Asmā’ bint Abi Bakr

Asmā' bint Abu Bakr (Arabic: أسماء بنت أبي بكر‎‏, 595 CE - 693 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 Abu Bakr, and her half-brothers were Abdu’l-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: ? – 610

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

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 darkness. 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

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 any possession 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. Abu Bakr eventually gave them a servant[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 was written 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] He took three additional wives in Medina. 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

The Battle of Yarmouk is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history where the Muslims were hugely out numbered by the Romans but with the help of the women and the young boys amongst them, drove the Roman Empire out of Syria.[10][11] The battle is also considered to be one of Khalid ibn al-Walid's greatest military victories. It cemented his reputation as one of the greatest tacticians and cavalry commanders in history.[12] Asmā' bint Abu Bakr also fought in this battle.

The earliest history books on Islam like Fatuhusham by al-Imam al-Waqidi pay great tribute to Asmā' bint Abu Bakr for her bravery in this battle. Like al-Baladhuri it illustrate the hugely important role early Muslim women played in society. They show how the Early Muslim women including Hind bint Utbah [13][14][14][15][16][17] and Asma bint Abi Bakr [18] were instrumental in the Battle of Yarmouk. Hugely out numbered, every time the men ran away the women fought fearing that if they lost, the Romans would enslave them. They also achieved some rights under Islam they did not have before. The men would then return. Al-Waqidi wrote that the Quraysh women fought harder than the men. al-Waqidi wrote "As for Asma bint Abi Bakr, she tied he horses reins to the reins of her husband, az-Zubayr bin Awwam whenever he struck she would equaled him. Under desperate circumstances and heavily outnumbered ever time the men would flee the women would sing: [19]

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 them selves.

Hind sang the same song she sang when she found against the Muslims in the battle of Uhud: [19]

Night star's daughters are we

Who walk on carpets soft they be

Our walk does friendliness tell

Our hands are perfumed musk smell

Pearls are strung around these necks of us

So come and embrace us

Whoever refuses will be separated forever

To defend his women is there no noble lover? [19]

After seeing the women fight the men would return and said to each other "If we do not fight then we are more entitled to sit in the women's quarter than the women."[20]

Asma’s opposition to Yazid

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 arived 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.”[21]

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.[21] 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:[22]

“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.”[23][24][25][26]

692: Death

According to almost all the historians, Asma was ten years older than her sister Aisha.[27][28] 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”[29] or 7 October 692 CE. At her death she was 100 years old.[30][31]

See also


External links

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