Zaynab bint Jahsh
Zaynab bint Jahsh
|Died||641 (aged 53 lunar years)|
|Known for||Wife of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad|
|Spouse(s)||Unknown first husband (had died by 622) |
Zayd ibn Harithah (divorced)
|Parent(s)||Jahsh ibn Riyab |
Umama bint Abdul Muttalib
|Relatives||Muhammad (first cousin) |
Abdullah ibn Jahsh, Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, Abu Ahmad ibn Jahsh, Habiba bint Jahsh and Hammanah bint Jahsh (siblings)
Zaynab's father was Jahsh ibn Riyab, an immigrant from the Asad ibn Khuzayma tribe who had settled in Mecca under the protection of the Umayya clan. Her mother was Umayma bint Abdulmuttalib, a member of the Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe and a sister of Muhammad's father. Hence Zaynab and her five siblings were the first cousins of Muhammad.
Zaynab is described as "a perfect-looking woman," fair-skinned and shapely, and of diminutive size. It was said that she was quick to lose her temper but also quick to calm down. She was a skilled tanner and leather-worker. She continued with this line of work throughout her life, even after she no longer needed the money.
Circumstances of the marriageEdit
Around 625 Muhammad proposed to Zaynab that she marry his adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah. Zayd had been born into the Kalb tribe but as a child he had been kidnapped by slave-traders. He had been sold to a nephew of Khadija bint Khuwaylid, who in her turn had given him as a wedding present to her husband Muhammad. After some years, Muhammad had manumitted Zayd and had adopted him as his son.
Zaynab, supported by her brother Abdullah, at first refused the proposal on the grounds that, "I am the widow of a Quraysh." They presumably meant that Zaynab's social status was too high to allow her to marry an ex-slave. It has been asserted that these social differences were precisely the reason why Muhammad wanted to arrange the marriage:
- "The Prophet was well aware that it is a person’s standing in the eyes of Allah that is important, rather than his or her status in the eyes of the people ... their marriage would demonstrate that it was not who their ancestors were, but rather their standing in the sight of Allah, that mattered."
- "She can hardly have thought that he was not good enough. She was an ambitious woman, however, and may already have hoped to marry Muhammad; or she may have wanted to marry someone with whom Muhammad did not want his family to be so closely allied."
When Muhammad announced a new verse of the Qur'an:
It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error,
Circumstances of the divorceEdit
"Zayd bin Harithah, who lived in Muhammad's household and came to be regarded as his adoptive son-so that he was regularly addressed as Zayd, son of Muhammad. Whether the marriage between Zayd and Zaynab was a mesalliance from the beginning is speculation, though the account maintains that Zayd was not reluctant to divorce his wife and allow her to marry Muhammad. Muhammad is portrayed as reluctant to proceed with the marriage because of scruples about whether marrying one's adopted son's former wife violated the prohibited degrees of marriage. Arab customary practice recognized kinship relations not based on blood ties: fosterage (having nursed from the same woman) was one such relationship; the question whether adoption fell into this category must have been unclear among Muslims. The marriage did not take place until after a Qur'anic revelation was received, giving permission for believers to marry the divorced wives of their adopted sons.
However, this story has been vigorously rejected by most Muslim scholars mainly because of its lack of having any chain of narration and its complete absence from any authentic hadith. Some commentators have found it absurd that Muhammad would suddenly become aware of Zaynab's beauty one day after having known her all her life; if her beauty had been the reason for Muhammad to marry her, he would have married her himself in the first place rather than arranging her marriage to Zayd.
He divorced her in December 626.
Marriage to MuhammadEdit
Preparation for the marriageEdit
Muhammad expected criticism if he married Zaynab. Pre-Islamic custom disapproved of marriage between a man and his son's former wife. Arab society would have viewed this union as profoundly wrong; because they considered an adopted son was truly a "son", for a man to marry his adopted son's wife - even if she was divorced - was considered incestuous. Therefore, he "hid in his heart" the idea that he might marry her. This internal conflict is mentioned in the Qur'an 33:37:
Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled.
After this verse was announced, Muhammad proceeded to reject the existing Arabian norms. Thereafter the legal status of adoption was not recognised under Islam. Zayd reverted to being known by his original name of "Zayd ibn Harithah" instead of "Zayd ibn Muhammad".
Orientalists have pointed to this sura as an example of a self-serving revelation that reflected Muhammad’s desires rather than the will of God. Some Muslim historians have understood the discrepancy between Muhammad's private thoughts and his expressed words to refer, not to a desire to marry Zaynab, but only to a prophetic foreknowledge that the marriage was going to happen.
Muhammad married Zaynab as soon as her waiting-period from her divorce was complete, on 27 March 627. He went into her house when she did not expect him and without knocking. She asked him: "Is it going to be like this, without any witnesses or trustee (wali) for our union?" Muhammad replied: "Allah is the witness and Gabriel is the trustee."
Muhammad gave Zaynab a dower of 400 dirhams. Later he held a wedding banquet for her and slaughtered a sheep. Anas ibn Malik said there were over seventy guests, and that none of Muhammad's other wives was given such a large banquet. The guests stayed late and continued to eat and drink at the lavish affair, and to monopolize the bride. Mohammed wanted to celebrate his wedding night with Zaynab behind the curtain that was his bedroom door. It was while trying to send these guests home from this wedding feast (without offending them more than they were already for his wedding to the divorced Zaynab), that Muhammad announced that women should be addressed by men (other than immediate family) only from behind a screen. This has been interpreted as an ayat by some but not all Muslims.
And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts.
Life in MedinaEdit
Aisha believed that Muhammad's favourite wives, after herself, were Zaynab and Umm Salama. She said: "Zaynab was my equal in beauty and in the Prophet's love for her." Umm Salama said of Zaynab: "The Messenger of Allah liked her and he also used to become vexed with her."
Several traditions indicate conflict between Zaynab and her co-wives. She used to boast to them: "You were given in marriage by your families, while I was married (to the Prophet) by Allah from over seven Heavens." Aisha related that the wives were divided into two factions, one led by herself and the other by Umm Salama. Zaynab was allied to Umm Salama, together with Umm Habiba, Juwayriyya and Maymunah. In one quarrel, Zaynab shouted insults at Aisha while Muhammad was present. Aisha retaliated with "hot words until I made her quiet." Muhammad only commented that Aisha was "really the daughter of Abu Bakr." Another time Zaynab refused to lend her spare camel to Safiyya; Muhammad was so angry that he did not speak to Zaynab for over two months. On two occasions, when Muhammad divided a gift of food among all his wives, Zaynab was displeased with her portion and sent it back to him.
Yet it was Zaynab who defended Aisha when the latter was accused of adultery. Muhammad asked her if she knew anything about it, and Zaynab replied: "O Allah's Messenger! I refrain to claim hearing or seeing what I have not heard or seen. By Allah, I know nothing except goodness about Aisha." Aisha conceded: "I have never seen a woman more advanced in religious piety than Zaynab, more God-conscious, more truthful, more alive to the ties of blood, more generous and having more sense of self-sacrifice in practical life and having more charitable disposition and thus more close to God, the Exalted, than she was."
Zaynab had a reputation for being prayerful. She prayed so much by night that she hung a rope between two pillars in the mosque and held onto it when she became too tired to prostrate. When Muhammad discovered the rope, he removed it and told her that when she became tired, she should stop praying and sit down.
She continued to work at tanning and leather-crafts, and she gave away all her profits in charity. Even when Caliph Umar sent her the pension of 12,000 dirhams that he allowed to all of Muhammad's widows, Zaynab gave it all away to various poor families in Medina. At her death, her heirs did not find a single coin in her house.
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- "For in the time of ignorance they regarded the marriage with an adopted son’s wife as illegal as that with the wife of a natural son." Koelle, S. W. (1889). Mohammed and Mohammedanism Critically Considered, p. 497. London: Rivingtons.
- "...the marriage of a man with the wife of his adopted son, even though divorced, was looked upon by the Arabs as a very wrong thing indeed." Sell, E. (1905). The Historical Development of the Quran, pp. 149–150. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
- "This liberality did not prevent severe comments from those who regarded adopted sonship as real sonship — for which view Mohammed’s institution of brotherhoods gave some support — and who, therefore, regarded this union as incestuous." Margoliouth, D. S. (1905). Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, Third Edition, p. 321. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
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- "Being the wife of an adopted son, she was unlawful to the Prophet, but a pretended revelation (see Qur’ān, Sūrah xxxiii. 37) settled the difficulty, and Muḥammad married her." Hughes, T. P. (1885). A Dictionary of Islam: Being a Cyclopædia of the Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies, and Customs, together with the Technical and Theological Terms, of the Muhammadan Religion. London: W. H. Allen & Co.
- "However, Muhammad did this, and had to justify his action by alleging that he had for it the direct sanction of God. It was first necessary to show that God did not approve of the general objection to marriage with wives of adopted sons, and so the revelation came thus: Nor hath He made your adopted sons to be as your sons.—Súratu’l Ahzáb (33) v. 4. ... Having thus settled the general principle, the way was clear for Muhammad to act in this particular case, and to claim divine sanction for setting at nought the sentiment of the Arab people. So the revelation goes on to say: And remember when thou (i.e. Muhammad) said to him (i.e. Zaid), unto whom God had shown favour and to whom thou also hadst shown favour, ‘Keep thy wife to thyself and fear God;’ and thou didst hide in thy mind what God would bring to light and thou didst fear man; but more right had it been to fear God. And when Zaid had settled to divorce her, we married her to thee, that it might not be a crime in the faithful to marry the wives of their adopted sons when they have settled the affairs concerning them. And the order of God is to be performed. No blame attaches to the Prophet where God hath given him a permission.—Súratu’l Ahzáb (33) vv. 37–8. This relaxation of the moral law for Muhammad’s benefit, because he was a prophet, shows how easy the divorce between religion and morality becomes in Islám." Sell, E. (1905). The Historical Development of the Quran (pp. 150–152). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
- "But we learn the same lesson from all such investigations, and that is how completely Muḥammad adapted his pretended revelations to what he believed to be the need of the moment. The same thing is true with regard to what we read in Sûrah Al Aḥzâb regarding the circumstances attending his marriage with Zainab, whom his adopted son Zaid divorced for his sake. The subject is too unsavoury for us to deal with at any length, but a reference to what the Qur’ân itself (Sûrah XXXIII., 37) says about the matter, coupled with the explanations afforded by the Commentators and the Traditions, will prove that Muḥammad’s own character and disposition have left their mark upon the moral law of Islâm and upon the Qur’ân itself." Tisdall, W. S. C. (1911). The Original Sources of the Qur’ân (pp. 278–279). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
- "But at Medina he seems to have cast off all shame; and the incidents connected with his marital relations, more especially the story of his marriage with Zainab the wife of his adopted son Zaid, and his connexion with Mary the Coptic slave-girl, are sufficient proof of his unbridled licentiousness and of his daring impiety in venturing to ascribe to GOD Most High the verses which he composed to sanction such conduct." Tisdall, W. S. C. (1895). The Religion of the Crescent, or Islâm: Its Strength, Its Weakness, Its Origin, Its Influence. Non-Christian Religious Systems (p. 177). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
- "The scandal of the marriage was removed by this extraordinary revelation, and Zeid was thenceforward called not “the son of Mahomet,” as heretofore, but by his proper name, “Zeid, the son of Hârith.” Our only matter of wonder is, that the Revelations of Mahomet continued after this to be regarded by his people as inspired communications from the Almighty, when they were so palpably formed to secure his own objects, and pander even to his evil desires. We hear of no doubts or questionings; and we can only attribute the confiding and credulous spirit of his followers to the absolute ascendancy of his powerful mind over all who came within its influence." Muir, W. (1861). The Life of Mahomet, Vol. 3, p. 231. London: Smith, Elder and Co.
- Le Gassick/Ibn Kathir vol. 3 p. 198. "God stated, 'You hide within yourself what God makes evident.' Regarding this, 'Ali b. al-Husayn Zayn b. al-Abidin and al-Suddi said, 'He (the Messenger of God (SAAS)) knew that she was to be one of his wives and it is he who hid (this) within himself.' Many early authorities discussed this matter in various strange ways. Some of these are controversial and so we are omitting them."
- Haykal, M. H. (1933). Hayat Muhammad. Translated by al-Faruqi, I. R. A. (2005). The Life of Muhammad (pbuh), p. 340. Baltimore: American Trust Publications. "Muhammad … found himself disinclined to implement this judgment by marrying Zaynab after Zayd had divorced her. Indeed, the criticisms of the commonplace and the vituperations with which he was indicted in the public eye for breaking down such well established custom did, for a time, influence Muhammad's judgment and affected his decision. It was at this stage that the following divine criticism was addressed to Muhammad: 'Would you hide, O Muhammad, within yourself that which God was going to bring to light anyway? Would you fear the gossip of the people? Isn't God more worthy of being feared?' [Qur'an, 33:37] The truth is, however, that Muhammad was the exemplar of obedience to God; his life was the implementation of that which he was entrusted to convey to mankind. The outcome, therefore, was that Muhammad would not give any weight at all to the gossip of the people if he were to marry the ex-wife of his adopted son, since the fear of social condemnation is nothing comparable to that of condemnation by God, of disobedience to divine commandment. Thus, Muhammad married Zaynab in order to provide a good example of what the All-Wise Legislator was seeking to establish by way of rights and privileges for adoption."
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