Adoption and Zainab

In order to marry Zainab, Muhammad abolished adoption and all the goodness that came from it.  Adopted children were now seen as strangers living in the home with no rights to take the family name or inherit as a regular child would.  As well, the rules of marahim (blood relation) made it difficult to be alone with this child.  The end result is that Muslims hardly ever adopt kids.  Allah wanted to ensure that everyone knows that they can marry their adopted-son’s ex-wife so he made Muhammad marry Zainab (or maybe Muhammad liked her).



Photo by Fanny

Ancient cultures and Adoption

Looking at history, Adoption was a common practice in antiquity that continued into preislamic arabia, but was eventually ended with Islam.  Elite Roman families who adopted, it was the adopted son who mattered, because he was chosen for who he was – for his characteristics. An adopted child in the Roman world was given a higher status than the natural one!  The adopted son adopted all their father’s wealth, property, status, dependents and clients, in other words all of the adopted father’s power and prestige.  For example Julius Caesar and Cleopatra had a son. And the had an adopted son. Guess who became the next leader? Their adopted Son, who became Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. This is because he was adopted by Julius.  And the natural son of Julius? I bet you never even heard of him

The same with PreIslamic Arabia.  An adopted child would become like your own.

In accordance with the Arabic custom of adoption at the time, Zaid was thereafter known as “Zaid ibn Muhammad” and was a freedman, regarded socially and legally as Muhammad’s son. (Tabari, Wikipedia)

Islam blocked all that when Muhammad decided to marry Zainab…….

Difficulties with adoption in Islam

Yusra Gomaa in an article titled Why adoption and fostering must be our Muslim duty (April 2016) wrote

When I asked whether Muslim children frequently came into the “system,” she explained that they did, but were amongst the most difficult children to match into homes because of their unique religious and cultural needs. I made similar inquiries in Michigan, Washington, Indiana and Wisconsin only to hear the same response. My inquiries did reveal that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services attempted a work-around for this problem: publishing guidelines on its website to educate non-Muslim foster parents on the cultural norms and religious traditions of Muslim foster children.

Mahrem issues:

How do you live with someone that’s “not related” to you?  That means the mom can’t touch the adopted son or be alone with him, and has to observe the rules of hijab around him.  A person I know to work around this rule had to take some drugs in order to try to get breastmilk to come.  And when that didnt work, they got their sister to breastfeed the child for a time, in order to become “mahrem” (related) to the child.

Adopted son doesn’t take name: 

You must call them by their father’s name.  This is very important. So important that you can go to hell for this!

It was narrated from Abu Dharr (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “There is no man who knowingly calls himself after someone other than his father but he has committed kufr. Whoever claims to belong to people to whom he has no ties of blood, let him take his place in Hell.”

(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3317; Muslim, 61)

Adopted son doesn’t get inheritance:

Inheritance rules in Islam are rigid.  Everything is predetermined.  Only one third you are allowed to decide for yourself.  So unless an exception made for your adopted son from this share, he would get zero.  Compare this to the PreIslamic method where an adopted son was treated like an actual son.

How did this happen?  Many Muslims are not aware that all of this happened because of the issue with Zaid and Zainab.

Why did Prophet Muhammad marry his daughter-in-law?

This was considered taboo in pre-Islamic Arab society.  So much so that Muhammad was scared to tell people that he was to marry Zainab.

.. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. (33:37)

Zaid was like Muhammad’s son. He was married to Zainab less than 2 years.  She was an attractive young lady of good lineage (Quraish).

Aisha said, From amongst the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) Zainab was my peer (in beauty and in the love she received from the Prophet)  (Bukhari)

Infact the law of hijab was revealed the night of the wedding of Zainab to Muhammad.  [ref]See Tafsir Asbab ul Nuzul by Waqidi for 33:53.[/ref]

Zainab was like his daughter in law.  She was married to Muhammad around the age of 35.

It was narrated that Anas said:
“When the ‘Iddah of Zainab was over, the Messenger of Allah said to Zaid: ‘Propose marriage to her on my behalf.’ Zaid went and said: ‘O Zainab, rejoice, for the Messenger of Allah has sent me to you to propose marriage on his behalf.’ She said: ‘I will not do anything until I consult my Lord.’ She went to her prayer place and Qur’an was revealed, then the Messenger of Allah came and entered upon her without any formalities.” (Muslim 1428b)

Why the need for Muhammad to “demonstrate” this rule?

Why would you even want to marry your daughter in law? Isn’t that just weird? It would be similar to my dad marrying my wife. He used to call my wife his daughter, and treated her just like his own.  Not to mention the age difference.

Did Muhammad fall in love with Zainab?

The earliest tafsir, Ibn Ishaq says hardly anything about the wives of Prophet Muhammad.  Ibn Saad  (died 230AH) mentions the story as follows:

Prophet Muhammad went to visit Zaid (before the rule of hijab was made) and Zainab answered the door saying that Zaid wasn’t there, and inviting him in.  Prophet Muhammad turned away, muttered something and left.  When Zaid came back, Zainab told him what happened.  She said that Prophet Muhammad left saying “subhnalahil adheem subhana musariful quloob (Glory to Allah The Great, The one who changes the hearts).”  Zaid understood this to mean that Prophet Muhammad liked her. Apparently they had some issues in their marriage even before this, and after this, he could no longer bear to be married to her.  He asked Muhammad several times if he could divorce her, but Muhammad told him no, as Muhammad was scared to marry her because of what the people would say.

.. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. (33:37)

According to this version, what did Muhammad hide in his heart?  That he desired Zainab

Muqatil ibn Sulayman who is the earliest tafsir (died 150AH) but is not considered reliable also mentions this story.

Tabari (died 310AH), who is considered the greatest scholar of tafsir, most orthodox, most authentic , the encyclopedia of tafsirs, the bastion of sunni tafsirs mentions this story as well.  He mentions this narrated from Ibn Zaid, and Qatada who is a student of Ibn Abbas.

Also Tafsir Samarqandi, Thalabi, Zamakhshari and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi all mention the same story.

These points from Seerah of Prophet Muhammad Part 69 by Yasir Qadhi.

Why is this such a big problem?  Because if he wanted her, and then he came up with a verse of the Quran saying he married her, this is problematic as the verses seem to be coming for his personal benefits.

The other interpretation, that Muhammad hid the fact that “Allah wanted him to marry Zainab” is also mentioned in Ibn Saad, and seems to become more prominent starting with Bayhaqi (450AH) because it paints Muhammad in a better light.  Ibn Kathir (774 AH), said “some of the earlier books have reports we would rather not mention.”  Ibn  Hajr (852 AH) never mentions it.  Then, later modern scholars who are not experts in hadith or tafsir started saying that the earliest versions are fabrications made by “evil orientalists”!

How adoption became forbidden with Zaid and Zainab

It was very important in the final revelation to make sure that everyone knew that they could marry their adopted son’s exwife.  Because your son’s wife might be pretty, and he might divorce her one day.  Just incase this ever happens, Allah wanted to make sure we know that we can marry her.  What would be the best way to make this happen? To use Muhammad himself to be the first one to implement this wonderful rule.   Scholars say that Muhammad did not fall in love with Zainab, but rather it was Allah’s decision for him to marry her. For the following reason:

The reason for revelation of these verses was that Allaah wanted to a prescribe a law for all believers, that adopted sons did not come under the same rulings as real sons, in any way, and that there was nothing wrong with those who had adopted them marrying their wives (after divorce).   (IslamQA)

The Quran says,

And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favor and you bestowed favor (ie Zaid), “Keep your wife and fear Allah,” while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. So when Zayd had no longer any need for her (divorced her), We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. And ever is the command of Allah accomplished. (al-Ahzaab 33:37)

So why adoption became forbidden at the same time, I can only guess.  Can you guess?  Can you imagine people saying “Oh Muhammad married Zainab the ex-wife of Zaid ibn Muhammad”.   This would have been a very good time to abolish adoption.  Otherwise, why now?

So if adoption is now forbidden, why the need to demonstrate that its okay to marry your adopted son’s exwife?

.. We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. (33:37)

Why the need to demonstrate this? Doesn’t that make demonstrating the marriage pointless?  Nobody can ever adopt now.

7 thoughts on “Adoption and Zainab

  1. Here is a detailed article on the many of the issues brought up on Zainab and Muhammed’s marriage. Please read them carefully to appreciate the information there in, as there are a lot of misinformation out there on this incident.

    BTW, the claim that you made that he had “love” towards Zainab has no historical truth. The reason for this is, the very verse (33:37) tells us that he HID marriage from people, not “love”, as you claimed. Furthermore, even the most authentic Hadith i.e., Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim say that he HID MARRIAGE. That he was not telling the people that he would have to marry her eventually as God had commanded him:



    1. The earliest references we have in the the Seerah – Ibn Saad, Tabari and all the other ones I quoted all come much before Bukhari and Muslim. When was Bukhari and Muslim written?

      1. Abdullah Sameer,you do not seem to have alliance with the truth.You only wish to put your agenda of calumny to justify your disbelief,misbelief and unbelief.Your bogus claims here are historically and rational bogus. Zainab was Allaah’s Messenger-allallaahu ‘alayhi wasalam’s cousin.He was the one to even propose her to marry Zaid so as to break the pagan Arab aristocracy and practically teach egalitarianism based on common-brother hood of mankind.

        History bears bears witness,that despite his best of intentions the marriage was not smooth. Zaynab preferred him-peace be upon him.If he wanted her for himself he could have had her without any problems from day one.But he intended some other lessons to teach humanity and Allah Had his own plans and all must submit to Him including His prophet and bear the insults of the cruel minds like yours.May Allaah guide you aright.

        Why don’t think for yourself as you claim to do while reality you only ape the hatred,campaign of calumnies and attcks of the orientalists and Christian missionaries based on ignorance and prejudice.You say “early sources”,does early always means reliable?Where is your proof for that?If I cook a delicious meal in the morning and repeat the same recipe in the afternoon and you happens to know about the two meals in the evening,does it make sense to contest that the earlier one is better?Earlier sources rationally means nothing but earlier lies if undependable.What maters is reliability and authenticity and not merely how early.Common sense if you think about it.

        Why do you enemies the truth keep singing “earliest islamic sources of Ibn Sa”d,Attabari,Mutal Ibn Sulayman,etc when all serious scholarship-Muslim and secular-concur that many of their contents are merely collections from both reliable and reliable sources meant to be further scrutinized by the experts in the field of ‘ilm rijaal-the unique contribution of Muslims to authenticating oral traditions and transmissions.

        I wish you Allaah’s guidance.

  2. This filthy/ fabricated story was first propounded by Ibn Sa’d….. Do u really know who Ibn Sa’d was?????? a renowned Mu’tazilite, not even a muslim…….

  3. As per usual Muslim apologists do not provide the evidence for their rationalizing immoral behaviour. Mohamed saw her half naked and lusted after her and then miraculously, poof, Allah grants Mohamed desire. Lol. Absurd!

    out on her mattress in a nightgown.”

    Tabari VIII:1 “In this year the Messenger married Zaynab bt. Jahsh [a first cousin: Allah’s Messenger came to the house of Zayd bin [son of] Muhammad. Perhaps the Messenger missed him at that moment. Zaynab, Zayd’s wife, rose to meet him. She was dressed only in a shift…. She jumped up eagerly and excited the admiration of Allah’s Messenger, so that he turned away murmuring something that could scarcely be understood. However, he did say overtly,
    ‘Glory be to Allah Almighty, who causes hearts to turn!’

    So Zayd went to Muhammad. ‘Prophet, I have heard that you came to my house. Why didn’t you go in? Perhaps Zaynab has excited your admiration, so I will leave her.'”

    Tabari VIII:3 “Zayd left her, and she became free. While the Messenger of Allah was talking with Aisha, a fainting overcame him. When he was released from it, he smiled and said, ‘Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news? Allah has married her to me.’
    Then the Prophet recited [Quran 33] to the end of the passage.
    Aisha said, ‘I became very uneasy because of what we heard about her beauty and another thing, the loftiest of matters, what Allah had done for her by personally giving her to him in marriage. I said that she would boast of it over us.'”

    Tabari VIII:4 “One day Muhammad went out looking for Zayd. Now there was a covering of haircloth over the doorway, but the wind had lifted the covering so that the doorway was uncovered. Zaynab was in her chamber, undressed, and admiration for her entered the heart of the Prophet. After that Allah made her unattractive to Zayd.'”

    *** Muhammad’s Allah was INSTANTLY obliging his slave by making the beautiful Zaynab UNATTRACTIVE in the eyes of her husband just so that he would divorce her to satisfy Muhammad’s lust for her ***

    Zainab heard him say this and noticed desire in his eye. Zainab proudly reported this happening to her husband. Zayd immediately went to see the Muhammad and offered to divorce his wife. Muhammad answered, “Hold to your wife and fear Allah.”

    Thereafter, Zainab was no longer a docile wife and Zayd had to divorce her. Muhammad married Zainab Bint Jahsh who was his daughter-in-law. That was definitely taboo in pre-Islamic Arabia, and the ‘Prophet of Islam’ lifted this very taboo in order to satisfy his own lust and fulfill his own desire.

    To be able to marry his new desire, Muhammad had to change one of the fundamental traditions of the Arabs that asserted that an ADOPTED SON is considered as if he were from the BLOODLINE of the father.

    To achieve this purpose, Muhammad very conveniently declared a REVERSAL of this tradition because the ever obliging Allah ‘revealed’ that the tradition was WRONG and had to be changed
    – to suit Muhammad of course.

    5: 5 Call them by (the names) of their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah but if ye know not their father’s (names call them) your Brothers in faith or your Maulas. But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning Most Merciful.

    #3672 Freedmen were often called after their master’s name as the “son of so and so”. When they were slaves, perhaps their father’s names were lost altogether. It is more correct to speak of them as the Maula of so and so. But Maula in Arabic might also imply a close relationship of friendship: in that case, too, it is better to use the right term instead of the term “son”. “Brother” is not objectionable because “Brotherhood” is used in a wider sense than “fatherhood” and is not likely to be misunderstood. (33.5)
    3673 What is aimed at is to destroy the superstition of erecting false relationships to the detriment or loss of true blood relations. It is not intended to penalise an unintentional slip in the matter, and indeed, even if a man deliberately calls another his son or father, who is not his son or father, out of politeness or affection, “Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful”. It is the action of mischievous parties which is chiefly reprehended, if they intend false insinuations. A mere mistake on their part does not matter#

    Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 6.305 Narrated byAbdullah bin Umar
    We used not to call Zaid bin Haritha the freed slave of Allah’s Apostle except Zaid bin Muhammad till the Qu’anic Verse was revealed: “Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers. That is more than just in the Sight of Allah.” (33.5)

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