Inspiring Muslim Women: Zainab bint Muhammad (RA)

Over the course of next four weeks, Allah be willing, Muslim Memo intends to publish short biographies of the daughters of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Today, we shall start with the eldest daughter of our dear Prophet (PBUH): Hz Zainab bint Muhammad (RA).

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: [1]

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.


  1. The Quran 02:221 (Surah al-Baqarah)

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Anjum Ara

Anjum Ara is the co-founder and contributing editor of Muslim Memo. An optometrist by profession, Anjum prefers to spend her time reading and following the Hadith and Sunnah.

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