“But my lineage is better than his” said Zainab bint Jahsh radiallahu anha, Rasulullah’s sallallahu alaihi wasallam cousin, when he proposed to her on behalf of his freed slave, Zaid bin Haaritha radiallahu anhu. However, her argument carried no weight in the court of Allah and His Rasul sallallahu alaihi wasallam whose aim was to eradicate all such social prejudices.
Thus the following aayah was soon revealed:
و ما كان لمؤمن و لا مؤمنة اذا قضى الله و رسوله أمرا
أن يكون لهم الخيرة من أمرهم
“It is impermissible for a believing male and female to have a choice when Allah and His Rasul decide a matter for them.”
Zainab radiallahu anha therefore accepted Rasulullah’s sallallahu alaihi wasallam and got married to Zaid bin Haaritha radiallahu anhu.
They lived together for approximately one when cracks began appearing in their marriage. Zaid radiallahu anhu would thus complain of Zainab radiallahu anha to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam who would advise him to exercise patience and refrain from divorcing her. However, during the same period of time Allah had already informed Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam that Zaid radiallahu anhu would soon divorce Zainab radiallahu anha and she would thereafter become his wife. This is exactly what transpired a little while later. Zaid radiallahu anhu divorced Zainab radiallahu anha and after her iddah terminated, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam proposed to her. He sent his proposal with Zaid radiallahu anhu. When Zaid radiallahu anhu presented Rasulullah’s sallallahu alaihi wasallam proposal to her, her immediate response was: “I will not do anything without consulting my Rabb.” She thus engaged herself in salaah (salaat-ul-istikhaarah). In the mean time the following aayah was revealed to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam:
وَإِذْ تَقُولُ لِلَّذِي أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِ أَمْسِكْ عَلَيْكَ زَوْجَكَ وَاتَّقِ اللَّهَ وَتُخْفِي فِي نَفْسِكَ مَا اللَّهُ مُبْدِيهِ وَتَخْشَى النَّاسَ وَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَنْ تَخْشَاهُ فَلَمَّا قَضَى زَيْدٌ مِنْهَا وَطَرًا زَوَّجْنَاكَهَا . . .
“Remember when you said to the person to whom Allah and you had shown favour: ‘Keep your wife and fear Allah’. You concealed in your heart what Allah was going to expose (that you would eventually marry Zainab) and you feared the people whereas Allah is more deserving of being feared. Then, when Zaid fulfilled his need with her, We married her to you . . .”
The words زَوَّجْنَاكَهَا (We married her to you) indicated that the marriage had already taken place. There was hence no need for further consultation with Allah. Zainab radiallahu anha was already the wife of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam thus went to the house of Zainab radiallahu anha and entered without taking permission. Dhahabi writes in this regard: “Allah married her to His Nabi through a decree in His kitaab with neither guardian nor witness. Thus she would (later) boast to the rest of the Mothers of the believers that: “Your families married you to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam whereas Allah married me to him from above the ‘arsh (throne).” Ibn Katheer writes: “The being who was responsible for marrying her off to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam was Allah Azza wa Jallaa. The meaning of this is that Allah commanded him to go to her with out a guardian, agreement (of nikaah), mahr (dowry) and human witnesses. On the occasion of this waleemah Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam slaughtered a goat in order to entertain his guests. He never did this when he married any of his other wives.
Testifying to Zainab’s radiallahu anha noble conduct, ‘Aa-isha radiallahu anha said: “Zainab was my rival in closeness to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. In spite of this, I (acknowledge that I) never saw a lady better in deen, more fearful of Allah, more truthful in speech, more concerned about maintaining family ties and more charitable than her.”
The First among You to Reach Me
Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam would often tell his wives: “The first among you to reach me is the one whose hand is the longest.” ‘Aa-isha radiallahu anha says that therefore, whenever they were all together, they would measure their hands against a wall in order to ascertain whose hand is the longest and hence the first among them to leave the world after Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. They continued doing this until 20AH when the Zainab bint Jahsh radiallahu anha passed away. ‘Aa-isha radiallahu anha says that she was a short person; not the tallest among them. Thus they realized that by long hands, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam was actually referring to the most charitable among them.
May Allah Forgive ‘Umar
Barzah bint Raafi’ narrates that ‘Umar radiallahu anhu sent Zainab bint Jahsh’s radiallahu anha allowance from the bait-ul-maal (public treasury) to her. When she received it, she said: “May Allah forgive ‘Umar. There are other people who are more capable of distributing this than me.” “But it is all yours!” she was told. “Subhaanallah!” she exclaimed. She then told her servants to cover it with a cloth. Once they had done so, she began distributing it among her relatives and the orphans. (The reason for covering the allowance with a cloth was so that she could not see how much she was spending and how much was left.) After sending amounts of coins to all her relatives and others she told Barzah to take what was left beneath the cloth. Barzah did so and later counted it; it was only eighty five dirhams. Zainab radiallahu anha thereafter lifted her hands to the sky and said: “O Allah! May ‘Umar’s allowance not reach me after this year.” Her du’aa was accepted. She passed away in that same year – before she could receive another allowance from the bait-ul-maal (public treasury).
How much was Zainab’s radiallahu anha annual allowance from the bait-ul-maal (public treasury)? The answer is: twelve thousand dirhams. Zuhri narrated that ‘Umar radiallahu anhu had fixed an annual allowance of twelve thousand dirhams for all the wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam excluding Juwairyyah and Safiyyah radiallahu anhuma. Some narrations indicate that ‘Aa-isha’s radiallahu anha allowance was twelve thousand dirhams. The allowance of the other wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam was ten thousand dirhams. What ever the case may be, Zainab bint Jahsh radiallahu anha spent her entire allowance on the poor, the orphans and her relatives and kept nothing – not even one dirham – for herself. Is this not sufficient explanation for her title Umm-ul-Masaakeen (Mother of the Destitute)?
A narration in the Tabaqaat of Ibn Sa’d mentions that this was the only time that Zainab radiallahu anha accepted her allowance from the bait-ul-maal (public treasury). “O Allah” she prayed when she received it, “Let this wealth not find me next year because it is a fitnah (test).” When ‘Umar radiallahu anhu was informed of how she spent her entire allowance, he commented: “This is a lady for whom good has been intended.” He thereafter went to her house and, standing at the door, he told her servant to convey his salaam (greetings) to her and to inform her that he was aware of how she had spent her allowance. He thereafter sent her another one thousand dirhams . . . Off course, she distributed this amount too.
Besides spending on the needy in the above manner, Zainab radiallahu anha was very skilled in making things with her hands. Thus she would make things and then give it in charity. For example, she would tan animal skin and then give it to somebody in need.
I Have Prepared My Kafan (Shroud)
While on her deathbed she told her attendants: “I have prepared my kafan (shroud). If ‘Umar sends me another kafan, give one of them in charity.”
Surely Zainab is an Awwaahah
Abdullah bin Shaddaad radiallahu anhu narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: “Surely Zainab is an awwaahah.” “What is the meaning of awwaahah? Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam was asked. He replied: “A person who is fearful of Allah and fill with humility.” He sallallahu alaihi wasallam then quoted the aayah:
ان ابراهيم لحليم أواه منيب
“Certainly Ibrahim was tolerant, awwaah and
oft-returning (to Allah).”
According to some narrations (preferred by Dhahabi) Zainab bint Jahsh radiallahu anha was twenty five years old when Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam married her in 5AH. Thus she was only forty years old when she passed away in 20AH. Other narrations, however, indicate that she was a little more than thirty years old at the time of her marriage to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam and that she passed away at the age of fifty three.
Prior to her death she requested that upon her death, her body should be carried on the same sareer (bier) on which Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam was carried. Before her, the only other person besides Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam to be carried on this sareer (bier) was Abu Bakr radiallahu anhu. After that all deceased women in Madinah would be carried on the same sareer (bier). This practice continued until the time of Waleed bin Abdil Malik.
Upon her death ‘Umar radiallahu anhu commanded somebody to proclaim in the streets of Madinah: “Listen! Nobody besides Zainab’s close relatives should attend her janaazah.” Hearing this announcement, Fatimah bint ‘Umais radiallahu anha, approached ‘Umar radiallahu anhu and told him: “Should I not show you something which I saw the people in Habshah (Abyssinia) doing for their women?” She thereafter practically demonstrated to him how they would cover the corpse of a female with a cloth so that her figure would not be exposed to the congregation. ‘Umar radiallahu anhu was impressed with her suggestion. He accepted it and permitted the general public to attend the janaazah.
The salaat-ul-janaazah was led by ‘Umar radiallahu anhu. He thereafter stood at the side of her grave, praised Allah and said: “When this lady fell ill, I sent a message to the (other) wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam asking them who would nurse her and care for her. They replied that they would do so. I believed that they were talking the truth. I then sent a message to them asking who would give her the ghusl and embalm and enshroud her. They replied that they would do so. I believed that they were correct. I then sent another message asking them who should place her in her grave. (Some narrations in the Tabaqaat of Ibn Sa’d indicate that ‘Umar radiallahu anhu was hopeful that he would be given this privilege.) They replied: ‘Those (man) who were permitted to visit her (without observing the restrictions of hijaab) in her lifetime.’ I believe that they are correct. Therefore step back, O people.” He then commanded two men from her family to lower her into the grave. It was an extremely hot summer day. ‘Umar radiallahu anhu therefore ordered that a tent be erected over her grave. This was the first time in Madinah that a tent was erected over a grave.
‘Uthman bin Abdullah Al-Jahshy narrates: “Zainab did not leave behind any dirham or dinaar. She would give everything she possessed in charity – she was the refuge of the destitute. All that she left behind was her house . . .” When Waleed bin Abdul Malik renovated the Haram in Madinah Munawwarah and included the rooms of Rasulullah’s sallallahu alaihi wasallam wives into the masjid, he purchased the house (room) of Zainab bint Jahsh radiallahu anha for a total sum of fifty thousand dirhams.
‘Urwah narrates that upon the death of Zainab radiallahu anha ‘Aa-isha radiallahu anha cried and made du’aa that mercy is shown to her. When asked to explain the reason for behaving in this manner, she replied: “She was a pious woman . . . Zainab bint Jahsh and Umm Salmah occupied a special position in the heart of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. In my opinion they were the most beloved of his wives me to him besides me.” ‘Aa-isha radiallahu anha is also reported to have said: “She left us in a praiseworthy condition. The solace of the orphans and widows will be missed.”
May Allah fill our hearts with love for all his wives, family members and companions. May He guide us to emulate their noble example and May He resurrect as with them. Aameen!
Abu Hudhaifa Muhammed Karolia
12 Shawwaal 1431 \ 21 September 2010