Zainab bint Muhammad

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Zainab bint Muhammad
زينب بنت محمد.png
Born 598 AD
Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
Died May/June 629 (aged 31)
Medina, Hejaz, Arabia
Resting place Al-Baqi
Spouse(s) Abu al-As ibn al-Rabi'
Children Ali ibn Zainab , Umamah bint Zainab
Relatives Ali Ibn Abi Talib (son-in-law)

Zainab bint Muhammad (Arabic: زينب بنت محمد‎) (598—629 AD) is regarded by Sunni historians as the eldest daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad by his first wife Khadija bint Khuwaylid. The Shia historians however, believe that she and her two sisters (Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad and Ruqayyah bint Muhammad) were orphaned nieces of Khadija (daughters of Halah bint Khuwailid) who were adopted by Muhammad after his marriage to Khadija.


She married her maternal cousin, Abu al-As ibn al-Rabi', before August 610,[1]:313–314[2]:21[3]:162 and Khadija gave her a wedding present of an onyx necklace.[2]:22 They had two children, Ali, who died in childhood, and Umama.[2]:21[3]:162

Zainab became a Muslim soon after Muhammad first declared himself a prophet. The Quraysh pressured Abu al-As to divorce Zainab, saying they would give him any woman he liked in exchange, but Abu al-As said that he did not want any other woman, a stance for which Muhammad commended him. Muhammad had no jurisdiction over Mecca and therefore could not force them to separate, so they continued to live together despite Abu al-As's refusal to convert to Islam. Zainab remained in Mecca when the other Muslims emigrated to Medina.[1]:314

Emigration to Medina[edit]

Abu al-As was one of the polytheists who was captured at the Battle of Badr. Zainab sent the money for his ransom, including the onyx necklace. When Muhammad saw the necklace, he refused to accept any cash ransom for his son-in-law. He sent Abu al-As home, and Abu al-As promised to send Zainab to Medina.[1] I:314[2]:22

Zainab accepted this instruction. About a month after the battle, Zainab's adopted brother, Zayd, arrived in Mecca to escort her to Medina. She entered a hawdaj and her brother-in-law, Kinana, led the camel to Zayd in broad daylight. The Quraysh perceived this as an unnecessary flaunting of Muhammad's triumph at Badr. A group of them pursued Zainab and overtook her at Dhu Tuwa. A man named Habbar ibn Al-Aswad threatened her with his lance[1]:314–315 and pushed her. She fell out of the hawdaj onto a rock.[3]:4 Kinana showed the arrows in his quiver and threatened to kill anyone who came any closer. Then Abu Sufyan arrived, telling Kinana to put away his bow so that they could discuss it rationally. He said that they had no intention of keeping a woman from her father in revenge for Badr, but that it was wrong of Kinana to humiliate the Quraysh further by parading her removal in public; he must do it quietly, when the "chatter" had died down. Kinana took Zainab home again. There she suffered a miscarriage, losing a great deal of blood, which she attributed to having been assaulted by Habbar.[1]:314–315

A few nights later, Kinana took her quietly to meet Zayd, and he escorted her to Medina.[1]:315 Anas ibn Malik recalled seeing Zainab in Medina wearing a striped silk cloak.[2]:24

Reunion with Abu al-As[edit]

Zainab did not see her husband again until September or October 627,[2]:23 when he entered her house in Medina by night, asking for protection. Muslim raiders had stolen some merchandise that he was keeping in trust for other Quraysh, and he wanted to try to recover it.[1]:316 The next morning, Zaynab sat among the women at dawn prayers and shouted: "I have given protection to Abu al-As ibn al-Rabi!" As soon as prayers were over, Muhammad confirmed that he had not known anything about it, but "the meanest Muslim can give protection. We protect whomever she protects."[1]:317[2]:22–23 He told Zainab to treat Abu al-As like a guest but not to touch him like a husband. Then he arranged for the Quraysh merchandise to be returned, and Abu al-As took it to its owners in Mecca.[1]:317

Abu al-As then converted to Islam and returned to Medina. Muhammad restored his marriage to Zainab, and they resumed their married life.[1]:317[2]:23


Their reconciliation was short-lived, for Zainab died in May or June 629. Her death was attributed to complications from the miscarriage that she had suffered in 624.[3]:4 The women who washed her corpse included Baraka, Sawda and Umm Salama.[2]:24

Shia perspective[edit]

One source states:[4]

At one time there were three girls living in the household of Khadija. Their names were Zainab, Ruqayya and Umm Kulthoom. Zainab, the eldest of the three, was married to one Abul-'As ibn er-Rabi' of Makkah. This man fought against the Prophet in the battle of Badr, and was captured by the Muslims. To ransom his freedom, his wife sent to the Prophet, a necklace which at one time had belonged to Khadija, and she had given it to her as a present on her marriage. Abul-'As was set free; he returned to Makkah, and sent Zainab to Medina as he had promised to do. Zainab, however, died soon after her arrival in Medina. Later, Abul-'As also went to Medina, accepted Islam, and lived with the Muslims.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Muhammad ibn Ishaq. Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  3. ^ a b c d Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l-Muluk. Translated by Landau-Tasseron, E. (1998). Volume 39: Biographies of the Prophet's Companions and Their Successors. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  4. ^ Restatement of History of Islam, by Sayed Ali Asgher Razwy, CE 570 to 661 : Uthman, the Third Khalifa of the Muslims: Uthman's Marriages

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