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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Apr 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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'Tahira’, they called the Arab lady

By Renuka Narayanan

April 20, 2009


Tahira means pure and good in Arabic and back in the sixth century, even in that pre-Islamic period later called Jahiliyat (ignorance), the disorderly and self-indulgent Arabs could tell a lady. That’s what they called a certain single woman, Makkah-born and based, who traded all over the Arabian Peninsula and maintained her own establishment, employing a number of men. Born to Khalid and Fatima, Tahira, at 40, was a widow and a person of repute, respected for her wealth and dignity by everyone around. But she needed a bright, honest man to manage her caravans and trade on her behalf in faraway places.


Someone told her about an orphan of 25, who was known to be exceptionally straightforward and well-behaved. Tahira thought she would like to try him out and negotiated through his uncle, Abu Talib, to hire him.


The young man was sent to the great old city of Damishq (Damascus) in charge of one of Tahira’s caravans, loaded as always with all sorts of profitable goods. Tahira was not  an astute businesswoman for nothing. She appointed her slave, Muaser, to keep watch over her new manager and give her a full account of every detail of his conduct.


The good report she had of him made her think well of her new employee. Tahira sent him a proposal of marriage through his uncle. He agreed and their wedding took place (in 595 CE) with Khadija providing her own dower, out of her own wealth.


But some women in Makkah found fault with the match. “How could a wealthy person like her marry that penniless man raised on the charity of the Banu-Hashem?” they exclaimed.


But Tahira and her husband were too happy to care, despite the 15-year age gap. Their marriage lasted a full 25 years until her death at the age of 65. They had two sons and four daughters. Both sons, Qasim and Abdullah, took ill and died very young. A daughter, Ruqaiyya, went and settled far away with her husband in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Tahira also had to bear poverty, hardship and great hostility against her husband when he began his life’s work. Through all this, she was staunchness personified.


Her husband, they say, never looked elsewhere through all the years of their marriage. Ever after her passing, he spoke of her in glowing terms, with respect, love and gratitude for her support.


The irony cannot be lost on anyone today when they see what is done to women in the name of Islam. For, the first Muslim was a woman: ‘Tahira’ whose real name was Khadija, whose husband was none but the Prophet Muhammad. She believed in him when nobody did.


It was this couple who inspired me, when I counselled my younger sister to go ahead and marry her Danish boyfriend, who was 13 years younger.


Her friends thought it was a terrible idea. Everybody else was naturally concerned. But it was the honourable and happy precedent of Muhammad and Khadija that I held up to my sister as encouragement. Today, this against-all-odds couple has a beautiful baby girl who has refreshed us as a family. We’re lucky to have her, just as the Prophet was lucky to have Hazrat Khadija.

Source: Hindustan Times, New Delhi





Total Comments (5)

  • 5 .

    The creator Allah is great indeed, now I read the write-up of Ms.Renuka Narayanan. In fact I am sorry to say, i don’t have words what to say here. i have very little knowledge of Isalam, the teachers who preached me Islamic knowledge have said, whatever there in the life story of prophet Mohammad (poh) is true, and generations irrespective of creed and religions will follow and give the reference of prophet in coming days, so it is all coming  in reality,i beg and pray to Allah the great the creator to bless us with good thoughts and deeds, Ameen.........................

    By mahabubbasha shaik
  • 4 .

    Congratulations Ms. Renuka Narayan for narrating this seemingly well understood marriage in altogether a new way, not only narrating rather drawing inspiration in a way so as to marry her younger sister to a 15 years older Danish man, I'm confident not many muslims have done anything like that quite often.

    They say " BEHIND EACH SUCCESSFUL MAN THERE STANDS A WOMAN" and Tahira ( Khadija) is that woman whom God and destiny chose to become Mother of a great nation called Islam, Through her Daughter Fatima The Guidance shall pass on to the humanity till the last day. This is the God's will .Quran says " YOU WON'T EVER SEE GOD CHANGING HIS WAYS" In past also Abraham and his Sons were chosen , then Maryam ,the Mary was chosen, Children of Imran were chosen and humanity should have little confusion in recognizing the distinct divine pattern.

    Congratulations once again, My Thousands of salutes to Lady Tahira..  

    By Dr.Sarkar Haider
  • 3 .
    no body told me about bibi "Khadija" like this......thanks and may Allah bless you.....
    By tariq jamal
  • 2 .

    mery biwi ka intekal hua 06 mahine hua hain lahaza muje shadi nahi muttah karna hai mery age 56 hai aur mera lagau majhab aur social work se hai. mere se koi muttah karneke lia tayar ho to me hajir hun.sukria.

    By yousufaliS/O noor mohammed
  • 1 .



    Ms. Renuka Narayan,

    Hindustan Times





    I read the article “Tahira, they called the Arab lady” with interest. It is inspiring. My thanks and congratulations to you for this excellent write-up which I feel should have pleased all right thinking people and made them think what empowerment means.


    Hazrat Khadija (RA) is one of the best examples of an empowered woman. The world is peculiar and we have no other go except to accept it as it is and try to spread the message of goodness which you have so beautifully done.


    Our religious teacher used to quote the shining examples of the ummahatul moomineen – whom we respect so much – We have to see the beauty in the people we respect and adore and think positively.


    Criticism of everything may be right in a free country like ours

    where we have freedom of speech, but it is not as effective as the positive approach you have adopted.


    In your article you have given a good lesson to all your readers without hurting anybody’s sentiments. This is really appealing.


    Our thanks once again.



    V.M. Khaleelur Rahman

    By V. M. Khaleelur Rahman