This noble lady, known to us as Mother of the Believers (Ummul Momineen) and the first wife of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw), was the first person ever to accept Islam after it had been revealed to him by Jibreel (Angel Gabriel).
There is a truly beautiful story told by Yahya ibn Afeef about an occasion when he visited Makkah to stay with Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, one of the uncles of Prophet Muhammad (saw).
When the sun started rising, he said, “I saw a man who came out of a place not far from us, faced the Kaaba, and started performing his prayers. He hardly started before being joined by a young boy who stood on his right side, then by a woman who stood behind them. When he bowed down, the young boy and the woman bowed, and when he stood up straight, they, too, did likewise. When he prostrated himself, they, too, prostrated themselves.”
Then he expressed his amazement at that, saying to Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, “This is quite strange, Abbas!”
“Is it really?” retorted Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, who asked his guest if he knew who this man was and went on to tell him, “He is Muhammad ibn Abdullah, my nephew. Do you know who the young boy is?”
When Yahya ibn Afeef said that he didn’t know, he was told, “He is Ali ibn Abi Talib. Do you know who the woman is?” The answer came again in the negative, to which Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib said, “She is Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, my nephew’s wife” (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi).
Lady Khadija (sa) was an “eye-witness” of the birth of Islam. She nursed it through its infancy, through its most difficult, and through its most formative years. Islam was given shape and design in her home. If any home can be called the cradle of Islam, it was her home. She “reared” Islam. If any home can be called the “axis” of Islam, it was her home; Islam revolved around her home. Her home was the “home” of Glorious Qur’an – the Book of Allah (SWT), and the religious and political code of Islam. It was in her home that Jibreel (Angel Gabriel) was bringing Revelations from Heaven for ten years.
Lady Khadija (sa) was one of the greatest women of the world and her rank is as high as the great Mary/Maryam the mother of Prophet Jesus/Isa (pbuh). Prophet Muhammad (saw) says about her: “Four greatest women of the world are: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatimah bint Muhammad, Mary bint Emran and Asiya bint Muzahim, the wife of Pharaoh.”
Khadija tul Kubra (sa), combined in her person all those attribute, which add up to perfection. Malikatul Arab was the ideal woman, the ideal wife for the Seal of Prophets, Prophet Muhammad (saw), and the ideal mother.
As the saying goes “Islam did not rise except through Ali’s sword and Khadija’s wealth.” Let us take a peep into the life of this blessed lady and hope to understand her enormous contribution to Islam.
After the death of her father Khuwaylid, Lady Khadija (sa) took charge of the family business, and as a result, it rapidly expanded. With the profits she made, Lady Khadija (sa) helped the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sick and the disabled. If there were any poor girls, Lady Khadija (sa) married them off, and gave them dowry.
When Prophet Muhammad (saw) married Lady Khadija or Khatija (sa), she brought many dowries into Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) house. No woman in all of Arabia has ever done that. Lady Khadija’s (sa) dowry included slaves, real estate property, pasture lands, herds of camels and horses, flocks of goats and sheep, her personal wardrobe, priceless heirlooms, precious metals and stones, and masses of gold and silver coins.
Lady Khadija (sa) wanted everything that belonged to her to also belong to her precious and beloved husband, Prophet Muhammad (saw). Lady Khadija’s (sa) dowry, as big as it was, was not a gift from her uncles or siblings; rather it was all a product of her own hard work. As a Successful Business Women, she produced it by her own intelligence, industry, prudence, and foresight. After marriage Lady Khadija’s (sa) primary focus was to make her husband’s life happy and pleasant.
Khadija tul Kubra (sa) so earnestly and with such great love and devotion rested full authority of all her wealth on Prophet Muhammad (saw), to ease the difficulties and release the pressure on new Muslim converts, that Almighty Allah (SWT) brought her great generosity to the attention of Prophet Muhammad (saw) with the descending of the following verse which says: “Did He not find you needy, and enrich you?” (Glorious Qur’an 93:8)
Lady Khadijah (sa), the wife, the companion and the friend of Muhammad Mustafa (saw), the Messenger of Allah (SWT), and the benefactress of Islam and the Muslims, fell ill. Her illness was brief and fatal. All her life she had lived in the midst of abundance and luxury but the three years of exile between 616-619 CE, had been a time of excessive austerity for her which inevitably took its toll.
When Islam came under mounting pressure from its enemies, Lady Khadijah (sa) sacrificed her comforts, her wealth and her home for it; and now it would appear that she sacrificed her life too, in the way of Islam. Without a doubt, if she had lived in her palatial house in Makkah, surrounded by her maid-servants, she might have lived for many more years. But she preferred to stand by her husband and his clan, and to share the hardships of life with them. During the siege, she had to endure not only the pangs of hunger and thirst but also the extremes of heat in summer and cold in winter; yet she never complained to her husband about them. Whether times were good or bad, whether she had plenty or she had nothing, she was always cheerful. Austerity and privation never soured her. It was this temperament that was an unfailing source of comfort, courage and strength for her husband during the blackest and trying moments of his life.
During the years of the siege, Lady Khadijah (sa) spent all her fortune on buying essentials like food and water for the clan of her husband. When she returned to her house, her last cent was gone; and when she died, there was not enough money available in the house to even buy her shroud. A cloak of her husband was used as a shroud for her, and she was given a burial in it.
Lady Khadijah (sa) has collected more “firsts” in the history of nascent Islam than anyone else. She was the first wife of the last messenger of Allah. She was the first woman Believer. She was the very first mortal to declare that the Creator was only One, and that Muhammad (saw) was His Messenger. The glory and honor of being the first woman believer in the whole world, is hers to all eternity.
Next to her husband, she was the very first individual who heard the Voice of Revelation. She was the first person who offered prayers to Allah (SWT) with her husband. Whenever prophet Muhammad (saw) went into the presence of Allah (SWT), she was his constant companion. She was the first Mother of Believers. She was the only wife of Muhammad Mustafa who did not have to co-exist with a co-wife. All the love, all the affection and all the friendship of her husband, were hers and hers alone – exclusively!
Prophet Muhammad (saw) forever remembered Lady Khadija (sa) with love, affection and gratitude. Her death filled his heart with deep pain and sorrow. Lady Khadija (sa) expired on the 10 Ramadhan of the 10th year of the Proclamation of Islam at the age of 65 in 619 CE, and was laid to rest in Al-Hujun, Makkah al-Mukarramah.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself dug the grave and descended into her grave to lay in it for a few moments. He (saw) smoothed the earth on her grave after the burial. As in the same year Prophet Muhammad (saw) also had to bear the loss of his affectionate uncle Hazrat Abu Talib (as). The deaths of these two friends – Lady Khadija (sa) and guardian uncle Hazrat Abu Talib (as) – were the greatest shocks that Prophet Muhammad (saw) had to endure in the fifty years of his life, he (saw) named the year “Aam-ul-Huzn” the year of sorrow/grief.
These two deaths were a great blow to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his mission. Everything looked dark and dismal. Prophet Muhammad (saw) was now without a guardian and Imam Ali (as) without a father. The loss of Khadijah (sa) was also a big loss to both of them. She had given twenty eight years of her life and all that she possessed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) to spend on the cause of Islam, and Imam Ali (as) had lost a mother in whose laps he had grown. Prophet Muhammad (saw) was left alone with Imam Ali (as) and his daughter Fatimah al-Zahra (sa) who was just eight years old.
Lady Khadijah (sa) had a great value in the eyes of Prophet Muhammad (saw) to the extent that he (saw) did not marry a second woman while she was alive. Aisha, one of Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) wives, narrates: “The Prophet never left our house unless he reminded well of Khadijah.” Aisha also narrates: “Whenever, Prophet Muhammad (saw) slaughtered a lamb he would say: ‘Send this to friends of Khadijah.’ Once I asked for the reason of this action and he (saw) replied: ‘I like friends of Khadijah as well.'”
After Lady Khadija (sa) demise, Prophet Muhammad (saw) regarded her many times as a great woman. Once, years after Lady Khadija (sa) died, Prophet Muhammad (saw) came across a necklace that she once wore. When he saw it, he remembered her and began to cry and mourn. His love for her never died, so much so, that his later wife Aisha became jealous of her. Once she asked the Prophet Muhammad (saw) if Khadijah (sa) had been the only woman worthy of his love. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied: “She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand.”
Prophet Muhammad (saw) always remembered Khadija tul Kubra (sa) and moaned, “Never did Allah (SWT) give me a better wife than Khadijah. She hailed my mission at a time when everybody shouted against it. She lent me the support of her conviction when there was hardly a believer. She enlivened my heart when I felt lonely and deserted. Khadijah’s love was given to me by Allah (SWT). How could I forget her?”
Prophet Muhammad (saw) at another time remarked his beloved wife Khadijah (sa) as “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 (SWT) granted me children by her while depriving me of children by other women.” From Khadijah (sa), Prophet Muhammad (saw) got son Qasim. Qasim was born before the advent of Islam and died in his infancy. But the Arabs always addressed Prophet Muhammad (saw) as Abul Qasim.
On another occasion, Aisha said to Prophet Muhammad (saw), when he mentioned Khadija (sa) in her presence: Sahih Bukhari Hadith: Volume 5, Book 58, Number 168:
Narrated Aisha: Once Hala bint Khuwaylid, Khadija’s sister, asked the permission of Prophet to enter. On that, the Prophet remembered the way Khadija used to ask permission, and that upset him. He said, “O Allah! Hala!” So I became jealous and said, “What makes you remember an old woman amongst the old women of Quraish an old woman (with a toothless mouth) of red gums who died long ago, and in whose place Allah has given you somebody better than her?”
Prophet Muhammad (saw) became very angry at this until his hair stood. Moreover, al-Bukhari narrated that Aisha confessed: Sahih Bukhari Hadith: Volume 5, Book 58, Number 166:
I did not feel jealous of any of the wives of Prophet as much as I did of Khadija though I did not see her, but the Prophet used to mention her very often, and when ever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadija. When I sometimes said to him, “(You treat Khadija in such a way) as if there is no woman on earth except Khadija,” he would say, “Khadija was such-and-such, and from her I had children.”
Considering her high position, it might be easier to realize why she gained the glory of being Prophet’s wife and the honor of being mother of Fatimah al-Zahra (sa), the Lady of all women of the worlds.