Atiqa bint Zayd

Atika bint Zayd al-Adawiyya (Arabic: عاتكة بنت زيد, romanizedʿĀtīḳa bint Zayd) was an Islamic scholar and poetess. She was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. She was a wife of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph. She was a poet who is notable for having married Muslim men who died as shaheed.

Atika bint Zayd
عاتکة بنت زيد
TitleThe wife of the martyrs
ʿĀtīḳah bint Zayd ibn ‘Amr ibn Nufayl ibn ‘Abd al-‘Uzzā ibn Rāz ibn ‘Adiyy ibn Ka‘ab ibn Lu’ayy ibn Ghālib ibn Fihr ibn Mālik

c. 600
Hejaz, Arabia (present-day KSA)
Diedc. 672
Medina, Hejaz, Umayyad Caliphate (present-day KSA)
Resting placeMedina
ChildrenʿIyāḍ ibn ʿUmar
  • Zayd ibn Amr (father)
  • Umm Kurz Safiya bint al-Hadrami (mother)
EraEarly Islamic period
Known forSahabiyah of Prophet Muhammad
OccupationPoetess, scholar

Early lifeEdit

She was the daughter of Zayd ibn Amr, a member of the Adi clan of the Quraysh in Mecca, and of Umm Kurz Safiya bint al-Hadrami.[1]: 186 [2] Sa'id ibn Zayd was her brother.[3]: 296 [2] Their father was murdered in 605.[4]: 102–103 

Atika was probably still a child when Muhammad declared himself to be a prophet in 610.[4]: 281  Sa'id was among the early converts,[4]: 116 [3]: 299  and Atika became a Muslim too.[1]: 186 

Personal lifeEdit

Atika married several times in her lifetime.

First marriageEdit

Her first husband was her cousin, Zayd ibn al-Khattab,[2] who was at least twenty years older than herself. He was also a Muslim,[3]: 294  and it was presumably in his company that Atika joined the general emigration to Medina in 622.[1]: 186 [2]

This marriage apparently ended in divorce, for Atika had already remarried by the time of Zayd's death at the Battle of Yamama in December 632.[2]

Second marriageEdit

Her second husband was Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr.[1]: 186 [5]: 101  It was said that Abdullah deferred to Atika's judgment and that he spent so much time with her that he was too busy to fight in the Islamic army.[2][6]


Abu Bakr punished his son by ordering him to divorce her.[2][6] However, Al-Baladhuri says that the reason Abu Bakr ordered the divorce was because Atika was barren.[7]: 267  Abdullah did as he was told but was grief-stricken. He wrote poetry for her:[2][6]

I have never known a man like me divorce a woman like her,
nor any woman like her divorced for no fault of her own.[2]

In the end Abdullah was allowed to take Atika back before her waiting period was completed.[2][6]: 87 

Death of MuhammadEdit

When Muhammad died in 632, Atika composed an elegy for him.

His camels have been lonely since evening;
he used to ride them and he was their adornment.
I have been weeping for the Chief since evening,
and tears are flowing in succession.
Thy wives are still lying in swoons
because of grief that grows greater moment by moment;
they turned pale like a javelin
that becomes useless and changes its colour;
they are remedying chronic sorrow,
but the pain reacts on the heart;
they beat their fine faces with their palms,
for that is what happens at times like this.
He was excellent and the chosen Chief.
Their religion was united on truth.
How can I live longer than the Messenger,
who died at his appointed hour?[8]

Death of AbdullahEdit

Abdullah settled a large amount of property on Atika on condition that she would not remarry after his death.[1]: 186 [9][7]: 267 [2] He died in Medina in January 633 from an old battle-wound originally incurred at the Siege of Ta'if.[10]: 76 [2] Atika composed an elegy for him.

I vow that mine eye will not cease to weep for thee
and my skin will be covered with dust.[1]: 187 [7]: 267 

She refused several suitors in the following months.[1]: 186 [9]

Third marriageEdit


Umar, the future second Caliph and Atika's first cousin, told her that she had been wrong to renounce her right to remarry, "denying yourself what God has permitted."[1]: 187 [2] Ibn Sa'd tells the story of their courtship this way.

Umar said to her guardian, "Mention me to her." He was mentioned to her and she also rejected Umar. Umar said, "Marry her to me." He married him to her and Umar went to her and went in where she was and contended with her until he overcame her and she carried out the marriage to him. When he finished, he said, "Bother! Bother! Bother! I say 'Bother!' to her!" Then he left her and left her alone and did not go to her. She sent a client of hers, saying to him, "Come, and I will prepare for you."[1]: 186 

The broken vowEdit

After Umar became Caliph,[11]: 70  when Aisha learned that Atika had broken her vow of celibacy, she sent her a message:

I vow that mine eye will not cease to be dry for thee,
and my skin will be yellow with dye.

Return our property to us!"[7]: 267–268  When Ali also recited this poem to them, Umar told Atika to return the land.[1]: 187 [2][7]: 268  He settled an equivalent sum of money on her, which she distributed in alms to expiate the breaking of her vow to Abd Allah.[7]: 267 

Married lifeEdit

From her marriage to Umar, Atika gave birth to a son named Iyad.[3]: 204 

One story of their married life tells how the Governor of Basra gave Atika a carpet. When Umar saw it, he picked it up and "hit her on the head with it until her head shook". Then he summoned the Governor and asked him, "What made you give something to my wives?" He hit his head with it, saying, "Take it! We have no need of it!"[3]: 239 

Atika used to ask Umar's permission to attend public prayers at the mosque. Umar preferred his wives to remain at home and expressed his displeasure with silence. Atika told him that she was not going to stop asking permission, and that she would go to the mosque unless he specifically forbade her. He remained silent, presumably because he could not forbid something that Muhammad had permitted, and so Atika continued to attend.[12][1]: 188–189 [2][13]

Death of UmarEdit

She was present at the Mosque when Umar was assassinated there in November 644.[3]: 285 [13] She composed elegies for him.

Eye! let thy tears and weeping be abundant
and weary not - over the noble chief.
Death hath afflicted me in the fall of a horseman
Distinguished in the day of battle ...[10]: 152 

Compassionate to those closest, tough against his enemies,
someone to trust in times of bad fortune and answering,
whenever he gave his word, his deeds did not belie his word,
swift to good deeds, and not with a frown.[5]: 130 

Fourth marriageEdit


After Umar's death, Atika married Zubayr ibn al-Awwam.[5]: 101  She made it a condition of their marriage contract that he would not beat her, that he would continue to permit her to visit the mosque at will and that he would not withhold "any of her rights".[2][6]: 88 [9]

Married lifeEdit

Zubayr regretted permitting her to attend public prayers and tried to discourage her. She retorted: "Are you so jealous that you want me to forsake a place where I have prayed with the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar?"[7]: 268  Since he did not dare forbid her outright to attend, he found an indirect way to deter her. He lay in wait for her when she was on her way to night prayers"[7]: 268  Later, when Zubayr asked why she had not attended prayers that night, she complained, "People have become wicked."[2][6]: 88 [7]: 268 [13] (In one version of this tradition, Zubayr confessed that he had been the man who had slapped her.[7]: 268 ) She decided thenceforth to pray at home.[6]: 88 [2][7]: 268 [13]

Death of ZubayrEdit

Zubayr was killed at the Battle of the Camel in December 656.[3]: 83–86  Atika also composed an elegy for him.

If he could have been awakened, he would have been found
not shaking with a quivering heart or hand.
You will be lucky to find anyone like him
among those who remain, who come and go ...
If you have killed a Muslim, then you must suffer the penalty for murder.[14]

It was at this point that people began to say: "Let a man who wants to be a shahid marry Atika bint Zayd!"[6]: 89 

Afterwards, the fourth caliph of Islam Ali himself proposed to her, but she told him, "I would not want you to die, O cousin of the Prophet."[7]: 268  Despite that, Ali ended up dying a shaheed anyway, which changed her as well as people's views.

Last marriageEdit

Atika's fifth and final husband was Ali's own son, Husayn, who was over twenty years younger than she was. He was also reckoned a shahid because he was killed at the Battle of Karbala in October 680;[6]: 89 [9][7]: 268  However, Atika apparently predeceased him.


Atika died in 672[9] during the reign of Umayyad caliph Mu'awiya I.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. Al-Isaba fi tamyiz al-Sahaba vol. 8 #11448.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 3. Translated by Bewley, A. (2013). The Companions of Badr. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
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  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Shuraydi, H. (2014). The Raven and the Falcon: Youth versus Old Age in Medieval Arabic Literature. Leiden: Brill.
  8. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 2. Translated by Haq, S. M. (1972). Ibn Sa'd's Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir Volume II Parts I & II, p. 430. Delhi: Kitab Bhavan.
  9. ^ a b c d e Ahmed, L. (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, p. 76. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
  10. ^ a b Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti. History of the Caliphs. Translated by Jarrett, H. S. (1881). Calcutta: The Asiatic Society.
  11. ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Tarikh al Rusual wa'l-Muluk. Translated by Blankinship, K. Y. (1993). Volume 11: The Challenge to the Empires. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  12. ^ Malik ibn Anas. Muwatta 14:14.
  13. ^ a b c d Holmes Katz, M. (2013). Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice, p. 191. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  14. ^ Sallabi, A. H. (2010). Biography of Ali Ibn Abi-Talib: A Comprehensive Study of His Personality and Era, volume 2, p. 88. Riyadh: Darussalam.