April 24, 2014

Exceptional Umms: Asma' Bint Abu Bakr

This post was compiled from multiple hadith found in Sahih Bukhari and the book Great Women of Islam, written by Mahmood Ahmad Ghadanfar.

Qualities That Made Her Great
Courage, Piety, Patience, Sacrifice

Her Family
She was the sister of ‘Aishah bint Abu Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. Her father Abu Bakr, her husband Az-Zubayr, and her son, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr were all famous companions of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. After her parents accepted Islam, Asma’ and her siblings were raised in an atmosphere of Islamic faith and practice.

The Woman of Two Waist Belts
When the time came for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, to migrate from Mecca to Medina, a plan was devised for him to migrate in secret with his great and loyal companion Abu Bakr as-Siddique. Though she was just a young girl at the time, it was the courageous Asma’ who gathered food and water for the great journey her father and The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, were about to make. 

In Sahih Bukhari, Asma’ related:I prepared the journey food for the Prophet and Abu Bakr when they wanted to migrate to Medina. I said to my father (Abu Bakr), "I do not have anything to tie the container of the journey food with except my waist belt." He said, "Divide it lengthwise into two." I did so, and for this reason I was named 'Dhat-un-Nitaqain' (i.e. the owner of two belts)”

In another narration, Aisha said about this time: “…One day, while we were sitting in Abu Bakr's house, someone said to Abu Bakr, "This is Allah's Apostle with his head covered coming at a time at which he never used to visit us before." Abu Bakr said, "May my parents be sacrificed for him. By Allah, he has not come at this hour except for a great necessity." So Allah's Apostle came and asked permission to enter, and he was allowed to enter. When he entered, he said to Abu Bakr. "Tell everyone who is present with you to go away." Abu Bakr replied, "There are none but your family. May my father be sacrificed for you, O Allah's Apostle!" The Prophet said, "I have been given permission to migrate." Abu Bakr said, "Shall I accompany you? May my father be sacrificed for you, O Allah's Apostle!" Allah's Apostle said, "Yes." Abu Bakr said, "O Allah's Apostle! May my father be sacrificed for you, take one of these two she-camels of mine." Allah's Apostle replied, "I will accept it with payment." So we prepared the baggage quickly and put some journey food in a leather bag for them. Asma’, Abu Bakr's daughter, cut a piece from her waist belt and tied the mouth of the leather bag with it, and for that reason she was named Dhat-un-Nitaqain (i.e. the owner of two belts)…

Her Patience in Poverty
It’s related in the Sahih of Bukhari that when Asma’ was married to Zubayr bin ‘Awam, he was a very pious but poor man.

Asma’ narrated: 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."

Her Generosity
Asma’ bint Abi Bakr was a woman known to give a lot in charity mashaAllah, even if she had nothing left to keep for herself.

Asma’ narrated:Once I said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have no property except what has been given to me by Az-Zubayr (i.e. her husband). May I give it in charity?" The Prophet said, "Give in charity and do not withhold it; otherwise Allah will withhold it back from you." –Sahih Bukhari

The Birth of Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr
Asma’ and her husband conceived in Mecca and when it came time for them to migrate across the desert to Medina, Asma’s pregnancy was already full term. It was during her travels that she went into labor as they reached the valley of Quba and it was there that she gave birth to her son, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr, the first Muslim child to be born amongst the muhajireen, mashaAllah.

Asma’ relates her story in Sahih Bukhari:I migrated to Medina while I was at full term of pregnancy and alighted at Quba where I gave birth to him. Then I brought him to the Prophet and put him in his lap. The Prophet asked for a date, chewed it, and put some of its juice in the child's mouth. So, the first thing that entered the child's stomach was the saliva of Allah's Apostle. Then the Prophet rubbed the child's palate with a date and invoked for Allah's Blessings on him, and he was the first child born amongst the Emigrants in the Islamic Land (i.e. Medina).”

The Great Advice to Her Son
Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr grew to become a great man and a noble companion, known for his fortitude and accomplishments on the battlefield. Towards the end of his life, the Muslims were split over who should take khalifa. Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr refused to accept the caliphate of Bani Umayyah and rose his own army in Mecca to fight against Hajjaj. But the army of Hajjaj surrounded Mecca, refused to allow food to enter, and laid siege to the city with catapults, greatly weakening and eventually defeating ibn Az-Zubayr’s army.
As Hajjaj’s forces entered into Mecca, they gave Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr three choices: (1) be taken into custody and delivered to the khalifa in Damascus; (2) leave Mecca and surrender all the lands that he had overcome such as Egypt, Iraq and Yemen; and (3) try to continue fighting.

At this critical time, Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr decided to seek advice from none other than his mother, Asma’ bint Abu Bakr, who at this time was over 100 years old mashaAllah.

Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr said to his mother: So the people have left me by myself, even my own son. No one is with me except a handful of people, all I have is an hour of patience and then death and if I were to do what the people want me to do then I will be free.”

And Asma’ replied to her son: You know better in your own self that if you are upon the truth and you are calling towards the truth, then go forth for people more honorable than you were killed and have been killed. And if you are not upon the truth, then what an evil son you are, you have destroyed yourself and those who are with you. If you say what you say, that you are upon the truth and you will be killed at the hands of others then you will not truly be free, for this is not the statement of someone who is free. How long will you live in this world? Death is more beloved to me than this state you are in, this state of weakness.”

Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr replied to his mother’s honest words: “I am afraid I will be mutilated by the people of Sham, I am afraid they will cut up my body after they have killed me.” And Asma’ replied: “After someone has died, it won’t make any difference what they do to you if you have been killed.”

Ibn Az-Zubayr continued: “I did not come to you except to increase myself in knowledge. Look and pay attention to this day for verily I am a dead man, your son never drank wine, nor was he a fornicator, nor did he wrong any Muslim or Kaafir, nor was he unjust, I am not saying this to you to show off or show how pure I am but rather as an honor to you.”

After their final conversation, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr rode out and was killed by the army of Hajjaj.

Courage in the Face of Injustice
After her son was killed, Al-Hajjaj refused him a proper burial and left his body for public display instead. He refused anyone permission to remove the body and informed Asma’ that if she wanted to have the body taken down, she would have to come in person and request his permission first. Asma’ refused to succumb to such a request.

After some time passed and Asma’ would not come, Hajjaj went to visit her himself and asked: “What do you say about this matter?” 

Asma’ replied: “Verily you have destroyed him, you have ruined his life and with that you have ruined your hereafter.”

After a few days, Hajjaj took down the body of her son and Asma’ retrieved it, washed it, and gathered the people to perform the congregational prayer at his burial.

Her Death

When Asma’ bint Abu Bakr died, she was over 100 years old, and still had a full set of teeth, mashaAllah. May Allah reward her and have mercy on her. 

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