Noble Women Around The Messenger

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  • Noble Women Around The Messenger

  • Zaynab bint Jahsh: The Qur'anic Woman


    Zaynab bint Jahsh Al-Asadiyh A1-Madariyah was one of the Makkan elite. Her mother was Umaymah bint 'Abdu1 Muttalib, the Prophet's paternal aunt, making her the Prophet's cousin. Zaynab embraced Islam together with her family at an early stage and were all active in their Islamic way of life.


    Zaynab and other members of her family immigrated to Madinah when she was a marriageable age. Her prominent Makkan youthfulness blossomed, and there were many marriage proposals due to her nobility and outstanding beauty.


    The Prophet (peace be upon him) had a young servant close to his heart named Zayd bin Harithah. As soon as they had they settled in Madinah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) searched for a suitable wife for him and found the right qualities in Zaynab. There was a lot of criticism concerning this marriage. It was not acceptable for a high class young lady of noble birth and, moreover, the Prophet's cousin, to many a servant. It was a paradigm they had neither witnessed in the Days of Ignorance (jahiliyah) nor after the advent of Islam.


    The change of social mores was a positive result of the catalyst of the Islamic way of life, as it replaced the old customs with newer ones.


    But Zaynab's reaction to the choice only fitted with her traditional society. She was too proud to accept Zayd as a husband, and her brother, 'Abdullah bin Jahsh, also objected to the union.


    The Prophet (peace be upon him) talked to her about his own love for Zayd because of his sincere faith. But Zaynab replied, "O Messenger of Allah, I cannot accept him because of the high position I hold in the Quraysh." To this the Prophet said, "I have accepted him to be your husband." Then a command from the heavens was revealed on that occasion saying:


    (It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by God and His

    Apostle, to have any option about their decision. If anyone disobeys God and His Apostle, he is

    indeed on a clearly wrong path)

                                                              (Al-Ahzab, 36)


    Zaynab, the one of noble birth, submitted with all her family to the command. Everyone knew it was a marriage dictated by Heaven.


    This marriage was recorded in history as a precedent. It established a basic principle in Islam that humanity had not known before: equality between human beings and that piety is the only criterion that raises one above another. It seemed strange that such a new principle emerged in a society that had strictly adhered to class distinction. Thus, it was a great honor to Zaynab bint

    Jahsh to be instrumental in that social revolution.


    Zaynab married Zayd bin Harithah, who had formerly been named Zayd bin Muhammad, as he was an adopted son of the Prophet (peace be upon him). But the couple found their marriage astrain. It was clear to Zayd from the very beginning that Zaynab had married him only in submission to the command of Allah and His Messenger, that she had been forced to accept him. Feeling that his wife did not love him, he decided to terminate the marriage.


    Every time Zayd talked to the Prophet about his decision, the Prophet (peace be upon him) answered, "Hold on to your wife. Allah bestowed on that pious lady a great blessing to reward her for her piety." Allah revealed to His Messenger that He had chosen Zaynab to be the Prophet's wife. He (peace be upon him) dared not disobey Allah's order, but at the same time he could not tell anyone.


    He kept this secret close in his heart until Zayd finally divorced Zaynab. People started to gossip about the father who wanted marry his son's ex-wife, especially since at that time Zayd was still called Zayd bin Muhammad. Soon, however, the revelation descended upon the Prophet declaring a new legal principle, saying that the adopted son is different from the natural son. No man should claim paternity of anyone except the real father. Therefore, Zayd was once again called Zayd bin Harithah, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) married Zaynab bint J ahsh.


    Allah revealed to the Prophet:


    (Behold! thou didst say to one who had received the grace of god and thy favour: "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy y wife and fear God." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which God was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear God. Then when Zayd 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 God's command must be fulfilled.)

                                                                     (Al-Ahzab, 37)


    This heavenly decree made Zaynab's life part of the Qur'an for people to read day and night and follow as an ideal example. Such an honor was a matter of pride for Zaynab. She once said to- the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a boastful manner, "O Messenger of Allah! I am not like the rest of your wives. All of them married you through their fathers, brothers, or even their relatives, but I married you by a heavenly decree from Allah." She often proudly claimed to her co-wives, "It was your families who gave you in marriage to your husband, but it was Allah Who gave me in marriage to him from above the seven heavens."


    The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered a lamb to be served in celebration of the wedding. Being the first time the Prophet offered a sheep at his wedding celebration, it was spoken about with great enthusiasm by the whole town.


    Comparing that single sacrifice which was a banquet of a nobleman, to the extravaganzas of today, the latter will seem incredible. It was said that a certain Muslim spent millions of dinars on his wedding feast, then he threw all the leftovers in the sea. How can we expect Allah to be generous to us when this happens, and millions are starving to death?


    The Prophet (peace be upon him) invited all the people in the mosque to his wedding feast, then all the people of Madinah to eat after them. By the blessing of Allah, the food was sufficient for all of them. After everyone had eaten, no one seemed ready to leave and in their enjoyment they stayed till very late. It was on that occasion that Allah revealed the following to teach the Muslims not to invade the Prophet's privacy:


    {O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet's A houses,- until leave is given you,- for a meal, (and then) not (so_ early as) to wait for its preparation: but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but God is- not ashamed (to tell you) the truth. And when ye ask (his ladies) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for

    greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy God's

    Apostle, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in God's sight an enormity.)

                                                            (Al-Ahzab, 53)


    This verse teaches people some rules in etiquette and decorum. In addition, it obligated hijab on Muslim women.


    It is a great privilege to Zaynab to have such recurrent associations with the holy text. Her marriage to Zayd was decreed by Heaven, and so was her marriage to the Prophet (peace be upon him). It was on the occasion of her marriage that the important social manners were clarified, and the heavenly order for hijab was revealed in her house and on the occasion of her marriage. In fact, it was due to her entire submission to the commands of Allah that she was worthy of such glory.


    Zaynab lived in the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him), where she was devoted in worship most of her time. She did not involve herself in the endless competition between her co-wives to win the Prophet's heart. She had enough confidence in her faith and beauty not to harbor any feelings of jealousy.


    Besides worshiping, Zaynab spent the rest of her time looking after the poor and needy. She was skilled at tanning skins and piercing pearls, which she sold and gave all the profits to the poor.


    All women should take Zaynab as a model. The noble high-born woman of Makkah sold her own

    handiwork to sustain the poor and needy. Now, the modern woman is too lazy to care for her duties and even her own children, whom she leaves with foreign nannies, alien in language, culture, and religion.


    Zaynab, like all her co-wives, was keen to follow the Prophet (peace be upon him) before and after his death. 'A'ishah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his wives, "The one of you with the longest arm will be the first one to follow me to my grave."


    After his death, all the wives measured their arms to see who had the longest, as each one was willing to be the first to follow the Prophet in his grave. But Zaynab realized that his words were purely metaphorical: the length signified the extent of charity and help towards others. Zaynab was the most charitable among them, and she was the first one to die after her husband. 'A'ishah said of her, "She was a woman to be missed, a refuge for widows and orphans."


    All women are invited to be like Zaynab in her manners, worship, and benevolence.

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