One Woman’s Legacy
From Inspire Magazine
The Story of Asmaa bint Abu Bakr
BY MOHAMED BASSYOUNI
Along with Ayesha and Abdullah, Asmaa was born to Abu Bakr, the closest friend of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). She played a very crucial role in the early period of the Prophet’ s (pbuh) message in Makkah. After migrating to Madinah, she continued to be a beacon of Islam, raising her sons to be the future famous personalities of Islam.
She was raised in one of the most distinguished families of Makkah, Abu Bakr being her father. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said regarding him: “The most supportive of people towards me, in company and wealth is Abu Bakr, and if I were to take a close companion other than my lord, I would take Abu Bakr as my close companion, but we are brothers in Islam “ The Prophet (pbuh) started his message when Asmaa was only 14 years old. When Abu Bakr embraced Islam, Asmaa asked him about his new faith, and after he explained it to her, she immediately became the 18th person to convert to Islam. Asmaa would later marry Az-Zubayr bin Al-Awwam, an impeccable muslim youth from a distinguished family, another beacon of Islam. From her acceptance of Islam, Asmaa had immediately dedicated her life to God and his messenger.
During the secret migration of the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr to Madinah, Asmaa was responsible for taking food supplies to them during their stay in Ghar Thawr ( The Cave of Thawr). Being unable to tie the food and water to their camel, she tore her waistband into two parts, and tied the food and water with each piece. At seeing this, the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“May Allah give you two waistbands in Paradise in the place of your current ones !”. Thus, Asmaa was given the nickname “That-an-Nitaqayn” (The one with the two waistbands ).
When Asmaa eventually migrated to Madinah, she was pregnant with her first child. His name was chosen by none other than the Prophet (pbuh) himself. He would grow up to be another famous personality in early Islam. She would later give birth to Urwah, Al-Mundhir, Asim and Al-Muhajir. All were great leaders of Islam.
Asmaa’s most important characteristic was her personality and her strict following of God’s commandments. She had to deal with hardships at a very young age. Abu Bakr had given all his wealth to support the Prophet (pbuh) and his message. When asked by the Prophet (pbuh) what he had left for his family, Abu Bakr replied “Allah and his messenger”. When Asmaa’s Grandfather, Abu Quhafah (who was a Pagan at the time) asked if Abu Bakr had taken all his children’s wealth and left them with nothing, she said “No grandfather, he’s left us a lot of money”. She put some stones in a cloth, then she let him touch them, and being blind, he believed that there was a lot of money in the cloth.
A similar situation developed when her mother, Qutaylah came to Madinah to give her some gifts. At first, Asmaa wouldn’t let her come into her house, or accept the gifts, but after asking the Prophet (pbuh), she was told to let her in, and accept the gifts, and the following verses were revealed in the Quran:
“God forbids you not, with regard to those who do not fight you because of your faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them. God loves those who are just. God only forbids you with regard to those who fight you for your Faith, and drive you from your homes, and support others in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances) that do wrong.” (60: 8-9).
Asmaa and Az-Zubayr would have to work hard in Madinah, to improve their impoverished situation. This would strengthen their character, and Az-Zubayr would later become one of the richest Companions in Madinah. However, Asmaa would never let this corrupt her principles. She would refuse extravagant gifts from her son, Al-Mundhir, from Iraq until they met her conditions.
Perhaps one of the most critical moments in Islamic history shows her bravery and dedication to the truth more than any other event. After the death of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah, the areas of Hijaz, Egypt, Iraq, Khurasan and much of Syria wanted Abdullah to be the Caliph. However, the Ummayyads were agains this, so they sent a huge army under the command of Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ath-Thaqafi to subdue Abdullah and his supporters. Slowly, Abdullah’s supporters began to desert him until he sought refuge in the sanctuary of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah. Abdullah went to his mother Asmaa, now a blind old woman, to seek her advice. After she returned his greeting, she said: “What is it that brings you here at this hour while boulders from Hajjaj’s catapults are raining down on your soldiers in the Haram (Sacred Sanctuary) and shaking the houses of Makkah?” He replied that he came to seek her advice. She immediately told him to do what he felt was the truth, no matter what the consequences were. Abdullah took her advice, and was martyred shortly after, when he continued fighting the enemy army.
Asmaa was a beacon of dedication, strength and passion. Her legacy lives on even today, setting a precedence for both Muslim women and men.