Zayd b. Thabit

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Zayd b. Thabit
Personal Information
TeknonymAbu Sa'id, Abu 'Abd al-Rahman, ...
LineageBanu l-Najjar branch of the Khazraj
Birth11 BH/611-2
Place of BirthMedina
Place(s) of ResidenceMecca, Medina
Religious Information
Presence at ghazwasBattle of Khandaq, Battle of Hunayn
Migration toMedina
Known forScribe of the revelation

Zayd b. Thābit b. al-Ḍaḥḥāk (Arabic: زید بن ثابت بن ضحّاک), d. 45/ 665-6) was one of the Prophet Muhammad's (s) Sahaba (companions). Although he grew up in Mecca, he was originally from the Banu l-Najjar branch of the Khazraj tribe in Yathrib. On some accounts, he is mentioned as a scribe of the revelation among the Ansar. He assisted the three first Rashidun Caliphs, but he did not pledge his allegiance to Imam Ali (a). At the time of hijra (Muslims' emigration to Medina), Zayd was 11 years old, and he died at the age of 56.

Lineage and Teknonym

According to a widely accepted account, Zayd's genealogy is as follows: Zayd b. Thabit b. al-Dahhak b. Zayd b. Lawdhan b. 'Amr b. 'Awf b. Ghanam b. Malik b. al-Najjar al-Ansari al-Khazraji, and his mother al-Nawwar, the daughter of Malik b. Sirma or Malik b. Mu'awiya, was from Khazraj in Medina.

There are considerable disagreements in sources with respect to Zayd's father and some of his characteristics. Some sources took him to be the son of Thabit b. Khalifa al-Ashhali, who was one of the Prophet (s)'s Sahaba from the Aws tribe. Others took him to be al-Dahhak al-Ashhali's son who was a hypocrite and spy of Jews.

Zayd was known by his different teknonyms, including:

  • Abu Sa'id
  • Abu 'Abd al-Rahman
  • Abu Kharija
  • Abu Thabit

Birth and Childhood

Zayd was born 11 years before hijra (611-2) in Medina, but he grew up in Mecca. When he was 6 years old, his father was killed in the battle of Bu'ath that occurred between Aws and Khazraj before the Prophet (s)'s hijra (emigration) to Medina. When he was 11 years old, he emigrated to Medina together with other Muslims and learned about the Islamic teachings. He had 18 sons and 9 daughters, and 7 of his children were killed in the Event of Harra.

As a Scribe of the Revelation

Some sources took Zayd to be a scribe of the revelation [that is, a person who wrote down Quranic verses when they were revealed to the holy Prophet (s)], but this report was thrown into doubt by some scholars, since he was only 11 years old at the time of hijra, and so could not have been a scribe of the Quran. Moreover, during the early years of the Prophet (s)'s presence in Medina he was not old enough to be a scribe. What might support this, is that the fact that the holy Prophet (s) did not allow him to attend the Battle of Badr because of his age.

There are other stories about Zayd that seem exaggerative. For instance, in addition to considering Zayd as scribe of the revelation, Ibn 'Asakir took him to be one of the senior Sahaba of the Prophet (s). Some people even took him to be prominent with respect to judicial and religious affairs, fatwas and the recital of the Quran.

Ibn Sa'd took him to be one of the four people who collected the Quran at the time of the Prophet (s). He also cited a hadith from the Prophet (s) saying that "the most knowledgeable person in my people about the (jurisprudential) issues of inheritance is Zayd b. Thabit".

According to another account, when Zayd was 11 years old the Prophet (s) told him to learn Hebrew or Syriac alphabets, and he learned them within 9 or 11 days.

Contrary to such accounts, there are for instance accounts according to which Ibn Mas'ud said: "when I learned 70 chapters of the Quran from the Prophet (s), Zayd b. Thabit was studying in maktab (school) with his woven hair".

And Ibn Abi Ka'b said about Zayd: "when I was reciting the holy Quran, Zayd was a child with woven hair who played with Jews".

Attendance in the Battles

Since Zayd was too young, the Prophet (s) did not allow him to attend the Battle of Badr; the Prophet (s) sent him and some others back to Medina. He was not allowed to attend the Battle of Uhud for the same reason.

Zayd himself said: "I was not allowed to attend the battles of Badr and Uhud, but I was allowed to attend the Battle of Khandaq, and the Prophet (s) put Qibti clothes on me".

During the Battle of Hunayn, Zayd b. Thabit was ordered by the Prophet (s) to survey the number of people and the booties.

In the Time of Abu Bakr

After the Prophet (s)'s demise, Zayd supported the caliphate of Abu Bakr. In the event of Saqifa Bani Sa'ida, he reached his hand to Abu Bakr and said: "this is your caliph" and then he pledged his allegiance to him. Abu Bakr appreciated his remarks and prayed for him. During the reign of Abu Bakr, Zayd was one of his scribes.

In the Time of 'Umar

During the reign of the Second Caliph, Zayd possessed a remarkable social prestige. 'Umar b. al-Khattab frequently appointed Zayd as his surrogate in Medina during his travels out of the city.

Moreover, during the reign of 'Umar, Zayd was a prominent judge and received a salary from 'Umar.

In the Time of 'Uthman

His judicial position was reconfirmed by 'Uthman. Moreover, he was also appointed as the head of the treasury and the office, and when 'Uthman was out of Medina, Zayd served as his surrogate.

In 34/655 when protestors intended to kill 'Uthman, Zayd together with Abu Usayd al-Sa'idi, Ka'b b. Malik, and Hassan b. Thabit, tried to defend 'Uthman.

In the Time of Imam 'Ali (a)

There are different stories about Zayd's allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a). According to Ibn Sa'd, Zayd pledged his allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a). But others, such as al-Mas'udi and al-'Allama al-Majlisi, reported that Zayd did not pledge his allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a).

'Abd Allah al-Mahd reports that when 'Uthman was killed, all people from Ansar pledged their allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a), except some people including Zayd b. Thabit, and Imam 'Ali (a) did not force them to do so.

In general, Zayd was a strong advocate of 'Uthman and never attended any of Imam 'Ali (a)'s battles, though he acknowledged the virtues of Imam 'Ali (a).


There are controversies about the year of Zayd's death. According to historians, he died in 45/665-6 or 48/668-9 or even after 50/670. However, most of them take the year of his death to be 45.

Al-Dhahabi quotes al-Waqidi as saying that Zayd died in 45/665-6 at the age of 56. When he died, Marwan b. al-Hakam said prayers on his corpse.

When Zayd died, Abu Hurayra said: "today the scholar of Muslims died, and we hope that God makes Ibn 'Abbas his successor".