What about the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) Marriage to Zaynab (may Allah be pleased with her) after her Divorce from Zayed bin Haarithah (may Allah be pleased with him)
Zayed bin Haarithah (radhi Allaahu anhu) was a slave of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) before he freed and adopted him. His name was Zayed bin Muhammad until Allah revealed the command:
Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers, that is more just with Allah. [Qur’aan 33: 5].
Afterwards people called him Zayed bin Haarithah. As to Zaynab, she was Zaynab bint Jahsh bin Rabaab Al-Asdiyyah. Her mother was Umaymah bint ‘Abdul Mutalib, the aunt of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). It was the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) who worked for her to get married to Zayed when he was his adopted son. She initially refused and said she was better than him in lineage. It is reported that Allah صلى الله عليه و سلم revealed the following verse concerning this matter:
It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error. [Qur’an 33: 36].
So she accepted and submitted in obedience to the command of Allah and as a fulfillment of the wish of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). She stayed one year in marriage with Zayed. They encountered some marital problems. So Zayed complained to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and he, Zayed, hinted that he may divorce her. So the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told him to hold on to the marriage and be patient despite the fact that he knew by inspiration from Allah that Zayed will divorce her and that she will be his (the Prophet’s wife). He, however, feared that people might insult him as someone who marries his adopted son’s wife, something forbidden in the pre-Islamic traditions. Allah (Azza wa Jal) blamed the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) on that:
“And (remember) when you said to him (Zayed bin Haarithah; the freed slave of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم too) have done favour (by manumitting him) “Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah.” But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., Muhammad married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. [Qur’an 33: 37].
Therefore, you hid in yourself what Allah informed you already of that which will actually take place (divorce of Zaynab from Zayed) and your marriage of her in accordance with Allah’s plan and as manifestation of His Wisdom. Moreover, that you feared people’s sayings and their insults while Allah deserves to be feared most. Thus, you should have declared what was inspired to you from the details related to you, Zayed and Zaynab, without any consideration of people’s attitudes.
As to the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) marriage from Zaynab, he conducted the marriage contract on her after she finished her waiting period following her divorce from Zayed. Allah gave her in marriage to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) without a guardian on her behalf or witnesses, for he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is the guardian of all believers. Rather he is closer to them than their ownselves, as Allah described him:
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is closer to the believers than their ownselves, and his wives are their (believers’) mothers (as regards respect and marriage). [Qur’aan 33:6]
Though this marriage, Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) nullified adoption as practiced in the pre-Islamic era, and made it lawful for Muslims to marry the wives of adopted sons after divorce or death of the husbands. This is from Allah’s Mercy and a removal of any unease regarding such relations. Allah clearly stated in the following decree:
So when Zayed had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah’s Command must be fulfilled. [Qur’aan 33: 37-40].
As to the story claiming that the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) heart became attached to Zaynab after he saw her from behind a veil, and he fell in love and desired her, and that when Zayed knew of this he disliked her and decided to divorce her, then this has not been verified in any authentic way. The Prophets are far removed from such base manners and are in high and noble rank in their characters and behaviors. Not to forget that it was the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) himself who wanted her to get married to Zayed in the first place. Had he been attached to her, and in love with her, he would have preferred her for himself, especially when she refused to marry Zayed in the beginning. The reality, therefore, is that it is the pre-decreed plan of Allah and His judgment in order to nullify the habits and traditions of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, and to have Mercy and Clemency on mankind.
Source: Wedding to Four and Lawfully More – Dr Saleh As-Saleh rahimahullah