Zaynab bint Madhun

Zainab bint Madh'uwn was the first wife of Umar.


She was the daughter of Madh'uwn ibn Habeeb of the Jumah clan of the Quraysh in Makkah;[1]:204 hence she was a sister of Uthman ibn Madh'uwn.[1]:307

She was dark-skinned, a trait that she passed on to her son Abdullah.[1]:252

She married Umar before 605[2]:56 and bore him three children: Hafsah, Abdullah and Abdul-Rahman. Later Umar added two more wives to his household: Umm Kulthum bint Jarwal, who bore him two sons,[1]:203–204 and Quraybah bint Abi Umayyah, a cousin from the powerful Makhzum clan, who was childless.[3]:510 Umar said that Quraysh men at that time "had the upper hand over their wives," and "did not pay attention to women".[4]

Zainab's attitude to Islam is unknown and the date of her eventual conversion is not recorded. Her brother Uthman was one of the earliest converts;[1]:308[3]:116 and two other brothers, Abdullah and Qudamah, were also converted "before Allah's Messenger entered the house of al-Arqam."[1]:313 Meanwhile, her husband Umar was hostile to Islam and he actively persecuted Muslim slaves.[3]:144, 154–155 Umar became a Muslim in 616,[1]:205–207[3]:155–159 but Umm Kulthum and Quraybah remained polytheists.[3]:510

Umar emigrated to Madinah in 622. The list of family members who accompanied him does not include any women.[3]:218 One tradition asserts that Zainab had died by then; however, her son Abdullah said that he had emigrated to Madinah with both his parents.[5]

Zainab's daughter Hafsah married Muhammad in 625.[2]:58

Umar noted that the women of Madinah "had the upper hand over their men," and that the women of makkah who emigrated to Madinah started imitating their behaviour.[6] An altercation occurred when Umar had to make a decision, and his wife advised him. Umar shouted at her to mind her own business. The wife answered back, and he expressed displeasure. The wife responded: "How strange you are! You don't want to be argued with, whereas your daughter Hafsah argues with Allah's Messenger so much that he remains angry for a full day".[4][6]

In 628 Umar divorced Umm Kulthum and Quraybah because of a new instruction from Muhammad that a Muslim could not remain married to a polytheist.[3]:510[7] He did not divorce Zainab, so, if she was still alive, she must have become a Muslim. However, Zainab probably died before 641, as four other women are listed as Umar's wives by that date.[1]:204[2]:186–187[8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 3. Translated by Bewley, A. (2013). The Companions of Badr. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  2. ^ a b c Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Muhammad ibn Ishaq. Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ a b Bukhari 6:60:435.
  5. ^ Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. Al-Isaba fi tamyiz al-Sahaba, vol. 7 #11250.
  6. ^ a b Bukhari 7:62:119.
  7. ^ Bukhari 3:50:891.
  8. ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l-Muluk. Translated by Juynboll, G. H. A. (1989). Volume 13: The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt, pp. 109-110. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  9. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 5. Translated by Bewley, A. (2000). The Men of Madina Volume II, p. 1. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.