It is narrated by Ali (RA) that he heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying “Mary, the daughter of Imran, was the best among the women (of the world of her time) and Khadijah is the best amongst the women (of this nation).” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 58:164)
Khadijah (RA) is one of the most exemplary female role models of Islam. She was the first and most beloved wife of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). She remains, to this day, a paradigm of endless strength, resilience, honor, loyalty, and nobility.
Khadijah (RA) was born in 556 A.D to Khuwaylid bin Asad and Fatimah bint Zayd of the Banu Asad tribe, in the city of Mecca. Owing to the fact that her father was a successful merchant, she inherited his skills of the trade and took over the family business upon his death- in a society that was dominated by men and women were oppressed. That did not stop her- under her supervision, the business flourished beyond any other businesses in the local vicinity. She was known to be highly smart, intuitive, generous, and charitable, all the while preserving her modesty and integrity, which earned her the title of Ameerat-Quraysh (Princess of Quraysh) and Al-Tahira (The pure one).
She was twice widowed before her marriage to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). She had accepted her fate as a widow and had decided to live out the rest of her years with her children from her previous husbands. Even though multiple men with marriage proposals approached her, she declined them all as she was content with her widowhood. That was until she hired the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to take one of her caravans for trade to Syria. She had heard of his excellent character and honesty from people and got to witness his stellar character in her own business dealings as well. Hence, Khadijah (RA), who was forty at the time, changed her mind about marrying again and sent a marriage proposal to the Prophet (PBUH), who was twenty-five then, through her friend, which he accepted. Prophet Muhammad (RA) did not take another wife as long has Khadijah (RA) remained alive. They spent 25 years together and had six children: Qasim, Abdullah, Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatimah. Qasim and Abdullah, however, passed away as infants.
As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) reached the age of forty, he started spending his days meditating in the cave of Hira, searching for a higher being and a higher purpose. It was during one of his meditative sessions in the cave that he saw the Angel Jibrael (AS) and received the first revelation from Allah (SWT). Frightened and shaken, the Prophet (PBUH) returned home to Khadijah (RA) and asked her to cover him with a blanket. In a hadith narrated by Aisha (RA):
“[Upon the revelation] The Prophet returned therewith, his heart was trembling, and he went to Khadija and said: Wrap me up, wrap me up! So they wrapped him till the fear had left him. He then said to Khadija: O Khadija! what has happened to me? and he informed her of the happening, saying: I fear for myself. She replied: It can't be. Be happy. I swear by Allah that He shall never humiliate you. By Allah, you join ties of relationship, you speak the truth, you bear people's burden, you help the destitute, you entertain guests, and you help against the vicissitudes which affect people” (Sahih Muslim 1:301)
This hadith only further validates the solid pillar of strength and comfort Khadijah (RA) was for the Prophet (PBUH). She consoled and reassured the Prophet (PBUH) at a time when he was not sure of anything himself. She did the best thing she could have done for him at that point; she believed him, his prophethood and everything he had narrated from the cave. Thus, Khadijah (RA) became the first person on earth to accept Islam.
In the difficult years that followed, as the Prophet (PBUH) spread the message of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, he was met with extreme backlash and violence from the non-believers. Khadijah (RA) remained an unwavering companion and a constant source of support and comfort for the Prophet (PBUH) in all spheres of his life. She constantly strengthened him for his ultimate mission of spreading the message of Allah (SWT).
In 617, the Meccans enforced an economic boycott on Muslims. Hence, Muslims had to suffer in exile for three years- isolated from family and the outside world and deprived of food and water. Khadijah (RA) used whatever resources and wealth she had to help her fellow Muslims in that hard time. It was, unfortunately, the boycott that left Khadijah (RA) physically weak and sick. The three years of hardship had taken their toll on her. In 619, Khadijah (RA) passed away. It is known as the year of grief as the Prophet (PBUH) lost a piece of himself when he lost his beloved wife and his uncle, Abu Talib, who also passed away in the same year.
According to a few narrations, in the final moments of her life, she was visited by the angel Jibrael (AS) who gave her glad tidings of her place in Paradise, one of which is as follows:
According to Abu Hurairah: Gabriel came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said, "O Allah's Messenger (PBUH)! This is Khadijah coming to you with a dish having meat soup (or some food or drink). When she reaches you, greet her on behalf of her Lord (i.e. Allah) and on my behalf, and give her the glad tidings of having a Qasab palace in Paradise wherein there will be neither any noise nor any fatigue (trouble)” (Sahih Bukhari 3820).
In essence, Khadijah (RA) really was a true “mother of the believers”. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) believed her to be one of the greatest women to have walked this earth. Her life and character inspire us to this very day. The example she left for not only Muslims but mankind in general, is unmatched and timeless.