Zaid, Zaynab and Muhammad

Sam Shamoun

The issue of Muhammad marrying his adopted son’s divorcee has already been discussed in several places on our site:

Now there are some disagreements amongst the individual authors regarding the cause of the divorce, especially in relation to the role Muhammad played in precipitating the divorce. For instance, not all of the writers on the site agree that Muhammad started to have desires for Zaynab after having seen her without her veil. But as we have documented in our responses to specific Muslim writers, it is actually the Muslim sources which say that Muhammad became infatuated with Zaynab’s beauty after the former saw her unveiled at her home. For more details regarding this point, please read our responses to MENJ and Osama which are found in the above links.

Some Muslims, in seeking to justify this marriage of Muhammad to Zaynab, argue that the latter was not happy with her marriage due primarily to her status. It is claimed that Zaynab came from a wealthy tribe and influential background, whereas Zayd, Muhammad’s adopted son, was poor and had at one time been Muhammad’s slave. She had married Zayd on the orders of Muhammad since he wanted to use this marital bond for the purpose of destroying class barriers. In the words of professor Jeffery Lang, a convert to Islam with several books under his belt:

… Muslim writers assert that the Prophet had arranged the marriage with the idea of shattering the ancient Arabian barrier against a slave or even a former slave marrying a "free-born" woman. Tradition says that Zaynab and her brother were at first against the marriage, as Zaynab had always desired to marry Muhammad, but in deference to the Prophet and with great reservation, Zaynab and her brother (acting as Zaynab’s guardian) finally consented to it. Zayd was also not disposed to the union, for he was already happily married to another freed slave, Umm Ayman. As much as the Prophet wanted to use the marriage to break down class barriers, the betrothed were still conditioned by them. For Zayd, the marriage was a source of embarrassment and humiliation, and Zaynab made no secret of her dislike of Zayd. On several occasions the couple were about to divorce, but each time the Prophet persuaded them to persevere and not to separate, for "he was apprehensive of the talk that would arise if it became known that the marriage, arranged by him had turned out to be unhappy." Eventually, after several years of marital strife, Zayd divorced Zaynab, and shortly thereafter the Prophet married her. While the Quran indicates the divine purpose of marrying Zaynab to the Prophet was to "show that--contrary to what pagan Arabs believed--an adoptive relationship does not involve any of the marriage-restrictions which result from actual, biological parent-and-child relations," it also allowed the Prophet to "make mends for Zaynab’s past unhappiness." (Lang, Losing my Religion: A Call For Help [Amana Publications, 2004], pp. 159-160)

The purpose of our paper is to show why Lang’s explanation of the situation that led to Muhammad marrying Zaynab doesn’t really resolve the problem for Muslims. In fact, it actually further complicates matters and introduces additional problems. Lang apparently didn’t realize the problems that the stated Muslim position presents since his appeal to the Muslim view casts Zaynab, one of "the mothers of believers", in a very negative light, one in which I am sure that Muslims will not be pleased with.

The first problem with Lang’s claim is that it implies that Muhammad forced Zaynab and Zayd into personal unhappiness merely to "make a point". He sacrificed the happiness of two people close to him for his own purposes. Now, if two people from different backgrounds had been in love, and Muhammad had helped them to overcome the resistance and obstacles placed before them by their families that would have been great, and he could have made the same point much more strongly that way. But forcing people to marry who do not want to be married is not acceptable.

The very formulation, "to make mends …" reveals that Muhammad had acted wrongly and unjustly, since why would he have to make amends if what he did was right?

Secondly, the later divorce showed that he failed. Even though there was a good motivation behind it in some respect, the fact that the very purpose of it was not established shows that Muhammad misjudged the situation, and acted wrongly.

More importantly, the most incriminating aspect of Lang’s version of the events is that it shows Zaynab looking down on one of the most beloved persons to Muhammad and one of the most outstanding of the Muslims. In order to see just how incriminating Lang’s version of the story is, all we need to do is to recall who Zayd ibn Harithah was. Zayd was a freed slave of Muhammad’s who was then adopted by the latter to be his son. Zayd was even called the son of Muhammad for a period of time until the verse prohibiting adoption was given:

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
We used not to call Zaid bin Haritha the freed slave of Allah's Apostle except Zaid bin Muhammad till the Qur’anic Verse was revealed: "Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers. That is more than just in the Sight of Allah." (33.5) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 305)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that he was asked about the suckling of an older person. He said, ''Urwa ibn az-Zubayr informed me that Abu Hudhayfa ibn Utba ibn Rabia, one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who was present at Badr, adopted Salim (who is called Salim, the mawla of Abu Hudhayfa) as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, adopted Zayd ibn Haritha. He thought of him as his son, and Abu Hudhayfa married him to his brother's sister, Fatima bint al-Walid ibn Utba ibn Rabia, who was at that time among the first emigrants. She was one of the best unmarried women of the Quraysh. When Allah the Exalted sent down in His Book what He sent down about Zayd ibn Haritha, 'Call them after their true fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. If you do not know who their fathers were then they are your brothers in the deen and your mawali,' (Sura 33 ayat 5) people in this position were traced back to their fathers. When the father was not known, they were traced to their mawla… (Malik's Muwatta, Book 30, Number 30.2.12)


Ibn al-Qayyim said:

Zayd ibn Haarithah ibn Shuraaheel, the beloved of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He freed him and arranged his marriage to his freed slave woman Umm Ayman, and she bore him Usaamah. His other slaves include Aslam, Abu Raafi', Thawbaan, Abu Kabshah Sulaym, Shaqraan (whose name was Saalih), Rabaah (who was Nubian), Yassaar (who was also Nubian and was killed by the 'Arniyeen); Mid'am and Kirkirah (another Nubian) – these two were killed at Khaybar. They also included Anjashah al-Haadi and Safeenah ibn Farookh, whose real name was Mihraan, but the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called him Safeenah (="ship") because they used to make him carry their luggage when they traveled, so he said, "You are a ship (anta safeenah)." Abu Haatim said that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) freed him; someone else said that Umm Salamah freed him. The Prophet's slaves also included Anasah, whose nickname was Abu Mashrah; Aflah; 'Ubayd; Tahmaan – also known as Keesaan; Dhakwaan; Mihraan; Marwaan – although it was said that this was another name of Tahmaan, and Allaah knows best; Hunayn; Sandar; Fudaalah (who was Yemeni); Maaboor (who was a eunuch); Waaqid; Abu Waaqid; Qassaam; Abu 'Usayb and Abu Muwayhabah.

His female slaves included: Salma (Umm Raafi'); Maymoonah bint Sa'd; Khadrah; Radwa; Razeenah; Umm Dameerah; Maymoonah bint Abi 'Usayb; Maariyah and Rayhaanah.

Zaad al-Ma'aad, 1/114-116 ...

Islam Q&A (   (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

What most people may not be aware of is the reason why Muhammad freed Zayd and then adopted him into his family. According to Muslims sources, sometime before professing to be Allah's apostle, Muhammad had adopted Zayd after the latter had expressly refused to be freed and returned to his family. Another renowned Muslim author, Martin Lings, gives us the details:

When the pilgrims returned home with their tidings, Harithah at once set off to Mecca with his brother, Ka‘b; and going to Muhammad they begged him to allow them to ransom Zayd, for as high a price as he might ask. "Let him choose," said Muhammad, "and if he choose you, he is yours without ransom; and if he choose me, I am not a man to set any other above him who chooseth me." Then he called Zayd and asked him if he knew the two men. "This is my father," said the youth, "and this is mine uncle." "Me thou knowest," said Muhammad, "and thou hast seen my companionship unto thee, so choose thou between me and them." But Zayd’s choice was already made and he said at once: "I would not choose any man in preference to thee. Thou art unto me as my father and my mother." "Out upon thee, O Zayd!" exclaimed the men of Kalb. "Wilt thou choose slavery above freedom, and above thy father and thine uncle and thy family?" "It is even so," said Zayd, "for I have seen from this man such things that I could never choose another above him."

All further talk was cut short by Muhammad who now bade them come with him to the Ka‘bah; and, standing in the Hijr, he said in a loud voice: "All ye who are present, bear witness that Zayd is my son; I am his heir and he is mine."

The father and the uncle had thus to return with their purpose unachieved. But the tale they had to tell their tribe, of the deep mutual love which had brought this adoption, was not an inglorious one; and when they saw Zayd was free, and established in honour, with what promised to be a high standing amongst the people of the Sanctuary such as might benefit his brothers and other kinsmen in years to come, they were reconciled and went their way without bitterness. From that day the new Hashimite was known in Mecca as Zayd ibn Muhammad. (Lings, Muhammad: His Life based on the earliest Sources [Inner Traditions International, Ltd., Rochester, Vermont 1983], p. 38)

Zayd refused to be emancipated by his own family but chose, instead, to remain Muhammad’s slave. Talk about love and devotion! This was what precipitated Muhammad’s releasing Zayd and adopting him as a son.

Other reports claim that Zayd was the first male to embrace Islam:

Zayd b. Harith
Others say that the first man to believe and follow the Prophet was Zayd b. Harithah, his mawla.
Those who say this:
Al-Harith- Muhammad b. Sa‘d- al-Waqidi- Ibn Abi Dhi‘b: I asked al-Zuhri who was the first person to accept Islam. He replied, "The first woman was Khadijah and the first man was Zayd b. Haritha."
Al-Harith- Muhammad b. Sa‘d- Muhammad b. ‘Umar- Mus‘ab b. Thabit- Abu al-Aswad- Sulayman b. Yasar: The first to accept Islam was Zayd b. Harithah.

Al-Harith- Muhammad b. Sa‘d- Muhammad (that is Ibn ‘Umar)- Rabi‘ah b. ‘Uthman- ‘Imran b. Abi Anas: A similar report.
‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Abdallah b. ‘Abd al-Hakam- ‘Abd al-Malik b. Maslamah- Ibn Lahi‘ah- Abu al-Aswad- ‘Urwah: The first to accept Islam was Zayd b. Harithah.

Ibn Ishaq’s account
Ibn Ishaq’s account, as transmitted by Ibn Humayd- Salamah, is as follows: Then Zayd b. Harithah, the mawla of Messenger of God, accepted Islam. He was the first male to accept Islam and to pray after ‘Ali b. Abi Talib…

Al-Waqidi’s account
Al-Waqidi’s account, as transmitted by al-Harith- Ibn Sa‘d, is as follows: Our fellow scholars are agreed that the first of the people of the Qiblah to respond to the Messenger of God’s call was Khadijah bt. Khuwaylid. After this, there is a difference of opinion among us as to which of the three men, Abu Bakr, ‘Ali, and Zayd b. Harithah, was the first to accept Islam. Khalid b. Sa‘id b. al-‘As accepted Islam with them and made a fifth. According to some Abu Dharr accepted Islam fourth or fifth, while ‘Amr b. ‘Abasah al-Sulami accepted Islam fourth or fifth according to others. There is a difference of opinion among us as to which of these men accepted Islam first and there are many accounts concerning this. There are disagreements about the first three and about those whose names we have given after them. (The History of al-Tabari: Muhammad at Mecca, translated and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt and M.V. McDonald [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1988], Volume VI (6), pp. 86-87)

There are other reports which show just how much Muhammad loved Zayd and his offspring:

Narrated Aisha
Zayd ibn Harithah came to Medina when Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was in my house. When he came to him and knocked at the door Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) got up and went to him naked, trailing his garment. I swear by Allah that neither before nor after that did I ever see him naked. He then embraced him and kissed him.
Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1220- ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab
Umar allotted to Usamah three thousand five hundred and to Abdullah ibn Umar three thousand, so Abdullah ibn Umar said to his father, "Why have you treated Usamah as superior to me? I swear by Allah that he has never reached to any battle before me." He replied, "It is because Zayd was dearer to Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) than your father and Usamah was dearer to Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) than you, so I have given preference to the one who was beloved by Allah's Messenger over the one who is loved by me."
Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1633- ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Narrated 'Aisha:
The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, "Who will intercede for her with Allah's Apostle?" Some said, "No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah's Apostle." When Usama spoke about that to Allah's Apostle Allah's Apostle said, (to him), "Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah's Prescribed Punishments?" Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, "What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah's Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 681)

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Dinar:
One day Ibn 'Umar, while in the Mosque, looked at a man who was dragging his clothes while walking in one of the corners of the Mosque He said, "See who is that. I wish he was near to me." Somebody then said (to Ibn 'Umar), "Don't you know him, O Abu 'Abdur-Rahman? He is Muhammad bin Usama." On that Ibn 'Umar bowed his head and dug the earth with his hands and then, said, "If Allah's Apostle saw him, he would have loved him." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 80)

Narrated Usama bin Zaid:
That the Prophet used to take him (i.e. Usama) and Al-Hassan (in his lap) and say: "O Allah! Love them, as I love them." The freed slave of Usama bin Zaid said, "Al-Hajjaj bin Aiman bin Um Aiman and Aiman Ibn Um Aiman was Usama's brother from the maternal side, and he was one of the Ansar. He was seen by Ibn 'Umar not performing his bowing and prostrations in a perfect manner. So Ibn 'Umar told him to repeat his prayer. Harmala, the freed slave of Usama bin Zaid said that while he was in the company of 'Abdullah bin 'Umar, Al-Hajjaj bin Aiman came in and (while praying) he did not perform his bowing and prostrations properly. So Ibn 'Umar told him to repeat his prayer. When he went away, Ibn 'Umar asked me, "Who is he?" I said, "Al-Hajjaj bin Um Aiman." Ibn 'Umar said, "If Allah's Apostle saw him, he would have loved him." Then Ibn 'Umar mentioned the love of the Prophet for the children of Um Aiman. Sulaiman said that Um Aiman was one of the nurses of the Prophet. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 81)

When certain people complained about Usama, Zayd’s son, leading a military expedition, Muhammad sharply criticized them:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
Allah's Apostle sent an army unit headed by Usama bin Zaid and the people criticized his leadership. The Prophet said (to the people), "If you are criticizing his leadership now, then you used to criticize his father's leadership before. By Allah, he (Usama's father) deserved the leadership and used to be one of the most beloved persons to me, and now his son (Usama) is one of the most beloved persons to me after him. " (See Hadith No. 745, Vol. 5) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 89, Number 297)

Salim reported on the authority of his father that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said on the pulpit: You object to the command of Usama b. Zaid as you had objected before to the command of his father (Zaid). By Allah, he was most competent for it and, by Allah, he was dearest to me amongst people and, by Allah, the same is the case with Usama b. Zaid. He is most dear to me after him and I advise you to treat him well for he is pious amongst you. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 5959)

Interestingly, a similar thing happened to Zayd’s son, Usama. According to certain other narrations, Muhammad insisted that a specific woman marry Usama despite her unwillingness to do so:

Amir b. Sharahil Sha'bi Sha'b Hamdan reported that he asked Fatima, daughter of Qais and sister of ad-Dahhak b. Qais and she was the first amongst the emigrant women: Narrate to me a hadith which you had heard directly from Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and there is no extra link in between them. She said: Very well, if you like, I am prepared to do that, and he said to her: Well, do it and narrate that to me. She said: I married the son of Mughira and he was a chosen young man of Quraish at that time, but he fell as a martyr in the first Jihad (fighting) on the side of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). When I became a widow, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Auf, one amongst the group of the Companions of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), sent me the proposal of marriage. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) also sent me such a message for his freed slave Usama b. Zaid. And it had been conveyed to me that Allah's Messenger (way peace be upon him) had said (about Usama): He who loves me should also love Usama. When Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) talked to me (about this matter), I said: My affairs are in your hand. You may marry me to anyone whom you like. He said: You better shift now to the house of Umm Sharik, and Umm Sharik was a rich lady from amongst the Anqir. She spent generously for the cause of Allah and entertained guests very hospitably. I said: Well, I will do as you like. He said: Do not do that for Umm Sharik is a woman who is very frequently visited by guests and I do not like that your head may be uncovered or the cloth may be removed from your shank and the strangers may catch sight of them which you abhor. You better shift to the house of your cousin 'Abdullah b. 'Amr b. Umm Maktum and he is a person of the Bani Fihr branch of the Quraish, and he belonged to that tribe (to which Fatima) belonged. So I shifted to that house, and when my period of waiting was over, I heard the voice of an announcer making an announcement that the prayer would be observed in the mosque (where) congregational prayer (is observed)… (Sahih Muslim, Book 041, Number 7028)

Fatima bint Qais reported that Abu 'Amr b. Hafs divorced her absolutely when he was away from home, and he sent his agent to her with some barley. She was displeased with him and when he said: I swear by Allah that you have no claim on us. She went to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and mentioned that to him. He said: There is no maintenance due to you from him, and he commanded her to spend the 'Idda in the house of Umm Sharik, but then said: That is a woman whom my companions visit. So better spend this period in the house of Ibn Umm Maktum, for he is a blind man and you can put off your garments. And when the 'Idda is over, inform me. She said: When my period of 'Idda was over, I mentioned to him that Mu'awiya b. Abu Sufyan and Jahm had sent proposal of marriage to me, whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: As for Abu Jahm, he does not put down his staff from his shoulder, and as for Mu'awiya, he is a poor man having no property; marry Usama b. Zaid. I objected to him, but he again said: Marry Usama; so I married him. Allah blessed there in and I was envied (by others). (Sahih Muslim, Book 009, Number 3512)

Fatima bint Qais (Allah be pleased with her) reported that her husband divorced her with three, pronouncements and Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) made no provision for her lodging and maintenance allowance. She (further said): Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to me: When your period of 'Idda is over, inform me. So I informed him. (By that time) Mu'awiya, Abu Jahm and Usama b. Zaid had given her the proposal of marriage. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: So far as Mu'awiya is concerned, he is a poor man without any property. So far as Abu Jahm is concerned, he is a great beater of women, but Usama b. Zaid... She pointed with her hand (that she did not approve of the idea of marrying) Usama. But Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Obedience to Allah and obedience to His Messenger is better for thee. She said: So I married him, and I became an object of envy. (Sahih Muslim, Book 009, Number 3526)

… She continued, "When I was free to remarry, I mentioned to him that Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan and Abu Jahm ibn Hisham had asked for me in marriage. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'As for Abu Jahm, he never puts down his stick from his shoulder (i.e. he is always travelling), and as for Muawiya he is a poor man with no property. Marry Usama ibn Zayd.' I objected to him and he said, 'Marry Usama ibn Zayd,' so I married him, and Allah put good in it and I was content with him." (Malik's Muwatta, Book 29, Number 29.22.67)

Notice the outcome and result of this marriage. After insisting that she marry Usama despite her reluctance to do so, Fatima became quite happy and blessed when she did as Muhammad commanded. In light of the foregoing, why didn’t Zaynab learn to be content with the decision made for her by Muhammad? No one would argue that Muhammad’s attempt of trying to destroy social barriers is a positive move, an admirable act. But to claim that Zaynab had problems with marrying a former slave and that Muhammad then tried to make amends for causing Zaynab to marry such a person is anything but praiseworthy. Why would Muhammad need to make amends to someone who was being discriminatory to a person of lower status and ranking? Why should it have mattered to Zaynab that Zayd was a former slave seeing that he was a fellow Muslim and, at that time, even Muhammad’s adopted son? Why was Zaynab unhappy about marrying someone so loved and dear to Muhammad? Wouldn’t it have been rather an honor for her to marry someone that was so close to Muhammad? Are we to assume that rewarding someone who was that proud and conceited, who looked down on a fellow Muslim, especially one who was so close to Muhammad, was a praiseworthy act? Or should Zaynab have been rebuked for being so conceited — provided that Lang’s version of the story is correct!?

What’s more, in Islam the only requirement in a woman marrying a man is that the latter happens to be a devout, God-fearing Muslim. His social status should not play a factor in deciding whether the person is compatible. Interestingly, the following Muslim website, in answering the question of compatibility in marriage, uses Zayd and Usama as examples of persons of lower status marrying others from a higher status or position:


With regard to the issue of compatibility in marriage, the majority of scholars state that compatibility in lineage is to be taken into account. Others disagreed and said that no compatibility is required except in terms of religious commitment. This was narrated from ‘Umar, Ibn Mas’ood, Muhammad ibn Sireen and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez. It was the view of Imam Maalik, and was narrated from Ahmad, and it was the view favoured by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on them both).

In Zaad al-Ma’aad, Ibn al-Qayyim devoted a chapter to the ruling of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) on compatibility in marriage, and he quoted the verses which indicate that. He said:

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allaah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqoon (the pious)]. Verily, Allaah is All-Knowing, All-Aware"

[al-Hujuraat 49:13]

"The believers are nothing else than brothers"

[al-Hujuraat 49:10]

"The believers, men and women, are Awliyaa’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another"

[al-Tawbah 9:71]

"So their Lord accepted of them (their supplication and answered them), "Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. You are (members) one of another"

[Aal ‘Imraan 3:195]

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a white man over a black man, or of a black man over a white man, except in terms of piety. The people come from Adam and Adam came from dust."

And he said: "The people of such and such a tribe are not my friends and supporters, rather my friends and supporters are the pious, no matter where they are."

In Tirmidhi it says that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "If there comes to you one with whose religious commitment and character you are pleased, marry (your daughter or female relative under your care) to him, for if you do not do that, there will be tribulation in the land and corruption." They said: "O Messenger of Allaah, even if he has something (some other disadvantage)?" He said: "If there comes to you one with whose religious commitment and character you are pleased, marry (your daughter or female relative under your care) to him" three times.

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to Banu Bayaadah: "Accept Abu Hind’s proposal if he proposes marriage and seek his daughter’s hands in marriage" and he was a cupper.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) married Zaynab bint Jahsh to Zayd ibn Haarithah, his freed slave, and he married Faatimah bint Qays al-Qurashiyyah to Usaamah the son of Zayd, and Bilaal married the sister of ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf.

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"Bad statements are for bad people (or bad women for bad men) and bad people for bad statements (or bad men for bad women)."

[al-Noor 24:26]

"then marry (other) women of your choice"

[al-Nisa’ 4:3]

What we learn from the rulings of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is that what matters with regard to compatibility is religious commitment, first and foremost. No Muslim woman should marry a kaafir man, and no chaste woman should marry an immoral man. The Qur'aan and Sunnah do not pay attention to any other factor in compatibility apart from that. Islam forbids a Muslim woman to marry a fornicator and does not give any consideration to his lineage or occupation, or whether he is rich or poor, free or slave. IT ALLOWS A SLAVE TO MARRY A FREE, RICH WOMAN OF NOBLE LINEAGE, IF HE IS CHASTE AND IS A MUSLIM, and it allows non-Qurayshis to marry Qurayshi women, and non-Haashimis to marry Haashimi women, and poor men to marry women who are well off. End quote.

Zaad al-Ma’aad, 5/158-160

Al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) included in Kitaab al-Nikaah (the Book of Marriage, in his Saheeh) a chapter entitled "Chapter on compatibility in religious commitment and the words (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And it is He Who has created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage’ [al-Furqaan 25:54]."

In this chapter he quoted evidence to suggest that this kind of compatibility is the only kind to be considered, especially since it is followed by chapters which are called, "Chapter on compatibility in wealth and the marriage of a poor man to a rich woman," and "Chapter on a free woman marrying a slave." …

The ruling according to the religion of Allaah is that none of these groups are superior to any other, except in terms of piety, regardless of whether they are tribal or non-tribal (qubayli or khudayri), freed slaves or non-Arabs. All of them are equal and none is superior to another, except in terms of taqwa, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a red man over a black man, or of a black man over a red man, except in terms of piety." And Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allaah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqoon (the pious)]. Verily, Allaah is All-Knowing, All-Aware"

[al-Hujuraat 49:13]

But the custom among the Arabs in ancient times was that they would marry their daughters into tribes whom they knew and some of them would refuse to give their daughters in marriage to someone who did not have a known tribe. This attitude still remains among the people. Some of them may be more tolerant and give their daughters in marriage to non-tribal persons, freed-slaves and non-Arabs, as happened at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) married Usaamah ibn Zayd ibn Haarithah, who was his freed slave, to Faatimah bint Qays who was from Quraysh. Similarly, Abu Hudhayfah ibn ‘Utbah ibn Rabee’ah, who was from Quraysh, married his freed slave Saalim to the daughter of his brother al-Waleed ibn ‘Utbah, and he did not care that he was a freed slave.

Such things happened often among the Sahaabah and those who came after them, but after that the people, especially in Najd and some other places, stopped doing that and took a strict stance on it, according to the attitudes they inherited from their forefathers. Perhaps they feared that some members of their tribe might criticize them by saying to them, "Why did you marry So and so? This is an affront to our tribe and a mixing of lineages" and so on. Or they may give some excuses that may have been valid at some time but are not any more.

What matters is choosing someone who is fit because of his character and religious commitment. If he meets these criteria then he is suitable, whether he is an Arab or a non-Arab, a freed slave or a non-tribal, or whatever. This is the basic principle. If some people do not want to marry anyone except someone from their own tribe, there is no sin in that. And Allaah is the Source of strength. End quote.

Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz, 5/146, 147…

Islam Q&A (   (Source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

In light of the foregoing, Zaynab had absolutely no right to complain about Zayd’s status seeing that:

  1. He was one of the first to embrace Islam.
  2. He loved Muhammad so much that he refused to be emancipated by his family but chose to remain a slave of Muhammad’s.
  3. As a result of this act of love, Muhammad freed Zayd and adopted him to be his son.
  4. He was one of the most beloved and dearest persons to Muhammad.
  5. The only compatibility that Islam requires for a Muslim woman to consider when marrying someone is if the person is a righteous, devout Muslim.

By being unhappy with Zayd, Zaynab only showed that she was conceited and lacked the humbleness demanded of Muslim women. After all, didn’t Zaynab’s strife and discontent show that she was NOT the model Muslimah? That she was not pious, since she was not content with Muhammad’s (and Allah’s!) decision for a husband for her? If the criterion for Muslims in their choice of marriage partner is piety, why did Muhammad then marry her who had just showed her lack of piety? That aspect makes it even more obvious that Muhammad married her for carnal reasons, because she was very beautiful. In this case for sure, it was not her piety that moved him.

Again, this is the natural conclusion and outcome of Lang’s version of the events. If Muslims have a problem with our statements, they need to take it up with professor Lang and all the other Muslims who are circulating such stories, since it is their own words which damage Zaynab’s reputation and credibility.

Finally, the Quranic justification given for Muhammad marrying his adopted son’s divorcee fairs no better. The Quran in Surah 33:37 says that Muhammad was to set a practical example for others that marrying their adopted son’s divorcees is not a sin. In our previous articles, the links of which are given at the top, we saw why such an explanation is weak and provides no justification for this marriage between Muhammad and Zaynab. In addition to the points we already raised previously, we would like to also state that Muhammad didn’t need to marry Zaynab in order to set precedence for others to emulate. All he needed to do was to claim that Allah had made it lawful for adoptive fathers to marry their adopted children’s divorcees.

As one keen Christian writer stated in response to the common excuses given to justify Muhammad’s marriage to a minor:

Second, it isn’t necessary for a lawgiver to institute laws by performing actions that create a precedent. In other words, Muhammad didn’t need to marry a young girl in order establish a law about marrying girls who had reached puberty. Muhammad, as Islam’s lawgiver, could have simply issued a decree. For instance, Muhammad allowed husbands to beat their wives. Was it necessary for Muhammad to beat his wives in order to establish this as a law? Certainly not. Similarly, when an American lawmaker says that killing someone in self-defense is acceptable, no one argues that the lawmaker must go out and kill someone in self-defense if his law is to stand. Hence, the argument that Muhammad needed to marry a young girl to establish puberty as the appropriate age for marriage completely fails. (Source)

We couldn’t have stated it any better.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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