While browsing through Western magazines and newspapers, or scanning the multitude of satellite channels with which we are being bombarded from the skies these day, one is struck by the media attention devoted to what are termed the “first ladies” of this world. These exalted women are typically the wife of some great leader or another, men of influence and power. Newsmen compete to reveal the activities and characters of these spouses in a never-ending spotlight of attention. Eventually we come to learn that such-and-such First Lady doesn’t like to bake cookies, another likes to wear mohair clothes, and yet another sponsors this or that charity for the destitute draped with yet another glamorous ensemble from her designer wardrobe.
Some of the media of the Muslim world has a penchant for parroting the style and content of its Western counterparts, so even in the Arab nation we have also begun to find our own first ladies being put up on a pedestal!
Whether cookie baker or fashion pate or aspirant saint, these images should be recognized for what they are, which are simply creations of the media. In the Muslim world the believers shouldn’t have too much use of such frivolity, because we already process a First Lady beside which the modern variety wilts. This woman was not the wife of a monarch or a president, but instead had a much greater honour. Khadeejah bin Khuwailid was the wife of the last Prophet, Mohammed, and mother to his children, may peace be upon them all.
Neither prose no poetry could praise this woman sufficiently. Let it suffice to say that the First Mother of the Believers rooted her life in the worship of one God and in devotion to her husband. She was wealthy, but accepted with joy the austere life demanded by the destiny of her husband. No woman was so uninterested in earthly matters as she. No woman has been so fearful of God than she. Who else can compare with this great woman? Khadeejah is really the First Lady of all ages!
This woman of distinction cam from the most honorable of homes, and was a member of the pre-eminent Quraish tribe. She was wealthy and was of a strong character, and thus widely admired.
Khadeejah had been married first to Abi Halah al Tameimi, and then subsequently to Ateek bin Abid al Makhzoumi. The will of God decreed that she was to be without a husband again when a young cousin by the name of Mohammed was brought to her attention. She offered him an opportunity to trade for her in North Arabia in the company of her trustee, Maisarah. When the young trader returned, all of the goods he had purchased were sold with a handsome profit.
God granted both Mohammed and Khadeejah the grace to recognize each other as ideal partners, regardless of the difference of age. When Mohammed was but twenty-five and Khadeejah forty, they married, with the Prophet offering twenty cows as dowry. The couple had seven children, with their three sons all dying in infancy, and four daughters, namely Roqaiah, Zainab, Um Kalthoum and Fatima al Zahrah. At the beginning of their marriage, she employed her wealth in trade and Mohammed handled the transactions. The Prophet never took another wife while Khadeejah was alive. He praises his wife much to others and held her in the highest of esteem.
Khadeejah was an intelligent mother, an angel in the obedience that flowed from her tender soul. She loved Mohammed long before his destiny was revealed.
She loved her husband, an honest and trustworthy man about whom all of Mecca was talking, a man known for his good character and pure soul, a man who was the ascendant of the most honorable and firmly established Arab tribe. Thus did she offer herself, her wealth and all her life to this young cousin?
After fifteen years, Mohammed had traveled widely and was a successful trader. And then the most wonderful and the most terrifying of events happened to him one day when he was in seclusion. A glorious angel visited him and changed his life and that of the world forever, for her was commanded it proclaim the message of the One God, who had created and cherished mankind and the world.
The experience terrified the trader so much that he ran home shivering and had to be wrapped up in a robe by his wife. Mohammed related to her what had happened, and she calmed him, telling him that this God naming himself Allah could surely not endanger him, because after all Mohammed had been good and honest to both kin and strangers.
Husband and wife went to visit their cousin, Waraq bin Nawfal, who had embraced Christianity on order to reject the paganism rife in Mecca. He was old and blind. Mohammed related the visit of the Angel who had informed him that God had designated him as the Prophet of the believers. The fearful trader then recited the first of the Quranic verses, which had been revealed to him. Waraqa was granted the grace to know that the Angel Gbariel himself had visited Mohammed, and he assured the Prophet in his new station of life.
Khadeejah would ask the Prophet about the subsequent visits of Gabriel and wanted to be told all of the details. On one occasion, the Angel had appeared to the Prophet in his home, and Mohammed had informed his wife of the Angels presence. Khadeejah suddenly threw off her veil and uncovered herself, exclaiming, “And now do you still see him? “ The Angel had disappeared, and Khadeejah knew the result of her challenge. She confided to her doubtlessly surprised husband, “ You should rejoice! By God your visitor is an angel and not a devil!”
A well-known Hadith related that the Prophet would say to his wife that Gabriel sent his greetings to her. Another Hadith states that Gabriel told the Prophet to send the greetings of God to Khadeejah.
Indeed, Khadeejah was the First Mother of the believers. God had honored her by the revelation of the Quran to her husband in her home. She gave the Prophet every support that he required in the difficult times, which lay ahead. More than that, this powerful and rich woman believed her husband and what had been revealed to him. She was the first person to embrace the Message. She knew better than anyone else the burden of responsibility, which her husband had shouldered.
If Khadeejah could offer great love and faithfulness to Mohammed before the revelation of the Message, then only being the first to accept the new religion could deepen such devotion. She sought to provide a home that was suitable for the Prophet, a home free from noise and clutter, a home where he could contemplate and worship. Cleanliness and peace ruled in her domain. The house was surrounded and protected by angles, as it was the site of the revelation of the word of God.
The faithful wife stood by the Prophet during the most trying of times when everyone else was confused. The Message was decisive, however, in its decree to worship the One God and to destroy all other false gods. From the moment of her husbands revelation, the divine logic was to end the cycle of ignorance, which had always inevitably corrupted the message of earlier Prophets, may peace be upon them all.
After years of struggle, Islam reigned supreme in the holy cities of Mecca and Medinah, and had begun its rapid spread beyond the borders of the Arabs. The new revelation has fulfilled the divine design for mankind. Mohammed is the last of the Prophets, who received the last of God’s revelations to mankind.
At that point in the new epoch a year of sadness was to fall upon the believers. When Khadeejah had reached the age of sixty-five, Abu Talib bin Mutalib bin Hashim died. He had been the uncle of both her and the Prophet, and had been the Prophet’s staunch support against the oppressors of the Quraish and the believers. Khadeejah herself was then struck down ill so severely that could not attend the funeral. The Prophet did not leave her side for three days, comforting and caring for his faithful partner. Khadeejah died in the arms of the man whom she had loved, obeyed and believed.
As a recompense for the sufferings of her life and the heavy obligation of being the First Mother to the believers, God had promised the greatest of rewards for her, and commanded her husband while she was still alive to bring her glad tidings that she would have a palace of pearl in paradise, where she would hear no clamor nor experience any fatigue.
The Prophet memorialized his wife for eternity in this elegy reported in the Hadith. “By God Khadeejah cannot have an equal? She believed in my Message when everyone else rejected me, she supported me with her wealth when everyone else turned away, and she was a the only wife by whom God blessed me with children.”
May God have mercy if the First Mother of all Muslims. Khadeejah does not need TIME Magazine of CNN to anoint her with media halo for the believers to recognize her glory. She is the shining example upon which of all women of good intent can model themselves. Khadeejah bint Khuwailid is indeed the real First Lady of all believers in God, as there will be no Prophet after Mohammed, and no Mother of the Believers after Khadeejah.