The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“You will be bestowed two waist collars in exchange of one.”
She was related to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) it by his marriage to her sister ‘A’ishah, her father, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, was the close Companion and trusted friend of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Her grandmother was Umm Al-Khayr Salma bint Sakhr her father’s sisters were such eminent women Companions as Fardah, Qaribah and Umm ‘Amer. Her paternal grandfather was Abu Quhafah. Her husband, Zubayr bin ‘Awam was a Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Her son, ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr, was another eminent Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Her life is worthy of study, coming as she did from a background where each and every member of the family was a trusted confidant and Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Asma’ was born twenty-seven years before the migration of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to Al-Madinah. Her mother’s name was Qatilah bint ‘Uza and her father, Abu Bakr, married her before the advent of Islam; Asma’ was born when he was only twenty-one years old. Asma’ and ‘Abdullah were born of this marriage. For a long time her mother did not accept Islam; finally after the conquest of Makkah she pledged allegiance to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Asma’ entered the fold of Islam because of the influence and teachings of her father.
Piety, farsightedness, intelligence, courage and integrity and generosity – all the qualities praised by Islam could be found in this one person. When her father and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) took refuge in the cave of Thawr after leaving Makkah to migrate to Al-Madinah, it was she who went far in to the wilderness to deliver fresh food to them. As soon as they left on their journey, Abu Jahl came to the house of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq looking for them, breathing fire and fury. He asked her where her father was. She answered that she did not know. He gave proof of his barbaric nature by slapping her hard; but so as not to betray her secret she faced him with steadfastness, courage and tolerance.
Asma’ came to be known by the title Dthat An-Nitaqayn. There is an interesting little episode about how she got this name. In Arabic the belt, or girdle worn by women around the waist is called a Nitaq. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and Abu Bakr As-Siddiq prepared to set off for Al-Madinah, Asma’ packed the eatables into a leather bag, but there was no rope with which she could tie up the mouth of the bag. So she divided her girdle into two and used one part to tie up the leather bag. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) blessed her and said that in place of this one girdle that she sacrificed, she would get two in Paradise. So, he implied that she would go to Paradise. In this manner the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave the news of a glorious Hereafter to his faithful Companions.
After her father and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) left, Asma’ was left with her blind and aged grandfather, Abu Quhafah. When he realized that his son had migrated he was sad. Then he was worried whether he had left any cash for expenses. She narrated that they had about four or five thousand Dinars in the house and her father had taken it all for the expenses of the journey. But she comforted the old man saying there was plenty in the house, and nothing was lacking. In order to convince him she collected some pebbles that were of the size of Dinars; these she put in a pot and spread a cloth over them. Then she guided his old hands over the cloth; Abu Quhafah was very pleased that his son had not neglected them. Asma’ had done this for the old man’s peace of mind; but in truth Abu Bakr As-Siddiq with a strong faith in Allah, had taken his all to spend in the way of Allah and His Messenger.
Her husband, Zubayr bin ‘Awam, the Prophet’s friend and Companion was the son of Safiyyah bint ‘Abdul Muttalib. When He migrated to Al-Madinah, he owned a house in which he lived, a sword and 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 (peace and blessings be upon him) 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. Asma was a loyal wife and anything that displeased her husband would make her sad, so she refused the offer and preferred to walk. When she told her husband about it, he said she should have got on to the camel, it would have been less shameful than walking with a bundle of hay.
When Asma’ was migrating to Al-Madinah, near the valley of Quba she went into labor, 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. The disbelievers were very happy at this situation and they used to gossip among themselves that now the Muslims would be rooted out. All the Muslims were excited, as was the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He picked up the baby in his arms and congratulated the family. Then he bit off a little piece of a date, softened it in his mouth and gave it to the baby. This was an honor that made the family feel very proud.
When ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr grew up he was learning, understanding and courage personified. 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 and tried to set up his own caliphate; he succeeded in winning the support of most people since they acknowledged him to be a powerful, 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 As-Siddiq 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. Sighing, she asked, if the time had not yet come for her son to get down from his horse. She faced this great torture with characteristic strength and fortitude.
When Hajjaj saw the mother standing near the son’s body he sent a messenger to bring her to him. She answered with scornful hatred that she would not go to see her son’s murderer. When Hajjaj bin Yusuf got the message, he was filled with rage and told the messenger to go and tell her that if she did not come by herself, she would be dragged into his presence by her hair. Just as she had stood before Abu Jahl all those years before, she answered him with supreme indifference that she would not go to see the despicable ignoble man; this was her final decision, and he could do anything he wished. When Hajjaj saw his threats were ineffective he went to see her. He asked her if she had seen what he had made of her son. She replied that he had ruined her son’s life in this world, but her son had ruined him for eternity. She added that she had heard the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saying that a man would appear from the tribe of Banu Thaqif who would be a liar and a cruel and ignoble barbarian. Today she had seen him for herself. Hajjaj bin Yusuf left silently.
One day when she went to the Haram (sanctuary) in Makkah, she heard Hajjaj bin Yusuf addressing the gathering from the pulpit. Even in her extreme old age she had not lost her spirit; boldly she went and stood next to him. When he saw her he said her son had spread disbelief and atheism in the House of Allah and so He gave him a terrible punishment. Asma’ promptly answered that her son was never an atheist; he was a pious, learned man who always prayed to Allah, worked for the welfare of the Muslim Ummah and was a standard bearer of integrity and honesty. You, on the other hand, are known to be a liar, a hypocrite and a treacherous man. He should fear the wrath of Allah, for it hit man when he was least expecting it to strike. Hajjaj, pretending he had not heard her, continued his speech; and then in a thundering voice he asked the people to rise up and get ready for prayers. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar was present and he said in a loud voice,
“O Hajjaj! If I call you a hypocrite and a liar it will not be contrary to facts. I swear by the Majesty and the Wrath of Allah that ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr, never took any step in his whole life that went contrary to the injunctions of Allah. I now testify in public that ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr, was a God fearing man who fasted and prayed at nights. He always knew what was right and stood by it.
Then he went to the body of ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr that was still hanging there and in a grief-stricken trembling voice said,
“Peace be upon you O Abu Khubaib, Peace be upon Abu Khubaib.”
Khubaib was the family name of ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr. Then looking at the body he warned ‘Abdullah not to get involved in a struggle for power. The most respected people often lost their prestige struggling for power. Then he prayed to Allah to grant him a place in His Merciful Paradise
After a few days Hajjaj threw the body into the graveyard on the instructions of ‘Abdul Malik bin Marwan. When Asma’ heard this news she sent for the body, had it bathed and had the congregational prayer for the dead conducted. Finally, she buried her beloved son’s body.
Hajjaj bin Yusuf received a message from the court of Syria saying that he should personally visit Asma’ and ask her if there was any request or if she needed anything. The government would be happy to oblige her. Hajjaj went to her house to pass on the message of the governor of ‘Abdul Malik bin Marwan. Asma’ flew into a terrible rage; she told him in a thundering voice that she did not need anything and shouted at him to get out of her house; she kicked his offer in his face. She asked if the shameless scoundrel had come to prick her wounds. She said he was a burden on this earth, and she considered him an unfortunate and impious man.
Asma’ would pray with full concentration. 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.” [Noble Quean 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 still found her still lost in prayer.
Asma’ had a very sharp memory. If she heard anything even once she would never forget it. Like ‘A’ishah, Umm Salamah and Asma’ bint Yazid bin as-Sakan al-Ansariyyah, she also has many Hadiths attributed to her. Many Companions and successors would come to her for guidance and verification of Hadiths. ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr, ‘Urwah bin Az-Zubayr, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas, Fatimah bint Munthir bin Zubayr and ‘Abdullah bin Kisan are some of the noteworthy ones.
Asma’ bint Abu Bakr As-Siddiq died in the year 73, after Hijrah. She was almost a hundred years old, but even at that age she had a full set of teeth and a sharp memory.
“Allah will be pleased with them and they with Him.” [Noble Quran 98:8]