The Pleading Woman in the Surah Al Mujadilah is Hadhrat Khowla bint Maalik (R.A) .She was an extremely eloquent and well-spoken person. Her story is being related to teach all Muslim women what to do when they have problems with their husbands.
Ahmad recorded that Khuwaylah bint Thalabah said, “By Allah! Allah sent down the beginning of Surat Al-Mujadilah in connection with me and Aws bin As-Samit. He was my husband and had grown old and difficult. One day, he came to me and I argued with him about something and he said, out of anger, `You are like my mother’s back to me.’ He went out and sat with some of his people. Then he came back and wanted to have sexual intercourse with me. I said, No, by the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Khuwaylah! You will not have your way with me after you said what you said, until Allah and His Messenger issue judgement about our case.’ He wanted to have his way regardless of my choice and I pushed him away from me; he was an old man.’ I next went to one of my neighbors and borrowed a garment from her and went to the Messenger of Allah .
She Pled the case of her Husband (Zihar) before Allah
She presented her case thus, “O Rasulullaah (pbuh)! My husband has consumed my youth and I have given birth to his children. I have served him all my life and now that I am an old woman and my children have left me, he has carried out Zihar with me. If my small children are left with me, they would probably die of starvation and if they are left with my husband, they would be destroyed.” As she was saying this, she raised her eyes to the heavens saying, “O Allah! I plead my case before You. Reveal a command to Your Nabi SAW so that my difficulty is alleviated.”
Allaah then revealed the opening verses of Surah Mujaadalah(1-6 )saying, “Allaah had certainly heard the speech of the lady who debated with you concerning her husband and who complained to Allah . Allah was listening to your discussion. Verily Allah is All Hearing, All Seeing.” [Ma’aariful Qur’aan Vol. 8 Pg. 331]
Rasulullaah SAW then addressed Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) saying, “O Khowla! You cousin (husband) has grown old, so fear Allah Ι with regard to him (i.e. exercise patience with him).” This statement was commonly used by the Arabs to divorce their wives and it is referred to as Dhihaar. When Hadhrat Aws bin Saamit RA used the words on this occasion, it was the first time that a Muslim had done so. Consequently, the opening verses of Surah Mujaadalah were revealed to clarify the issue. Verses pertaining to Zihar were revealed, Rasulullaah (pbuh) told Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) to inform her husband that he would have to free a slave in expiation of his act (of Zihar). When she told Rasulullaah (pbuh) that he was unable to do this, Rasulullaah SAW said that he will then have to fast for two consecutive months. When she submitted that he was unable to do this also, Rasulullaah SAW mentioned that he should then feed two meals to sixty poor people. When she informed Rasulullaah SAW that her husband would not be able to afford this either, Rasulullaah SAW offered to assist by supplying some dates. Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) then said that she would also supply some dates to assist her husband. Thereupon, Rasulullaah SAW said, “You have done well. Go and act charitably towards him and treat him kindly.”
Hadhrat Khowla (R.A) was such a distinguished woman in Islamic history that Allaah responded to her plea and the Ummah will remember her as long as the Quraan is recited. Hadhrat Umar RA was once riding his donkey when an old lady stopped him to say something. When Hadhrat Umar stopped, the people asked him why he stopped for a frail old woman. Hadhrat Umar RA said to them, “Don’t you know who this old lady is? She is Khowla bint Thalaba. Allaah listened to her from above the seven heavens. How can Umar not listen to her when Allaah did.”
(Those among you who make their wives unlawful to them by Zihar) refers to Zihar, which is derived from Az-Zahr, meaning, the back. During the time of Jahiliyyah, when one wanted to declare Zihar towards his wife, he would say, “To me, you are like the back of my mother.” That was one way they issued divorce during that time. Allah allowed this Ummah to pay expiation for this statement and did not render it as a divorce, contrary to the case during the time of Jahiliyyah. Allah said,
(they cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth.) meaning, when the husband says to his wife that she is like his mother, or the back of his mother etc., she does not become his mother. Rather his mother is she who gave birth to him. This is why Allah said,
(And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie.) meaning, false and sinful speech,
(And verily, Allah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.) meaning, `what you used to do during the time of Jahiliyyah, and what accidentally slips out of your mouth, unintentionally.