A depiction of Khadījah and Muhammad by the 16th-century calligrapher Lutfi Abdullah. Wikimedia Commons.

Khadījah bint Khuwaylid or Khadījah al-Kubra (Khadījah the Great) (c. 555 or 567 – 620 C.E.) was the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad, the central figure of Islam. As Muhammad’s first follower, she is considered the first Muslim and one of the most important women in Muslim history.

Khadījah was born into a merchant family in the mid-sixth century, in what is now Saudi Arabia. She married and was widowed twice before she met Muhammad as a middle-aged woman. Khadījah was a successful merchant in her own right, with a trading business that reportedly stretched from Egypt to Ethiopia. A few other men had already asked her to marry them, but Khadījah refused them and chose her much younger business associate Muhammad. Unusually, she was the one to propose!

She was known for her generosity and good character; she reportedly gave financial support to her relatives if they needed it and fed the poor. Khadījah and Muhammad enjoyed a happy marriage and had several children. They must have had a busy, happy home life: it was customary for mothers to send children away to be cared for by wet nurses, but Muhammad and Khadījah kept their family close and raised their children at home. Like her mother, their daughter Fatimah is also considered a role model by Muslims around the world.

When Muhammad experienced a revelation from the angel Jibril, marking him as a prophet, Khadījah believed her husband’s story. She became the first person to convert to Islam and follow him. Her faith in Muhammed and Islam never wavered; she continued to encourage him. For the rest of her life, Khadijah supported and protected the growing Muslim community with her own wealth and her reputation.

Khadījah was Muhammad’s only wife until she died in 620, in her mid-sixties. Although he married again, she is considered to have been his favourite and most trusted wife. She is still remembered by Muslims for her faithfulness.

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