Chapter 1, Hadith & Seerah, The Authority of Sunnah / Sunday, August 17th, 2008

It is well known that the Holy Prophet (SAWS) had adopted Sayyidna Zaid ibn Harithah as his son. He married Zainab daughter of Jahsh. After some time, their relations begun to get strained and, ultimately, he divorced her. In the days of Jahiliyyah an adopted son was treated as a real son in all respects, and for all purposes. The Holy Quran, on the other hand, declared that the adopted sons cannot be treated as the real ones.

To eradicate the Jahili concept of the adopted son, Allah Almighty ordered the Holy Prophet (SAWS) that he should marry Zainab after her having been divorced by his adopted son, Zaid ibn Harithah. The Holy Prophet (SAWS) was a bit reluctant in the beginning, for, according to the prevalent cus tom, it was treated a shameful act to marry the divorced wife of one’s adopted son. But when the Holy Prophet (SAWS) received a concrete order from Allah, he married her.

This event has been mentioned by the Holy Quran in the following words:

“When you were saying to the one whom Allah had blessed and whom you had blessed, (i.e. Zaid before he divorced Zainab), “Keep to you your wife and fear Allah,” and you were hiding in your heart what Allah was to disclose and you were fearing people, and Allah has more right to be feared by you. So, when Zaid finished with her, We made you marry her, so that there may remain no restriction on the believers in respect of the wives
of their adopted sons when they have finished with them. And the order of Allah had to be done.” (33:37)

Here the words, ‘you were hiding in your heart what Allah was to disclose’ refers to the fact that Allah had informed the Holy Prophet (SAWS) that he will marry Zainab after she is divorced by Zaid. The Holy Prophet (SAWS) knew that, ultimately, she is going to be divorced by Zaid, but, out of shame, he could not disclose it and when Zaid consulted him in the matter, he advised him to keep to his wife and not to divorce her.

From this it follows that the Holy Prophet (SAWS) had been foretold by Allah that Zainab was going to be divorced by her husband. But this information is not contained in the Holy Quran. It was given to him through an unrecited revelation.

The second sentence is more significant in the
context, that is, “We made you marry her.” Here Allah Almighty declares that
the marriage between the Holy Prophet (SAWS) and Sayyidah Zainab was contracted
by an order of Allah. This order is nowhere mentioned in the Holy Quran. Still,
the Holy Quran affirms it. This is another confirmation of an order conveyed to
the Holy Prophet (SAWS) through an ‘unrecited revelation’.

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