The story is about a very special woman, her name is Khawlah bint Tha’labah (may Allah be pleased with her).
Khawlah bint Tha’labah (may Allah be pleased with her) tells her story. She says that:
My husband, Al-Aws ibn Samit, was older than me and he had a really bad temper, so he used to constantly be verbally abusive with me. And we had an argument, and he said to me the famous words: “You are to me like my mother’s back,” meaning you’re like my mom, you’re haram for me, so I’m not going to touch you, I’m not going to treat you like a wife, you have no rights upon me, I’m just going to leave you in the house like a prisoner.
This was a form of divorce that existed in the time of Ignorance. But the problem is now they’re Muslims.
So Khawlah (may Allah be pleased with her) says:
“He said this to me, and the next day, he came back and he tried to be intimate with me."
And I said:
“No. You can’t tell me that I’m like your mother’s back, and then try to be intimate with me the next day!”
So Khawlah (may Allah be pleased with her) says: “He actually tried to force himself on me, and she says, I was a lot stronger than he was, I was a strong young woman, so I pushed him off and I went to the Prophet (peace be upon him)."
When she went to the Prophet, and told him what happened, you know, Subhan Allah, Allah could have revealed to the Prophet something privately to deal with her situation, instead Allah reveals an entire chapter of the Quran in response to this woman Subhan Allah. And the first words of that are:
"Allah has heard the plea of that woman that has come to you complaining about her husband and she grieves to Allah." (58:1)
There is a whole chapter now that’s called (Al Mujaadilah - the woman who pleads). If I ask you what chapter of the Quran has a mention of Allah’s name in every verse, most people would say chapter Al-Ikhlas, it might be some chapters in the last part of the Quran, but here you have a chapter (Al Mujaadilah) that’s actually more than a couple of pages and Allah chooses this chapter to be the only chapter in which His name is in every single verse. As if Allah is saying that He heard that woman when no one else heard her.
So much so that He revealed a chapter with His name in each and every single verse to show how much He heard that woman subhan Allah.
The Culture of Respecting Women
Now, this created a culture amongst the companions.
Remember Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) ? Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was walking one day and he was with a man by the name of Al-Jarood. Al-Jarood says that: “While we’re walking, this woman suddenly calls out and says:
‘O Umar I remember when you were Umayr (meaning little Umar), and you were in the marketplace Ukad, you were in the marketplace tending to your sheep with a stick, so fear Allah as Caliph taking care of the people, and know that the one who fears the threat of punishment in the hereafter realizes that it’s not distant, and the one who fears death, fears missing an opportunity in this life.’
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) broke down into tears, he starts bawling. Al-Jarood says:
‘What is it with you old lady? Why did you make the man cry like that? Why are you talking to the Caliph that way?
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) grabs him and says to Al-Jarood: “Do you know who this woman is? This is Khawlah, the woman that Allah heard from above seven heavens. Do you think I’m not going to listen to her?" So it actually created a culture.
Ibn Kathir says in his Tafsir:
“There is another incident where a man was talking to Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and then suddenly Khawlah came, and Khawlah started talking to Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), and Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) just completely neglected the man, he completely abandoned the man and Khawlah was just going on and on and on and Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was sitting in a humble way and listening to her. And the man gets frustrated he says:
“You left a man of Quraysh to tend to this old woman?” Which shows you something: Khawlah (may Allah be pleased with her) didn’t actually belong to a powerful tribe, and that man has so much pride. He said:
“You’re leaving a man of Quraysh to talk to that old woman?”
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) responds once again:
“This is a woman who Allah listened to from above the seven heavens. This is Khawlah bint Tha’labah. By Allah, if she did not leave me until the night fell, I would not tell her to leave until she got what she came for, even if salah time came, I’d go to pray and I’d come back and keep listening to her.”
So, it created a culture amongst the companions to respect women in particular, and to realize that just because people might not be heard in this world doesn’t mean that Allah is not hearing them.