Zaid ibn Su`nah was one of the very notable Jewish scholars of Madinah and lived at the time of the prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam – May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) in Madinah. The following story about him is narrated by Abdullah ibn Salaam (may Allah be pleased with him) who was a blessed Companion of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S.).
According to Abdullah ibn Salaam once the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.S.) took a loan from Zaid to help other people in the city and promised to pay it on a certain date. Two or three days before the due date, Zaid ibn Su’nah approached the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.S.) who was accompanying Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them), and a number of other companions to offer a funeral prayer. After the prayers, Zaid ibn Sunah came to the prophet (S.A.W.S.), grabbed him by his shirt and cloak, and looked at him angrily and said:
“O Muhammad! Why don’t you pay off my due?! By Allah, I know nothing of your family except deferment [on debts]. I know well of your people.”
At this Umar got extremely angry and said: “O enemy of Allah! Did you actually just say what I heard you say to the Messenger of Allah? Did you really just do to him what I saw? By the One Who holds my life in His hand, if I were not concerned with [the Prophet’s] leaving us, I would have struck your head with my sword.”
The Prophet and Messenger of Allah, who was looking at Zaid ibn Su’nah quietly and patiently, said (even though the due date hadn’t arrived yet): “O Umar! We don’t need this. I was more in need of your advice to pay off his loan well, and your advice to deal with him courteously. Go with him O Umar, pay off his loan, and give him twenty extra saa` (~44 kilograms) of dates because you frightened him.”
Thus, Umar took Zaid ibn Su’nah, paid off his debt, and gave him an extra twenty saa` of dates. Zaid then asked him for the reason of the increase and Umar replied that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) had ordered to give it because Umar had scared Zaid.
According to Zaid, he then asked: “Do you recognize me, Umar?”
“No”, he said.
“I am Zaid ibn Su`nah”
“The scholar of the Jews?”, Umar asked.
“Yes, the same one.”
“Then what made you behave and speak with the Messenger of Allah as you did?” Umar asked.
“O Umar!” I replied.
“I recognized all of the signs of prophethood upon seeing the face of Muhammad except two signs that were not immediately evident: One, that his forbearance would precede his rashness, and that his forbearance would increase upon encountering excessive rashness. Now I have recognized these two signs as well. Bear witness, O Umar! I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as my religion, and with Muhammad as my Prophet. Also bear witness that I give half of my wealth – and I have plenty of wealth – in charity to the nation of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).”
Umar and Zaid then returned to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and Zaid publicly announced: “I bear witness that none is worthy of worship besides Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger and I believe in him.”
Thus, Zaid testified to the Prophet Muhammad’s message and took the pledge of allegiance on his hand. Later, Zaid participated in a number of expeditions along with the Prophet and was martyred in the expedition of Tabuk.
About Prophet Muhammad’s (S.A.W.S.) Character
The above story shows a glimpse of the prophet’s (SAWS) character, In his book Ihya’ ‘Uloom al-Deen, Abu Haamid al-Ghazaali highlighted the prophet’s qualities, some of which are stated as follows –
- He was the most forbearing of people, the most courageous of people, the most just of people, the most chaste of people.
- He was the most modest of people and would not look anyone straight in the eye.
- He would respond to the invitations of slave and free alike, and accept a gift even if it was a cup of milk, and he would reward a person for it.
- He got angry for the sake of his Lord but he did not get angry for his own sake.
- He would adhere to the truth even if that resulted in harm for himself or his companions. He found one of the best of his companions slain in an area where Jews lived, but he did not treat them harshly or do more than that which is prescribed by sharee’ah.
- He would accept invitations to meals, visit the sick, and attend funerals.
- He was the most humble and quiet of people without being arrogant, the most eloquent without being long-winded, the most cheerful of countenance.
- He would sit with the poor and offer food to and eat with the needy, honoring the virtuous and softening the hearts of people of status by treating them kindly.
- He upheld ties of kinship without favoring his relatives over those who were better than them, and he did not treat anyone harshly.
- He accepted the excuses of those who apologized to him; he would joke but he only spoke the truth, and he would smile without laughing out loud.
- He did not waste time without striving for the sake of Allah or doing that which was essential to better himself. He did not look down on any poor person because of his poverty or chronic sickness, and he did not fear any king because of his power.
The above mentioned story is a summary of the story that has been transmitted by Tabarani (al-Mu`jam al-Kabeer), to which al-Haithami says that all of the narrators of the Tradition are sound. Also transmitted by Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, and Hakim, among others. The Arabic version of this story has been taken from Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi’s Hayaat al-Sahaaba (The Lives of the Companions)