Friday 17 October 2008 (18 Shawwal 1429)
The first marriage
Adil Salahi | Arab News
When the prospect of marrying Khadijah was put to Muhammad (peace be upon
him) by her intimate friend Nufaysah bint Munyah, he expressed his interest
straightaway. Nufaysah informed Khadijah who then sent him a message asking him
to come and see her. She said to him: "Cousin, (she used this term in the
widest sense, since she was a very distant cousin of the Prophet. Their
ancestry did not join until the fifth grandparent.) I admire you because of
your good position among your people, your honesty and good manners, and
because you are a man of your word." She then made her proposal that they
should get married. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was very pleased and went to
inform his uncles, who were also very pleased with such a marriage.
Muhammad went with his uncles to meet Khadijah's uncle, Amr ibn Asad. Abu
Talib spoke on behalf of his nephew. He said: "This nephew of mine, Muhammad
ibn Abdullah, is without peers in his nobility of character and descent. If he
is not wealthy, wealth is only something accidental. Money comes and goes, and
many a wealthy man becomes poor. He will certainly have a great future. He is
proposing marriage to your honorable daughter, Khadijah. He is giving her a
dowry of such-and such." Amr ibn Asad did not hesitate to make his acceptance
clear. The marriage was then concluded at a dowry of 20 young camels.
A grand wedding then followed, with a number of sheep and camels
slaughtered to feed the guests. One of them came from a distant place in the
desert. That was Halimah, the Prophet's wet nurse who breast-fed him and took
care of him for the first four years of his life. She came specially to attend
his wedding. When she was about to leave, Khadijah gave her a generous gift,
forty sheep to take home.
It is commonly held by Muslims throughout the world that there was a big
gap in age between the newly married couple, Muhammad being only 25 and
Khadijah 40. This cannot be taken for granted. In fact it should be rejected.
To start with, the Arabs at the time did not keep any sort of time record.
Indeed they did not have a calendar by which to date events. They dated from
whatever major event took place in their region. Thus, the Prophet is said to
have been born in the year of the elephant, referring to the failed attempt by
Abrahah to destroy the Kaaba, marching to Makkah at the head of a large army
accompanied by a number of elephants.
Khadijah gave Muhammad (peace be upon him), her third husband, six
children over a period of ten years. This makes clear that she was in the prime
of her reproductive life. It is well known that this is between 18 and 35.
While many women give birth after 40, it is extremely unlikely that a woman
bears so many children after this age. When we look at other reports of
Khadijah's age, we find that she is stated to have been 25, 30, 35 and 45. The
last should be discounted straightaway. Abdullah ibn Abbas, the Prophet's
cousin, who is considered to have been the most learned among the companions of
the Prophet, states that she was 28 and not a day older.