Khawlah bint Thalabah (ra) is one of the companions about whom verses were revealed.
Khawlah (ra) and her husband had reached old age. If maturity and wisdom are one of the gifts of age and experiences, irritability and illnesses are the bane. With age, Aws ibn As-Samit (ra) had become short-tempered and he would utter words without meaning them.
One day he told his wife that she was to him like his mother’s back. Zihar, back in the days, meant divorce. Her husband’s words grieved Khawlah (ra). She had been married to him for years, and had birthed many children. She felt it was unfair to divorce a woman when she was of age and unattractive. Without responding to the husband’s unjust statement, Khawlah (ra) took the matter to someone she thought could help her. The Prophet (sa) listened to her complaint and instructed her to fear Allah (swt) and consult her husband. Khawlah (ra) refused to leave until Allah (swt) responded to her plea. Just then, Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) (as) descended and brought revelation:
“Indeed Allah has heard the statement of her (Khawlah bint Tha’labah) that disputes with you (O Muhammad) concerning her husband (Aus bin As-Samit), and complains to Allah. And Allah hears the argument between you both. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer. Those among you who make their wives unlawful (Az-Zihar) to them by saying to them ‘You are like my mother’s back.’ They cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth. And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie. And verily, Allah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.
And those who make unlawful to them (their wives) (by Az-Zihar) and wish to free themselves from what they uttered, (the penalty) in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch each other. That is an admonition to you (so that you may not return to such an ill thing). And Allah is All-Aware of what you do. And he who finds not (the money for freeing a slave) must fast two successive months before they both touch each other. And for him who is unable to do so, he should feed sixty of Miskin (poor). That is in order that you may have perfect Faith in Allah and His Messenger.
These are the limits set by Allah. And for disbelievers, there is a painful torment.” [Al-Mujadilah 58: 1-4]
Lessons: We see that when Khawlah (ra) is hurt by her husband’s words she neither argues with him nor shares the private family matters with anyone. Rather, she took her case to the one who could guide her and provide a solution. What happens when we face a conflict? Are we able to tame our temper or do we come back with an intense response? Are we able to keep our domestic disputes to ourselves or do we share them with anyone and everyone that we come across? Children, domestic help, parents, neighbours, friends and colleagues almost everyone knows that the couple had a fight.
What do we look for when we share our matters with others? Is it to get it off our chests, gain sympathy or to resolve the issue?
Look at the words that Allah (swt) used in the revelation. He said: Certainly, Allah has heard the speech. This ‘certainty’ is what is missing from our supplications. We make Dua but with an inattentive heart. We are sure that our Dua will not be answered; we give up and turn to people or sometimes turn to them first and make Allah (swt) our last resort. At another place in the Quran, Allah (swt) says, “I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor).” (Al-Baqarah 2: 186)
Yaqeen (conviction) is the key ingredient for our supplications to be answered. When you make Dua be present in the moment. Fill your Duas with emotions without going overboard. You don’t have to scream because Allah (swt) is the nearest to us. He hears even a whisper or the thought that we hold in our hearts. Do not be hasty with your Duas, for He responds in His timings and in His Own way. His wisdom is incomprehensible but there is goodness in it; a lesson that we must learn.
Aisha (ra) narrates that she was sitting in the same room as the complainant, yet some words escaped her ears. From the Seerah we know the Prophet (sa) did not live in a spacious house. His house was only a room added to the Prophet’s Mosque. Can you imagine how calmly Khawlah (ra) presented her case? There was no shouting, no wailing and no usage of bad words. It was because she did not intent to get the matter off her chest rather she sought solution. She came to the Prophet (sa) only to find out what the couple was to do in such a situation and how they could make amends.
Allah (swt) calls husband and wife, a clothing. Like a piece of clothing, they are to adorn one another and conceal flaws. This is an intimate relationship where the two people living this close are better aware of each other’s shortcomings than anyone else. Allah (swt) instructs them to screen the flaws and reveal the strengths. They are not supposed to divulge their secrets or publicize their disputes, not even to their parents, children and siblings. One’s spouse should not be the topic of discussion in a friends’ gathering.
May Allah (swt) allow us to honour our contracts and be respectful to one another, ameen.
(Adapted from the book: Seerat e Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu by and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi: Seerat e Sahabiyat)