How was Zayd bin Haritha sold as a slave, was put under the protection of the Prophet (pbuh), was freed by the Prophet and was adopted by the Prophet (pbuh)?

The Details of the Question

How was Zayd bin Haritha sold as a slave, was put under the protection of the Prophet (pbuh), was freed by the Prophet and was adopted by the Prophet (pbuh)?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Zayd ibn Harithah belonged to the Kalb tribe. When he was only eight years old and a small shepherd, he had gone with his mother to one of their relative’s homes where he was captured as a slave during the raid of another tribe. He was purchased by Hazrat Khadija’s nephew, Hakim, for 400 dirhams at the slave market and was brought to Mecca. (Tabaqat, 1/497; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 2/224; al-Isaba, 1/563) Khadija took him from her nephew and sheltered him in her home.

During this time, Hazrat Khadija and our Holy Prophet (PBUH) were a married couple.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) loved this child. For this reason, he wanted the child to be handed over to him. His venerable wife complied with our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) wish.

As soon as he was given to our Holy Prophet (PBUH), the Prophet set him free. (Sirah, 1/264; Tabaqat, 1/497)

As mentioned before, Zayd was a small child. His parents did not know where he was taken and whom he was sold to. The Harithah family cried for their missing child every day. His father, Harithah, could not stay put in his home. He traveled from region to region. He had visited every tribe to ask if they knew the whereabouts of his son and there had been no ground that he had not traveled. He continuously recited poems while he madly searched for his son.

It was as if little Zayd had forgotten all about his parents. The bliss of this happy family had embraced his soul with all its power and had virtually made him to become an inseparable part. He was comfortable and had become close with our Holy Prophet (PBUH); he was happy and peaceful under our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) wings of compassion.

- Zayd bin Harithah’s father came to take his son with him; however, Zayd bin Harithah did not go with his father but preferred to stay with the Prophet (PBUH). In response, the Prophet (PBUH) adopted Zayd bin Harithah. How did this all take place?

Zayd’s Place is Located!

One day, a few people from the Kalb tribe visited the Kaaba. During this time, they saw Zayd and recognized him once they began conversing with him. They told Zayd that his father and mother were continuously crying for him and that they were inflamed with longing.

However, Zayd was very calm and relaxed. He had a peace of mind since the favors that he was receiving were more divine and holy than the love that his parents had for him. For that reason, he gave the following reply:

“I know that my parents are crying for me. I only ask that you convey what I am about to say to them:

“Although I am very far away, I live close to and serve the Baytullah, the place where the Hajj (pilgrimage) takes place. They should forgo spending their last strength to reacquire me, traveling long distances, and having their camels drudge about the face of the Earth.

I thank Allah that I am with a very auspicious and honorable family that has descended from Maad’s bloodline-whose nobility has been passed onwards from descendant to descendant.”1

When Haritha received this message, he immediately arrived with his brother, Kab, in Mecca; they carried a large sum of money with the intention of saving Zayd. After inquiring about Zayd’s whereabouts, they found our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and said,

“O Chief of the Quraysh, O son of the chief of his people. You are a neighbor of the temple mount and of the temple mount community. You untie the bonds from the slaves who are near the Baytullah and fill their stomachs.” After speaking these words, they declared their purpose: “We came for our son, who is by your side. Request a ransom that will satisfy us; we will pay you that sum. Just free our son.”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked,
“Who is your son?”
They said, “Zayd bin Harithah.”
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) then asked, “Is there anything else that you want?”
They replied, “No, we do not want anything else.”
Thereupon, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said,

“If he chooses you, then the ransom is yours and you can take him. But if he chooses me, then by Allah, I will never choose to part with anyone who chooses to stay with me.”2

Haritha and his brother were glad to hear those words of the Prophet. They said, “You treated us mercifully and justly!”
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked Zayd, “Do you know them?”
Zayd replied “Yes, I do”
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) again asked, “Who are they?”
Zayd then replied, “This is my father and this is my uncle.”

Afterwards, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) left Zayd the freedom to decide and said,

“You have learned who I am and have seen the love and compassion that I have for you. In that case, you can choose me and stay here or you can prefer to go with them.”

Zayd replied as follows:

“I do not prefer anyone to you. You have taken the place of my mother and father.”

Haritha, who was surprised and shocked by his son’s response, replied with rage “Shame on you. It means that you prefer being enslaved to your freedom, your mother, father, uncle, and household.”

However, Zayd did not share the same conviction; he said, “My dear father, I have seen such remarkable things from this individual that I can never prefer anyone to him.”3

In this way, little Zayd had proven his loyalty and attachment to our Holy Prophet (PBUH). Fate was preparing him for a bright and shining future. This condition was his first good tiding.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) Adopts Zayd

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was not late in rewarding Zayd for his incomparable devotion. He immediately took Zayd by the hand and directed him to the Hijir neighborhood where the Quraysh lived. He then addressed the crowd:

“Oh, those who are present! Bear witness that Zayd is my son; I am his heir and he is mine.”

The Meccans would do this whenever they wanted to adopt someone. And by conforming to this custom, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) had adopted Zayd as his son. Our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) beautiful gesture caused a breeze of happiness to stir in Harithah’s heart. This meant that his son was in safe hands. With his heart at peace, Harithah left his son with the Pride of the Universe (PBUH) and returned to his homeland.4

After this, everyone began to refer to Zayd as, “Zayd-the Son of Muhammad”. However, after our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was appointed as a Messenger, he received a revelation calling for those who had been adopted to be referred to by the names of their biological fathers.5 Thereupon, Hazrat Zayd was referred to as “Zayd-the Son of Harithah”.

In regards to this matter, a verse in the Quran says:

'Call them by the names of their fathers'; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers - then they are still your brothers in religion and those entrusted to you…”6

Hazrat Umar’s son, Abdullah (r.a), said:

"We used not to call Zayd as Zayd ibn Harithah but Zayd ibn Muhammad until the verse, 'Call them by the names of their fathers' was issued"7

Furthermore, the revelation of this verse abolished inheritance by virtue of adoption. After our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was assigned the duty of Prophethood, and following Hazrat Khadija’s and Hazrat Ali’s conversion to Islam, Hazrat Zayd attained the glory of being the third person to have become a Muslim.

Our holy prophet loved Hazrat Zayd too much. From time to time, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) would compliment him by saying,

“Oh Zayd, you are our brother in faith and our freed slave.”8

At a much later time, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) married this esteemed individual whom he loved dearly off to his nanny, Umm Ayman. Hazrat Usama was the result of this union; our Holy Prophet (PBUH) loved him wholeheartedly and would carry him on his saddle most of the time.


1. Tabaqat, 3/41; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 2/225; al-Isaba, /1/523.
2. Tabaqat, 3/42; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 2/225; al-Isaba, /1/523.
3. Tabaqat, 3/42; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 2/225.
4. Tabaqat, 3/42; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 2/225; al-Isaba, /1/563.
5. Surah al-Ahzab, 5, 40.
6. Surah al-Ahzab, 5.
7. Tabaqat, 3/43; Bukhari, 3/174; Muslim, 3/131.
8. Bukhari, 3/303.

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