If there is anyone to look up to after the Holy Prophet (PBUH), it is his family and his companions. One of these remarkable role models is Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA), the Prophet’s (PBUH) fifth wife and a mother of the believers.
Among the wives of the Prophet (PBUH), the least detailed account known today is that of the life of Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA). This is because she passed away after only 8 months of marriage to the Prophet (PBUH) and was the second wife to pass on during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), after Khadija (RA). Hence, the details on her life before Islam or even after it, are scarce.
Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA) was born in Mecca to a noble family in the year 595 CE and belonged to the tribe of Bani Hilal, approximately 13 years before the year of prophethood. Her mother was Hind bint ‘Awf ibn Al’Haarith and Maymoonah bint al-Harith (RA) was her step-sister, the last wife of the Prophet (PBUH).
She was among the first few converts to Islam during a time of great ignorance and jahalliya. Even before she entered the fold of Islam, she earned the title of “Umm al-Masakin”, the mother of the poor. Hers was a ‘giving’ and generous spirit and she lived to help the poor and needy. Her kind heart, her compassion, and dedication to the cause were extraordinary. Upon her conversion, her generosity only intensified.
It is said that she was first married to Tufail bin Harith, who either divorced her or died soon afterward. She then married Ubaydah ibn Al-Haarith, who was one of the ‘three’ in the Battle of Badr- the other two being Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) and Hamza bin Abdul-Muttalib (RA). However, Ubaydah was martyred during the battle. Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA) tended to the wounded during this battle and provided the injured with water.
After her husband passed away, she was left helpless and in dire straits- financially and otherwise. Shortly after the Prophet (PBUH) married Hafsa bint Umar (RA), he heard of Zaynab’s (RA) predicament and her suffering. Hence, as a means to alleviate her circumstances and support her, he proposed to marry her, which she readily accepted. It is believed that the marriage took place in the holy month of Ramadan and the marriage proposal by the Prophet (PBUH) was a means to ensure the rest of the believers that their sacrifices in the name of Islam during battle would not leave their families neglected and that they would be cared for. Hence, Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA) entered the Prophet’s (PBUH) house as one of the mothers of the faithful- an honorary and noble title, greater than all other worldly titles. Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA) was his first wife who did not come from the tribe of Quraish. She spent her time helping those around her and doing whatever she could for the unfortunate.
She did not remain long in his household- she acquired a deadly sickness, which eventually took her life. Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA), at the age of 31, passed away 8 months after her marriage to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), approximately around the fourth year of Hijra. Her funeral prayers were offered by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who also laid her to rest with his own noble hands.
Zaynab bint Khuzayma (RA) will always be remembered as both the mother of the faithful and the mother of the poor. Her generous heart and charitable actions speak volumes about her character and piousness. She was a strong and brave individual, who embraced Islam when the repercussions of it were at its peak- but her heart was with Allah (SWT). We should follow in her generous footsteps and give back to society and help those who cannot help themselves for Allah (SWT) loves those who help the poor and give to charity.