Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, in partnership with Muslimah Media, speaks in a 6-part series about women who are documented in the Quran.
Khowla, the Woman who Complained
One of the interesting stories that come to us in the Qur’an, is of the Woman Who Complained. It is the name of the 58th chapter of the Qur’an. It refers to the story of Khowla bint Tha’labah, a strong and brave woman who was a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Khowla was married to a man with a hot temper. One day, her husband came home and they got into an argument. Her husband lapsed into a pre-Islamic practice, and said a particularly insulting phrase, referred to as Dhihar. Dhihar was done when a man told his wife that his relationship with her was the same as his relationship with his mother. Although this practice may seem strange in today’s world, it was a very extreme thing to say during that time. Moreover, it was not a phrase that could be forgotten. In that society, it was actually a type of divorce.
Khowla resented her husband’s action, as she did not want to be stuck in a bad situation because of his behaviour. After he had calmed down, he returned and wanted to be intimate with her. Khowla told him, “You won’t touch me until Allah and His Messenger decide the matter for us.” She left her house and went to the Prophet, explaining her situation and asking that something be done. However, nothing had been revealed pertaining to the pronouncement of Dhihar, so initially there was nothing that could be done. However, Khowla was determined to find a solution.
Before long, the Prophet received the following revelation.
“Allah has certainly heard the speech of the one who argues with you, [O Muhammad], concerning her husband and directs her complaint to Allah. And Allah hears your dialogue; indeed, Allah is Hearing and Seeing. Those who pronounce Dhihar among you [to separate] from their wives – they are not their mothers. Their mothers are none but those who gave birth to them. And indeed, they are saying an objectionable statement and a falsehood.” Al-Mujadilah
Setting a Precedent
The verses condemned the practice of Dhihar as an odious practice. Allah also set a heavy penalty on the men who pronounced Dhihar on their wives.
Because of Khowla’s persistence and initiative, she not only fixed her own situation, but also helped the other women who had been affected by the practice of Dhihar. She was so respected that other male companions spoke very highly of her. However, what makes her so amazing, is the fact that her struggle was documented in the Qur’an.