The Wife of Abu Bakr, Asma’ bint ‘Umays, and Fatimah
From the many incidents that indicate that the relations between the family of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the Ahlul Bayt were sound is the helping hand and the caring service offered by Asma’ bint ‘Umays radiya Llahu ‘anha during the final moments of the life of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha. From the nursing of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha till her demise to bathing her and enshrouding her in the kafan after that; is this not the most splendid sign of the love and union that existed in these two families? They maintained healthy relations till the last.
Before presenting the narrations that spell out the role of Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha during the final moments of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha I would first like to shed light on the relationship that Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha had with the Banu Hashim.
A Brief Insight into Life of Asma’ and her Relationship With the Banu Hashim
- Her name is: Asma’ bint ‘Umays. She hailed from the Banu Khath’am tribe. She was a very noble, pious and caring woman. She had been blessed with Islam very soon after its inception.
- The genealogist state that she was the sister of the wives of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his uncle ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib radiya Llahu ‘anhu; she was the uterine sister of Maimunah bint al Harith and Umm al Fadl, the wife of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his uncle ‘Abbas respectively. In other words she was the sister-in-law of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Abu Bakr had married her. That makes Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ‘Abbas, and him brothers-in-law. They were nine uterine sisters altogether. Their mothers name was Hind bint ‘Awf. Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha was likewise the sister-in-law of Hamzah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the uncle of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, for he was married to her sister Salma bint ‘Umays.
- She was first married to ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu brother Jafar al Tayyar. Husband and wife both had migrated to Abyssinia along with other Muslims in the initial stages of Islam. This migration is recorded as a great feat in favour of all those who migrated. They subsequently, came to Madinah Munawwarah after spending a good few years in Abyssinia. Asma’ bore two of his children, namely, ‘Abdullah and Muhammad.
- Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu had married her after Jafar radiya Llahu ‘anhu had been martyred in the battle of Mutah which took place in the eighth year A.H. Just the mere fact that he married her suggests that there was mutual understanding and appreciation between the two families. They had one child whose name was Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr.
Now I shall present those narrations that spell out the assistance that she had provided during the final moments of the life of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha.
The Services of Asma’ in the Final Moments
1. Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha would always enquire regarding the wellbeing of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha. She had in the final moments of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha served her and nursed her. Imam Zayn al ‘Abidin has narrated the following narration from Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma in this regard:
When Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha was drawing closer to her final moments she said to Asma’: “You are seeing that my time is drawing closer, will my bier be carried without being veiled?” “No, rather I will cover your bier just as the biers (of women) in Abyssinia are covered,” Asma’ replied. She said: “Prepare a bier of this sort and show it to me.” Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha hence asked for thin branches of date palms to be gathered from Aswaf, a place in the surroundings of Madinah, and made a canopy like covering over the bier. This was the first time such a bier was prepared. Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha became jubilant upon seeing it. This was the first time she was seen happy since the demise of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. After she passed on we carried her in the very same bier and buried her by night.
2. The Shia scholars have also cited narrations that indicate that Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha had nursed Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha and served her a great deal.
a. It is mentioned in Amali of Sheikh Abu Jafar al Tusi:
وكان علي رضي الله عنه يمرضها بنفسه و تعينه علي ذلك أسماء بنت عميس رحمها الله علي استمرار بذلك.
‘Ali would nurse her and Asma’ bint ‘Umays would constantly help him in seeing to her.
b. Mulla Baqir al Majlisi has cited something very similar to this in his book Jila’ al ‘Uyun:
پس حضرت بوصیت او عمل نمودہ خود متوجہ تیمارداری او بود اسماء بنت عمیس آں حضرت را در ایں امور معاونت ی کردی۔
‘Ali had carried out her bequest, he had himself paid attention to her nursing and Asma’ bint ‘Umays had helped him in seeing to her.
c. Mulla Baqir has also written the following:
شیخ طوسی بسند معتبر ازآں حضرت صادق علیہ السلام روایت کردہ است، اول نعشے کہ در اسلام ساختند نعش فاطمہ بود، سببش آں بود کہ چوں حضرت فاطمہ بیمار شد بآں بیماری کہ از دنیا رحلت کرد باسماء بنت عمیس گفت: ای اسماء من ضعیف و نحیف شدہ ام وگوشت از بدن من رفتہ ست آیا چیزے از من راست نمی کنی کہ بدن مرا از مرداں بپوشاند۔ کہ من چوں در بلاد حبشہ بودم دیدم کہ ایشاں کارے می کردند اگر خواہی براۓ تو بکنم۔ فرمود کہ بلے۔ پس اسماء تختے آورد وسرنگوں گذاشت وجرید ہاۓ خرما طلبید و بر پاہاۓ آں بست پس جامہ برروۓ آں کشید و گفت کہ ایں روش دیدم کہ می کردند حضرت فرمود کہ چنیں چیزے از براۓ من بساز و بدن مرا از مردان بپوشاں تا خدا بدن ترا از آتش دوزخ بپوشاند۔”
Sheikh al Tusi has narrated with a reliable chain of transmission that the first bier to ever be made in Islam was the bier of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha. The reason that prompted this was that when the sickness that claimed her life befell her she said to Asma’ bint ‘Umays radiya Llahu ‘anha: “O Asma’! I have become very weak and sickly and I am beginning to lose a lot of weight, is there anything that you can make for me that will cover my body from it being seen by men (after I pass away)?” She said: “I noticed the people of Abyssinia doing something during my stay there, I can do the very same for you as well if you want.” Fatimah replied in the positive. She subsequently brought planks of wood and placed them on the floor, then she asked for branches of date palms to be brought and placed them on top of those planks and thereafter covered it (the bier that she made) with material (forming a canopy like covering over the bier). She said to Fatimah: “This is what I seen them doing in Abyssinia.” Fatimah said: “Can you make something similar to this for me as well and cover my body from the gazes of men falling upon it so that Allah may save your body from the fire of Jahannam?” 
3. Likewise in another narration which highlights the final moments of the life of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha in which mention is made of the camphor of Jannat being of three types, mention is also made of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha talking to Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha in her last moments, informing her of her bequest, subsequently Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha carrying out her bequest and informing Hassan and Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhuma of the demise of their mother when they return home; all these things happened in those final moments. The author of Akhbar Matam, a renowned Shia scholar, has made mention of this narration in his book under the discussion of the demise of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha. I have presented the reference for those who are keen on visiting it. Similarly this narration has also been cited in Kashf al Ghummah, a famous book in Shia literature, with all its details. One can refer to it there.
4. After her demise the aspect of bathing her cropped up. The rule in Islamic law is that a deceased person should be bathed before his or her funeral prayer is performed. At this stage as well Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha was present and offering a helping hand. Normally only the close relatives of the deceased and dear ones are present at such times.
One should bear in mind that three individuals had bathed Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha; ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and two ladies; One was Asma’ bint ‘Umays and the other was Salma radiya Llahu ‘anha, the wife of the slave of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam whose name was Abu Rafi’. This is stated in al Isti’ab of Ibn ‘Abdul Barr, Usd al Ghabah of Ibn Hajar and al Musannaf of ‘Abdur Razzaq.
Shia scholars have likewise stated in their works that Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha had assisted in bathing Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha. This can be sourced from the following works of the Shi’ah:
- Manaqib Ibn Shahr Ashob, vol. 4, chapter regarding her demise
- Kashf al Ghummah (new Iranian publication) 2/61
In essence Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha is indisputably accepted as being part of those who had offered a helping hand during the last moments of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha.
The summary of her services at the time is presented below:
- She had prepared the bier of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha with a canopy like covering as was her desire.
- She had cared for her in her final moments.
- She had fulfilled the bequest of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha as was mentioned previously with reference to Akhbar Matam.
- She had participated in bathing her after her demise.
By analysing all these aspects there remains no question of there being enmity and misunderstandings between the family of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Had there been any, they would not have assisted one another in times of dire need.
Some ill-natured people claim that Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha had done all of this by herself without any encouragement from Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu or she done all of this without his permission or that she would contrive an excuse to leave the house and subsequently would go to the house of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha and see to her. However, what’s interesting here is that this was not an affair of just a few hours, rather there were many days and nights that she spent in caring for her. Is it really conceivable that for this entire period she pulled wool over the eyes of her husband, Abu Bakr, or that she had disobeyed him for such a long time? Any person with sound understanding and a healthy disposition can answer that for himself.
Nevertheless, the scholars have written the following regarding Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha. This will most certainly debunk all these doubts and misconceptions. ‘Allamah Turkumani has stated:
ورع أسماء يمنعها أن لا تستأذنه
The piety of Asma’ would never allow her not to take permission from her husband.
I am going to now present before you another incident of Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha in which the status of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu is established and the appreciation that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had for him is understood.
After the demise of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had married Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha. She bore one child for him whose name was Yahya ibn ‘Ali.
‘Allamah Ibn al Sakan has narrated the coming narration with a sound chain of transmission:
وأخرج ابن السكن بسند صحيح عن الشعبي قال “تزوج علي أسماء بنت عميس فتفاخر ابناهما محمد بن جعفر و محمد بن أبي بكر فقال كل منهما أنا أكرم منك وأبي خير من أبيك فقال لها علي اقضي بينهما فقالت ما رأيت شابا خيرا من جعفر ولا كهلا خيرا من أبي بكر لها علي رضي الله عنه فما أبقيت لنا.
‘Ali married Asma’ bint ‘Umays. On one occasion their children, Muhammad ibn Jafar al Tayyar and Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, each of the two, began boasting of his linage and said: “My father was better than your father.” ‘Ali said to Asma’: “Pronounce your judgement regarding this contention!” Hence she said: “I have not seen a youngster better then Jafar and nor have I seen a middle-aged man more virtuous than Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.” ‘Ali thus said: “You have left nothing for me to add.”
Imam al Dhahabi has quoted the following response of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu to the answer that Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha had given:
فقال لها علي رضي الله عنه “ما تركت لنا شيئا ولو قلت غير هذا لمقتك
‘Ali said to her: “You have not left anything for me to say. Had you given any answer besides this I would have despised you.”
In conclusion, there are many anecdotes that inform us that they were embodiments of mutual love and veneration, I have presented just one of them.
 Usd al Ghabah, 5: 396.
 Kitab al Muhabbar p. 442; al Isti’ab 4/231, mention of Asma; Usd al Ghabah 5/395, mention of Asma’
 Mustadrak Hakim 3/162; Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d 8/18, mention of Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha.
 Amali, 1: 107.
 Jila’ al ‘Uyun, 172: conversation of ‘Abbas and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhuma
 Jila’ al ‘Uyun, p175: chapter regarding Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha making a covered bier for Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha; Tarjamah Jafariyat Aw al Ash’Athiyat, p205: chapter regarding the initiation of making a covered bier.
 Akhbar Matam (Matba’ah Husaini, Rampur) p. 101, discussion regarding the demise of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha
 Kashf al Ghummah 2/62, chapter pertaining to the fatal illness of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha, her bequest and her demise.
 Al Isti’ab 4/322, Mention of Salma; Usd al Ghabah 5/478, Mention of Salma; al Musannaf li ‘Abdur Razzaq 3/410
 Al Jowhar al Naqi ‘ala al Sunan li al Bayhaqi 3/396
 Muhammad ibn Jafar was the son of Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha from her first husband Jafar al Tayyar and Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr was her son from second husband Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was her third husband and therefore the two boys were his step sons.
 Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d 8/208; Hilyat al Awliya’ 2/75-76, mention of Asma’ bint ‘Umays; Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ 1/152, chapter regarding Jafar ibn Abi Talib; al Isabah 4/226, mention of Asma’ bint ‘UmaysBack to top