‘The Lady of the Two Girdles’, Asma’ bint Abu Bakr may Allaah be pleased with her was an excellent example of dignity and pride.
She bravely and steadfastly faced two tyrants. One of them was Abu Jahl, ‘Amr ibn Hisham, the ‘Pharaoh of this Ummah’, according to the title the Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam had given him. The second one was Hajaj ibn Yoosuf ath-Thaqafi.
She was A’ishah’s half sister; she was some years older than her, for she was born seventeen years before the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam began his mission. Asma’ had embraced A’ishah since she was a baby and was in fact like a mother to her. A’ishah grew up loving Asma’, respecting her and giving her due preference.
Asma’ may Allaah be pleased with her, witnessed the beginning of the Prophet’s mission and participated in it, and no wonder! She was a valuable member of Abu Bakr’s household, which was — of all the households of Makkah — the place of refuge and rest for the Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam.
The Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam would visit the homes of his earliest Companions occassionaly, but he would not miss visiting Abu Bakr’s home every day; this is according to what A’ishah may Allaah be pleased with her told us. This was the case until the day of the Prophet’s migration, after thirteen years of calling people to Islam, and during which the Muslims encountered the severest obstinacy and cruelest confrontation from the tyrants of ignorance. All this confrontation only increased Asma’s resilience and strength.
The Prophet’s plans — to leave the city in the company of his Companion Abu Bakr and escape his would-be assassins by hiding in the Cave of Thawr — were laid at Abu Bakr’s home. It was there that roles and tasks were assigned.
Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr was to go and eavesdrop in order to leave the plans of the polythiests. He would bring the news to the Messenger salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam and his father at their hideout that night, and then return to Makkah.
Amir ibn Fuhayrah, Abu Bakr’s freed slave who was the shepherd of his flock, would herd his sheep at ‘Abdullah’s heels to erase his footprints, so that no one could track his movements. He would then bring the sheep close to the cave, milk them and give the evening milk to the Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam and his Companion for their supper.
Asma’ would prepare food at home and would then carry it secretly to them, far from the sight of potential enemies. Anyone who follows the path from Makkah to the Cave of Thawr through the rocky and rugged mountainous paths will realise how astute Asma’ was in choosing her route.
In the morning after the night of Hijrah,the Quraysh were at a loss because the Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam had escaped from his house past two young men whom the Quraysh had positioned at his door to watch him. He escaped their attention while reciting the verse:
“And We have covered them up, so that they cannot see.” [Ya Sin 36:9].
He escaped safely and unhurt, surrounded by Allaah’s care and escorted by His noble Angles to the house of Abu Bakr, and from there to the Cave of Thawr.
Abu Jahl became frantic and lost his senses when he heard that the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam had escaped. He hurried to Abu Bakr’s house. When he knocked on the door, Asma’ came out to meet him.
Abu Jahl asked her of her father’s whereabouts and she replied confidently, proudly and courageously, while noticing the fiery sparks of anger in the eyes of this tyrant, “I don’t know.”
Facing another unbearable disappointment and unable to control himself, Abu Jahl gave her a very hard slap on her face. The slap was so hard that her earrings flew off her ears. But Asma’ was unfazed, and stood there like a formiddable dam in front of that tyrant until he turned around and left.
History will forever remember this event in the life of Asma’. The truthful believers who fight in the cause of Allaah will never forget it — especially the truthful, believing women who fight in the cause of Allaah, who migrate for the sake of Allaah and who worship Allaah devoutely.
On the day of departure from the cave to Yathrib (which was to be known from then on as Madinah), Asma’ prepared the provisions for the great journey. However she had forgotten some string with which to tie the food container and the water-skin to the camel. A clever woman, she removed her girdle, tore it into two and used one piece to tie the food container and the other to tie the water-skin, When she brought them their food, the Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam looked at her, smiled and said:
“Indeed, Allaah has given you, in exchange for this girdle, two girdles in Paradise.”
This statement from the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam was the greatest testimony and the most honourable one, for that matter, for this woman. It was a great source of pride for her, even though she had the modesty and calm demeanor of the believer.
Asma’ later married Az-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam. Az-Zubayr was not wealthy; he had only a horse on which he fought in the way of Allaah. Asma’ lived with him in that situation without complaining. On the contrary, she worked hard to help her husband. Her son ‘Urwah related that she said, “Az-Zubayr married me while he owned nothing but his horse. I would feed it, and take care of it. I would also grind the grain and carry the grains home from Az-Zubayr’s fields.”
Asma’ saw nothing wrong in serving her husband and her household and taking part in shouldering responsibilites. Perhaps she bore the greater share of reponsibility. All that did not have any impact on her dignity. If anything, it increased her resilience and strength.
She was also one of the first and most brilliant female students who learned from the Prophet’s teachings.
Perhaps, her stand against Hajaj ibn Yoosuf — though she had grown old (her age was close to one hundred years), and she has become frail and lost her sight — is the best indication of her perpetually young heart and the brilliance of her firm faith.
Her son ‘Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, fell in that battle, and Hajaj ordered him crucified. He vowed that he would not bring him down from the cross until his mother interceded on his behalf; Hajaj wanted to crush her sense of pride and dignity.
Asma’ never let that happen! Ibn as-Sakan reported on the authority of Yahya at-Taymi from his father that he said:
I entered Makkah after ibn az-Zubayr was killed and I saw him crucified. I saw his mother Asma’, who was a tall, blind old woman. She went to Hajaj, stood before him and said, “Is it not time for this rider to dismount?” Hajjaj responded, “He is a hypocrite.” Abdullah’s mother retorted, “No, he was never a hypocrite; on the contrary, he was constant in his voluntary fasting and prayer.” Hajaj then said, “Go away, you senile old woman.” She again retorted, “I am not senile. I heard the Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam say 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 (1), as for the ruthless murderer, it is you.”
The tyrant Hajaj could not find any way to suppress this believing, truthful and persevering woman. He had no other choice than to bring the corpse of ‘Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr down from the cross.
Asma’ died a few days after this event. May Allaah be pleased with her and please her!
(1) She was referring to Musaylamah the Liar; he was also of the Thaqeef tribe.
Taken from Women Around the Messenger (salallahu alayhi wasallam) by Muhammad ‘Ali Qutb