Umm-Al-Mu’minīn (Mother of Believers)

Note:  For ease of reading, we have not inserted “May Allah be pleased with her (RA)” each time Khadijah’s RA name or the name of each Companion is mentioned, but please take it that the salutations apply to all of them, may Allah be pleased with them all.

Narrated Ali: I heard the Prophet SAW saying, “Mary, the daughter of Imran, was the best among the women (of the world of her time) and Khadijah is the best amongst the women (of this nation).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 58 Hadith 164]

If there was a woman in Islam to be emulated by the women of our ummah, Khadijah surely ranks at the top. She is the first of the Mother of Believers, the title of veneration and respect given to all the wives of the Prophet SAW, and has the unique position of not only being the first woman, but also the first person, to embrace Islam.  She was the first to bear witness that there is no god except Allah and that her husband was the Messenger of Allah.

As she passed away in the early stages of Muhammad SAW’s prophethood, the details of her life were not extensively documented to the same level as that of many other Companions.

However, from existing sources, we know that Khadijah came from a noble family. Her father Khuwaylid had been one of the most honoured leaders of their tribe until he was killed in battle. Her husband had also died, leaving her a very wealthy widow. Khadijah was also known as Ameera-Quraysh, Princess of Quraysh, and al-Tahira, the Pure One, due to her impeccable personality and virtuous character, not to mention her honourable descent.

She bore the responsibility of commercial holdings on her own, and to a large extent, was responsible for taking care of her own well being. When Muhammad SAW was still a young man, she entrusted him with some of her wealth, asking him to trade with it in Syria on her behalf. He returned from Syria after having made a large profit for Khadijah. By then, he was already well known for his honesty, truthfulness and trustworthiness, and these qualities, rather than his business acumen, captured Khadija’s attention.

After hearing his account of the journey, she decided that he would make the best of the husbands. To be borne in mind is that at that time, she was a woman of wealth and high status, and it was socially and financially befitting for her to have married one of the many important nobles of the Quraish who had already proposed to her. However, she had the integrity and nobility to instead recognise strength of character she saw in Muhammad SAW which superseded any wealth or social status. Being a lady of strong character and decisive nature, she set out to propose to him.

After the Prophet’s SAW uncle, Abu Talib, had given the proposed marriage his blessing, Muhammad SAW and Khadijah were married. At the time of the marriage, the Prophet SAW was twenty-five years old, while Khadijah was forty years old. She was the Prophet’s SAW first wife, and the only woman whom he married prior to his prophethood.

Khadijah bore several children. Their first child, a son whom they named Qasim, died when he was only two years old. Two more sons, called Tayyib and Tahir, were also born, but they too died in their infancy. However, after being commissioned to prophethood, Muhammad SAW and Khadijah also had four daughters who survived: Zaynab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Fatima.

Over the years, the more Khadijah came to know about her husband, the more she loved and respected him. Everyone in Mecca called him ‘al-Amin’, which means ‘the trustworthy one’, and she, more than anyone else, knew how fitting this name was.

It became Muhammad’s SAW custom each year to spend the month of Ramadan in seclusion and reflection in a cave on the mountain of Hira, which is on the outskirts of Mecca. Khadijah would always make sure that he was provided with food and drink during his retreat. Such was her love to him that sometimes she would accompany him for a few days during his seclusion, never saying a word to him during that time so as not to interrupt his contemplations. How many women in history would have that deep level of understanding for their husbands’ needs, and practice restraint in speech and action if confronted with similar behaviour from their husbands? Yet, Khadijah never gave him a hard time for his long periods of absence, as she appreciated and respected his needs to ponder, reflect and unite his heart with his Creator.

Around the fifteenth year of their marriage, towards the end of Ramadan, when he was forty and Khadijah fifty-five, Muhammad SAW suddenly appeared at their house in the middle of the night, trembling with fear and saying, “Cover me up, cover me up!”

Khadijah was very alarmed to see him in such a state. Quickly she wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and, when he had calmed down, she asked him to describe exactly what had happened. He told her how a being whom he had never seen before – in fact it was the angel Jibreel AS – had suddenly appeared to him and had said, “Read!”

“But I cannot read,” he had replied, for he was unlettered and could neither read nor write. “Read!” the angel had repeated, clasping Muhammad SAW close to his chest. “I cannot read,” he had repeated. “Read!” the angel had repeated, firmly embracing him yet again. “What shall I read?” he had asked in desperation, and the angel had replied:

“Read, in the Name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot, Read, and your Lord is the Most Gracious, Who taught with the pen, taught man what he did not know.” (Qur’an 96:1-5)

And so began a lifechanging event. Not just his life, but from that point onwards, the course of mankind took a different turn. Although Muhammad SAW did not fully realize it at the time, this was the beginning of the revelation of the Qur’an; and in the first years of revelation, Khadijah was instrumental in being not only his wife and companion, but a constant source of emotional, moral and financial support for him. In all senses of the word, she was a true Mother of the Believers. More than once, he turned to her for advice and comfort, and was guided by her wisdom. For example, after that first encounter with the angel Jibril AS, Muhammad SAW was very frightened, not knowing if he was going mad and imagining things, or if he had been possessed by one of the jinn. He clambered down the hill as fast as he could and headed home.  

As she listened to the Prophet’s SAW words, Khadijah did not share any of these fears. She realized that something tremendous and awe-inspiring had happened to her husband, and she was certain, knowing him as she did, that he was neither mad nor possessed.

“Do not worry,” she said, “for by Him who has dominion over Khadijah’s soul, I hope that you are the Prophet of this nation. Allah would never humiliate you, for you are good to your relatives, you are true to your word, you help those who are in need, you support the weak, you feed the guest and you answer the call of those who are in distress.”

In another incident, Aishah narrated that the Messenger of Allah was sitting down with Khadijah at the beginning of the revelation. He then saw a person between the heaven and the earth and told Khadijah what he saw. She asked him to move closer, and after he did so, asked whether he still saw the person. He replied affirmatively. She then told him to put his head in her garment (and in other reports, it was narrated that she removed her hijab) and asked whether Muhammad SAW still saw the person. He answered in the negative, that the person had vanished. She told him to relax, that the person had to be an angel, for the devil would have had no shame to stay on and watch.

Such was her reaction – she had such confidence in his integrity and soundness of mind and spirit, that she immediately quelled his anxiety and doubts of his sanity and instead gave him support from the very first moment his Prophethood came into being. She was the first person to embrace Islam.

When Muhammad SAW was a little more relaxed, Khadijah took him to see her cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfal, for he was a man of knowledge. She was sure that he would be able to explain the meaning of what had just happened to her beloved husband. Waraqa had studied the books of both the Jews and the Christians very closely and he had learned a great deal from many of their wisest people. He knew that the coming of another Prophet had been foretold by both Moses and Jesus, peace be on them, and he knew many of the signs that would confirm the identity of this Prophet when he appeared.

After listening closely to his story, Waraqa, who was both old and blind, exclaimed, “This is the same being who brought the revelations of Allah to Moses. I wish I was young and could be alive when your people will drive you out.”

“Will they drive me out?” asked Muhammad SAW.

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