A Woman of High Morals

The Life of Zaynab bint Jahsh
By Reading Islam Staff

Zaynab bint Jahsh
She was famed for her generosity, excellence in morality and helpfulness. She spent her earnings in the way of God and on the poor
Zaynab bint Jahsh

Zaynab bint Jahsh is the daughter of Umayya bint Abdul Muttalib, the paternal aunt of the Prophet.

Her real name is "Barra" and the name Zaynab was given to her by the Prophet.

Zaynab's father is Jahsh ibn Riyab, who moved to Makkah and settled there. She married Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in the fifth year of Hijrah.

Given the title "Umm-ul Hakam", Zaynab is among the first female companions of the Prophet to have migrated to Madinah.

A very beautiful and intelligent woman in addition to being the daughter of the Prophet's aunt, she was among the first of the Prophet's wives to have seen herself as competition to Lady Aisha. Aisha herself reciprocated these sentiments toward Zaynab, saying: "She saw herself as being my counterpart."

Her Decency

Zaynab’s sensitivity and fear of Allah regarding matters of belief and acts of faith as well as her being one of the first individuals to become Muslim was noted by everyone including Prophet Muhammad, who, for this, had a great deal of love and respect for her.

Our beloved Mother Zaynab was a sincere Muslim and a believer very much tied to her beliefs. She had taken it upon herself to lead a life distanced from anything not pleasing to Allah. She had given our Prophet the title of "Awwah." When the companions asked our Prophet, "What is awwah Prophet of Allah?" he explained: "Awwah is one who is humble in prayer, one who sincerely begs Allah and Allah alone."

She was famed for her generosity, excellence in morality and helpfulness.
She is a woman who is most respectful to Allah, most truthful, most mindful of relatives and most generous in giving charity. She had testified in favor of Aisha, her rival, following the incident in which Aisha had been slandered, saying, "I know nothing of Aisha except what is good."

She was famed for her generosity, excellence in morality and helpfulness. She worked for her sustenance and would spend her earnings in the way of God and on the poor. About her, Aisha said: "I have never seen a woman more beneficent than Zaynab where religion is concerned.

Old Customs Abolished

Prior to Islam, if a man wanted to adopt a child, he would announce this in public, and the child would thereby be considered his own; called with the name of the father and essentially becoming his father's successor.

This custom of adoption, which was preserved into the first few years of Islam, was banned and the wide-spread understanding that "the wives of adopted children could not be married to the adopter," thus needed to be abolished.

Along with the revelation that Allah does not accept adopted children as biological children, Zayd, who was adopted by the Prophet and called Zayd ibn Muhammad, began to be called Zayd ibn Harithah, after his own father.

Thus, according to God’s revelations, the Prophet was to take Zayd, whom he was emotionally attached to, out of his adoption as consequently his wife Zaynab was no longer considered our Prophet's daughter-in-law.

Zaynab’s first marriage was with Zayd Bin Harithah, who was a slave freed by the Prophet and whom he loved as though he was his own child.

Prophet Muhammad personally arranged the marriage of his cousin Zaynab to Zayd. According to Arab traditions, a noble Arab woman could not marry a slave as Arabs placed a great deal of significance on lineage; classifying and evaluating people not on their personal accomplishments and traits, but the lineage which they came from.

For this reason, the Prophet began with his own family members in abolishing this old tradition and perception to ensure that the old tradition would be erased.

As well known, one of the Prophet's methods of delivering the message was through his personal application of commands and restrictions ordered by Allah; if he was unable to or did not have the opportunity to apply the commandments himself, we would have his relatives apply the command or restriction. This is because for the Messenger of Allah no factor should give one exception or privilege, except for the fear of Allah: "Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you." (Al- Hujurat 49; 13).

Thus, the deep-rooted belief of privileged class needed to be abolished. And this ban needed be realized through one of the most sensitive issues: marriage.

Neither Zaynab nor her brother Abdullah welcomed the idea of a noble and free woman marrying a freed slave.

Zaynab, the daughter of our Prophet's aunt and Abdullah ibn Jahsh, was thereby a good candidate for a marriage that would be exemplary. One day, when Zaynab's potential marriage was being discussed, our Prophet ruled that the time had come for an old and bad custom to be abolished and asked for Zaynab's hand in marriage for his adopted son, Zayd. Neither Zaynab nor her brother Abdullah welcomed the idea of a noble and free woman marrying a freed slave. They both asked Prophet Muhammad whether someone like him would be suitable for their family. Zaynab even went a step further and actually said that she will not marry someone like Zayd.

Zaynab finally agreed to this marriage in order to follow the orders of the Prophet. However, she was just not able to warm up to Zayd, and therefore a continual state of unease took place in the absence of emotions. This marriage didn’t work out and about a year later Zayd consulted with the Prophet, stating that he could no longer continue with it. The Prophet was sorry to hear this: “And when you, Muhammad, said to him on whom Allah has conferred favor and you have conferred favor: Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah.” (Al-Ahzab 33; 37)

Despite the Prophet’s advice to them, neither Zayd nor Zaynab could make it work as Zayd consequently made a final decision to divorce his wife whom he did not wish to be with.

After some time had elapsed, it was time for yet another bad custom to be abolished. This particular custom was the treatment of adopted children as though they were biological children and their wives to be treated like actual daughters-in-law.

New Life

After Zayd and Zaynab were divorced, Prophet Muhammad was faced with two realities; one was that his cousin was a divorced woman following an unsuccessful marriage. The second was that according the Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic) beliefs, Zaynab could now only marry a slave. Consequently, the Prophet felt obliged, particularly towards his relatives, to mend these wounds.

In the end, this principal brought on by Islam, would in certainty become put into practice through him as a matter of fact: "But you did hide in your heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: you did fear the people, but it is more fitting that you should fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to you: 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." (Al-Ahzab 33; 37).

... she was truly a righteous woman. She would fast much and wake up for night prayers. She was a woman of skills and she would disburse the earnings of her work entirely to the needy

Despite the order to marry Zaynab was a very difficult one for the Prophet, it was impossible for him to dismiss since it was God’s command. The marriage had taken place in the eyes of Allah, with the angels acting as witnesses. When the verses regarding the Prophet's marriage to Zaynab were revealed, the Prophet was asked to go to Zaynab and tell her that Allah had wed her to him in the heavens, and proceeded to repeat the revealed verses.

It was said Prophet Muhammad gave an incredibleWalima (wedding feast) which he had not given for any of his other wives on the day of his marriage to Zaynab where about 300 people were invited.

Thus, Lady Zaynab, who was married to Zayd just in order to fulfill the command of Allah and His messenger, was rewarded for her compliance by being married to the Prophet of Allah following her divorce from Zayd. Undoubtedly this was the most beautiful and sacred of marriages to have ever taken place because it was implemented by Allah through the delegation of the angel Jibreel.

The esteem of Zaynab, which had suffered a blow with her marriage to Zayd, was being restored with her marriage to the Prophet, who knew about the sense of belittlement that Zaynab felt with being married to a former slave. With her new marriage, Zaynab, one of the most noble of Arab families then, would be able to salvage her damaged dignity.

Zaynab married Prophet Muhammad, after his marriage to Umm Salamah, in the fifth year of Hijrah. She was 35 years of age when she married the Prophet, who was 57 or 58 at the time.


Lady Zaynab was a clever woman; she could skin animals that had been butchered, gut them and allow them to dry. She was good at sewing and doing alterations on clothing. She could process animal skin in accordance with the methods of that time and sew clothing leather, spending what she earned in the way of Allah.

Umm Salamah, one of the wives of the Prophet, when speaking of Zaynab, would say: "The Prophet appreciated Zaynab bint Jahsh and spoke of her often; she was truly a righteous woman. She would fast much and wake up for night prayers. She was a woman of skills and she would disburse the earnings of her work entirely to the needy." In another narration it is said that: "Zaynab was a handcrafts artist; she would process leather, sew and spend in charity in the way of Allah."

Zaynab would spend her entire earnings of her own hard work on the needy, divorced and orphaned.

Source: Article summarized from Last Prophet - http://www.lastprophet.info
Related Links:
A Woman of Submission to God The Story of Maimunah Bint Al-Harith
The Mother of the Poor
A Loyal Wife by All Means The Story of Umm Habibah
Lady Khadijah … The Unsung Heroine
Unforgettable Love Story

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