Khadija Kubra (SA) was the daughter of Khuwaylid who belonged to the clan of Banu Hashim of the tribe of Banu Asad. She was a distant cousin of her husband the Messenger of Allah Muhammad bin Abdullah (PBUH), Allah’s (SWT) peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny.
According to a number of sources, Khadija (SA) was born in 565 A.D. and died one year before the Hijra (migration of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his followers from Mecca to Medina) in 623 A.D. at the age of 58, but some historians say that she lived to be 65. Khadija’s (SA) mother, who died around 575 A.D., was Fatima daughter of Za’ida, also a distant relative of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Khadija’s (SA) father, who died around 585 A.D., belonged to the Abd Al-`Uzza clan of the tribe of Quraysh and, like many other Qurayshis, was a merchant, a successful businessman whose vast wealth and business talents were inherited by Khadija and whom the latter succeeded in faring with the family’s vast wealth.
It is said that when Quraysh’s trade caravans gathered to embark upon their lengthy and arduous journey either to Syria during the summer or to Yemen during the winter, Khadija’s (SA) caravan equaled the caravans of all other traders of Quraysh put together. Although the society in which Khadija (SA) was born was a terribly male chauvinistic one, Khadija (SA) earned two titles: Ameerat-Quraysh (Princess of Quraysh), and Al-Tahira (the Pure One), due to her impeccable personality and virtuous character, not to mention her honorable descent. She used to feed and clothe the poor, assist her relatives financially, and even provide for the marriage of those of her kin who could not otherwise have had means to marry.
By 585 A.D., Khadija (SA) was left an orphan. Despite that and after having married twice- and twice lost her husband to the ravaging wars with which Arabia was afflicted- she had no mind to marry a third time though she was sought for marriage by many honorable and highly respected men of the Arabian peninsula throughout which she was quite famous due to her business dealings. She simply hated the thought of being widowed for a third time. Her first husband was Abu Halah Hind bin Zarah who belonged to Banu`Adiyy, and the second was Ateeq ibn `Aaith. Both men belonged to Banu Makhzoom. By her first husband, she gave birth to a son who was named after his father Hind and who came to be one of the greatest companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
He participated in both battles of Badr and Uhud, and he is also famous for describing the Prophet’s (PBUH) physique; he was martyred during the Battle of the Camel in which he fought on the side of Imam Ali bin Abu Talib (PBUH), although some historians say that he died in Basrah. All biography accounts describe Hind as an outspoken orator, a man of righteousness and generosity, and one who took extreme caution while quoting the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Besides him, Khadija (SA) gave birth by Abu Halah to two other sons: Tahir, and, of course, Halah, who is not very well known to historians despite the fact that his father is nicknamed after him.
Who were Khadija’s (SA) children by her second husband? This is another controversy that revolves round the other daughters or step-daughters of the Prophet (PBUH) besides Fatima (PBUH).
These daughters, chronologically arranged, are: Zainab, Ruqayya, and Ummu Kulthoom. Some historians say that these were Khadija’s daughters by her second husband; whereas others insist they were her daughters by Muhammad (PBUH). The first view is held by Sayyid Safdar Husayn in his book The Early History of Islam wherein he bases his conclusion on the contents of Sayyuti’s famous work Tarikh Al-khulafa wal muluk (history of the caliphs and kings). We hope some of our Muslim sisters who read this text will be tempted to research this subject. Here is a brief account of Khadija’s (SA) daughters:
Zainab, their oldest, was born before the prophetic mission and was married to Abul-As bin Rabee’. She had accepted Islam before her husband, and she participated in the migration from Mecca to Medina. She died early in 8 A.H. and was buried in Jannatul Baqee` where her grave can still be seen defying the passage of time. Ruqayya and Ummu Kulthoom married two of Abu Lahab’s sons. Abu Lahab, one of the Prophet’s (PBUH) uncles, stubbornly and openly rejected his nephew’s preaching; therefore, he was condemned in the Mecci Chapter 111 of the Holy Qur’an, a chapter named after him. Having come to know about such a condemnation, he became furious and said to his sons, “There shall be no kinship between you and me unless you part with these daughters of Muhammad,” whereupon they divorced them instantly.
Ruqayya married the third caliph Uthman bin Affan and migrated with him to Ethiopia in 615 A.D., five years after the inception of the prophetic mission, accompanied by no more than nine others. That was the first of two such migrations. After coming back home, she died in Medina in 2 A.H. and was buried at Jannatul Baqee`. `Uthman then married her sister Ummu Kulthoom in Rabi Al-Awwal of the next (third) Hijri year. Ummu Kulthoom lived with her husband for about six years before dying in 9 A.H., leaving no children.
One particular quality in Khadija was quite interesting, probably more so than any of her other qualities mentioned above: she, unlike her people, never believed in nor worshipped idols. There were a very small number of Christians and Jews inMecca, and a fairly large number of Jews in Medina. Waraqah bin Nawfal, one of Khadija’s (SA) cousins, had embraced Christianity and was a pious monk who believed in the Unity of the Almighty, just as all early Christians did, that is, before the concept of the Trinity crept into the Christian faith, widening the theological differences among the believers in Christ (AS). He reportedly had translated the Bible from Hebrew into Arabic. His likes could be counted on the fingers of one hand during those days in the entire populous metropolis of Mecca, or Becca, or Ummul-Qura (the mother town), a major commercial center at the crossroads of trade caravans linking Arabia with India, Persia, China, and Byzantium, a city that had its own Red Sea port at Shu`ayba.
Most importantly, Mecca housed the Ka’ba, the cubic”House of God” which has always been sought for pilgrimage and which used to be circled by naked polytheist “pilgrims” who kept their idols, numbering 360 small and big, male and female, inside it and on its roof-top. Among those idols was one for Abraham and another for Ishmael, each carrying divine arrows in his hands. Each tribe had its own idol, and the wealthy bought and kept a number of idols at home. The institute of pilgrimage was already there; it simply was not being observed properly, and so was the belief in Allah Whom the Arabs regarded as their Supreme deity. Besides Paganism, other “religions” in Arabia included star worship and fetishism.
The Jews of Medina had migrated from Palestine and settled there waiting for the coming of a new Prophet from the seed of Abraham (AS) in whom they said they intended to believe and to be the foremost in following, something which unfortunately did not materialize; on the contrary, they joined ranks with the Pagans to fight the spread of Islam. Only a handful of them embraced Islam, including one man who was a neighbor of Muhammad (PBUH); he lived in the same alley in Mecca where Khadija’s (SA) house stood; his wife, also Jewish, used to collect dry thorny bushes from the desert just to throw them in the Prophet’s (PBUH) way.