The Original Feminist Jihadist

Countless Muslim women around the world today are standing up and demanding their rights to freedom and equality under both secular and Islamic law. These feminist jihadists can be found in every corner of the globe. From France to Afghanistan to Sudan, brave Muslimahs are refusing to be told what they can and cannot do, say or wear.

Before I introduce you to some of fearless modern feminist jihadists in upcoming posts, I want to first honor the original feminist jihadist and first convert to Islam: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, also known as Khadija al-Kubra or Khadija the Great.

A wealthy and powerful businesswoman in 6th century Mecca, she was the Prophet Muhammad’s employer before she became his wife. Roughly 15 years his senior, Khadija proposed marriage to the Prophet and he accepted.

After receiving his first revelation from the Angel Gabriel while meditating in the cave of Hira, the Prophet Muhammad was terrified that he’d lost his mind. He immediately ran home from the cave to Khadija and collapsed into her arms. “Cover me,” he said to her, and she did. She held and comforted him as he trembled, overcome with fear. Unlike the Prophet, Khadija was convinced of the veracity of his revelation. It was she who assured him that he had indeed received a message from God, and in doing so, Khadija forever changed the course of human history.

As an aspiring feminist jihadist, I have an enormous amount to learn from Khadija’s example, and I pray that we will all be able to live up to it. As it is, nearly 1,400 years after her death, a woman such as Khadija could not survive in modern-day Saudi Arabia, where women need consent from men for nearly everything they do, can’t drive a car and have limited personal and professional opportunities. 

Defending and carrying out the legacy of Khadija is not an easy task, especially today, but looking back at her example gives us the hope and grounding that we, as Muslim women, need to move forward in reclaiming our faith and our rightful place in it.

Read more Ms. coverage on global women’s rights here


Melody Moezzi is a writer, activist, attorney and award-winning author. Her latest book, the critically acclaimed memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life, was recently released in paperback.