The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) had four daughters all whom were born to his first wife Khadeejah (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) The oldest of his daughters was Zainab and the youngest of his daughters was Faatimah. Ruqayyah and Ummu Kulthoom were second and third oldest, respectively. All died within his lifetime, expect for Faatimah who died 6 months after his death.
Zainab, (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) was born ten years before the Prophethood, when Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) was 30 years old. The name Zainab is a combination of two different words; ‘Zain’ which means ‘ornament’, and ‘Ab,’ which means ‘father;’ thus her name means ‘the ornament or the jewel of her father.’
While she was still a young girl, Zainab was, to her youngest sister Faatimah, a great educator and a caring sister. She would take care of her affairs and play with her. This responsibility became greater after the death of their mother, Khadeejah bint Khuwailid (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa).
She married Abul-‘Aas ibn al-Rabee’ al-Qurashi (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu), who was the son of her maternal aunt Haalah bint Khuwailid. They cherished one another, and she had a special place in the hearts of her husband, her mother-in-law, and her own parents. The joy between the two families increased when the couple was blessed with two babies, a boy named ‘Ali and a girl named Umaamah.
Zainab’s life passed smoothly until the most memorable point in the history of Makkah came. Her father was chosen to be a Rasool (Prophet) of Allah Almighty. Being a daily visitor to her fathers house, she was well informed from the onset of his Prophethood of all the trials he faced. When she learned of her father being the Prophet of the Ummah, she immediately declared her belief in it. How could she not have believed if she already knew her father’s manners and high moral values? Was it possible not to believe when she loved him in a way that she never loved anyone else?
But she worried whether her husband would believe in her father’s message or deny it. She contemplated the matter deeply. She told him about the great honour her father had by having a religion revealed to him. She did so enthusiastically and he listened carefully. After she had finished, she asked him his opinion, but she was startled to find him silent, and when she insisted fearfully to have an answer, he said that he did not consider it suitable for him to believe in the new faith. She declared that she believed in her father. He left the house in silence. Zainab (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) was shocked and pained by the disbelief of her husband.
Zainab’s (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) position towards da’wah was always of a steadfast nature. Despite her deep love for her husband, she did not hesitate to hold fast to her faith, even if he insisted on turning his back if the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) continued to call others to Islam. Some people of the Quraish accepted it, while others rejected it. The more people came to Islam, the more hostile the enemies became.
The resisting front of the Quraish met one day to discuss the problem. They had tried all means of fighting the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) and his religion, but this time they thought of a new idea. One of them said, “You are first helping Muhammad to be carefree, and so he can concentrate on his da‘wah. Send his daughters back to him and that will make him busy again.” What a devilish idea!
Muhammad’s, Prophet of Allah (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) daughters, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthoom (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhumaa), were married to the Prophet’s two cousins, ‘Utbah and ‘Utaibah; sons of Abu Lahab, while Zainab (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) was married to Abul ‘Aas bin Rabee’. The chieftains of Makkah liked the idea and hurried to Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle and father-in law of his two daughters. He was surprised by the demand that his two sons should divorce Muhammad’s daughters.
As Abu Lahab’s wife, Umm Jameel was domineering with her sons, she told them that they were ordered to divorce Muhammad’s daughters and choose other women from the Quraish. The command was non-negotiable, resulting in the two husbands hurrying back to their wives and ordering them to return to their father’s house. The Quraish were happy to have succeeded in that plan, and they hurried to Abul ‘Aas to persuade him to divorce Muhammad’s third daughter. They said to him, “Divorce your wife and we’ll marry you to any woman you like.” But they were struck by his answer. “No, by Allah, I will never leave my wife and I don’t want to have any other woman.”
The conspirators left in disappointment because of their failure to persuade him to divorce his wife. Although the man did not want to follow Muhammad, he loved his wife and saw it a matter of shame and lowliness to divorce her just to please the insolent chieftains of the Quraish.
Many events followed: suffering, patience, and struggling on the part of the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) and his followers, and cruelty, injustice, and oppression on the part of the Quraish. Zainab (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) was part of those events. How could she live happily with her loving husband while her father was belied and his followers were tortured?
Her suffering was shared with her family throughout the support for their father, whether verbal or in the heart. Then came the decisive day in Makkah when the Quraish tried to murder the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam). Allah commanded His Messenger to emigrate, and he did.
However, when the Message was revealed, Zainab and Abul ‘Aas were temporarily separated due to the Abul-‘Aas’s refusal to accept Islam. He justified his refusal by saying: “By Allah I trust in your father but I fear that they might circulate that I left my father’s religion to please my wife.”
In Madeenah, the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) faced the Quraish at Badr. All the prominent figures of Makkah joined in the fighting against him, among them Abul ‘Aas, Zainab’s husband. Her heart was filled with grief as her father, the dearest one on earth to her heart, led the believers to meet the Quraish. She wished the war would never be waged, as she would be hurt no matter who won.
The Prophet of Allah (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) and his faithful Companions defeated the Quraish, and its chieftains were killed, captured, or chased away. When the survivors returned from Badr to Makkah, Zainab set off to search for her husband, fearing his absence. On asking the survivors, she was informed that he was among the prisoners of war and was taken to her father in Madeenah. It was only then that the weight on her heart lightened. As long as he was in her father’s trust, he would be well treated, if not for his status in the Quraish, at least for her place in her father’s heart.
A few days after the defeat of the Quraish, she began to anticipate the release of the captives, and so relatives journeyed to pay the ransom for them. The family of Abul ‘Aas were prepared to do so, but Zainab insisted to pay the ransom herself. She gave her brother-in-law a necklace to ransom her husband. It was her wedding gift from her mother, Khadeejah (RadiyAllahu ‘anhaa). No sooner did the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) see this necklace then he remembered his earnest his loyal wife, Khadeejah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa).
Thereupon, after a long period of pause the Prophet, said, “If you would like to release her prisoner and repay her money you could do so?” They all said, ‘Yes messenger of Allah (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam).” Then the Prophet, took a pledge from Abul ‘Aas to release Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) as Islam put a barrier between them.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) asked Abul ‘Aas to come closer and when he did, he whispered to him and Abul ‘As nodded consent, then left for Makkah. The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) turned to those Muslims sitting with him and said, “By Allah, we have never eschewed his praise as a son-in-law .”
Abul ‘Aas reached Makkah and headed straight for his home. His heart was broken as the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) had made him promise to allow Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) to emigrate because Islam had separated them. Zainab the believer was no longer fit for Abul ‘Aas the polytheist, despite the love and kinship that had tied them together for many years. In fact, Islam has honoured the Muslim woman by prohibiting her marriage to a non-Muslim.
When Abul ‘Aas entered his house, his face did not look like that of a loving husband who had survived war and come back to his beloved . Zainab welcomed him, but he did not react to sweet words of praise. Sensitive to his cold response. “Where and why are you going?” He replied “You not me, I promised your father to return you to him because Islam put a barrier between us and I never broke a promise.” She was told to emigrate to her father in Madeenah within a few days. “And what about you?” she asked. But he was silent. She could not believe that her husband would allow her travel to another city without him, but she read it clearly in his face.
Zaid bin Haarithah (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) would come from Madeenah to accompany her and meet her in a place near Makkah named Batn Ya’jooj. When the day came, Abul ‘Aas asked his brother Kinaanah, to take her to Batn Ya’jooj where Zaid (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) would be waiting. Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) was in the fourth month of pregnancy, so her husband prepared a comfortable howdah for the journey. It was daylight and Kinanah escorted her out of Makkah, but there was an incongruous group of people ahead who spotted them and considered her emigration in the broad daylight a blatant challenge to them. They hurried to their weapons and chased her. Those who caught up with her caravan asked Kinaanah to take her back, but he refused. Then one of them, Habbaar bin Al Aswad, tried to cow her with his spear, but she fell from her camel, bled and lost her baby.
Kinaanah began to take out his arrows and threaten the men, saying, “By Allah, if any one of you approaches me, I’ll shoot.” They all retreated as they saw him insist on defending Zainab. Abu Sufyaan bin Harb then stepped in and said, “Put away your arrows. We want to talk to you”. Kinaanah did so and Abu Sufyaan declared, “You were wrong in taking the woman in front of everyone, even though you already knew what befell us at the hands of Muhammad. This will make people think that we have been humiliated and weakened. We gain nothing by keeping her here. Take her home till people calm down and think that we have managed to stop her. Then take her secretly to her father”.
Kinaanah looked at Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) and saw her bleeding heavily. He thought it would be better for her to return to her house to recover and then set off on her journey again. He took her home where she was nursed by the women of the family. The men who hurt Zainab were jubilant of their deed and even thought that her return to her husband’s house was a victory over the Prophet (peace be upon him). Hind bint ‘Utbah, wife of Abu Sufyaan, saw what they did together with her husband, teased them saying sarcastically, “In war you are like women and in peace you are harsh”. Her mockery concerned their defeat by Muhammad (at Badr) on one occasion and their victory over his daughter on another. The group of men left overwhelmed with shame. Even their women and daughters criticized their hateful deed.
Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) went back to Makkah under the shelter of Abul ‘Aas. She recovered quickly and, within a few days, was guided by Kinaanah bin ar-Rabee’ to Zaid bin Haarithah (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu). His return to Makkah was one of pride.
Zainab’s (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) journey was long. She felt honoured to stay in her father’s house. The more the days passed after leaving her husband, the more she wondered why she didn’t hear about him and how he could tolerate the separation although he loved her. Wasn’t it he who had refused the Quraish’s offer of marriage to their most beautiful woman if he agreed to divorce her? Wasn’t it he who was famous for his poetry which he used to recite each time he left her for trading expeditions, mentioning her sweet nature and the honourable manners of her father? All of these meant that she had a special place in his heart. How could he forget her?
Years passed and Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) lived with her father in Madeenah hoping that Allah open the heart of Abul ‘Aas to Islam. After 6 years Abul ‘Aas knocked on Zainab’s door. On one of his trading expeditions to the Levant, he was accosted by the Muslim army, who blocked his way and took all his possessions. Abul ‘Aas fled, finding only Madeenah, and in it his wife, as his refuge. He knocked at her door and surprised her. She exclaimed in confusion, “Welcome cousin! Are you at last guided to what is right?”
He lowered his head, then raised it in embarrassment and said, “In fact, I did not come as a Muslim. I came as a fugitive from the Muslims in pursuit of me and I am seeking refuge with you from them. Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) had mixed feelings, pain from the frustrating answer and hope for his conversion. She said, “Welcome Abu ‘Ali. Whoever seeks refuge with the Messenger of Allah will never be disappointed”.
The night passed and the adhan of Fajr prayer was called. Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) felt her father getting ready for the prayer. She prepared herself to do something that no woman had dared to do before her. She would declare loudly that she had offered refuge to Abul ‘Aas; but on second thought, she doubted whether her father would approve of her action. Was it permissible for a woman to offer refuge to anyone? The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) was about to raise his voice with Takbeer to start the prayer with the worshippers behind him. Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) decided to carry out what she intended to do. She brought her head outside the door and cried in a loud voice, “I have offered refuge to Abul ‘Aas bin Rabee’”. Her cry was heard by everyone. When the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) had finished the prayer he said, “O people, did you hear what I heard?”
They said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah, we heard as you heard”.
He then said, “By Him in Whose hands my soul is, I did not know about this till I heard what you heard. The Muslims are one hand against their enemies, and we will offer refuge to whomever she has offered it.”
When he (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) had finished his prayer, he went to his daughter, who was with Abul ‘Aas. She hurried to her father in anxiety and said, “O Messenger of Allah, Abul ‘Aas is my cousin and the father of my sons, and I have given him refuge”.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) smiled and said, “We offer refuge to whomever you offer it, my daughter. Be hospitable towards him but do not be alone with him since you are not lawful to him”.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) left for his house, and she followed him and asked him to let Abul ‘Aas get back what had been taken from him. The Prophet promised to do so. She returned to Abul ‘Aas satisfied and looked at him in an accusing manner. He managed to leave her, but he returned her a promising look.”
Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) asked her father to give Abul ‘Aas his property back. Accordingly the Prophet, peace be upon him, went to his companions and said, “ You know this man, whose property you took, I would like to give back his property. But if you don’t like to do that it will be your booty given to by Allah.” They all replied, “We would like to give it back messenger of Allah.”
Having arrived there with his prosperous caravan he began to give back what he had taken from people. He called the people of Quraish to collect their share of the profit. After they all had taken their money, he said to them, “O people of Quraish, is there anyone who has not taken his money?” They said to him, “No, may God reward you the best. We have always seen you as faithful and generous”. Then he pronounced to them, “Then, I testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. By Allah, what hindered me from declaring my coming to Islam was that I was afraid lest you should think I wanted to take your money. Now that I have returned your money, I declare my Islam”.
Accordingly Abul ‘Aas went forward to Madeenah to join the Muslim community. There The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) returned Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) to him. The spouse met again and continued to live in happiness and felicity under the shade of an unblemished belief.
A year later Zainab (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) became ill, affected by her fall from the previous year when she was about to emigrate from Madeenah but Quraish obstructed her. Abul ‘Aas (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) became so sad he caused the people at her funeral to weep. He kissed his children and wetting them with his tears and remembering the face of his departed darling.
Then came Rasoolullaah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) to bid farewell to her. He said to the women, “Wash her thrice for five times and let the last wash be mixed with camphor and tell me when you’re finished. The women did as he instructed, and when they had finished they told him. He gave them a piece of his clothing and said, “Wrap her in it”. The women took the Prophet’s garment, put it on her and buried her. Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) prayed over her.
Zainab’s daughter, Umaamah remained as the sweet memory of her mother. She was one of the loveliest members of the Prophet’s family and dearest to his heart. ‘Aa-ishah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) was once given a necklace as a present and said, “I’ll give it to the dearest one in my family”. All the women said, The daughter of Abu Quhaafah (‘Aa-ishah) will take it. But he called Umaamah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) to him and hung it around her neck.
Source- “Noble Women Around The Messenger” by Om Elqura Publications, Egypt