When thinking about the greatest women in history, the best role models and the most inspirational characters, four women immediately come to my mind. These women who lived their lives in different circumstances and earned the greatest reward for their efforts: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatimah bint Muhammad, Maryam bint Imran, and Aasiyah bint Muzahim (RA). These are the four greatest women in Paradise, as stated by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in a famous hadith:
“From among the women of the world who have reached perfection and who are worthy of following are (the following four): Maryam the daughter of Imrân; Khadijah daughter of Khuwaylid; Fatima daughter of Muhammad and Asiyah wife of Fir’aun” (Tirmidhi).
What do they have in common? Most importantly, they were all pious Muslimahs, who loved Allah (SWT) more than His creation and who led good lives as ordered by the Creator. They all were connected to great prophets: Aasiyah t as a foster-mother to Musa (AS), Maryam (RA) as a mother to Isa (AS), Khadijah (RA) as Muhammad’s (SAW) wife and Fatima (RA) as his daughter.
What makes each of them different? Aasiyah (RA) was the wife of the Pharaoh, living in a royal court, indubitably surrounded by luxury. Yet she suffered from the tyranny of her own despotic husband and was ready to undergo tortures prepared by him, rather than reject the true religion. She became a foster-mother to Musa (AS), whom she found as an infant in the basket floating on a river and later accepted his message once it became clear that he was a prophet of Allah (SWT).
Maryam (RA) was born when her mother was in old age, and as her father died soon after, she was put into the care of her relative, prophet Zakariyya (AS). She was brought up as a pious and pure girl. What Allah (SWT) had ordained for her was a very demanding and responsible mission – she was to become the single mother of Prophet Isa (AS). When Jibril was sent to her to announce that she would be a mother, she replied in amazement, “How can I have a son when no man has touched me, nor I am unchaste?” (Maryam:20). As she was just a human being, she had her doubts and was probably scared. It is mentioned in the Qur’an that when the birth pains came, she even wished that she had died before it all happened. Yet, she humbly accepted whatever Allah (SWT) had destined for her, and, seeking His help, she endured all the tests.
Khadijah (RA) was a successful woman in every aspect. She came from a wealthy family and managed to further multiply the rich inheritance by running a profitable trade business. She proposed to marry the greatest man on earth, was accepted and lived in a happy marriage for fifteen years. She supported Muhammad (SAW) spiritually, emotionally and financially. She was the first to learn and accept his message. She raised many prominent children, including another of the greatest women – Fatima (RA). Many women would wish to find themselves in her circumstances. Yet we should not forget that whatever happens, whatever life brings, it is a test from Allah (SWT). Khadijah (RA) was rich, yet she remained a humble and pious worshipper of Allah (SWT). She ended up spending all of her fortune in the cause of Islam. Endowed with countless blessings, she never became proud or arrogant. The prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught us that wealth is a great trial, “Every Ummah had some trial and the trial of my Ummah is wealth.” (Tirmidhi)
Fatima (RA) was the daughter of a great father and a great mother, and she lived up to their expectations, becoming a beacon of light for all Muslim women. She was a pious Muslimah, an obedient and loving daughter, a dutiful wife and a caring mother, fulfilling each of these female roles with exquisiteness. But she was also famous for her Islamic knowledge, defending her father from the attacks of infidels and her disputes with Abu Bakr (RA), which show that a good Muslimah can be also a scholar and a social and political activist. Even though Fatima t was the daughter of a distinguished man – Allah’s Messenger (SAW), she lived in poverty and did all her household chores herself. Famously, she asked Prophet Muhammad (SAW) for a handmaid as she was tired from using a hand mill, to which he replied, “Shall I not tell you of a thing which is better for you than a servant? When you go to your beds, say ‘Allahu Akbar’ thirty-four times, and ‘Subhan Allah’ thirty-three times, ‘Alhamdulillah’ thirty-three times, for that is better for you than a servant.” (Bukhari)
Fatima (RA) is mentioned in many other hadith and in the Qur’an itself. ‘A’isha (RA) stated that, “I have never seen anyone resemble the Prophet in his way of dealing with people, or character more than Fatima” (Bukhari, Thirmidi and others). Fatima (RA) also went through a lot during her life. She experienced the siege in Shi’b Abi Talib and the persecutions of Muslims in Makkah, she lost her beloved mother as a girl and witnessed her beloved father tormented by evil-doers. Yet she never lost her faith and strength.
Four different women – four different stories. Each unique, but together they tell a story for all and show that greatness can be achieved in any circumstances. Whether rich or poor, living in a royal palace or a modest house, in a happy family or lonely, as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and in any other role we play, we should strive for excellence. We should try to be the best we can be, because whatever situation we find ourselves in, it is by Allah’s (SWT) will. So whatever happens, we must stick to our principles and first of all be good Muslimahs, as shown in the great examples of Aasiyah, Maryam, Khadijah and Fatima (RA).
Klaudia Khan is a Muslimah, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a writer. Striving for excellence in each of her roles, she searches for inspiration from the greatest women in Islamic history.