Khadījah bint Khuwaylid (ʿa) was born in the year 68 before Hijra (555 AD) and died in the year 3 AH (620 AD) in Mecca, modern day Saudi Arabia. She was the first wife of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) and the first female to accept Islam. She was also the mother of the Prophet’s (ṣ) only daughter and living child, Fāṭimah az-Zahrāʾ (ʿa).
Lady Khadījah’s father was Khuwaylid b. Asad, a leading member of the Quraysh tribe and a successful merchant. Her mother’s name was Fāṭimah bint Zāʾidah.
Given that Lady Khadījah had come from a family of merchants, she had inevitably learned the trade quite well from her family and became a successful merchant herself. More importantly, Lady Khadījah was also a ḥanīf, meaning that she was a monotheist who followed Prophet Ibrāhīm (ʿa), but was not part of the Jewish or Christian communities. This was quite significant given that Mecca was almost entirely polytheist at that time.
Lady Khadījah’s religious convictions directly affected how she conducted her business and how she spent her wealth. In trade, she was always recognized as being honest, truthful and fair in her dealings. Her reliability and overall ethical conduct as a merchant attracted a lot of business to her and made her wealthy. Despite her wealth, she was extremely generous. She spent a substantial amount of her wealth feeding and clothing the poor and even going as far as paying for the marriage expenses of her poor relatives. Because of her magnanimity, she was known as Khadījah al-Kubrā (Khadījah the Great).
Out of religious modesty, as well as for safety reasons, Lady Khadījah employed men to carry out trade on her behalf. It is said that often enough, many of these employed men were not reliable, as they often cheated in their deals to enrich themselves. This type of behavior is something she disliked very much.
By the grace of Allah, Lady Khadījah hired the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) to a trade commission to Syria. Having been satisfied with his character, she hired him some more. The Prophet’s reputation as an honest and trustworthy merchant gained him the title of al-Amīn, “the Trustworthy.”
His growing reputation as a truthful merchant (a rarity in Arabia at that time), as well as his ability to increase profits beyond what Khadījah expected, impressed her a great deal. Given his own magnanimous and honest character, Lady Khadījah proposed marriage to him through an acquaintance. The Prophet (ṣ) agreed to the proposition, and after involvement from the elders of their families, they finally married.
In the year 610 AD, the Prophet received his first revelation from the Angel Jabraʾīl (Gabriel) in the cave of Hirāʾ inside Jabal an-Nūr (Mountain of Light), which was to propagate the contents of the Holy Qurʾān.
When the Prophet came home and recounted the event to Lady Khadījah, she immediately believed him, as she knew his character well. At that moment, Lady Khadījah became the first female to accept Islam, and Imām ʿAlī (ʿa), who lived with them at the time, became the first male to accept Islam.
The start of the Prophet’s mission provided Lady Khadījah with the opportunity to serve Allah to the fullest. Although she was a very wealthy woman, she spent all of her money helping the Prophet’s mission. When the enemies of Islam would imprison Muslims and torture Muslim slaves, she would use her money to purchase and free them, saving them from a life of torture and destitution.
Even during the mass boycott of Muslims in Mecca which caused a lot of poverty and hunger, Lady Khadījah spent the remainder of her wealth trying to help and sustain Muslims in need. Her generosity eventually ended up depleting her of her wealth and health. Due to the nature of the boycott, she ate many simple foods, like weeds and whatever would grow in the barren desert, to the point that she became weak as a result. After eating something poisonous, she eventually became very ill and passed away in the year 620 AD.
Lady Khadījah’s (ʿa) death caused the Prophet so much heartbreak that he proclaimed the time of her death the year of sorrow. Lady Khadījah not only provided the many means that helped the foundation of Islam, but she also gave birth to the Prophet’s only daughter, Sayyidah Fāṭimah al-Zahrāʾ (ʿa), who would become the mother of all the Imāms that were to come. Through the material sacrifices that Lady Khadījah made with sincerity and faith, she left behind something even more valuable than her wealth.
She left behind a legacy of achieving the highest level of God consciousness she could reach, and for that alone, her contributions are invaluable and innumerable.