Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

Narrated Abu Hurairah: Jibril (Gabriel) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: "O Allah's Messenger! This is Khadijah, coming to you with a dish having meat soup (or some food or drink). When she reaches you, greet her on behalf of her Lord (Allah) and on my behalf, and give her the glad tidings of having a palace made of Qasab in Paradise, wherein there will be neither any noise nor any toil, (fatigue, trouble, etc.)." [Al-Bukhari]

'Abdullah bin 'Abbas narrated that one day the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) drew four lines on the earth and asked his Companions if they understood what these lines stood for. They respectfully replied that he knew better. He then told them that these lines stood for the four foremost ladies of the universe. They were Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatimah bint Muhammad, Maryam bint Imran, the mother of the Prophet Issa and 'Asia bint Muzahim (the wife of the Pharaoh).

She was the first person to have an abiding faith in the utterances of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and to accept Islam as her religion and her way of life. She was blessed with the distinction of having been greeted with Salam (greetings) by Allah and the Angel Jibril.

Khadijah was born in Makkah in the year 556 CE. Her mother's name was Fatimah bint Zayd, and her father's name was Khuwaylid bin Asad. He was a very popular leader among the tribe of Quraysh, and a very prosperous businessman who died while fighting in the famous battle of Fujjar. Khadijah thus grew up in the lap of luxury. She married Abu Halah Malak bin Nabash bin Zarrarah bin At-Tamimi and bore him two children, Halah and Hind. She wanted to see her husband prosper and financed him in setting up a big business. But unfortunately he passed away. Some time later the young widow married 'Atique bin 'Aith bin 'Abdullah Al-Makhzumi, and she had a daughter by him as well named Hindah, but the marriage soon broke up on grounds of incompatibility. After this all her attention was devoted to the upbringing of her children, and building up the business she inherited from her father. Her astuteness and business ability made her business one of the most widespread businesses among the Quraysh.

Her policy was to employ hard working, honest and distinguished managers to deal on her behalf as a lot depended on the integrity of the employees who traveled far and wide on her behalf. She exported her goods to far away markets like Syria, and her managers bought goods from those markets to be sold at home.

Khadijah had heard of the integrity, honesty and principled behavior of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and sent a job offer to him to head her trading caravans. He gladly accepted the offer and started working for her. Khadijah sent him on a business trip; her old and trusted slave Maysarah being delegated to accompany and serve him.

Maysarah was impressed by the Prophet's integrity, strength of character, adherence to principles, his amicable dealings and his business abilities. On the way back from Syria, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) lay down under a tree to rest for a while. Nestora, a Jewish monk, noted for his knowledge of religion and for his insight saw him and asked Maysarah who he was. Maysarah told him all about Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his reputation for honesty and intelligence. Nestora then told him that this man would be elevated to Prophet hood in the future, as no man had ever rested under that particular tree but Prophets.

Tradition has it that Maysarah also saw two angels bearing a cloud over Prophet's head to protect him from the glare and heat of the sun.

When he returned home Maysarah reported to Khadijah all that had taken place on the trip to Syria. She was deeply moved and impressed, and started thinking of proposing marriage to Muhammad. But how could she express her thoughts to him? She already rejected several proposals of marriage from men belonging to some of the noblest families of the Quraysh. How would her tribe react? What would her family say? And what was more, would her proposal be acceptable to this young, yet unmarried man of the tribe of Quraysh?

As she pondered over these questions and debated within herself, one night she dreamt that the shining sun had descended from the heavens into her courtyard, radiating her home. When she woke up she went for the interpretation of this wonderful dream to her cousin, Waraqah bin Nawfal, a blind man noted for his skill in interpreting dreams, and for his depth of knowledge, particularly of the Torah and the Injil. When he heard her dream, he gave a serene smile, and told her not to worry, as this was a very promising dream. The glorious sun she saw descending into her courtyard indicated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) whose advent had been predicted in the Torah and the Injil was to grace her home and she would gain from his presence in her life.

After this meeting with Waraqah she became stronger in her desire to marry Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). One of her very close friends, Nafisah bint Manbah knew of her inclination and she went to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and requested his permission to ask him a very personal question. When he said he had no objection, she asked why he had not yet got married. He said he did not have the financial resources. Then she asked him if he would be willing to marry a beautiful lady from a noble and wealthy family, who was inclined towards marriage with him. He asked whom she was referring to; when he learnt her identity he said that he was willing, provided she was willing to marry him. Khadijah' was overjoyed.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was then twenty-five years of age and Khadijah was forty years old. (According to one tradition, she was twenty-eight). The two uncles of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) Hamzah and Abu Talib approached her uncle, 'Umar bin Asad, with the formal proposal. It was accepted and the two families began preparing for the wedding. Halimah As-Sa'diyyah who nursed the Prophet in his infancy was specially invited for the wedding and traveled to Makkah from her village. When she left after the festivities, Khadijah presented her with household goods, a camel and forty goats as an expression of gratitude to the lady who had taken such good care of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in his infancy.

Khadijah was very blessed in the marriage, and had six children. First two sons, Qasim and 'Abdullah; then followed the daughters, Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah. It was a very happy, peaceful and content household, but Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) felt something was missing, and he was extremely restless. He would retire for a month once a year to the cave of Hira to dedicate himself entirely to prayer and meditation. One day he felt the presence of another being who held him in his arms in a tight embrace. Then he loosened his hold and asked him to read; Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) answered that he was illiterate. But the person repeated the same act and the phrase again and again. Then finally he read these Ayat which are the first revelation of the Quran. They are from Surah Iqra or Al-'Alaq.

"Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not." [Noble Quran 96:1-5]

Then the being disappeared. This was such an awesome experience that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) returned home sweating and shaking. He called out to Khadijah asking her to cover him with a sheet or a blanket. When he had calmed down to some extent, he told his wife that he feared for his life, and narrated the whole incident to her. Khadijah, a picture of loyalty and serenity consoled him saying that Allah would surely protect him from any danger, and would never allow anyone to revile him as he was a of man of peace and reconciliation and always extended the hand of friendship to all. He never lied, always hospitable, carried the burdens of others and helped those who were in trouble. These soothing and encouraging words of sympathy and understanding from Khadijah gave him immeasurable strength and confidence. She then took him to meet her cousin, Waraqah bin Nawfal, who immediately guessed the identity of the being in the Cave of Hira as the Angel Jibril the Messenger of Allah who had visited Moses as well. Waraqah who was very old wished that he could live to see the time when the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would be forced into exile by his people. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was very surprised and asked if his people would really do this to him. Waraqah assured him that it was typical of human beings that they would never appreciate or follow a Prophet who rose among them. Waraqah added that he wished he were alive at that time and be able to help him. He added that if what he had been told were true then surely it meant that her husband was the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) whose advent had been mentioned in the scriptures.

The four daughters grew up to be faithful and courageous daughters of Islam. They all migrated to Al-Madinah, with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Zaynab was married to Abu 'Aas bin Rabi'ah, Ruqayyah was married to 'Uthman. When she passed away he married her sister Umm Kulthum; Fatimah was married to 'Ali bin Abi Talib. The first three daughters died during the lifetime of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his beloved daughter Fatimah lived just six months after he passed away.

When the disbelievers saw that Islam was attracting more and more followers in spite of all their tactics, they decided to declare an open and total political and economic boycott of the tribe of Banu Hashim. This took place in the seventh year after the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declared himself the Messenger of Allah. This is also known in Islamic history as the Shi'ab Abi Talib.

It was so severe that innocent children faced starvation and hunger, and adults survived eating the leaves of trees. Yet the firm followers of Muhammad did not turn away from their true religion and they came out of the ordeal stronger and purer than before.

Khadijah who had been brought up in luxury in her wealthy father's home now faced the economic hardships with patience and courage, which are a necessary part of any siege. Khadijah's nobility of character and conduct pleased Allah, so much that He sent special greetings for her.

Khadijah was the ideal wife and mother. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) lived in her house which became a blessed place due to his presence and the fact that Jibril (peace and blessings be upon him) came often to visit him there with Quranic revelations. It became the centre of Islam, where all the Companions male and female visited often to partake of the hospitality of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his wife.

After the Hijrah (migration) of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to Al-Madinah, the house was occupied by the brother of 'Ali. Later Mu'awiyah bin Abu Sufyan who transcribed some of the Divine Revelations purchased this house and built a mosque. Thus the site of the house of Khadijah became a place of prayer and worship for all time. She had been used to praying two Rak'as of Salat (prayer), mornings and evenings with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), even before prayers were made compulsory by Allah. After accepting Islam she became more contemplative and inclined towards worship; she found a blessed feeling of peace in prayer.

Afif Kindi relates that 'Abbas bin 'Abdul Muttalib was a great friend of his and he used to visit him often in Yemen in connection with his business in perfumes. On one occasion when they were standing and chatting in Mina, they saw a handsome young man approach. He carefully washed his hands and feet and then stood respectfully with his arms crossed on his breast. Soon a dignified lady of noble bearing and a young handsome young lad joined him. 'Afif asked 'Abbas what they were doing and whether this was a new form of exercise. 'Abbas replied that the youth was his brother 'Abdullah's son, and the lady was his wife. She was a woman of great wealth and virtue, and an ideal wife and mother. The lad was his brother Abu Talib's son. Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) had announced that he was a Messenger of Allah and had started preaching a new religion called Islam. In due course 'Afif accepted Islam, but he always regretted the fact that he had not joined the Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions in their prayers and supplication on that memorable day in Mina, when he had first heard of Islam.

Khadijah passed away just three years before the Hijrah, or the Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) migration to Al-Madinah. She died at the age of sixty-five, having given almost twenty-five years to Muhammad and the cause of Islam. When Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) saw her in the throes of death he consoled her saying Allah had so ordained it, and that the thing she was dreading, would prove favorable for her. Her eyes lit up and as she gazed at her beloved husband, her soul left its earthly body.

Her grave was prepared at a place called Hujjun, near Makkah. Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stepped into it to see that everything was as it should be, and with his own hands lowered her gently into it. Thus passed away the 'Mother' of all Muslims, the one who had sacrificed her all for Islam, the lady who was the greatest supporter of Islam in its earliest days. She who was the mother of Fatimah, the First Lady of Paradise, the grandmother of the beloved grandchildren of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) Hasan and Hussein who are to be the foremost of the youths in Paradise.

When she passed away, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was heartbroken at the loss of a dedicated companion who stood by him during the most difficult period of his life.

One of the ladies of the Quraysh, Khawlah bint Hakim, visited the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to console him, and saw his state of depression and grief and remarked on it. He replied it was only natural that he should be touched by her absence, as she had been a loving mother to his now neglected children; she had been a loyal and sympathetic wife who shared his secrets. It was only human and natural that he should feel her loss as she was there for him during his most difficult times. Whenever he was abused by the disbelievers she had provided moral support and unflagging faith.

A Companion of the Prophet narrates that whenever any gift was brought to him he would immediately send it to some lady who had been a friend of Khadijah. Ayshah, a favorite wife of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) says that whenever a goat was slaughtered the Prophet it would send some meat to Khadijah's friends; when she remarked about this on one occasion he told her, 'I have great regard for her friends, as she has a special place in my heart.' Ayshah said she never experienced such a feeling of natural feminine jealousy for any other wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as she did for Khadijah. She also narrates that whenever Muhammad spoke of her he would talk at great length and praise her qualities, and pray for her forgiveness.

Ayshah narrates that whenever the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) talked about Khadijah, it was in terms of the highest praise. One day her innate feminine envy overtook her sense of decorum and she spoke in disparaging terms of her, wondering why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) missed her when he was blessed with a better, younger wife by Allah. This displeased him, but forbearing as he was, he just sighed and answered,

"I have not yet found a better wife than her. She had faith in me when everyone, even members of my own family and tribe did not believe me, and accepted that I was truly a Prophet and a Messenger of Allah. She converted to Islam, spent all her wealth and worldly goods to help me spread this faith, and this too at a time when the entire world seemed to have turned against me and persecuted me. And it is through her that Allah blessed me with children."

As Allah says in Surah Al-Fajr in the Noble Quran that it will be said to the pious believers:

"O the one in complete rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing (unto Him)! Enter you then among My (honored) servants, and enter you My Paradise." [Noble Quran 89:27-30]

Source: "Great Women of Islam" - by Dar-us-Salam Publications