Asma’ Bint Abu Bakr was the daughter of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. She was the elder sister of ‘Aisha, the mother of the believers. She was the wife of the great companion az-Zubair Ibn al-`Awâm and the mother of `Abdullah Ibn az-Zubair. She accepted Islam very early in Mecca. She gave pledge to the Prophet (pbuh) and firmly believed in him.
Her Noble situations during Hijrah
Asmâ’ was called Zât an-Nitâqayn (the possessor of the two scarves) because she split her scarf into two parts in order to deliver food and water to the Prophet (pbuh) and her father, Abu Bakr in the Thawr cave when immigrating to Medina. When the Prophet (pbuh) set out for Medina accompanied by Asmâ’s father, the latter took all what he had of property and left nothing to his family. Then Abu Quhafa, Asmâ’s grandfather came to her and said, “This man (Abu Bakr) put you in adversity. He deprived you of himself and property.” Asma’ bravely replied, “No, He left so much to us.” She covered some stones and brought them to her blind grand father and said, “This is what he left.” Thereby, the old man said, “There is no blame if left that.”
Abu Bakr was the only one accompanied the Prophet during Hijrah. They concealed themselves in the cave of Thawr three miles from Makka, for three nights, with the enemy prowling around in great numbers in fruitless search of them. Asmâ’, the daughter of Abu Bakr provided them with food and water during their stay there.
Abu Jahl came furious and enraged with anger to enforce Asma’ to tell him the hidden place of her father. But she kept silent and faced him bravely. Failing to make her confess, he slapped her so violently that her necklace fell down. Then he had nothing to do but to leave enraged with anger. Asmâ’ soon joined the Muslim community at Medina. No sooner did she arrive there than she gave birth to her son, Abdullah, the first newborn Muslim in Medina.
An Example of Good Wife
At the beginning of her marital life she was so poor that she had to serve her husband, Az-Zubair ibn al-Awwam, bake the bread, clean the home and feed the horse.
Narrated Asmâ’ bint Abu Bakr:
When Az-zubair married me, he had not real property or anything else except a camel, which drew water from the well, and his horse. I used to feed his horse with fodder and drew water and sew the bucket for drawing it, and prepare the dough, but I did not know how to bake bread. So our ansari neighbouress used to bake bread for me, and they were honorable ladies. I used to carry the date stones on my head from Zubair’s land to him by Allah’s Messenger and this land was two third Farsakh (About two miles) from my house. One day, while I was coming with the date stones on my head, I met Allah’s Messenger along with some Ansari people. He called me and then, (directing his camel to kneel down) said, “Ikh! Ikh!” so as to make me ride behind him (on his camel). I felt shy to travel with the men and remembered Az- Zubair and his sense of Ghira (being jealous), for he had the greatest sense of Ghira of all the people. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) noticed that I felt shy, so he proceeded. I came to Az-Zubair and said, “I met Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) while I was carrying a load of date stones on my, and he had some companions with him. He made his camel kneel down so that I might ride, but I felt shy in his presence and remembered your sense of Ghira. On that Az-Zubair said, “By Allah, your carrying the date-stones (and you being seen by the Prophet (pbuh) in such a state) is more shameful to me than your riding with him. (i.e. You should have obeyed the Prophet).'” (I continued serving in this way) untill Abu Bakr sent me a servant to look after the horse, whereupon I felt as if he had set me free.”
Later on Za-Zubayr became a wealthy man. His property was sold after his death for about forty million dirhams. She was so generous that when felling ill she would wait until she recovered and then free her slaves.
Her Bravery & Patience
She took part in the battle of Yarmuk and fought bravely. She also kept a dagger to defend herself when thieves appeared in Medina at the time of Sa’id Ibn Al-‘As.
As for her fortitude, it can be represented in her words to her son, ‘Abdullah when consulting her about Al-Hajjaj siege to Mecca. She was a hundred years old and was blind by then. ‘Abdullah addressed her saying, “O mother, the people abandoned me; only a few of them who still support me. However, they could no longer fight than an hour on my part.” The other party offers to give me whatever I ask of worldly benefits. What do you see, mother? She replied, “You know yourself best. If you realized that you are right and calling for the truth, you would better go on. It is the issue for which your fellows passed away. Do not surrender your neck to Banu Umayyah to play it. But if you just wanted a worldly benefit you would be the worst man who demolished himself and his fellows.’ Abdullah said, “By Allah, this is also my opinion, mother.” But I fear to surfer crucifixion after death.” She replied, “Skinning a slaughtered goat does not bring it pain.” Off you go and seek Allah’s help.”
When approaching to embrace him she found him wearing a shield. She said; “This is not the behavior of whoever wants what you want!” Therefore, he took off his shield and went forward to fight. He kept fighting until he was killed. Al-Hajjaj issued a command to have him crucified. Then he came to Asmâ’ and said, “O mother, the leader of the believer commended me to treat you well. Do you want any thing? She replied, “I am not your mother. I am only the mother of this crucified man.” Then she said, I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) as saying, “There will be in Thaqeef a liar and a destroyer.” We knew the liar and there still you the destroyer. In another version when Al-Hajjaj came to Asmâ’ he said, “How did I punish your son, Asmâ’!?” She replied quietly, “You spoiled his life but he spoiled your next.”
She (May Allah be pleased with her) died in Mecca shortly after the death of her son, ‘Abdullah. May Allah have mercy on her.
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We often are introduced to the people around the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) through his life and perspective. While there is good reason for this, it can also be of great benefit to learn about the companions of the Messenger as individuals. They were the people who Allah (SWT) calls in the Quran, “[…] the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind.” (Qur’an 3:110)
It can be especially important to look to the lives of the honorable and honored wives of the Prophet (PBUH) to understand that they too were human beings who lived, ate, laughed and struggled to please Allah (SWT). After the Prophet, can there be a better example for us than the mothers of the believers who were all promised paradise?
Continuing in our journey to find out if our mothers were funny, sensitive, outgoing, introspective, self-doubting, or fearless, we take a look at Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her).
Among the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wives, Aisha was the youngest. As she grew older, she became a scholar, a stateswoman, and a resource to all Muslims even to this day.
Aisha was very intelligent
Aisha (RA) was a very bright young girl, who grew into one of the foremost scholars of Islam.
At the time of her death, she was an expert in interpretation of the Quran, commentary of the Quran, hadith, and jurisprudence. Her rulings could fill volumes of books. In fact, “much of the Book of Tafsir in Sahih Muslim contains narrations from her.” [i]
She was not shy about her quick wit even as a child. While visiting Abu Bakr’s home, The Prophet (PBUH) “saw [Aisha] playing with a winged horse; she was barely five years old at the time. He asked her what it was; she replied it was a horse. He smiled and answered that horses did not have wings! She promptly retorted that the Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) had winged horses!”. ¹ In this instance, Aisha demonstrated her budding knowledge and willingness to convey it no matter who the audience was.
The Prophet himself (PBUH) was often heard laughing in surprise at her quick and cutting wit.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was blessed with an astounding memory and never forgot something once she heard it. She is said to have narrated 2210 ahadith (plural for hadith- narrations of the Prophet’s life and sayings) in her lifetime. As such she was one of the most prolific muhadditha (hadith narrator). ¹
All who knew her respected her great intellect. Abu Musa al-Ashari (may Allah be pleased with him), a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) once said: “If we companions of the Messenger of God had any difficulty on a matter, we asked Aisha about it.”[ii]
Aisha was hot-blooded
Along with being highly intelligent, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was a passionate person whose emotions ran hot and cold. She could not help but be prone to jealousy. She loved her husband (PBUH) so much that she did not like it when he spoke highly of other women.
“I was not, jealous of any other wife of the Prophet as I was jealous of Khadijah, because of his constant mentioning of her and because God had commanded him to give her good tidings of a mansion in Paradise of precious stones. And whenever he sacrificed a sheep he would send a fair portion of it to those who had been her intimate friends. Many a time I said to him: ‘It is as if there had never been any other woman in the world except Khadijah’”. [iii]
But Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) never let her jealousy leave her heart. She never acted on it and was, despite her emotions, very generous and trusting.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was easily angered and just as easily forgave. Despite her deep attachment to her nephew ‘Abdullah bin Zubair, she became very angry with him when she heard that he thought that her generosity needed to be suppressed. She “swore she would never to talk to him. She asked who on earth thought that he could stop her from spending in the way of Allah (SWT). She asked how he could even dare to say such a thing. And finally, when she calmed down and made up with him, she freed several slaves as penance for breaking her oath.” ¹
Aisha liked to have fun
Early in her marriage to the Prophet (PBUH), Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) would have her friends over to have fun, play, sing, and enjoy each other’s company. She and the Messenger (PBUH) often had running matches to see who was faster. In her youth, she regularly bested him with her speed. [iv]
Aisha’s fun loving personality was not limited to her own play, but extended to watching others play sports. One Eid (celebration), some Abyssinians were enjoying the day by displaying their skill with spears. Aisha was eager to watch. She said, “I remember the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) standing at the door of my room, screening me with his cloak, so that I could see the sport of the Abyssinians as they played with their spears in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).” [v]
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) and the Prophet (PBUH) would often spend time entertaining themselves by sharing tales. During one of these story swaps, “The Prophet told her the story of a man called Kharafah whom the Jinn had taken away. [And then] Aisha narrated a detailed story about eleven ladies who were friends and how each of them described her husband.” ¹
Aisha was influential
After the messenger passed, because of her great knowledge, the ummah looked to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) for answers. And she even set many an inauthentic record straight. On the occasion that someone mentioned an inauthentic and derogatory hadith about women invalidating the prayer if they walked in front of a man praying, Aisha refuted them by saying, “You equate us [women] with dogs and donkeys! The Prophet would pray while I lay before him on the bed [between him and the qibla, the direction of the Ka’aba in Mecca, which Muslims face when they pray].”[vi] Never backing down in the face of ignorance and misogyny, she changed many men’s minds about women’s worth and capability.
Arwa Bin Zubair, a Muslim historian who was born directly after the death of the Prophet (PBUH), said, “I did not find anyone more proficient [than Aisha] in the knowledge of the Holy Qur’an, the commandments of halal (lawful) and haram (prohibited), Ilmul-Ansab and Arabic poetry. That is why, even senior companions of the Prophet used to consult Aisha in resolving intricate issues”. [vii]
These are just a few of Aisha’s personality traits. She was a lively woman who stood for truth and justice. She was a fountain of knowledge to all who met her and remains so to those of us learning the religion today. Aisha is a phenomenal role model for women today and an excellent example to those who wish to use their vibrant personalities to better the ummah.
[i] Ghadanfar, Mahmood Ahmad. Great Women of Islam: Who Were given the Good News of Paradise. Riyadh U.a.: Darussalam, 2001.
[ii] Sirat-I-Aisha, on the authority of Trimidhi
[iv] Ibn Al Jawzi, 68
[v] Ibn Kahtir Wives of the Prophet Muhammad(SAW)
[vi] Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. Yale University Press. 1992.
[vii] Ibn Qayyim and Ibn Sa’ad, Jala-ul-Afham, vol. 2
First published: October 2016