The blessed Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), Abdullah ibn Salaam (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that when Allah willed to guide Zaid ibn Su`nah (the great Jewish scholar of Madinah), Zaid ibn Su`nah said, “I recognized all of the signs of prophethood upon seeing the face of Muhammad save two signs that were not immediately evident: That his forbearance would precede his rashness, and that his forbearance would increase upon encountering excessive rashness.” Zaid ibn Su`nah reports [the story as follows]:
“One day, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) came out from his apartment with `Ali ibn Abi Talib. A Bedouin, riding his camel, came to him and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! A group of my people of such and such a clan have accepted the faith and embraced Islam. I used to tell them that if they embraced Islam, there would be great abundance in their provision [due to divine blessing]. Now, however, they are facing famine due to lack of rain. I fear, O Messenger of Allah, that they will leave Islam out of greediness as they embraced it out of greediness. If you think it proper, send something that would suffice them.’
The Prophet looked to the man next to him, who I believe was `Ali, who replied, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Nothing is left with us.'”
Zaid continues, “I approached the Prophet and said, ‘O Muhammad! If you desire, rent me such and such garden of dates for a fixed period of time.’
He replied, ‘No, but I’ll rent you a certain amount of date [palms] until such and such period without specifying the garden.’
I replied, ‘Alright.’ Thus, he rented them to me, and I opened my purse and took out eighty mithqaal of gold (350 grams) to pay for the particular dates for a fixed period. The Prophet handed the gold to the man and instructed him, ‘Help them through this and distribute it justly.’
Zaid ibn Su`nah goes on, “Two or three days before the fixed period was to end, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) came out with Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them), and a number of other Companions to offer the funeral prayer. When he finished the prayer and approached a wall to sit against it, I came to him, grabbed him by his shirt and cloak, and looked at him angrily and said, ‘O Muhammad! Why don’t you pay off my due?! By Allah, I know nothing of your family except deferment [on debts]. I know well of your people.’
Saying this I looked at `Umar whose eyes were bulging and turning out of anger. He glared at me and said, ‘O enemy of Allah! Did you actually just say what I heard to the Messenger of Allah? Did you really just do to him what I saw? By the One Who holds my life in His hand, if I were not concerned with [the Prophet’s] leaving us, I would have struck your head with my sword.’
The Messenger of Allah, who was looking at me quietly and patiently, said, ‘O `Umar! We don’t need this. I was more in need of your advice to pay off his loan well, and he your advice to deal courteously. Go with him `Umar, pay off his loan, and give him twenty extra saa` (44 kilograms) of dates because you frightened him.
Thus, `Umar took me, paid off my debt, and gave me an extra twenty saa` of dates. I asked him, ‘Why this increase?’
He replied, ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered me to give you this for my scaring you.’
I asked, ‘Do you recognize me, `Umar?’
‘No,’ he said.
‘I am Zaid ibn Su`nah,’ I said.
‘The scholar of the Jews?’
‘Yes, the same one.’
‘Then what made you behave and speak with the Messenger of Allah as you did?’ he asked.
‘O `Umar!’ I replied. ‘I recognized all of the signs of prophethood upon seeing the face of Muhammad save two signs that were not immediately evident: That his forbearance would precede his rashness, and that his forbearance would increase upon encountering excessive rashness. Now I have recognized these two signs as well. Bear witness, O `Umar! I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as my religion, and with Muhammad as my prophet. Also bear witness that I give half of my wealth – and I have plenty of wealth – in charity to the nation of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).’
`Umar said, ‘Perhaps to some of them because your [money] won’t suffice for all of them.’
‘Alright, to some of them.'”
`Umar and Zaid returned to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and Zaid publicly announced, “I bear witness that none is worthy of worship besides Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger and I believe in him.”
Thus, Zaid testified to the Prophet Muhammad’s message and took the pledge of allegiance on his hand. Zaid participated in a number of battles along with the Prophet and was martyred in the expedition of Tabuk whilst facing the enemy and not in retreat. May Allah be pleased with him.
The story has been transmitted by Tabarani (al-Mu`jam al-Kabeer), to which al-Haithami says that all of the narrators of the Tradition are sound. Also transmitted by Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, and Hakim, among others.
The Arabic version of this story has been taken from Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi’s Hayaat al-Sahaaba (The Lives of the Companions).