Zaynab bint Jahsh

Zaynab bint Jahsh

Zaynab bint Jahsh (Arabic: زينب بنت جحش born c. 593) was a wife of Muhammad and therefore a Mother of the Believers. [citebook|title=Logic, Rhetoric, and Legal Reasoning in the Qur'an: God's Arguments |author= Rosalind Ward Gwynne |year=2004|publisher=Routledge|pages=45|id=ISBN 0415324769|url=] Prior to this, she had a brief marriage with Muhammad's adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah.

Early life

Her brother, Ubayd-Allah ibn Jahsh, went on the Migration to Abyssinia and there left Islam for Christianity. His wife, Ramlah bint Abu Sufyan, then remarried Muhammad.

She had a sister named Hammanah bint Jahsh.


Zayd ibn Harithah

After her migration to Medina, she became part of the newly founded Muslim community. There, Muhammad proposed to Zaynab's family the marriage of his freed slave and adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah. While Zayd was an Abyssinian and a former slave, Zaynab had an aristocratic lineage, thus having a higher social status. On these grounds her brothers rejected the proposal and she disapproved of it.Watt (1974), page 158.]

The prophet Muhammad, however, was determined to eliminate such class distinctions under pre-Islamic Arab custom. He also wanted to establish the legitimacy and right to equal treatment of the adopted. [Caesar E. Farah, "Islam: Beliefs and Observances", p.69]

Montgomery Watt discusses other reasons for Zaynab's initial disapproval. He points out that Zayd, despite his social status, was held quite high in Muhammad's esteem. Thus, Watt concludes that one reason for Zaynab's disapproval was that she may have wanted to marry Muhammad himself.Watt (1974), page 157-158.]

Whatever the reasons, Muhammad insisted on the marriage. When Qur'an cite quran|33|36|style=nosup|expand=no was revealed, Zaynab acquiesced and married Zayd in the year 626. [Maududi (1967), vol. 4, p. 108] [Haykal, p.295] Zaynab's marriage was unharmonious, and eventually became unbearable.Freyer Stowasser (1996), p. 88, Oxford University Press ] Although Muhammad advised him against this, Zayd divorced Zaynab. their marriage had lasted just over a year. [Maududi (1967), vol. 4, p. 112-3]


Zaynab may have initially wanted to marry Muhammad, when he proposed to her family the marriage of Zayd, speculates Watt. She was certainly working towards marrying the Islamic prophet by the end of the year 626.

After Zaynab's divorce, Muhammad considered marrying her. As Zaynab was the former wife of Muhammad's adopted son, pre-Islamic practices belonging to a lower, communalistic level of familial institutions where a child's paternity was not definitely known, considered such a marriage to be a taboo. Such a view considered a biological son to be the same as an adopted one. Muhammad, however, wanted to break the hold of pre-Islamic ideas over men's conduct in society. [William Montgomery Watt (1974), p.233] These ideas considered Muhammad's marriage to Zaynab as incest, as she was the former wife of his adopted son, and the adopted sons were counted the same as a biological son. [Watt, "Aisha bint Abu Bakr", Encyclopaedia of Islam Online]

Initially, however, Muhammad was reluctant to marry Zaynab, fearing public opinion. The Qur'an, however, indicated that this marriage was a duty imposed upon him by God. Thus Muhammad, confident that he was strong enough to face public opinion, proceeded to reject these taboos. [Watt(1956), p.330-1] When Zaynab's waiting period from her divorce was complete, Muhammad married her. [Watt, page 156.]

ee also

*Islamic adoption
*Zaynab (name)
*Jahsh (name)


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