Asiya (depicted with long black tresses) and her servants, having finished bathing, find baby Moses in the Nile. Their clothes hang in the trees. The river waves and crests are done in the Chinese style. Illustration from the Persian Jami’ al-tawarikh
According to Islamic tradition, Asiyah (Arabic: آسِيَة), sometimes called Asiya bint Muzahim (Arabic: آسِيَة بِنْت مُزَاحِم), was the Great Royal Wife of the ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh of the Exodus and the adoptive mother of Islamic prophet Mūsā. She is revered by Muslims as one of the four greatest women of all time, and according to a prophetic narration found in Sahih al-Bukhari, the second ever. She is believed to have secretly accepted monotheism after witnessing the miracle of Moses in her husband’s court. The tradition holds that Asiya worshipped God in secret and prayed in disguise fearing her husband. She adopted Moses and convinced her husband Pharaoh not to kill him. She died while being tortured by her husband, who had discovered her monotheism and retaliated to her rebellion against his tyranny.
Asiya’s marriage to Pharaoh was arranged. Unlike her husband, she was humble and accepted the faith that Moses and Aaron were preaching. Although she had exceeding wealth, she was not arrogant like Pharaoh. She realized that faith was far more important and was thus exalted by God amongst the women of her generation.
Adoption of Moses
Asiya and her maids were at the neighboring Nile river one day. To their amazement, they found a crate floating in the river. Asiya immediately ordered that the crate be brought out on shore. The maids thought there was a treasure in the crate, but instead found a baby boy, Moses. Asiya instantly felt motherly love towards him. She told Pharaoh about the baby. The incident has been described in the Quran.
And Pharaoh’s wife said: A refreshment of the eye to me and to thee – slay him not; maybe he will be useful to us, or we may take him for a son. And they perceived not.
— Quran: Surah Al-Qasas, verse 9
Asiya then offered Moses’s mother to live in their household as his wet nurse and paid her for her services, unaware of their relationship.
When she witnessed the death of a believing woman under her husband’s torture, she declared her faith before Pharaoh who tried to turn her away from the faith, but Asiya refused to reject the God and the teaching of Moses. On Pharaoh’s order, she was tortured to death.
It is said that Asiya was a sincere believer and that she fully submitted herself to Allah, despite being the wife of Pharaoh. According to Hadith, she will be among the first women to enter Paradise because she accepted Moses’s monotheism over Pharaoh’s beliefs. The Qur’an mentions Asiya as an example to all Muslims
And God sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: ‘O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a house in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong’
— Qur’an, chapter 66 (At-Tahrim), verse 11
Abu Musa Ashaari narrated that once the Islamic prophet, Muhammad stated,
Many men reached perfection but none among the women reached perfection except Mary, the daughter of Imran; and Asiya, Pharaoh’s wife.
— Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 7.329
Khadijah bint Khuwaylid
Maryam bint Imran
Avner Gilʻadi (1999). Infants, Parents and Wet Nurses: Medieval Islamic Views on Breastfeeding and Their Social Implications. Brill Publishers. ISBN 9789004112230.
Muhmmad al-Bukhari. Sahih Al-Bukhari Translated into English Prose by Muhammad Muhsin Khan.Hadith 7.329
Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an. Leidan: Brill, 2001. Print.
Stowasser, B.F. (1994). Women in the qur’an, traditions, and interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press. 57
Quran 28:9:(Here is) joy of the eye, for me and for thee: slay him not. It may be that he will be use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not (what they were doing)
Ṭabarī; Brinner, William M. (1991). The children of Israel. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-0688-1.
Wheeler, Brannon M. (2002). Prophets in the Quran: an introduction to the Quran and Muslim exegesis. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-4957-3.
Renard Although the Quran says that she prayed to God to save her from Pharaoh and some Muslim traditions even say that she was migrated when Moses was delivering the Israelites., John (1998). Windows on the house of Islam: Muslim sources on spirituality and religious life. University of California Press: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-520-21086-7.