Scholars On Zaynab And Muhammed’s (p) Marriage

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We have previously written a thorough examination in regards to the incident of Zaid, Zaynab and Muhammed before:

(1) – “Zayd, Zaynab And Muhammed: Fabrications And Lies

(2) – “Muhammed’s Marriage To Zaynab: Closer Read Of Surah 33:37

(3) – “Revisiting Surah 33:37: Muhammed’s Marriage To Zaynab

Here we publicise further comments from Muslims and non-Muslim scholars on this incident to get a better understanding. [1]

Scholar Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1892 – 1977)

“24. ‘Zaid’s marriage with the Prophet’s cousin Zainab, daughter of Jahsh, was celebrated in Mecca eight years before the Hijrat, but it did not turn out happy. Zainab the high-born looked down Zaid the freedman who had been a slave. And he was not comely to look at. Both were good people in their own way, and both loved the Prophet, but there was mutual incompatibility and this is fatal to married life. Zaid wished to divorce her, but THE PROPHET ASKED HIM TO HOLD HIS HAND, and obeyed. She was closely related to the Prophet; he had given a handsome marriage gift on her marriage to Zaid; and people would certainly talk if such a marriage was broken off, and poor Zainab’s reputation would be ruined. This was the fear in the mind of the Prophet… Zaid’s wish – indeed the mutual wish of the people – was for the time being put away, but it became eventually an established fact, and everybody came to know of it.’ (AYA).

25. (by way of counsel, not of command, O Prophet!).

26. i.e., to Zaid Ibn Haritha, once a Christian slave, now a convert to Islam.

27. (by making him one of the earliest converts to Islam).

28. (by making him a freedman).

29. i.e., Zainab bint Jahsh, a cousin of the Prophet.

30. i.e., be observant of thy duty to God, as this is like to render many irksome obligation pleasant.

31. (for the time being).

32. i.e., the fact of thy marriage with Zainab after her divorce from Zaid.

33. (considering it to be a purely private and domestic affair of thine own, O Prophet!).

34. (lest they may use the language of slander).

35. (in religious duties). The Prophet is reminded that the affair did not concern him alone. It was a matter of public duty, inaugurating, besides other advantages, a much-needed reform. See P. XXI. nn. 390-391.

36. Of all the companions of the holy Prophet, Zaid has the unique distinction of being mentioned by name in the Qur’an.

37. i.e., had dissolved his marriage with the solemnity and necessary formality. … is

‘A want: an object or need; or one which one purposes to accomplish; or for which one is anxious or desirous…You say … I accomplished, or obtained my want. And … I accomplished my want of such a thing so as to have no further need of it.’ (LL).

Thus the words imply that Zaid intensely longed to divorce her.

38. (O Prophet!) Referring to the Christian calumnies respecting this marriage, say a CHRISTIAN WRITER:

‘I am satisfied after close examination of the circumstances of the case, that it does not bear the interpretation usually placed upon it by Christians. It raised an outcry among the Arabs of the ignorance; not because they suspected an intrigue on the Prophet’s part to secure a divorce; but because they looked upon an adopted as though he were a real son, and considered, therefore, that the marriage fell within the prohibited degrees. This restriction… he abolished by his marriage, NOT FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT ONLY, BUT FOR THAT OF THE ARABS AT LARGE. In the view indeed usually taken of the whole transaction, there is a strange compound of fact and fiction; and much that was comparatively innocent has been made to wear the appearance of deep guilt.’ (Bosworth Smith, op. cit.. pp. 114-15)

And again:

‘The production of this sura, whatever else it proves about Mohammed, seems to me to prove not his conscious insincerity, but the reverse; he had already attained his end, why then blazon his shame if shame he felt it to be? Why forge the name of God? … Surely a single act of conscious imposture in the matter of the Koran would have sapped all his strength. … It would have made such a speech as that wherein, at the very close of his life, Samuel-like, he boldly challenged all Musalmans to mention aught that they had against him, impossible.’ (p. 145).

39. See P. XXI nn. 398, 399.

40. I.e., have formally dissolved their marriage with them.

41. (respecting marriage and divorce of adopted children).

42. (in any case; irrespective of the particular episode that has been the occasion of this ordinance).

43. i.e., no calumny is at all justifiable.

44. (in fact or in law).” (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an – Translation and Commentary Of The Holy Qur’an [Published By Darul Ishaat Urdu Bazaar Karachi: Pakistan] by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, volume 3, page 449 – 451)

Dr. Muhammad Asad [Leopold Weiss] (1900 – 1992)

“40 I.e., whenever a specific law has been formulated as such in the Qur’an or in an injunction promulgated by the Prophet.
41 Lit.,

“to have a choice in their concern (min amrihim)”

i.e., to let their attitude or course of action be determined, not by the relevant law, but by their personal interests or predilections.

42 For this rendering of the particle idh, see surah 2, note 21. – With the above verse, the discourse returns to the problem of “elective” relationships touched upon in verses 4 ff. Several years before Muhammad’s call to prophethood, his wife Khadijah made him a present of a young slave, Zayd ibn Harithah, a descendant of the North-Arabian tribe of Banu Kalb, who had been taken captive as a child in the course of one of the many tribal wars and then sold into slavery at Mecca. As soon as he became the boy’s owner, Muhammad freed him, and shortly afterwards adopted him as his son; and Zayd, in his turn, was among the first to embrace Islam. Years later, impelled by the desire to break down the ancient Arabian prejudice against a slave’s or even a freedman’s marrying a “free-born” woman, the Prophet persuaded Zayd to marry his (Muhammad’s) own cousin, Zaynab hint Jahsh, who, without his being aware of it, had been in love with Muhammad ever since her childhood. Hence, she consented to the proposed marriage with great reluctance, and only in deference to the authority of the Prophet. Since Zayd, too, was not at all keen on this alliance (being already happily married to another freed slave, Umm Ayman, the mother of his son Usamah), it was not surprising that the marriage did not bring happiness to either Zaynab or Zayd. On several occasions the latter was about to divorce his new wife who, on her part, did not make any secret of her dislike of Zayd; and each time they were persuaded by THE PROPHET TO PERSEVERE IN PATIENCE AND NOT TO SEPARATE. In the end, however, the marriage proved untenable, and Zayd divorced Zaynab in the year 5 H. Shortly afterwards the Prophet married her in order to redeem what he considered to be his moral responsibility for her past unhappiness.

43 I.e., Zayd ibn Harithah, whom God had caused to become one of the earliest believers, and whom the Prophet had adopted as his son.

44 Namely, that the marriage of Zayd and Zaynab, which had been sponsored by Muhammad himself, and on which he had so strongly insisted, was a total failure and could only end in divorce (see also next note).

45 Lit.,

“whereas God was more worthy (ahaqq) that thou shouldst stand in awe of Him”.

Referring to this divine reprimand (which, in itself, disproves the allegation that the Qur’an was “composed by Muhammad”), ‘A’ishah is reliably quoted as having said,

“Had the Apostle of God been inclined to suppress anything of what was revealed to him, he would SURELY HAVE SUPPRESSED THIS VERSE” (Bukhari and Muslim).

46 Lit., “ended his want of [or “claim on”] her”, sc., by divorcing her (Zamakhshari).

47 Thus, apart from the Prophet’s desire to make amends for Zaynab’s past unhappiness, the divine purpose in causing him to marry the former wife of his adopted son (stressed in the phrase,

“We gave her to thee in marriage”

was to show that – contrary to what the pagan Arabs believed – an adoptive relationship does not involve any of the marriage-restrictions which result from actual, biological parent-and-child relations (cf. note 3 on verse 4 of this surah). (The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, page 895 – 896, online source )

Ismail Ibn Kathir (1301 -1373)

“Allah’s rebuke to His Messenger and the Story of Zayd and Zaynab
Allah tells what His Prophet said to his freed slave Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, who was the one on whom Allah had bestowed grace, i.e., through Islam and following the Messenger.

‘and you have done a favor (to him)’

means, by freeing him from slavery. And he was a great leader, held in high esteem and beloved by the Prophet. He was known as the beloved, and his son Usamah was known as the beloved son of the beloved. `A’ishah, said:

“The Messenger of Allah never sent him on a campaign but he appointed him as its commander, and if he had lived after him he would have appointed him as his Khalifah.’

This was recorded by Imam Ahmad. The Messenger of Allah had given him in marriage to the daughter of his paternal aunt, Zaynab bint Jahsh Al-Asadiyyah, may Allah be pleased with her, whose mother was Umaymah bint `Abd Al-Muttalib. For her dowery he gave her ten Dinars, sixty Dirhams, a veil, a cloak and a shirt, fifty Mudds of food and ten Mudds of dates. This was stated by Muqatil bin Hayyan. She stayed with him for a year, more or less, then problems arose between them. Zayd complained about her to the Messenger of Allah, who told him,

‘Stay with your wife and have Taqwa of Allah.’

Allah says:

‘But you did hide in yourself that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him.’

Ibn Jarir narrated that `A’ishah, said,

If MUHAMMAD were to have concealed anything that was revealed to him of the Book of Allah, he would have CONCEALED THIS AYAH (VERSE): ‘But you did hide in yourself that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him.’

‘So, when Zayd had completed his aim with her, We gave her to you in marriage,’


‘when her marriage to Zayd was over and he had separated from her, WE MARRIED HER TO YOU,’

and the One Who was her Wali (guardian) in this marriage was Allah Himself, in the sense that He revealed to the Prophet that he should go in unto her without any Wali, contractual agreement, dowery or witnesses among mankind.

Imam Ahmad recorded that Thabit said that Anas, said:

‘When Zaynab’s `Iddah finished, the Messenger of Allah said to Zayd bin Harithah, (Go to her and tell her about me (that I want to marry her).) So, he went to her and found her kneading dough. He (Zayd) said, `When I saw her I felt such respect for her that I could not even look at her and tell her what the Messenger of Allah had said, so I turned my back to her and stepped aside, and said, `O Zaynab! Rejoice, for the Messenger of Allah has sent me to propose marriage to you on his behalf.’ She said, `I will not do anything until I pray to my Lord, may He be glorified.’ So she went to the place where she usually prayed. Then Qur’an was revealed and the Messenger of Allah came and entered without permission. We were there when she entered upon the Messenger of Allah, and for the wedding feast we offered bread and meat. Then the people left, and some men stayed behind conversing in the house after they had eaten. The Messenger of Allah went out and I followed him. He started to go around all the apartments of his wives, greeting them, and they said, `O Messenger of Allah, how did you find your (new) wife’ I do not know whether I or someone else told him that those people had left, so he went and entered the house, and I went to enter after him, but he drew the curtain between himself and I. The ruling of Hijab was revealed and he exhorted the people as Allah had exhorted them: (Enter not the Prophet’s houses, unless permission is given to you).’

This was also recorded by Muslim and An-Nasa’i. Al-Bukhari, recorded that Anas bin Malik, said,

‘Zaynab bint Jahsh, used to boast to the other wives of the Prophet, saying, ‘Your families arranged your marriages, but ALLAH ARRANGED MY MARRIAGE FROM ABOVE THE SEVEN HEAVENS.’

In (our Tafsir of) Surat An-Nur we mentioned that Muhammad bin `Abdullah bin Jahsh said: “Zaynab and `A’ishah, were boasting to one another; Zaynab, said,

‘I am the one whose marriage was revealed from above the heaven.’ `A’ishah, `I am the one whose innocence was revealed from heaven.’ So, Zaynab conceded that.” (so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them.) means, `We permitted you to marry her, and We did that so that there would no longer be any difficulty for the believers with regard to their marrying the ex-wives of their adopted sons.’

Before prophethood, the Messenger of Allah had adopted Zayd bin Harithah, and he was known as Zayd, the son of Muhammad. Allah put a stop to this when He said:

‘nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons) until: (Call them after their fathers, that is more just with Allah) (33:4-5).’

Then this was confirmed and made even clearer by the marriage of the Messenger of Allah to Zaynab bint Jahsh, when Zayd bin Harithah divorced her. Allah says in Ayat At-Tahrim: (the wives of your sons from your own loins) (4:23) which specifically excludes adopted sons. This custom (of adopting sons) was widespread among them. (And Allah’s command must be fulfilled.) means,

‘this that has happened was decreed by Allah and was inevitable.’ Allah knew that Zaynab, would become one of the wives of the Prophet. ‘There is no blame on the Prophet in that which Allah has made legal for him.’

means, in that which has been permitted for him and which he has been commanded to do, i.e. his marrying Zaynab, who had been divorced by his adopted son Zayd bin Harithah,

‘That has been Allah’s way with those who have passed away of old.’

means this is the ruling of Allah for the Prophets who came before him. Allah would not command them to do anything for which they might be blamed. This is a refutation of those hypocrites who imagined that there was anything wrong with his marrying the ex-wife of Zayd, his freed slave and adopted son.

‘And the command of Allah is a decree determined.’

means, His command which He has decreed must inevitably come to pass; nothing can prevent it or avert it, for whatever He wills happens, and whatever He does not decree, does not happen.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir – on Surah 33:37-38 – online source )

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Related article:

Allegations concerning Muhammads marriage to Zaynab bint Jahsh

“Background to Prophet’s Marriage with Zainab”


[1] It is absurd for some critics to claim that Muhammed (p) was made aware one day of Zaynab’s beauty, when he knew her from the start, for decades. If Zaynab’s beauty is the thing Muhammed married her, he would have married her himself at the very start. The following account shows that it was the Prophet (p) which arranged for Zaynab to marry Zayd:
“Zaynab bt. Jahsh b. Ri’ab, sister of Abd al-Rahman b. Jahsh. Her mother was Umaymah bt. Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim. According to Ibn Umar [al-Waqidi] – Umar b. Uthman al-Jahshi – his father: Zaynab bt. Jahsh, who was a beautiful woman, was among those who emigrated [to Medina] with the Prophet. When the Prophet arrived at Madina he asked that she be given to [his adopted son] Zayd b. Harithah in marriage, but she said ‘O Messenger of God I cannot give my consent for I am the widow of the Quraysh.’ The Prophet replied ‘But I give my consent that YOU SHOULD [MARRY HIM].’ So Zayd b. Harithah married her.” (History of al-Tabari – The: Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions, volume 39 page 180)

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