Name: Khadijah Al-Kubra bint Khuwalid
Kunniyat: Umm e Hind
Father: Khuwaylid bin Asad
Mother: Fatima binte Zaida
Clan: Banu Hashim
Tribe: Quraish, Banu Asad
Birth: 555 AD
Death: Ramadan, 620 AD
When we look at Hazrat Khadijah (rta) beyond statistics, we see an extraordinary person. She stands out in Islamic history not only for her loving support to her husband, but because her very existence continues to defy popular perceptions of women’s roles in Islam. She was not a woman, who was oppressed, submissive or subjugated.
She was born, when female infants were often buried alive and women were treated as a commodity. Allah (swt) gave her extraordinary character and superior business acumen. She became the richest merchant in the whole Makkah and was hailed as the Princess of Makkah and the Princess of the Quraish. Yet, she did not indulge in the frivolous decadence of Makkan high society. Her humanitarian efforts in aiding the poor, widows, orphans, the sick, and disabled earned her the title of Al-Tahira, the pure one.
Khadijah (rta) was wealthy and accomplished, but also twice widowed. She was 40 years old, when she married the future Prophet of Islam (sa), 15 years her junior. She recognized his trustworthiness and high moral standards and proposed to him herself. He accepted.
The marriage of Khadijah (rta) and Muhammad (sa) is a model for us. It was one of extraordinary love, commitment, and mutual respect. For 24 years Khadijah (rta) was the love of Prophet’s (sa) life as well as his strongest supporter and confidante. It is one of the greatest love stories of all times and a proof of Islam’s human essence.
When the Prophet (sa) received his first message from Allah (swt), he was troubled and anxious. Its impact was so nerve wrecking that he rushed home shivering. He said to Khadijah (rta): “Cover me, cover me!” She shielded him in her lap, listened to his account, and assured him of his Prophet (sa) hood. She recounted to him the excellence of his character as reason that Allah (swt) could not forsake him.
The fact that Allah (swt) placed a woman in this position and made her the vessel through which the Prophet (sa) was comforted and assured is the evidence of the role of women in the spread of Islam.
An African-American Muslim scholar Precious Rasheeda Muhammad says: “I am convinced that Khadijah (rta) was given such a conspicuous role in the advent of this religion, so that there could never be a mistake about Islam’s intention toward women and its deference for the depth of their intellect, the scope of their piety, and the possibilities for their humanity.”
Karen Armstrong writes: “Islam can be said to have come to birth in the arms of a loving woman.” She was the first woman to embrace Islam and bear witness to the Oneness of Allah (swt) and that Muhammad (sa) was His messenger.
Long after her death, Muhammad (sa) said of Khadijah (rta): “She believed in me, when all others disbelieved; she held me truthful, when others called me a liar; she sheltered me, when others abandoned me; she comforted me, when others shunned me; and Allah granted me children by her, while depriving me of children by other women.”
Despite her wealth and social position, Khadijah (rta) chose to look after her husband’s needs herself. She did not have any ego issues about caring for her family. She had six children with the Prophet (sa). She was also the first Ummul-Mumineen, a designation given in the Quran to all the wives of the Prophet (sa).
Such was the measure of her faith that she gave all she had for the cause of Islam. The woman, who had once owned herds of animals, priceless heirlooms, silver, gold, and so much more, was buried in one of the Prophet’s (sa) own garments, because there was not enough money left to buy her a shroud.
She never once let the believers down. When the growing community of new Muslims were ridiculed, tortured, deprived of their pay, and ostracized by their families, Khadijah (rta) used her resources to clothe, feed, and shelter them.
When the Prophet’s (sa) clan of Hashim and that of Al-Mutallib, who supported his right to proclaim Islam, were exiled for a number of years, Khadijah (rta) chose to accompany her husband. She is said to have never complained about the extreme weather conditions, poor shelter, and lack of food. Instead, she gave selflessly, providing food and water for the exiled community. Khadijah (rta) died shortly after the banishment ended, as a result of the strain these conditions had put on her aging body. She had been a cultivated woman accustomed to great comfort, and she wasn’t used to such deprivation.
The Prophet (sa) considered her one of the four most perfect women in all of human history along with Maryam (as), the mother of Isa (as), Asiya binte Imran, the wife of Pharoah, and Fatimah (rta) binte Muhammad (sa).
A woman of substance – Khadijah’s (rta) life is an inspiration for all women, who aspire to balance their careers and family life. We need to look up to her, examine her relationship with the Prophet (sa), and see, how we can apply her values in our lives.