Hafsa Bint Umar (rta)

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Name: Hafsa

Father: Umar Ibn al Khattab

Mother: Zainab Bint Maizun

Tribe: Banu Adi

Clan: Qurtafish

Hafsa (rta) was her father’s daughter. Aisha (rta) said: “Constancy was Umar’s over whelming characteristic, and the same was true about Hafsa.” She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and she did so with knowledge and conviction, not merely for the sake of being heard.

Once, the Prophet (sa) said about the Companions of Badar and Hudaybiya: “I can hope, God willing, they will not enter Hell.” Hafsa (rta) retorted: “But they might, Ya Rasool Allah,” and she quoted from the Quran, “There is not one of you but will pass over it (Hell): this is with your Lord; a Decree which must be accomplished.” (Maryam 19:71) The Prophet (sa) could not help smiling and was pleased at her sharp intellect. He replied with the verse: “Then We shall save those who used to fear Allah and were dutiful to Him. And We shall leave the Zalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers) therein (humbled) to their knees (in Hell).” (Maryam 19:72) (Ahmad)

Hafsa (rta) was first married to Khunais Ibn Hudhaifah, but was widowed at only eighteen. Umar (rta) asked both Abu Bakr (rta) and Uthman (rta) to marry her, but they both declined. When Umar (rta) went to the Prophet (sa) to complain about their behaviour, the Prophet (sa) smiled and said: “Hafsa will marry one better than Uthman and Uthman will marry one better than Hafsa.” Umar (rta) was delighted, when he realized that the Prophet (sa) was asking for her hand in marriage! (Bukhari)

Hafsa (rta) became the Prophet’s (sa) fourth wife. Sawda (rta) welcomed her with open arms, but Aisha (rta) was jealous at first. Like herself, Hafsa (rta) was an intelligent, educated and beautiful woman, who eagerly learned from the Prophet (sa). In the course of time, however, Hafsa (rta) and Aisha (rta) became close friends.

Hafsa (rta) liked to discuss religious issues with her husband, who allowed her to say what she thought. One day, while speaking to Hafsa’s mother, Umar (rta) said: “I think I shall do so and so.” She replied: “But it would be better, if you did such and such.” “Are you arguing with me, woman?” said Umar (rta), who did not expect his wives to talk back to him. “Why not?” she answered. “Your daughter keeps arguing with the Messenger of Allah.” Umar (rta) immediately put on his cloak and went to his daughter’s house. “Is it true that you argue with the Messenger of Allah?” he asked. “Indeed, I do,” she replied. Umar (rta) was just about to chastise her for what he considered were bad manners, when the Prophet (sa) came into the room and would not allow it.

Hafsa’s (rta) sharp tongue never stooped down to being insolent with her husband. On one occasion, when she did not quite control herself and told the Prophet’s (sa) private matter to Aisha (rta), a direct reprimand came from Allah (swt) in the Quran – known as the incidence of Tehreem. Such was the responsibility on her shoulders, and she fulfilled it in spite of her quick temperament.

We tend to think that the Ummahat Al-Mumineen were other than human or docile little women, who had no will or mind of their own. Hafsa’s (rta) personality comes across as very wilful and strong. Yet, we see, how she took a grip of herself and controlled her innate nature, in order to please Allah (swt) and her husband. A valuable lesson for all women and, indeed, men as well – if Hafsa (rta), Umar’s (rta) daughter, could tame her ego and temper just like her father did, why can’t we?

Hafsa (rta) memorized the entire Quran by heart. She prayed at night and fasted during day. This piety must have helped her in her Tazkiya (purification of the heart) and brought out the best in her.

Hafsa (rta) lived with the Prophet (sa) in Madinah for eight years and lived on for another thirty four years after his death. She witnessed with joy the victories and expansion of Islam under her father’s guidance, and with sorrow the troubles that beset the Muslim community after the murder of Uthman (rta). She died at the age of sixty-three.

Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta)

Ummul-MumineenName: Zaynab Bint Jahash

Kunniyat: Ummul-Hakam

Father: Jahash Bin Raab

Mother: Umayma Bint Abdul-Muttalib

Clan: Banu Hashim

Family: Asad Bin Khuzaymah

Tribe: Quraish

Birth: 590 CE

Death: 20 AH – 643 CE

If any woman has had to face controversy, scandal, slander and all manners of finger pointing, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). And if any woman has emerged from it all not only unscathed but with flying colours, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). And if any woman was chosen by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) to be an agent of change in eradicating deep rooted customs of Jahiliyah and launching an Islamic social fabric, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta).

Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta) was the Prophet’s (sa) first cousin, her mother Umayma being the daughter of Abdul-Muttalib. She came from one of the noblest families of the Quraish, and everyone expected her eventually to marry a man with the same high social status. However, the Prophet (sa) himself arranged her marriage to Zaid Bin Harith (rta), whose background was very different from Zaynab (rta).

Zaid (rta) was taken prisoner as a child during an inter-tribal war before Islam. He was sold as a slave to a nephew of Khadijah (rta), who gave Zaid (rta) to her as a gift. In turn, Khadijah (rta) gave him to the Prophet (sa), who later granted Zaid (rta) his freedom and adopted him as his own son.

When the Prophet (sa) asked for her hand on behalf of Zaid (rta), Zaynab (rta) and her family were shocked at the idea of her marrying a man, who for them was only a freed slave. The Prophet (sa) thought they would make a good couple, and that their marriage would demonstrate that it was not their ancestors but their standing in the sight of Allah (swt) that mattered.

A lesson we seem to have forgotten. Today, we are as socially stratified as the Arabs were in the days of Jahiliyah. Cross-social and cross-cultural marriages are frowned upon and just not acceptable. How often do we hear of a Sindhi marrying a Pathan?

Zaynab (rta) and Zaid (rta) got married when this Ayah was revealed in the Quran: “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error.” (Al-Ahzab 33:36)

The marriage, however, was not a success. Although both Zaynab (rta) and Zaid (rta) were the best of people, who loved Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa), they were very different and could not overcome their incompatibility.

Then Allah (swt) ordained His Messenger (sa) the task of eradicating a deep rooted social tradition – the adoption of children. An adopted child was considered exactly like a real son or daughter in rights and sanctities. This tradition affronts the basic principles of Islam; especially those concerning marriage, divorce and inheritance and some other cases.

“Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just with Allah.” (Al-Ahzab 33:5)

“Muhammad (sa) is not the father of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets.” (Al-Ahzab 33:40)

Allah (swt) bid the Prophet (sa) to marry his cousin Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta), who was an ex-wife to Zaid (rta) – his adopted son.

“So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them).” (Al-Ahzab 33:37)

So he married the divorcee of his ‘adopted’ son to show that adoption does not really make the adopted child a real son and also to show that divorcees have a right to remarry. Tongues of the Kuffar to this day are dipped in venom, when they slander the Prophet (sa) regarding his marriage to Zaynab (rta). They stoop to the basest level of accusations. So we can well imagine how the hypocrites must have spread false propaganda at that time.

The marriage of Zaynab (rta) and the Prophet (sa) not only withstood all the hoopla but flourished in spite of it. Zaynab (rta) was fond of pointing out that her marriage had been arranged by Allah (swt) Himself!

But that did not mean she thought she was a ‘chosen one’ and became complacent about Allah (swt) or her actions. She was constantly immersed in worship.

It is related by Anas Ibn Malik (rta) that once the Prophet (sa) entered the mosque and found a rope hanging between two pillars, and so he said: “What is this?” He was told: “It is for Zaynab (rta). She prays, and when she loses concentration or feels tired, she holds onto it.” At this time, the Prophet said: “Untie it. Pray as long as you feel fresh, but when you lose concentration or become tired, you should stop.”

She was a giving woman. The Prophet (sa) said of her to his other wives: “She is the most generous among you.” It has been related by Aisha (rta) that the Prophet (sa) once said to his wives: “The one who has the longest hands among you will meet me again the soonest.” Aisha (rta) added: “They used to measure each other’s hands to see whose was longest, and it was the hand of Zaynab (rta) that was the longest, because she used to work by hand (tanning leather) and give away (what she earned) in charity.”

Zaynab (rta) was with the Prophet (sa) for six years, and lived for another nine years after his death, thus fulfilling the Prophet’s (sa) indication that she would be the first of his wives to die after him.

If ever a woman gave Ayesha (rta) cause for insecurity, it was Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). There was a healthy rivalry between Zaynab (rta) and Ayesha (rta). However, Ayesha (rta) said of Zaynab (rta): “I have never seen a woman so pure as Zaynab, so God-fearing, so truthful, so attentive to family ties, so generous, so self-sacrificing in everyday life, so charitable and thus so close to Allah, the Exalted.”

The lessons we learn from this remarkable woman and her life are particularly relevant in today’s soap opera culture and hunger for scandals. How can we deal with personal trials with poise? Look at Zaynab (rta). No need to get hysterical at every finger raised in your direction. How do we manage a divorce with dignity? Look at Zaynab (rta). We don’t have to accuse either party of some major fault and get in a mud slinging match. How do we adjust to a major lifestyle change? Look at Zaynab (rta). Know your direction and stay true to your faith. How do we not get on cloud nine when Allah the Supreme honours us with His Glorious Limelight? Look at Zaynab (rta). Stay humble before Allah (swt) and steadfast in your devotion to Him.

Ummul-Mumineen – Aisha (rta)

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Name: Aisha Bint Abi Bakr

Kunniyat: Umm Abdullah

Title: Siddiqa and Humaira

Father: Abdullah – Abi Bakr Ibn Abi Qahafa

Mother: Zainab – Umme Ruman Bint Aamer

Clan: Banu Tumaim

Tribe: Quraysh

Birth: 5th Shawwal AH – 615 CE

Death: 17th Ramadan, 58 AH – 681 CE

How does one begin to define the life and times of a daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rta) – the most eminent of Companions – and the wife of the most remarkable man of all times – the Messenger of Allah (sa)? Even among these stellar associations, she shines as an individual to reckon, which says volumes about her character and personality.

Even as a child, Aisha (rta) showed exceptional intelligence. She was about six years of age, when the Prophet (sa) saw her in her father’s house playing with some toys, including a toy-horse with wings. The Prophet (sa) asked her: “Aisha, do horses ever have wings?” Instead of feeling shy in the presence of this great man, Aisha (rta) confidently replied: “Yes, King’s Solomon’s horse did.”

Aisha (rta) was at various times a judge, a political activist and, after the death of her husband, an indispensable source of knowledge about the life and teachings of the Prophet (sa). Even such senior Companions as Umar (rta) frequently consulted her about matters, in which they were doubtful. Even Tabi’in, the great scholars of Ahadeeth and Fiqh, learned from her. A part of what they learnt has come down to us in the form of numerous traditions that are narrated on her authority.

She was strong-willed and fiercely feminist – but not a rebel without a cause. Hence, we see her defending women’s rights – even negating opinions of other Companions. On hearing some Companions narrate that if a woman, dog or donkey crosses in front of a person praying, the prayer gets disrupted, she got angry and said: “You did gross injustice in putting us together with dogs and donkeys. The Prophet (sa) would pray and I would lie in front of him; when he wanted to prostrate, I would gather my legs.”

When she felt some women deviating from the Islamic code of conduct, she said in no uncertain terms: “Had Allah’s Prophet (sa) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from attending the Mosque.” (Bukhari) Her brand of feminism was firmly entrenched in Islamic teachings. She had no ego issues about standing behind a man in congregation or a chip on the shoulder about remaining in Purdah.

Syed Sulaiman Nadwee says: “ The greatest favour that Aisha (rta) has done to women is to demonstrate that a Muslim woman, living in Purdah, can actively participate in literary, religious, social and political activities and can work for the betterment of the community.”

Aisha (rta) did not simply teach and preach Islam – she lived it. She led a truly Muslim life of prayer, charity and struggle for truth and justice. The Prophet (sa) once gave her this advice: “Aisha, if you want to meet me (again in the life to come), then treat this world like a traveler’s meal and do not attend the gatherings of the rich and the powerful, and do not consider clothes old as long as they can be mended.” (Ibn Sa’ad)

During the Caliphate of Umar (rta) and afterwards, wealth began to pour into the hands of Muslims. A due share of it came to Aisha (rta), but she gave away almost all she received. Once Abd Allah Bin Zubayr sent her 100,000 dirhams, but by the end of the same day, she had given it all away. Ibn Sa’ad reports Urwa as saying that on one occasion he saw her distribute 70,000 dirhams and then get up shaking the front of her dress, as if she were clearing it of dust. Aisha (rta) also often kept Nafl (supererogatory) fast and rarely missed Hajj.

This is but a glimpse of an inspiring life!

Some people like to focus only on: “How old was she, when she got married?” or “What about the Battle of the Camel (Jamal)?”

The Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) marriage to Aisha (rta) was an exceptional one. Waheeda Carvello observes: “Here we have a man nearing the end of his life and a woman still near the beginning of hers. Aisha (rta) had a lively temperament and was quick to learn. She had a clear heart and an accurate memory.”

It is important, however, to dig deeper and to bring out the real significance of this union. The emphasis here is on education and the cultivation of the intellect, which every human is blessed with. We must remind ourselves that if knowledge is not related to and acquired through action, it cannot be used for reconstruction of society.

What we lack today is the application of knowledge. Most of us are educated – in some instances, very highly educated – but how well do we understand what we have learnt? And how many of us have the commitment and the strength to apply it? Let alone implement it? This is what made the marriage of Aisha (rta) to the Prophet (sa) so exceptional.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) encouraged intellectual growth and debate. Although Aisha (rta) was intelligent, she had a great deal to learn. The Prophet (sa) tutored her with love and understanding and enhanced her potential. Through this interaction with the Prophet (sa) and the other wives, she became very knowledgeable. Like any student, she would sometimes feel insecure regarding her progress, and the Prophet (sa) would always help her and assist her in improving herself. She was never short of words and was not afraid to question or debate in order to find out the truth. When she got older, she passed on the knowledge she had received from the Prophet (sa), and long after his death, she was a source of knowledge and wisdom for both women and men.

Aisha (rta) accompanied the Prophet (sa) on many expeditions. She participated with total courage and commitment in the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq and learned through these experiences. Through this kind of training, and as an active participant, she developed into a mature eloquent woman, who could fully participate in the affairs of the first Islamic state and be a beacon for all times to come.

The Battle of the Camel was an incident that caused Aisha (rta) tremendous grief. On remembering it, she would say: “I wish I was a stone, I wish I was a tree.”

The focal point of Aisha’s (rta) remarkable life is her commitment to the cause of Islam under all circumstances, her unfaltering devotion and love for her husband and her submission of her will and intellect to the will of Allah (swt).

Umm Salamah (rta)

By Uzma Jawed

An exemplary and prominent figure, who has been conspicuous in our rich Islamic history, is one of the Ummahat Al-Mumineen, the ‘Mothers of the Faithful.’ Her name was Umm Salamah (rta). A detailed biographical sketch by Dr. Qadri mentioned that her real name was Hind. She was first married to her cousin Abdullah Bin Abdul Asad Makhzumi, who was better known as Abu Salamah (rta). They were among the first ones to embrace Islam.

They were also among those, who migrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), where they had their first son Salamah (rta). After returning to Makkah, they migrated to Madinah. She was the first Muslim woman to do so. After reaching Madinah, Umm Salamah (rta) had another son and two daughters. In 4 A.H., Abu Salamah (rta) was seriously wounded in the battle of Uhud, and she became a widow while pregnant with her second daughter.

After the Iddat, Abu Bakr (rta) proposed to her, but she declined. After that, the Prophet (sa), who was well aware of Umm Salamah’s (rta) sense of honour and self-respect, proposed to her. According to “Great Women in Islam” by Mahmood Ghadanfar, Umm Salamah (rta) did not decline the offer but replied with reservations. She told him that she was very sensitive, of old age and had several children. The Prophet (sa) answered that they would pray to Allah (swt) to relieve her from this extreme sensitivity. As far as age was concerned, he told her that he was an elderly man himself. Moreover, regarding the children, he wished to be their guardian. Therefore, Umm Salamah (rta) accepted the proposal and was wedded to Prophet Muhammad (sa).

A Muslim woman can succeed the most, if she follows the best women in the best generation, which were nurtured in the best house – that of the Prophet (sa). So let us learn from Umm Salamah (rta), who was known for her patience, perseverance, valor, generosity, wisdom, and intelligence.

Patience & Perseverance

When Umm Salamah (rta) was about to migrate from Makkah to Madinah with Abu Salamah (rta) and their son, her family intercepted them, refusing to let their daughter accompany him. The members of her husband’s clan said to Umm Salamah’s (rta) family that if that were the case, then their son Salamah would remain with his father. Thus, all three of them underwent the pain of living separately. Yet, in the face of such harassment, Umm Salamah (rta) persevered and kept to the right path she had chosen.

Valour

Upon the separation from her husband and son, Umm Salamah (rta) would every day go on a hillock longing and praying for them. Eventually, her prayers were answered and a kindhearted man from her clan interceded on her behalf and helped reunite her with them with her family’s permission. She traveled to Madinah alone, as nobody from her family was willing to accompany her. Usman Ibn Talhah saw her traveling alone with a baby and decided to help her reach her destination safely. Her complete faith and trust in Allah (swt) did not deter her from the long and hazardous journey. And because of her courage and absolute trust in Allah (swt) she was able to overcome all odds and complete the journey.

Generosity

Umm Salamah (rta) was well known for her generosity. She never sent a beggar or needy person empty-handed. There was an incident, when a few destitutes came and begged persistently for alms. Umm Hasan, who was with Umm Salamah (rta) at that time, reprimanded them. Umm Salamah (rta) stopped her saying: “We were not ordered to do that. Do not let them go empty-handed. Even if there is nothing, give them at least a date.”

Wisdom

Umm Salamah (rta) was very astute and had a unique understanding of human psychology. After the truce of Hudaybiyah, the Prophet (sa) ordered his Companions to sacrifice their animals and shave their heads. But they all seemed reluctant to obey the command of the Prophet (sa), as the terms of the treaty did not favour Muslims, and this angered the Prophet (sa). When Umm Salamah (rta) heard of this, she suggested to the Prophet (sa) to offer the rituals himself first, and then the others would follow. She proved to be right.

Intelligence

In ‘Biography of the Women Companions of the Holy Prophet (sa),’ Maulana Nadvi says: “Regarding intellectual qualities and scholarship, no one excelled Umm Salamah (rta) and Aisha (rta). Both the great ladies were a store house of the traditions of the Holy Prophet (sa) as vouchsafed by Mahmud son of Labeed in Tabeqat Ibn-Sa’ad.”

Umm Salamah (rta) preserved many prophetic traditions. She enhanced her knowledge by thoroughly inquiring about every facet of religion and then spreading that knowledge. Abu Hurairah (rta) and Abdullah Ibn Abbbas (rta), despite their great knowledge of Islam, would consult with Umm Salamah (rta) in many finer points of the Shariah. In the science of Hadeeth, she narrated approximately 378 traditions of the Prophet (sa).

Moreover, she was well versed in jurisprudence. The great scholar Allam Ibn Qayyim says that from her rulings on various issues, one whole book of jurisprudence can be compiled. In addition, Umm Salamah (rta) topped the list of the Companions, whose judgments on points of law were regarded as valid.

Umm Salamah (rta) was an outstanding Muslim woman. Her exemplary lifestyle is something each one of us can learn from. If we try to emulate her in every aspect of our lives starting from matters of religion and submission to Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) to our innate self (including our conduct and character), we could truly be on the way to success in this world as well as the Hereafter.

Ummul-Mumineen Sauda (rta)

Ummul-MumineenName: Sauda

Father: Zama bin Qays

Mother: Shamoos binte Qays

Clan: Quraish

Tribe: Aamer bin Lawee

Birth: Not known

Death: 22 Hijri

Sauda binte Zama binte Qays (rta) was the second wife of the Prophet (sa). The death of Khadija (rta) had left the Prophet (sa) grief stricken and lonely. Khawlah, (rta) wife of Uthman bin Mazoon (rta), suggested to the Prophet (sa) that he needed a companion to help him run his house and look after his children. She proposed the name of Sauda (rta).

Sauda (rta) and her first husband Sakrtan bin Umro were among the first converts to Islam. They were forced to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to escape persecution of the Makkans.

Sauda returned home after many years. Her husband had died, and she was now living with her aged father. She was middle-aged, rather plump, with a jolly, kindly disposition, and just the right person to take care of the Prophet’s (sa) household and family. So the Prophet (sa) agreed to send her a proposal. Khawla arranged the marriage, and Sauda (rta) came to the Prophet’s (sa) household on the 10th of Ramadan Nabawi.

Critics of Islam, who particularly target the Prophet’s (sa) personal life and character, have tried to suggest that Sauda (rta) was not treated well by him. As the Prophet’s (sa) Nikkah to Aisha (rta) followed immediately after his marriage to Sauda (rta), these hawks like to draw parallels in their relationships. The youthful Aisha (rta) is pitted against the elderly Sauda (rta), as if there was enmity and hostility between them. They try to sell a warped version of the truth that the Prophet (sa) cast Sauda (rta) aside in the favor of Aisha (rta) and threatened her with divorce. Hence, the poor old Sauda (rta) was cornered into giving her day with the Prophet (sa) to Aisha (rta)! Authentic sources present a completely different picture.

Ibn Kathir says: “There was great surprise in Makkah that the Prophet would choose to marry a widow, who was neither young nor beautiful. As Sauda aged, the Prophet became worried that she might be upset about having to compete with so many younger wives; therefore, he offered to divorce her. She said that she would give her night to Aisha (rta), of whom she was very fond, because she only wished to be the Prophet’s (sa) wife on the Day of Rising. She lived on until the end of Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s time. She and Aisha (rta) always remained very close.”

Aisha (rta) said: “Never did I find any woman more loving to me than Sauda bint Zama. I wished I could be exactly like her, who was passionate.” As she became old, she had made over her day (which she had to spend) with Allah’s Messenger (sa) to Aisha. She said: “I have made over my day with you to Aisha.” So Allah’s Messenger (sa) allotted two days to Aisha – her own day (when it was her turn) and that of Sauda. (Muslim)

The remarkable quality of women in wanting to please their husbands is unfathomable to most of us today, especially to those, who judge every selfless act in the cold light of their own business style relationships – I do this for you, so what is in it for me? And let’s not forget that Sauda’s (rta) husband was no ordinary person – he was the Prophet (sa). She willingly made sacrifices for the privilege of being Ummul-Mumineen and expected nothing in return in this life.

Such was her devotion to the Prophet’s (sa) word that according to Abu Huraira (rta), after his death, she never left her house for Hajj, as the Prophet (sa) had asked his wives not to leave their homes in the sermon of Hujjatul-Wida. Sauda (rta) and Zainab Binte Jahash (rta) practiced this verbatim.

Sauda (rta) made her husband laugh. Sometimes she would walk in such a peculiar way that the Prophet (sa) would be amused. Once, she told him: “Last night, I prayed behind you. You did such a long Ruku that I thought my nose would bleed, so I held my nose all the while.” The Prophet (sa) smiled on hearing this.

We see in her character a lovely combination of selflessness, obedience, and piety as well as endearing humor and simplicity. These are the traits every woman, especially a wife, should aspire for.

Ummul-Mumineen – Khadijah (rta)

Ummul-MumineenPersonal details

Name: Khadijah Al-Kubra bint Khuwalid

Kunniyat: Umm e Hind

Title: Tahira

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.