Zaynab bint Khuzaymah was the stepsister of both Umm al-Fadhl and the Mother of the Faithful, Maymoonah. They were from the same mother, yet had different fathers.
She was fortunate, in that she embraced Islaam in the early days of the Prophetic Mission. She then married 'Abdullah ibn Jahsh and migrated with him to Abyssinia due to the difficulties and persecution the Muslims were facing in Makkah.
Zaynab was of fine and noble origin. This, along with her pure religion, blossomed and produced in her great fruits, the most outstanding of which was piety. The fragrance of her piety still spreads with her name and whenever she is mentioned. The pleasant fruits of this piety would flow abundantly forth from her hands towards the poor and the needy in the form of unlimited gifts and charity. She was so charitable that she was known as and given the title of being the 'mother of the poor'. Indeed, she was following the way of the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said in a supplication: "O Allah, make me live as a poor person, cause me to die as a poor person and resurrect me amidst the group of poor people!"
'Abdullah was a cousin of Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him), his mother namely being Umaamah bint 'Abdul-Muttalib. Zaynab's life with 'Abdullah was a clear example of love, obedience and self-sacrifice in fulfilling her marital obligations towards him. The personality of her husband was so outstanding that it drove her to be even more humble than she already was and more sincere in her love for Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). Humility, as we will come to see, was a prominent quality of Zaynab's personality. In actual fact she was an emblem of humbleness.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) appointed her husband as the leader of the first contingent. The Prophet said the following words to the Companions regarding her husband, "I will certainly send a man who is most enduring of hunger and thirst among you."
It was on a momentous Sunday in the third year after the Hijrah when 'Abdullah was martyred. There are great lessons contained within this incident for all those who wish to struggle and fight in the cause of Allah, be they men or women.
Al-Baghawi reported on the authority of Ishaaq ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqaas that he said:
"My father informed me that 'Abdullah ibn Jahsh said to him on the day of Uhud,
'Wouldn't you come so that we can supplicate?'
He said, 'Then we moved into a corner and Sa'd made a supplication saying, 'O my Lord! When we meet (the enemy) today let me come into confrontation with a man who is sternly furious whom I will fight for Your cause. Then let me overcome him so that I can kill him and seize his weapons.'
'Abdullah ibn Jahsh said Aameen to this supplication and then said,
'O Allah! Let me meet a sternly furious man whom I will fight in Your cause and let him take hold of me and cut my nose and ears, so that when I meet You I will say, 'This is in Your cause and in the cause of Your Messenger' and You will say, 'You have said the truth.'
Sa'd said, "The supplication of 'Abdullah was better than mine. I saw him later on that day with his nose and ears hanging in a thread."
Az-Zubayr ibn Bakkar narrated:
"‘Abdullah ibn Jahsh used to be called 'the one who was mutilated in Allah's cause.' His sword was broken in the Battle of Uhud and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) gave him a thin dry rod which turned into a sword while in his hand. Thereafter he was nicknamed 'the thin dry rod.' This sword was still in existence until it was sold to Bagha, the Turkish, for two hundred dinaars."
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came to know of the pain that Zaynab was suffering as a widow after the death of her husband. In order to properly support and look after her he proposed marriage to her. She jubilantly welcomed and accepted the proposal and henceforth was known as the Mother of the Faithful, which is indeed a high and noble status, an honour that is greater than all other honours. She entered his household with a new title of respect other than just being the 'Mother of the Poor'.
Eight months after the marriage of Zaynab, the mother of the faithful and the mother of the poor, to the Prophet (peace be upon him) she became seriously ill. This illness turned out to be the cause of her death.
She was the only wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who died during his lifetime other than Khadeejah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was very sad at her departure. He invoked Allah to forgive her and he always remembered her for her patience and perseverance.