Important Figures: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

Khadijah in Arabic

A very common name for girls among Muslims is Khadijah. Many choose this name to commemorate the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Even though Khadijah only lived to see the early stages of a Muslim community, she was considered a central figure in the history of Islam. Khadijah is the focus of this post, the fifth in a series on significant figures in Islam.

Khadijah was born around 556 in Mecca. Her father, Khuwaylid bin Asad, was a popular leader in the tribe of Quraysh and a successful businessman, who eventually died in battle. As a result of her father’s business success, Khadijah grew up in a wealthy household. She later followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming a successful businesswoman in her own right. In addition to her business savvy, Khadijah was known to have good character, often feeding and clothing the poor and assisting her relatives in need. These deeds earned her the title Al-Tahira (the Pure One).

Before marrying the Prophet Muhammad, Khadijah was widowed twice. She decided that she would not marry again and would just focus on her children from those two marriages. However, after she hired the Prophet Muhammad to take her trading caravans to Syria, she revisited the idea of marriage. She was impressed by his character and his honesty in dealing with her business. Khadijah’s friend, Nafisa, approached the Prophet and asked if he would accept Khadijah’s proposal. He said he would. She was 40 years old and he was 25.

They were married for 25 years, during which the Prophet was monogamous. Khadijah and the Prophet had 6 children together: Qasim, Abdullah, Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima. Their two sons, Qasim and Abdullah, did not survive past childhood.

In the 15th year of their marriage, the Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation of the Qur’an from Gabriel. He ran from the Cave of Hira and went straight to Khadijah and asked her to cover him. Khadijah consoled him and told him that he was in fact a prophet. She became the first person to become Muslim.

Khadijah was loyal to the Prophet Muhammad and supported him in all aspects of life. She was a strong Muslim and sacrificed her wealth in the cause of Islam. In 617, the Meccans decided to impose an economic boycott on the Muslims and members of the Prophet’s Banu Hashim clan. During this boycott, the Muslims suffered tremendously often spending days without food. Khadijah, who had been very wealthy, bore the hardships with the other Muslims.

In 619, three years before the hijra to Medina, Abu Talib, the Prophet’s uncle and protector, and Khadijah, weakened by the boycott, died. This year was called the year of sadness because it was a big loss for the Prophet Muhammad. Throughout the rest of his life, the Prophet Muhammad would remember Khadijah often, so much so that Ayesha said that she was never as jealous of another woman as she was of Khadijah. Once Ayesha asked the Prophet about his love for Khadijah and his response was, “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.”

Khadijah is respected by all Muslims for her conviction, her love for the Prophet, and her willingness to sacrifice for the faith. She is considered to be one of the great women in the history of Islam and is a role model for all Muslim women.

Have you heard of Khadijah? What is your impression of her? Why do you think she is relevant today? Please share your comments below.

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