There are four women who were acknowledged by our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) as being towering examples for women of all time. In this article, we look at these four women, their example and their greatness. What lessons can we draw from them and why are they held in such high regard in the Islamic tradition?
Within Islam, there have been many women of strong iman (faith) who have risen up as leaders, warriors and scholars, championing the message of Islam despite the numerous trials and struggles. From the Sahabiyaat (companions) to the young Muslimahs advocating for more Muslim-friendly facilities at school, Islamic history has had no shortage of women who strive to be closer to Allah (SWT) and have become not just positive role models for other Muslima, but also for the whole Ummah.
But among these great Muslim women, four women in Islam have perfected their character and worship of Allah (SWT) to such a degree that on the Day of Judgement they will be immediately promised paradise.
In hadith, these four women of paradise were mentioned by the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), who said:
“The best of women among the people of Paradise are Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatima bint Muhammad, Maryam bint ‘Imran, and ‘Asiyah bint Muzahim, the wife of Pharaoh.”
Through exploring the stories of these four revered women in more detail, we can see what valuable lessons we can learn from them to apply to our own lives and help elevate our iman to greater heights.
1. Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid (RA)
“She believed in me when no one else did, she accepted (my call to the truth) when people rejected me and she supported me financially when others denied me.” (Musnad Ahmad)
Considered as the best woman from her time, Khadijah RA, the first wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), is a shining example of loyalty and love.
Khadijah (RA) was a wealthy businesswoman and widow who sought to marry Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) solely for his noble character. She was likewise prepared to give up a life of luxury and riches for him to support his journey of prophethood, becoming the first to accept Islam and had firmly stood by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) regardless of any hardship, providing him with moral, financial, and emotional support.
One the best examples of Khadijah’s (RA) unshakable support was her aid of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) during his travels to the cave of Hira, where she, despite her old age, would climb up the mountain to come and give him food, and never questioned his decisions to stay up there, even if he had not come down in months.
When Khadijah (RA) passed away as a result of the three-year boycott imposed on the Muslims by the Quraysh in Mecca, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was devastated, and the year she died became the year of sorrow. Even many years after her death, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) remembered her fondly as the one who stayed by his side through everything, and her unyielding support of him for the sake of Allah (SWT) rewarded her with the promise of a palace in Paradise.
2. Maryam bint Imran (RA)
“And (the example of) Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into her through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was one of the (sincerely) devout.” (Surah At-Tahrim)
The story of Maryam (RA), the single mother of the Prophet ‘Isa (AS), is one of struggle and great difficulty, but also one blessed by Allah (SWT).
Spending her young days in total seclusion worshipping Allah (SWT), He blessed the pure and chaste Maryam (RA) with a righteous child. When she returned to her people after miraculously giving birth to Prophet ‘Isa (AS) and she was accused of adultery and chastised for bringing disrepute to the family name, Prophet ‘Isa (AS) then spoke from the cradle and exonerated her.
Despite knowing she was going to be shunned, Maryam (RA) displayed the strength of her iman (faith) and tawakkul (reliance) when she returned to her people and did not run away nor hide – she knew Allah (SWT) would protect her. For giving her life to Allah (SWT), He gave her a child that protected her integrity even whilst he was in the cradle, and a place in Jannah and the holy Qur’an.
3. Asiyah Bint Muzahim (RA)
“And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.” (Surah At-Tahrim)
Allah (SWT) chose Asiyah (RA), the wife of the Pharaoh, to become the adoptive mother to Prophet Musa (AS), allowing her to provide refuge to him and raise him to adulthood during a time when infanticide was law of the land. She was likewise one of the first to accept his message of Islam, and was steadfast in her belief even when she was being tortured for it by her husband. Even when she was threatened with death, Asiyah refused to give in to the Pharaoh’s demands, proclaiming that she would worship no one but Allah (SWT), and was thus martyred.
In Asiyah (RA), we see the example of supreme sacrifice. When she married the Pharaoh, Asiyah became the Queen of Egypt and gained everything she could ever want in this worldly life – the best of clothes, food, palaces, jewels, servants and more – but sacrificed it all for something more important: to be closer to Allah (SWT).
4. Fatima Bint Muhammad (SAW)
“Aisha reported: I have not seen anyone more closely resemble the disposition, mannerism, and characteristics of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, than his daughter Fatima, may Allah honor her countenance.” (Sahih Abi Dawud)
Fatima (RA), youngest child of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and Khadijah (RA), grew up strong in faith despite witnessing the hardship and torture experienced by the believers in the early years of prophethood.
She was likewise extremely protective of her father even as a young girl, such as when she firmly stood her ground when she witnessed members of the Quraysh – Abu Jahal, Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt and Shayba – throwing camel guts onto the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) while he was praying and had immediately rushed to remove the filth from her father’s back. Even after her mother, Khadijah (RA), passed away from the boycott of Muslims in Mecca, Fatima (RA) became more protective of her father than ever and rushed to fulfil his needs, becoming known as “Umm Abi-ha: the mother of her father”.
For her modesty, humility, piousness and spirituality, Fatima (RA) is regarded by her father as the most outstanding women of all time, and receives the honour of being crowned the ‘leader of the women of Jannah’.
Even with this small glimpse into the lives of these four great Muslim women, we can see the strength in their iman (faith) and nobility in their characters which endeared them to Allah (SWT) and gave them a promised place in Jannah. From the steadfast loyalty of Khadijah (RA) to support the pious lifestyle of her spouse, to the determination of Maryam (RA) to bring her son into the world and raise him well, from the resilience of Asiyah (RA) in the face of extreme hardship, to the bravery of Fatima (RA) in protecting her family from evil, there is much for us, for both men and women, to learn and discover from them in how we should carry ourselves in our daily lives and grow closer to Allah (SWT).