Narrated Abû Mûsa (radhi Allahu anhu) : Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Many amongst men reached (the level of) perfection but none amongst the women reached this level except Assiyya – Pharaoh’s wife, and Mary – the daughter of ‘Imrân. And no doubt, the superiority of ‘Aisha to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (i.e. a meat and bread dish) to other meals.” (Sahih Al-Bukharî, Vol. 4, Hadîth No. 623).
Not much is known about Assiyya, the wife of Pharaoh. She brought Moses into her home when he was a baby, as is recorded in the Quran:
And We inspired the mother of Mûsa (Moses), (saying): “Suckle him [Mûsa (Moses)], but when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve. Verily! We shall bring him back to you, and shall make him one of (Our) Messengers.”
Then the household of Fir’aun (Pharaoh) picked him up, that he might become for them an enemy and a (cause of) grief. Verily! Fir’aun (Pharaoh), Hâmân and their hosts were sinners.
And the wife of Fir’aun (Pharaoh) said: “A comfort of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he may be of benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceive not (the result of that). (Surah 28:7-9)
Later, few believed in the Prophethood of Moses except some children of his People, because of the fear of Pharaoh and his chiefs. They feared the persecution of Pharaoh as certainly Pharaoh was mighty on the earth and one who transgressed all bounds. Yet, Assiyya, Pharaoh’s own wife recognized the truth of Moses’ message. She answered Moses’ call and became a Muslim, despite the fact that she was the wife of Pharaoh – the man who claimed to be God Himself – and despite all that she possessed through being the wife of a king. She refused that and chose to be in God’s company. This is a great example of how a woman chose the Hereafter over and above all of the wealth of this world. She remained firm on her faith in God despite persecution of all sorts:
(Pharaoh) said: “Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this must be your leader, who has taught you magic! be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm-trees: so shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment!” (Surah 20:71)
The Quran sets her as an example for the believers to stay away from evil and sin despite the full assault of the devil:
“God sets forth an example for those who believe — the wife of Pharaoh who said: My Lord, build for me with Thee a house in heaven, and save me from the Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from an unjust people.”(Surah 66:11)
Muslims believe that Hazrat Asiya came from a rich family and that she was a very beautiful and generous woman. Her marriage to Pharaoh was arranged. Unlike her husband, she was humble and accepted the faith that Hazrat Moses and Hazrat 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
Hazrat Asiya and her maids were at the neighbouring Nile river one day. To their amazement, they found a crate floating in the river. Hazrat 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. Hazrat 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: Sura Al-Qasas, verse 9
Hazrat 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 Hazrat Asiya refused to reject the God and the teaching of Moses. On Pharaoh’s order, she was tortured to death.
It is said that Hazrat Asiya was a sincere believer and that she fully submitted herself to Allah, despite being the wife of Pharaoh. According to Hadith, she will among first group of women to enter Paradise because she accepted Moses’s monotheism over Pharaoh’s beliefs. The Qur’an mentions Hazrat 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 mansion 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
Hazrat Abu Musa Ashaari narrated that once the Islamic prophet, Hazrat Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم stated,
Many men reached perfection but none among the women reached perfection except Hazrat Faitmah, Hazrat Khadija,Hazrat Mary, the daughter of Hazrat Imran; and Hazrat Asiya, Pharaoh’s wife.— Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 7.329