Zaid bin Harithah

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Zaid bin Harithahra was a slave freed by Muhammadsa and became one of the first people to embrace Islam. 

Zaid became one of the most prominent early Muslims and is the only companion of Muhammadsa to be mentioned by name in the Quran. He was highly trusted by Muhammadsa, who would appoint him chief of Medina in his absence as well as asking Zaid and his son Usama to command the Muslim armed forces - ahead of Muhammad'ssa own relatives - on several occasions. 

Zaid would also be entrusted with messages and personal tasks by Muhammadsa. He was asked to announce the victory of the Muslims in Medina after the Battle of Badr and is also reported in some traditions to have accompanied Muhammadsa on his preaching trip to Taif. 


Early Life


Hakim bin Hizam, the nephew of Ḥazrat Khadijahra, was a merchant who constantly moved about with various trade caravans. Once he purchased a few slaves during a trade expedition and gifted one of them to Ḥazrat Khadijahra. The name of the slave gifted to Ḥaḍrat Khadijahra was Zaid bin Ḥarithah. In actuality, Zaid belonged to a free family, but during a plunder he was taken captive and was made a slave forcefully. Khadijahra found Zaid to be wise and intelligent, so she entrusted him to Muhammadsa. It was always the practice of the Holy Prophetsa that he would treat his servants and slaves with extreme love like his own kith and kin. Hence, Muhammadsa was affectionate to Zaid. Since Zaid possessed a sincere heart, he also developed love for Muhammadsa. Meanwhile, Zaid’s father Harithah and paternal uncle Kab came to Mecca while looking for him. Both of them presented themselves before the Holy Prophetsa and with great humility requested the freedom of Zaid, thus that he may return home with them.

Muhammadsa responded: “Absolutely! If Zaid wishes to leave with you, I delightedly give him permission to do so”. 

At this, Zaid was called upon and was asked by Muhammadsa: “Zaid, Do you recognize these people?” 

“Yes,” responded Zaid, “they are my father and paternal uncle”. 

Muhammadsa said, “They have come to take you. If you wish to leave with them, I gladly give you permission to do so.” 

“I shall not leave you on any account,” answered Zaid, “to me, you are far dearer than my own uncle or father.” 

Zaid’s father responded with great anger and grief: “What? Do you give preference to a life of slavery over that of freedom?” 

“Yes,” responded Zaid, “for I have witnessed such virtues in him as now, I can give preference to none above him.”

When Muhammadsa heard this response he immediately stood up and took Zaid to the Kaba and announced in a loud voice: “O People! Remain witness that as of this day I free Zaid and make him my son. He shall be my heir and I shall be his.” 

When Zaid’s uncle and father observed this sight, they were astounded. They happily left Zaid with Muḥammadsa. Since then, Zaid bin Harithah became known as Zaid bin Muḥammad. However, after the Hijrah, God revealed a commandment that it is unlawful to take an adopted child as an actual son. Upon this, Zaid was once again given his original name, Zaid bin Harithah. Nonetheless, the loving conduct of the ever-loyal Muḥammadsa remained unaltered with this ever-sincere servant, rather, it increased day after day. After the demise of Zaid, the Holy Prophetsa extended the same graciousness and love to his son Usamah bin Zaidra who was born of Ummi Aimanra, a servant of the Prophetsa

Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, The Life & Character of the Seal of the Prophets


Triumphant Commander of the Muslims Forces from Medina


The Holy Prophetsa received intelligence that a trade caravan of the Quraish of Mecca was to pass by this route of Najd. It is obvious that if the movement of caravans belonging to the Quraish to and from the coastal region was a cause of threat for the Muslims, there passing by the route of Najd was equally, rather, even more dangerous. The reason being that unlike the coastal route, this new route was inhabited by allies of the Quraish, who like the Quraish, were thirsty for the blood of the Muslims. It was very easy for the Quraish to join forces with them and launch a sudden attack upon Medina at night, or perform any other act of mischief. Then, in order to weaken the Quraish and push them so that they may be inclined to seek reconciliation, it was necessary to intercept their caravans on this route as well. Hence, as soon as the Holy Prophetsa received word, he dispatched a detachment of his Companions under the leadership of his freed slave, Zaid bin Harithahra.

Chieftains such as Abu Sufyan bin Ḥarb and Safwan bin Umayyah also accompanied this trade caravan of the Quraish. Zaidra performed his duty with remarkable speed and intelligence, and subdued these enemies of Islam at a place known as Qaradah, situated in Najd. Flustered by this sudden attack, the people of the Quraish fled, leaving the goods and valuables of the caravan behind. Zaid bin Harithahra and his companions returned to Medina with success and triumph, with a large value of spoils.  

Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, The Life & Character of the Seal of the Prophets


Marriage to and divorce from Zainab bint Jahash


In the very same year, i.e., in 5 AH, shortly before the Ghazwah of Bani Mustaliq, which took place in Shaban 5 AH, the Holy Prophetsa married Zainab bint Jaḥashra. Some historians, such as Ibni Athir and the author of Khamis, etc. have placed the marriage of Zainab bint Jaḥashra after the Ghazwah of Bani Mustaliq, but this is incorrect. The reason being that it is proven from Sahih Bukhari that when the famous calumny was levelled against Hazrat Ayesharathe marriage of Zainab bint Jaḥashra had already taken place; and it is accepted that the incident of slander against Hazrat Ayesha is linked to the Ghazwah of Bani Mustaliq. Hazrat Zainabra was the daughter of the paternal aunt of the Holy Prophetsa, whose name was Amimah bint Abdul-Muṭṭalib. Although she was extremely righteous and pious, she was somewhat conscious of her family status at heart. In contrast, the disposition of the Holy Prophetsa was absolutely pure of such thoughts, and although he was considerate of family circumstances from a social perspective, the Holy Prophetsa considered innate merit and individual virtue and purity as being the true criteria for nobility.

To this affect, the Holy Quran states: "Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you." (Quran 49:14)

Hence, the Holy Prophetsa proposed the marriage of this dear one, i.e., Zainab bint Jahashra to his freed slave and foster-son Zaid bin Harithahra without any hesitation. At first, Zainabra did not accept this match considering her family status to be greater, but ultimately, upon noticing the strong desire of the Holy Prophetsa, she agreed.

In any case, according to the proposal and desire of the Holy Prophetsa, the marriage of Zainabra and Zaidra took place. Although Zainabra fulfilled her vows with goodness, in his own heart, Zaidra felt that Zainabra still harboured hidden feelings that she was from a noble family and a close relative of the Holy Prophetsa, while Zaidra was merely a freed slave and not her equal. Even in his own heart, Zaidra felt that his position was lesser than that of Zainabra. This feeling slowly and gradually became stronger making their marital life unpleasant, making husband and wife indisposed to one another. When this upsetting situation grew out of hand, Zaid bin Harithahra presented himself before the Holy Prophetsa of his own accord, and complaining about the treatment of Zainabra, sought permission to divorce her. In another narration it is related that he complained that, “Zainab uses harsh tongue, and therefore, I wish to divorce her.”

Naturally, the Holy Prophetsa was grieved upon hearing the state of affairs, and he restrained Zaidra from giving a divorce. Perhaps feeling that Zaidra could do more to fulfill his end, the Holy Prophetsa exhorted him saying, “Fear God, and settle your differences however you may.” These words of the Holy Prophetsa have been recorded by the Holy Quran as well in the following words: "Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah" (Quran 33:38)

The reason for this advice of the Holy Prophetsa was that firstly, in principle, the Holy Prophetsa disliked divorce. On one occasion, the Holy Prophetsa stated: "Allah did not make anything lawful more abominable to Him than divorce." (Abu Dawud) 

For this reason, it has only been permitted as a last resort. Secondly, as related by Imam Zainul-Abidin Ali bin Husainra, the son of Imam Husainra (and Imam Zuhri has declared this narration as being authentic), since the Holy Prophetsa knew by way of divine revelation that Zaid bin Harithahra would ultimately divorce Zainabra, and then she would subsequently come into a matrimonial bond with the Holy Prophetsafeeling that he had a personal connection in the matter, the Holy Prophetsa wished to remain absolutely unrelated and neutral. Moreover, from his own perspective, it was the utmost desire of the Holy Prophetsa that he should have no part in the dissolution of the marriage of Zaidra and Zainabra, and that they should continue living together for as long as possible. It was under this consideration that the Holy Prophetsa emphatically exhorted Zaidra not to give a divorce, fear God, and settle the differences between husband and wife in any way possible.

Furthermore, the Holy Prophetsa also apprehended that if Zainabra was to marry the Holy Prophetsa after having separated from Zaidra, people would raise the allegation that the Holy Prophetsa had married the divorcee of his foster-son, and people would be put to trial. As such, Allah the Exalted states in the Holy Quran: "And thou didst conceal in thy heart what Allah was going to bring to light, and thou wast afraid of the people, whereas Allah has better right that thou shouldst fear Him." (33:38)

In any case, the Holy Prophetsa admonished Zaidra to fear Allah and held him back from giving a divorce. In light of this exhortation, Zaidra bowed his head in submission and silently returned. However, it was difficult for these distant personalities to come together, and what was not meant to be, remained as such. After some time, Zaidra gave a divorce. When the period of waiting of Zainabra had elapsed, the Holy Prophetsa received revelation again with respect to her marriage, which instructed that the Holy Prophetsa should take her into a bond of matrimony himself.

In this divine command, the wisdom was so that Zainabra could be comforted and so that it could be demonstrated that there was no disgrace in Muslim men marrying a divorced woman. Moreover, another wisdom was that since Zaidra was the foster-son of the Holy Prophetsa and was generally known as his son, by marrying his divorcee, a practical example could be demonstrated by the Holy Prophetsa before the Muslims that a foster-son is not a real son, nor do such injunctions apply to them, as are enforced upon biological sons. As a result, this ignorant Arabian custom could be completely expunged from among the Muslims. In this regard, the holy Quran, which is the most authentic of all historical records states: "When Zaid had accomplished his want of her so as to have no further need of her, We joined her in marriage to thee, so that there may be no hindrance for the believers with regard to the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them. And Allah’s decree must be fulfilled." (33:38)

Therefore, after this divine revelation was sent down, which was absolutely free from the personal desire or thought of the Holy Prophetsa, he decided to marry Zainabra. The Holy Prophetsa sent his proposal to Zainabra through Zaidra himself. Upon the consent of Zainabra, her brother Abu Ahmad bin Jaḥashra served as her guardian and married her off to the Holy Prophetsa and the dowry was set at 400 dirhams.

In this manner, the ancient tradition which was firmly rooted in the plains of Arabia, was uprooted at the very source and stem, and discarded by Islam through the personal example of the Holy Prophetsa.

Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, The Life & Character of the Seal of the Prophets


Martyrdom


The Prophet, however, wrote a letter to the Emperor of Rome (or to the Chief of the Ghassan tribe who ruled Busra in the name of Rome). In this letter, we may presume, the Prophet complained of the preparations which had been visible on the Syrian border and of the foul and entirely unjust murder of the fifteen Muslims whom he had sent to report on the border situation. This letter was carried by al-Harth, a Companion of the Prophet. He stopped en route at Muta where he met Shurahbil, a Ghassan chief acting as a Roman official. "Are you a messenger of Muhammad?" asked this chief. On being told "Yes," he arrested him, tied him up and belaboured him to death. It may quite reasonably be assumed that this Ghassan chief was a leader of the army which had engaged and put to death the fifteen Muslims who had tried only to preach. The fact that he said to al-Harth, "Perhaps you are carrying a message from Muhammad" shows he was afraid lest the Prophet's complaint that tribesmen under the Kaiser had attacked the Muslims should reach the Kaiser. He was afraid lest he should have to account for what had happened.

There was safety, he thought, in murdering the Prophet's envoy. The expectation was not realised. The Prophet got to know of the murder. To avenge this and the earlier murders, he raised a force of three thousand and despatched it to Syria under the command of Zaid bin Harithah, freed slave of the Prophet, whom we mentioned in our account of his life in Mecca. The Prophet nominated Jafar ibn Abi Talib as the successor of Zaid, should Zaid die, and Abdullah bin Rawaha, should Jafar die. Should Abdullah bin Rawaha also die, Muslims were to choose their own commander. A Jew who heard this exclaimed, "0 Abul Qasim, if thou art a true Prophet, these three officers whom thou hast named are sure to die ; for God fulfils the words of a Prophet." Turning to Zaid, he said, "Take it from me, if Muhammad is true you will not return alive." Zaid, a true believer that he was, said in reply, "I may return alive or not, but Muhammad is a true Prophet of God" 

The following morning the Muslim army set out on its long march. The Prophet and the Companions went some distance with it. A large and important expedition such as this had never before gone without the Prophet commanding in person. As the Prophet walked along to bid the expedition farewell, he counselled and instructed. When they reached the spot where the people of Medina generally bade farewell to friends and relations going to Syria, the Prophet stopped and said: "I urge you to fear God and to deal justly with Muslims who go with you. Go to war in the name of Allah and fight the enemy in Syria, who is your enemy, as well as Allah's. When you are in Syria, you will meet those who remember God much in their houses of worship. You should have no dispute with them, and give no trouble to them. In the enemy country do not kill any women or children, nor the blind or the old ; do not cut down any tree, nor pull down any building." 

Having said this, the Prophet returned and the Muslim army marched forward. It was the first Muslim army sent to fight the Christians. When Muslims reached the Syrian border, they heard that the Kaiser himself had taken the field with one hundred thousand of his own soldiers and another hundred thousand recruited from the Christian tribes of Arabia. Confronted by such large enemy numbers, the Muslims half wanted to stop on the way and send word to the Prophet at Medina. For he might be able to reinforce their numbers or wish to send fresh instructions. When the army leaders took counsel, Abdullah bin Rawaha stood up, full of fire, and said: "My people, you set out from your homes to die as martyrs in the way of God, and now when martyrdom is in sight you seem to flinch. We have not fought so far because we were better equipped than the enemy in men or material. Our mainstay was our faith. If the enemy is so many times superior to us in numbers or equipment, what does it matter ? One reward out of two we must have. We either win, or die as martyrs in the way of God." The army heard ibn Rawaha and was much impressed. He was right, they said, with one voice. The army marched on. As they marched, they saw the Roman army advancing towards them. So at Muta the Muslims took up their positions and the battle began. Soon Zaid, the Muslim commander, was killed and the Prophet's cousin Jafar ibn Abi Talib received the standard and the command of the army. 

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran