The Pure Love of Saidina Zainab binti Muhammad SAW
This is a story about pure love between Saidina Zainab RA bint Muhammad SAW and Abu El’Ass ibn Rabee’; Zainab was the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH) and her cousin Abu El’Ass, was Khadeeja’s (RA) nephew. He was one of the nobles of the Quraish, and Rasulullah SAW loved him very much.
One day Abu El’Ass went to the Rasulullah SAW before he had received his mission of Rasul of Allah and said: “I want to marry your eldest daughter”. So Rasulullah SAW replied: “I must ask her first”. He (SAW) went to Zainab and asked her: “Your cousin came to me and he wishes to marry you, do you accept him as your husband?” Her face turned red with bashfulness and she smiled. So Saidina Zainab RA married Abu El’Ass, the beginning of a great love story. They had two children; Ali and Omama. Then Muhammad SAW became a Rasul of Allah while Abu El’Ass was away from Makkah. Abu El’Ass returned to find his wife a Muslim. When he first came back, his wife said “I have great news for you”. He stood up and left her. Saidina Zainab RA was surprised and followed him as she said, “My father became a Rasul of Allah and I have become a Muslim”. He replied, “Why didn’t you tell me first?” Hence a big problem began between the two; a problem of religion and belief.
She told him, “I wasn’t going to disbelieve in my father and his message, he is not a liar, and he is “The Honest and Trustworthy”. I’m not the only believer; my mother and my sisters became Muslims, my cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib RA became a Muslim, your cousin Othman ibn Affan RA became a Muslim, and your friend, Abu Bakr RA became a Muslim”. He replied, “Well, as for me, I don’t want people to say, ‘he let down his people and his forefathers to please his wife’. And I am not accusing your father of anything”. Then he said, “So will you excuse me and understand?” She replied, “Who will excuse and understand you if I don’t? I will stay beside you and help you until you reach the truth.” And she kept her word for 20 years.
Abu El’Ass remained an unbeliever, and then came the migration.Sadina Zainab RA went to her father and asked him for the permission to stay with her husband. Rasulullah SAW replied, “Stay with your husband and children”. So Saidina Zainab RA stayed in Makkah, until the battle of Badr occurred. Abu El’Ass was to fight in the army of Quraish against the Muslims. For Saidina Zainab RA, it meant that her husband will be fighting her father, a time Saidina Zainab RA had always feared. She kept crying out: “O Allah, I fear one day the sun may rise and my children become orphans or I lose my father”.
So the battle started, and ended in victory for the Muslims. Abu El’Ass was captured by the Muslims, and news of this reached Makkah. Saidina Zainab RA asked, “What did my father do?” They told her, “The Muslims won”. So she prayed to Allah, thanking Him. Then she asked: “What did my husband do?” They said: “He was captured”. She said, “I’ll send a payment to release him”. She didn’t own anything of much value, so she took off her mother’s necklace, and sent it with Abu El’Ass’s brother to Rasulullah SAW.
While Rasulullah SAW was sitting, taking payments and releasing captives, he saw Saidina Khadeeja’s necklace. He held it up and asked: “Whose payment is this?” They said: “Abu El’Ass ibn Rabee”. He cried and said “This is Khadeeja’s necklace”. As soon as the Rasulullah SAW, saw that necklace, he had a feeling of extreme compassion and his heart palpitated for the great memory. The Companions who were present there gazed in amazement having being captivated by the magnificence of the situation. After a long silence, Rasulullah SAW stood up and said “People, this man is my son in-law, should I release him? And do you accept the return of this necklace to my daughter?” They answered in unison “Yes, Rasulullah”.
Rasulullah SAW gave the necklace to Abu El’Ass and said to him: “Tell Zainab not to give away Khadeeja’s necklace”. Then he (SAW) said, “Abu El’Ass, Can we speak privately?” He took him aside and said, “Allah has ordered me to separate between a Muslim and a disbeliever, so could you return my daughter to me?” Abu El’Ass reluctantly agreed.
Saidina Zainab RA stood on the gates of Makkah waiting for the arrival of Abu El’Ass. When he finally came he said, “I am going away”. She asked, “Where to?” He replied, “It is not me who is going, it is you. You are going to your father. We must separate because you are a Muslim”. She implored him, “Will you become a Muslim and come with me?” But he refused. So Saidina Zainab RA took her son and daughter and traveled to Madinah, and for 6 years she refused to remarry, hoping that one day Abu El’Ass would come.
After 6 years, Abu El’Ass was traveling in a caravan from Makkah to Syria. During the journey, he was intercepted by some of Rasulullah SAW companions. He escaped and asked for Zainab’s home. He knocked on her door shortly before the dawn prayer. She opened the door and asked him “Did you become a Muslim?” He whispered “No, I come as a fugitive”. She implored him once more “Can you become a Muslim?” Again his answer was a negative. “Do not worry.” She said, “Welcome my cousin, welcome, the father of Ali and Omama”.
After Rasulullah SAW prayed the dawn prayer in congregation with the people, they heard a voice from the back of the mosque, “I have freed Abu El’Ass ibn Rabee”. Zainab had granted Abu El’Ass’ freedom. Rasulullah SAW asked, “Have you heard what I heard?” They all said, “Yes, Rasul of Allah”.Saidina Zainab RA said, “He is my cousin and the father of my children and I have freed him”. Rasulullah SAW stood up and said, “O people, I declare that this man was a very good son-in-law, he never broke his promise, and neither did he tell lies. So if you accept, I will return his money back and let him go. If you refuse it’s your decision and I will not blame you for it.” The companions agreed, “We will give him his money”. So Rasulullah SAW said to Zainab RA, “We have freed the one you have freed, O Zainab.” Then he (SAW) went to her and told her “be generous to him, he is your cousin and the father of your children, but don’t let him get near you, he is prohibited for you.” She replied, “Sure, father, I’ll do as you say”.
She went in and told her husband, “O Abu El’Ass, didn’t you miss us at all? Won’t you become a Muslim and stay with us?” But he refused. Abu El’Ass then took the money and returned to Makkah. Once he returned he stood up and announced, “O people, here is your money. Is there anything left?” They replied, “No, Abu El’Ass, there is nothing left, thanks a lot.” So Abu El’Ass said, “I testify that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammed is His Messenger.” Then he went back to Madinah and ran to towards as he said, “Dear Rasulullah, you freed me yesterday, and today I say that I testify there is no god but Allah and you are His Messenger.” He asked Rasulullah SAW, “Will you give me the permission to go back to Zainab?” Rasulullah smiled and said, “Come with me”; he took him to Saidina Zainab’s RA house and knocked on her door. Rasulullah SAW said, “O Zainab, your cousin came to me and asked if he can return to you”. Just like 20 years before, her face turned red with bashfulness and she smiled.
The sad thing was, a year after this incident, Saidina Zainab RA passed away.. Abu El’Ass shed hot tears because of her death and drove those who were around him to tears. Rasulullah SAW came with eyes full of tears and a heart full of sorrow. Zainab’s death reminded him of the death of his wife, Khadeejah. He told the women, who gathered around Zainab’s corpse, “Wash her three times and use camphor in the third wash.” He performed funeral prayers on her and followed her final resting place. Abu El’Ass returned to his children, Ali and Omama. Kissing them and wetting them with his tears, he remembered the face of his departed darling.
May Allah be pleased with Saidina Zainab RA , The daughter of Rasulullah passed away.! May He reward her with Paradise for her patience, endurance and struggle! Abu El’Ass would cry so profusely that the people saw Rasulullah SAW himself weeping and calming him down.
“Abu El’Asr would say, “By Allah, I can’t stand life anymore without Zainab”. He died one year after Zainab’s death.”
Another beautiful rendering about the love of the wife for her husband
Everyone comes into this world with predicaments. Some find it difficult to reach decisions while others have simple choices to make. Nevertheless, decisions need to be made in order to move overcome such obstacles and sometimes even the easiest decision can become an obstacle especially when made with the wrong intentions. Muslims today do not face the challenges as the Sahabah Nabi (Companions of the Prophet), but it pays to understand their underlying motives when looking at predicaments. One good story is told of Zainab, the eldest daughter of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and her plight to make the hardest decisions of a woman’s life.
When Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation, Zainab was already married to Abul-Aas ibn Rabi. Upon learning of her father’s appointment as the last Prophet, Zainab along with her mother Khadijah, and her sisters Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah were the first women and young girls who embraced Islam.
Their reversion in silence, along with other Muslims, was suddenly shattered when the Prophet received revelation to announce to Makkah that there was only one God worthy of worship, and he, Prophet Muhammad, was the final Messenger. Families began to divide. Brothers lost brothers to this new faith. Parents lost children; and some children lost their parents. Husbands and wives disagreed and fought. Family heads were appalled at changes in religious beliefs of their son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws. Many were expelled from the family home.
There was Zainab. In the clamor of confusion and a strong resistance to acceptance of Islam by the heavyweights of the Quraish, Zainab and Abul-Aas’ marriage remained intact. Yet amidst the pressure and insult that fell upon Abul-Aas and his wife, they remained married amongst the controversies that surrounded their union. He remained “tolerant,” as many scholars described. Yet, tolerance was a feeble excuse for the proud pagan Arabs – tolerance did not exist – especially in a society that had suddenly been condemned by a man named Muhammad, who previously to his submission to One God, had been trusted by his community.
When the Muslims emigrated to Madinah, to start the first civilization known to mankind, Zainab was alone again – within the sea of non-believers – married to a man who did not share her love for Islam. Soon, a huge battle ensued between the Muslims and the pagan Arabs of Makkah – the Battle of Badr. Sources narrate that there were tears in the Muslims’ eyes as they fought against their brothers, cousins, uncles, neighbors, friends and former colleagues. It must have been no less teary for Zainab.
The outcome of Badr was also bittersweet for her. When her husband did not return from the battlefield, she knew he was being held captive by the Muslims, and her father was alive and safe. Back in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad was collecting blood money for the captives. One by one he freed the captives as the blood money trickled in. When it came to Abul-Aas’ package, the Prophet paled, as attached to the money was an onyx necklace – one that belonged to Khadijah. He ordered for the money and the necklace to be returned to his estranged daughter, along with her husband. However, he spoke gently with Abul-Aas, to free Zainab from her marriage, as by then, a revelation directed that she could no longer be married to a non-Muslim man.
Her departure was heartbreaking. She left to live her life as a Muslim without barriers, but Abul-Aas was still using Islam as a barrier for their relationship. He was still unable to forsake the beliefs of his fore-fathers. As she left for Madinah, the men of the Abd Shams tribe became outraged that a woman of their clan was being transported to the Muslims. They had barely recovered from the vile defeat in Badr and stopped her from leaving Makkah.
An escort later transported Zainab and her daughter, Umamah, by night where they safely arrived at
Madinah to be reunited with her family. Zainab was finally able to live her life as a liberated Muslim, attending prayers with her family and working towards the betterment of a progressive society. During her time at Madinah, she also experienced a perilous siege upon the Muslim community. The people of Makkah were back to attack the Muslims in Madinah. Her father along with his consultative panel strategized to play on the defensive, digging a trench around the vulnerable border of Madinah. “The Battle of the Trench,” as it was called, marked an unfavourable turning point for the army from Makkah.
Months followed and the Muslims were instructed to counter trade caravans from Makkah that were travelling past Madinah. A caravan returning from Syria was captured and the merchandise and employees were brought to Madinah. However, one man, amongst a few, escaped. He made his way carefully to Madinah in the middle of the night, and by some miracle he knocked on the right door.
Zainab left quietly for dawn prayers with her family members. She stood amongst the female congregation, in the front row, with her sisters and the Mothers of Believers (the Prophet’s wives). As she saw her father with a congregation of men, Zainab waited for a moment of silence and cried out with all her heart, “O people, I give protection to Abul-Aas, the son of Rabi.” Concerned by her situation, her father hurried over to Zainab and reminded, “Receive him with all honour, but let him not come to you as a husband, for you are not his by law.” He then turned to his followers and beseeched them to have mercy upon his former son-in-law who was also his late wife’s nephew. After his last transaction, Abul-Aas embraced Islam. The Prophet reinstated his marriage to Zainab. It was one of the happiest days of his family and the city of Madinah rejoiced at their reunion.
Choosing her husband over her family and later her religion over her husband makes Zainab’s predicaments the most compelling decisions in a believing Muslimah’s life. Yet she chose again and again between two impossible alternatives, with a single guiding light – Allah and His Messenger. She was abandoned several times, forcing herself to live amongst non-Muslims who despised her father. She feared her father’s life as she did for her husband’s on several occasions and sometimes at the same time.
There were times when her own life was threatened and her divorce took a toll on her mental and physical self. She was torn between two loves time and time again; yet she chose each time – and chose wisely – one man above the other man, both whom she loved dearly.
The driving force behind Zainab’s steadfastness could only be one thing – her faith – her undying love for the one religion that saved her life on many occasions, her father’s life and her husband’s life – it was the choice of Islam.
Hz Zainab bint Muhammad (RA) was the eldest daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Hz Khadijah (RA). She was married to Abu al-As ibn al-Rabi, who belonged to the Abd ash-Shams clan of the Quraysh. They were blessed with two children, Ali and Umaymah, though sadly, Ali passed away in his childhood.
Hz Zainab’s life went without any major issues until her father was chosen to be the Messenger of Allah. He was commanded to convey the message of Islam, and Hz Zainab (RA) was quick to testify her faith in Islam. Hz Zainab’s husband, however, did not leave the religion of his forefathers and refused to accept Islam.
As a loving and caring wife, Hz Zainab (RA) prayed for her husband. The people of Quraysh urged Abu al-As to divorce his wife, but he refused to do so. So Hz Zainab (RA) chose Islam, whereas her husband remained away from Islam.
Then came the migration from Mecca to Medina, because the people of Quraysh had made life tough for Muslims. Hz Zainab (RA), caught in a dilemma, went to her father and sought his permission to stay behind and live with her husband. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) permitted her to remain with her husband and children, while other Muslims migrated to Medina.
Eventually, came the time for the Battle of Badr. Abu al-As, as an unbeliever, decided to fight in the army of the Quraysh against the Muslims. The battle of Badr resulted in victory for the Muslims, and Abu al-As was taken prisoner.
To free her husband, Hz Zainab (RA) decided to pay an amount. However, having hardly any money and with her husband being held captive, she had no choice but to send her onyx necklace, that was gifted to her by Hz Khadijah (RA) at the time of her marriage. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) saw the necklace, his face became covered with a veil of sadness, with tears in his eyes, because the necklace reminded him of Khadijah (RA). However, choosing the community over his own family, he turned to his companions and said: “Zainab has sent this necklace as an amount to free Abu al-As. If you see fit to set free her prisoner and return her possession to her, then do so.”
It was at this point that Allah revealed the following verse, invalidating the marital association between a believer and a non-believer: 
And give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till they believe, for verily a believing slave is better than an idolater though he please you.
Upon reaching Mecca, Abu al-As ordered his wife to prepare herself for the journey to Medina, and told her that her father’s messengers were waiting for her just outside Mecca. Abu al-As also instructed his brother, Amr ibn al-Rabi, to accompany Hz Zainab (RA) and hand her over personally to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s escort, Hz Zaid bin Harith (RA). The Quraysh were furious at this. They chased Hz Zainab (RA) and Amr, and attacked them. Hz Zainab (RA) was pregnant, and the vicious attacks of the Quraysh led to miscarriage.
Later on, Hz Zainab (RA) reached Medina and started living with her father, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She refused to remarry.
Time passed, and it so happened that once, Abu al-As was returning from Damascus to Mecca with his caravan. They were intercepted, and the caravan’s possessions were taken away. Abu al-As, however, managed to escape and he searched around, until he reached Hz Zainab’s house. He sought her help; and Hz Zainab (RA) allowed him to come inside. She later went to her father and the other companions, announced that she had given refuge to her husband, and requested the Prophet (PBUH) to ensure that all the possessions of the caravan of Abu al-As were returned. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) agreed, and Abu al-As left for Mecca with his caravan, wherein he handed over all the goods to their rightful owners.
At that very moment, standing in front of the people of Quraysh, Abu al-As proclaimed his faith in Allah and His messenger. Thereafter, he returned to Medina and announced his acceptance of Islam. He sought Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s permission to go back to his wife Hz Zainab (RA). They were reunited in the month of Muharram in the year 07 AH (May-June 628 CE).
Sadly, their happiness was not meant to last for long. A year after re-uniting with her husband, in early 08 AH (mid-629 CE), Hz Zainab (RA) fell ill and passed away.
The life of Hz Zainab (RA) is a true example of love, strong faith and patience. She loved her husband dearly, and was ready to stay away from others in order to be with her husband. However, when the time came and Allah so commanded, she did not hesitate in staying away from Abu al-As. Her sacrifice, devotion and patience will forever serve as an inspiration for humanity.
- The Quran 02:221 (Surah al-Baqarah)