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The Story of the First Believer – Who Was She?

This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

This noble lady, known to us as Mother of the Believers and the first wife of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), was the first person ever to accept Islam after it had been revealed to him by Jibreel (Angel Gabriel).

This noble woman, too, would love and support the Prophet for the rest of her life, no matter what difficulties he faced and no matter what people said about him or about her. Her acceptance of Islam was total.

There is a truly beautiful story told by Yahya ibn `Afeef about an occasion when he visited Makkah to stay with Al-`Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib, one of the uncles of the Prophet.

When the sun started rising, he said:

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“I saw a man who came out of a place not far from us, faced the Ka`bah, and started performing his prayers. He hardly started before being joined by a young boy who stood on his right side, then by a woman who stood behind them.

When he bowed down, the young boy and the woman bowed, and when he stood up straight, they, too, did likewise. When he prostrated himself, they, too, prostrated themselves.”

Then he expressed his amazement at that, saying to Al-`Abbas:

“This is quite strange,  `Abbas!”

“Is it really?” Retorted Al-`Abbas, who asked his guest if he knew who this man was and went on to tell him:

“He is Muhammad ibn `Abdullah, my nephew.

Do you know who the young boy is?”

When Yahyha said that he didn’t know, he was told:

“He is `Ali ibn Abi Talib. Do you know who the woman is?”

The answer came again in the negative, to which Al-`Abbas said, “She is Khadijah bint Khuaylid, my nephew’s wife.” (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi). 

Her story is important to us not just because she was one of the four most noble ladies ever to have lived (the others being her daughter Fatimah; Maryam, the mother of Jesus; and Asiyah, the wife of Pharaoh, who saved the baby Moses), but because we can learn from her about how to accept Islam in our own lives, too.

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid was born in 565 CE, and she belonged to the distinguished Makkah tribe of Banu Hashim. Both her parents were very wealthy and she inherited their wealth when they died. It does not concern us here to detail every moment of her life, but rather to describe her life in terms of her journey to Islam and her life as a Muslim, helping us to be better Muslims as a result.

Most unusually, in a society given over to idol worship, she never believed in idols or prayed to them. She was so upstanding a person and so respected among her people that she was one of the most distinguished ladies of Quraish. Khadijah was known as At-Tahirah (the Pure One).

She had twice been married, having lost both of her husbands in battle, and did not seek to marry a third time, lest she should lose this husband, too. At the time, Makkah was a great trading center and Khadijah was one of the wealthiest traders in the city. It is said, for example, that when the trading caravans used to gather to set off for Syria or Yemen, Khadijah’s caravan would equal those of all the rest of the Quraish put together.

So it was that the noble lady Khadijah asked her very distant younger cousin, Muhammad, to lead one of her caravans to Syria, on account of the trustworthiness of his character. The trading expedition was a great success, even though Muhammad knew nothing of trade. He impressed Khadijah by his character. Of all the men she could have chosen, Muhammad was the one she offered marriage to. Muhammad, 25 years old at the time, accepted, even though Khadijah was 15 years his senior.

The marriage was to last until Khadijah died. The couple were devoted to each other. She bore his children and she accompanied him in every endeavor. When the Qur’an was first revealed to Muhammad by Jibreel, Muhammad did not know what this new message could mean and he rushed back to his wife to find an answer. Was it that something terrible had happened to him, he thought. Khadijah’s answer was clear: “Never,” she told him. “I swear by Allah, Allah would never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your family, help the feeble and destitute, serve your guests generously, and assist those who deserve help.”

She took Muhammad to see her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, an old and devout Christian man, who had left paganism for Christianity. The rest of the story is familiar to us. Waraqah confirmed that the messenger who had spoken to Muhammad was none other than Jibreel, who had spoken to Moses, and that Muhammad was Allah’s Prophet.

Of all people in the world, it was Khadijah who was the first to accept Islam. Without question, and trusting totally in the honesty and the sincerity of Muhammad, she declared her belief in the Oneness of Allah and that Muhammad was His Messenger.

It is beyond the scope of these few brief lines to say more about the noble Khadijah. Muhammad took no other wife while she was alive. At her death, she was buried outside Makkah in a grave dug by the Prophet himself.

The Prophet was later to remark of his beloved Khadijah that “she believed in me when all others disbelieved; she held me truthful when others called me a liar; she sheltered me when others abandoned me; she comforted me when others shunned me; and Allah granted me children by her while depriving me of children by other women.”

Apart from the beauty of her character and her devout and pious life as a Muslim, Khadijah teaches us to submit totally to Allah. Her life asks us to accept without question the promptings of Allah in our own lives. She teaches us to love our Prophet as much as she did, and to be with him in all that we do. She touches our hearts with her tender love for the Prophet and by the way she sheltered him throughout life. Instead of mouthing words that cost nothing, she dedicated her life to Allah and to His Prophet.

As At-Tahirah, Khadijah invites us, too, to live lives that are pure and to become better Muslims, for Allah’s sake. In sha’ Allah, her life and example will inspire us to draw others to Islam.

About Idris Tawfiq
Idris Tawfiq was a British writer, public speaker and consultant.He became a Muslim around 15 years ago.For many years, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom.Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest.He passed away in peace in the UK in February 2016 after a period of illness.May Allah (SWT) have mercy on him, and accept his good deeds. Ameen.