Zayd ibn Haritha
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
There is one more story before the first revelation that shows the immense beauty of the character of Muhammad ﷺ, and that is the one of the famous Zayd ibn Haritha.
Zayd ibn Haritha (RA) was a Qahtaani Arab from the tribes of Yemen. Now his mother and father were from different tribes that were sometimes allies and sometimes enemies, and so once when Zayd’s mother – Sua’dah – had taken her son to her tribe, a small fight had broken out between the two peoples. And because of this Zayd’s relatives (i.e. his uncles) became so angry that to get revenge on his father they kidnapped him from Sua’dah and sold him into slavery at the grand fairs of Ukaad – the largest marketplace that took place after the Hajj season. Now the person that they had sold him to was Hakim bin Hazaam who was actually Khajida’s nephew, and Khadija had sent him to this souk to purchase a new slave for her. And thus in this way Zayd ibn Haritha – at around 7 years old – became the slave of Khadija (RA).
When Khadija married Muhammad (SAW) she gifted Zayd to him, and so he then became the slave of the prophet and remained that way for around 10 years. In this time, he also became Al-habib (the beloved) of the prophet, which showed the closeness of his relationship with Muhammad (SAW). Now for all these years his father had been frantically searching for him, and he had sent out many messages asking if people had seen his son. One day during Hajj season, someone from the tribes of Yemen who had come to make Hajj saw Zayd and noticed that he wasn’t actually Quraishi. After questioning him, this man realised that this was actually the son of Haritha who had been sought after for so long. And so he returned to Yemen and told Zayd’s father that he had found his son and that he was residing in Mecca as a slave to one of the grandsons of Abdul Muttalib, Muhammad (SAW). On hearing this, Haritha and his brother immediately gathered all of their money and set off to Mecca in order to find Zayd. On arriving they found Muhammad (SAW) resting in the haram, where they told him about their situation and declared that they were willing to buy their son back. And so the prophet, who had become very fond of Zayd, asked, ‘Is this what you want? In that case it is up to him. If he chooses you then I will send him back for free; however if he chooses me then I can never turn away from someone who had turned to me.’
And so the father and uncle were overjoyed as they believed now that they would get Zayd back for free – who wouldn’t choose freedom and home over slavery in a foreign land? And so Muhammad (SAW) called Zayd – who was around 25 at the time – and asked him, ‘Do you recognise these two men?’ to which Zayd replied that he did. The prophet then offered him the choice, to which he instantly answered, ‘I can never choose anyone over you for you are to me more than a father and uncle combined.’ Keep in mind this was before Muhammad (SAW) was a prophet, and yet Zayd already feels such love for this man that he would do the unnatural thing and choose him over his father. And so Haritha said, ‘O Zayd, have you gone crazy? You will choose to be a slave, and refuse to come with your own father to your own tribe?’
To this Zayd responded, ‘Yes, I know what I have said, but I have seen from this man that which I have seen from no other man.’ Right there and then, the prophet stood up and said, ‘Oh people of Mecca, I want you to all testify that from this day Zayd is a free man, and I adopt him as my son and he will inherit from me and I from him.’ Now because he did this right in front of both the father and the uncle, they would both know and take comfort in the knowledge that at least Zayd had been adopted as a free man by the Quraish and would be able to become a member of their society. And thus Zayd ibn Haritha became Zayd ibn Muhammad, at least until much later when Surah Ahzaab was revealed where Allah said, ‘Call children by their fathers,’ and so his name changed back to Zayd ibn Haritha.
When Zayd was a slave he married Umme Ayman – who as we remember was the slave of Aminah and so was inherited by Muhammad (SAW) when she died – and together they had a child born literally in the house of the prophet. And this child was the famous Usama ibn Zayd (RA), who was also extremely beloved by the prophet. In fact both Zayd ibn Haritha and Usama ibn Zayd were so close to the prophet that anytime Zayd was sent anywhere by him he was always the one put in charge. Never was anyone put in charge over Zayd, and he was sent on at least 10 expeditions and conquests and every time he was the commander. Eventually he met his end in the battle of Mu’tah, after which the same blessing of leadership was given to his son Usama despite the fact that he was only 16 or so. Another incident that shows how beloved they were to the prophet happened after he died, when Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) once complained to his father, "How can you give the salary of Usama ibn Zayd more than the salary that you give to me?"
And so Umar (RA) replied, ‘Because he was more beloved to the prophet than you, and because his father was more beloved than your father (and here Umar (RA) is talking about himself).’ Now this was of course a brutal honesty, but it showed the clear status that Muhammad (SAW) gave to Zayd and Usama when he was alive. In fact, Zayd ibn Haritha is the only sahabah ever with the blessing to be mentioned by name in the Quran – not even Abu Bakr (RA) has that privilege – and Allah says about him that he will be the only companion of the prophet to be spoken of till the Day of Judgement. Only him. And some of the other sahabah even said that he was so beloved, so close to the prophet that had he been alive he would have been the first Khalifah. And such were the blessings of Zayd ibn Haritha and Usama ibn Zayd.
Now what can we take away from this beautiful story? The interaction between Muhammad (SAW) and Zayd ibn Haritha alone speaks volumes about the amazing character of the prophet. In that jahilli society there were no laws or rules, simply power. And so when Zayd’s father came to him Muhammad (SAW) had no reason to give him back, except he felt the moral obligation. Despite this, he had grown a strong paternal attachment to him and so offered Zayd the choice, to which he immediately chose him over his own father. Now we can only wonder as to the beauty of the prophet’s personality, so much so that a man would do the completely unthinkable and unprecedented and choose a life of slavery with him rather than go back home to freedom with his family. And it was then to put Haritha’s mind at ease that Muhammad (SAW) freed Zayd and adopted him, showing further his care and consideration to the moral responsibility he had taken upon himself. And subhanAllah, truly these could only be the actions of the final Messenger of Allah.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 010