31.2 The Lady Khadija
We shall begin in chronological order with the life of the lady Khadija. Khadija, the daughter of Khuwaylid, was of noble birth. She was beautiful and intelligent and had inherited much wealth from her father and from a previous marriage. She was independent and had a prosperous trading business that she preferred to manage herself in an age when most women could do nothing for themselves. Several Quraysh nobles sought the honor of her hand but were graciously and firmly refused - the lady Khadija was gracious in all her ways. The day she met Mohamed, however, it was love at first sight. He was of such noble character and from the most honored family of Quraysh and was indeed a suitable consort for this great lady. She, in turn, was the only woman who could have understood and helped him in the trials that lay ahead.
At first he took over her trade and was successful in performing his duties as a husband and agent, but Khadija, perspicacious and understanding, could see that his heart was not in business, so she relieved him of it in order to enable him to spend long months of contemplation and solitary worship in the mountains, in the Cave of Hira, which he felt a terrible urgency to do, and which Khadija recognized and understood. Mohamed used to forget himself and not think of food or drink during those periods of worship, so thoughtfully Khadija would send him food to the cave.
One day he returned from the mountain trembling in fear and wonder, to relate his vision to her. With a wisdom beyond most women's, she understood the nature of Mohamed's visions and assured him that Allah would never visit someone so good with madness. As soon as he was ordered to proclaim the Message, Khadija professed her belief in Allah and in Mohamed as His Messenger. She became, after the Messenger, the first Muslim on earth.
The Koran says that between man and wife is affection and mercy. Khadija was the soul of mercy and tenderness, and when the years of struggle against the idol worshippers began, she stood firm and steadfast by her persecuted husband. She saw him risk his life and hers, she saw him spend all his money and hers for the sake of religion, and she accepted it all, always encouraging, comforting, and helping him. She made his heavy responsibilities seem light and the injuries of Quraysh seem trivial.
She suffered patiently with him during the three years of severe privation in the mountains and, being a lady unused to such rough conditions, her health suffered and she died with a word of encouragement to her husband and complete trust in her Lord.
Mohamed felt the loss of Khadija as he felt no other loss and he grieved for her as he grieved for no one else. Theirs was love on a grand scale, not of this world but of the eternal, and in all his life after he cherished her memory and revered anything or anyone connected with her. No one was ever able to take her place in his affections. What the lady Aisha says is significant,
"I am jealous of no woman as I am of the memory of Khadija."
The marriage of Mohamed and Khadija lasted for twenty-seven years. It was an ideal marriage of mutual love and respect. During those twenty-seven years Mohamed grew from a very young man, for he was only twenty-three when he first married, to a mature and gifted prophet. He lived in many ways like the people of his age and class, but two things marked him out: his long months of worship in the mountains, and his never marrying or even desiring a woman other than Khadija. This was extraordinary in an age when most men had several wives and many slave girls.
In the following pages we shall discuss the marriages of the Messenger after the lady Khadija died, but first a word about the background of these marriages. Marriage to the Arabs did not mean the union of two individuals, but the union of two tribes. What each man sought in marriage were powerful in-Laws who could be an honor to him in peace and a support to him in war. Very often it was the woman's family that sought union with such-and-such a man because he was worthy of being their in-Law and came from such-and-such a tribe. It was a social and political matter, and love and beauty were a side issue.
The three years after Khadija had passed away were the three saddest years in Mohamed's life, for with the death of Khadija he had no comfort and no understanding at home, and with the death of Abu Talib immediately before it he had no support outside his house. Just when Quraysh were augmenting their campaign against him and increasing their pressure upon him, he was alone without comfort or aid to uphold the word of Allah against the most vicious forces of evil and brute cupidity.