They brought it to the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhee wa sallam) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! This is the ransom of Abul A’as bin al Rabee’. The Prophet (saw) looked at it; tears started flowing down his cheeks. The companions were quite puzzled: why would the Prophet (saw) cry at the sight of a necklace? Indeed that necklace had a story; but what was it? It was a love story that had two sides, one related to the Prophet (saw) and the other his daughter Zainab bint Muhammad (saw) and (may Allah be pleased with her).
Abul A’as bin al Rabee’ was Zainab’s cousin. He came to the Prophet (saw) before Islam asking for her hand in marriage. The Prophet (saw) said,
– “I cannot answer you until I have asked the girl.”
– O Zainab! Your cousin Abul A’as has mentioned you. What do you say?
The shy girl did not say a word but smiled and blushed. The Prophet (saw) knew that his girl (the elder of his four girls) had just consented.
For her wedding, her mother Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) presented her with her own expensive necklace as her wedding gift. Zainab put it on and the Prophet (saw) saw it on his daughter’s neck as he had seen it on his wife’s before. It was a happy night in the life of the father the mother and the daughter.
Zainab loved her husband and they both lived happily. She had a boy and a girl by him: Umamah and ‘Ali. He was a businessman which meant that he would travel quite often. During one of his travels, the Prophet (saw) was sent by Allah with the Message of Islam. So Khadijah and all of her daughters (may Allah be pleased with them) embraced the new religion. Abul A’as came home and his wife-so happy and excited-told him the news.
– My father has been sent as a Messenger by Allah to invite all people to worship Allah. My mother and all of my sisters became Muslim, and so did I.
– “You should have waited until I came”, he said.
– But He is my father and I would never belie him nor would he ever lie to us. I want you to follow the new religion.
– “No!” He said. “I shall never turn away from the faith of my fathers and forefathers. Would you not understand my situation? Can you give me the benefit of the doubt?”
– Who would understand you if I couldn’t? I am your wife and will always help you with the truth until you accept it.
She remained faithful to him for the next 20 years. However, she was sad at his decision. But she still loved him and wanted to continue to live with him and perhaps one day he would become a believer. At the time of (al hijra) migration to Madinah, Zainab (RAA) asked the Prophet (saw) to allow her to stay with her husband. He allowed her to do that. All of her sisters, however, migrated.
The difference in faith between Zainab and her husband continued to pose a problem in their married life. There were confrontations between the Muslims in Madinah and the pagans in Makkah. Yet Zainab (RAA) continued to be the faithful wife who loved and cared for her husband even though a time would come and test that love. She loved her father and Islam more. She always feared the time when her husband would fight against her father. She said:
– “I fear a day when my children would lose their father or I would lose my father.”
In the first battle between the Muslims and the pagans of Makkah, the believers were victorious, and Abul A’as fell captive in the hands of the Muslims. The Messenger of Allah (saw) gave the captives two choices:
– Let those who can read and write teach ten of the Muslims how to read and write.
– The others can be ransomed by their family.
Back in Makkah, Zainab was anxious about her father. She did not want to see her husband fight against her father, the Prophet (saw). She asked:
– What did my father do?
– “Victory was his”, they said.
She thanked Allah and prostrated to Him. She then asked:
– What happened to my husband?
– “His father- in- law has taken him captive.” They said.
She did not have anything to ransom him with except her necklace. She took it off and gave it to her brother-in-law to take to her father so that her husband could be free and come back to her and his children. Now the Prophet (saw) has the necklace in his hands and his tears are flowing down his cheeks. He remembered both his wife Khadijah and his daughter Zainab. He loved Khadijah (RAA) so much. Whenever he thought of her, he would have tears in his eyes. He remembered that day when his daughter wore the necklace for the first time and how happy she was. Now he knew how difficult for her to be alone especially that the Kuffar of Makkah would always harass her and blame her for everything because her father was the Prophet (saw). The Prophet (saw) missed his wife and daughter. One day he heard a knocking on his door. A woman was asking: “Is this the house of the Messenger of Allah?” He recognized the voice. He said: “O Allah! Let it be Hala!” Hala was Khadijah’s sister whose voice was similar to Khadijah’s voice.
He told his companions, this is Zainab’s necklace. If you wish you can send it back to her and release her husband, or if you wish you can keep the necklace. That is how the Prophet (saw) pleaded to his companions to allow his daughter to keep her necklace.
When Abul A’as was ready to leave, the Prophet (saw) told him to send Zainab to Madinah. Allah has revealed that Muslim women could no longer marry non-Muslim men nor could the married ones stay with their non-Muslim husbands.
Abul A’as told his wife about the decision of the Prophet (saw) and the orders of Allah. He was not a believer, but he promised his father-in-law to send his daughter to Madinah. It was not easy for Zainab to leave her husband nor was it for him to leave her. She still loved him and his children loved him. She wanted him to be Muslim so they could live together as Muslims with the Prophet (saw) in Madinah. But Abul A’as continued to refuse to change from the ways of his fathers. Zainab was sad but she submitted to the will of Allah (swt).
She told him to accompany her to Madinah and return after he had secured them there. He refused as he was afraid to even take her to the outskirts of Makkah where he agreed to leave her for the companions of the Prophet (saw) to take her from.
He sent his brother with her. As they were leaving, the Makkans found out. So they stopped them and started to harass her. His brother, though a non-believer, did not accept to see his brother’s wife being harassed like that. So he spread out all of his arrows.
They were twenty arrows. He said:
– You can take her but before you do that I will have killed twenty of you and then you kill me.
Abu Sufyan, who was one of them, told him:
– We have no desire to break a fight with you. Pick up your arrows and leave, but don’t do it in the middle of the day challenging us.
Zainab lived in Madinah near the Prophet’s (saw) houses. She raised her children alone. She had many offers for marriage, but refused them all. She was still hoping that Abul A’as would one day come back and accept Islam.
In one of his travels, Abul A’as was captured by the Muslims and brought to Madinah. He had the money of Qureish which he had earned from a trade he had done for them. He asked to be allowed to see his children. So he was led to Zainab’s house. There Zainab was surprised to see him but at the same time happy. She told him to stay in her house and no one would harm him. She went to the Prophet (saw) but he was in the Masjid with his companions. She looked into the Masjid and proclaimed loudly:
– I have given sanctuary to Abul A’as bin al Rabee’
– “Did you hear what I heard?” The Prophet (saw) exclaimed.
– “O Messenger of Allah! Abul A’as is my cousin and the father of my children”. She said.
– “This is a man whom I do not degrade as a son-in-law”, the Prophet (saw) said. “He had spoken to me and told me the truth and promised me and fulfilled his promise. If you agree to give him back his money and let him go I shall be happy with that. But if you wish otherwise, then it is up to you.”
They all said: “We will do what pleases you O Messenger of Allah”. Then the Prophet (saw) turned to his daughter and said: “We have agreed to your sanctuary O Zainab!”
He then told her to be kind to him and hospitable as he was her cousin and the father of her children. But “do not let him touch you as he is forbidden for you.”
She went to her cousin and told him:
– O Abul A’as! Haven’t you had enough of being away from us? Why can’t you become Muslim and stay with us?
He said “No!”
He took the money and left, but leaving behind a woman who truly loved him and waited all these years for him. On his way back to Makkah he started thinking of her. He knew he was still in love with her. He knew how kind the Prophet (saw) was with him and how the companions treated him. He knew first and foremost that Zainab being the lady she was would never be without marriage all these years except for one reason: She loved him and wished for his return. What he did not know was why he still held on to a tradition that had no grounds.
He arrived at Makkah, gave the money to his clients and came back to Madinah. He met the Prophet (saw) and said:
– “O Messenger of Allah! Yesterday you freed me and today I am coming to you declaring my acceptance of Islam”
He then declared his shahaadah.
– Would you allow me to get back with my wife again?
– “Come with me!” The Prophet (saw) said.
– “O Zainab! Your cousin Abul A’as has come asking to be back with you. Do you accept?”
Zainab did not say a word but smiled and blushed. The Prophet (saw) knew that she had just consented. Zainab and Abul A’as lived happily together but only for one more year. Zainab (RAA) died putting an end to one of most beautiful love stories. After six years of waiting for her beloved, he finally joined them and after a year of so much happiness under the shade of Islam, the beloved wife died. Abul A’as cried bitterly at the loss of Zainab. He used to say: “I cannot live without Zainab.”
He died a year after Zainab’s death. May Allah be pleased with them both.