Muhammad ﷺ, as had been the way of the Prophets before him, worked as a shepherd for Bani Sa‘d in Makkah. He would tend his flock on the mountainside, at times gone for the duration of the day. At the age of twenty-five, he was employed by Khadijah (RA), daughter of Khuwailid, a merchant and successful businessman whose vast wealth and business talents were inherited by his daughter, who despite being a women in a patriarchal society, successfully managed her father’s business interests and preserved the family’s fortune.
Khadijah (RA) was known as the ‘Princess of Quraysh’ and ‘The Pure One’. Known to have had an impeccable character, she would feed and clothe the poor, assist her relatives with financial help, and provide for the marriage of those of her kin who could not otherwise have had the means to marry. It is reported that she neither believed in nor worshipped idols. Furthermore, in being notorious for her business acumen, many highly respected members of Quraysh sought her hand in marriage. However, she would always decline remaining unmarried.
Never did Khadijah (RA) travel with her trade caravans, but instead she relied on others who acted on her behalf and would be compensated for their efforts. In 595 CE, Khadijah (RA) needed a representative for a transaction in Syria. Having had a good working relationship with Abu Talib, she was recommended to approach Muhammad ﷺ, especially given that he was known as Al-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Amin (the trustworthy).
Although Muhammad ﷺ himself did not have any experience in the field, he had accompanied Abu Talib twice on trade trips and had keenly observed how Talib traded, bartered, bought, sold, and conducted business. Thus he was approached by Khuzaimah ibn Hakim who acted on behalf of Khadijah (RA) offering Muhammad ﷺ double the commission she usually paid. Maisarah, Khadijah (RA)’s servant, also went along, and during the journey he came to know the many impeccable qualities of the soon-to-be Prophet.
On arriving at Makkah, Muhammad ﷺ sent the money made to Khadijah (RA) who noticed that she had gained more profit than usual. She was also informed of Muhammad ﷺ’s good manners, honesty, deep thought, sincerity and faith. Upon reflection, Khadijah (RA) resolved that this was the man she intended to marry confiding in her friend Nufesah.
When the prospect of marrying Khadijah (RA), now forty or perhaps slightly younger, was put to Muhammad ﷺ by Nufesah, he expressed his interest straight away. Nufesah informed Khadijah (RA) who then sent him a message asking the Prophet to come and see her. She stated that she admired him because of his good position amongst his people, as well as his honesty and good manners, and because he was a man of his word. She then made her proposal that they should get married.
Muhammad ﷺ, gleaming with delight, thereafter went with his uncles to meet Khadijah (RA)’s uncle, Amr ibn ‘Asad. Hamzah, the uncle of the Prophet spoke on behalf of his nephew and offered in dowry twenty camels. Naturally, Amr ibn ‘Asad was unhesitant in his acceptance and thus the marriage then concluded at a dowry of twenty young camels with its contract witnessed by Bani Hashim and the heads of Mudar.
A grand wedding then followed, with a number of sheep and camels slaughtered to feed the guests. One of whom came from a distant place in the desert- that was Halimah, the Prophet’s wet nurse who breast-fed him and took care of him for the first four years of his life. She came especially to attend his wedding. When she was about to leave, Khadijah (RA) gave her a generous gift, forty sheep to take home.
Khadijah (RA) bore all of his children, except Ibrahim. Those associated to Khadijah (RA) were: Al-Qasim, Zainab (RA), Ruqaiyah (RA), Umm Kulthum (RA), Fatimah (RA) and ‘Abdullah.
Khadijah (RA) was the Prophet’s ﷺ most beloved wife; he never married whilst married to her, and spoke of her with great affection and reverence later on. Indeed, she was a pillar of support for the Prophet ﷺ, especially throughout his most trialling days. And when she passed away, the Prophet ﷺ felt an emptiness no woman was ever able to fill.
End of 595 CE
Lessons and Wisdom
The circumstances through which Khadijah (RA) began to admire Muhammad ﷺ demonstrates to us the importance of upright character and its effect on those around one. In particular we can draw a lesson in that trustworthiness and truthfulness are the two most important qualities of a successful businessman. They were the two qualities that prompted Khadijah (RA) to ask the Prophet to do business on her behalf. Consequently, Allah opened many doors of goodness for her.
Business was one of the means through which Allah provided sustenance for the Muhammad ﷺ prior to his prophethood. Later on in his life, the Prophet would say: “if a Muslim businessman is both trustworthy and truthful, then he will be resurrected among the Prophets, the truthful ones, and the martyrs.” In this emphatic statement the Prophet was teaching us that to engage in business in a fair and upright manner is a difficult task, and therefore its reward is substantial.
Allah decreed for the Prophet to marry the ideal wife, Khadijah (RA), a wife that was both a suitable companion and a trusted counselor and helper. She would later support her husband passionately as he embarked upon his awesome journey as a Prophet. The most noble lifestyle was that of the Prophet and he set an example to be followed. Every caller to the truth is in need of a pious, loving wife, from whom he can draw strength, helping him face the struggles outside. Conversely, Khadijah (RA) is one of the best role models for women who aspire to be successful in the eyes of Allah. She is particularly a role model for women whose husbands are callers to the truth and play a leading role in reforming society in accordance to the teachings of Islam. Khadija’s support of Muhammad ﷺ had a tremendously positive impact on the success of the prophetic call.
Muhammad ﷺ’s marriage to Khadijah (RA)
Some of Muhammad ﷺ’s critics have sneered at his marriage to Khadijah (RA) citing that such a timely match with a wealthy widow was some what underhanded; but this was no marriage of convenience. Muhammad ﷺ loved Khadijah (RA) dearly, and even though polygyny was the norm in Arabia, he never took another, younger wife while she was alive. Khadijah (RA) was a remarkable woman, “determined, noble, and intelligent,” says Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad ﷺ’s first biographer. She was quick to recognise his noble character and genius and likewise Muhammad ﷺ depended upon her emotionally and relied on her advice and support. After her death, he used to infuriate some of his later wives by endlessly singing her praises.
Muhammad ﷺ’s life as a young single man speaks volumes about his nobility and integrity. Up until the age of twenty-five, he lived a chaste life at odds with the society around him. He was not living within the confines of a puritan society, but within a society that was replete with evil and ignorance, a society wherein one was free to have sexual encounters with prostitutes without any social stigma. Then, when he did decide on marriage he chose for himself a noble woman of almost twice his age. And in the fifteen years that he was married to Khadijah (RA) he remained faithful to her. When she died he was 50 years old and had spent his entire youth and energy with her. Such behaviour is at odds with what some critics have suggested of the Prophet; calling him a man obsessed with women and lustful relationships.
Edicts and Rulings
While Khadijah (RA) was alive, the Prophet gave her glad tidings of a house in paradise, and he conveyed greetings of peace to her from Allah and Jibrail (AS). It is reported from the prophet’s disciple Abu Hurairah: “Jibrail (AS) went to the Prophet once and said, ‘O messenger of Allah ﷺ, here is Khadijah (RA) coming to you, and with her is a container of food. When she enters, convey to her as-Salam (peace) from her Lord and from me. And give her glad tidings of a house in paradise made out of a hollow pearl.”