Great Women of Islam

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All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon the Messenger, his household and companions.

Fellow Muslims! Fear Allah as He should be feared. Fear of Allah is a reminder for His devoted servants and it is safety from His punishment.

Ibn Katheer said,

  “No nation has produced a woman as sharp, knowledgeable, fluent and intelligent as ‘Aaishah.” She excelled the women of her race in knowledge and wisdom. She was blessed with understanding of Islaamic jurisprudence and memorisation of poetry. She was in fact, a treasure of Islaamic sciences. Adh-Dhahabee said, “The most knowledgeable woman of this Ummah is ‘Aaishah. I do not know any woman from the Ummah of Muhammad or from any other nation more knowledgeable than her.”

Dear brethren! Muslim woman attains prosperity by following the path of the best women who lived in the best generation and got nurtured in the house of Prophethood. They are women of high status and outstanding estimation. Allah praises them in the Qur’aan where He says,

  “O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner.”(Al-Ahzaab 33:32)

They are blessed and great women. Foremost among them is that intelligent and wise woman, Khadeejah bint Khuwaylid, the religious and noble woman. She grew up upon virtuous characters and manners. She was chaste and gracious. She was known among Makkah womenfolk as ‘the pure woman’. The Messenger of Allah married her and she became an excellent wife for him. She supported him with her life, wealth and wisdom. During his sorrowful days, he would seek shelter with her and confide in her.

When the first revelation came to him he went to his wife frightened, and he said,

  “O Khadeejah, I fear for myself.” But Khadeejah responded to his fear with a firm heart. She told him, “By Allah, Allah will not disgrace you.”

Islaam started in her house and she was the first person to embrace it. Ibn al-Atheer said,

  “Khadeejah was the first person to embrace Islaam, according to the consensus of the Muslims. No man or woman ever embraced Islaam before her.”

At the beginning of the Prophet’s mission, he was faced with many tribulations. But she stood by him compassionately and supported him with her outstanding intelligence. Whenever he heard any undesirable words from the people and came to her, she would strengthen and console him. The Prophet said about her,

 “ “She believed in me when people denied me, she trusted me when people belied me; she supported me with her wealth when people refused to support me and I was blessed with children by her when I was denied children by other women.” (Ahmad)

Khadeejah was a great and dutiful wife to her husband and an affectionate mother to her children. She gave birth to all the Prophet’s children except Ibraaheem. She was extremely good-mannered. She never argued with her husband and she never bothered him. The Messenger of Allah said,

 “ “Angel Jibreel came to me and said: ‘Give Khadeejah the good tidings that she will have a palace made of hollowed pearls in Paradise and there will be neither noise nor any trouble in it.’” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

As-Suhaylee said,

  “She was given the glad tiding of a house in Paradise because she never raised her voice over that of the Prophet and she never bothered him.” She was pleased with her Lord and Allah is pleased with her.

The Prophet said, “Angel Jibreel told me:

 “ ‘When you come to Khadeejah, convey my Lord’s greetings to her and mine as well.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn al-Qayyim said,

  “Khadeejah was the only woman known to have this honour.”

Allah loved Khadeejah, so did His angels. The Messenger of Allah also loved her so much. He said,

 “ “I am blessed with her love.” (Muslim)

Whenever the Prophet remembered her, he would mention her in glowing attributes and would show gratitude for her companionship. ‘Aaishah said,

  “Whenever the Messenger of Allah remembered Khadeejah, he would never be tired of praising her and invoking Allah’s forgiveness for her. He appreciated her love and sincerity and he would honour her friends after her death.”

‘Aaishah said, “

 “ He would often slaughter a goat, cut it into parts and distribute it to Khadeejah’s friends. And whenever I asked him, ‘Are there no other women in the world except Khadeejah?’ He would say, ‘She was this and that and she bore me children.’” (Al-Bukhari)

After her death, Allah’s Messenger heard her sister’s voice. He them became sad and said, “She reminded me of Khadeejah.”

Khadeejah was perfect in her religion, wisdom and conduct. The Prophet said,

 “ “Many men attained perfection, but only three women attained it: Maryam, daughter of ‘Imraan [Jesus’ mother], Aasiyah, Pharaoh’s wife and Khadeejah bint Khuwaylid.” (Ibn Mardooyah)

She preceded the women of this Ummah in righteousness, nobility and splendour. Allah’s Messenger said,

 “ “Maryam [Mary, Jesus’ mother] was the best woman of her time, and the best woman of this Ummah is Khadeejah.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Khadeejah was righteous and made her home righteous. She reaped the fruit of her labour and she and her daughter became the best of the women of the worlds in Paradise. The Prophet said,

 “ “The best of the women of Paradise are: Khadeejah, Faatimah, Maryam [Mary] and ‘Aasiyah.” (Ahmad and An-Nasaa’ee)

She occupied a great place in the Prophet’s heart. He did not marry any woman before her neither did he marry any woman or have any concubine while she was still with him until she died. He was extremely distressed with her death. Adh-Dhahabee said,

  “Khadeejah was intelligent, gracious, religious, chaste and noble. She is one of the dwellers of Paradise.”

Dear brethren! Another great woman of the house of Prophethood is ‘Aaishah, daughter of Abu Bakr. She was born in the house of truthfulness and piety and she was nurtured in the house of Iman. Her mother was a companion and her sister, Asmaa, Lady of the Two Girdles and her brother were also companions. Her father is the truthful man of this Ummah. She grew up in the house of knowledge, for her father was the erudite scholar of Quraysh and the highest authority in genealogy. Allah endowed her with outstanding intelligence and a sharp memory. Ibn Katheer said,

  “No nation has produced a woman as sharp, knowledgeable, fluent and intelligent as ‘Aaishah.” She excelled the women of her race in knowledge and wisdom. She was blessed with understanding of Islaamic jurisprudence and memorisation of poetry. She was in fact, a treasure of Islaamic sciences. Adh-Dhahabee said, “The most knowledgeable woman of this Ummah is ‘Aaishah. I do not know any woman from the Ummah of Muhammad or from any other nation more knowledgeable than her.”

She excelled all women with her virtues and beautiful companionship. Allah’s Messenger said,

 “ “The superiority of ‘Aaishah over other women is like the superiority of thareed [1] over other kinds of food.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah loved her; and he did not love anything but that which is pleasant.

‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas once asked Allah’s Messenger,

 “ “Who is most beloved to you of all people?” The Prophet answered, “‘Aaishah.” And he said, “And among men?” And he answered, “Her father.” (Al-Bukhari)

She was the only virgin the Messenger of Allah married, and the revelation did not come to him in other woman’s blanket but hers. She was chaste and devoted to her Lord. She did not go out of her house except in the night so that men could not see her. She said of herself, “We did not use to go out but only in the night.” This is in line with Allah’s instruction,

  “And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance.”(Al-Ahzaab 33:33)

Al-Qurtubee said,

  “There are resplendent evidences in Islaam that require women to stay at home and not to go out except when necessary. And when it becomes necessary for them to go out they should do so with complete covering of themselves and their adornments.”

Allah puts whomever He wills to test, and the test is in accordance with one’s Iman. ‘Aaishah was slandered while she was only twelve. She said, narrating her ordeal in this incidence, “I wept and I could not sleep and I just kept weeping until my parents thought that my liver would burst from weeping.” She said that the trial was so severe that she would weep but could not find any more tears to shed.

Ibn Katheer said,

  “So Allah decided to defend her honour, and He revealed ten verses to absolve her. This elevated her status and these verses were recited and they shall continue to be recited till the Day of Resurrection. Allah testified that she was one of the purest women and promised her forgiveness and a generous provision.

She spent nights caring for the Prophet in his illness until he died in her apartment, on her day and in her bosom.

Sawdah bint Zam‘ah is another of the Prophet’s noble wives. She was pure-hearted and the first woman he married after the death of Khadeejah. She was his only wife for about three years. She was gracious and noble, and the purity of her heart manifested when she gave her days with the Prophet to ‘Aaishah out of consideration for her husband’s feelings and in order to earn reward of her Lord.

Another great woman in the Prophet’s household is Hafsah, daughter of ‘Umar. She was given to observing prayers in the night and performing supererogatory fasting. She grew up in a house in which the cause of Islaam was supported and truth was given prominence. Seven members of her family participated in the battle of Badr. ‘Aaishah said of her, “She was my only competitor among the Prophet’s wives.”

There is also Zaynab bint Khuzaymah al-Hilaaliyyah who was very generous and hastened to perform righteous deeds. She lived with Allah’s Messenger for only two months and then died.

Another distinguished woman in the house of Prophethood is Umm Habeebah daughter of Abu Sufyaan, the emigrant and the one who was given to performing meritorious deeds. She was the closest to the Prophet of his wives in terms of blood relation. There was no one among his wives who was more generous than her as far as charity giving is concerned. She migrated to Abyssinia, escaping with her religion. The king of Abyssinia paid her bridal gift on the Prophet’s behalf and got her ready for him.

Another outstanding wife of the Prophet was Umm Salamah, the patient and noble woman. Her name is Hind bint Abee Umayyah, one of the earliest emigrants. When she wanted to migrate to al-Madeenah with her husband Abu Salamah, her clan separated between her and her husband and son. She said,

  “Every morning I would go to Abtah [a valley in Makkah] and I would keep weeping until evening. I did so for a whole year or close to a year. They later pitied me and gave my son back to me.”

Her sure faith in Allah was firm-rooted. When her first husband died, she said the invocation that Allah’s Messenger taught her, so Allah gave her a better husband in the person of Allah’s Messenger. Umm Salamah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said,

 “ “If any Muslim who suffers some calamity says what Allah has commanded him,” We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return; O Allah, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in exchange,” Allah will give him something better than it in exchange.’” When Abu Salamah died she said: ‘Which Muslim is better than Abu Salamah whose family was the first to emigrate to the Messenger of Allah?’ I then said those words, and Allah gave me the Prophet in exchange.” (Muslim)

Make this supplication your treasure during afflictions, Allah will provide you with what is better.

Dear brethren! There is a woman among the Prophet’s wives known as Mother of the Poor. She is Zaynab bint Jahsh whose mother is the Prophet’s aunt. She enjoyed nobility of birth and character. She was described by Abu Nu’aym as, ‘devoted and contented woman’. Allah married her to His Prophet through an explicit verse from His Book

  “So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage.” (Al-Ahzaab 33:37)

Her marriage to the Prophet is a blessing to the Muslim women till the day of Resurrection, for it was after her marriage that Allah ordained hijaab for the women so that it could serve as a symbol of protection for their honour, chastity and purity.

Zaynab was extremely generous to the poor and the weak. She was highly charitable. In spite of her nobility and high status, she used to work with her hands, tanning and making beads. And she would spend the proceeds for the poor. ‘Aaishah said,

  “I have not seen a woman better in her adherence to religion, more pious, kinder to the kith and kin and more generous in giving charity than Zaynab.”

Juwayriyyah bint al-Haarith from the tribe of Banoo al-Mustaliq is another of the Prophet’s distinguished wives. Her father was the influential chief of his tribe. She was in herself blessed as she was blessed to her tribe. ‘Aaishah said, “I have not seen a woman who is greater in blessing to her people more than her.” She was given to performing much acts of worship for her Lord. She sincerely and devotedly worshiped her Lord. She would sit down in her prayer place remembering her Lord after Fajr until mid-noon. She said

 “ , “The Messenger of Allah came to me one morning while I was glorifying Allah. He then went out for some of his needs. When he came back just before mid-noon he said, ‘Are you still there remembering Allah?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’” (Muslim)

Another honourable wife of Allah’s Messenger is the beautiful Safiyyah bint Huyayy, a descendant of Prophet Haaroon [Aaron]. She was a noble and intelligent woman. She was highly-placed, religious, deliberate and peace-loving. The Messenger of Allah told her,

 “ “Indeed, you are a daughter of a Prophet [meaning Aaron], your uncle is a Prophet [meaning Moses]; and you are also married to a Prophet.” (At-Tirmidhee)

The feast of her marriage to the Prophet comprised only of butter, cottage cheese and dates. But the marriage was blessed.

Maymoonah bint al-Haarith al-Hilaaliyyah, the woman who was given to being kind to the kith and kin is another eminent wife of the Prophet. She was one of the greatest women. Allah endowed her with pure heart and performance of much acts of worship. ‘Aaishah said about her,

 “ “She was one of the most pious and most generous to the kith and kin among us.”

Fellow Muslims! That is the history of the outstanding women of Islaam, mothers of the faithful. Their virtues are glowing. They had combination of beauties and virtues. It is therefore, incumbent upon Muslim women to make them their models in matters of their religion, their submission to Allah and His Messenger, their conduct, their consciousness of Allah, their performance of acts of worship, their truthfulness in words and their spending for the poor. They need to emulate them in their alleviation of other people’s sufferings; and in their efforts to make their children righteous, correct them with patience and in seeking fortification through knowledge and learning from erudite scholars.

They need to emulate them in keeping themselves properly covered, maintaining their chastity, staying at their homes and keeping away from doubtful and lustful things. They should emulate them by avoiding pinning their hopes on this world, heedlessness and forgetfulness or being carried away by outward beauties while the inward is corrupt.

The Muslim women should avoid looking at forbidden things and engaging in amorous conversations with alien men. They should beware of those who are calling to the removal of hijaab and mixing with men.

Muslim woman’s greatness and glory lie in her religion and her hijaab. Allah says,

  “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”(Al-Israa 33:59)

Dear Muslims! The Prophet’s wives lived with him humbly in apartments built of brick and palm leaves, but full of Iman and piety. They showed patience with the Messenger of Allah over poverty and hunger. Sometimes, a month or two would pass with no cooking fire kindled in their homes. They would spend days with nothing to eat but only dates and water. Sometimes they would make do with water only. Yet they lived in contentedness and patience upon Allah’s promise that,

  “The Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world).”(Ad-Duhaa 93:4)

And His promise,

  “And whosoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Messenger and does righteous good deeds, We shall give her, her reward twice over, and We have prepared for her a noble provision.”(Al-Ahzaab 33:31)

Brethren in Islaam! The Prophet married five of his wives with their ages ranging between forty and sixty. By that he was able to lay an example in taking care of the widow and their orphaned children. He married Khadeejah while she was forty years old, with three children from the previous marriage, while he was unmarried before. He married Zaynab bint Khuzaymah who was an almost sixty-year-old widow. He married Umm Salamah who was a widow with six children. He married Sawdah who was a fifty-five years old widow.

He married some relatives from among his cousins. And he married some women who were not his relatives.

He was a compassionate, dutiful and honourable husband to them all. He lived with them in the most beautiful way. He was always cheerful and kind to them.

Therefore, let those who want to prosper emulate the Messenger of Allah, who is the best of all creatures. Let the Muslim women follow the path of the righteous wives of the Prophet. For, there is no success for any woman except by following the path of these pious ladies in their righteousness and God-consciousness and in their dutifulness to their husband and children.

[1] Thareed is a dish of sopped bread, meat and broth.

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