Hadrath Zainab Bint Muhammad (Radi-allahu-anha) was the eldest daughter of Muhammad (peace be upon hi) and Kadijah (Radi-allahu-anha). Her early life was very smooth without any major issues. She was married to Abu al-As ibn al-Rabi, who belonged to the Abd ash-Shams clan of the Quraysh. However, when her father was chosen as the messenger, her life was saw some major events.
She had two children with her husband: Abu al-As. Ali and Umaymah, Ali passed away in his childhood.
Hadhrat Zainab (Radi-allahu-anha) was among the first to testify her faith in Islam. But her husband did not leave the religion of his forefathers and refused to accept Islam.
The people of Quraysh urged Abu al-As to divorce his wife but he did not do so and refused straight away. Hence at that time, she was Muslim whereas her husband was a non-believer.
At the time of migration from Mecca to Medina, when Quraysh made life difficult for Muslims at Mecca, She remained behind with her husband. She was caught in a dilemma, whether to go with the caravan or remain behind when all Muslims fleed the Mecca. She sought advice and permission from her father to remain with her husband and children and she was permitted.
When Battle of Badr took place, Abu al-As, as an unbeliever decided to fight against Muslims. The Battle of Badr resulted in the victory of Muslims and Abu al-As was taken, prisoner. To free her husband from captive, Hadhrat Zainab decided to pay an amount. However she had no money to do so, and hence she had no choice but to give away her only onyx necklace, that was given to her by her mother, Hadhrat Kadijah (Radi-allahu-anha) at the time of her marriage.
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) saw that necklace, his eyes were moist as it reminded him of Kadijah(Radi-allahu-anha). He, however, chose his 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 that point that Allah revealed :
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.[2:221]
That is a believer is not to marry a non-believer until they accept the way of Allah and testify to the faith of Islam.
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 a miscarriage.
Hadhrath Zainab (Radi-allahu-anha) reached Medina and started living with her father but refused to remarry. Time passed on and it so happened tha Abu al-As was returning from Damascus to Mecca and his caravan was intercepted. All the possessions were taken away, he, however, managed to escape and reached his wife Zainab (Radi-allahu-anha’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.
It was after that and at the very moment when Abu al-As returned the things, He proclaimed his faith in Allah and his messenger, in front of people of Quraysh. He returned to Medina and lived with his wife peacefully by the permission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They were reunited in the month of Muharram in the year 07 AH (May-June 628 CE).
Sadly, their happiness was shortlived as Hadhrath Zainab (Radi-allahu-anha) fell ill and passed away a year later she was reunited with her husband.
The life of Zainab (Radi-allahu-anha) is an example of Patience, faith, love, and endurance. She loved her husband dearly and stayed by his side despite there were no Muslims in Medina and despite her husband being a non-believer. However, when the time came for her to follow the commands of Allah and stay away from the love of her life, she did not hesitate to do that either. She sacrificed her happiness for the sake of Allah and her patience and sacrifice paid off. Her husband Accepted Islam and they were reunited. She will forever be an inspiration for Humanity.
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.