The Prophet r and Abu Al-‘Aas ibn ar-Rabiah:
The Prophet’s eldest daughter Zaynab was married to Abu Al-‘Aas ibn ar-Rab'iah, who was a trader and the maternal nephew of his wife, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, . Within a few years of their marriage, the Prophet r received the first revelation. While all the members of the Prophet’s household accepted Islam, Abu Al-‘Aas did not adopt what he considered a “new religion”. At that time, the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man was not prohibited, yet, a number of people from the Quraysh tried to instigate Abu Al-‘Aas to divorce his wife in order to spite the Prophet r but he refused to do so.
During the Battle of Badr, Abu Al-‘Aas was compelled to fight against the Muslims along with the Quraysh. The Muslims were victorious and captured a great deal of war spoils and enemy soldiers. Among the captives was Abu-l ‘Aas. The Prophet r decided to ransom the prisoners of war after consulting with the Companions. Zaynab was in Makkah at that time, and she sent a messenger to Al-Madinah bearing the ransom for her husband, that included a necklace which her mother, Khadijah had given her. When the Prophet r saw the necklace, he turned to his Companions and said: "Zaynab has sent this amount to ransom Abu-l ‘Aas. If you see fit to set free her prisoner and return her possession to her, then do so." The Companions agreed and the Prophet r asked Abu Al-‘Aas to return to Makkah, upon the condition that he would send Zaynab to Al-Madinah at once. Abu Al-‘Aas was true to his word and sent Zaynab to Al-Madinah at once.
Abu Al-‘Aas stayed in Makkah for several years until he left for a trip to Syria. On his way back to Makkah, a group of Muslims came upon his caravan, seized the animals and goods and sent the members as captives to the Prophet r. However, Abu Al-‘Aas managed to escape and entered Al-Madinah at night where he went to Zaynab's house and sought her protection. The next morning at the Dawn Prayer, Zaynab called out from the women's section that she had granted protection to Abu Al-‘Aas and requested the Muslims to do the same. After the prayer, the Prophet r asked the congregation whether they had heard Zaynab’s request. When they confirmed they had, he said: "By Him in Whose hand is my soul, I knew nothing of this until I heard what you heard. He is asking protection from the Muslims."
The Prophet r instructed Zaynab to keep herself separate from Abu-l ‘Aas, as the couple were not lawful for each other, and summoned the men who had captured the caravan and gave them the choice to return the caravan or keep it, adding that it would please him if they let it go. The Companions agreed to return the goods and free the captives.
Abu Al-‘Aas then returned to Makkah and discharged all the wealth and goods to their rightful owners. Then he asked: "O people of Quraysh! Is there any money left with me belonging to any one of you which he has not taken?" The people replied that they had received their dues. Upon hearing this, Abu Al-‘Aas said: "Since I have now handed over to you what is rightfully yours, I now declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. By God, the only thing that prevented me from declaring my acceptance of Islam while I was with Muhammad r in Al-Madinah was my fear that you would think that I did so only to appropriate your wealth. Now that I have discharged my trust in this matter, I now declare that I am a Muslim."
After that, Abu Al-‘Aas returned to Al-Madinah where the Prophet r received him warmly and returned his wife to him. The Prophet r used to say about him: "He spoke to me and was truthful to me. He made promises to me and remained faithful to his word.”
What is remarkable about the Prophet’s relationship with Abu Al-‘Aas is that the Prophet r treated him with great consideration and compassion, although he had once fought in a battle against the Muslims. Another characteristic of the Prophet r was that he was firm when it came to obeying the commands of Allah, no matter if the people in question were his own flesh and blood. By insisting upon separating his daughter from Abu Al-‘Aas until the time he became a Muslim, the Prophet r established an inspiring example of firmness in upholding Allah’s commands and kindness when dealing with another human being, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not.
The Prophet r and `Uthman ibn ‘Affan t
When the Muslims were leaving to fight the Quraysh at Badr, one man stayed behind. He was `Uthman ibn Affan‘, who was left behind because the Prophet r insisted that he stay back and take care of his wife Ruqayyah who was the Prophet’s daughter and was suffering from a serious ailment at the time. `Uthman t and Ruqayyah had migrated together twice, first to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and then to Al-Madinah and had faced several trials together in the course of their married life. It was an indication of the Prophet’s sensitivity and kindness that he left `Uthman t to take care of his wife when she was critically ill, even though the Muslims were involved in a crucial battle where they were outnumbered by the enemy.
When the news of the Muslims’ victory at Badr reached Al-Madinah, `Uthman t was returning after burying his wife. He was deeply grieved and subsequently, rejected ‘Umar’s offer of marriage to his daughter Hafsah who had been recently widowed. When the Prophet r heard of this, he suggested “a better wife for `Uthman and a better husband for Hafsah” and gave his other daughter Umm Kulthum, in marriage to `Uthman t and married Hafsah himself, thus maintaining ties with two of his closest companions. `Uthman’s marriage with Umm Kulthum was short-lived, for she too passed away barely six years after her marriage. It is reported that after Umm Kulthum’s death, `Uthman was deeply despondent. When asked the reason, he told the questioner: “Do you not see that I was entrusted with two of the Prophet’s daughters and they both passed away while in my care?” When the Prophet r was informed of `Uthman’s grief, he assured him of his trust and counselled him to accept Allah’s Will. In order to console ’Uthman t and reassure him, he reportedly said: “If I had a third daughter, I would have wed her to you.” The Prophet r counselled `Uthman t to accept Allah’s Will – good or bad – as befitting a believer. At the same time, he showed utmost sensitivity, mercy and compassion to the emotional needs of `Uthman t, by consoling him and reiterating his trust, thus emphasising that brotherhood in Islam is the closest relationship of all.
The Prophet r and ‘Ali t
In the second year after emigration, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib t approached the Prophet r to ask for the hand of his youngest daughter, Fatimah. However, ‘Ali t was so reticent that he said nothing in the Prophet’s presence, until the Prophet r himself suggested:
"Perhaps you have come to propose marriage to Fatimah." When ‘Ali affirmed this, according to one report, the Prophet r said simply: " Welcome into the family." According to another narration, the Prophet r approved and asked ‘Ali t if he had anything to give as dowry.
When ‘Ali t expressed his lack of resources, the Prophet r suggested that he sell a shield that he had with him. The Prophet r himself performed the marriage ceremony and the Muslims organised a simple wedding feast of dates, figs and Hays (a mixture of dates and butter fat), and a ram was slaughtered. He presented Fatimah and ‘Ali y with some basic domestic articles: a wooden bed made of woven palm leaves, a leather cushion filled with palm fibre, a sheepskin, a pot, a waterskin and a quern for grinding grain. This presents a sharp contrast to the two extremes that are prevalent today – in some cultures the father of the bride is virtually rendered penniless, because of the expenses that he incurs on the daughter’s marriage; in other cultures, the bride’s family demands an extravagant dowry from the groom before finalising the marriage.
It is evident from the account of ‘Ali t and Fatimah’s marriage, that both these practices are not from the tradition of the Prophet r. He did not impose a high dowry upon ‘Ali t, nor did he belittle him or refuse Fatimah’s hand due to ‘Ali’s lack of resources. The Prophet r sent his nurse-maid Barakah (Umm Ayman) to help Fatimah settle down in her new home. On the morning after the wedding, the Prophet r visited the couple and asked Umm Ayman to “call his brother”. The Prophet r invoked Allah’s blessings upon ‘Ali y and told Fatimah: "I have married you to the dearest of my family to me."
The Prophet r was tender-hearted and considerate of the feelings of others at all times. He realised that Fatimah had no mother, and ‘Ali y had no immediate family except himself, thus he visited them and reiterated his closeness with ‘Ali t in order to emphasise that they were part of one family and to cement the feelings of love and trust among them.
The Prophet r was as much a father-figure to ‘Ali t, as he was to Fatimah. Once, the Prophet r visited Fatimah and found her alone. He enquired: “Where is your cousin?” She answered that there had been an altercation between them, following which ‘Ali t had left the house. The Prophet r looked for ‘Ali t, until he found him lying in a corner of the mosque. Seeing his sheet covered with dust, the Prophet r called out to him affectionately: “Rise, O Abu Turab!” Years later, after the Prophet r passed away, ‘Ali t would say there was no other name that he liked being addressed by, as much as this nickname that reminded him of the Prophet r and his affection for him.