Zayd ibn Harithah

Zayd ibn Harithah

Son of Haritha adopted son of Muhammad
Native name زيد بن حارثة
Born Zaid ibn Haritha
c. 581
Died 629 (aged 48)
Mu'tah, Byzantium
  • Usama
  • Zayd
  • Ruqayya
Parent(s) Harithah

Zayd ibn Harithah (Arabic: زيد بن حارثة) or Zayd mawla Muhammad (c. 581 – 629 CE) was a companion of Muhammad who was at one stage regarded as his (adoptive) son. He is the only companion whose name appears in the Qur'an (33:37).


Zayd is said to have been ten years younger than Muhammad, suggesting a birth-year of c. 581. He is also said to have been 55 (lunar) years old at his death in 629, indicating a birthdate of 576.

He was born into the Udhra branch of the Kalb tribe in the Najd (highlands) of central Arabia; he claimed a pedigree twelfth in descent from Udhra ibn Zayd al-Lat, who was in turn alleged to have been a great-great-grandson of Kalb ibn Wabara. Zayd's mother, Suda bint Thaalaba, was from the Maan branch of the Tayy tribe.[1]

When Zayd was "a young boy of an age at which he could be a servant"[2] he accompanied his mother on a visit to her family. While they were staying with the Maan tribe, horsemen from the Qayn tribe raided their tents and kidnapped Zayd. They took him to the market at Ukkaz and sold him as a slave for 400 dinars .[1]

Zayd's family searched for him, but without success. A lament is attributed to his father, Harithah ibn Sharahil:

Slavery in Mecca

Zayd was purchased by a merchant of Mecca, Hakim ibn Hizam, who gave the boy as a present to his aunt, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. He remained in her possession until the day she married Muhammad, when she gave the slave as a wedding present to her bridegroom. Muhammad became very attached to Zayd, to whom he referred as al-Habib (“the beloved”).[1]

Some years later, some members of Zayd's tribe happened to arrive in Mecca on pilgrimage. They encountered Zayd and recognised each other, and he asked them to take a message home.

Carry a message from me to my people,
for I am far away, that close to the House and the places of pilgrimage I stay.
Let go of the grief that has deeply saddened you,
and do not hasten your camels all over the earth.
I live with the best of families, may God be blessed;
from father to son, of Ma’ad they are the noblest.[1]

  1. ^ Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 7.

On receiving this message, Zayd’s father and uncle immediately set out for Mecca. They found Muhammad at the Kaaba and promised him any ransom if he would return Zayd to them. Muhammad replied that Zayd should be allowed to choose his fate, but that if he wished to return to his family, Muhammad would release him without accepting any ransom in exchange. They called for Zayd, who easily recognised his father and uncle, but told them that he did not want to leave Muhammad, “for I have seen something in this man, and I am not the kind of person who would ever choose anyone in preference to him.” At this, Muhammad took Zayd to the steps of the Kaaba, where legal contracts were agreed and witnessed, and announced to the crowds: “Witness that Zayd becomes my son, with mutual rights of inheritance.” On seeing this, Zayd’s father and uncle “were satisfied,” and they returned home without him.[3]

In accordance with the Arabic custom of adoption at the time, Zayd was thereafter known as "Zayd ibn Muhammad" and was a freedman, regarded socially and legally as Muhammad’s son.[4] Subsequently after the Qu'ran ordinance that an adopted son is not the same as begotten son he was known as Zayd ibn Harithah and subsequently Muhammed married the divorced wife of Zayd [5]

Conversion to Islam

At an unknown date before 610, Zayd accompanied Muhammad to Ta'if, where it was a tradition to sacrifice meat to the idols. Near Baldah on their way back to Mecca, they met Zayd ibn Amr and offered him some of the cooked meat that Zayd was carrying in their bag.[6][7] Zayd ibn Amr, an outspoken monotheist,[8] replied, "I do not eat anything which you slaughter in the name of your stone idols. I eat none but those things on which Allah's Name has been mentioned at the time of slaughtering."[9] After this encounter, said Muhammad, "I never stroked an idol of theirs, nor did I sacrifice to them, until God honoured me with his apostleship."[6][7]

When Muhammad reported in 610 that he had received a revelation from the angel Gabriel, Zayd was one of the first converts to Islam. While Khadijah was the first Muslim of all,[10] she was closely followed by her neighbour Lubaba bint al-Harith,[11] her four daughters,[12] and the first male converts, Ali, Zayd and Abu Bakr.[13]

The Hijra

In 622, Zayd joined the other Muslims in the Hijra to Medina. Once settled in the new city, Muhammad urged each Muslim to “take a brother in Religion” so that each would have an ally in the community. Zayd was paired with Muhammad's uncle Hamza. Hamza accordingly trusted his last testament to Zayd just before his death in 625.[14]

A few months later, Muhammad and Abu Bakr sent Zayd back to Mecca to escort their families to Medina. The return party consisted of Muhammad's wife Sawda, his daughters Umm Kulthum and Fatimah, his servant Abu Rafi, Zayd's wife Baraka and their son Usama, Abu Bakr's wife Umm Rumman, his children Asma, Abdullah and Aisha, and a guide named Abdullah ibn Urayqit; and Abu Bakr's kinsman Talhah also decided to accompany them.[15]

Marriages and Children

Zayd married at least six times.

  1. Durrah (Fakhita) bint Abi Lahab, a cousin of Muhammad.[16] They were divorced; the dates are unknown, but Durrah's two brothers were divorced from Muhammad's two daughters in 613.[17]
  2. Umm Ayman (Barakah), Muhammad's freedwoman. They were married "after Islam"[18] and their son was born in 612.[19]
  3. Hind bint Al-Awwam, a niece of Khadijah.[16]
  4. Humayma bint Sayfi (Umm Mubashshir), the widow of Al-Baraa ibn Maarur,[20] a chief in Medina. Al-Baraa died in August or September 622,[21] so the marriage to Zayd was presumably in or after 623.
  5. Zaynab bint Jahsh, a cousin of Muhammad. They were married in 625 and divorced in late 626.[22]
  6. Umm Kulthum bint Uqba, a maternal sister of Caliph Uthman. This marriage was ordered by Muhammad in 628, but it ended in divorce.[16][23]

Zayd had three children.

  1. Usama, son of Barakah, who had descendants, but their number "never exceeded twenty in any given generation."[19]
  2. Zayd, son of Umm Kulthum, who died in infancy.[16]
  3. Ruqayya, daughter of Umm Kulthum, who died while under the care of Uthman.[16]

Marriage to Zaynab bint Jahsh

Around 625 Muhammad proposed that his cousin, Zaynab bint Jahsh, should marry Zayd. At first she refused on the grounds that she was of the Quraysh.[24] It has been suggested that differences between Zaynab's social status and Zayd's were precisely the reason why Muhammad wanted to arrange the marriage:

The Prophet was well aware that it is a person’s standing in the eyes of Allah that is important, rather than his or her status in the eyes of the people... their marriage would demonstrate that it was not who their ancestors were, but rather their standing in the sight of Allah, that mattered.[25]

By contrast, Montgomery Watt points out that Zayd was high in Muhammad's esteem.

She can hardly have thought that he was not good enough. She was an ambitious woman, however, and may already have hoped to marry Muhammad; or she may have wanted to marry someone with whom Muhammad did not want his family to be so closely allied.[26]

When Muhammad announced a new verse of the Qur'an,33:36,

It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path, —Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:36 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Zaynab acquiesced and married Zayd.[27][28]

The marriage lasted less than two years.[29] Ibn Sa`d and al-Tabari both cite this tradition about their divorce.

Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Hayyan narrated. The Messenger of God came to Zaid ibn Haritha's house seeking him. Perhaps the Messenger of God missed him at that time, that is why he said, "Where is Zaid?" He went to his house seeking him and, when he did not find him, Zainab Bint Jahsh stood up to [meet] him in a house-dress, but the Messenger of God turned away from her. She said, "He is not here, Messenger of God, so please come in; my father and mother are your ransom." The Messenger of God refused to come in. Zainab had hurried to dress herself when she heard that the Messenger of God was at her door, so she leapt in a hurry, and the Messenger of God liked her when she did that. The heart of the Prophet was filled with admiration for her. He went away muttering something that was hardly understandable but for this sentence: "Praise be to God who disposes the hearts." When Zaid came back home, she told him that the Messenger of God came. Zaid asked, "You asked him to come in, didn't you?" She replied, "I bade him to, but he refused." He said, "Have you heard [him say] anything?" She answered, "When he had turned away, I heard him say something that I could hardly understand. I heard him say, 'Praise be to God who disposes the hearts.'" Zaid went out to the Messenger of God and said, "O Messenger of God, I learned that you came to my house. Did you come in? O Messenger of God, my father and mother are your ransom. Perhaps you liked Zainab. I can leave her." The Messenger of God said, "Keep your wife."[30][31][32]

But this story is rejected by most Muslim scolars mainly because of its lack of having any chain of narration and its complete absence from any authentic hadith.Some scolar found it absurd that Muhammad would suddenly became aware of Zainab's beauty one day after having known her all her life and if her beauty was the reason for Muhammad to marry her,he would have married her himself in first place rather than arrenging her marriage to Zayd.


[Zayd] could not touch her [after that]. He would come to the Prophet and tell him [about it], and the latter would say, "Keep your wife," and Zayd would say, "O Messenger of God, I shall divorce her," and the Prophet would say "Keep your wife." Zayd divorced her [all the same] and abstained from her, and she became lawful [for remarriage]. While talking to `A´ishah, the Prophet fainted. On regaining consciousness he smiled and said "Who will go to Zaynab to bring her the glad tidings that God from above gave her to me in marriage?" And Muhammad recited the Quranic verse now found in Q33:37.[33]

Abolition of Adoption

After these events, the traditional Arab form of adoption was no longer recognized in Islam; it was replaced by kafala. Three verses of the Qur'an were written about this. Al-Tabari states that Q33:40 was revealed because "the Munafiqun made this a topic of their conversation and reviled the Prophet, saying 'Muhammad prohibits [marriage] with the [former] wives of one's own sons, but he married the [former] wife of his son Zayd.'"[4]

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things. —Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:40 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Zayd reverted to being known by his original name of Zayd ibn Harithah and was no longer considered Muhammad's legal son after the revelation of Q33:5:[34]

Call them by their fathers' names... —Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:5 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Ibn Saad indicates that Q33:37 was a specific instruction to Muhammad and Zaynab to marry and that it explains why their marriage was necessary.[35]

Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled. —Sura al-Ahzab Quran 33:37 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)

Military Expeditions

Zayd was "one of the famous archers among the Prophet's Companions."[36] He fought at Badr, Uhud, Trench and Khaybar, and was present at the expedition to Hudaybiyyah. When Muhammad raided Al-Muraysi, he left Zayd behind as governor in Medina.[36]

Zayd commanded seven military expeditions.[16]

  1. Al-Qarada in November 624. He captured a caravan of merchandise, but most of the Meccan merchants escaped.[16]
  2. Al-Jumum in September 627.[37]
  3. Al-'Is in October 627.[37][38]
  4. At-Taraf,[16] a raid in the Nakhl region "on the road to Iraq".[39]
  5. Wadi al-Qura. Zayd raided the area in November 627, but the Fazara tribe counter-attacked, killing some of the Muslims, while Zayd was carried wounded from the field. Zayd swore revenge and, after he had recovered from his injuries in January 628, he returned to Wadi al-Qura with a larger army. This time he defeated the Fazari.[40]
  6. Hisma, or Khushayn, against the Judham tribe[41] in October 628.[37][42]
  7. The Battle of Mu'tah in September 629, where Zayd was killed.[43]

According to Aisha, "The Messenger of Allah did not ever send Zayd ibn Haritha in an army without putting him in command of it, even if he stayed after he appointed him."[16]


Zayd led his final expedition in September 629 C.E. A Muslim force of 3,000 men set out to raid the Byzantine city of Bosra. However, a Byzantine force of "100,000 Greeks joined by 100,000 men from Lakhm and Judham and Al-Qayn and Bahra and Bali"[44] intercepted them at a village called Mu'tah. Zayd held the standard at the Battle of Mu'tah until he was struck down by a spear-thrust[45] and he bled to death.[46] The other two leaders, Ja`far ibn Abī Tālib and `Abd Allah ibn Rawahah, were also killed, and the Muslim army was routed.[47]

On hearing of Zayd's death, Muhammad went to the family. "The daughter of Zayd wept before the Messenger of Allah and the Messenger of Allah wept until he sobbed. Saad ibn Ubada said, 'Messenger of Allah, what is this?' He answered, 'This is the yearning of the lover for the beloved.'"[45]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 6.
  2. Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat, vol. 3. Translated by Bewley, A. (2013). The Companions of Badr, p. 28. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  3. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 8-9.
  4. 1 2 Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 9.
  5. Qur'an 33:37
  6. 1 2 Muhammad ibn Ishaq, via Yunus ibn Bukayr, cited in Guillaume, A. (1960). New Light on the Life of Muhammad, pp. 27-28. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  7. 1 2 Muhammad ibn Ishaq, via Yunus ibn Bukayr, cited in Kister, M. J. (1970). “A Bag of Meat.” A Study of an Early Hadith. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 33, 267-275.
  8. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, p. 99. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Bukhari 5:58:169. Bukhari 7:67:407.
  10. Guillaume/Ishaq p. 111.
  11. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 201.
  12. Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat, vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina, pp. 21, 25-26. London: Ta-Ha Publishers.
  13. Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 114-115.
  14. Guillaume/Ishaq p. 234.
  15. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 171-172.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Bewley/Saad vol. 3 p. 32.
  17. Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 24-26.
  18. Bewley/Saad vol. 8 p. 157.
  19. 1 2 Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 65.
  20. Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 264, 295-296.
  21. Bewley/Saad vol. 3 p. 481.
  22. Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 72-73.
  23. Bewley/Saad vol. 8 p. 163.
  24. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 180.
  25. Thomson, A. (2012). "Zaynab bint Jahsh" in Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
  26. Watt, W. M. (1956). Muhammad at Medina, p. 331. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
  27. Ibn Hisham note 918.
  28. Al-Jalalayn, Tafsir on Q33:36-38.
  29. Ismail ibn Kathir, Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya. Translated by Le Gassick, T. (2000). The Life of the Prophet, p. 198. Reading, U.K.: Garnet Publishing.
  30. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 180-181.
  31. Bewley/Saad, pp. 72-73.
  32. Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l-Muluk vol. 8. Translated by Fishbein, M. (1997). The Victory of Islam, pp. 1-3. Albany: State University of New York Press. For an alternative tradition telling the same story, see Fishbein/Tabari p. 4.
  33. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari p. 181.
  34. Landau-Tasseron/Tabari pp. 9-10.
  35. Bewley/Saad vol. 8 pp. 73-75.
  36. 1 2 Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa’l-Muluk, vol. 39. Translated by Landau-Tasseron, E. (1998). Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors, p. 10. New York: State University of New York Press.
  37. 1 2 3 Hawarey, Dr. Mosab (2010). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War (Arabic). Islamic Book Trust.Note: Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic, English translation available here
  38. Watt, W. Montgomery (1956). Muhammad at Medina. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0195773071. One was a little-known expedition about September 627 (free online)
  39. Guillaume/Ishaq p. 664.
  40. Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 664-665.
  41. Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 662-664.
  42. Abū Khalīl, Shawqī (2003). Atlas of the Quran. Dar-us-Salam. p. 242. ISBN 978-9960897547.
  43. Bewley/Saad vol. 3 pp. 32-33.
  44. Guillaume/Ishaq p. 532.
  45. 1 2 Bewley/Saad vol. 3 p. 33
  46. Guillaume/Ishaq p. 534.
  47. Guillaume/Ishaq pp. 534-535.

Further reading

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