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Selfless in Her Generosity

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Sayyidah Zainab bintu Jahsh (radhiyallahu ‘anha), the respected wife of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), was renowned for her passion for giving wealth in sadaqah and assisting the poor.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had once informed his respected wives that the first of them to join him after his demise (i.e. the first of them to pass away) would be the wife with the longest arms. The respected wives of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) initially understood this statement literally and thus began to measure and compare the length of their arms, determining that Sayyidah Saudah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) had the longest arms. However, when Sayyidah Zainab bintu Jahsh (radhiyallahu ‘anha) passed away first, they realized that ‘longest arms’ was actually a metaphorical reference to the one who gave the most sadaqah. Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) loved to give sadaqah, and would earn a living (from home) by tanning skins and sewing them into leather products which she would sell, using the income to spend on the poor and needy. (Saheeh Bukhaari #1420, Saheeh Muslim #6316, Fat-hul Baari vol. 3, pg. 367 and Mirqaat vol. 4, pg. 377)

After the demise of Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha), Sayyidah ‘Aaishah (radhiyallahu ‘anha), her co-wife, mentioned the following regarding her, “She has departed (from this world) while her condition was such that she was worthy of praise and would engage in abundant ‘ibaadah, and she was the one whom the orphans and widows would turn to for help in difficulty.” (Al-Isaabah vol. 8, pg. 155)

Sayyidah Ummu Salamah (radhiyallahu ‘anha), who was also the respected wife of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), and thus another co-wife of Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha), mentioned the following regarding her after her demise. She said, “She was pious, would keep abundant nafl fasts, and would stand in salaah abundantly. She would use her hands to earn money (through tanning skins into leather), and would spend all her earnings on the poor.” (Taareekh Ibni ‘Asaakir vol. 3, pg. 212)

Describing Sayyidah Zainab’s (radhiyallahu ‘anha) selfless spirit of generosity, Barzah bintu Raafi’ (rahimahallah) reports the following incident. She says,

When the annual allowance (of the respected wives of Rasulullah [sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam] and mothers of the Ummah) was being taken out (and given to them from the public treasury), then Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) sent Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) her allotted share.

When the money was brought to her, Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) remarked, “May Allah Ta‘ala forgive ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)! My sisters (i.e. co-wives) are more capable than me in distributing this wealth!” (In other words, the amount was so large that Sayyidah Zainab [radhiyallahu ‘anha] thought that this amount was being entrusted to her to give in sadaqah, and hence she mentioned that her co-wives were more capable in distributing it.)

When she said this, the people (who had brought the wealth) said to her, “(Actually,) this entire amount is for you.” Hearing this, she exclaimed, “Subhaanallah!” She then instructed them to leave the wealth on the floor and cover it with a cloth.

Thereafter, she said to me, “Insert your hand (under the cloth) and take out a handful of coins. Go to the children of so-and-so, and the children of so-and-so (and give the money to them).” Saying this, she took the names of some of her relatives and some orphans of her family.

In this way, Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) continued to distribute the money, until only a small amount remained under the cloth. Finally, I said to her, “O Ummul Mu-mineen! May Allah Ta‘ala forgive you! By Allah – we also have a right in this (wealth)!” Hearing this, Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) replied, “You may take what remains beneath the cloth.” (On taking out the remaining money,) we found that it amounted to eighty-five dirhams (silver coins).

In another narration regarding the abovementioned incident, it is reported that the amount she received on this occasion was twelve thousand dirhams. However, she only took this amount on this year, when it was sent to her (as described above). After this wealth came to her, she raised her hands and made du‘aa to Allah Ta‘ala saying, “O Allah! Do not let me receive this wealth next year, for it is a fitnah (test)!” She then distributed the wealth among her relatives and other people in need.

When Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) heard that she had spent the entire amount in sadaqah, he said, “This is a woman for whom goodness has been intended (by Allah Ta‘ala i.e. Allah Ta‘ala has decreed goodness for her)!” He then went to her home, stood at the door, and conveyed his salaam, also mentioning that he had learnt of her spending her entire allowance in sadaqah. Thereafter, Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) sent her a further one thousand dirhams so that she could (keep it for herself and) use it for her personal needs. However, she also took this amount and spent it all in sadaqah.

Allah Ta‘ala accepted the du‘aa of Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha), and accordingly she passed away before she could receive the following year’s allowance. In this manner, she became the first wife of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to depart from this world after his demise.

(Tabaqaat Ibni Sa’d vol. 8, pg. 109 & 110)

Lessons:

1. The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) lived in the world, but the world did not live in them. In other words, their hearts were not contaminated and polluted with the love for the world. Hence, they were not attached to wealth and possessions, and did not hesitate to spend on others – even if meant sacrificing their own comfort for the sake of their fellow Muslims.

2. Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) was blessed with such generosity that she not only spent all that she possessed on others – she even earned money from home in order to be able to assist people in need.

3. Money is a double edged sword. Just as wealth can assist a person to earn the rewards of Jannah – it can also become the means of him being punished in Jahannam, in the case where the wealth is earned incorrectly, spent incorrectly, etc. Hence, Sayyidah Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha) did not wish to keep the wealth with her, as she understood that wealth is a great test.