Zaid’s erudition grew by each day and he would learn every minute detail about the relevance of each and every verse, from the Prophet (Pbuh).
The young Zaid bin Sabith was keen to join the Islamic forces even while he was just 13. He stood among the aspirants while his sword followed him as a trail. The Prophet (Pbuh) refused him entry due to his youth. Zaid was crestfallen. So was his mother Nawar bint Maalik.
Zaid thought out another stratagem. He sought out the company of the holy Prophet, peace be upon him, through his mastery over the Quran. His memory was fresh and he would commit to memory the revealed text within a jiffy. Zaid’s mom advised the Prophet (Pbuh) to allow her son to stand close to his side as a ready reckoner on the holy Quran. The Prophet called out Zaid and heard him recite the verses, which Zaid read out verbatim with a delivery that was astoundingly clear and impeccable. To boot, his wisdom impressed the Prophet to no end. Moreover, Zaid was still better in writing Arabic.
The Prophet took him as the private secretary and advised him to even learn Hebrew, the language used by the Jews as he rarely trusted the individuals he employed for correspondence in Hebrew. Zaid learnt Hebrew and developed a rare command over it. Thus the Prophet had a trusted lieutenant to carry out his secretarial work in Hebrew. The Prophet then asked Zaid to learn Syriac and Zaid was not found wanting even there. He developed mastery even over Syriac.
Once the Prophet was convinced of Zaid’s linguistic skills, he appointed him as the ‘Writer of the divine revelation’ (katib-e-wahi). Zaid’s erudition grew by each day and he would learn every minute detail about the relevance of each and every verse from the Prophet. After the Prophet’s death, Zaid emerged as the major interpreter of the holy Quran and the holy companions would turn to him for all kinds of explanations. During the reign of Caliph Abu Bakr, he was taken as the major compiler of the Quran. Again during the tenure of the Caliph Usman, when he ordered committing the Quran to written script, Zaid was appointed what could be known today as ‘chief editor’.
When the holy Prophet died, the question of succession became a bone of contention between the Ansar and Muhajirin. Both laid claim to a member of their group succeeding the Prophet. A few Ansar came out with the proposal that the caliphate be alternated between the two groups. The rivalry became intense as the Prophet’s body lay wrapped in the burial clothes.
At the crucial moment, it was Zaid bin Sabith who resolved the crisis. Zaid said, since the Prophet was a Muhajir (emigrant), the caliphate should naturally go to a Muhajir and since the Prophet was assisted by an Ansar, the Muhajir caliph too will be aided by the Ansar. He then extended his hand towards Abu Bakr for bayt (expression of allegiance).
Zaid used to extend his services as the interpreter of the holy Quran to all the caliphs inasmuch as the second Caliph Umar counseled the people to approach Zaid bin Sabith for interpretation of the Quran and approach Muaz bin Jabal in jurisprudential affairs.
When Zaid died, several scholars wept inconsolably. They feared that a treasure trove of Quranic knowledge would be buried under the earth. Abu Hurairah prayed to Allah that Abdullah bin Abbas should develop as his alternative.