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The Prophet's Wives Series

Discovering the Personality of Zaynab bint Jahsh

Part 7

We often are introduced to the people around the Prophet (PBUH) through his life and perspective. While there is good reason for this, it can also be of great benefit to learn about the companions of the Messenger as individuals. They were the people who Allah (SWT) calls in the Quran, “[…] the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind”. (Quran 3:110)

It can be especially important to look to the lives of the honorable and honored wives of the Prophet (PBUH) to understand that they too were human beings who lived, ate, laughed, and struggled to please Allah (SWT). After the Prophet, can there be a better example for us than the Mothers of the Believers who were all promised paradise?

Continuing in our journey to find out if our mothers were funny, sensitive, outgoing, introspective, self-doubting, or fearless, we take a look at Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh (May Allah be pleased with her-RA).

Among the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wives, Zaynab bint Jahsh (RA) was truthful, deliberate and purposeful, and generous. And her life stands as an example to us that even the best of people are still human.

She was truthful

One of the most outstanding anecdotes that speak to the great character and truthfulness of Zaynab bint Jahsh (RA) is quite possibly when Aisha (RA) was in her darkest hour. Amid a climate of gossip and character assassination of Aisha, Zaynab was one of very few people who spoke the truth about her.

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During this horrible time in Madinah, the whole city was poisoned with rumors of Aisha. So much so that it even impacted the Prophet (PBUH). So, the messenger of Allah turned to his wife, Zaynab, for her opinion of Aishah (may Allah be pleased with them both):

“The noble character of this lady is revealed in her [Zaynab’s] answer; she promptly said she did not wish to be involved, and did not want to defile and taint her ears, her eyes and her tongue with such terrible accusations. Swearing by Allah she said, she found A’ishah to be a truly God-fearing lady of exemplary character. She found in her the most wonderful traits of integrity, sincerity and honesty. She said she had not seen in her anything but goodness and virtue.”

Aishah understood how very easily Zaynab, her competition as a co-wife, could have taken advantage of the situation and said false and defamatory things about her. Aishah said, “she never forgot the fact that she [Zaynab] stood by her at the worst time in her life when almost the whole world had turned against her.”

Today, when many feel so comfortable spreading rumors and tearing down others–especially those among us who are working to do good–Zaynab (RA) shines as an example of how we should behave in these situations.

She was deliberate and purposeful

Zaynab bint Jahsh (RA) was not one who was quick to make a decision. She knew that there was wisdom in taking one’s time to deliberate on any matter of importance. She especially believed in asking Allah for guidance before taking any action.

When Zaynab (RA) received a proposal of marriage from the Prophet (PBUH), a situation in which many people would think the answer would be an obvious and emphatic yes, she did not say one way or another without praying for guidance:

“The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sent her a proposal through Zayd bin

Harithah. When he went to her, she was kneading dough; keeping his back turned to her,

he gave her the Prophet’s message, that he wanted her to join the select group of the

Mothers of the believers. She said she could not answer immediately, but would have to

consult her Maker. She began praying to Allah for guidance.”

Often in today’s climate of fast (and often false) news and digital outrage, we have knee-jerk reactions. We often make very public decision without much thought, prayer, or consultation of the facts. But we can look to this example that Zaynab (RA) embodied and try to emulate her calm and deliberate nature, seeking guidance and remaining patient.

She was generous

Zaynab bint Jahsh (RA), came from a life of luxury as nobility among the tribe of the Quraysh. But her heart was still very soft toward those who had less than her.

After the Muslims defeated the Persians and acquired abundant wealth from the spoils, Zaynab (RA) showed her truly charitable nature:

“When Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) sent Zaynab a pile of gold as her share of the treasure [from defeating the Persian armies], she called her maid servant and told her to take a handful of it to so-and-so, naming one of the poor people of Medina. One after another, she named all the poor people whom she knew, until they had all received a share of the treasure. Then she told her maidservant to see what was left. All that remained of the large pile of gold was eighty dinars, and this she accepted as her share, thanking Allah for it; but, because she believed so much money was a temptation, she asked Allah that she would never witness such a large distribution of wealth again.”

When Zaynab (RA) died, the poor of Medinah were especially bereaved. This was not only because a Mother of the Believers had suffered the pains of death, but also because they didn’t know who would provide for them after her. Who among us can say that anyone will be sad at our death because they depended on our good deeds? This is certainly something to aspire to.

She was a human being

A lot of times we forget that the Mothers of the Believers and all the companions of the Prophet (May Allah be pleased with all of them) were people who had their own struggles just like we do. We often immortalize them to our own detriment, thinking we cannot even begin to be like them.

For Zaynab, a girl from a noble family, this came to light when she was presented with the marriage to Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) freed slave and adopted son Zayd (RA), a man who was very close to the Prophet.

Zayd and Zaynab’s union abolished the idea that social standing made someone better than another. In the context of this situation, Allah (SWT) revealed that no one person is better than another except by measure of piety.

But Zaynab bint Jahsh (RA) was nobility, and she expected to eventually marry a man with the same social status. “Like all young girls brought up in relative luxury she had very high expectations for marriage and Zayd did not fit the description of the man she had in mind”.

Even so, she accepted the marriage in order to please Allah (SWT) and His messenger (PBUH). But despite her best efforts and her intention to please Allah with her marriage to Zayd (RA), she could never overcome her preconceived notions about who she should marry. Zayd always felt this from her, and sadly their marriage failed.

From this example of Zaynab’s life, we can understand that we all have our limitations, but we can do our best to overcome them. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will fail- in the end, it is our effort that counts.

Zaynab bint Jahsh (RA) was one of the first Muslims, one of the Mothers of the Believers, and from the best generation of humankind. She was honest, deliberate, charitable, and an example to all of us in these qualities and in her effort to overcome her own self.