Few people know the story of Muhammad’s first devotee.
Although history seems to have forgotten it, women have always been a fundamental part of the development of humanity, in all cultures and times. Although they are as brilliant, creative, and courageous as men, women in many societies have been less valued, and their contributions have often been ignored or attributed to men. But, some exceptional cases were impossible to dismiss, one of them being Khadija bint Khuwaylid.
Who Was Khadija bint Khuwaylid?
Khadijah is revered by Muslims all over the world, honored with the titles of First Believer and Mother of Believers. Khadijah was born to a wealthy and influential family in Makkah in 555. Her privileged condition allowed her to choose to live a quiet and uncomplicated life, yet she was an intelligent, ambitious, and hardworking young woman who enjoyed business. When her father, Khuwaylid, passed, the young woman took over the family business, which prospered and grew under her leadership. It is said that Khadijah, compassionate and hardworking, gave a great deal of money to help the poor, sick, disabled, widows, and orphans.
Khadijah married twice, and when the first of her husbands passed, the widow managed to overcome her grief and continued to raise her young children and run her successful caravan business. Khadijah had many employees, negotiated deals in other cities, and took care of the large amounts of money involved in the trading business.
Khadijah And Muhammad
By the time Khadijah was 40 years old, she was already known in Arabia as a powerful, intelligent, and independent woman, and many men wanted to work for her. However, when she needed to hire an agent, she selected a young worker named Muhammad, who had a reputation for being honest and diligent. Muhammad was only 25 years old when he took the job, but he proved to be an excellent employee and a courteous and ethical man. Before long, Khadijah concluded that he would also be a suitable partner in life, so she, Khadijah, proposed to Muhammad.
Their age difference was 15 years, but there was never any question of their love and devotion for each other. Muhammad continued to work for her caravan business, and they had six children together, although only one of them, a girl named Fatima, lived to adulthood. Khadijah and Muhammad lived happily running their business for 15 years, but when Muhammad was 40 years old, their lives took a radical turn.
Khadijah and Islam
Sometimes Muhammad meditated in a cave outside Mecca, and one of those evenings, he returned home exhausted and frightened, asking Khadijah for help. He told her that the angel Gabriel had spoken to him with a message from God, but he did not know what it meant. Khadijah believed Muhammad and convinced him that the news was good, not frightening. Khadijah became the first believer in Islam and became Muhammad’s closest ally and friend during the trials ahead.
Khadija encouraged Muhammad to leave the business and preach. She supported him financially so that he could preach with all his heart and energy for the rest of his life. When necessary, she also supported his followers. In the early years, when the growth of Islam was slow and increasingly dangerous, Khadijah protected Muhammad with her power and political influence.
As time went on, Muhammad’s word gained followers and, just as steadily, the leaders of the city became more alarmed and wanted Muhammad arrested. Finally, when the authorities could not stay away and went looking for him, Khadija left her comfortable home to join her husband, who was in hiding.
Khadijah spent the last three years of her life depleting all of her large fortune supporting the followers of Islam. Her wealth had been depleted, and her health was very poor. However, her spirits remained high, and her devotion never waned. Finally, the brave, honorable, and faithful Khadijah fell ill and passed in 619, she was 65 years old.
Muhammad named 619 the “Year of Sorrow.” After Khadijah’s passing, Muhammad had numerous wives at the same time, as was the custom of the time. Muhammad honored Khadijah’s memory for the rest of his life and constantly referred to her as a model of intelligence, virtue, courage, and devotion to family and God.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva