The woman of two girdles – Asma bint Abu Bakr

She was the daughter of Abu Bakr as-Sidiq, half sister of Aisha, through another mother, and mother of Abdullah ibn az-Zubair, who is famous as the one who didn’t give in to corruption and stuck to the truth in the later history of Islam.

She is most likely to have accepted Islam on the hands of her father, and is believed to be among the first twenty who entered the blessed folds of Islam.

She is an excellent example of self dignity and pride. Being the daughter of Abu Bakr, she was married to az-Zubair ibn al-Awwam, a poor man who had literally nothing except for a horse. When Zubair approached her father, her father saw in him a responsible young man and gave his daughter to him.

Asma bint Abu Bakr herself narrates that they were so poor that she had to do every chore herself in her husband’s house. She would serve her husband, bake the bread, which she was not very good at, clean the home as well as feed the horse.

“I used to provide fodder for the horse, give it water and groom it. I would grind grain and make dough but I could not bake well. The women of the Ansaar used to bake for me. They were truly good women. I used to carry the grain on my head from az-Zubayr’s plot which the Prophet (pbuh) had allocated to him to cultivate. It was about three farsakh (about eight kilometers) from the town’s center. One day I was on the road carrying the grain on my head when I met the Prophet (pbuh) and a group of Sahaabah. He called out to me and stopped his camel so that I could ride behind him. I felt embarrassed to travel with the Prophet and also remembered az-Zubayr’s Ghairah, for he had the greatest sense of Ghairah of all people. The Prophet realized that I was embarrassed and rode on.”

Later, when I related to Zubayr exactly what had happened, he said, “By God, that you should have to carry grain is far more distressing to me than your riding with the Prophet (pbuh)”.

This was her early married life full of hardships and difficulties. However, people would use her as an example for a happy marriage. It was because she was content and did not let the worldly hardships ruin her marriage. She was very pleased with her husband who treated her very well, and that was her reason of happiness.

Later Zubayr became among the wealthiest of men in Medina. Even after becoming rich, this pious woman did not let the richness sow the seeds of corruption into her heart. She was more generous than ever. It is said, that as soon as she received something good, she would give it away in charity. Her son Abdullah once said of her,

”I have not seen two women more generous than my aunt Aaisha (ra) and my mother Asmaa (ra). But their generosity was expressed in different ways. My aunt would accumulate one thing after another until she had gathered what she felt was sufficient and then distributed it all to those in need. My mother, on the other hand, would not keep anything even for the morrow.”

Not only was she a woman of pride, but she was also a brave lady who faced two of the tyrants in her lifetime with a face that put them to shame. One was Abu Jahal and the other was Hijjaj ibn Yusuf ath-Thaqafi.

During the Prophet’s migration to Medina, a plan was devised wherein he (pbuh) would travel with his companion Abu Bakr (ra) while Ali (ra) would stay in his home pretending to be him (pbuh) to foil the assassination plot of the enemies. Both the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr (ra) would stay in the cave of Thawr, three miles from Makkah, for three nights. It was during this time that Asma was to provide food and water to them during their stay.

It was at this time, when she had to deliver the food and drink to them, she found she had nothing to deliver the food in, so she tore up her girdle (waistband) and used them as containers. When the Prophet (pbuh) saw that he (pbuh) smilingly said, ”Indeed, Allah has given you, in exchange for this girdle, two girdles in Paradise.” Thereon she was known as the woman of two girdles (Dhat an-Nitaaqayn).

When the enemies of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) realized that the Prophet (pbuh) had escaped, they were furious. Abu Jahal came to Abu Bakr’s house and asked her where her father was. When she said she didn’t know, Abu Jahal slapped her so hard that the necklace she was wearing fell down. But this brave heart didn’t give in to his flaming rage that was evident in his eyes. In the end Abu Jahal had nothing to do but leave.

The other incident took place when her son Abdullah was the Khalifa. Abdullah consulted her about al-Hijjaj’s siege in Makkah. She was a hundred years old then, however completely in her mind. Her age had not made her senile or weak in her mind. When Abdullah asked her what he should do, she encouraged him to go forward, stand for the truth and lay down his life, if it came to that. Encouraged by his mother he went ahead with a handful of his supporters and was defeated and later crucified in Makkah.

Hijjaj vowed that he would not bring him down from the cross until his mother pleaded with him and interceded on his behalf, thereby wanting to crush her sense of pride and dignity. But she never did!

Al-Hijjaj came to Asma and said, ”How did I punish your son, Asma?” She replied quietly, ”You spoiled his life but he spoiled your next.”

In another version she is believed to have said to him, ”I have heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saying that there would come out of the tribe of Thaqeef a liar and a ruthless murderer. As for the liar, we have already seen him (meaning Musaylamah, the liar) , as for the ruthless murderer, it is you.”

The tyrant Hijjaj could not find any way to suppress this believing, truthful and persevering woman. And he had no other choice than to bring the corpse of ‘Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr down from the cross.

A week or so after the death of her son, she too passed away in 73 A.H. She is believed to be among the last of people who migrated to Medina, to have died, at an age of hundred.



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