Muhammad, Zaynab, and Adoption in Islam
Muhammad had an adopted son named Zayd, who was called “Zayd bin Muhammad” (“Zayd, son of Muhammad”). One day, Muhammad went to visit him and was greeted by Zayd’s wife, Zaynab, who was one of the most beautiful women in Arabia, and who was wearing very little clothing at the time.
Here’s what happened according to al-Tabari: “She jumped up in haste and excited the admiration of the Messenger of God, so that he turned away murmuring something that could scarcely be understood. However, he did say overtly: ‘Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes hearts to turn!’”
When Zayd found out that Muhammad was attracted to his wife, he decided to divorce her. Muhammad, of course, was worried about what people might think, so he said, “No, keep your wife.” But by that time, Zaynab had found out that Muhammad was attracted to her, and so she began despising her husband. And Zayd, wanting to give his adopted father whatever he desired, divorced his wife.
Muhammad was still worried about what people might think if he married Zaynab, but then he began receiving revelations to justify the marriage. He received Surah 33:37, which says that it’s okay to marry the divorced wives of your adopted sons. But people began criticizing him anyway.
So Muhammad received another revelation, Surah 33:4-5, which says that adopted sons aren’t really sons, and so the rule just doesn’t apply. From that point on, Zayd was no longer called Muhammad’s son, and Muhammad and Zaynab lived happily ever after.
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