Throughout the history of humankind, strong women have always been a source of inspiration and growth. Women who, alongside men, brought significant changes to the world, making it a better place to live and to prosper. One of the most prominent and praised women in the history of Islam is Lady Khadija (AS), Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) wife and companion, who had a vital role in the spread of Islam. She was one of those women whose influence and exceptional characteristics still resonates throughout the ages and among many generations after her.
In what follows, we will look at the life of Lady Khadija (AS), this distinguished personality.
Known as Khadīja al-Kubrā (AS) and Umm al-Mu' minīn (the Mother of Believers), Lady Khadija (AS) was born fifteen years before Am Al-Fil [i]. Therefore, her birth date is approximately 555 A.D. Her father, a famous figure in the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, was Khuwaylid b. Asad b. Abd al-Uzza b. Qusayy  and her mother was Fatima bt. Za'ida . According to some sources, Lady Khadija (AS) had a distant relation in lineage with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and their roots went back to the same ancestors .
The available information concerning Lady Khadija (AS) before marrying Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) is limited and scarce. Nevertheless, she was known to be a wealthy merchant who employed others to work for her and benefited from a part of the profit . Due to her ancestral nobility, she was of high social status and respected among her people. As Ibn Sayyid al-Nas said: "She was an honorable and wise lady, and God granted her with His blessing." 
According to some sources, before meeting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in person and starting a business relation with him, Lady Khadija (AS) had heard about his trustworthiness and honesty. Therefore, she asked Muhammad (PBUH&HP) to join her and help her in expanding her business .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) went at least five business trips for Lady Khadija (AS), the most important of which that led to their marriage was the business trip to Sham. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) went back from this trip with the good news of their financial success and profit, which impressed Lady Khadija (AS) and made her decide to choose him as the head of one of the greatest caravans traveling to Sham. The result of these trips and Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) impressive actions, was Lady Khadija's (AS) fondness toward this honest man . After that, she proposed marriage to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) .
Despite the disputes over Lady Khadija's (AS) marriage before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), which claim her to be a widow, many authentic sources believe that Lady Khadija (AS) did not marry anyone before the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and it was her first marriage . This is also proved by looking at the cultural and intellectual status of Lady Khadija (AS) in Hijaz, which made it improbable for her to marry anyone from lower-status tribes .
While receiving many proposals for marriage from the heads of Quraysh, offering her vast amounts of money and wealth, she refused all and instead fell in love with the honesty and righteousness of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). The news of this proposal shocked Lady Khadija's (AS) family and relatives, who couldn't believe her to be willing to marry a man with lower financial status and younger than herself .
The proposal and marriage ceremony of these two significant figures, who made an example of their marriage to the generations that followed them, was held two months after the business trip to Sham, which was mentioned above . According to many sources, at the time of their marriage, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was twenty-five, and Lady Khadija (AS), forty years old . After their marriage, she dedicated all her wealth to her husband and left the management of her business to him. Lady Khadija (AS) was the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and during her life, he did not marry another woman.
There seems to be disagreement in the number of Lady Khadija (AS) and Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) children. The number ranges from six to eight, among which they include two sons and four daughters . Some historians believe that Lady Fatima (AS) was the only daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Khadija (AS) and the other daughters were their adopted children .
After receiving the call to prophethood in the Hira cave, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) first told Khadija (AS) and Imam Ali (AS) about his prophetic mission. She totally trusted her husband to be an honest man and believed in his great cause; therefore, she was the first woman who accepted Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) invitation to Islam and became a devout Muslim. Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Khadija (AS) were also the first ones who performed prayer (Salat) alongside Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in the mosque .
As a wife, Lady Khadija (AS) always supported Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in fulfilling his extraordinarily challenging and demanding mission of guiding people toward the path of Allah. At the times when people hurt the Prophet (PBUH&HP) with their offenses and unfair accusations, Khadija (AS) was there to soothe him, wipe his sadness away and give him hope to endure the hardships of this holy mission. She also financially supported Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when they were suffering from unfair economic sanctions in the Shaib al-Abi Talib . Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) always appreciated Lady Khadija's (AS) unbounded help and support and said: "No money was profitable for me the way the wealth of Khadija (a) was." 
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) always loved and praised Lady Khadija (AS) for her great and exemplary personality. He used to consider her among the four praised women of all time, including Asiya [ii], Mary, and Lady Fatima (AS) . She was not only a prominent and influential figure of her own time but also set an example for the generations that followed her. Her power in merchandise and business at one point, her courage, and insight in choosing a perfect husband by herself and her devotion to her married life at another, made her an ideal role model for the women all around the world.
As it was mentioned above, Lady Khadija (AS) was a well-known woman before her marriage to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). She was famous for her knowledge and sagacity, which manifested in her thriving business, whose fame reached all over the Hijaz. Despite the patriarchal society of her time, she had managed to establish herself as a powerful businesswoman who won the respect of great heads of the tribes and men who considered women inferior to themselves .
While having an active and productive role in society, Lady Khadija (AS) always preserved her modesty and presented a modest manner in her interactions with men. Doing so, rather than being praised for her physical beauty, she was honored and respected for her insight and chastity, which encouraged many of the powerful men of her time to ask her hand in marriage. Yet, since she was more interested in finding an honest and virtuous man to marry, rather than a merely wealthy man, she refused all her suitors. Finally, she found these features in Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and chose him as her perfect match.
When she made a vow of marriage to the honest Muhammad (PBUH&HP), she knew that her life with this man would be different. When Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) mission began, she realized how much he was under pressure and needed her companionship and support. People didn't believe in him, didn't listen to him, and refused to be guided through the words of Allah, especially in the first years of his invitation to Islam. Yet, at home, he had someone who was always by his side, wipe his sadness away, and had faith in his call. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) never loved any woman as Lady Khadija (AS), and never forgot about her love and sacrifices, always remembering her as a unique and precious person in his life .
Lady Khadija (AS), this honorable woman, passed away in the month of Ramadan ten years after Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) call to prophethood in 619 A.D. She was 65 years old at the time of her demise , . She was buried by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in al-Ma'lat Cemetery, on the slopes of Mount Al-Hajun in Mecca. This sorrow was shortly followed by the demise of Abu-Talib, Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) uncle. These tragic incidents afflicted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) with deep grief to the extent that he named that year as "the year of sorrow and pain (Am al-Huzn) .
[i] Literally meaning the year of the Elephant, it is the year in which Abraha, the king of Yemen, started a huge military expedition toward Mecca to destroy Ka'ba. As he had an army with war elephants, the year turned to be known as the year of the Elephant.
[ii] Pharaoh's wife at the time of Prophet Moses (PBUH)
- Ibn Athīr al-Jazarī, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad. Usd al-ghāba fī maʿrifat al-ṣaḥāba. Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1409 AH. Vol.6, p.87.
- Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Yūsuf b. Abd Allah. Al-Istīʿāb fī maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb. Edited by ʿAlī Muḥammad al-Bajāwī.
- Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil al-talibiyyin, p.29.
- Ibn Kathīr al-Dimashqī, Ismāʿīl b. ʿUmar. Al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya. Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1407AH-1986. Vol. 2, p. 293.
- Ibn Sayyid al-Nās, Abū l-Fatḥ Muḥammad. ʿUyūn al-athar fī funūn al-maghāzī wa l-shamāʾil wa l-sayr.
- Abd al-Malik Ibn Hisham, Sirat Ibn Hisham, Edited by Mustafa Saqa. Beirut: Dar Ahya al-Tarath al-Arabi, vol.1, pp.187-188.
- ibid, vol.1, pp.199-200.
- Ibn Sayyid al-Nās, Abū l-Fatḥ Muḥammad. ʿUyūn al-athar fī funūn al-maghāzī wa l-shamāʾil wa l-sayr. Vol.1, p.63.
- Ibn Shahrāshūb, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī. Manāqib Āl Abī Ṭālib. Qom: ʿAllāma, 1379 AH. Vol. 1, p. 159.
- ʿĀmilī, Jaʿfar Murtaḍā al-. Al-Ṣaḥīḥ min sīrat al-Nabīyy l-aʿẓam. Beirut: Dār al-Hādī, 1415 Ah. Vol. 2, p. 123.
- Abd al-Malik Ibn Hisham, Sirat Ibn Hisham, vol.1, p. 189.
- Maqrizi, Ahmad Ibn Ali, Imta al-Asma, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, 1999. Vol.1, p.17.
- Muhammad Ibn Sa'ad, Al-Tabaqat al-Kabir (The Book of the Major Classes), vol.8, p.17.
- Ziriklī, Khayr al-dīn al-. Al-Aʿlām Qāmūs trājm l-ashhar al-rijal wa l-nisāʾ min al-ʿArab wa l-mustaʿribīn wa l-mustashriqīn.
- ʿĀmilī, al-Ṣaḥīḥ min sīrat al-Nabī, vol. 2, p. 207-220.
- Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, p. 1089.
- Shaykh Tabarsi, I'lam al-Wara bi A'lam al-Huda, vol.1, p.125.
- Majlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir al-. Biḥār al-anwār al-jāmiʿa li-durar akhbār al-aʾimmat al-aṭhār.
- Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 2, p. 129.
- Abu l-Hasan 'Ali b. Muhammad Julabi, Manaqib al-Imam Ali b. Abi Talib, vol.2, p.422.
- Sayyid Ali b. Tawus al-Husayni al-Hilli, Al-Tara'if fi ma'rifat madhahib al-tawa'if, vol.1, p.291.
- Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 4, p. 1817.
- Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-. Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī. Edited by Muḥammad Ibrāhim.
- Maqrizī, Imtāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 1, p. 45.
One of the features of a believing Muslim is that he/she always wants to grow closer to Allah and constantly seeks His satisfaction. For this reason, there are numerous narrations from the infallible Imams (A.S) indicating the right time and place for seeking closeness to Allah.It is clear that God is the Most Gracious, and his Mercy is always bestowed upon humankind wherever they are. However, there are special times and places at which God’s benevolence towards His creatures becomes even greater. One of these occasions is the Day of Arafah.
The ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah (the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is the day of Arafah when Hajj pilgrims stand on the plain of Arafat (a vast desert about 20 km southeast of Mecca) to pray. Arafah can be translated as knowing, understanding or theosophy .
According to historians, it was on the plain of Arafat where Adam and Eve met each other once again after their descent from heaven and long separation upon the Earth, and their sins were forgiven by Allah.
It also recalls how Gabriel taught the prophet Abraham (AS) all the Hajj rituals on the plain of Arafat.
The day of Arafah is so important that Imam Hussain (AS), the third infallible Shia Imam, recited the famous supplication of Arafah one year during his pilgrimage to Mecca on this day.
Arafah is one of the most blessed days in Islam that carries a lot of merits for the ones who are present on the plain of Arafat and other people elsewhere. This day in its blessedness and sacredness weighs the same as the Night of Qadr. It has been narrated, “People who were not able to achieve their purpose in the Night of Qadr or those who were not forgiven on that day, Arafah is the last opportunity for them” .
So, many Muslims occupy themselves with reciting the Holy Quran, prayer, and supplications hoping that there would be more opportunities for them to be forgiven by Allah on this special day. One of the best deeds performed by Shia Muslims is reciting Imam Hussain’s (AS) supplication of Arafah, which best represents the spirit of this day. Contemplation on this amazing supplication which encompasses facts about monotheism and its degrees will ultimately bring us closer to Allah.
In this supplication, we first praise God in a loving and friendly manner. Then we count the blessings God has bestowed upon us, and after confessing our misdeeds and sins, we ask Allah to forgive them. That is when we put forth our request to God. Now let’s recite and think about some of the most beautiful verses from this supplication (Dua): (You may also find the audio and the English subtitle of this supplication here.)
“Praise be to Allah Whose determination cannot be repelled by anything, whose gifts cannot be stopped by anything, and Whose making cannot be resembled by the making of anyone. He is the All-magnanimous, the All-liberal.”
“Even before that (before you showed me the right path), You had compassion on me, through Your excellent conferral and Your affluent bestowals. So, You fashioned my creation from semen that gushed forth and put me up in triple darkness among flesh, blood, and skin. You have not made me witness my creation, and You have not referred any part of my creation to me.”
“So, Exalted be You, O All-merciful, O All-beneficent. When I commenced (my life) by pronouncing words, You perfected for me the affluent bestowals and brought me up to an increase every year. When my creation was accomplished, and my power became straight, You put me under the obligation of Your Claim, which is that You inspired me with recognition of You and alarmed me by the wonders of Your wisdom.”
“As You created me from the best of soil, You, my God, have not wanted for me to have a certain favor (and to be deprived of another) and You, therefore, provided me with the various kinds of living and types of wealth, out of Your great and grand conferral upon me, and Your eternal kindness to me.”
“And I bear witness, O my God, with my true belief, and the fortitude of the determinations of my conviction and the purity of my open belief in Your Oneness and the essence of the secret of my conscience, and the ties of the canals of the light of my sight, and the lines of my forehead and the hallows of the courses of my breath, and the (nasal) cavities of my nose, and the courses of the meatus of my hearing, and whatever my two lips hide and cover up, …”
“I bear witness) that if I try my best and strive throughout all ages and at all times, if I live them, to thank properly only one of Your favors, I will not be able to do that, except through a favor of You, which also requires me to thank You for it, once again with new thanking and with praise that is newly acquired and newly prepared.”
“It is I who did wrong. It is I who had evil intention…I now acknowledge of my sins; so, (please) forgive them to me.”
Arafah is one of the best days to turn to God with sincere repentance. Allah, on this day, accepts the repentance of His servants and grant them forgiveness if they are truly regretful and determined to give up their sins.
“O Allah, (please) make me fear You as if I can see You. Make me happy by fearing You. Do not make me unhappy by disobeying You. Choose for me through Your decree. so that I will not long for hastening that which You have delayed or delaying that which You would hasten.”
Eventually, you will find yourself immersed in the ocean of Allah’s mercy, which is what a true believer always seeks.
“O Allah, Verily, You are the nearest of those who are prayed, You are the promptest of those who may respond, the most generous of those who may pardon, and the most responding of those who are asked. O All-beneficent of the world and the Hereafter, and All-merciful!”
Human beings are created to be free and choose what to do with their own lives. However, sometimes the path toward growth is not through being free to have whatever we desire but to abstain from what we really wish while it is deviating or is a barrier against reaching the perfect version of ourselves. Here, the history of fasting finds its meaning. This is a ritual in which one, by his/her own free will, chooses to abstain from certain activities; this could range from not eating or drinking for a specific time, etc. Many faiths and religions, throughout history, encouraged their followers to fast in a certain way, each aiming at the spiritual elevation of their adherents. Islam is also among those religions which have made fasting an obligation upon its followers under certain circumstances, accepting the fact that this was not a tradition unique to Islam:
"O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary." Quran (2:183)
In what follows, we will have a look at the practice and history of fasting in the five most prominent non-Abrahamic faiths.
Looking at the history of fasting in primitive tribes and cults, we find some evidence regarding their belief in the spiritual impact of fasting and "was a practice to prepare persons, especially priests and priestesses, to approach the deities." Some Hellenistic cults believed fasting to be the prerequisite for reaching divine revelation for their priests. Some others thought that fasting "was one of the requirements for penance after an individual had confessed sins before a priest." 
Fasting was also common among Native Americans, practiced in private, or as a part of public ceremonies. The individual fasting often included the ones who had recently entered puberty, and they had to spend some time alone, from one to four days. During this time, they had to reach a particular spiritual maturity by observing certain rituals. Also, "It was not uncommon for an adult to fast, as a prayer for success when about to enter upon an important enterprise, as war or hunting" . Moreover, fasting was considered a requirement for religious heads to be able to fulfill their duties. The public fasting happened as a part of the initiation into religious societies, the length of which "ranged from midnight to sunset, or continued for four days and nights." The fast of these ancient tribes often included abstinence from food and water. The Native Americans saw fasting as "a means to spiritualize human nature and quicken the spiritual vision by abstinence from earthly food… as a method by which to remove "the smell" of the common world." 
Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians also practiced abstinence from food and drink as "a form of penance that accompanied other expressions of sorrow for wrongdoing. Like people of later times, these nations viewed fasting as meritorious in atoning for faults and sins and thus turning away the wrath of the gods." 
The Hindu faith also includes some form of fasting, which is ultimately aimed at spiritual awareness and growth by forming a balanced relationship between the body and the soul. Hindus believe that fasting can be a means of concentration on spiritual attainment through abstaining from worldly indulgences and distractions. Another purpose of fasting in Hinduism is self-discipline, which is made possible through "training of the mind and the body to endure and harden up against all hardships, to persevere under difficulties and not give up. According to Hindu philosophy, food means gratification of the senses, and to starve the senses is to elevate them to contemplation." 
Hindus have specified certain days for fastings, such as Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the fortnight). Moreover, depending on the god or goddess each individual worships, certain days of the week are dedicated to fasting. They also fast on special feasts and festivals, including "Durga Puja," "Navaratri, Shivratri, and Karwa Chauth. Navaratri is a festival when people fast for nine days."  It is noteworthy that some kinds of fasting in Hinduism are only obligatory for women.
The practice of fasting in Buddhism is seemingly limited to monks and religious leaders. It is said that the Buddha had undergone long periods of fasting during the time he was learning from other teachers as a kind of self-mortification. While there is no record for Buddha's fasting after this time or his recommendation for fasting to his followers, many Buddhist monks tend to fast on certain occasions as a way of self-purification and spiritual elevation. They would eat only one meal a day and would fast on the days of the new and full moon.
As a part of Buddha's concept of moderation and avoiding excessive manners, intermittent or prolonged fastings are not encouraged in this faith. However, fasting for a reasonable amount of time and refraining from excessive eating is considered a useful way of preserving health in Buddhism.  In general, fasting in Buddhism is limited to refraining from eating solid food, such as meat.
Daoist's concept of fasting is more about mind rather than the body. Therefore, they encourage a form of "fasting of the heart" (xinzhai), which will result in a more pious life . However, they also believe that the fasting of the body will ultimately result in a clean body and a pure soul. In the book of Mencius, one of the famous Chinese scriptures, fasting is considered as a means of self-purification even for the one who has darkened his/her soul by vices:
"But although a person is ugly, it is possible, through fasting and purification, to become fit to perform sacrifices to the Lord-on-High" 
In this tradition, one must avoid doing any evil deed and keep away from harmful hobbies and desires. The followers of this tradition try to read more of their religious scriptures as they fast to connect more to that Higher being and find peace .
Zhang Yuchu wrote in the Ten Daoist Commandments: "Anyone cultivating Dao must fast for a clean body as well as a pure heart, and he must visualize the spirits and read Daoist scriptures silently in his mind. It is as if facing the Higher Emperor, communicating with him with the heart." 
It seems that most Zoroastrians implicitly reject the practice of bodily fasting, which in their view would weaken the body and prevents one from appropriately attending his/her spiritual duties and satisfying physical needs . The only form of fasting which they find permissible "is that of abstaining from sin" . There is also a reference to this prohibition in Avesta, the religious Zoroastrian text:
"It is requisite to abstain from the keeping of fasts. 2. For, in our religion, it is not proper that they should not eat every day or anything, because it would be a sin not to do so. 3. With us, the keeping of fast is this, that we keep fast from committing sin with our eyes and tongue and ears and hands and feet. 4. Some people are striving about it, so that they may not eat anything all day, and they practice abstinence from eating anything. 5. For us it is also necessary to make an effort, so that we may not think, or speak, or commit any sin; and it is necessary that no bad action should proceed from our hands, or tongue, or ears, or feet, which would be a sin owing to them. 6. Since I have spoken in this manner, and have brought forward the fasting of the seven members of the body, that which, in other religions, is fasting owing to not eating is, in our religion, fasting owing to not committing sin." 
However, there is a tradition of fasting in this religion at the time of mourning for a departed soul, which is only limited to not eating meat. As the Avesta suggest:
"In every habitation where anyone departs, passing away from the world, it is necessary to endeavor that they may not eat and not consecrate fresh meat for three days therein. 2. Because the danger is that someone else may depart, passing away; so the relations of that former person should not eat meat for three days." 
So far, we have reviewed the history of fasting in five well-known non-Abrahamic faiths, which reveals the spiritual roots of this practice from the beginning of the time. In the next article, we will study the ritual and history of fasting in three Abrahamic religions; that is Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- native american fasting
- Das, Subhamoy. "Religious Fasting in Hinduism." Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020, learnreligions.com/why-fast-in-hinduism-1770050.
- Mencius, translated by Irene Bloom, Colombia University Press, New York. Book 4B, part 25.
- M. N. Dhalla, Zoroastrian Civilization from the Earliest Times to the Downfall of the Last Zoroastrian Empire 651 A.D., New York, 1922. P.187.
- Sad Dar, Translated by E. W. West, from Sacred Books of the East, volume 24, Clarendon Press, 1885. Chapters 78th and 83rd.