Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah (Arabic: أبو العاص بن الربيع, ’Abū al-‘Āṣ ibn al-Rabī‘) was a son-in-law and companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah original name was said to have been Hushaym or Yasser.
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah was the son of Hala bint Khuwailid. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah legal father was Al-Rabah ibn Abduluzza of the Abdshams clan of the Quraish tribe; but he was known as a “bastard”. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah became a successful merchant and was considered an important person in Mecca.
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah aunt Khadijah binti Khuwailid regarded him as her son and he frequently visited her home. In due course Khadijah RA asked her husband Muhammad to find him a wife. Muhammad gave Abu al-As their eldest daughter, Zainab, apparently with some reluctance. Later, however, he spoke “warmly” of Abu al-As “who told the truth and kept his promises” and in whom he “found no fault as an in-law.” Abu al-As and Zainab had two children: Ali, who died in childhood, and Umama, who was later married to the fourth Caliph Saidina Ali RA.
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah belonged to the Abd ash-Shams clan of the Quraish. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah was in the prime of his youth, handsome and very impressive looking. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah was the epitome of Arab chivalry and was endowed with all the characteristics of pride, manliness and generosity. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah took great pride in the traditions of his ancestors.
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah inherited the Quraish love for trade. The Quraish of course were known to be masters of the two annual trading expeditions. The winter expedition to Yemen in the south and summer towards the north in Syria. These two expeditions are mentioned in the Quran in the chapter named after the Quraish.
The caravans of Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah always plied between Makkah and Syria. Each caravan was made up of two hundred men and a hundred camels. People would entrust their wealth and their goods to him to trade on their behalf because of his skill as a merchant. His honesty and trustworthiness.
The maternal aunt of Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah was Khadijah bint Khuwailid, the wife of Muhammad ibn Abdullah. She treated him like a mother would her own son, with love and affection. Muhammad too was extremely fond of him.
The years went by quickly in the household of Muhammad and Khadijah. Zainab, their eldest daughter, soon grew up and blossomed forth like a lovely flower. She was much sought after in marriage by the sons of respectable Makkan nobles.
And why not? She was one of the most distinguished Makkan girls in lineage and social standing. She was blessed with the most honorable father and mother. And she had the finest morals and behavior.
Which one of these scions of Makkan nobility would win her hand? Abu-l Aas ibn Rabi’ah was the one who did.
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah and Zainab were only married a few years when the Divine light of Islam radiated over Makkah. Muhammad is the father of Zainab was now the Rasul of Allah SWT sent to convey the religion of guidance and truth. Rasulullah SAW was commanded to convey the message of Islam first to his family and nearest relatives. The first women to believe in him and accept Islam were his wife Saidatuna Khadijah binti Khuwailid RA and his daughters Saidatuna Zainab RA binti Rasulullah, Saidatuna Ruqayyah RA binti Rasulullah, Saidatuna Umm Kulthum RA binti Rasulullah and Saidatuna Fatimah Al Zahra RA. Saidatuna Fatimah Al Zahra RA was very young at the time.
Saidatuna Zainab’s husband however did not like leaving the religion of his forefathers and he refused to adopt the religion which his wife now followed although he was completely devoted to her and loved her dearly with a pure and sincere love.
When Muhammad, after declaring to be a Rasulullah, lost popularity in Makkah, the Quraish pressured Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah to divorce Saidatuna Zainab RA, saying they would give him any woman he liked in exchange. But Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah replied that he did not want any other woman and he remained with Saidatuna Zainab RA. However, Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah refused to become a Muslim. Since Rasulullah SAW had no power of jurisdiction over Makkah at that time, Rasulullah SAW too was unable to force his daughter to separate from her unbelieving husband. When the Muslims emigrated to Madinah Saidatuna Zainab RA remained in Makkah with Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah.
Before long, the confrontation between the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Quraish developed and grew bitter. The Quraish felt that it was intolerable for their sons to remain married to Muhammad’s daughters. They also considered that it would be an embarrassing and difficult situation for Muhammad if his daughters were to be returned to his household. So they went to Abu-l Aas and said:
“Divorce your wife, Abu-l Aas, and send her back to her father’s house. We shall then marry you to any of the most charming and noble women of the Quraish you desire.”
“No, by God,” said Abu-l Aas firmly. “I shall not divorce my wife and I do not wish to have in her place any woman in the entire world.
In 624 Abu al-As fought in the Battle of Badr on the side of the polytheists and was captured by Abdullah ibn Jubayr al-Ansari. Saidatuna Zainab RA sent a ransom for him via his brother Amr, including an onyx necklace that had been a wedding present from Saidatuna Khadijah RA. At the sight of the necklace, Rasulullah SAW remembered Saidatuna Khadijah RA and was moved. Rasulullah SAW sent Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah back to Makkah without taking any of the ransom, on condition that Saidatuna Zainab RA be sent to Madinah. Hence Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah was separated from Saidatuna Zainab RA for the next four years. In her absence, Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah wrote poetry for her:
I remember Zainab when she leaned on the waymark.
I said to a person who lived in the Haram, “Water!
For the daughter of the Trustworthy.” May Allah reward her!
Virtuous she is, and every husband praises what he knows.
Rasulullah SAW’s other two daughters; Saidatuna Ruqayyah RA and Saidatuna Umm Kulthum RA were divorced by their husbands and returned to his home. Rasulullah SAW in fact was delighted when they came back to him and he had hoped that Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah would also return Saidatuna Zainab RA to him except that at that time he had no power to compel him to do so. The law forbidding the marriage of a Muslim woman to a nonbelieving man was not yet in force.
Rasulullah SAW migrated to Madinah and his mission became stronger. The Quraish felt even more threatened by him, red went out to confront him at Badr. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah was compelled to go along with the Quraish army. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah did not really have the desire to fight the Muslims nor did he feel any inclination to join them. But his position among the Quraish- one of honor and trust – impelled him to go along with their campaign against Rasulullah SAW. The battle of Badr ended in the terrible defeat for the Quraish and the forces of shirk. Some were killed, some were taken prisoner and some managed to escape. Among those, who were taken prisoner was Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah, the husband of Saidatuna Zainab RA.
Rasulullah SAW fixed amounts for the ransom of the prisoners of war varying from one thousand to four thousand dirhams, according to the wealth and social standing of the prisoner. Quraish messengers went to and fro between Makkah and Madinah bearing the ransom money to free their relatives held in Madinah. Saidatuna Zainab RA sent her messenger to Madinah bearing the ransom demand to free her husband. The ransom amount included a necklace which her mother, Saidatuna Khadijah RA, had given to her before she died. When Rasulullah SAW saw the necklace, his face at once became covered with a veil of sadness and he felt a surge of tenderness for his daughter. Rasulullah SAW turned to his companions and said:
“Zainab has sent this amount to ransom Abu-l Aas. If you see fit to set free her prisoner and return her possession to her, then do so.”
“Yes,” his companions agreed. “We shall do whatever we can to soothe your eyes and make you happy.”
Rasulullah SAW set one condition on Abu-l Aas before he freed him that he should send his daughter Zainab to him without delay.
As soon as he reached Makkah, Abu-l Aas began making arrangements to carry out his promise. He ordered his wife to prepare herself for the journey and told her that her father’s messengers were waiting for her just outside Makkah. He prepared provisions and a mount for her and instructed his brother, Amr ibn ar-Rabi’ah, to accompany her and hand her over personally to Rasulullah SAW emissaries.
Amr slung his bow over his shoulders, took up his quiver of arrows, placed Saidatuna Zainab RA in her hawdaj and left Makkah with her in the broad light of day, in full view of the Quraish.
The Quraish were furious. They pursued Saidatuna Zainab and Amr until they caught up with them. Saidatuna Zainab RA was scared. Amr stood poised with his bow and arrow and shouted:
“By God, if any man comes near to her, I would plunge this arrow in his neck”. Amr was known to be an excellent marksman.
Abu Sufyan ibn Hath, who had by this time joined the Quraish group, went up to Amr and said: “Son of my brother put away your arrow and let me talk to you.”
This Amr did and Abu Sufyan went on: “What you have done is not prudent. You left with Zainab in full view of the people. All the Arabs know the disasters we suffered at Badr at the hands of her father, Muhammad. If you leave with his daughter in the open as you have done, the tribes would accuse us of cowardice and they would say that we have been humiliated. Return with her and ask her to stay in her husband’s house for a few days so that people could say that we brought her back. Thereafter you can take her away quietly and secretly from us and take her to her father. We have no need to detain her.”
Amr agreed to this and Saidatuna Zainab RA returned to Makkah. A few days later, in the middle of the night Amr took Saidatuna Zainab RA and handed her over to Rasulullah SAW emissaries just as his brother had instructed.
After the departure of his wife, Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah stayed on in Makkah for several years. Then, shortly before the conquest of Makkah, he left for Syria on a trading mission. On the return journey from Syria his caravan consisted of some one hundred camels and one hundred and seventy men.
As the caravan approached Madinah, a detachment of Muslims took them by surprise. They impounded the camels and took the men as captives to the Prophet. Abu-l Aas however managed to escape. During the night which was pitch black, Abu-l Aas entered Madinah fearful and alert. He searched around until he came to Zainab’s house. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah asked her for protection and she gave it to him.
At dawn, Rasulullah SAW came out to the masjid to perform the Dawn Prayer. Rasulullah SAW stood erect in the mihrab and said “Allahu Akbar” to begin the Prayer. The Muslims behind him did the same. At that point Saidatuna Zainab RA shouted from the women’s section of the masjid:
“O people! I am Zainab the daughter of Muhammad. I have given protection to Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah. Do give him your protection also.”
When the Prayer was finished, Rasulullah SAW turned to the congregation and said: “Have you heard what I heard?” “Yes, Messenger of Allah,” they replied.
“By Him in whose hand is my soul, I knew nothing of this until I heard what you heard. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah is asking protection from the Muslims.”
Back at home Rasulullah SAW said to his daughter: “Prepare a place of rest for Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah and let him know that you are not lawful for him.” Rasulullah SAW then summoned the men of the expeditionary force which had taken the camels and the men of the caravan and said to them:
“You have taken the possessions of this man. If you are kind to him and return his property, we would be pleased. If however you do not agree then the goods is booty sanctioned by Allah which you have a right to.”
“We would certainly return his possessions to him, Rasulullah,” they replied and when Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah came to collect his goods, they said to him:
“You belong to the Quraish nobility. You are the nephew of Rasul of Allah and his son-in-law. Would you accept Islam? We would hand over all this wealth to you. You would then have for your own enjoyment whatever wealth and possessions the Makkans entrusted to you, and stay with us here in Madinah.”
“What an evil thing you are asking me do, to enter a new religion while committing an act of treachery!” Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah retorted.
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah returned to Makkah with the caravan and handed over all the wealth and goods to their rightful owners. Then he asked:
“O people of Quraish! Is there any money left with me belonging to any one of you which he has not taken?”
“No,” came the reply. “And may God bless you with goodness. We have indeed found you noble and trustworthy.”
Then Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah announced: “Since I have now handed over to you what is rightfully yours, I now declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. By Allah, the only thing that prevented me from declaring my acceptance of Islam while I was with Muhammad in Madinah was my fear that you would think that I did so only to appropriate your wealth. Now that I have discharged my trust in this matter, I now declare that I am a Muslim…”
Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA then left for Madinah where Rasulullah SAW received him hospitably and returned his wife to him. Rasulullah SAW used to say about him: “Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA spoke to me and was truthful to me. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah made promises to me and remained faithful to his word.”
Rasulullah SAW allowed Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA to live with Saidatuna Zainab RA again without requiring a new contract or dower. Alternative traditions, however, assert that Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA did make a new contract and pay a new dower. Their reconciliation only lasted about a year, for Saidatuna Zainab RA demised in mid-629.
As a widower, Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah returned to Mecca. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah married again to Fakhita bint Sa’id ibn Al-As ibn Abi Umayya, and they had a daughter, Maryam. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA never fought in any of the Islamic wars. Abu al-As ibn al-Rabiah RA died in Makkah in March 634.