One of the laws that Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) has decreed for this life is that men and women should work together to cultivate and populate the earth and run the affairs of life therein. Man cannot do without woman, and vice versa. Hence the laws of Islaam teach men and women to co-operate in all matters. Islam encourages a man to help his wife, as much as he is able; the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who is the example for all Muslims, used to help and serve his family until he went out to pray, as the Mother of the Believers ‘Aa'ishah (may Allah be pleased with him) said.
Just as Islaam expects a man to help his wife with housework and running household affairs, so is the woman also expected to help him in dealing with the outside world and to play her role in life by offering her opinions and advice, and supporting him in practical terms.
History tells us that Muslim women engaged in jihaad side by side with men, marching to war with them, bringing water to the thirsty, tending the wounded, setting broken bones, stemming the flow of blood, encouraging the soldiers, and sometimes joining in the actual fighting, running back and forth between the swords and spears, standing firm when even some of the most brave men had fled. Their courageous conduct in battle was praised by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
However, women’s contribution to public life did not stop on the battlefield; women also stood side-by-side with men at times of peace, offering their valuable opinions, soothing their hearts at times of stress and supporting them during times of hardship.
History has recorded many names of great Muslim men who used to seek and follow the advice of their wives, foremost among whom is the Prophet himself (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who sometimes followed the advice of Khadijah, Umm Salamah, ‘Aa'ishah and others among his wives.
‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr used to follow the advice of his mother Asmaa’, al-Waleed ibn ‘Abd al-Malik used to follow the advice of his wife Umm al-Banin bint ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Marwan, and Harun al-Rashid used to follow the advice of his wife Zubaydah, and there are many other such examples in the history of Islam.
The true, sincere Muslim woman understands the heavy burden that Islaam has placed on her shoulders, by obliging her to be a good wife to her husband, to surround him with care and meet his every need, to give him enjoyment, and to renew his energy so that he may fulfill his mission in life. So she does not withhold her advice when she sees that he needs it, and she never hesitates to stand by his side, encouraging him, supporting him and offering advice and consolation.
The first Muslim woman, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid is the best example of a woman who influenced her husband. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to her on the day of the first Revelation, anxious, trembling and shaking all over. He told her, “Cover me, cover me!” She hastened to offer her help and support, advising him and thinking of a practical way of helping him. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim report the story told by ‘A’ishah of how the Revelation commenced, and the marvelous way in which Khadijah responded by supporting her husband,
“The Revelation started in the form of a dream that came true, he never saw a dream but it would clearly come to pass. Then he was made to like seclusion, so he would go and stay alone in the cave of Hira’, praying and worshipping for many nights at a time, before coming back to his family to collect supplies for another period of seclusion. Then the truth came suddenly, when he was in the cave of Hira’. The angel came to him and said ‘Read!’ He said, ‘I am not a reader.’ [The Prophet (saws) said:] ‘The angel embraced me and squeezed me until I nearly passed out, then released me, and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘I am not a reader.’ The angels embraced me a second time, squeezed me until I nearly passed out, then released me and said, ‘Read!’ I said, ‘I am not a reader.’ The angel embraced me a third time and squeezed me until I nearly passed out, then released me and said:"Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher, who created - created man, out of a [mere] clot of congealed blood: Read! And your Lord is Most Bountiful - He Who taught [the use of] the Pen - taught man that which he knew not." (Qur’aan 96:1-5.)
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came back to Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), trembling all over, and said, “Cover me, cover me!” They covered him up until he calmed down, then he said to Khadijah, “O Khadijah, what is wrong with me?” He told her what had happened, then said, “I fear for myself.”
Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) said,
“No, rather be of good cheer, for by Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa), Allah would never forsake you. By Allah, you uphold the ties of kinship, speak the truth, spend money on the needy, give money to the penniles,s honor your guests and help those beset by difficulties."
She took him to Waraqah ibn Nawfal ibn Asad ibn ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, who was her cousin the son of her father’s brother. He was a man who had become a Christian during the time of Jaahiliyyah (before the advent of the Prophet, peace be upon him); he could write the Arabic script and he had written as much of the Gospel in Arabic as Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) willed. He was an old man who had become blind. Khadijah said to him,
“O Uncle, listen to your nephew.”
Waraqah ibn Nawfal said, “O son of my brother, what has happened?” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told him what had happened, and Waraqah said to him,
“This is an-Naamus (i.e., Jibril), who was sent down to Musa, upon whom be peace. I wish that I were a young man, and could be alive when your people cast you out.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked, “Will they really cast me out?” Waraqah said, “Yes. No man has ever come with what you have brought, but his people were hostile towards him. If I live to see that day I will give you all the support I can.” (Fath al-Bari, 1/23, Kitab bad' al-wahy, bab hadith 'A'ishah awwal ma bada'a bihi al-wahy; Sahih Muslim, 2/197, Kitab al-iman, bab bad' al-wahy.)
This report is strong evidence of Khadijah’s (may Allah be pleased with her) wifely perfection, wisdom, strength of character, steadfastness, understanding and deep insight. She knew the Prophet’s outstanding character, good conduct and purity of heart, and this made her certain that Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) would never forsake a man such as Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or permit any bad fate to befall him. She knew that behind this remarkable new event that had overwhelmed the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) lay something great that Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) had prepared for His Messenger. Therefore she spoke her kind and sweet words of encouragement, filling him with confidence, tranquility and firm conviction,
“Be of good cheer, O cousin, and stand firm. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Khadijah, I hope that you will be the Prophet of this nation.” (Al-Sirah, 1/254.)
Then it was that she took him to her cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal, who had knowledge of the Torah and Gospel, and told him what had happened to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The first Mother of the Believers, Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), was a sincere adviser in the way of Islaam to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). She had already earned the great status and lasting fame of being the first person to believe in Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) and His Messenger, and she stood beside her husband - the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), supporting him and helping him to bear the worst oppression and persecution that he faced at the beginning of his mission; she endured along with him every hardship and difficulty that he was confronted with.
Ibn Hishama says in the Seerah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he wrote,
“Khadijah had faith, and believed in what he brought from Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa). In this way, Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa) helped His Prophet. Whenever he heard any hateful words of rejection or disbelief that upset him, Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) would cause his spirits to be lifted when he came back to her. She encouraged him to be patient, believed in him, and made it easier for him to bear whatever the people said or did. May Allah have mercy on her.” (Ibid., 1/257.)
She was a woman who always spoke the truth, and carried this burden sincerely. It is no surprise that she earned the pleasure of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) and deserved to be honored by Him. Allah (the Mighty and Glorious) conveyed the greeting of Salaam to her through His Messengers Jibreel and Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and gave her glad tidings of a house in Paradise, as is stated in the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah, “Jibril came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said,
‘O Messenger of Allah, Khadijah is coming to you with vessels containing food and drink. When she comes to you, convey to her the greeting of Salaam from her Lord and from me, and give her the glad tidings of a house of pearls in Paradise, in which there is no noise or hard work.” (Al-Bukhaari & Muslim. See Sharh al-Sunnah, 14/155, Kitab fada'il al-Sahabah, bab manaqib Khadijah.)
The true Muslim woman puts her mind to good work, thinks hard and gives advice to her husband at times when he may be most in need of advice. By doing so, she does a great favor for her husband, and this is one of the ways in which she may treat him well.
Another of these great stories which feature correct advice given by a woman is the reaction of the Muslims to the treaty of al-Hudaybiyyah, and Umm Salamah’s reaction, which demonstrated her deep insight and great wisdom.
Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) was one of those who was with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when he went to Makkah to perform ‘Umrah in 6 AH. This is the journey that was interrupted by Quraysh, who prevented the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Companions from reaching the Ka'bah. Instead, the treaty of al-Hudaybiyyah was drawn up between the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Quraysh.
This was a peace-treaty which was intended to put an end to the fighting for ten years; it was also agreed that if anyone from Quraysh came to Muhammad without the permission of his guardian, he would be returned, but if any of the Muslims came to Quraysh, he would not be returned, and that the Muslims would go back that year without entering Makkah. By virtue of his deep understanding that was derived from the guidance of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa), the Prophet understood that this treaty, which appeared to be quite unfair to the Muslims, was in fact something good and represented a great victory for Islaam and the Muslims.
The Sahaabah, however, were dismayed when they learnt the content of the treaty. They saw it as unfair and unjust, especially as they had the upper hand at that time. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab expressed the angry feelings of the Sahaabah when he went to Abu Bakr and asked him: “Is he not the Messenger of Allah?” Abu Bakr said, “Of course.” “Are we not Muslims?”“Yes.” “Are they not mushrikeen (the polytheists)?” “Yes.” “Why should we accept this deal which is so humiliating to our religion?” Abu Bakr warned him, “O ‘Umar, follow his orders. I bear witness that he is the Messenger of Allah.” Umar said, “And I bear witness that he is the Messenger of Allah.” Then ‘Umar went to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and asked him questions similar to those he had asked Abu Bakr. But when he asked, “Why should we accept this deal which is so humiliating to our religion?” the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, “I am the servant of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) and His Messenger; I will never disobey His command, and He will never forsake me.” (Al-Sirah, 3/331; see also Fath al-Bari, 6/281, Kitab al-jizyah wa'l-mawadi'ah, bab hadith Sahl ibn Hanif; Sahih Muslim, 12/141, Kitab al-jihad wa'l-siyar, bab sulh al-Hudaybiyah.)
Then ‘Umar realized that his haste to oppose the treaty was a mistake. He used to say, “I kept giving charity, fasting, praying and freeing slaves because of what I had done and said on that day, until I hoped that ultimately it would be good for me (because it made me perform so many good deeds).” (Al-Sirah 3/33.)
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had ratified the treaty, he commanded his Companions to get up, slaughter their sacrificial animals, and shave their heads, but none of them got up. (The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was telling his Companions to end the state of ihraam which they had entered in order to perform 'Umrah. They had been prevented from entering Makkah, and were to wait until the following year to perform 'Umrah, but they did not want to abandon their hope of performing 'Umrah on this occasion. They did not want to accept the deal that had been struck with the Quraysh, hence they were reluctant to end their ihraam.)
He told them three times to do this, but not one of them responded. He went to his wife Umm Salamah, and told her what he was facing from the people. At this point the wisdom and intelligence of Umm Salamah become quite clear. She told him,
“O Messenger of Allah, go out and do not speak to any of them until you have sacrificed your animal and shaved your head.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took her advice, and did as she suggested. When the Sahaabah saw that, they rushed to sacrifice their animals, pushing one another aside, and some of them began to shave one another’s heads, until they were almost fighting with one another because of their distress and grief, and their regret for having disobeyed the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). (Zad al-Ma'ad, 3:295, al-Tabari, 2/124.)
After that, the Muslims came back to their senses, and they understood the Prophet’s great wisdom in agreeing to this treaty, which in fact was a manifest victory, because many more people entered Islaam after it than ever before. In Sahih Muslim it states that the verse, “Verily We have granted you a manifest Victory.” (Qur’aan 48:1) referred to the treaty of al-Hudaybiyyah. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent for ‘Umar and recited this verse to him. ‘Umar said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is really a victory?” He said, “Yes,” so then ‘Umar felt at peace. (Sahih Muslim, 12/141, Kitab al-jihad wa'l-siyar, bab sulh al-Hudaybiyah.)