Asmaa' bint Abi Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her), one of the Sahabiat (female Companions) of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)
Asmaa was among the first people who embraced Islam. She was later given the nickname That an-Nitaqayn (the One with the Two Waistbands), and this goes back to the incident of the departure of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and her father from Mekkah on the historic Hijrah to Madinah, when she used to walk for long distances each day to the place where they were hiding to provide them with food and water, although she was pregnant at that time.
Asmaa was one of the very few who learned about the Prophet's plan to leave for Madinah. The Prophet�s plan has to be kept secret as Quraysh tribe was planning to murder the Prophet (PBUH). On the night of their departure, Asmaa was the one who prepared a bag of food and a water container for the journey of her father Abu Bakr and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She couldn�t find anything though with which to tie the containers and decided to use her waistband or nitaq. Abu Bakr suggested that she tears it into two. This she did and the Prophet praised her for her action. And that�s when she became known as "the One with the Two Waistbands".
Asmaa was known for her fine and noble qualities and for the eagerness to sever Islam. She was also known for her generosity. Her son Abdullah once narrated:
"I have not seen two women more generous than my aunt Aicha and my mother Asmaa. 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."
Asmaa was a very smart and intelligent woman. When her father left Mekkah, he took all his money and belongings with him leaving nothing for his family. When Abu Bakr's father, Abu Quhafah (he was still a mushrik �atheist�) heard of his departure he went to his family and said to Asmaa:
"I understand that he has left you bereft of money after he himself has abandoned you."
"No, grandfather," replied Asmaa, "in fact he has left us much money." She took some pebbles and put them in a small recess in the wall where they used to put money. She threw a cloth over the heap and took the hand of her grandfather --he was blind--and said, "See how much money he has left us".
By doing this Asmaa wanted to calm the fears of her grandfather and telling him in a way that they don�t need money from him. And this is because she refused any assistance from an atheist even if it was her own grandfather.
Asmaa�s mother, Qutaylah, who was not a Muslim and was divorced from Asmaa�s Father, once came to visit her in Madinah. Her mother brought her gifts of raisins, but Asmaa at first refused to accept her at her house or accept her gifts. But when she asked Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), about whether she didn the right thing of not and how should she treat her Non-Muslim mother, he replied that she should certainly admit her to her house and accept her gifts.
On this occasion Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:
"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."
At first, right after the migration, life at the Madinah as tough for Asmaa as well as for the rest of the Muslims. Asmaa�s husband was quite poor and his only major possession to begin with was a horse he had bought. Asmaa herself described these early days:
Asmaa, the daughter of Abu Bakr narrated:
"Az-Zubair (Ibn al-`Awwam, the cousin of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), married me. He had neither wealth, slave or anything else like it, except a camel (to get water) and a horse. I used to graze his horse, [provide fodder to it and look after it, and ground dates for his camel. Besides, I grazed the camel], made arrangements for providing [it with] water and patched up [his] leather bucket and kneaded the flour. But I was not proficient in baking the bread, so my female neighbors used to bake bread for me [and they were sincere women]. And I used to carry on my head the stones (seeds) of the dates from az-Zubair's land which Allah's Messenger (PBUH) had endowed him, and it was at a distance of two miles (from Madinah).
"As I was one day carrying the stones of dates upon my head I happened to meet Allah's Messenger (PBUH) along with a group of his Companions. He called me and said to the camel to sit down so that he should make me ride behind him. I felt shy to go with men and I remembered az-Zubair and his jealousy, and he was the man having the most jealousy. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) understood my shyness, he left. I came to az-Zubair and said: 'The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) met me as I was carrying the stones of the dates on my head, and there was with him a group of his Companions, he said to the camel to sit down so that I mount it, I felt shy from him, and remembered your jealousy.' Whereupon he (az-Zubair) said: 'By Allah, the carrying of dates' stone upon your head is more severe a burden on me than riding with him.' [And I led this life of hardship] until Abu Bakr sent afterwards a female servant who took upon herself the responsibility of looking after the horse and I felt as if she had emancipated me." It is noteworthy that Asmaa' was the sister in law of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)!
Asmaa' reported: "I performed the household duties of az-Zubair and he had a horse, I used to look after it. Nothing was (more) for me than looking after the horse. I used to bring grass for it and looked after it, then I got a servant as Allah's Messenger (PBUH) had some prisoners of war in his possession. He gave me a female servant. She then began to look after the horse and thus relieved me of this burden. A person came and he said: 'Mother of Abdullah, I am a destitute person and I intend that I should start business under the shadow of your house.' I (Asmaa') said: 'If I grant you permission, az Zubair may not agree to that, so you come and make a demand of it when az-Zubair is also present there.'
He came accordingly and said: 'Mother of Abdullah, I am a destitute person. I intend to start small business in the shadow of your house. I said: 'Is there not in Madinah (any place for starting the business) except my house?' Az-Zubair said: 'Why is it that you prohibit the destitute man to start business here?' So he started business and he (earned so much) that we sold our slave-girl to him. Az-Zubair came to me while the money was in my lap. He said: 'Give this to me.' I said: '(I intend) to spend it in charity.'" [Muslim] Notice how Asmaa didn�t mind allowing this person to start business under the shadow of their house, but she did not take any decision without discussing it first with her husband (out of respect). After consulting her husband and taking his permission, she then agreed to the man�s proposal to start business at the shadow of their house.
Asmaa was a woman of great sensitivity and devotion, she and her husband worked extremely hard together to overcome their poverty. Sometimes az-Zubayr treated her harshly. Once she went to her father and complained to him, her father�s reply was:
"My daughter, be patient for if a woman has a righteous husband and he dies and she does not marry after him, they will be brought together again in Paradise."
Eventually Az-Zubayr became one of the richest companions of Prophet Mohammad (PBUB) but Asmaa did not let this make her change any of her principles. Her son, al-Mundhir once sent her a fine dress. Asmaa by this time was blind. She touched the dress and said, "It's awful. Take it back to him".
Al-Mundhir was upset and said, "Mother, it was not transparent."
"It may not be transparent," she retorted, "but it is too tight-fitting and shows the contours of the body."
Al-Mundhir then bought another dress that meets her approval and she accepted it.
Abdullah, her son, was in the running for the Caliphate after the death of Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah. The Hijaz, Egypt, Iraq, Khurasan and much of Syria were under his control. The Ummayyads however continued to contest the Caliphate and to prepare a massive army under the command of Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ath-Thaqafi. A lot of battles were fought between the two sides during which Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr displayed great acts of courage. Many of his supporters however could not bare the continuous strain of battle and gradually began to desert him. Finally he sought refuge in the Sacred Mosque at Makkah. He went to his mother, Asmaa, now an old blind woman, and said:
"Peace be on you, Mother, and the mercy and blessings of God."
"Unto you be peace, Abdullah," she replied. "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 and shaking the houses of Mekkah?" "I came to seek your advice," he said.
"To seek my advice?" she asked in astonishment. "About what?"
"The people have deserted me out of fear of Hajjaj or being tempted by what he has to offer. Even my children and my family have left me. There is only a small group of men with me now and however strong and steadfast they are they can only resist for an hour or two more. Messengers of the Banu Umayyah (the Umayyads) are now negotiating with me, offering to give me whatever wordly possessions I want, should I lay down my arms and swear allegiance to Abdul Malik ibn Marwan. What do you think?"
"It's your affair, Abdullah, and you know yourself better. If however you think that you are right and that you are standing up for the Truth, then persevere and fight on as your companions who were killed under your flag had shown perseverance. If however you desire the world, what a miserable wretch you are. You would have destroyed yourself and you would have destroyed your men."
"But I will be killed today, there is no doubt about it."
"That is better for you than that you should surrender yourself to Hajjaj voluntarily and that some minions of Banu Umayyah should play with your head."
"I do not fear death. I am only afraid that they will mutilate me."
"There is nothing after death that man should be afraid of. Skinning does not cause any pain to the slaughtered sheep."
Abdullah's face beamed as he said:
"What a blessed mother! Blessed be your noble qualities! I have come to you at this hour to hear what I have heard. God knows that I have not weakened or despaired. He is witness over me that I have not stood up for what I have out of love for this world and its attractions but only out of anger for the sake of God. His limits have been transgressed. Here am I, going to what is pleasing to you. So if I am killed, do not grieve for me and commend me to God."
"I shall grieve for you," said Asmaa, "only if you are killed in a vain and unjust cause."
"Be assured that your son has not supported an unjust cause, nor committed any detestable deed, nor done any injustice to a Muslim and that there is nothing better in his sight than the pleasure of God, the Mighty, the Great. I do not say this to exonerate myself. God knows that I have only said it to make your heart firm and steadfast. "
"Praise be to God who has made you act according to what He likes and according for what I like. Come close to me, my son, that I may smell and feel your body for this might be the last meeting with you."
Abdullah knelt before Asmaa. She hugged him and smothered his head, his face and his neck with kisses. Her hands began to squeeze his body when suddenly she withdrew them and asked:
"What is this you are wearing, Abdullah?"
"This is my armour plate."
"This, my son, ls not the dress of one who desires martyrdom. Take it off. That will make your movements lighter and quicker. Wear instead the sirwal (a long under garment) so that if you are killed your 'awrah ( the parts of the body that God has forbid from showing) will not be exposed.
Abdullah took off his armour plate and put on the sirwal. As he left for the Haram to join the fighting he said:
"My mother, don't deprive me of your prayer."
Raising her hands she prayed:
"O Lord, have mercy on his staying up for long hours and his loud crying in the darkness of the night while people slept . . .
"O Lord, have mercy on his hunger and his thirst on his journeys from Madinah and Mekkah while he fasted . . .
"O Lord, bless his righteousness to his mother and his father . . .
"O Lord, I commend him to Your cause and I am pleased with whatever You decree for him. And grant me for his sake the reward of those who are patient and who persevere."
By sunset, Abdullah was dead. His mother joined him after ten days. She was a hundred years old then, but age never made her weak nor has it blunted the keenness of her. What a pious, strong and brave woman was Asmaa, (may Allah be pleased with her)!
JazakumAllahu Khairan. Don't forget me in your duaa's InshaAllah, may Allah (SWT) bless you and I, Ameen