Zubair (may Allah be pleased with him) was the son of Al-'Awwaam and the father of 'Abdullah ibn Zubair. Zubair is one of the most respectable and famous personalities of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself had decorated him with the title of "Hawaari ar-Rasool" or the Disciple of the Messenger of Allah. He was one of those ten companions of the Prophet about whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) had prophecised of their entry into Paradise. His eminence may be judged by the fact that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) would honorably address him with titles such as,
"One of the pillars of the Faith."
Zubair had more than one relationship with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as follows:
1. He was the son of Safiyyah (may Allah be pleased with her), the daughter of 'Abdul Muttalib and the aunt of the Prophet. Thus he was the cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
2. Khadijatul Kubra (may Allah be pleased with him), the mother of the believers, was the aunt of Zubair, and according to this the Prophet was his uncle.
3. Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) and the elder sister of 'Aa'isha Siddiqah (may Allah be pleased with them), was married to Zubair and thus he was a brother-in-law of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
4. Qusai, the son of Kalab, was the common ancestor of both the Prophet and Zubair, and in this way Zubair had also ancestral relation with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
His father, Al 'Awwaam, died when Zubair was still a child, so he came under the guardianship of his uncle Naufil the son of Khowailid. His mother Safiyyah, a bold and courageous lady as she was, wanted to bring up her child Zubair also as a bold and courageous man. So she would compel him to work hard and become sturdy and stout. For this reason she would often beat the young boy mercilessly. One day seeing the boy being beaten mercilessly by Safiyah, Naufil became restless. He complained to the nobles of Bani Hashim, the tribe to which Safiyah belonged, against her being so unkind to the boy. When Safiyah heard about it, she declared,
It is mistaken to state that I beat Zubair with enmity, I beat him in such a way only to make him wise.
This may be understood well by the incident narrated by Haafidh ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him), a famous historian. He writes:
Once, Zubair while in his boyhood, was confronted in a brawl against a full grown up man and had to fight, he struck the full grown up man in such a manner that the man lost one of his hands. But when people complained against Zubair to Safiyyah, she did not mind, She rather asked with great fondness, how they found Zubair in the fighting,
"Did he prove himself to be brave or a coward?"
It was this sort of training from his mother that Zubair (may Allah be pleased with him) became one of the great brave men of his age. He was always ready to face any danger and to endure any pain and trouble. During the early days of Islam, one day a rumor was spread in Mecca that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been made captive by the idolaters of Quraish, someone even lied that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was martyred. Zubair, who had come home to rest for a while, also heard this rumor. Although then he was only a boy of sixteen years, hearing the rumor upset him so much that he at once rushed out of his house with a naked sword in hand. He, however, thought it necessary to ascertain the rumors, thus he went straight to the house of the Prophet, with a red face and a unsheathed sword in his hand.
Seeing him in such a state the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, "What is the matter with you brother? Why there is a naked sword in your hand today?"
"O Messenger of Allah, thanks to Allah that you are quite safe and secure. May my parents be sacrificed for you! I heard the rumor that the idolaters had made you captive or even martyred you."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said (with a smile on his face), "So, this is the matter which made you so restless. Well, suppose if the rumors would have been true then what would you have done?"
The young boy cried out:
"O Messenger of Allah, by Allah! I alone would have declared war against the whole of Mecca. I would have preferred to die then to live after you were murdered."
Hearing this statement of the boy Zubair (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet smiled again and pointing towards the sword of Zubair declared,
"This is the first sword raised for the cause of Allah and His Prophet."
Zubair belonged to the family that was blessed with the light of Islam at its advent. His aunt Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) was the first lady of Islam, his mother Safiyah also accepted Islam in its early days. So it was quite natural for Zubair that he too became an early and true follower of Islam between the age of twelve and sixteen years, and this is why he attained a prominent position among the earliest companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
As we have seen above, Zubair's uncle Naufil was very kind and affectionate to him, but this was only till the time when Zubair wasn't in the fold of Islam. As soon as Zubair accepted the Oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) his uncle Naufil became his worst enemy. Now, that very Naufil who would become restless when seeing Zubair being beaten by his mother, now started to treat him worse than an enemy. The historians say, the enmity and hostility of Naufil against Zubair knew no bounds. He, usually would wrap him up into a mattress and lit fire around him. In this condition when he was engulfed by smoke, his cruel uncle would ask, "Are you ready to come back to your ancestral religion or not?" To which he would firmly reply,
"No, never! It is now impossible for me to give up the religion of Allah. I must die as a Muslim and not as an infidel."
When the cruelty of his uncle exceeded all limits, Zubair (may Allah be pleased with him) left Mecca for Habasha (modern-day Ethiopia) with the permission of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He did not stay there for long; after some time he came back to Mecca and started business.
The Hijra (migration) of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina occurred during the days Zubair was in Syria for business. While coming back to Mecca from Syria, he met the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) while they were on their way from Mecca to Medina. After sometime, he too came over to Madina with Safiyah and his wife Asma.
In Medina the Prophet (peace be upon him) had established "Muakhah" or the relationship of Islamic Brotherhood, between the Muhajirs (migrants) of Mecca and Ansar (residers) of Medina. According to this relationship
He was among those companions of the Prophet who took part in the First Pledge of 'Aqaba, due to which the Prophet (peace be upon him) migrated to Medina.
May Allah be pleased with him. Aameen