KHADIJA ‘T AL-KUBRA
The Prophet of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) had been devoting most of his time in meditation in the seclusion of cave Hira. One day, when he was absorbed in it, he had his first revelation. Angel Gibrael revealed to him the first commandment of God, contained in Sura Iqra of the Holy Quran.
Muhammad (PBUH) was highly excited with his new experience and came home trembling with fear. He lay down on his bed with an attack of fever.
His wife, Khadija, was much concerned with his unusual condition. She attended to him and enquired the reason of his excitement, Muhammad (PBUH) narrated the whole story relating to the strange experience of his first revelation.
Elated, Khadija congratulated him on being elevated to the highest position of Prophethood saying, “Be consoled, God will never forsake you”. She was the first to embrace the new religion, Islam.
Khadija, daughter of Khuwailid of Quraish family of Abd-al-Uzza, had the distinction of being the first wife of Muhammad (PBUH).
She was a rich widow endowed with exceptionally good qualities of head and heart. In the pre-Islamic days, due to her virtuous life, she was known by the name of Tahira.
According to Tabaqaat ibn Saad, “she was the richest woman of Makkah.”
Muhammad (PBUH) who had been doing business independently, was known throughout the Hejaz for his honesty, integrity, and morality. In recognition of his good qualities, the people began to call him “Ameen” (Trustworthy).
Khadija, too, was attracted by the brilliant qualities of young Muhammad (PBUH) and took him in service. He was sent to Busra with her merchandise. On return, after three months, she proposed the marriage. Muhammad (PBUH) was 25 and Khadija was 40 years old at that time.
Arab women in those days exercised free volition in respect of matters pertaining to their marriage, therefore Khadija held a direct talk with Muhammad (PBUH) on the matter. On the appointed day, Muhammad’s (PBUH) relatives, who included his uncle Abu Talib and Hamza assembled at the house of Khadija. Abu Talib delivered the nuptial address.
The Prophet did not marry any other woman during her lifetime. She lived for 25 years after her marriage with Muhammad (PBUH) and died three years before the Hejirat.
Khadija bore him six children-two sons, Qasim and Abdullah, who died in infancy and four daughters, namely Fatima Zahra, Zainab, Ruqayya, and Umme Kulsoom. It was with reference to Qasim that the Prophet was sometimes addressed as Abul Qasim (Father of Qasim).
Khadija’s daughter Zainab was married to her cousin. Her daughters, Ruqayya and Umme Kulsoom were married to the Third Caliph Usman one after the death of the other. Khadija’s daughter Fatima Zahra who was the dearest daughter of the Prophet was married to Hazrat Ali. The lineage of the Prophet progressed through her sons Hasan and Husain.
The Prophet had all his issues by Khadija except Ibrahim who also died young.
The house in which Khadija lived was purchased by Ameer Muawiya and converted into a mosque which still bears the name of the great lady.
The Prophet cherished greatest regard and love for Khadija. Even after her death, he remembered her frequently with love and gratitude. “When all other persons opposed me”, he said, “she supported me, when all were infidels, she embraced Islam. When none was my helper, she helped me.”
Her great wealth and high status proved very useful for the propagation of Islam. The majority of Muslim religious leaders acclaim Khadija, Fatima, and Aisha as the three greatest women in Islam. They class Fatima as the first, Khadija as the second and Aisha as the third-highest and greatest woman in Islam.
According to Hafiz ibn Qayyim, a disciple of Imam ibn Taimiya, “if one considers the relationship with the Prophet, Fatima stands on the top, if one takes into account the priority in accepting Islam and the moral as well as the material support given to the new religion, Khadija to the first position, but in matters of learning and service rendered occupies the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings, none stands in comparison to Aisha.”
A number of traditions of the Prophet of Islam are in praise of Khadija.
According to Sahih Muslim, “there are two women occupying the highest position in the eyes of God: Mariam (Mary) and Khadija.”
Small care-free girl, nine years old, was playing merrily with her mates. Her hair had gone disarray and her face was covered with dust. Suddenly a few elderly persons emerged on the scene from a neighboring house. They took the girl home with them, dressed her neatly and the same evening she was married to the greatest of men, the Prophet of Islam a unique honor that ever fell on a woman.
Hazrat Aisha was the beloved daughter of Hazrat Abu Bakr, the faithful Companion of the Prophet who succeeded him as the first Caliph of Islam. She was born in Makkah in 614 A.C., eight years before the commencement of the Hejira era. Her parents had already embraced Islam. They brought up and trained her from her very childhood in conformity with the highest traditions of the new religion which fully prepared and entitled her to her later exalted position.
She remained with the Prophet for ten years. She was very young when betrothed to the Prophet, but she acquitted herself extremely well and proved herself an intelligent, faithful, and loving wife of the greatest benefactor of mankind. She is universally recognized as the most authentic reporter of the traditions of the Prophet and the teachings of Islam, as propounded by him. She was blessed with a proverbial memory and retained whatever questions were asked by the female callers to the Prophet and the replies given by him. She retained fully the lectures delivered by the Prophet to the delegations and congregations in the Mosque of the Prophet as Hazrat Aisha’s room adjoined the Mosque. She attentively listened to the addresses, lectures, and discussions of the Prophet with his Companions and other people. She also made queries to the Prophet on delicate and intricate matters relating to the tenets of the new religion. These immensely contributed to her becoming the greatest and most authentic scholar and reporter of the traditions of the Holy Prophet and the tenets of Islam.
Hazrat. Aisha was not destined to live with the Prophet for long. The union lasted ten years only when the Prophet died in 11 A.H., 632 A.C., and was buried in the room occupied by her.
The Prophet was succeeded by his faithful Companion, Hazrat Abu Bakr, as the First Caliph of Islam. Hazrat Aisha continued to enjoy the position of the first lady and after Hazrat Fatima’s death in 11 A.H., she was universally recognized as the most important woman in the Muslim world. But her father, Hazrat Abu Bakr, too, did not live long and died 24 years after the death of the Prophet.
During the reign of Hazrat Umar Farooq, the Second Caliph, Hazrat Aisha enjoyed the status of the first lady of the rapidly expanding dominions of Islam and her wise counsels were sought and respected on all important matters. The martyrdom of Hazrat Umar, the second Caliph, and later of Hazrat Usman, the third Caliph, shook the foundations of the new State and led to a tragic division among the Muslims. It proved extremely harmful for the fast-expanding and developing religion, which by this time had spread up to the confines of the Atlas Mountains in the West and the heights of Hindu Kush in the East.
Hazrat Aisha could not remain a silent spectator to the disintegrating factors. She sincerely sided with those who were clamoring for avenging the martyrdom of the Third Caliph. In the ‘Battle of Camel’ fought against the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali, her forces were defeated and she had to retreat to Medina under a guard provided by the Caliph’s sons themselves.
A number of interested historians, Muslims, and non-Muslims alike, have criticized Hazrat Aisha’s role in fighting against the Fourth Caliph, but none have doubted her sincerity of purpose and her conviction in avenging the blood of Hazrat Usman.
Hazrat Aisha witnessed the vicissitudes through which the new religion passed during the thirty years of the Pious Caliphate. She died in 678 A.C., during the reign of Amir Muawiya. The Amir, under whom the Islamic Caliphate was giving place to a temporal power, was extremely afraid of Hazrat Aisha and her outspoken criticism of the politically changing state of Islam.
The First Lady of Islam was distinguished for her multifarious qualitiespiety, learning, wisdom, simplicity, generosity, and the care with which she safeguarded and faithfully reported the traditions of the Prophet.
Her simplicity and modesty continue to serve as a guiding light to all Muslim ladies thereafter. She lived in a room hardly 12 x 12 feet along with the Prophet of Islam. The room had a low roof covered with date leaves and branches plastered with mud. The only entrance to the room had no shutters and an ordinary curtain was hung over it. There were hardly three successive days during the lifetime of the Prophet when Hazrat Aisha had a full diet. The night when Prophet breathed his last, she had no oil to light her lamp, nor anything to eat.
During the Caliphate of Hazrat Umar when the important Companions of the Prophet and his wives were sanctioned substantial monthly honorarium, Hazrat Aisha seldom kept the money and gifts she received for the second day and promptly distributed these among the needy. Once, during the month of Ramzan, when Hazrat Abdullah ibn Zubair presented her a purse of one lakh dirhams she distributed these before breaking her fast.
Hazrat Aisha was a well-known orator of her time. Her services to popularise and promote the knowledge of traditions and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) have few parallels in the annals of Islamic history. Whenever a difficult problem of tradition or fiqh was encountered which defied solution, the matter was ultimately referred to her and her word was final. Apart from Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Abdulla ibn Abbas and Hazrat Abdulla ibn Umar, she is regarded as the greatest intellect of early Islam.
The great lady of Islam breathed her last on 17th Ramzan, 58 A.H. July 13,678 A.C. Her death cast a gloom over Madina and the entire Islamic world.
Hazrat Aisha has been bracketed with Hazrat Khadija and Hazrat Fatimaaz-Zahra as a most distinguished woman of Islam. Most of the religious scholars and theologians place Hazrat Fatima on the top, followed by Hazrat Khadija with Hazrat Aisha as last. Allama ibn Hazm ranks her only second to the Prophet of Islam-above all his wives, Companions and relations. According to Allama ibn Taimiya, Hazrat Fatima occupies the highest place, being the most beloved daughter of the Prophet. Hazrat Khadija is great because she was the first to embrace Islam. But there is none to rival Hazrat Aisha in her role in popularising the teachings of the Prophet.
Once while Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was in his mosque at Medina, surrounded by his Companions, suddenly his beloved daughter, Fatima, wedded to the famous warrior-scholar of Islam, Hazrat Ali, arrived there. She implored her father to lend her a servant who could assist her in household work, as she, with her frail constitution and poor health, could not perform the strenuous duties of grinding com and bringing water from the distant well, besides looking after her children. The father, ostensibly moved by her pleading hesitated for a moment, but repressing his emotion, he told her solemnly: “My dearest daughter! I cannot spare anyone from among those who are engaged in the service of Ashab-e-Suffa. You should be able to bear the hardships of this world in order to get the reward of the world hereafter”. The daughter went back, well satisfied with the reply of the Prophet, and never sought any servant again during her lifetime.
Fatima az-Zahra, the beautiful, was born 8 years before Hejira in Makkah. Her mother Hazrat Khadija, was the first and most respected wife of the Prophet. He did not marry any other woman during her lifetime. Fatima was the fourth and the youngest daughter of her mother. Others were Zainab, Ruqqaya and Umme Kulsoom. The last two were married to Hazrat Usman, who became the Third Caliph of Islam.
Fatima was brought up under the fostering care of her father, the greatest teacher, and benefactor of mankind. Unlike other children she possessed a sober and somewhat melancholy temperament. Her weak constitution and frail health kept her away from the children’s get-togethers and games. Her great father’s teachings, guidance and inspiration, developed her into an extremely cultured, amiable, sympathetic, and enlightened lady.
Fatima who greatly resembled her father in countenance and saintly habits was his most beloved daughter and had been immensely devoted to him after her mother’s death. In this way, she, to a great extent, made up the loss of her mother.
The Prophet, on several occasions, gave expression to his extreme fraternal love for Fatima. Once he said: “O Fatima! God will not like a person who displeases you and will be pleased with a person who wins your favor”.
On another occasion, the Prophet is reported to have said: “Fatima is my child. One who distresses her distresses me and one who comforts her comforts me.”
Hazrat Aisha, the beloved wife of the Prophet, once said: “I have never come across a greater personality than that of Fatima except that of her father, the Prophet of Islam.”
On an enquiry she once replied: “Fatima was the one whom the Prophet loved most. She was dearest to him.”
Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar both sought her in marriage but the Prophet kept quiet. Hazrat Ali, who was brought up by the Prophet himself and who combined in him the rare virtues of chivalry and bravery, piety and scholarship, hesitated to seek Fatima in marriage due to his poverty. But, at last, he took courage to put forward the proposal which was readily accepted by the Prophet. Ali sold his beautiful cuirass which he had won in the battle of Badr for 400 dirhams and made arrangements for the nuptial ceremony, which was extremely simple. Evidently the primary object underlying the celebration of the great event with simplicity was to impress upon the Muslims the need for celebrating marriages unostentatiously.
Fatima was hardly 18 years old at the time of her marriage with Ali. All that she got in her dowry from her illustrious father was a leather water carrier, an earthen pitcher, a mat and a corn grinding stone.
Addressing his daughter, the Prophet said, “My daughter, I have married you to a person who had stronger faith and is more learned than others and one who is distinguished for his morality and virtues.”
Fatima’s married life was smooth and simple. Indefatigable and persevering as he was, Ali laboured hard all day long to earn his livelihood, while his industrious, frugal and devoted wife laboured at home, performing her household duties which included grinding of com and carrying of water from the well. This ideal couple was known for their piety and generosity. They never turned away a beggar from their door without giving him whatever they had. At times, they gave away their entire food to a beggar and themselves remained hungry.
The humanitarian and benevolent nature possessed by the House of Prophet has few parallels in the annals of mankind. Fatima Zahra, the youngest daughter of the Prophet of Islam, was known for her benevolence.
Once a person belonging to the Bani Salim tribe, who was reputed to be a magician, came to the Prophet of Islam and exchanged hot words with him. The Prophet, on the other hand, returned the strangers abuse, with kind words. The magician was so much moved by this unusual behaviour that he embraced Islam. The Prophet asked him “if he had anything to eat.” On the stranger replying in the negative, the Prophet asked the Muslims present there “if there was anyone who could present him a camel.” Hazrat Sa’ad ibn Ibada offered him a camel. The Prophet was much pleased and asked “if anyone could offer his brother in Islam a cloth to cover his bare head”. Hazrat Ali, instantly, took off his turban and placed it on the stranger’s head. Thereafter, the Prophet directed Hazrat Salman to take him to some Muslim who could feed him as he was hungry.
Salman led the new convert to several houses but none could feed him at this unusual hour. Suddenly, Salman came upon the house of Hazrat Fatima and, knocking her door, informed her the purpose of his visit. With tears in her eyes, the daughter of the Prophet informed him that she had nothing to eat in her house for the last three days. Still, the daughter of the Prophet was reluctant to refuse a guest saying: “I cannot send back a hungry guest without satisfying his hunger”. Taking off her sheet of cloth, she gave it to Salman imploring him to take it to Shamoon, a Jew, and in its return bring some corn. Salman, as well as the new convert, were much moved by the angelic behavior of the daughter of the Prophet. The Jew, who was also highly impressed by the benevolence of the Prophet’s daughter, embraced Islam, saying that “Torat has informed us about the birth of this virtuous family”.
Salman brought corn to the Prophet’s daughter, who herself grinded and baked loaves of it. On a suggestion by Salman that she should keep some loaves for her hungry sons, the Prophet’s daughter replied that “she had no right over it as she had given her cloth for the sake of God.”
The Prophet’s beloved daughter was blessed with five children-three sons, Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin, and two daughters, Zainab and Umme Kulsoom. Hasan was born in the 3rd and Husain in the 4th year of Hejira. Mohsin died young. Both Hasan and Husain were the favorites of the Prophet who often carried them on his shoulders. They even sat on his back during his prostration in prayer. These two sons of Fatima and daughter Zainab later played a significant and memorable role in the history of Islam.
Fatima tended her father’s wounds in the battle of Ohad. She also accompanied him during his conquest of Makkah and also during his farewell pilgrimage towards the end of 11 A.H.
The Prophet fell seriously ill soon after his return from the farewell pilgrimage. Fatima stayed at his bedside. He whispered something in her ears which made her weep and later whispered something which made her smile. After his death in 11 A.H., she related the incident to Hazrat Aisha, saying that “when her father told her that he was going to die, it made her weep, but when he told her that she would be the first person to join him in the next world, it made her happy.”
Fatima could not survive the Prophet long; she passed away during the same year, six months after his death. She was 28 at the time of her death and was buried by Ali in Jannat-ul-Baqih (Madina) amidst universal mourning.
Fatima who represents the embodiment of all that is divine in womanhood, the noblest ideal of human conception was proclaimed by the Prophet to be the “Queen of Women in Paradise.”
Rabia Basri is one of the earliest mystic saints of Islam. She renounced her worldly life and devoted herself entirely to praying God.
Both in a humble family of Basra in 713 A.C., she was the fourth daughter of her parents. A strange story is related about her birth. On the night of her birth, there was nothing in the house–not even oil to light the house, or a small rag to swaddle the newly born child. Her mother implored her father to borrow some oil from a neighbor. This was a moment of trial for the poor father, who had promised to God not to extend his hand for help before any mortal being. Reluctantly he went to a neighbor’s house, tapped his door, but there was no reply. He thanked God for being able to keep his promise. He came back and went to sleep. That night he had a dream in which the Prophet of Islam congratulated him on his newly born child who was destined to rise to a great spiritual position in Islam.
Rabia lost her parents at an early age. Her three sisters also died in a famine which ravaged Basra. She fell into the hands of a tyrant who sold her as a slave for a paltry sum. Her new master was no less a tyrant.
Little Rabia spent most of her time in carrying out the orders of her master. She spent the nights in praying. One night her master detected signs of her spiritual greatness. She was praying to God: “Almighty, You have made me the slave of a human being and I am duty-bound to serve him. Had I been free I would have devoted every moment of my life to praying to You”. Suddenly a halo of sacred light encircled her head and her master was awe-stricken to see this sight. The next morning he set her free.
Rabia, being free, retired to a secluded place, for a life of meditation. Later she moved to a cell near Basra. Here she led a strictly ascetic life. A woman out mat, an earthen pot and a brick formed her entire belongings.
She wholly devoted herself to prayers, had only a wink of sleep before the dawn and regretted even that much.
A number of good offers of marriage were made to her. These included those from the Governor of Basra and the celebrated mystic saint, Hasan Basri. But Rabia was so much devoted to God that she had little time for worldly affairs, hence she declined them.
Rabia had many eminent disciples including Malik bin Dinar, Raba-al-Kais, Shaikh al-Balkhi, and Hasan of Basra. They often called on her to seek her counsel or prayers or listen to her teachings.
Once Hazrat Sufian Soori, a respected and devout Muslim came to Rabia, raised his hands, and prayed: “Almighty, I seek worldly welfare from Thee”. Rabia wept over it. When asked for it, she replied: “The real welfare is acquired after renouncing the world and I find that you seek it in this world only”.
A person once sent forty dinars to her. She wept and raised her hand towards the sky: “You know it well that I never seek worldly welfare from you, although You are the Creator of the world. How can I then accept money from a person who is not the real owner of it?”
She enjoined her disciples not to disclose their good work to anyone and to conceal it just as they conceal their evil deeds.
Considering illness as her Lord’s will, Rabia always bore it with exemplary courage and fortitude. No pain however severe ever disturbed or distracted her in devotion to God. She often remained unaware of the injury, until pointed out by others. One day she struck her head against a tree and started bleeding. Someone drew her attention to it saying, “Don’t you feel pain”? “I am entirely devoted to God. I am fully in communion with Him: He has made me occupied with things other than you generally perceive,” she replied calmly.
Rabia was the foremost mystic to preach disinterested love for God–a concept which was later adopted by other mystics. She would often urge: “I do not serve God for any reward-have no fear of hell or love of paradise. I will be a bad servant if I serve for material benefit. I am duty-bound to serve him only for his love.”
Once someone asked her whether she hated Satan. She replied: “No, the love of God has left no room for the hatred of Satan.”
She was a mystic of a very high stature and belonged to the first group of Muslim mystics. She enriched Islamic literature by expressing her mystical experiences in high-class verses.
She died in Basrah in 801 A.C. and was buried in the house in which she lived. Her funeral was attended by a large number of saints, Sufis, and devout Muslims. There are many things and sayings attributed to:
When questioned by someone as to why she did not seek help from her friends, she replied, “I should be ashamed to ask for this world’s good from Him to Whom it belongs, then why should I seek anything from those to whom it does not belong.”
“Will God forget the poor because of their poverty or remember the rich because of their riches? Since He knows my state, there is hardly any need for me to pin-point His attention to it. What He Wills, we should also will”.
Miracles were attributed to her as to other Muslim saints. Food was supplied to her guests by miraculous means. It was said that when she was dying, she bade her friends to depart and leave the way free for the messengers of God. As they went out, they heard her making confession of faith to which a voice responded: “O Soul be at rest, return to thy Lord, satisfied with Him, giving satisfaction to Him”.
Among the prayers recorded of Rabia, is one which she offered at night upon her roof. “O, my Lord, the stars are shining and the eyes of men are closed and the kings have shut their doors and every lover is along with his beloved, and here am I alone with Thee“.Again she prayed: “O, my Lord, if I worship Thee from the fear of hell, burn me therein, and if worship Thee for hope of paradise, exclude me therefrom, but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, then withhold not from me Thy Eternal Beauty”.