Zayd ibn Harithah

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Zayd ibn Harithah
تخطيط اسم زيد بن حارثة.png
Son of Haritha, adopted son of Muhammad
Native name
زَيْد ابْن حَارِثَة (in Arabic)
Bornc. 581
Died629 (aged 48)

Zayd ibn Ḥārithah (Arabic: زَيْد ابْن حَارِثَة‎) (c. 581–629 CE), was a companion and adopted son of the Islamic Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad. He is the only companion who is mentioned by name in the Qur'an (33:37).[citation needed]


Zayd is said to have been ten years younger than Muhammad, suggesting a birth-year of c. 581 A.D. He is also said to have been 55 (lunar) years old at his death in 629, indicating a birthdate of 576.[citation needed]

He was born into the Udhra branch of the Kalb tribe in the Najd, central Arabia. He claimed a pedigree twelfth in descent from Udhra ibn Zayd al-Lat ibn Rufayda ibn Thawr ibn Kalb ibn Wabara.[1][2] Zayd's mother, Suda bint Thaalaba, was from the Maan branch of the Tayy tribe.[1]

When Zayd was "a young boy of an age at which he could be a servant"[3] he accompanied his mother on a visit to her family. While they were staying with the Maan tribe, horsemen from the Qayn tribe raided their tents and kidnapped Zayd. They took him to the market at Ukkaz and sold him as a slave for 400 dinars .[1]

Zayd's family searched for him, but without success. A lament is attributed to his father, Harithah ibn Sharahil:

I weep for Zayd, not knowing what became of him.
Is he alive, is he to be expected, or has Death come over him?
By God, I ask yet do not comprehend.
Was it the plain or the mountain that brought about your end?
I wish that I knew: Will you ever return?
In this world only for your coming back I yearn.
The sun reminds me of him when it dawns, evoking his memory as the dusk falls.
When the winds blow, they stir up memories like dust.
O how long my sorrow and fear for him last![4]

Slavery in Mecca[edit]

Zaid was purchased by a merchant of Mecca, Hakim ibn Hizam, who gave the boy as a present to his aunt, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. He remained in her possession until the day she married Muhammad , when she gave the slave as a wedding present to her bridegroom. Muhammad became very attached to Zaid, to whom he referred as al-Ḥabīb (Arabic: ٱلْحَبِيْب‎, lit. 'the Beloved').[1]

Some years later, some members of Zaid's tribe happened to arrive in Mecca on pilgrimage. They encountered Zaid and recognised each other, and he asked them to take a message home.

Carry a message from me to my people,
for I am far away, that close to the House and the places of pilgrimage I stay.
Let go of the grief that has deeply saddened you,
and do not hasten your camels all over the earth.
I live with the best of families, may God be blessed;
from father to son, of Ma'ad they are the noblest.[5]

On receiving this message, Zaid's father and uncle immediately set out for Mecca. They found Muhammad at the Kaaba and promised him any ransom if he would return Zaid to them. Muhammad replied that Zaid should be allowed to choose his fate, but that if he wished to return to his family, Muhammad would release him without accepting any ransom in exchange. They called for Zaid, who easily recognised his father and uncle, but told them that he did not want to leave Muhammad, "for I have seen something in this man, and I am not the kind of person who would ever choose anyone in preference to him." At this, Muhammad took Zaid to the steps of the Kaaba, where legal contracts were agreed and witnessed, and announced to the crowds: "Witness that Zaid becomes my son, with mutual rights of inheritance." On seeing this, Zaid's father and uncle "were satisfied," and they returned home without him.[6]

In accordance with the Arabic custom of adoption at the time, Zayd was thereafter known as "Zayd ibn Muhammad" and was a freedman, regarded socially and legally as Muhammad's son.[7]

Conversion to Islam[edit]

At an unknown date before 610, Zayd accompanied Muhammad to Ta'if, where it was a tradition to sacrifice meat to the idols. Near Baldah on their way back to Mecca, they met Zayd ibn Amr and offered him some of the cooked meat that Zayd was carrying in their bag.[8][9] Zayd ibn Amr, an outspoken monotheist,[10] replied, "I do not eat anything which you slaughter in the name of your stone idols. I eat none but those things on which Allah's Name has been mentioned at the time of slaughtering."[11] After this encounter, said Muhammad, "I never stroked an idol of theirs, nor did I sacrifice to them, until God honoured me with his apostleship."[8][9]

When Muhammad reported in 610 that he had received a revelation from the angel Gabriel, Zayd was one of the first converts to Islam. While Khadijah was the first Muslim of all,[12] she was closely followed by her neighbour Lubaba bint al-Harith,[13] her four daughters,[14] and the first male converts, Ali, Zayd and Abu Bakr.[15]

The Hijrah[edit]

In 622, Zayd joined the other Muslims in the Hijrah to Medina. Once settled in the new city, Muhammad urged each Muslim to "take a brother in Religion" so that each would have an ally in the community. Zayd was paired with Muhammad's uncle Hamza. Hamza accordingly trusted his last testament to Zayd just before his death in 625.[16]

A few months later, Muhammad and Abu Bakr sent Zayd back to Mecca to escort their families to Medina. The return party consisted of Muhammad's wife Sawda, his daughters Umm Kulthum and Fatimah, his servant Abu Rafi, Zayd's wife Baraka and their son Usama, Abu Bakr's wife Umm Rumman, his children Asma, Abdullah and Aisha, and a guide named Abdullah ibn Urayqit, and Abu Bakr's kinsman Talhah also decided to accompany them.[17]

Marriages and Children[edit]

Zayd married at least six times.

  1. Durrah (Fakhita) bint Abi Lahab, a cousin of Muhammad.[18] They were divorced; the dates are unknown, but Durrah's two brothers were divorced from Muhammad's two daughters in 613.[19]
  2. Umm Ayman (Barakah), Muhammad's freedwoman. They were married "after Islam"[20] and their son was born in 612.[21]
  3. Hind bint Al-Awwam, a niece of Khadijah.[18]
  4. Humayma bint Sayfi (Umm Mubashshir), the widow of Al-Baraa ibn Maarur,[22] a chief in Medina. Al-Baraa died in August or September 622,[23] so the marriage to Zayd was presumably in or after 623.
  5. Zaynab bint Jahsh, a cousin of Muhammad. They were married in 625 and divorced in late 626.[24]
  6. Umm Kulthum bint Uqba, a maternal sister of Caliph Uthman. This marriage was ordered by Muhammad in 628, but it ended in divorce.[18][25]

Zayd had three children.

  1. Usama, son of Barakah, who had descendants, but their number "never exceeded twenty in any given generation."[21]
  2. Zayd, son of Umm Kulthum, who died in infancy.[18]
  3. Ruqayya, daughter of Umm Kulthum, who died while under the care of Uthman.[18]

Marriage to Zaynab bint Jahsh[edit]

Around 625 Muhammad proposed that his cousin, Zaynab bint Jahsh, should marry Zayd. At first she refused on the grounds that she was of the Quraysh.[26] It has been suggested that differences between Zaynab's social status and Zayd's were precisely the reason why Muhammad wanted to arrange the marriage:

The Prophet was well aware that it is a person's standing in the eyes of Allah that is important, rather than his or her status in the eyes of the people ... their marriage would demonstrate that it was not who their ancestors were, but rather their standing in the sight of Allah, that mattered.[dead link][27][better source needed]

By contrast, Montgomery Watt points out that Zayd was high in Muhammad's esteem.

She can hardly have thought that he was not good enough. She was an ambitious woman, however, and may already have hoped to marry Muhammad, or she may have wanted to marry someone with whom Muhammad did not want his family to be so closely allied.[28]

When Muhammad announced a new verse of the Qur'an, 33:36,

It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path,

— Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:36 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Zaynab acquiesced and married Zayd.[29][30] The marriage lasted less than two years.[31] According to Ibn Sa`d and al-Tabari

Zayd bin Harithah, who lived in Muhammad's household and came to be regarded as his adoptive son-so that he was regularly addressed as Zayd, son of Muhammad. Whether the marriage between Zayd and Zaynab was a mesalliance from the beginning is speculation, though the account maintains that Zayd was not reluctant to divorce his wife and allow her to marry Muhammad. Muhammad is portrayed as reluctant to proceed with the marriage because of scruples about whether marrying one's adopted son's former wife violated the prohibited degrees of marriage. Arab customary practice recognized kinship relations not based on blood ties: fosterage (having nursed from the same woman) was one such relationship; the question whether adoption fell into this category must have been unclear among Muslims. The marriage did not take place until after a Qur'anic revelation was received, giving permission for believers to marry the divorced wives of their adopted sons.[32]

Change for adoption[edit]

After these events, the traditional Arab form of adoption was no longer recognized in Islam; it was replaced by kafala. Three verses of the Qur'an were written about this. Al-Tabari states that Q33:40 was revealed because "the Munafiqun made this a topic of their conversation and reviled the Prophet, saying 'Muhammad prohibits [marriage] with the [former] wives of one's own sons, but he married the [former] wife of his son Zayd.'"[7]

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.

— Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:40 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Zayd reverted to being known by his original name of Zayd ibn Harithah and was no longer considered Muhammad's legal son after the revelation of Q33:5:[33]

Call them by their fathers' names ...

— Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:5 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Ibn Saad indicates that Q33:37 was a specific instruction to Muhammad and Zaynab to marry and that it explains why their marriage was necessary.[34]

Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled.

— Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:37 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Military expeditions[edit]

Zayd was "one of the famous archers among the Prophet's Companions."[35] He fought at Badr, Uhud, Trench and Khaybar, and was present at the expedition to Hudaybiyyah. When Muhammad raided Al-Muraysi, he left Zayd behind as governor in Medina.[35]

Zayd commanded seven military expeditions.[18]

  1. Al-Qarada in November 624. He captured a caravan of merchandise, but most of the Meccan merchants escaped.[18]
  2. Al-Jumum in September 627.[36]
  3. Al-'Is in October 627.[36][37]
  4. At-Taraf,[18] a raid in the Nakhl region "on the road to Iraq".[38]
  5. Wadi al-Qura. Zayd raided the area in November 627, but the Fazara tribe counter-attacked, killing some of the Muslims, while Zayd was carried wounded from the field. Zayd swore revenge and, after he had recovered from his injuries in January 628, he returned to Wadi al-Qura with a larger army. This time he defeated the Fazari.[39]
  6. Hisma, or Khushayn, against the Judham tribe[40] in October 628.[36][41]
  7. The Battle of Mu'tah in September 629, where Zayd was killed.[42]

According to Aisha, "The Messenger of Allah did not ever send Zayd ibn Haritha in an army without putting him in command of it, even if he stayed after he appointed him."[18]

Death in the Battle of Mu'tah and aftermath[edit]

The mausoleum of Zayd ibn Ḥārithah, Ja`far ibn Abī Tālib, and ʿAbdullāh ibn Rawāḥah in Al-Mazar near Mu'tah, Jordan

Zayd ibn Harithah led his final expedition in September 629 C.E. A Muslim force of 3,000 men set out to raid the Byzantine city of Bosra. However, a Byzantine force of "100,000 Greeks joined by 100,000 men from Lakhm and Judham and Al-Qayn and Bahra' and Bali"[43] intercepted them at a village called 'Mu'tah'. Zayd held the standard at the battle, until he was struck down by a spear-thrust[44] and he bled to death.[45] The other two leaders, Ja`far ibn Abī Tālib and `Abd Allāh ibn Rawāḥah, were also killed, and the Muslim army was routed.[46]

On hearing of Zayd's death, Muhammad went to the family. "The daughter of Zayd wept before the Messenger of Allah and the Messenger of Allah wept until he sobbed. Saad ibn Ubada said, 'Messenger of Allah, what is this?' He answered, 'This is the yearning of the lover for the beloved.'"[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 6.
  2. ^ Lecker, p. 773.
  3. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat, vol. 3. Translated by Bewley, A. (2013). The Companions of Badr, p. 28. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  4. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 6-7.
  5. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 7.
  6. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 8-9.
  7. ^ a b Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 9.
  8. ^ a b Muhammad ibn Ishaq, via Yunus ibn Bukayr, cited in Guillaume, A. (1960). New Light on the Life of Muhammad, pp. 27-28. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  9. ^ a b Muhammad ibn Ishaq, via Yunus ibn Bukayr, cited in Kister, M. J. (1970). “A Bag of Meat.” A Study of an Early Hadith. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 33, 267-275. Archived 2009-01-24 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Muhammad ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, p. 99. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ Bukhari 5:58:169. Archived 2017-05-19 at the Wayback Machine Bukhari 7:67:407. Archived 2016-10-17 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq p. 111.
  13. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 201.
  14. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat, vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina, pp. 21, 25-26. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  15. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 114-115.
  16. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq p. 234.
  17. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 171-172.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bewley/Saad vol. 3 p. 32.
  19. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 24-26.
  20. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 8 p. 157.
  21. ^ a b Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 65.
  22. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 264, 295-296.
  23. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 3 p. 481.
  24. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 72-73.
  25. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 8 p. 163.
  26. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 180.
  27. ^ "Thomson, A. (2012). "Zaynab bint Jahsh" in Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)". Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2013-07-29.
  28. ^ Watt, W. M. (1956). Muhammad at Medina, p. 331. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
  29. ^ Ibn Hisham note 918.
  30. ^ Al-Jalalayn, Tafsir on Q33:36-38.
  31. ^ Ismail ibn Kathir, Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya. Translated by Le Gassick, T. (2000). The Life of the Prophet, p. 198. Reading, U.K.: Garnet Publishing.
  32. ^ Ṭabarī; MICHAEL FISHBEIN (January 1997). The History of al-Tabari Vol. 8: The Victory of Islam: Muhammad at Medina A.D. 626-630/A.H. 5-8. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY p. xii. ISBN 978-0-7914-3149-8. (pdf link).
  33. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 9-10.
  34. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 73-75.
  35. ^ a b Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l-Muluk, vol. 39. Translated by Landau-Tasseron, E. (1998). Biographies of the Prophet's Companions and Their Successors, p. 10. New York: State University of New York Press.
  36. ^ a b c Hawarey, Dr. Mosab (2010). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War (Arabic). Islamic Book Trust. Archived from the original on 2012-03-22.Note: Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic, English translation available here
  37. ^ Watt, W. Montgomery (1956). Muhammad at Medina. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0195773071. One was a little-known expedition about September 627 (free online)
  38. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq p. 664.
  39. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 664-665.
  40. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 662-664.
  41. ^ Abū Khalīl, Shawqī (2003). Atlas of the Quran. Dar-us-Salam. p. 242. ISBN 978-9-9608-9754-7.
  42. ^ Bewley/Saad vol. 3 pp. 32-33.
  43. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq p. 532.
  44. ^ a b Bewley/Saad vol. 3 p. 33
  45. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq p. 534.
  46. ^ Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 534-535.

Further reading[edit]