Name: Zaynab Bint Jahash
Father: Jahash Bin Raab
Mother: Umayma Bint Abdul-Muttalib
Clan: Banu Hashim
Family: Asad Bin Khuzaymah
Birth: 590 CE
Death: 20 AH – 643 CE
If any woman has had to face controversy, scandal, slander and all manners of finger pointing, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). And if any woman has emerged from it all not only unscathed but with flying colours, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). And if any woman was chosen by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) to be an agent of change in eradicating deep rooted customs of Jahiliyah and launching an Islamic social fabric, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta).
Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta) was the Prophet’s (sa) first cousin, her mother Umayma being the daughter of Abdul-Muttalib. She came from one of the noblest families of the Quraish, and everyone expected her eventually to marry a man with the same high social status. However, the Prophet (sa) himself arranged her marriage to Zaid Bin Harith (rta), whose background was very different from Zaynab (rta).
Zaid (rta) was taken prisoner as a child during an inter-tribal war before Islam. He was sold as a slave to a nephew of Khadijah (rta), who gave Zaid (rta) to her as a gift. In turn, Khadijah (rta) gave him to the Prophet (sa), who later granted Zaid (rta) his freedom and adopted him as his own son.
When the Prophet (sa) asked for her hand on behalf of Zaid (rta), Zaynab (rta) and her family were shocked at the idea of her marrying a man, who for them was only a freed slave. The Prophet (sa) thought they would make a good couple, and that their marriage would demonstrate that it was not their ancestors but their standing in the sight of Allah (swt) that mattered.
A lesson we seem to have forgotten. Today, we are as socially stratified as the Arabs were in the days of Jahiliyah. Cross-social and cross-cultural marriages are frowned upon and just not acceptable. How often do we hear of a Sindhi marrying a Pathan?
Zaynab (rta) and Zaid (rta) got married when this Ayah was revealed in the Quran: “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error.” (Al-Ahzab 33:36)
The marriage, however, was not a success. Although both Zaynab (rta) and Zaid (rta) were the best of people, who loved Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa), they were very different and could not overcome their incompatibility.
Then Allah (swt) ordained His Messenger (sa) the task of eradicating a deep rooted social tradition – the adoption of children. An adopted child was considered exactly like a real son or daughter in rights and sanctities. This tradition affronts the basic principles of Islam; especially those concerning marriage, divorce and inheritance and some other cases.
“Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just with Allah.” (Al-Ahzab 33:5)
“Muhammad (sa) is not the father of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets.” (Al-Ahzab 33:40)
Allah (swt) bid the Prophet (sa) to marry his cousin Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta), who was an ex-wife to Zaid (rta) – his adopted son.
“So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them).” (Al-Ahzab 33:37)
So he married the divorcee of his ‘adopted’ son to show that adoption does not really make the adopted child a real son and also to show that divorcees have a right to remarry. Tongues of the Kuffar to this day are dipped in venom, when they slander the Prophet (sa) regarding his marriage to Zaynab (rta). They stoop to the basest level of accusations. So we can well imagine how the hypocrites must have spread false propaganda at that time.
The marriage of Zaynab (rta) and the Prophet (sa) not only withstood all the hoopla but flourished in spite of it. Zaynab (rta) was fond of pointing out that her marriage had been arranged by Allah (swt) Himself!
But that did not mean she thought she was a ‘chosen one’ and became complacent about Allah (swt) or her actions. She was constantly immersed in worship.
It is related by Anas Ibn Malik (rta) that once the Prophet (sa) entered the mosque and found a rope hanging between two pillars, and so he said: “What is this?” He was told: “It is for Zaynab (rta). She prays, and when she loses concentration or feels tired, she holds onto it.” At this time, the Prophet said: “Untie it. Pray as long as you feel fresh, but when you lose concentration or become tired, you should stop.”
She was a giving woman. The Prophet (sa) said of her to his other wives: “She is the most generous among you.” It has been related by Aisha (rta) that the Prophet (sa) once said to his wives: “The one who has the longest hands among you will meet me again the soonest.” Aisha (rta) added: “They used to measure each other’s hands to see whose was longest, and it was the hand of Zaynab (rta) that was the longest, because she used to work by hand (tanning leather) and give away (what she earned) in charity.”
Zaynab (rta) was with the Prophet (sa) for six years, and lived for another nine years after his death, thus fulfilling the Prophet’s (sa) indication that she would be the first of his wives to die after him.
If ever a woman gave Ayesha (rta) cause for insecurity, it was Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). There was a healthy rivalry between Zaynab (rta) and Ayesha (rta). However, Ayesha (rta) said of Zaynab (rta): “I have never seen a woman so pure as Zaynab, so God-fearing, so truthful, so attentive to family ties, so generous, so self-sacrificing in everyday life, so charitable and thus so close to Allah, the Exalted.”
The lessons we learn from this remarkable woman and her life are particularly relevant in today’s soap opera culture and hunger for scandals. How can we deal with personal trials with poise? Look at Zaynab (rta). No need to get hysterical at every finger raised in your direction. How do we manage a divorce with dignity? Look at Zaynab (rta). We don’t have to accuse either party of some major fault and get in a mud slinging match. How do we adjust to a major lifestyle change? Look at Zaynab (rta). Know your direction and stay true to your faith. How do we not get on cloud nine when Allah the Supreme honours us with His Glorious Limelight? Look at Zaynab (rta). Stay humble before Allah (swt) and steadfast in your devotion to Him.