Shaykh Saeed Al-Kamali (may Allah preserve him) narrates a story about a little know companion of the Messenger of Allah. That man is: Zayd ibn Muhalhil ibn Zayd al-Taaei [1], more famously known as Zayd al-Khayl (Zayd of the Steeds).

He was known for his bravery, strength, huge physique, poetry, and generosity.

When he came to the Messenger, the Messenger asked him who he was, so he said: “I am Zayd al-Khayl (Zayd of the Steeds), Oh Messenger of Allah”

So the Messenger said: Rather you are Zayd al-Khayr (Zayd of Goodness).

Then the Messenger said: "O Zayd, no man has ever been described to me in Jahiliya and then I saw him, except that he was lesser than what was described to me, except for you." [1]

They differed in regards to his death where some said he died after his return from the Messenger of Allah, and others said he died during the Caliphate of Umar.​

Zayd was from among the brave knights in the time of Jahiliya and from their poets and heroes. He was well known, quite famous, and they narrated about him many stories in the books of Arabic literature.

From these is what was narrated by al-Qadi al-Tanoukhi in his book "Al-Mustajad", and ibn Al-Hamawi in "Thamarat Al-Awraaq", and others.

During one of the years, Banu Shayban were afflicted by a severe drought which caused their riches to perish. So one man from among them took his family and children and went to Al-Hira.

There, he left his family and told them, "Wait for me here next to the King, so that you may receive some of his Charity, and wait for me till I return to you."

He swore to himself not to return to them until he earned some money for them or died in the process.

The man took some provisions with him and walked all day in search of something for his family. At nightfall, he found himself in front of a tent. Nearby, a horse was tethered, so he said to himself:

"This is the first of my booties."

He went to the horse to untie it, when he heard a voice called out to him: "Leave the horse and keep your life as booty."

So he abandoned the horse and left.

He then kept on walking for seven days …

Until he reached a place where there was a pasture for camels (a place where camels are tied).

No camels were there, at the time.

Nearby was an enormous tent with a leather great dome, signs of great riches and wealth. So he said to himself:

"Undoubtedly this pasture has camels, and undoubtedly this tent has occupants, and undoubtedly this dome has a master."

The sun was about to set.

The man looked inside the tent and saw a very old man, whose collar bones were so close together, as if he was an eagle.

So he hid behind the old man without the latter realizing his presence.

When the sun set.

A huge male camel approached and behind him were almost a hundred she-camels, and with them is a horseman.

He said (i.e. that man): And I saw a horseman, whom I have never seen anyone greater than or better built.

He was over his horse and his feet were nearly touching the ground!

And with him were two male servants accompanying him, one on each side.

The male camel knelt, so the she-camels knelt down along with him.

That horseman said to one of his servants, pointing to a fat camel:

"Milk this and give the old man to drink."

He said: So he milked it, and then he went and placed the vessel in front of the old man.

He said: So the old man drank one or two mouthfuls, then he left the vessel.

He said: So I went up to it stealthily and drank all the milk in it.

The servant returned, took the vessel and said to the horseman:

"Master, he drank it all."

The horseman was happy and ordered another camel to be milked.

So the servant milked another camel and placed the vessel in front of the old man.

So the old man drank only one mouthful from it and left it.

The man grabbed the vessel and drank half of it, so as not to arouse suspicion.

A vessel of that size is usually enough for 2 or 3 people.

The servant said to the horseman, the old man has drank until he is full.

Because he kept some milk in the vessel.

The horseman then ordered his second servant to slaughter a sheep. Some of it was grilled and the horseman fed the old man until he was full.

He and the two servants then ate.

After this, they all slept soundly; until their snoring filled the tent.

The man then went to the he-camel, untied and mounted it. He rode off with it, and all the she camels followed.

He rode throughout the night, until the break of dawn.

At daybreak, he looked around in every direction but did not see anyone following him. He pushed it forward on until the sun was high in the sky.

He looked around and suddenly saw something like an eagle in the distance coming towards him.

It quickly gained on him and soon he saw that it was the horseman from last night on his horse.

The man dismounted and tied the he-camel. He took out an arrow and placed it in his bow and stood in front of the other camels. The horseman stopped at a distance and shouted:

"Untie the camel."

The man refused saying: No, by Allah, I will not, for I had left behind me hungry woman in Hira and had sworn not to return to them until I have gained some wealth for them or die in the process.

So the horseman told him: "You are dead either way, so untie the camel".

The man again refused, and said: "It is by Allah as I have told you".

So the horseman told him: "You are indeed arrogant …".

"Hold out the reins of the camel and make in it five knots".

The man said: So I did, as he said.

The horseman then told me: "In which of the knots do you want me to place my arrow."

The man pointed to one of them, and the horseman lodged an arrow right in its center as if he had neatly placed it there with his hand.

He then did the same with the remaining knots.

At that, the man quietly returned his own arrow to his quiver and gave himself up.

The horseman took away his arrows and his bow and said to him:

"Ride behind me."

The man expected the worst fate to befall him now. He was at the complete mercy of the horseman who said: "What do you think of me?"

He said: "The best of thoughts"

So the horseman asked: "And why is that?"

So the man said: "I exhausted you tonight, then Allah gave you the upper hand over me.”

So the horseman said: "We were not to cause you any harm after you have shared with Muhalhil his drink and his food last night?"

When the man heard the name Muhalhil, he was astonished and asked:

"Are you Zayd al-Khayl?"

"Yes," said the horseman.

The horseman, Zayd Al-Khayl, said to the man: "If these camels were mine, I would given them to you. But they belong to one of the daughters of Muhalhil. But stay with me."

Few days past and Zayd waged a raid against Banu Numayr and captured about a hundred camels, as booty.

He then told that man, these are one hundred camels, are they more beloved to you or the others.

So the man said these ones.

So Zayd gave them all to the man and sent some men with him as guards until he reached his family in Hira [2].

*****

The above is a story of Zayd al-Khayl as he was in Jahiliyyah. The books of Siyar give another picture of Zayd al-Khayl as he was in Islam . . .

When Zayd al-Khayl heard the news of the Prophet, peace be upon him, he made some of his own enquiries and then decided to go to Madinah to meet the Prophet. With him was a big delegation of his people among whom were Zurr ibn Sudoos, Malik ibn Jubayr, Aamir ibn Duwayn and others.

When they reached Madinah, they went straight to the Prophet’s Mosque and tethered their mounts at its door. It happened that as they entered, the Prophet was on the minbar addressing the Muslims. His speech aroused Zayd and his delegation and they were also astonished by the rapt attention of the Muslims and the effect of the Prophet’s words on them. The Prophet was saying:

"I am better for you than al-Uzza (one of the main idols of the Arabs in Jahiliyyah) and everything else that you worship. I am better for you than the black camel which you worship besides God."

The Prophet’s words had two different effects on Zayd al-Khayl and those with him. Some of them responded positively to the Truth and accepted it. Some turned away and rejected it. One of the latter was Zurr ibn Sudoos. When he saw the devotion of the believers to Muhammad, both envy and fear filled his heart and he said to those with him:

"I see a man who shall certainly captivate all Arabs and bring them under his sway. I shall not let him control me ever." He then headed towards Syria where it is said he shaved his head (as was the practice of some monks) and became a Christian.

The reaction of Zayd and others was different. When the Prophet had finished speaking, Zayd stood up, tall and impressive-looking in the midst of the Muslims and said in a loud and clear voice:

"O Muhammad, I testify that there is no god but Allah and that you are the messenger of Allah." The Prophet came up to him and asked, "Who are you?"

"I am Zayd al-Khayl the son of Muhalhil."

"From now on you are Zayd al-Khayr instead, not Zayd al-Khayl," said the Prophet. "Praise be to God Who has brought you from the hills and dales of your native land and softened your heart towards Islam." Thereafter he was known as Zayd al-Khayr (Zayd the Good).

The Prophet then took him to his house. With them were Umar ibn al-Khattab and some other Companions. The Prophet gave him a cushion to sit on but he felt very uncomfortable to sit reclined in the presence of the Prophet so he returned the cushion. The Prophet handed it back to him and he returned it to him. When they were all seated, the Prophet said to Zayd al-Khayr:

"O Zayd, no man has ever been described to me and when I see him he does not fit the description at all except you. You have two characteristics which are pleasing to God and His Prophet."

"What are they?" asked Zayd.

"Perseverance and sagacity," replied the Prophet.

Zayd said: "Praise be to God, who has blessed me with that which is pleasing to Him and His Prophet."

He then said to the Prophet:

"O Messenger of Allah, give me three hundred horsemen and I promise you that I will secure Byzantine territory with them."

The Prophet praised his fervour and said, "What manner of man are you!"

During this visit, all those who stayed with Zayd became Muslims. They then desired to return to their homes in Najd and the Prophet bade them farewell. The great desire of Zayd al-Khayr to work and fight for the cause of Islam, however, was not to be realised.

In Madinah al-Munawwarah at that time there was an epidemic of fever and Zayd al-Khayr succumbed to it. Zayd took the road to his people in Najd in spite of the fact that the fever became more and more intense and slowed him down. He hoped at least to get back to his people and that they would become Muslims, through God’s grace, at his hands. He struggled to overcome the fever but it got the better of him and he breathed his last on the way before reaching Najd.

Between his acceptance of Islam and his death, however, there was no time for him to have fallen into sin. It is narrated that he was saddened during his death as he did not get a chance to fight as a Muslim before he meets Allah [2].

***** 

He left two sons, Maknaf and Hurayth. They also embraced Islam and gained companionship of the Messenger of Allah, and later on fought alongside Khaled ibn Al-Waleed (may Allah be pleased with him) during the battles of the Ridaa, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) [1].

Reference:

[1] Paraphrased from: Usd al-Ghaba 1/406-407.

[2] Translation partly edited from based on the narration of Shaykh Saeed: "Companions of The Prophet", Vol.1, By: Abdul Wahid Hamid. http://www.sunnah.org/history/Sahaba/zayd.html. The second part was left for the most part as is.

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