Pretty much every Muslim girl grows up hearing about the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (saws). She was one of my first role models. Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) was rich yet humble, beautiful yet modest, and high-class yet empathetic. She truly was an ideal woman.
Most of us desire a love story like the one between the Prophet (saws) and Khadijah. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), the youngest wife of the Prophet (saws), was jealous of Khadijah even though she had never met her. This was mostly because of how often the Prophet (saws) talked about her, to the point that it seemed that he loved her the most. He also sent food and gifts to Khadijah’s relatives long after her death out of respect for the family of the woman he loved.
The Prophet (saws) described Khadijah by saying, “Indeed Allah did not grant me better than her; she accepted me when people rejected me, she believed in me when people doubted me, she shared her wealth with me when people deprived me, and Allah granted me children only through her.” At a time when men were not as openly expressive about their wives, the Prophet’s (saws) statements about Khadijah show that she was a truly special woman.
A Woman of Strength
As we grow up, we start to find inspiration in other aspects of Khadijah’s life story. Not only was she wealthy, noble, and beloved, but she was also strong and independent. She had been widowed twice before marrying the Prophet (saws) but was able to financially support herself. She was also not afraid to love again, even after the heartbreaking experiences that she had endured.
Khadijah was the opposite of a gold-digger. She married the Prophet (saws) at a time when he did not feel he was financially ready to support a family, because she had a successful business and was able to support them both. Although she had other rich men proposing to her, Khadijah picked the Prophet (saws). She saw beyond his young age and lower socio-economic status and married him for his character. She also gave her money in the path of Allah when the Prophet (saws) was trying to spread the message of Islam.
But the part of Khadijah’s story that I hear quoted most often these days is about how she fell in love with the Prophet (saws) and proposed to him. It was unusual at the time and is still not common today. Even 1400+ years later, in the 21st century, we still expect men to be the ones to propose. So the fact that Khadijah proposed to the Prophet (saws) back then is impressive.
However, it’s important to keep in mind how this was done. Khadijah did not form a friendship or intimate relationship with the Prophet (saws), flirt with him, or date him. She did not give him any direct hints that she was interested in him. Instead, she learned of his character through his work ethic, public reputation, and people that she trusted. Then she confided her interest in a close friend. That friend approached the Prophet (saws) on Khadijah’s behalf and asked whether he was interested.
Once the Prophet (saws) said that he was interested in marrying Khadijah, both of their relatives got involved right away and they were wedded to one another. The way the proposal was carried out also shows that Khadijah didn’t have a casual or friendly relationship with her employees and work associates either.
Khadijah was a strong woman who always tried her best to please Allah. She was a monotheist even before Islam was re-introduced to her society, and was the first Muslim after the Prophet (saws) became a Messenger of God. If we are to truly take her as a role model, we should keep in mind that being strong does not mean losing our modesty. And breaking social norms is fine, as long as we are not trying to get rid of the ones that preserve our hayaa.
Of course, the Prophet (saws) was modest as well. Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported, “The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was more modest than a young maiden in her separate room” [Narrated in Bukhari]. The Prophet (saws) also said, “Modesty (hayaa) before God according to His right to modesty is that you protect your mind in what it learns; your stomach in what it ingests. And remember death and the tribulations attached to it; and whoever wishes for the Hereafter, leaves the adornment of this life. So whoever does all that, is truly bashful before God according to His Right to modesty.” [Narrated in Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (saws) said, “Maryam, the daughter of Imran, was the best among the women (of her time) and Khadijah is the best among the women (of this ummah/nation).” Maryam and Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with them both) represent a balance of both modesty and strength.
May Allah (swt) grant all of us (both men and women) that balance as well, ameen.