Learning Strength and Independence from Khadijah (RA) (Part 1)
This is the first in a series of articles on Khadija (ra). Her story will be followed by the stories of several other women from Islamic history for #womenofislamwednesday.
Written by: Sofiyya
With all of the false accusations of female oppression in Islam, the story of Khadijah (radiallahu ‘anhu; may God be pleased with her), the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (s), should be enough to stop naysayers in their tracks. She was the breadwinner of her family, a beautiful, strong, and independent woman. She was driven by success and shattered the glass ceilings of her time. This article is the first of a series on Khadijah (ra). Her story has been split into parts so we can appreciate all of the little lessons her life has to teach us.
Khadijah (ra) was born into a very respectable family of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. She was well-educated, and also very beautiful; all the women of the Quraysh were known for their beauty. She was known for her strong faith. It is important to note that Khadijah was a follower of the religion of Abraham (s) before Islam. Although she lived in a city of people who bowed down to idols, she had never in her life prayed to an idol.
Khadija’s first marriage, at the age of eighteen, was to Atiq Al-Makh-zumy, with whom she had a son and a daughter. However, he passed away a few years into the marriage. She was married a second time to Abu Hala Al-Tamimy, with whom she was also blessed with a son and daughter before his unfortunate death. When Atiq passed away, he left her a big fortune and, being the wise woman that she was, she started to invest it in trade and multiply her wealth. By the time she was 37, she was widowed twice, with four children and a string of business investments, which were quickly becoming commercial holdings. She was working hard in a man’s world; Mecca was an extremely misogynistic society at the time, especially before the spread of Islam. Not only was it rare for women to be in business, but to own one and command men below her was absolutely unheard of. Even today, social media is flooded with campaigns to equalize a woman’s role in the work-force.
This was a time of travelling caravans, and Khadija’s business was trading with the areas that now make up Syria and Yemen. She herself never went on expeditions, as she had many men under her employment who did the travelling for her. She made sure they were well rewarded for their efforts and thus none ever tried to cheat her. They respected her work ethic, and working for her was a job many people were eager to have. People recognized her fairness as strength and not weakness. Her business eventually grew to be one of the most successful in the region.
In our time, when we think of a woman who is rich, beautiful, and successful, her motives and means are questioned. We know what many would say about her: She must be arrogant and proud, rude and ruthless. People would be quick to put her down. However, as we can see, Khadijah (ra) was no ordinary woman. She was honest and kind, without cheating anyone along the way, and because of that she enjoyed her own success.
She quickly became one of the most esteemed woman in all of Mecca. She was given some great laqabs by the people of Quraysh. A laqab is a nickname, but unlike the average nickname, it is one that you earn and are held accountable to. One of Khadijah’s nicknames was Al-Tahira, the Pure Woman, for her politeness and modesty. Another was Sayedat Nisaa Quraysh, Master of the Women of Quraysh, because of her honesty and trustworthiness.
Please note that this is the type of woman that God chose for his final messenger to marry. It wasn’t a meek, weak, oppressed woman. There were many of those around to chose from. No, he was to marry the woman who was stronger than ten men, the woman who had been married twice previously and who had four children. What does that tell you about Islam and women? What does that tell you about the character of the ideal Muslim woman? This is the role model chosen for us–the first woman (indeed, the first person) to embrace Islam.
Imagine how brave she was to be the first woman to go into business in her time. There were many businesswomen after Islam in Mecca because they had the backing and support of the religion, but Khadijah (ra) was completely on her own and up against large numbers of men. Even nowadays, many people might have a dream, but be too afraid to go into unchartered territory to make it happen. She was so ahead of her time and so relatable. How many single mothers do we have today? How many of them are struggling to provide for their households and balance a career and motherhood? How many of us have faced obstacles we have had to overcome? Even though the superficial aspects of our times are different, human nature doesn’t change and there is so much we can learn from her. We must also note that, with her, we see that being honest in business can get you much farther than cheating people out of their money.
All of these things made her the most sought-after woman in Mecca, and even in her late thirties and with four kids, she was getting an endless string of marriage proposals from the most respected leaders of the Quraysh. However, she refused all of them, instead choosing to focus on her career and raise her children. But one day, a very interesting man came into her employment. I’m sure you know where this story is headed, but you’ll need to wait for the next article. Today, let’s learn from who Khadijah (ra) was. Let’s learn from her accomplishments and her power.
She chose to empower herself. So sisters, the next time an aunty tells you that your career isn’t important and makes you feel guilty about not being married, remember this story. The next time someone tells you that it’s better you stay at home and raise your kids even if you want to work, remember this story. Khadijah was the definition of an independent woman. She managed her affairs both in the home and out of it. She was the queen of multi-tasking. She’s the ideal role-model for us and our daughters. Go get your dreams, girls!
WATCH THIS EPISODE ON THE STORYTIME WITH SOFIYYA YOUTUBE PAGE: RAMADAN 2016: Women in the Life of the Rasool (2) – Khadijah R.A. (Pt 1/5)
Ghadanfar, Mahmood Ahmad. Great Women of Islam. Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, 2001. Print.
Quṭb, Muḥammad ʻAlī. Women around the Messenger. Riyadh: International Islamic House, 2007. Print.