Khadija bint Kuwailid (Khadija the daughter of Kuwailid) is the foremost of the four ladies of Paradise. She was the first to believe in the message of Islam, the first to accept Muhammed (peace be upon him, pbuh) as a messenger of God, his first love, wife of 25 years, and mother all all his surviving children. She is our mother, and a mother to all humanity. A lady of immense strength, beauty, wisdom and courage, far-sighted and fearless, below is a short sketch of someone we all should know.
She is from a noble family, being of the same tribe as Muhammed (pbuh), that of Quraish, one of the oldest families in the city of Mekkah. She is known to have married twice and being widowed twice before she was forty years old. She inherited an immense amount of wealth and was a successful business woman in her own right by the time Muhammed (pbuh) came to know her.
Muhammed (pbuh) was a young man, of age 25 years when he first met her. She had heard of his excellent character and immense intelligence. Needed an overseer to lead her latest trade caravan to Syria, she employed him in the role. Upon his successful return, she, enamoured by his presence, his noble bearing, his truthfulness and capability, took the bold step of proposing marriage to him. This remarkable action distinguishes her strength of character, her decisiveness and her grace. Indeed, there was something very much in common between the two of them, and she, being old and wise enough to recognize that invaluable connection, did not hesitate to pursue it. A timeless lesson, all women, who often do not go after what they know is good for them, should take.
He accepted, and theirs was a happy marriage. A great anomaly for 7th century Arabia, the union was monogamous, Muhammed (pbuh) refusing to take another wife while he was married to her. They had six children; two boys - Abdullah and Qasim - and four girls - Ummu Kulthum, Ruqaiyya, Zainab and Fathima. The two boys died in infancy, a great trial upon them both, while the four daughters survived. Muslims consider this Divine wisdom to further uplift the female gender in a patriarchical time; only girls would be honoured to bear the prophetic blood line. Their youngest daughter Fathima, herself rose to a great status in the Muslim nation and she becomes another leader, one of the four foremost women on Paradise.
Their marriage lasted 25 years, until she died at age 65. Muhammed (pbuh) was heartbroken, and for the rest of his life would call that year, 'the year of sorrow'. And he mourned her, despite knowing he is a prophet and she the foremost lady of paradise, despite knowing they are destined to meet and be together in the hereafter, whenever he was reminded of her, he would weep and until he died, some 13 years later, out of her memory he would care for her relatives.
Both were united in their love for social justice, for truth and in seeking the worship of the One Divine. Mecca had in the distant past being a holy city founded by the lady Hajar (Hajara in Arabic), the wife of Abraham (Ibraheem in Arabic, pbuh) and was sanctified by the presence of the Ka'ba, the cube shaped temple dedicated to the worship of the One Divine built by Ibraheem and his son Ishma'eel (Isma'eel in Arabic). However over the centuries though a millenia-old pilgrimage to the Ka'ba was still carried out, the knowledge of the One Divine was lost and corrupted, and the sacred precincts of the Ka'ba was then filled with idols and pagan worship. In Muhammed's fortieth year, 15 years into his marriage, now his business successful, his family established, he would retire to a cave atop 'Jabl Al Noor' (the mountain of light) near Mecca to contemplate and seek the Divine. Khadija supported these retreats and would tend to his provision during those times.
It was during the month of Ramadan of that year, that the angel Gabriel (Jibra'eel, pbuh) first appeared to Muhammed while he was meditating in Hira. The archangel commanded Muhammed with the first revelation and the first five verses of the Quran were descended to earth. This experience was so traumatic that Muhammed when he recovered from the visit, ran down the mountain and straight to Khadija, flinging himself in her arms he said 'zammilooni zammilooni, daththirooni, daththirooni' (cover me cover me, enwrap me, enwrap me). She calmed him and nursed him out of his shock. He was sure he had been possessed, she convinced him he was not. She had the great presence of mind to take him to a learned relative who read the signs and told him he was to the last messenger all followers of the One Divine had been awaiting.
It was Khadija who believed in him during those first terrible months, when he (pbuh) often thought he was going insane. She upheld and strengthened him. She was the first to believe in his message. The first to pray by his side. She gave all her wealth and her resources to the service of the calling. The next ten years were very difficult and early Muslims were severely persecuted by the people of Mecca. This persecution resulted in great tribulation and suffering. During the worst of it, a time when Muhammed's clan was put under boycott for three years, Khadija Al Kubra having lost all the wealth she had, greatly weakened, returned to her Lord. Muhammed (pbuh) would ever after call that year 'the year of sorrow' and her loss was a great blow to him, may Allah be well pleased with her, radhiallahu ta'ala anha!
She is a beacon to all Muslim women and men, and indeed all humanity for her qualities of insight, wisdom, bravery and truth. She sacrificed a great deal for love, and devoted her life to serve the One Divine. She is a mother to us all, teaching us what it is to be a great mother. A great soul, a noble lady. Muhammed (pbuh) counted her to the last of his days, his greatest love, his companion, his help and his strength. As he would often say, 'she believed in me when no one else did', a priceless station chosen by the Divine for her.