Asiyah & Zaynab Bint Muhammad

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For Women’s History Month we wanted to showcase some of the amazing contributions that Muslim women across history have made. In today’s post we’ll be discussing Asiyah, the wife of Pharaoah and Zaynab, the eldest daughter of our Prophet Muhammad.

Asiyah:

Asiyah, the wife of Pharaoh, and the adoptive mother of Prophet Musa (as) was no ordinary woman. Her strength and her status will forever remain unsurpassed.

She was a woman who never allowed herself to be defined or limited by her painful circumstances, but rather carried in her such a deep faith and sense of self that she was willing to die for what she believed in. It was for this reason that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned her as one of the four greatest women of all time.

She brought Musa (as) up under her protection and believed in his message as he grew up to be the Prophet he was. When Pharaoh found out, he tortured her severely but her faith was so strong that she was willing to suffer. This made her an everlasting symbol.

{God sets forth an example for those who believe — the wife of Pharaoh who said: “My Lord, build for me with Thee a house in heaven, and save me from the Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from an unjust people.”} (66:11)

Asiyah had no attachment to this life and she was not defined by the wickedness of the man she married. Her mind and her soul remained independent from him; and her heart was not a slave to his beliefs. She refused to submit to the tyranny of her husband, but chose instead to devote her soul and her life to Allah.

And in the story of Asiyah is an everlasting example of a woman who chose the Hereafter over all of the glitter of this world, and whose love for Allah and the Home with Him inspired her to take on the greatest tyrant of all time and give her life in the process. A woman we should all take as an example.

Zaynab bint Muhammad

Zaynab was the eldest daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. She was amongst the first ten people to accept Islam shortly after the beginning of her father’s prophethood.

Zaynab (ra) was married to her maternal cousin Abu Al-’As Ibn Rabi’ around the same time the revelations were first revealed to the Prophet (saw). Their first child was Ali, who died at a young age and their second child was Umama (ra).The decision that Zaynab(ra) made to accept Islam created a strain on their relationship as Abu Al-’As was initially reluctant to accept Islam as a result of tribalism at the time. This delayed Abu Al-’As’s acceptance of Islam, as he was worried that his relatives would think that he had abandoned the religion of his forefathers for his wife. However, Abu Al-As resisted the societal pressure to divorce Zaynab (ra), to which the Prophet (saw) commended him as it showed the extent of his nobility.

As the time for Hijrah began, Zaynab (ra) wanted to join the Prophet (saw) but made the difficult decision to stay behind with her husband in Makkah. Shortly after Hijrah, the first battle between the Muslims and the disbelievers of Quraysh occurred: The Battle of Badr. It was this battle that created an intense amount of emotional turmoil for Zaynab (ra) as it meant that her husband would have to fight her father, the best of mankind: The Prophet (saw) . The prospect of her children being orphaned or losing her father meant that Zaynab (ra) had to overcome much sorrow and despair.

During this battle, her husband Abu Al-’As was taken as a hostage following the victory of the Muslims. Zaynab (ra) did not own many possessions, so in order to pay his ransom she offered the necklace that was gifted to her by her late mother.

When the Prophet (saw) received this necklace as ransom, he was reduced to tears by the memory of Khadijah (ra). He then refused to accept this and asked for her husband to be released from being a prisoner and the necklace to be returned. Abu Al-’As returned to Makkah and was reunited with Zaynab (ra). However, this was cut short as the Prophet (saw) was ordered by Allah in a recent revelation to forbid the marriage of a Muslim woman to a disbelieving man. Therefore, once Abu Al-’As returned to Makkah he sent Zaynab (ra) to Medina to join her father and her family. She was once again separated from her husband but through her unwavering patience, she persevered.

After this, she refused to re-marry for many years, with the hope that one day Allah would accept her prayer and Abu Al-’As would embrace Islam.Many years later after an encounter in Medina with Zaynab (ra), Abu Al-’As said his shahadah and accepted Islam. With the Prophet (saw) permission he was reunited again with his wife. Unfortunately, their long awaited reunion was short-lived as Zaynab (ra) passed away only a year later in the year 629 CE.

From her story, we can learn Zaynab (ra) was a courageous and righteous woman through the many sacrifices she made in pursuit of Islam and the way her devotion to Allah and his Messenger triumphed over her worldly matters.

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