Khadija (R.A), known to us as Mother of the Believers (Ummul Momineen) was an ‘eye-witness’ of the birth of Islam. She (R.A) nursed it through its infancy, through its most difficult, and through its most formative years. Islam was given shape and design in her home. Let us start with the story of our beloved mother Khadijah (R.A). First, we need to emphasise the fact that Allah chooses whom He pleases from among His servants for important roles. So don’t say, ‘why her and not me’. It is Allah who sees through all of us and makes the selection. To be selected by Allah is truly an honour, especially if you were selected to play a role in guiding others to God. The wives of the Prophet are not like ordinary women. From among the elite of the elite, Allah selected Khadijah, daughter of Khawailid and Fatima born in Mecca in 555 CE. Although the society in which Khadija was born was a terribly male chauvinistic one, Khadija earned two titles: Ameerat-Quraysh, Princess of Quraysh, and al-Tahira, the Pure One, due to her impeccable personality and virtuous character, not to mention her honorable descent. She used to feed and clothe the poor, assist her relatives financially, and even provide for the marriage of those of her kin who could not otherwise have had means to marry. Khadijah’s full name is Khadijah bint Khawailid ibn Asad ibn Abdel-Ozza ibn Qusai, so her pedigree meets with the Prophet’s at Qusai. She’s also related to the Prophet from her mother’s side, whose pedigree meets the Prophet’s at the seventh grandfather “Lo’ai”. Therefore, she may be considered the most closely related wife to the Prophet (SAW). This is why the Prophet (SAW) names his youngest daughter “Fatima” after Khadijah’s mother. And we know that the Prophet’s offspring originated only from Fatima.
The first characteristic of Khadijah (RA) that we need to know is her nobility and superior status among her people. She was the most respected lady in the pre-Islamic Makkan society and known for her decency and wisdom. In addition to her exceptional personality, Khadijah was the wealthiest lady in Makkah and even before she became a Muslim, she never worshiped the idols. This was the woman whom Allah selected to accompany the Prophet in his struggle to carry on the message at its most vulnerable stages. Khadijah, whose name in Quraish was “the pure woman” married the man whose name was “the honest and trustworthy”, what a mix! Today girls not chose the best companion who helps one through until one safely reaches the happy destination. By 585 A.D., Khadija was left an orphan. Despite that, and after having married twice- and twice lost her husband to the ravaging wars with which Arabia was afflicted- she had no mind to marry a third time though she was sought for marriage by many honorable and highly respected men of the Arabian peninsula throughout which she was quite famous due to her business dealings. She simply hated the thought of being widowed for a third time. Khadijah (R.A) started looking for someone to trust with running her huge trade caravans for her. Her choice was the “honest and trustworthy”, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W); he was 22.
The young man was looking for a decent job to help his uncle Abu-Taleb, who was his legal guardian. Abu-Taleb talked to Khadijah to give his nephew the job of managing her caravan to Syria, and she accepted. Khadijah had a slave-boy named Maisara whom she entrusted and who was her eye on whoever leads her caravans. The caravan returned with much more profit than was anticipated. She summoned Maisara and kept inquiring about the Prophet, how he behaved in trade, and what he did during the long journey. Let’s listen to what Maisara had to say about the not-yet prophet, Muhammad (S.A.W). “I saw from this young man three things that amazed me. First, I saw a cloud in the sky that was following him wherever he went, and stops when he stops. I tried to test this, so I challenged him in running, and we raced, and the cloud was still following him. The second one was stranger; he was sleeping under a tree and the sun hit him. I saw the tree branches leaning towards him to shelter him from the sun.” Maisara thought it was just the wind that bent the branches; “until a Jewish rabbi named Mastorid, whom I know from previous travels, passed by us and called me. He asked me, ‘who is this man?’ I said, ‘this is Muhammad, a youth from the land of the Haram (Makkah).’ The rabbi said, ‘only prophets sleep under this tree.’
The third marvel was in Syria, when Muhammad was in the marketplace working when a Jewish man approached him and asked for the price on an item, then started bargaining and the Jew told him to swear with the Lat and Ozza (idols of Makkah). This is when I saw Muhammad’s face turn red and he said: ‘by God I haven’t sublimated to them to swear by them’ and the man accepted the price. The Jew then took me aside and told me: Maisara, stick to this man; this is the Prophet of the end of time.” It all rang a bell in Khadijah’s mind. She had prior knowledge before about a Prophet who was expected to arise at that time in Makkah. She learned that from her cousin Waraqa who was a prominent Christian scholar. Another incident that had happened to her made Maisara’s description of Muhammad even more significant for her. Once she was in a gathering of Quraishi women celebrating when a Jew from out of town stopped by them and shouted: ‘O women of Quraish, watch out for the Prophet of the end of time, his time has come; anyone of you should marry him if she can.’
The women were appalled by these words, which they took as an insult and they stoned him away, except for Khadijah, who smiled and didn’t respond. She carried this feeling all along, that this man, this Prophet would show up, and she would be his wife. Maisara’s words confirmed what she already suspected, that Muhammad was this upcoming Prophet. She was the first human being to believe that Muhammad was a Prophet, even before he actually was. Khadijah became preoccupied by the issue of Muhammad (S.A.W), she observed his manners, his behaviour, his beliefs, and came to the conviction that this is the man she wanted to marry. Since she was the honourable lady, she could not approach him directly. Instead, she talked to one of her close confidents; a woman named Nafisa bint Munia. Khadijah told her friend Nafisa that Muhammad (S.A.W) was a unique person with outstanding characters, she didn’t mention love or affection; she would not do that. Nafisa, on the other hand, told her that she thought Muhammad (S.A.W) would be a wonderful husband for her; again as if it was her own idea, not Khadijah’s. She then asked Khadijah’s permission to be an intermediate and Khadijah approved.
We should again realise that although what Khadijah had for the Prophet we can call sincere love; she did not blindly follow through her emotions. She did not try to approach him, not even with a gesture. She kept her dignity; and yet she effectively steered the whole issue in the direction she wanted. Nafisa went to Muhammad (S.A.W) and asked him if he wanted to get married, she didn’t mention Khadija. Muhammad (S.A.W) was 25 at that time. In a society that worshipped sex, he was a young and handsome single man who had never known women before. He told Nafisa that he couldn’t afford the marriage expenses. She told him, ‘what if this part was solved? What if I offer you the beauty, respect, fine manners, and class?’ He said, ‘who are you talking about?’ She said: ‘Khadijah bint Khawailid.’ He immediately said, ‘Khadijah? Would she accept me?’ She said, ‘I can ask her’; and she came back to Khadijah with the good news. Later, she came to Muhammad (S.A.W) saying, Khadijah told me: ‘who will be better than Muhammed (S.A.W) in morals, class, and honour.’ This was the beginning, in my belief, of the greatest love in history, a story that will last for 25 years of wonderful marriage, and for 15 more years after Khadijah died. The Prophet’s uncle Abu Taleb made the proposal for Khadijah’s hand, and her representative in the marriage contract was her cousin Waraqa. History books did not include any account for the first 15 years of their marriage until the start of the Prophet’s message. All that was mentioned was that they had four daughters: Zainab, Roqaya, Om Kulthum, and Fatima; and three sons: Al-Qasem, Abdullah, and Al Taher. They were fostering others like Ali ibn Abi Taleb, Zaid ibn Haritha, Al Zubair ibn Al-Awam, in addition to Hind, Khadijah’s son from her previous marriage.
We can imagine how busy Khadijah was during these years taking care of this big family. All these big names, which later became icons in the history of Islam, were cultivated in Khadijah’s home. She was over 50 years old when her husband started showing a strong inclination towards seclusion and meditation. She supported him when he started residing to a cave in the mountain where he stayed for several weeks at a time. She used to carry food and water herself up the mountain for him. She didn’t complain like some women nowadays might and tell him, “You’re always leaving me alone with the kids, we never see you, I have to do everything.” She was supporting her husband and she looked after him. And there was a night. The Prophet had just turned 40 years and Khadijah was 55. He described that night saying (in its meaning): “One night I was at the cave, I saw the angel standing next to me, and he squeezed me in an embrace and said: recite! I said I don’t know how to read; then he released me and squeezed me in another embrace I thought I was going to die and said: recite! I said I don’t know how to read; he released me and squeezed me again in another hard embrace and said recite! I said what do I read? He said: Read in the name of your lord who created: (Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher, who created, Qur’an, 96:1)”. The world would change forever; the message of Islam has just begun.
When the Angel disappeared, Muhammad (S.A.W) was shaking all over. He did not understand what had happened, all he could do was to run back to Makkah. His first shelter was not his best friend Abu Bakr, not his loving uncle Abu Talib but Khadijah, the great wife. Here I want to say to our sisters you can be the shelter for you husband, listen to him and sympathise with his worries, concerns and fears. And for the husbands, run to your wives with your probelms, confide in her before anyone else as she is your best friend. The Prophet came home trembling in fear and all he could say was ‘wrap me, cover me!’ Khadija asked him what happened and he said he was scared it might have been a strike by a devil. Immediately, Khadijah dismissed that and said: ‘No, by Allah, He will never disgrace you!’ She unquestionably supported him and gave him her unequivocal confidence. Khadjah was the first to stand by the Prophet, the first to follow him and the first to perform the Islamic duties. She then took him to her cousin Waraqa to consult him on what had happened. Waraqa listened attentively and asked about the details, then he said, ‘this is the doctrine that had been given to Moses and Jesus before; you are the Prophet’. Then he added: ‘I wish I will be capable when your people drive you out, I will be your strong supporter.’ Here the Prophet asked: ‘are they going to drive me out?’ Waraqa replied: ‘no man came with what you came with except he was driven out.’
Khadijah knew what to expect. Day and night she was busy spreading the word of Islam among her contacts. She spent a lot of money buying more slaves to protect the Prophet. Her two daughters Roqaya and Om Kulthum were about to marry the two sons of Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle, and the wedding was cancelled because the two girls became Muslims. Her daughter Roqaya then had to immigrate to Habasha with her husband, Othman ibn Affan, to escape prosecution. Her wealth was diminishing because she and her husband were now totally committed to the message, but their hearts became more united than ever for the common cause. Then came the ultimate adversity, when Quraish decided to put a total embargo on the clan of Abi Talib to punish the Prophet and his followers. For three years, Muslims were sanctioned from dealing with anyone else and besieged in one of Makkah’s neighborhoods. They starved until they ate dry leaves and Khadijah (R.A) took it with them, although she was excluded by Quraish from the sanctions.
The wealthy lady chose to starve with her fellow Muslims; and gradually, she became very ill. Some people in Quraish became so worried she might die and it would be a disgrace for them; so they started smuggling food to her house. Yet, she was spreading it among the needy Muslims; even when she was feeling the end approaching, she maintained her defiance. So Outstanding Was Her Moral Character That Before She Passed Away, She Received The Glad Tidings Of Her Abode In Paradise. The Prophet’s beloved wife was dying. Jibreel came to the Prophet and said (in its meaning): ‘O Muhammad, deliver to Khadijah greetings from Allah and tell her that He prepared in Paradise for her a castle made from pearls where there is no noise and no suffering.’ This had to be said to Khadijah (R.A) to seal her status on earth, even before her reward in Paradise, and yes she deserved it. Very Few People In The History Of Islam Have Received Such High Spiritual Status. The great Muslim lady passed away on Ramadan 10th in the tenth year of Hijrah, 620 CE, at the age of 65.
Prophet (SAW) himself dug the grave at Hajun in the outskirts of Mecca and descended into her grave to lay in it for a few moments. Funeral prayers (salat al janaza) had not yet been mandated in Islam. As in the same year Prophet (S.A.W) also had to bear the loss of his affectionate uncle Abu Talib. The deaths of these two friends – Khadija (R.A) and guardian uncle Abu Talib – were the greatest shocks that Prophet (S.A.W) had to endure in the fifty years of his life, he (S.A.W) named the year “Aam-ul-Huzn” the year of sorrow/grief. It is reported that by the time she died, her entire wealth had already been spent to promote Islam. She (R.A) stood by the prophet (S.A.W) all the time. In moments of trial and difficulty, the prophet used to come to her and she consoled and comforted her husband and encouraged him. Khadijah (R.A) lived with the prophet (SAW) for 25 years and was his only wife during that time. His (S.A.W) love for Khadijah (R.A) never died. It was one of the most loving, happiest and sacred marriages in all of human history.
(The author a teacher at S K University of Agriculture Sciences &Technology-SKUAST Srinagar writes on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. His views are personal)