Generally speaking, it is not common that a young man of twenty-five would agree to marry a woman of forty years. One may wonder why Muhammad did so; yet, it must be understood that his whole life was directed by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Although Khadijah possessed the qualities most men would seek in a wife (such as beauty, intelligence, good morals, manners, etc.), her marriage to Muhammad was truly a manifestation of Allah’s wisdom.
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) had decreed that Muhammad (sallalahu alaihiwasalam) would be the last prophet. Through him Allah would deliver His final revelation to mankind – the Qur’an. This task was laden with difficulties and dangers. Some of Muhammad’s family and most of society would initially reject him, and some would even physically abuse him. He would see his brothers and sisters in Islam starved, tortured and killed. Most of them would have to flee their homeland.
But Allah, in His wisdom, gave Muhammad a reliable companion in his wife, Khadijah. She assisted him through all of the initial problems he would face as the last prophet. Possessing tender emotions, wisdom, and the necessary understanding to encourage him to persevere, she also held a high enough social position to discourage the viciousness of other tribes.
Throughout his childhood and adolescent years, Muhammad lived as an orphan. Yet now in early manhood, a new chapter of his life was about to begin in Khadijah’s company. In the calm atmosphere of their home Muhammad enjoyed many aspects of Khadijah’s exceptional personality. As weeks rolled into months and months into years, she effortlessly showed her ability to act as a wife, sister and mother.
Khadijah and Muhammad had four daughters and two sons. The eldest of the girls was Zaynab, followed by Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah.
The first boy, who was named al-Qasim, died while he was still an infant. Some time after his death, Khadijah gave birth to another son called ‘Abdullah. Because he was born after his father’s prophethood had begun, ‘Abdullah was referred to as ‘at-Tayyib’ (‘The Good’) and ‘at-Tahir (‘The Pure’). He, too, died in early childhood.
Besides their own children, there were two other boys who had the privilege to be raised under the care of Khadijah and Muhammad. They were ‘Ali bin Abi Talib and Zayd bin Haruthah, who were to be among the first Muslims.
Muhammad could not forget how he had been cared for by his uncle, Abu Talib, who raised him after the death of his grandfather, ‘Abdul-Muttalib. He willingly and gratefully agreed to care for his cousin ‘Ali in order to assist Abu Talib, who was having a difficult time providing for his many children. Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib also took one of Abu Talib’s sons, Ja’far. In this way, financial problems were lessened for his aging uncle.
The other boy who was cared for in their household was Zayd, a former slave whom Khadijah had given to Muhammad before his prophethood. As a young child Zayd had been separated from his real parents. One day when he was only eight years old, his mother Sa’di bint Tha’labah, took him to visit some of her relatives. During this journey they were attacked by horsemen from Bany al-Qayn. Zayd was captured and later sold to Khadijah. The news of Zayd’s fate was a great source of grief for his father, Harithah bin Sharahil. Indeed, he spared no effort to find his son’s whereabouts. Upon learning that Muhammad and Khadijah were in possession of Zayd, he travelled hundreds of miles to claim his son.
Muhammad had become deeply attached to Zayd, especially after the death of his own son, al-Qasim. When Harithah, accompanied by his brother Ka’b, finally arrived in Makkah and approached him, Muhammad did not readily hand the boy over. The meeting was an emotional one since both Harithah pleaded, ‘O son of ‘Abdul-Muttalib, O son of the mentor of his people. You live in the neighbourhood of Allah’s house, you relieve the distressed, and you feed the hungry. I have come to you for our son, your servant. We implore that you show kindness to us by releasing him.’ Muhammad replied, ‘I will call him and give him a choice. If he chooses you, so be it; but if he chooses me, I swear by Allah, I am not one to make a choice against someone who has chosen me.’
When Zayd arrived, Muhammad questioned him, ‘Do you know these two men?’ Zayd answered, ‘this is my father, Harithah bin Sharahil, and this is my uncle, Ka’b bin Sharahil.’ Muhammad again addressed him, ‘The choice in yours, If you wish, you may go with them; if not, you may stay with me.’ Zayd immediately replied, ‘I will remain with you.’ Harithah, shocked, tried to persuade his son, saying, ‘O Zayd, do you prefer servitude over your father, mother and people?’ Zayd replied, ‘There is something I have seen in this man which would never allow me to leave him.’ Muhammad then took Zayd and proclaimed before a gathering of the Quraysh, ‘I bear witness that this is my son [who is] to inherit whatever is handed down from me.’ By doing so, Muhammad dispelled whatever lingering doubts and fears Harithah may have had about his son’s well-being. Soon after, Harithah left Makkah pleased and satisfied with his son’s status. From that day on Zayd because known as ‘Zayd bin Muhammad.’ He remained thus until the fifth years of hijrah when Allah revealed: