Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Khawlah Bint Tha’labah

companions of the prophet muhammad pbuh khawlah bint thalabah
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Publié le 28 juin 2022, par Samir | 15 h 50 min
Temps de lecture : 7 minutes

Modern pubic debates have a couple of new terms, « social justice, » « activism, » « feminism, » etc., which date back to fourteen years ago. In essence, the beloved Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (PBUH), and the sacred Book, al-Qur’an, brought the message of enforcing justice and social reforms to eliminate the centuries-old ignorant and unjust cultural practices. Among the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Khawlah bint Tha’labah lived as the first feminist and Islamic activist. This blog will discuss her life and how she became an inspiration for Muslim women due to her patience, perseverance, and activism.

Prophet’s companions were the living examples and representatives of the beliefs and principles he brought with the advent of Islam. They spent their lifetime struggling to transform the unfair societal practices into a reflection of Islamic ethics and values. Women played a huge part in this fight alongside men and set universal examples for all upcoming generations to follow.

Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Khawlah Bint Tha’labah

Her full name was Khawlah bint Tha’labah ibn Asram ibn Auf. Her husband was Anas ibn Samit; he fought in several battles with Rasool Allah (peace be upon him), including Badr and Uhud.

In times like these, when Muslim women are looking for support, to make their voices heard, and to gain access to public places, the life of Khawlah bint Tha’labah appears as a breath of fresh air. Several aspects of her brave life can be a source of inspiration for today’s Muslim women. Women today struggle to find their identity, fight for their fundamental rights, and raise their voices against domestic violence and gender inequality. Yet they have been accused of feminists and liberals and face discouragement on most platforms.

Muslim communities should learn in-depth about this great companion of the Prophet’s (PBUH) life and get inspired. She is the woman to whom Allah addressed directly in the first few verses of al-Qur’an after she complained of injustice.

Background of Surah al-Mujadila

Khawla experienced a moment when her husband imposed an ignorant oath of Zihar on her. He labeled her « like his mother’s back,  » meaning a ban on intimacy between them without a divorce. In simple terms, it was a kind of divorce prevalent in Arab times. Khawlah was disappointed with her husband’s attitude.

So Khawlah says:

« He said this to me, and the next day, he came back and tried to be intimate with me. And I said:

« No. You can’t tell me I’m like your mother’s back and then try to be intimate with me the next day! »

So Khawlah says: « He tried to force himself on me, and she says, I was a lot stronger than he was, I was a strong young woman, so I pushed him off, and I went to the Prophet (peace be upon him). »

Since after some time, Khawla’s husband tried to back out of his oath and insisted on intimacy. Upon witnessing this behavior, Khawla rushed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and explained her situation, requesting an end to this unjust, ignorant practice.

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him), advised her to show patience as her husband was old, but Khawla could not convince herself.

The beloved Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said, « O Khawlah, your cousin (i.e., your husband) is an old man, so fear Allah concerning him. »

She kept praying to Allah (SWT), and finally, He sent upon his divine message in the form of the first four verses of Surah al-Mujadila.

Khawlah narrated, the Prophet told me, ‘Let him release a slave.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), he does not have the means to do that.’ He said, ‘Then let him fast for two consecutive months.’ I said, ‘By Allah, he is an old man; he cannot do that.’ He said, ‘Then let him feed sixty poor people with a wasq of dates.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, he does not have that much.’ He said, ‘Then we will help him with a faraq of dates.’ I said, ‘And I will help him with another faraq, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘You have done right and done well. Go and give it to charity on his behalf, then take care of your cousin properly.’ And I did so. »

Allah (SWT) responds to her in the Qur’an.

Indeed, has Allah heard the speech of the one who argues with you, [O Muhammad], concerning her husband and directs her complaint to Allah? And Allah hears your dialogue; indeed, Allah is Hearing and Seeing.

Those who pronounce thihar among you [to separate] from their wives – they are not [consequently] their mothers. Their mothers are none but those who gave birth to them. And indeed, they are saying an objectionable statement and a falsehood. But indeed, Allah is Pardoning and Forgiving.

And those who pronounce Thihar from their wives and then [wish to] go back on what they said – then [there must be] the freeing of an enslaved person before they touch one another. That is what you are admonished thereby, and Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

And he who does not find [an enslaved person] – then a fast for two months consecutively before they touch one another; and he who is unable – then the feeding of sixty poor persons. That is for you to believe [completely] in Allah and His Messenger, which are the limits [set by] Allah. And for the disbelievers is a painful punishment. [Al-Qur’an, 58: 1-4]

Ibn Kathir says in his Tafsir

“There is another incident where a man was talking to Umar and then suddenly Khawlah came, and Khawlah started talking to Umar, and Umar just completely neglected the man, he completely abandoned the man, and Khawlah was just going on and on and on, and Umar was sitting humbly and listening to her. And the man gets frustrated; he says:

“You left a man of Quraysh to tend to this old woman?” It shows you something: Khawlah didn’t belong to a powerful tribe, and that man has so much pride. He said:

“You’re leaving a man of Quraysh to talk to that old woman?”

Umar responds once again:

“This is a woman who Allah listened to from above the seven heavens. This is Khawlah bint Tha’labah. By Allah, if she did not leave me until the night fell, I would not tell her to leave until she got what she came for; even if salah time came, I’d go to pray, and I’d come back and keep listening to her.”

Khawlah: The Islamic Activist and First Feminist

Khawla exhibited immense patience and stood her ground while defending her beliefs. She kept trying until she gained justice and truth. Her fight to end unjust cultural practices and advocate for her rights and other women’s rights while defending her husband is an example for all future generations.

Khawla bint Tha’labah’s life shows us how a believer should act to fight against any kind of injustice or oppression. She never bowed down in front of cultural oppression and ignorant practices because of society’s fear. Having a deep understanding and connection with Allah (SWT), Khawla fulfilled her religious obligations with great devotion. She exhibited her rich knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah on various occasions.

Islamic history remembers Khawla bint Tha’labah as a powerful role model, activist, and the first feminist. She set a new definition of feminism and women empowerment, so the modern Muslim communities avoid old ignorant practices and follow this great lady for her actions and words. It’s high time we support women on all forums and raise our voices on matters such as women empowerment, societal oppression, forced marriages, domestic violence, and so on. Islamic heroes’ lives are the best demonstration of how peace-loving and comprehensive our religion is. May Allah grant us the wisdom to follow in their footsteps and improve our life and hereafter.

[Sources: https://quranacademy.io/, https://muslimmatters.org/, https://aboutislam.net/]

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