His Companions New Muslims

Zayd ibn Harithah: From Bondage to the Prophet’s Home

In the Battle of Mu’tah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) stood to pay his farewell to the departing Muslim army on its way to fight the Romans and to announce the name of the three successive commanders of the army:

“Zayd ibn Harithah is your first commander, but in case he is wounded, Ja`far ibn Abi Talib will take over the command, and if the latter is wounded then `AbduAllah ibn Rawahah will replace him.”

But who was Zayd ibn Harithah? Who was the beloved one of the Prophet?

Narrators and historians described his appearance as short, dark swarthy, and snub-nosed. As for his reality, he was truly a great Muslim.

In Bondage

If we go back in time, we will see Harithah, Zayd’s father, just putting the luggage on the camel that was t

Zayd’s father and uncle returned back home leaving their son safe and sound after he had become master of himself.

Zayd’s father and uncle returned back home leaving their son safe and sound after he had become master of himself.

o carry his wife, Su`dah, to her family. Harithah paid his farewell to his wife who carried Zayd – at that time a young child – in her arms.

But every time he was about to leave his wife and child who were going with a caravan, to return to his house and work, he was driven by a mysterious and inexplicable urge to keep his wife and son in sight; yet it was time for them to set out on their way and Harithah had to pay his last farewell to his wife and head back home. His tears flowed as he said goodbye and stood as if pinned to the ground until he lost sight of them. At that moment he felt broken-hearted.

Su`dah stayed with her family for a while. One day, suddenly her neighborhood was attacked by one of its opposing tribes. Taken by surprise, Bani Ma`n were defeated and Zayd ibn Harithah was captured along with other war prisoners. His mother returned home alone.

When Harithah heard the sad news, he was thunderstruck. He traveled everywhere and asked everyone about his beloved Zayd. He recited these lines of poetry on the spur of the moment to lament the loss of his son:

My heart was broken when I lost Zayd. I don’t know if he is alive or dead or if I will ever see him again. By Allah, I still do not know if he was killed on the plain or slain on the mountain. His picture comes to the mind’s eye whenever the sun rises or sets. Even when the wind blows, it brings along his memory.

Alas, I am shrouded by my sadness, grief, and fear for him.

At that time, slavery was a recognized and established social fact that turned into a necessity. This was the case in Athens, which had long enjoyed a flourishing civilization, in Rome, and in the entire ancient world, including the Arab Peninsula.

At the Prophet’s Home

When the opposing tribe attacked the Bani Ma`n, it headed to the market of `Ukazh, held at that time, to sell its prisoners of war. The child Zayd, was sold to Hakeem ibn Huzam, who gave him to his aunt Khadijah as a gift. At that time, Khadijah was married to Muhammad ibn `Abdullah but the revelation had not yet descended on him. However, he enjoyed all the promising great qualities of prophets.

Khadijah, on her part, gave her servant Zayd as a gift to her husband, Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him). He was very pleased with Zayd and manumitted him at once. His great and compassionate heart overflowed with care and love towards the boy.

Later on, during one of the Hajj seasons, a group of Harithah’s tribe ran into Zayd in Makkah and told him about his parents anguish and grief ever since they had lost him. Zayd asked them to convey his love and longing to his parents. He told them, “Tell my father that I live here with the most generous and loving father.”

No sooner did his father know his son’s whereabouts than he hastened on his way to him, accompanied by his brother.

As soon as they reached Makkah, he asked about the trustworthy Muhammad. When he met him, he said, “O son of ibn `Abdul-Muttalib! O son of the master of his tribe! Your land is one of security and sanctuary and you are famous for helping the distressed and sheltering the captive. We have come here to ask you to give us back our son. So please confer a favor on us and set a reasonable ransom for him.”

Thicker Than Blood…

The Prophet knew the great love and attachment Zayd carried in his heart for him, yet at the same time, he respected Harithah’s parental right. Therefore, he told Harithah, “Ask Zayd to come here and make him choose between you and me. If he chooses you, he is free to go with you, but if he chooses me then, by Allah, I will not leave him for anything in the world.”

Harithah’s face brightened, for he did not expect such magnanimity; therefore, he said, “You are far more generous than us.” Then the Prophet summoned Zayd. When he came he asked him, “Do you recognize these people?” Zayd said, “Yes, this is my father and this is my uncle.”

The Prophet told him what he had told Harithah. Zayd replied, “I will not choose anyone but you, for you are a father and an uncle to me.” The Prophet’s eyes were full of thankful and compassionate tears. He held Zayd’s hand and walked to the Ka`bah, where the Quraish were holding a meeting, and cried out, “I bear witness that Zayd is my son, and in case I die first, he will inherit from me, and in case he dies first, I will inherit from him.”

Hiarithah was overjoyed, for not only had his son been manumitted but he had also become the son of the man who was known by the Quraish as “The Honest and Trustworthy”.

Moreover, he was a descendant of Bani Hashim and was raised to a high station among his people. Zayd’s father and uncle returned back home leaving their son safe and sound after he had become master of himself and after the Prophet had set to rest their fears concerning his fate.

Zayd ibn Muhammad

The Prophet (peace be upon him) adopted Zayd and from that moment on he was known as Zayd ibn Muhammad.

Suddenly, on a bright morning whose brightness has never been seen before or since, the revelation descended on Muhammad:

Read! In the name of your Lord who created – created mankind from something which clings; read! And your Lord is the Most Noble; Who taught by the pen; taught mankind what he did not know. (Al-`Alaq 96:1-5)

Then the revelation continued:

O you cloaked! Arise and warn! And magnify your Lord. (Al-Muddaththir 74:1-3)

O Messenger! Proclaim the message which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message. Allah will protect you from mankind. Verily, Allah guides not the people who disbelieve. (Al-Ma’idah 5:61)

As soon as the Prophet had shouldered the responsibility of his message, Zayd submitted himself to Islam. Narrators said that he was the second man and more probably the first man to embrace Islam.

To be continued…


The article is excerpted from the book “Men Around the Messenger”, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.


His Companions New Muslims

Zayd ibn Harithah: From Slavery to Commandership

The Prophet (peace be upon him) loved Zayd so dearly due to his singular loyalty, greatness of spirit, conscientiousness, honesty, and trust worthiness. All this and more, made Zayd ibn Harithah or Zayd ‘the Beloved One’, as the Companions used to call him, hold a distinguished place in the Prophet’s heart.


Neither Islam nor the Prophet took notice of descent or prestige.

`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “The Prophet never sent Zayd on an expedition but as a commander and if his life had not been so short, he would have made him his successor.”

What Distinguishes Zayd?

Was it possible for anyone to be held in such great esteem by the Prophet? What was Zayd really like?

He was that boy who had been kidnapped, sold, and manumitted by the Prophet. He was this short, swarthy, snub-nosed man. Above all, he had a compassionate heart and a free soul. Therefore, he was raised to the highest position by his Islam and the Prophet’s love for him, for neither Islam nor the Prophet took notice of descent or prestige.

Muslims like Bilal , Suhayb, Khabbab, `Ammar, Usamah and Zayd were all alike according to this great religion. Each one of them played an important and distinctive role in giving impetus to the rapidly spreading religion. These saintly ones and commanders were the sparkling stars of Islam. Islam rectified life values when the Glorious Qur’an said:

Surely, the most honorable among you in the sight of Allah are the most pious of you. ( Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Moreover, it encouraged all promising talents and all pure, trustworthy, and productive potentialities.

Zayd’s Marriage

The Prophet married his cousin Zaynab to Zayd. It seems that Zaynab (May Allah be pleased with her) accepted that marriage because her shyness prevented her from turning down the Prophet’s intercession. Unfortunately, the gap between them widened every day, and finally their marriage collapsed.

The Prophet felt that he was , in a way, responsible for this marriage which ended up in divorce; therefore, he married his cousin and chose a new wife, Umm Kulthum bint `Uqbah for Zayd.

The slanderers and the enemies of the Prophet spread doubt concerning the legality of Muhammad’s marriage to his son’s ex-wife. The Qur’an refuted their claims by striking a distinction between sons and adopted sons. It abrogated adoption altogether saying:

Muhammad is not a father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets. (Al-Ahzab 33:90)

Hence, Zayd was called after his father’s name once again, namely, Zayd ibn Harithah.

A Commander

Now, do you see the Muslim troops that marched towards the Battle of Al-Jumuuh? Their commander was Zayd ibn Harithah. Do you see those Muslims troops that marched to At- Tarf, Al-‘Iis and Hismii and other battles? The commander of all those battles was Zayd ibn Harithah. Truly, as `A’ishah said, “The Prophet never sent Zayd on as expedition but as a commander.”

At last, the Battle of Mu’tah took place. It seems that the Romans and their senescent empire were filled with apprehensions and forebodings about the rapid spread of Islam.

They saw it as a genuine and fatal threat to their very existence, especially in Syria, which bordered the center of the new, sweeping religion. Therefore, they used Syria as a springboard to the Arab Peninsula and the Muslim nation.

The Prophet realized that the aim of the Roman skirmishes was to test the Muslim combat readiness. Therefore, he decided to take the initiative and exhibit in action Islam’s determination to resist and to gain ultimate victory.

No Discrimination

On 1 Jumada al-Awwal,  A.H. 8, the Muslim army marched towards Al-Balqa’ in Syria until they reached its borders where Heraclius’s armies of the Romans and Arabicized tribes residing at the borders were. The Roman army pitched camp at a place called Masharif, whereas the Muslim army pitched camp near a town called Mu’tah. Hence, the battle was named Mu’tah.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) knew how important and crucial this battle was; therefore he chose for its command three of those who were worshippers by night and fighters by day.

Those three fighters sold their lives and property to Allah and renounced their needs and desires for the sake of great martyrdom which would pave their way to win Allah’s pleasure and to see Allah, the Generous. These three commanders were in succession: Zayd ibn Harithah, Ja`far ibn Abi Talib and `Abdullah ibn Rawahah.

Thus, the Prophet stood to bid farewell to his army and gave them his order saying, “Zayd ibn Harithah) is your first commander, but in case he is wounded, Ja`far lbn Abi Talib will take over the command, and if he is also wounded, `Abdullah ibn Rawahah will take it over.

Although Ja`far ibn Abi Talib was one of the Prophet’s closest friends who had valor, fearlessness, and good lineage, yet the Prophet chose him as the second commander after Zayd.

Thus, the Prophet stressed the fact that the new religion of Islam came to abolish corrupt human relationships based on false and superficial discrimination. It established new, rational human relationships instead.

It was as if the Prophet foresaw the proceedings of the imminent battle, for he assigned the command of the army to Zayd, Ja`far, and then `Abdullah and strangely enough, all of them were raised to Allah in the same order set by him.

Last Heroic Minutes

When the Muslims saw the vanguard of the Roman army, which they had estimated at 200,000 warriors, they were stunned by its enormity that surpassed all expectation. But since when did the battles of faith depend on number?

At that moment, the Muslims flung themselves into the battlefield regardless of the consequences or jeopardy. Their commander, Zayd, carried the Prophet’s standard and fought his way through the enemy’s spears, arrows, and swords. He was not so much searching for victory as for concluding his deal with Allah, Who has purchased the lives and properties of Muslims in exchange for Paradise.

Zayd saw neither the sand of Al-Balqa’ nor the Roman forces. The only things that he saw were the hills of Paradise and its green cushions. These images flickered through his mind like the fluttering flags that had announced his wedding day.

When he thrust and struck, he not only smote at the necks of his enemies, but also flung the doors open that stood in his way to the vast door through which he would reach the home of peace, the eternal Paradise and Allah’s company.

Zayd clung to his destiny. His spirit, on its way up to heaven, was overjoyed as it took its last glance at the body of its master that was not covered with soft silk but rather with pure bloodshed in the way of Allah. His serene smile widened when he saw the second commander, Ja`far, dart towards the standard and hold it high before it touched the ground.


The article is excerpted from the book “Men Around the Messenger”, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.