying, “It does not comply with tasattur.”

Hz. Asma was very chaste and modest. Chastity and modesty are the best characteristics for a woman. Once, she was carrying dates; she met the Messenger of Allah on the way. There were some Companions with the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger of Allah stopped his camel and offered his sister-in-law a lift. However, Hz. Asma did not get on the camel due to her modesty. She preferred to carry the heavy burden.

Asma was an open-handed, generous person. She rose to an exceptional level especially after the Prophet addressed her as follows: “O Asma! Do not tight your fist; otherwise, Allah Almighty will not send His grant to you.”[3] She never left anything that she did not need at home; she would always give them away to the poor. She led a plain life. She advised her children to be generous. She said to them, “Spend your money in the way of Allah. Give sadaqah. When you do not do charity, your money will not increase. Do not think that your money will decrease when you give sadaqah.”

Asma sometimes became ill like everybody else. However, she never complained about it to people. For, she believed that illnesses came from Allah Almighty and that they eliminated sins. Besides, how would man appreciate health and thank Allah for it if he never got ill? On the other hand, illnesses were a great means of praying to Allah Almighty. Therefore, it was nonsensical to complain about an illness and to groan by saying, "Aargh! Ow!" as if opposing qadar.

Hz. Asma was conscious of these facts. She welcomed illnesses with patience and reliance in Allah. Once, she had a terrible headache. She put her hand on her head and prayed as follows relying on Allah:

“My head aches a lot but the sins that I hope Allah will forgive are more.”

This great woman of Islam was also known for her austerity. She would always be content with what she had, thank for it and would not want more. He husband, Hz. Zubayr, was a poor person. When he got married, he had nothing but a horse. Hz. Asma did her best to help her husband to meet their needs. She would carry dates on her head from a distant date tree that the Messenger of Allah had given her from war booty. She did housework, ground the date seeds to make animal food from them and carried water from distant places. When Hz. Abu Bakr saw that his daughter got really tired, he sent her a servant. Asma became very happy and expressed her gratitude as follows: “My father pleased me so much by sending the servant that I felt as if I was freed from slavery.”

Hz. Asma paid attention to thriftiness; she avoided unnecessary spending. For, thriftiness was ordered by Allah and it formed the basis of the peace in the family.

Asma and Zubayr led a happy life but they sometimes argued. However, they would soon make up. They acted as if nothing had happened between them. Once, they argued about something and could not settle it. Asma went to her father to complain about her husband. Hz. Abu Bakr addressed her in the best way and gave her the following glad tiding:

“My daughter! Be patient. If a woman has a good husband and dies and if the woman does not marry anybody else after him, Allah will bring them together in Paradise.”[4]

Asma was both a good wife and mother. She had 8 children (5 boys, 3 girls) out of her marriage with Hz. Zubayr. She brought up her children and educated them in the best way. She brought up great Companions like Abdullah bin Zubayr and Tabiun like Urwa bin Zubayr, who served as models for Muslims and who were ready to sacrifice their lives in the way of Allah.

The worst pain for a mother is definitely to see her child die especially if the child has become a young person. In that case, the pain would double and life would be unbearable. However, it was like that for a mother who did not believe in Allah and qadar or who had a weak belief. Would a mother who believed in qadar truly and accepted everything that came from Allah whether good or bad do like that? We see the best example of it in Hz. Asma's life that it is not so. She encouraged her son, Abdullah, who saw the Messenger of Allah and listened to his talk to die in the way of Allah; when she heard that he was martyred by being killed in a terrible way, she showed great patience. There is a great example and lesson in her act and surrendering for today's mothers. The incident took place as follows:

Hz. Abdullah was chosen as the caliph in Makkah after the death of Yazid when many Muslims paid allegiance to him. The Muslims of Hejaz, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt and Khorasan found him appropriate for the caliphate and paid allegiance to him.  Hz. Abdullah ruled Makkah for a few years with justice. However, Abdulmalik bin Marwan, who got hold of the Umayyad government, sent Hajjaj, who was known as "Zalim" (Cruel, Oppressor), against Abdullah in the 72nd year of the Migration. Hajjaj established a big catapult on Mount Abu Qubays and threw stones at the Kaaba.  Against this unjust and merciless act of Hajjaj's, Hz. Abdullah defended the Kaaba heroically. However, many of his men joined Hajjaj by believing his promises. Thereupon, Hz. Abdullah went to his mother, who was 99 years old then, to consult her. He said, “Mum! I have very few men and weapons left. It is very difficult for me to resist. The enemy promises to give me as much money as I want. What is your advice?”

Hz. Asma believed that her son was right and that his aim was not to obtain worldly possessions. Therefore, she asked him not to give up his right cause even if he faced death. She gave him the following advice:

“O my son! If you think that you are right and that you are standing up for the Truth, then persevere and fight on as your companions were killed in this way. Think of your friends who were martyred. Do not be Banu Umayyad's plaything. If you desire the world, it means you are a miserable wretch. In that case, you will have destroyed yourself and your men. If you say, 'I am on the right path. My friends have become loose and I have become loose', it does not fit chivalrous people. How long more you will live in this world?

“O my son! The best cover for you is death. I swear by Allah that a sword blow received in honor is better than living in humility and being whipped. Never accept humiliation because of fear of death in my opinion. I hope I will show patience about you.”

Hz. Abdullah had the same opinion but he wanted to find out about what his mother's view was. Her words set his mind at rest. He kissed his mother's hand. His mother kissed him on the forehead and sent him. Then, she opened her hands and prayed to Allah as follows: “O Allah! Have mercy on this noble slave of yours! Do not leave him hungry and thirsty in Madinah and Makkah streets. Grant him Your bounties in return for his righteousness to his mother. O Allah! I surrendered my son to Your order. I show consent to Your qadar. Elevate me to the rank of those who are patient and grateful in return for the misfortunes to hit him.” There was nothing else to do but to wait for the outcome.

Hz. Abdullah, who fought heroically, was martyred in the end. When Hz. Asma was given this news, she was looking for a memento from the Messenger of Allah. She listened to the news of her son's death calmly. When she found the memento she was looking for, it consoled her.

Asma had to show more patience because Hajjaj did not find it enough to martyr Abdullah; he had Abdullah's dead body hung. Then, he stood opposite this martyr, insulted him and cut his head off. Then, he sent the head to Damascus. They swore that they would not put his dead body down unless his mother came and apologized. It was very difficult for a mother to see her son's dead body hanging on the gallows. However, Hz. Asma showed patience and did not find it appropriate to apply to those cruel people and ask them about it.

Once, while she was passing by her son's dead body, she said, “Will this orator not come down from the chair yet?” They found this sentence enough and brought him down from the gallows. Then, they buried him.

Hajjaj sent some people to call Hz. Asma many times but Hz. Asma did not go to him. Finally, Hajjaj came to her house. He said to her mockingly, “How did you find what I did to the enemy of Allah (Abdullah)?” Hz. Asma was Hz. Abu Bakr's daughter and Hz. Zubayr’s wife. She would not keep silent in front of this oppressor. She gave the following answer bravely:

“You destroyed my son's world but he destroyed your hereafter.”

This time, Hajjaj said insolently, “Forget about this munafiq!” Hz. Asma did not keep silent. She said, “I swear by Allah that he was not a munafiq. He performed fasting a lot. He performed prayers at night a lot. He fulfilled his duties of worshipping and visited his relatives.” Hajjaj got very angry and shouted,“Get out!” Acting upon the courage she took from her belief, Hz. Asma said, “The Messenger of Allah said, ‘A liar and a destroyer will come out from the tribe of ath-Thaqif.' We saw that the liar was Mukhtar ath-Thaqafi. The destroyer can be nobody but you.”

One of the hadiths narrated by Asma is as follows: “Paradise approached me so much that if dared I would bring one of its clusters you. Hellfire approached me so much that I started to say, ‘O Lord! I am among them. I saw a woman whom a cat kept scratching. I said, ‘What is the matter?’ They said, ‘This woman imprisoned this cat until it died. She did not give it anything to eat; nor did she leave it free to find its own food.’”[5]

After her son was martyred, Hz. Asma got weaker. She died in the 73rd year of the Migration when she was 100 years old.

May Allah be pleased with her!


[1] Tabaqat, 8: 252.
[2] Abu Dawud, Libas: 32.
[3] Musnad, 60: 352.
[4] Tabaqat, 8: 251.
[5] Ibn Majah, Iqamatu’s-Salat: 152.

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