Adapted this from The African Star, Marwa Alnaal, AmrKhaled
Khadijah was the daughter of Khuwaylid, a wealthy merchant in Arabia. Khadijah’s father was “a successful businessman whose vast wealth and business talents were inherited by Khadijah and whom the latter succeeded with faring the family’s vast wealth”. Khadijah was married twice, and twice she was widowed because her husbands died due to the ravaging wars with which Arabia was afflicted.
Khadijah bint Khuwailid was born in a society which was terribly male chauvinistic. However, she earned two titles: Ameerat-Quraysh, Princess of Quraysh (the tribe to which she belonged), and al-Tahira, the Pure One, due to her impeccable personality and virtuous character. She used to feed and clothe the poor, assist her relatives financially, an even provide for the marriage of those of her kin who could not otherwise have the means to marry.
To marry Khadijah herself would have been a great feat for any man, and indeed, quite a few of the most prominent and wealthy men in society had asked for her hand. Yet, she rejected them all; already twice widowed, she had lost the desire to marry again.
Until Muhammad came into her life. He was young man of 25, and although he was also of a noble family, he was an orphan and was not a man of many means. He had made a meager living tending sheep in the hills surrounding the city. Yet, he had an impeccable moral character, and he was widely known as one of the most honest men around. That was what attracted her to him: she was looking for someone honest who could conduct business for her, as she - a woman in a fiercely patriarchal society - could not do it herself.
Consequently, upon the suggestions of his uncle Abu-Talib Muhammad started working for Khadijah. A commercial caravan led by Muhammad headed for Syria, taking with it Maysara, Khadijah's man-servant, whom Abu Talib had asked to take good care of Muhammad.
After he returned from his first business trip, she asked her servant, about Muhammad and his conduct. The servant amazed her by his report: this young man was the kindest, gentlest man he had ever met. Never did he treat the servant harshly, as many others do. Yet, there was more: as they traveled in the heat of the desert, the servant noticed that a cloud had followed them the entire time, shading them from the blazing sun. The businesswoman was quite impressed with her new employee.
Not only that, this new employee proved to be an astute businessman in his own right. He took his employer's merchandise, sold it, and with the profits bought other merchandise that he sold again, thus profiting twice. All this was enough for her: the embers of love in her heart that were once extinguished re-kindled again, and she resolved to marry this young man, who was 15 years younger than she.
Khadijah had rejected several marriage proposals by the elite of Quraysh who were attracted by either her beauty or her wealth. This continued for sometime until Khadijah opened her heart to one of her friends, Nafisah Bint Al-Munabbih, and admitted her admiration for Muhammad, and gave permission to Nafisah to talk to him concerning the marriage.
She asked him, "Why are you not married, yet?"
"For lack of means," he answered.
"What if I could offer you a wife of nobility, beauty, and wealth? Would you be interested?" she told him.
He replied in the affirmative, but when she mentioned Khadijah, the young employee chuckled in amazement.
"How could I marry her? She has turned down the most noble men in the city, much wealthier and prominent than me, a poor shepherd," he said.
"Don't you worry," Nafisah replied, "I'll take care of it."
Not long after, the wealthy businesswoman married her young employee, and it was the beginning of one of the most loving, happiest, and sacred marriages in all of human history: that of Muhammad and Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwaylid. When they were married, Muhammad was 25 years old, and Khadijah was 40. Yet, that did not bother him one bit. He loved her so deeply, and she loved him as deeply. They were married for 25 years, and she bore him six children: 2 sons and 4 daughters: Al Qasim, Zainab, Abdullah, UmKulthum, Fatima, Ruqayya.Both sons died in infancy.
Khadijah and Muhammad had much in common. Not only were their character’s and personalities very similar, but they both refused to worship idols- a common practice among Arabians during that time period.
Khadijah was a source of immense love, strength, and comfort for Muhammad, and he leaned heavily on this love and support on the most important night of his life.
While he was meditating in cave of Hira, the Angel Jibreel came to Muhammad and revealed to him the first verses of the Qur'an and declared to him that he was to be a Prophet. The experience terrified the Prophet Muhammad, and he ran home, jumping into Khadijah's arms crying, "Cover me! Cover me!"
Muhammad was swarmed with the trauma, and Khadijah consoled him and put him to sleep on her lap. When he recovered he related then related the story to his wife how Angel Jibreel came down from the sky and commanded him to “Read!”. The Prophet feared he was losing his mind or being possessed.
Khadijah put all his fears to rest: "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."
She then took him to her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal - a scholar well-versed in the Judeo-Christian scripture - and he confirmed to the Prophet that his experience was Divine and he was to be the Last Prophet.
After this tremendous revelation, Khadijah became Muhammad’s first convert. The faith of this mature wealthy woman of high standing in the community must have influenced others to accept Islam. She was also Muhammad’s best friend.
After his ministry began, and the opposition of his people became harsh and brutal, Khadijah was always there to support the Prophet Muhammad, sacrificing all of her wealth to support the cause of Islam. When the Prophet and his family were banished to the hills outside of Mecca, she went there with him, and the three years of hardship and deprivation eventually led to her death. The Prophet Muhammad mourned her deeply, and even after her death, the Prophet would send food and support to Khadijah's friends and relatives, out of love for his first wife.
Khadijah not only received praise from Muhammad, but also from the Angel Jibreel. Jibreel once said to Muhammad (PBUH): “Oh Muhammad! Khadijah is bringing you a bowl of food; when she comes to you, tell her that her Lord greets her, and convey my greeting too, to her”.
It was part of the prophetic mission of Muhammad (PBUH) to invite people to the equality between men and women. Khadijah was there to help him spread this mission. All her money went to the sake of Islam and to feed and clothe the poor Muslim converts. Her economic independence; her marriage overture, apparently without a male guardian to act as intermediary; her marriage to a man many years younger than herself remained as examples of an exceptional woman of her time.
It was only after Khadijah died, may God be pleased with her, that Prophet Muhammad married other women. Most of these wives were widows, whom the Prophet married to care after them, or they were the daughters of prominent Arab chieftains, so that the Prophet could form a cohesive Muslim society out of a fiercely tribalistic (and barbaric) Arab culture.
Many of his later wives would become jealous of her. One in particular, Aisha, his last wife stated that one day she said to the Prophet Muhammad that Allah has compensated him for the loss of Khadijah, who was only an “old woman with red eyes”. Muhammad became angry at this statement and responded,
“No, indeed: He has not compensated me with someone better than her. 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 granted me children by her while depriving me of children by other women”.
Also, after her death, a chapter of the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in her honour. This chapter ends: “O soul that is at rest! Return to your Lord, well-pleased with Him, well-pleasing Him, so enter among My servants, and enter into My garden” (Quran, 89:27-30).
Note: Anâs Radhi-Allâhu ‘anhu reports that Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “From among the women of the world who have reached perfection and who are worthy of following are (the following four):Miryam the daughter of Imrân; Khadija daughter of Khuwailid; Fatima daughter of Muhammad and Asiyah wife of Fir’aun” (Tirmidhi)
The scholars of hadîth are of the view that this statement was made before Aisha Radhi-Allâhu ‘anha reached the position of excellence whereupon Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam said: “The virtue of Aisha Radhi-Allâhu ‘anha over all the women of the world is like the virtue of tharîd [a meat dish] over all other food.”