Zainab Khan (previously Masood) is a fictional character in EastEnders, played by comedienne Nina Wadia. She made her first appearance on 16 July 2007. She was married to Masood Ahmed from March 1983 to May 2011, and Yusef Khan from October 2011 to January 2012.
Born and raised in Pakistan, Zainab brought shame upon her family when she had an affair with Masood Ahmed, while married to Yusef Khan . As punishment, Zainab was set on fire by Yusef and his family. Masood rescued her and she divorced her husband to marry Masood, joining him in the UK, where they had three children, Syed Masood, Shabnam Masood and Tamwar Masood. Family members still treated Zainab with contempt however, particularly her brother-in-law Inzamam Ahmed. Inzamam pestered her to sleep with him for years: he considered her a "fallen woman". The Masoods ran their own business until 2004, when Syed stole from the family, nearly bankrupting them. Masood initially took the blame and banished him from their lives to save Zainab's feelings. The Masoods decided on a career change, working in the postal service.
Zainab arrives as the owner of Walford's Post Office, clashing with employee Denise Wicks immediately, though they later become friends. The post office flounders in debt, and Zainab turns to Inzamam for a loan, but he wants sex in return for the money, which disgusts her and Masood banishes Inzamam from his life when he discovers what his brother has done. Despite the Masoods' best efforts, they are forced to close the post office. The Masoods attempt to turn their fortunes around, starting a catering business. Ian Beale invests £2000 and the company merges with Ian and Christian Clarke's catering company, becoming "Masala Queen", with Zainab elected manager. Problems emerge when money goes missing and Zainab suspects Masood, thinking he has done this before. Tamwar admits taking the money – lending it to his older brother, Syed. Masood reveals that Syed's actions are why he was banished from the family; he stole money from the family business and is continuing to do so. Despite this, Zainab contacts Syed and after reconciling with Masood, Syed moves to Albert Square and is joined by his fiancé Amira Shah. Zainab plans an extravagant wedding for Syed but she grows suspicious of the way Christian acts around him, and is incensed to discover they are having a homosexual relationship. Zainab orders Syed to marry Amira regardless, which he does. Zainab gives birth to another son, Kamil, in 2010, but the family's joy is short-lived as Amira discovers Syed's affair with Christian and Syed comes out as gay. Amira leaves, and Christian's sister, Jane Beale, reveals to Masood that Zainab knew about the affair since before the wedding. Masood and Zainab argue, and he packs her belongings and physically throws her out. When the couple reconcile, they cut-off ties to their son, unable to accept his relationship with Christian.
Tamwar starts seeing Afia Khan and her father, Yusef Khan, turns up and shocks Zainab as he is her ex-husband whose family set her on fire. Tamwar is forbidden from seeing Afia but disobeys his parents and invites her to the opening of his parents' restaurant, Argee Bhajee. Zainab is forced to accept the Khans into her family when Tamwar announces he is marrying Afia. Yusef, who moves to Walford as the new GP, attempts to reconcile with Zainab, suggesting that he was not involved when his family set her on fire in Pakistan. He offers her money so she can pay off debts, and supports her through marital difficulties with Masood; Zainab begins to soften towards Yusef and in doing so she grows distant from Masood. Yusef manipulates Zainab, drugging her and causing her to pass out; she is hospitalised with her family believing she took a deliberate overdose in a suicide bid. Concerned that he is causing Zainab's problems and that she is in love with Yusef, Masood divorces her by saying the triple talaq.
Vulnerable, Zainab agrees to reunite with Yusef and accepts his marriage proposal; he continues to manipulate her, becoming violent towards her. Afia discovers that Yusef did start the blaze that burned Zainab in Pakistan; she demands he either tell Zainab the truth, or she will. Yusef confesses to Zainab, who is angry, but she eventually decides the future is what matters and marries him anyway. Yusef turns nasty, suggesting Zainab should give Kamil to Masood, as he sees him as an outcast. When Zainab slaps Yusef, he slaps Zainab back. Yusef then hastily arranges to take Zainab and Kamil to Pakistan, and when Zainab tries to postpone this, Yusef kidnaps and threatens Kamil, forcing Zainab to do his bidding. Yusef violently beats Zainab when he discovers that she has been liaising with Masood in an attempt to escape him. Zainab says she would rather die than go with Yusef to Pakistan; she considers jumping from the window, but instead hits Yusef in the groin and escapes while Masood retrieves Kamil from Yusef's relative. The police are called, but Afia allows Yusef to escape. Yusef confronts Masood at the B&B he is staying at during a Christmas party. He tries to kill Masood by starting a fire which engulfs the B&B. When Zainab sees a gloating Yusef, she deceives him into thinking Afia is trapped in the fire. Yusef enters the burning building to save Afia, but to Zainab's distress, so does Tamwar. Yusef is killed by the fire and although Masood and Tamwar escape, Tamwar is severely burnt, requiring skin grafts. In the wake of this, a reunited Zainab and Masood help Tamwar through recovery, but Zainab's guilt eventually forces her to confess that Tamwar's scars and Yusef's death are her fault. Despite initial upset, the family overcome the trauma, and Zainab finally accepts Syed and Christian as a couple, welcoming them both back into her family. Masood later proposes to Zainab. Zainab takes money from Kamil and Tamwar's trust funds to lend to Syed for his debts. Syed causes the family lose the restaurant because he has not paid the mortgage, and Masood finds out that Zainab took the money so asks her to leave because she promised never to lie after Yusef.
Zainab returns and she and Masood reconcile, setting a date for their wedding. Zainab's friend Ayesha Rana stays with them so she can get to know her suitor, Rashid Kayani, but Zainab tries to get her to date Tamwar instead. This does not work and Ayesha develops a crush on Masood. Zainab and Denise both apply for the same job at the Minute Mart. Zainab is angry to discover that Masood's brother AJ Ahmed has informed the interviewer that she has short-term memory loss. However, AJ and Zainab later apologise to each other via a note. Neither Zainab nor Denise get the job. Zainab buys an expensive water feature so that her neighbours will not think the family is poor, and she appears to care more about that than Masood. When the water feature is sabotaged by Tiffany Butcher and Morgan Butcher, Zainab blames Masood, who smashes the water feature in frustration. Masood later tells Zainab he is unhappy in their relationship and calls off their wedding. Zainab says she has always loved Masood over their marriage, but admits to her to sins. She and Kamil then leave, returning to Pakistan.
In December 2013, it is revealed that Zainab is in a relationship with her cousin, Haroon, and they are planning to get engaged. However, Shabnam returns to Walford the following month and tells Masood that their relationship has ended. In August 2015, Zainab is unable to return from Pakistan for Shabnam's planned wedding to Kush Kazemi. When they do marry in November, Zainab cannot attend but Masood convinces her to send Kamil to attend the wedding so Zainab can have a break from motherhood. Masood later tells Tamwar that Zainab has been planning on cutting off all ties to her family for a while. When prodded by Tamwar, Masood calls Zainab and refuses her access to Kamil unless she comes back to Walford to collect him herself. In April 2016, Zainab telephones Masood to say she is getting married in Pakistan and she wants Tamwar and Kamil to attend, though Tamwar and Masood agree they should not go as she has not been there for them. Masood later learns that Zainab's husband has left her and is divorcing her. After much persuasion from girlfriend Belinda Peacock, Masood calls and comforts Zainab. Eventually, he and Kamil leave Walford and fly over to Pakistan so that Kamil can be with his mother in her time of need.