There were six sisters that the Prophet ﷺ called the ‘believing sisters.’ They were Um alFadl, Maymoonah (RA), Asma bint Umays, and Salama bint Umays, Zainab bint Khuzaymah, and Izzah. These are their stories.
Asma bint Omays was one of the first Muslims. When the persecution of the Muslims started to get too intense, Prophet Mohammed ﷺ allowed whoever could to migrate to Abyssinia where there was a king who would protect them and wouldn’t allow anyone to be wronged in his presence. She and her husband, Jafar ibn Abu Talib, were newlyweds when they migrated with the Muslims to Abyssinia. In fact, their migration was their “honeymoon” but migration for the sake of Allah was worth the struggle.
The trip to Abyssinia was long and difficult. They had to go through two deserts, a deep sea and the African jungles, all in the scorching heat. First they went from Mecca to the Jeddah coast where they boarded a ship that took them to the Abyssinian coast. From then, they traveled inland until they reached palace of the king and informed him of their migration to his land.
Back in Mecca, it wasn’t long before the Quraysh found out about the migration and sent some delegates who knew the king with gifts to persuade him to turn the migraters over to them. Once the delegates arrived though, there was nothing they could say to convince the king to surrender the refugees. So one of the delegates claimed that these people were saying negative things about Jesus and Mary. This made the king angry and he sent guards to the Muslim camp to bring them to the palace.
The Muslims became very worried that they were summoned. However, Asma’s husband, Ja’far, stood up and said that he will speak on everyone’s behalf. The king questioned Ja’far about leaving the religion of their forefathers. Ja’far answered that they were people that lived in ignorance and corruption until Mohammed ﷺ came among them and brought light and commanded them to worship Allah. Then the king asked them what they say about Jesus and Mary. Ja’far answered that they believe that Jesus was a messenger of God and recited the first few verses of Soorat Maryam. Upon hearing this, the king declared that he would never turn these people over to Quraysh. The delegates tried appealing to the king through other church members but they were not successful and went home empty handed.
The Muslims lived in Abyssinia for months and some of them years, with Jafar as their leader. They took up jobs according to their professions and were not a burden on the king or his people. There were times of stress, like when the king almost got overthrown by his nephew who hated the Muslims, but overall, the time they spent there was peaceful. Over time, there was a group of Muslims that left back to Mecca but Jafar continued to lead the group that remained.
Asma and Jafar had an extremely close relationship. They were both were on the same level of greatness and had similar pleasant personalities. They were enduring and perceptive of their responsibilities and deeply faithful. They lived in Abyssinia for fifteen years, over which many changes happened. They were kept up to date on all the new developments in Islam and new verses that had been revealed. By the time Jafar and Asma left Abyssinia to join the Muslims in Madinah, they had three sons, Abdullah, Mohammed, and Awn.
One day Asma overheard someone saying that the Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia and stayed there until the Battle of Khaybar did not receive reward of migration. This troubled Asma and she went to the Prophet ﷺ with her distress to ask him if that was true. The Prophet ﷺ told her, “You have two migrations and those people have one.”
After settling down in Madinah, Asma’s heart was put to a real test when her husband was sent out to fight with the Muslims in the battle of Mu’tah, which was the first of its kind battle between the Muslims and the Romans. The Muslim army consisted of 3,000 soldiers while the Romans had an army of more than 100,000. The Prophet ﷺ appointed three commanders for the Muslims: Zayd ibn Harithah, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib and Abdullah ibn Rawahah, in that order. All three commanders were martyred and during the battle the Muslims chose Khalid ibn Al Waleed to lead the army. Khalid managed to bring the Muslims out of the battle without any real victory to the Romans.
When the army came back to the city, much to Asma’s dismay, her companion, best friend and sweetheart was not with them. She started to cry and didn’t stop crying for days. On the third day, the Prophet ﷺ visited her. He told her that Allah substituted Jafar’s two cut off hands (both were cut off during battle) for two wings which he could fly wherever he wished in Paradise. He then told her to gather her sons and this is what he said according to Abdullah ibn Jafar:
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ gave Jafar’s family some time to mourn him then visited them and said, ‘Do not cry over my brother on this day.’ He then said, ‘Bring the children of my brother to me.’ And we were brought to him like young birds and he called a barber to come shave their heads. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ then said, ‘As for Mohammed (ibn Jafar) he looks like our uncle Abu Talib. As for Abdullah (ibn Jafar) he resembles me physically and in his behavior.’ He then held my hand and raised it and said, ‘Oh Allah! Be the Supporter of Ja’far’s family and bless Abdullah in the transaction of his hands.’ He repeated this three times. Then our mother mentioned our orphanhood and expressed her worries about that. ‘Asma, are you afraid of poverty for them, while I am their guardian in this world and in the Hereafter?’ he said to her.”
After this visit by the Prophet ﷺ, Asma devoted her life to tending to her children and raising them well. The Prophet ﷺ was a frequent visitor to their house, often bearing gifts and inquiring about their wellbeing.
After the battle of Hunayn, Abu Bakr became widowed when his wife, Um Ramoon, passed away. The Prophet ﷺ married Abu Bakr to Asma. (It is not clear who was the one who initiated the marriage). Abu Bakr and Asma had so much in common. They were both early Muslims and both were widows of spouses whom were so dear to their hearts.
Asma lived in Abu Bakr’s house as a dignified wife. She took care of his children as well as her own. She had another son with him, Mohammed ibn Abu Bakr. We know that Abu Bakr and Asma had a good and close relationship because his dying wish was that she should wash him after he died.
It wasn’t long before Asma was married again, this time to Ali ibn Abu Talib, who was also widowed at the time. She had a son with him named Awn ibn Ali and she was also had a good marriage to Ali, despite the traumatic life she had lived.
One of Asma’s sons, Mohammed ibn Abu Bakr, had gone to fight with the Muslims in Egypt, where he was martyred. It was this news that gave Asma such grief that she passed away, leaving behind an example of a woman who embraced the Quran and the Sunna into every fiber of her being and used it to help guide her through her trials and tribulations. May Allah be pleased with and please her.
*A while back, I mentioned that I noticed a trend during that time that many of the women were married several times. The attitude that they had that differed from our times was that when a woman was widowed and divorced, her family tried to find her a suitable husband to protect and love her. They did not want their daughters to be alone. Such is the case with Asma, but in her case, it was the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions that looked after her and help her get married after she was widowed. And since Asma’s character was so amazing, she was sought after by the highest Companions.
*If you look at Asma’s life, she had so many different tests from Allah. First was becoming Muslim and migrating right after she got married. She had to leave her family and the only life she knew and start her marriage life in a foreign, uncertain land. This was a huge test for her. When she and her husband and children moved back to live with the Muslims, it wasn’t to her home in Mecca, but to Madinah- another test. Soon after, she lost her husband and her best friend, the one who understood her because they endured all this together. Then she was married again, and lost her second husband too. Asma’s life is one example showing that Allah will send everyone several types of test. In Arabic we say “el mu2min mubtala” which means that more pious you are, the more trials you will have because Allah wants to test and strengthen your piety. So one shouldn’t look at their lives and wonder why something is happening to them but always say Alhamdulah and be thankful to Allah. It is when you completely have faith in Allah that these trials become easier for you to deal with. When Allah takes something away or prevents something from happening or puts you through a difficult time, it is only because there is something ten times greater waiting for you instead.
Read the rest of the series:
Part 1: Um Al Fadl
Part 2: Maymoonah bint Al Harith
Part 4: Zainab bint Khuzaymah
Quṭb, Muḥammad ʻAlī. Women around the Messenger. Riyadh: International Islamic House, 2007. Print.
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