The Prophet's (Peace be Upon Him) Marriage to Khadijah
by Dr. Ahmed El-Kadi
Dr. El-Kadi is a respected Muslim leader, both here in North America and abroad. He has been active in numerous local, national, and international Islamic organizations. In North America, he has held positions of leadership within MAYA, ISNA, MYNA, and IMA. Currently, he resides in Panama City, where he has been instrumental in establishing a full-time Islamic school (with Islamic curriculum) and a medical research institute which researches the effects/benefits of Prophetic medicines. By profession, he is a (retired) heart surgeon.
The period of the Prophet's family life during his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah, could be considered as the prototype of an Islamic family life. This implies that we should look at this period as the ideal example for family relationships, practices, and attitudes which we should emulate. There is a lesson to be learned from each aspect of this relationship, starting with the circumstances surrounding its onset, followed by the numerous, happy and sad incidents known to us that filled this period of the Prophet's life. For the purpose of brevity , only a few specific observations will be discussed.
The first observation is related to the circumstances surrounding the onset of this marriage. The age of the Prophet was 25 years, which is probably the optimal age of marriage for a man. Khadijah was 40 years old at that time. It this point should mean anything, it is to show that the traditional expectation that the wife's age should be close to, or slightly less than the husband's is not necessarily true all the time. What counts actually is not the age, but the maturity and compatibility. Another point of this observation is the fact that the Prophet was independent, gainfully employed, and very successful. His efficient work performance and excellent business ability were actually one the main reasons Khadijah was attracted to him. Although Khadijah was wealthy and able to support the household, the Prophet (pbuh) continued to work and produce. This is another pointer for our husbands-to-be, that he is able to provide for the family. A third point is the fact that Khadijah was the one who approached the Prophet regarding the marriage through her friend, Nafeesah. Many of the Muslims feel that it is not appropriate for a girl or her guardian to approach a man regarding marriage, and that the man is the one who should ask for the girl's hand. The example of the Prophet's marriage to Khadijah shows that such a tradition is just a matter of false pride. It is quite appropriate for a female seeking marriage, or for her guardian, to approach a qualified candidate regarding marriage, as long as this is done in a decent, proper way. It should actually be the duty of the parents to look for the proper righteous husbands for their daughters, since these righteous husbands are usually difficult to find these days.
Another observation is related to the type of relation and attitude between Muhammad (pbuh) and Khadijah. This family relationship was charac- terized by love, respect, and appreciation; by hard work, support, and cooperation; and above all, by unprecedented loyalty that lasted till the end of the Prophet's life, even after the death of Khadijah. How did the Prophet (pbuh) achieve such a beautiful relationship?
The Prophet's (pbuh) Character ------------------------------
One clue to this beautiful relationship was the beautiful standard of character of the Prophet (pbuh) himself. When Ayeshah was asked about the character of the Prophet (pbuh), she answered: `His character was the Qur'an; whatever upset Allah, upset him; and whatever pleased Allah, pleased him; and after Allah had perfected his character, He praised him by saying in the Qur'an:
"And verily, you have an exalted standard of character..." (Qur'an 68:4)
It was the consensus of all those who knew the Prophet (pbuh) that he was gentle and kind; generous and noble; thoughtful and considerate; honest and sincere; loyal and trustworthy. He liked the good and disliked the evil. He had a sense of humour without excess; he joked but always spoke the truth; he was simple but firm; he was humble though he had great wisdom and knowledge; he was an example of morality; and he was a mercy to anyone who got in touch with him. True was Allah's description of him:
"We sent you not but as a mercy for all creatures ..." (21:107)
Anyone who saw him, respected him. And anyone who got to know him, loved him. With all the beautiful features listed above, it is no wonder that he won the heart of Khadijah as he won the hearts of all his followers and companions. The Qur'an teaches us that goodness would convert enemy to friend:
"Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better, then the one who was your enemy becomes as he were your best friend and intimate..." (Surah 41:34)
If goodness can make a friend out of an enemy, it can definitely increase and strengthen the ties with a love one.
Mutual Support and Counseling -----------------------------
This simple but true fact is commonly ignored by many marriage partners. They take the relationship between them for granted. They may express their kind feelings to outsiders and show their best behaviour to strangers, but when they deal with each other, each assumes that the other already knows his or her feelings. They take each other's feelings for granted. If each partner shows the best of himself or herself to his/her partner, many shaky marriages will become healthy and successful again. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave us the best example in this respect. He always showed his best side to his family. He always asked the believers to be good to their families, and when it comes to good deeds, own should start with those he is in charge of.
Another clue to the realization of an ideal family relationship such as the one which existed between the Prophet (pbuh) and his wife, Khadijah, was the mutual counseling and support. A single incident will be quoted to make a point. I was the time when the Prophet (pbuh) received the first revelation. The magnitude and the impact of this incident was so great that it literally shook him up. Whom did he go to for counsel and support in such a difficult time? Did he go this best friend? Or to his lawyer? Or to his professor or advisor? Or to the elder of the community or tribe? None of these. He went to his wife Khadijah. He asked her for support and for her opinion, and apparently he knew what he was doing. She responded in the most appropriate manner. She did not faint or panic. She ated in the most comforting and supportive way, and filled him with confidence. She was quoted to say:
"Be steadfast and have good news. By the one who has khadijah's soul in His hand, I wish you become the Prophet of the this nation. By God, God will never let you down. You are kind to the kin, you are truthful in your word, you carry the weak, you host your guest, and you support the afflicted."
Someone may ask: what would this single incident mean? It means quite a lot. This type of mutual trust and confidence does not develop instantly. It is rather the result of long years of exposure, testing and practice. In such a challenging and difficult situation, the Prophet (pbuh) would not seek counsel and support from someone he had not trusted and tried before.
The point to be made is that the mutual counseling and support between marriage partners is an essential ingredient for a successful family life. IT serves two purposes: One is that a very useful source of counsel and support must be utilized rather than wasted. Second, the consulted partner will develop confidence, in addition to a sense of participation and appreciation, which will further strengthen family ties.
Helping Around the House ------------------------
"What did the Prophet (pbuh) do at home?" She replied: "He would be involved in the service of his family, and when the time for prayers was due, he would wash up and go out for prayers."
Unfortunately, may men feel that it is beneath their dignity to participate in housework. It is true that the home and housekeeping are usually the domain and responsibility of the wife, but a helping hand by a husband can be of great value. On the one hand, it will help the husband to undertstand and appreciate the duties and problems of his wife. On the other hand, it will signal to the wife his interest and caring attitude. Besides, his behaviour will be an example to the children, who might feel that housework is for mothers only. Sometimes the services of the husband are not needed, or not feasible. Here, gestures of goodwill and willingness to help are all that is needed. At other times, his service at home may be badly needed. In such a case, any time he can spare to serve his family is time well-spent. Of course, the service provided could be physical, spiritual, or intellectual.
Respect for the family ----------------------
Another clue was the Prophet's (pbuh) respect for his family. Ayeshah said:
"The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has never beaten a wife or a servant, and he has never hit anything with his hand except when fighting in the cause of Allah."
Although physical discipline may be required or justified in a crisis and when dealing with immature individuals where reason and logic are of no value, the Prophet (pbuh) always discouraged this mode of action. The normal treatment of mature individuals should be based mainly on logic, reason and sound understanding. The main miracle of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the Qur'an, which is a message to the minds of all people. IT is the Islamic approach to utilize mainly the mind and reasoning rather than to paralyze and overpower the person by physical means. When it comes to corrective action, a serious word or look or gesture could be more effective and even more painful than beating with a whip. Physical means are saved for the ones who do not have enough mind to understand. When beating has to be used along these lines, the Prophet (pbuh) teaches us that one should not hurt and that one should avoid the face. The Prophet (pbuh), however, gives us a marvelous reminder:
"The best among you do not beat."
There is indeed a great message in this short statement.
Stability in Face of Hardships ------------------------------
Another clue to the successful marriage was the stability and good faith of the partners when facing difficulties and afflictions. Many husbands and wives are taken by frustration and despair when they face difficult problems. Some lose control and completely break down. Many families fall apart after loss of money, failure of business, or any other type of trauma. The Prophet (pbuh) and his wife faced a great many difficulties, including the loss of children (especially the loss of boys in a society which used to kill female infants out of shame). In addition, they suffered the rejection and persecution inflicted on them by their own people. Their response did not consist in breaking down, or giving up. These difficulties probably increased their determination to build up their efforts to cope with difficulties. This clue should be a good lesson for all marriage partners who are shaken by the least of tremors in their family life.
Another feature of the relationship between Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his wife Khadijah, was his unprecedented loyalty to her. Loyalty is actually a cause and a result of the ideal marital relationship which existed between them. Loyalty is not just the lack of cheating, or lack of having extra-marital relations. Loyalty can be an on-going positive attitude which can be expressed in many actions, words or gestures. The resultant strenghthening of personal relations between the partners will in turn increase their loyalty towards one another. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) remained loyal to Khadijah to the end of his life, long after her death. Ayeshah used to say that she was not jealous of any woman more than Khadijah, although Khadijah was already dead, because the Prophet (pbuh) always had the best memories of her. The Prophet (pbuh) also had a special kind of feeling towards anyone Khadijah used to like.
Hard Work, Together for the Sake of Allah -----------------------------------------
One more feature of the happy marriage to Khadijah was that it was not a restful and easy-going one. Besides love and affection, there was a great deal of struggle and hard work to spread the message of Islam. When the Prophet (pbuh) received the second revelation:
"O you wrapped up. Arise and deliver thy warning..." (Surah 74, 1-2)
which woke him from his sleep, breathing heavily and sweating profusely, his wife Khadijah approached him gently to go back to bed and have some sleep and rest. His answer was:
"O Khadijah, the time for sleep and rest is over. Jibril has commanded me to warn the people and call them to Allah and His worship. Whom should I call? And who is going to respond to me?"
Khadijah comforted him and anxiously declared her Islam and her acceptance of the prophethood of her husband. From then on, it was like a Da'wah team, striving together in the cause of Allah.
This lesson is for every family, where one partner is upset and concerned because the other partner has to work hard in the cause of Allah. It would make things a lot easier if both partners did this work together and started their won Da'wah team. Part of the Da'wah work will naturally go towards their won personal education and the teaching of their children. By doing it this way, the frustration will subside, and the joy and pleasure will grow.
The above listed aspects and many more, all contributed to
the develop- ment of the beautiful relationship between Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) and his wife Khadijah.