History of Islam

Asma' was a woman of great nobility, wisdom and patience. She was among the early converts to Makkah and being the daughter of the great Companion Abu Bakr, she was brought up in an atmosphere of purity and devotion and shared close ties with the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

When the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was about to secretly leave Makkah for his emigration to Madinah with his close friend Abu Bakr, it was Asma' who prepared the provisions for the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam and her father. She said: "I prepared the provision bag for the Prophet in the house of Abu Bakr when he wanted to emigrate to Madinah. We did not find anything with which to tie his bag or waterskin. I said to Abu Bakr, 'By Allah, I cannot find anything to tie with except my belt.' He said, 'Tear it in two and tie the waterskin with one and the bag with the other.' " So that is what she did and since then she became know as Dhatun-Nitaqayn [she of the two belts]. [Collected in Sahih al-Bukhari (eng. trans.) vol. 4, p. 141, no. 222]

Asma' was married to Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, the cousin of the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. He was a very poor man, nevertheless Abu Bakr knew him to be a man of great piety, so despite the huge difference between their financial status, Abu Bakr married his daughter to him. In the initial stages of her marriage, Asma' has to face a lot of hardship due to the extreme poverty they suffered. Suddenly, this daughter of a rich merchant found herself tending to the animals, kneading, grinding, fetching water and carrying huge loads on her head. She said about her situation, "When az-Zubayr married me, he had neither land, nor wealth, nor slave, nor anything else like it, except a camel to get water and his horse. I used to graze his horse, provide fodder for it, look after it and ground dates for his camel. Besides this, I grazed the camel, made arrangements for providing it with water and patching up his leather bucket and kneading the flour. I was not very good at baking the bread, so my female neighbors used to bake bread for me and they were sincere women. And I used to carry on my head, the date-stones from the land of az-Zubayr which the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam had endowed him and it was a distance of two miles from Madinah. One day, as I was carrying the date-stones upon my head, I happened to meet Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, along with a group of his Companions. He called me and told the camel to sit down so that he could make me ride behind him. I felt shy to go with men and I remembered az-Zubayr and his ghirah (ghirah is the sense of pride that a man has which causes him to dislike his wives, daughters or sisters from being seen or heard by strangers - it is this ghirah which makes a man protective about his women) and he was a man having the most ghirah. The Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam understood my shyness and left. I came to az-Zubayr and said, 'The Messenger of Allah met me as I was carrying date-stones upon my head and there was with him a group of his Companions. He told the camel to kneel so that I could mount it but I felt shy from him and I remembered your ghirah.' Upon this az-Zubayr said, 'By Allah, the thought of you carrying date-stones upon your head is more severe a burden to me than you riding with him.' I led this life of hardship until Abu Bakr sent me a female servant who took upon herself the responsibility of looking after the horse and I felt as if she had emancipated me." [Reported in Sahih al-Bukhari (eng. trans.) vol. 7, p. 111, no. 151]

Look at the sense of dignity and modesty of Asma'. See how she felt shy in front of men? See how careful she was about refraining from what displeased her husband? She knew that az-Zubayr had a lot of ghirah, so she didn't want to upset him by accepting the Prophet's offer of assistance, even though that meant bringing hardship upon herself. And what did az-Zubayr say when he heard of what had happened that day? ... "By Allah, the thought of you carrying date-stones is more severe a burden on me than you riding with him!" so even though az-Zubayr had a lot of ghirah, he did not wish for that to cause inconvenience to his wife. Isn't this what the marital relationship should be like? One of mutual concern, corporation and compassion? Asma' could easily have said, "I am the daughter of the noble Abu Bakr and so I shouldn't be doing these jobs!" But she didn't. She was patient and respectful towards her husband throughout her difficult period.

It is reported that once when she complained to her father about her hardships, he advised her, "My daughter be patient. When a woman has a righteous husband and he dies and she does not remarry after him, they will be reunited in the Garden." [Reported in at-Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'ad]

And az-Zubayr was indeed a righteous man, as the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam himself testified when he counted him among the promised ten of Paradise. [See Musnad Ahmad, Abu Da'wud and others. Authenticated in Sahih al-Jami' (no. 50)] He also said of him, "Az-Zubayr is the son of my paternal aunt and my disciple from my 'Ummah." [Sahih - Narrated by Jabir & collected in Musnad Ahmad. Authenticated by al-Albani in his as-Sahihah (1877)]

In addition to her being the wife of such a righteous man, Asma' was also the mother of 'Urwah ibn az-Zubayr, who became one of the scholars of Madinah. His teachers included his parents as well as him maternal aunt, the Mother of the Believers, 'A'ishah radi'allahu 'anha; from whom he learnt a great deal. 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-'Aziz said about him, "I do not find anyone more knowledgeable than 'Urwah ibn az-Zubayr, and for whatever I know he knows something which I do not." [Reported by adh-Dhahabi in Siyar A'lam an-Nubala']

His son Hisham reports that his father's leg had to be amputated at the knee and was adviced to drink a narcotic, but he refused saying, "I did not think that anyone would drink something which would take away his intellect to the point that he did not know his Lord." So they took off his leg with a saw and he did not say anything but "Ouch, ouch." And in the same journey his son Muhammad was kicked to death by a mule and 'Urwah was not heard to say anything about it but: "'We have suffered much fatigue in this, our journey.' [Al-Qur'an 18:62]. O Allah, I had seven sons and You took one and left me with six, and I had four limbs and You took one and left me with three - so if You have tested me then You have saved me, and if You have taken - You have left (more) behind." [Ibn 'Asakir (11/287)]

Her other son the khalifah of the Muslims, 'Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, who was the leader of the Muslims during one of the most turbulent periods in Islamic history. He was killed in Makkah at the hands of al-Hajjaj on the 17th of Jumadah al-'Ula in 73H. A few days after the death of her son, Asma' bint Abu Bakr - 'She of the two belts' - also died - radi'allahu anha.

(s) 'Ad-Da'wah ilallaah' (The Call to Allah) magazine, (UK) Vol 1, Issue 5.


Be Mindful O Mankind!

He who seeks knowledge of religion, Paradise seeks him, and he who seeks deeds of vice, Hell seeks him.
'Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40H), may Allah be pleased with him