He married Zainab bint Abu Mu'awiyah, a woman from the Thaqeef tribe. She was a good wife, skilled in handiwork and eager to learn. She used to make things with her hands and sell them to earn some money which she used to help her relatives who were poor. Her husband was exemplary in his attitude of dignity. He encouraged her to seek knowledge and to acquire greater insight into Islam, putting what she learns into practice.
Zainab heard the Prophet addressing women, telling them to donate to charity, even if they have to sell their jewelry for that. She came back home and said to her husband: You are a man of limited means, and the Prophet has told us to donate to charity. Go to him and ask whether I can pay my donation to you. Otherwise, I will have to pay it to some other people. Her husband said: You better go and ask him.
Zainab reports: I went to see him and at his door I found an Ansari woman who had come to ask the same question. We were rather apprehensive of going in. Bilal, however, came over. So we said to him: Go to the Prophet and tell him that two women are at the door who would like to know whether they can pay their zakat to their husbands and to orphan children they are bringing up. Do not tell him who we are.' Bilal went in and put the question to the Prophet. The Prophet asked him who the two women were. Bilal said: A woman from the Ansar and Zainab'. The Prophet said: Which Zainab?' He answered: Abdullah's wife'. The Prophet said: They will have double reward: One for their kindness to relatives and one for zakat.' (Related by Al-Bukhari).
The Prophet sets a principle in this Hadith which makes relatives more entitled to charity than others. There is, however, a main condition that applies here, which is that the relative who benefits by our zakat is not one whom we are required to support. This means that a person cannot pay his zakat to his parents, grandparents, children or grandchildren because he is duty bound to support them if they are poor. Nor can a man pay his zakat to his wife, but she may pay her zakat to her husband. This is because in Islam a husband is required to support his wife, while she has no similar duty. Both have full independence and complete authority over their separate properties.
We note how Abdullah ibn Masood wanted his wife to go and ask the Prophet herself, because he realized that she would be free to ask about any details she wanted to know. Moreover, whatever she would learn from the Prophet would be better ingrained in her mind. Such encouragement enabled Zainab to learn more and become more reliable. She reported eight Hadiths she heard from the Prophet. It was her reliable knowledge that motivated her husband, who was one of the most learned companions of the Prophet, to acknowledge her role after his death. He wrote in his will: My executors are Al-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam and his son Abdullah ibn Al-Zubair. They have full authority to determine whatever is to be done with whatever I leave behind. They have a free hand in all this. No daughter of mine may be married without their knowledge. Nothing of all this shall be withheld from my wife Zainab.
Reproduced from Arab News