Asmā' bint Abi Bakr

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Asmā' bint Abu Bakr (Arabic: أسماء بنت أبي بكر‎), c. 595 – 692 CE, was one of the companions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.


She was Abu Bakr’s daughter. Her mother was Qutaylah bint Abd-al-Uzza, and she was the full sister of Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr. Her half-sisters were Aisha and Umm Kulthum bint Abi Bakr, and her half-brothers were Abdul-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr and Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr. She also had a stepmother from the Kinana tribe, Umm Ruman bint Amir, and a stepbrother, al-Tufayl ibn al-Harith al-Azdi.[1]


Early Life: 595–610[edit]

Asma’s parents were divorced "in the Jahiliyya," i.e. before Islam.[2] She remained in her father’s house.[3]

Islam in Mecca: 610–622[edit]

Asma was one of the first to accept Islam, being listed fifteenth on Ibn Ishaq's list of "those who accepted Islam at the invitation of Abu Bakr".[4]

When Muhammad and Abu Bakr sought refuge in the cave of Thawr outside Mecca on their migration to Medina in 622, Asma used to carry food to them under cover of dark. When the Prophet and Abu Bakr left the cave, Asma tied the goods with the two belts of her cover, and for this ingenuity she received from Muhammad the title Dhat an Nitaqayn meaning She of the Two Belts.

She was married to Al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam shortly before the Hijra.[5] She joined him in Medina a few months later.[6]

Medina: 623 onwards[edit]

Asma found her new neighbours to be "sincere women". She was a poor baker, and they used to make bread for her.[6] She and Al-Zubayr arrived in Medina with "neither property nor slave nor any possession in the earth other than his horse." Asma used to feed the horse, taking it out to graze and grinding date-stones for it. Muhammad gave Al-Zubayr some date-palms in Medina, and Asma used to carry date-stones on her head from the garden to their home, a journey of about two miles. One day she passed Muhammad, who offered her a lift home on his camel, but fearing her husband’s jealousy, she modestly refused. Al-Zubayr told her, however, that she should have accepted rather than carry such a heavy load on foot. When Abu Bakr eventually gave them a slave, Asma said that "it was as if he had set me free."[6]

Her mother Qutayla bint Abduluzza came to visit her in Medina, bringing gifts of dates, ghee and mimosa leaves. Asma would not admit her to the house or accept the gifts until she had sent her sister Aisha to consult with Muhammad. Muhammad advised that it was correct for Asma to show hospitality to her mother, as Qutayla had never shown active hostility to Islam. Qur'an 60:8-9 states regarding this situation: “Allah does not forbid you, in respect of those who have not fought you in the deen...”[2]

Asma and Al-Zubayr had eight children.

  1. Abdullah,[5] who was the first Muslim to be born in Medina after the Hijra.
  2. Al-Munzir.
  3. Asim.
  4. Al-Muhajir.
  5. Khadija.
  6. Umm al-Hasan.
  7. A’isha.
  8. Urwa, a major transmitter of ahadith.[7]

Asma was unhappy in her married life, for Al-Zubayr was “the most jealous of people” and “hard on her.”[6] She complained to her father, who advised her: "My daughter, be patient. When a woman has a righteous husband and he dies and she does not remarry after him, they will be reunited in the Garden."[6] Another of Al-Zubayr’s wives, Umm Kulthum bint Uqba, also complained of his "harshness" and "pestered" him into divorcing her after only a few months.[8]

Al-Zubayr eventually divorced Asma “and took Urwa, who was young at that time.”[9]

The Battle of Yarmouk[edit]

The Battle of Yarmouk in 636 is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history. The Muslims were hugely outnumbered by the Romans but, with the help of the women and the young boys amongst them, they drove the Roman Empire out of Syria.[10]

Women like Hind bint Utbah and Asma bint Abi Bakr[11][12] were instrumental in the Battle of Yarmouk. The earliest histories pay great tribute to Asmā's bravery there. "As for Asma bint Abi Bakr, she tied her horse's reins to the reins of her husband, az-Zubayr bin Awwam. Whenever he struck, she would equal him."[citation needed] Al-Waqidi wrote that the Quraysh women fought harder than the men. Every time the men ran away, the women fought, fearing that if they lost, the Romans would enslave them. When the men fled, the women would sing:

O you who flee from his loyal lady / She is beautiful and stands firmly / Your abandoning them to the Romans / to let them the forelocks and girls seize / They will take what they want from us to the full / And start fighting themselves.[13]

The men would then return, saying to each other, "If we do not fight then we are more entitled to sit in the women's quarter than the women."[14]

Asma's opposition to Yazid[edit]

Asma’s son, Abdullah, and his cousin, Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, were both grandsons of Abu Bakr and nephews of Aisha. When Hussein ibn Ali was killed in Karbala, Abdullah, who had been Hussein’s friend, collected the people of Mecca and made the following speech:

"O people! No other people are worse than Iraqis and among the Iraqis, the people of Kufa are the worst. They repeatedly wrote letters and called Imam Hussein to them and took bay’at (allegiance) for his caliphate. But when Ibn Zeyad arrived in Kufa, they rallied around him and killed Imam Hussein who was pious, observed the fast, read the Quran and deserved the caliphate in all respects."[15]

After his speech, the people of Mecca also joined Abdullah to take on Yazid. When he heard about this, Yazid had a silver chain made and sent to Mecca with the intention of having Walid ibn Utbah arrest Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr with it.[15] In Mecca and Medina Hussein’s family had a strong support base, and the people were willing to stand up for them. Hussein’s remaining family moved back to Madina. Eventually Abdullah consolidated his power by sending a governor to Kufa. Soon Abdullah established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia, the greater part of Syria and parts of Egypt.

Yazid tried to end Abdullah's rebellion by invading the Hejaz, and he took Medina after the bloody Battle of al-Harrah followed by the siege of Mecca. But his sudden death ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray, with civil war eventually breaking out. This essentially split the Islamic empire into two spheres. After the Umayyad civil war ended, Abdullah lost Egypt and whatever he had of Syria to Marwan I. This, coupled with the Kharijite rebellions in Iraq, reduced his domain to only the Hejaz.

Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr was finally defeated by Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who sent Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Hajjaj was from Ta’if, as were those who had killed Hussein. In his last hour, Abdullah asked his mother Asma what he should do. Asma replied to her son:[16]

"You know better in your own self that if you are upon the truth and you are calling towards the truth go forth, for people more honourable 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 on, this state of weakness."

Then Abdullah said to his mother after she had told him to go forth and fight: "I am afraid I will be mutilated by the people of Sham. I am afraid that they will cut up my body after they have killed me." She said: "After someone has died, it won't make any difference what they do to you if you have been killed." Abdullah said to his mother:

"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 fornicator, nor did he wrong any Muslim or non-Muslim, nor was he unjust. I am not saying this to you to show off or show how pure I am but rather as an honour to you."

Abdullah then left by himself on his horse to take on Hajjaj. Hajjaj’s army defeated and Abdullah on the battlefield in 692. He beheaded him and crucified his body. He said, "No one must take down his body except Asma. She must come to me and ask my permission, and only then will his body be taken down." Asma refused to go and ask permission to take down her son's body. It was said to her, "If you don’t go, his body will remain like that." She said, "Then let it be.” Eventually Hajjaj came to her and asked, "What do you say about this matter?" She replied, "Verily, you have destroyed him and you have ruined his life, and with that you have ruined your hereafter."

The defeat of Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr re-established Umayyad control over the Empire.

A few years later the people of Kufa called Zayd ibn Ali, the grandson of Hussein, over to Kufa. Zaydis believe that in Zayd's last hour, he was also betrayed by the people of Kufa, who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing either of them, nor saying anything but good about them... When they were entrusted with government, they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah."[17][18][19][20]

692: Death[edit]

Asma died "a few nights after her son, Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, had been killed. He was killed on Tuesday 17 Jumada al-Ula in 73 AH"[21] or 7 October 692 CE. At her death she was 100 years old.According to almost all the historians, Asma, the elder sister of Aisha, was 10 years older than Aisha[22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat, vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina, p. 193. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  2. ^ a b Bewley/Saad p. 178.
  3. ^ Al-Tabari vol. 39 p. 172.
  4. ^ Guillaume, A. (1955). A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 116. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ a b "Family Tree Abu bakr". Quran search online. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Bewley/Saad p. 177.
  7. ^ Bewley/Saad p. 176.
  8. ^ Bewley/Saad p. 163.
  9. ^ Bewley/Saad p. 179.
  10. ^ Walton, Mark W (2003), Islam at war, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0-275-98101-0, pp. 6, 30
  11. ^ Islamic Conquest of Syria: A translation of Fatuhusham by al-Imam al-Waqidi Translated by Mawlana Sulayman al-Kindi Pages 325, 331-334, 343-344, 352-353 [1]
  12. ^ al-Baladhuri 892 [19-20] from The Origins of the Islamic State, being a translation from the Arabic of the Kitab Futuh al-Buldha of Ahmad ibn-Jabir al-Baladhuri, trans. by P. K. Hitti and F. C. Murgotten, Studies in History, Economics and Public Law, LXVIII (New York, Columbia University Press, 1916 and 1924), I, 207-211 [2]
  13. ^ Islamic Conquest of Syria: A translation of Fatuhusham by al-Imam al-Waqidi Translated by Mawlana Sulayman al-Kindi Page 331-332 [3]
  14. ^ Islamic Conquest of Syria: A translation of Fatuhusham by al-Imam al-Waqidi Translated by Mawlana Sulayman al-Kindi Page 353 [4]
  15. ^ a b Najeebabadi, Akbar Shah (2001). The History of Islam vol. 2, p. 110. Riyadh: Darussalam. ISBN 9960892883.
  16. ^ [5]
  17. ^ Islam re-defined: an intelligent man’s guide towards understanding Islam, p. 54 [6]
  18. ^ Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law By Khaled Abou El Fadl page 72
  19. ^ Al-Tabari, The waning of the Umayyad Caliphate, Carole Hillenbrand, 1989, pp. 37, 38.
  20. ^ The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol.16, Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, Macmillan, 1987, p243. "They were called "Rafida by the followers of Zayd”
  21. ^ Bewley/Saad 8, p. 180.
  22. ^ Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa’l-nihayah, Vol. 8, p. 372, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933
  23. ^ Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, p. 654, Arabic, Bab fi’l-nisa’, al-harfu’l-alif, Lucknow

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