Hazrat Zainab bint Jahsh r.a.

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Awais Rabanni, Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat

Born: c. 590

Father’s name: Jahsh bin Irbab

Mother’s name: Umaima bint Abdil Mutalib

Title: Ummul Hakeem

Demise: 641 AD

Background

Hazrat Zainabra bint Jahsh was the daughter of the paternal aunt of the Holy Prophetsa, Umaima bint Abdil Mutalib. Her father, Jahshra bin Irbab was an immigrant and revered in Mecca. She was one of the first to migrate to Medina alongside her brother, Hazrat Abdullahra bin Jahsh.

Circumstances of her marriages

To the Prophet of Islamsa, integrity and purity of heart were the true merits of nobility in Islam. In accordance with this belief, he proposed to marry his freed slave and adopted son Hazrat Zaidra bin Haris to Hazrat Zainabra. At first, she was reluctant on account of their diverse nature and higher status of her family; however, upon realising the strong desire the Prophet of Allahsa had for this union, she ultimately agreed.

Although she tried her utmost for this marriage to work, it was just not meant to be. The differences eventually strained their relationship and Hazrat Zaidra approached the Holy Prophetsa to seek divorce. The  Prophetsa exhorted him to refrain from divorcing his wife and fear God. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 7420)

By divine revelation, the Holy Prophetsa knew that Hazrat Zaidra would eventually divorce Hazrat Zainabra and she would be married to him. Because of this reason, he wanted to remain unrelated to this matter and insisted Hazrat Zaidra to prolong his marriage for as long as possible. Also, he feared that his marriage to the divorcee of his foster son would raise allegations from his contemporaries as the society viewed the adopted son as one’s own. This has been addressed in the Holy Quran in the following words:

“And you did conceal in your heart what Allah was going to bring to light, and you were afraid of the people, whereas Allah has better right that you should fear Him” (Surah al-Ahzab, Ch.33: V.38)

Ultimately, the differences grew unbearable and Hazrat Zaidra divorced her. In accordance with divine revelation, the Messengersa of Allah married her after the period of her iddah (a short time period in which a woman is not allowed to marry after a divorce or if her husband dies) had passed.

An aspect of her personality ought to be mentioned here, which highlights her inner piety and virtue. When she was approached with the proposal to marry the Holy Prophetsa, she replied:

“I will not act upon anything until I solicit the will of God.”

She then stood up and prayed and the verses pertaining to her marriage were revealed. (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1428)

Her brother, Abu Ahmad ibn Jahsh served as her rightful guardian and married her to the Prophetsa with her dowry set at 400 dirhams. It is narrated on the authority of Hazrat Anasra that he had never attended such a lavish wedding feast as hers. (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1428)

Hazrat Anasra narrates that Hazrat Zainabra used to take great pleasure in the fact that her marriage to the Prophetsa was decreed from the “seven heavens.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 7420)

Through this marriage, the Holy Prophetsa also demonstrated to the Muslims that foster sons are not as real sons and the injunctions applied to biological sons cannot be enforced upon the former; thus eradicating the ignorant custom which had rooted itself in Arabian society.

A misconception

Various historians and orientalists have distorted this narration which contradicts the pious nature of both the Prophetsa and Hazrat Zainabra. To summarise, it adds that once, the Holy Prophetsa visited Hazrat Zainabra while Hazrat Zaidra was away. The door to her house was open and she stood in a hurry without a shawl at the arrival of the Prophetsa. Although the Messengersa of Allah refused to enter, God-forbid, he was captivated by her beauty and returned humming the following words:

“Holy is Allah, Who is the Possessor of all Greatness, Holy is Allah, Who turns the hearts of people however He so wills.”

When Hazrat Zaidra returned and was made aware of this encounter by his wife, he offered to divorce her so that the Prophetsa could marry her. Despite the fact that the Prophetsa of Allah instructed him not to do so and fear God, he did it anyway.

Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra refuted all these allegations in his book, The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets. To begin with, it is a fabricated tale, from start to end, which does not find its basis from the perspective of both riwayat and dirayat (the internal and external means to establish the veracity of ahadith). Secondly, it is primarily narrated by Waqdi and Allama bin Amir who are both viewed by scholars as unreliable and weak. Thirdly, Muslim women did not observe the hijab before the marriage of Hazrat Zainabra. In fact, it was at her walima with the Prophetsa that the verses regarding purdah were revealed. Moreover, to presume that the Prophetsa was immediately mesmerised by her beauty was absurd. Surely, he would have seen his close relative and cousin prior to this and her looks were known to him. Lastly, if she had invited him to her house, she must have been wearing enough clothing to be able to present herself before the Prophetsa of Allah.

Hence, in the words of Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra, it is said:

“Irrespective of the angle from which this tale is analysed, it proves to be absolutely false and forged, which possesses no truth whatsoever … It is for this very reason that research scholars have categorically declared this tale to be fabricated and false.” (The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets ,Vol.2, pp. 417-418)

Purdah

Before the injunctions related to purdah were revealed, the house of the Holy Prophetsa was open to the Companionsra of the Prophetsa for visits and to discuss important issues. At the wedding of Hazrat Zainabra, an incident occurred which became the keystone in the revelation pertaining to purdah. It coincided with the nature of the Holy Prophetsa, who abhorred wasting precious time and taught us to respect personal space and privacy.

The incident is reported by Hazrat Anasra in Sahih Muslim:

“The Holy Prophetsa invited people to the wedding feast after the day had well risen. After a period of time, whereas some of the people left, others remained seated; the Prophetsa stood up and walked on and I followed him until he reached the door of the apartment of Aisha. He then thought that they (those who had been sitting there after meal) had gone away. So, he and I returned, but they were still sitting at their places. At this, we came back to the apartment of Aisha. When we returned, we saw that those people had stood up to leave; the Messengersa of Allah hung a curtain between me and him (at the door of the apartment of Hazrat Zainabra, where he had to stay), and Allah revealed the verse pertaining to the veil.”

Piety and generosity

Hazrat Zainabra passed away in the caliphate of Hazrat Umarra. She would give away charity and alms to such an extent that she donated all her stipends (estimated to be 12,000 dirhams), which Hazrat Umarra had allocated for the wives of the Holy Prophetsa during his tenure.  

She was very particular about her prayers and fasts. Hazrat Aishara is reported to have said about her:

“I have not seen a more pious lady than Zainabra. She was very righteous and truthful. She was very kind towards relatives and she would give a great amount of charity and alms and worked tirelessly for goodness and to attain divine nearness.” (The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 2, p.15)

The Wivesra of the Holy Prophetsa would compete among themselves to excel higher in spirituality and to attain affection of their noble husband. Normally, this might incite some women to slander the other, but this was not the case with the wives of the Prophetsa. Hazrat Zainabra was an extremely devout and pious person.

Once, Hazrat Aishara lost her necklace and stayed behind from the convoy to search for it. She was later escorted back by one of the companions of the Holy Prophetsa. They remained quiet throughout the trip. However, the hypocrites of Medina saw it as an opportunity to defame her and accused her of being disloyal to the Holy Prophetsa.At this, when the Holy Prophetsa enquired  from Hazrat Zainabra of the opinion she held about Hazrat Aishara, she replied:

“O Allah’s Apostle! I refrain from claiming falsely that I have heard or seen anything. By Allah, I know nothing except good (about Aisha).”

Hazrat Aishara narrates that from among the wives of the Prophetsa, Zainab was her peer [in beauty and in the love she received from the Prophetas and that she could have maligned her] but Allah saved her from that evil because of her piety.(Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 4141)

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