by Bint Salauddin (Atlanta, Georgia)
Who was Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl?
Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl was actually not Muslim, but he belongs to a unique group… of individuals referred to as the Hunafaa. Hunafaa is the plural of “haneef,” which means a true believer or someone focused in their belief. Ibrahim alayhi salam is referred to in the Quran as “Ibrahim Haneef,” exemplifying what an honored title it is.
Despite being the half-brother of Al Khattab (father of Umar ibn Al Khattab), Zayd always believed in only One Allah. Not only that, but he would reprimand the rest of society for worshipping idols.
Narrated Asma bint Abi Bakr radiAllahu anha:
I saw Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl standing with his back against the Kaaba and saying, “O people of Quraysh! By Allah, none amongst you is on the religion of Abraham except me.” He used to preserve the lives of little girls: If somebody wanted to kill his daughter he would say to him, “Do not kill her for I will feed her on your behalf.” So he would take her, and when she grew up nicely, he would say to her father, “Now if you want her, I will give her to you, and if you wish, I will feed her on your behalf.” [Bukhari]
Other early narrations of Zayd mention he used to stand at the Kaaba and call out to Allah ﷻ in despair, complaining of not knowing how to properly worship Him. Because of his sincerity in seeking Allah ﷻ, Allah ﷻ provided a way out for Zayd. He provided guidance for Zayd, even though Zayd was not given knowledge. So much of what Zayd adhered to would later be revealed as Sacred Law. For example, Zayd was known not to eat animals sacrificed in the names of any deity other than Allah ﷻ. Further, he would become upset at those who ate meat sacrificed in the name of idols and advise others not to do so. [Ibn Ishaq]
Towards the end of his life, Zayd left Makkah to continue his search for the truth. In Shaam, Zayd encountered someone who told him that the final prophet was soon to come out in Makkah. On his way back to Makkah, however, Zayd passed away.
Lessons from the Life of Zayd
Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl’s story is a beautiful reminder of the simplicity of submission. He spent his entire life holding onto the only truth he knew, tawheed, and asking Allah ﷻ for guidance. As a result, Allah ﷻ guided him in unimaginable ways. Zayd’s life is a testament to the fact guidance is from Allah ﷻ alone, and He ﷻ guides people in different ways. Despite having essentially no formal knowledge of deen, Zayd was guided to perform good actions that would later be mandated after the coming of Islam.
From Zayd, we learn when we are with Allah ﷻ, Allah ﷻ will be with us. When it seems there is no way out, Allah ﷻ can create one for us. Zayd was not a Muslim, but when his son, Sayeed ibn Zayd, asked the Prophet ﷺ if he could pray for Zayd’s forgiveness, the Prophet ﷺ responded, “Yes, and he will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment as a nation in himself” [Musnad At–Tayalisi]. Because Zayd did not fall into any of the existing ummahs, Allah ﷻ created an ummah just for him.
Zayd also teaches us to be concerned for others. Zayd always called others to Allah ﷻ because he was ultimately concerned for their akhirah. Doing good alone was not enough for Zayd. Rather, he wanted to invite others to join in goodness as well.
How You Can Be a Zayd
- Call others to good and forbid them from doing bad.
- Ask Allah ﷻ for guidance.
- Make dua for others, particularly for their akhirah.
- Choose one commandment in Islam that is hard for you to follow, and in the spirit of Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl, submit, and just do it.
Be a Zayd, and submit. Be a Zayd, and stand for tawheed. Be a Zayd, and call to truth. Be a Zayd, and hold fast to Islam even if you are alone. Be a Zayd, and have a deep concern for others. Be a Zayd, and stop making excuses. Be a Zayd, and be the person you are supposed to be today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.