Muhammad’s Birth and Forty Years prior to Prophethood

Muhammad’s Birth and Forty Years prior to Prophethood

His Birth

Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Master of Prophets, was born in Bani Hashim lane in Makkah on Monday morning, the ninth of Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, the same year of the Elephant Event, and forty years of the reign of Kisra (Khosru Nushirwan), i.e. the twentieth or twenty-second of April, 571 A.D., according to the scholar Muhammad Sulaimân Al-Mansourpuri, and the astrologer Mahmûd Pasha. [Muhadarat Tareekh Al-Umam Al-Islamiyah 1/62; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/38,39]

Ibn Sa‘d reported that Muhammad’s mother said: "When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the palaces of Syria." Ahmad reported on the authority of ‘Arbadh bin Sariya something similar to this. [Mukhtasar Seerat-ur-Rasool, p.12; Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd 1/63]

It was but controversially reported that significant precursors accompanied his birth: fourteen galleries of Kisra’s palace cracked and rolled down, the Magians’ sacred fire died down and some churches on Lake Sawa sank down and collapsed. [Reported by Al-Baihaqi, but Al-Ghazali didn't approve it - see Fiqh-us-Seerah p.46]

His mother immediately sent someone to inform his grandfather ‘Abdul-Muttalib of the happy event. Happily he came to her, carried him to Al-Ka‘bah, prayed to Allâh and thanked Him. ‘Abdul-Muttalib called the baby Muhammad, a name not then common among the Arabs. He circumcised him on his seventh day as was the custom of the Arabs. [Ibn Hisham 1/159,160; Zad Al-Ma'ad 1/18; Muhadarat Tareekh Al-Umam Al-Islamiyah 1/62]

The first woman who suckled him after his mother was Thuyebah, the concubine of Abu Lahab, with her son, Masrouh. She had suckled Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib before and later Abu Salamah bin ‘Abd Al-Asad Al-Makhzumi. [Talqeeh Furoom Ahl-al-Athar p.4; Mukhtasar Seerat-ur-Rasool p.13]

Babyhood

It was the general custom of the Arabs living in towns to send their children away to bedouin wet nurses so that they might grow up in the free and healthy surroundings of the desert whereby they would develop a robust frame and acquire the pure speech and manners of the bedouins, who were noted both for chastity of their language and for being free from those vices which usually develop in sedentary societies.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was later entrusted to Haleemah bint Abi Dhuaib from Bani Sa‘d bin Bakr. Her husband was Al-Harith bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza called Abi Kabshah, from the same tribe.

Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) had several foster brothers and sisters, ‘Abdullah bin Al-Harith, Aneesah bint Al-Harith, Hudhafah or Judhamah bint Al-Harith (known as Ash-Shayma’), and she used to nurse the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and Abu Sufyan bin Al-Harith bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib, the Prophet’s cousin. Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle, was suckled by the same two wet nurses, Thuyeba and Haleemah As-Sa‘diyah, who suckled the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). [Za'd Al-Ma'ad 1/19]

Traditions delightfully relate how Haleemah and the whole of her household were favoured by successive strokes of good fortune while the baby Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) lived under her care. Ibn Ishaq states that Haleemah narrated that she along with her husband and a suckling babe, set out from her village in the company of some women of her clan in quest of children to suckle. She said:

It was a year of drought and famine and we had nothing to eat. I rode on a brown she-ass. We also had with us an old she-camel. By Allâh we could not get even a drop of milk. We could not have a wink of sleep during the night for the child kept crying on account of hunger. There was not enough milk in my breast and even the she-camel had nothing to feed him. We used to constantly pray for rain and immediate relief. At length we reached Makkah looking for children to suckle. Not even a single woman amongst us accepted the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) offered to her. As soon as they were told that he was an orphan, they refused him. We had fixed our eyes on the reward that we would get from the child’s father. An orphan! What are his grandfather and mother likely to do? So we spurned him because of that. Every woman who came with me got a suckling and when we were about to depart, I said to my husband: "By Allâh, I do not like to go back along with the other women without any baby. I should go to that orphan and I must take him." He said, "There is no harm in doing so and perhaps Allâh might bless us through him." So I went and took him because there was simply no other alternative left for me but to take him. When I lifted him in my arms and returned to my place I put him on my breast and to my great surprise, I found enough milk in it. He drank to his heart’s content, and so did his foster brother and then both of them went to sleep although my baby had not been able to sleep the previous night. My husband then went to the she-camel to milk it and, to his astonishment, he found plenty of milk in it. He milked it and we drank to our fill, and enjoyed a sound sleep during the night. The next morning, my husband said: "By Allâh Haleemah, you must understand that you have been able to get a blessed child." And I replied: "By the grace of Allâh, I hope so."

The tradition is explicit on the point that Haleemah’s return journey and her subsequent life, as long as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) stayed with her, was encircled with a halo of good fortune. The donkey that she rode when she came to Makkah was lean and almost foundered; it recovered speed much to the amazement of Haleemah’s fellow travellers. By the time they reached the encampments in the country of the clan of Sa‘d, they found the scales of fortune turned in their favour. The barren land sprouted forth luxuriant grass and beasts came back to them satisfied and full of milk. Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) stayed with Haleemah for two years until he was weaned as Haleemah said:

We then took him back to his mother requesting her earnestly to have him stay with us and benefit by the good fortune and blessings he had brought us. We persisted in our request which we substantiated by our anxiety over the child catching a certain infection peculiar to Makkah.[Ibn Hisham 1/162-164] At last, we were granted our wish and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) stayed with us until he was four or five years of age.

When, as related by Anas in Sahih Muslim, Gabriel came down and ripped his chest open and took out the heart. He then extracted a blood-clot out of it and said: "That was the part of Satan in thee." And then he washed it with the water of Zamzam in a gold basin. After that the heart was joined together and restored to its place. The boys and playmates came running to his mother, i.e. his nurse, and said: "Verily, Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) has been murdered." They all rushed towards him and found him all right only his face was white. [Muslim 1/92]

Back to His Passionate Mother

After this event, Haleemah was worried about the boy and returned him to his mother with whom he stayed until he was six. [Talqeeh Furoom Ahl-al-Athar p.7; Ibn Hisham 1/168]

In respect of the memory of her late husband, Amina decided to visit his grave in Yathrib (Madinah). She set out to cover a journey of 500 kilometers with her orphan boy, woman servant Umm Ayman and her father-in-law ‘Abdul-Muttalib. She spent a month there and then took her way back to Makkah. On the way, she had a severe illness and died in Abwa on the road between Makkah and Madinah. [Ibn Hisham 1/168; Talqeeh Fuhroom Ahl-al-Athar p.7]

To His Compassionate Grandfather

‘Abdul-Muttalib brought the boy to Makkah. He had warm passions towards the boy, his orphan grandson, whose recent disaster (his mother’s death) added more to the pains of the past. ‘Abdul-Muttalib was more passionate with his grandson than with his own children. He never left the boy a prey to loneliness, but always preferred him to his own kids. Ibn Hisham reported: A mattress was put in the shade of Al-Ka‘bah for ‘Abdul-Muttalib. His children used to sit around that mattress in honour to their father, but Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to sit on it. His uncles would take him back, but if ‘Abdul-Muttalib was present, he would say: "Leave my grandson. I swear by Allâh that this boy will hold a significant position." He used to seat the boy on his mattress, pat his back and was always pleased with what the boy did. [Ibn Hisham 1/168]

When Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was eight years, two months and ten days old, his grandfather ‘Abdul-Muttalib passed away in Makkah. The charge of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was now passed on to his uncle Abu Talib, who was the brother of the Prophet’s father.

Abu Talib took the charge of his nephew in the best way. He put him with his children and preferred him to them. He singled the boy out with great respect and high esteem. Abu Talib remained for forty years cherishing his nephew and extending all possible protection and support to him. His relations with the others were determined in the light of the treatment they showed to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Ibn ‘Asakir reported on the authority of Jalhamah bin ‘Arfuta who said: "I came to Makkah when it was a rainless year, so Quraish said ‘O Abu Talib, the valley has become leafless and the children hungry, let us go and pray for rain-fall.’ Abu Talib went to Al-Ka‘bah with a young boy who was as beautiful as the sun, and a black cloud was over his head. Abu Talib and the boy stood by the wall of Al-Ka‘bah and prayed for rain. Immediately clouds from all directions gathered and rain fell heavily and caused the flow of springs and growth of plants in the town and the country. [Mukhtasar Seerat-ur-Rasool p.15,16]

Bahira, the Monk

When the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) was twelve years old, he went with his uncle Abu Talib on a business journey to Syria. When they reached Busra (which was a part of Syria, in the vicinity of Howran under the Roman domain) they met a monk called Bahira (his real name was Georges), who showed great kindness, and entertained them lavishly. He had never been in the habit of receiving or entertaining them before. He readily enough recognized the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said while taking his hand: "This is the master of all humans. Allâh will send him with a Message which will be a mercy to all beings." Abu Talib asked: "How do you know that?" He replied: "When you appeared from the direction of ‘Aqabah, all stones and trees prostrated themselves, which they never do except for a Prophet. I can recognize him also by the seal of Prophethood which is below his shoulder, like an apple. We have got to learn this from our books." He also asked Abu Talib to send the boy back to Makkah and not to take him to Syria for fear of the Jews. Abu Talib obeyed and sent him back to Makkah with some of his men servants. [Ibn Hisham 1/180-183; Za'd Al-Ma'ad 1/17]

The ‘Sacrilegious’ Wars

Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was hardly fifteen when the ‘sacrilegious’ wars — which continued with varying fortunes and considerable loss of human life for a number of years — broke out between Quraish and Banu Kinana on the one side and Qais ‘Ailan tribe on the other. It was thus called because the inviolables were made violable, the prohibited months being included. Harb bin Omaiyah, on account of his outstanding position and honourable descent, used to be the leader of Quraish and their allies. In one of those battles, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) attended on his uncles but did not raise arms against their opponents. His efforts were confined to picking up the arrows of the enemy as they fell, and handing them over to his uncles. [Ibn Hisham 1/184-187; Qalb Jazeerat Al-Arab p.260]

Al-Fudoul Confederacy

At the conclusion of these wars, when peace was restored, people felt the need for forming confederacy at Makkah for suppressing violence and injustice, and vindicating the rights of the weak and the destitute. Representatives of Banu Hashim, Banu Al-Muttalib, Asad bin ‘Abd Al-‘Uzza, Zahrah bin Kilab and Taim bin Murra were called to meet in the habitation of an honourable elderly man called ‘Abdullah bin Jada‘an At-Taimy to enter into a confederacy that would provide for the above-mentioned items. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) shortly after he had been honoured with the ministry of Prophethood, witnessed this league and commented on it, with very positive words: "I witnessed a confederacy in the house of ‘Abdullah bin Jada‘an. It was more appealing to me than herds of cattle. Even now in the period of Islam I would respond positively to attending such a meeting if I were invited." [Ibn Hisham 1/113,135]

In fact, the spirit of this confederacy and the course of deliberations therein marked a complete departure from the pre-Islamic tribal-pride. The story that led to its convention says that a man from Zubaid clan came as a merchant to Makkah where he sold some commodities to Al-‘As bin Wail As-Sahmy. The latter by hook or by crook tried to evade paying for the goods. The salesman sought help from the different clans in Quraish but they paid no heed to his earnest pleas. He then resorted to a mountain top and began, at the top of his voice, to recite verses of complaint giving account of the injustices he sustained. Az-Zubair bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib heard of him and made inquiries into the matter. Consequently, the parties to the aforesaid confederacy convened their meeting and managed to force Az-Zubaidy’s money out of Al-‘As bin Wa’il. [Mukhtasar Seerat-ur-Rasool, p.30,31]

Muhammad’s Early Job

Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), had no particular job at his early youth, but it was reported that he worked as a shepherd for Bani Sa‘d and in Makkah. At the age of 25, he went to Syria as a merchant for Khadijah [R]. Ibn Ishaq reported that Khadijah, daughter of Khwailid was a business-woman of great honour and fortune. She used to employ men to do her business for a certain percentage of the profits. Quraish people were mostly tradespeople, so when Khadijah was informed of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), his truthful words, great honesty and kind manners, she sent for him. She offered him money to go to Syria and do her business, and she would give him a higher rate than the others. She would also send her hireling, Maisarah, with him. He agreed and went with her servant to Syria for trade. [Ibn Hisham 1/187,188]

His Marriage to Khadijah

When he returned to Makkah, Khadijah noticed, in her money, more profits and blessings than she used to. Her hireling also told her of Muhammad’s good manners, honesty, deep thought, sincerity and faith. She realized that she homed at her target. Many prominent men had asked for her hand in marriage but she always spurned their advances. She disclosed her wish to her friend Nafisa, daughter of Maniya, who immediately went to Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and broke the good news to him. He agreed and requested his uncles to go to Khadijah’s uncle and talk on this issue. Subsequently, they were married. The marriage contract was witnessed by Bani Hashim and the heads of Mudar. This took place after the Prophet’s return from Syria. He gave her twenty camels as dowry. She was, then, forty years old and was considered as the best woman of her folk in lineage, fortune and wisdom. She was the first woman whom the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) married. He did not get married to any other until she had died. [Ibn Hisham 1/189; Fiqh As-Seerah p.59; Talqeeh Fahoom Ahl-al-Athar p.7]

Khadijah bore all his children, except Ibrahim: Al-Qasim, Zainab, Ruqaiyah, Umm Kulthum, Fatimah and ‘Abdullah who was called Taiyib and Tahir. All his sons died in their childhood and all the daughters except Fatimah died during his lifetime. Fatimah died six months after his death. All his daughters witnessed Islam, embraced it, and emigrated to Madinah. [Ibn Hisham 1/190,191; Fath Al-Bari 7/507]

Rebuilding Al-Ka‘bah and the Arbitration Issue

When the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) was thirty five, Quraish started rebuilding Al-Ka‘bah. That was because it was a low building of white stones no more than 6.30 metres high, from the days of Ishmael. It was also roofless and that gave the thieves easy access to its treasures inside. It was also exposed to the wearing factors of nature — because it was built a long time ago — that weakened and cracked its walls. Five years before Prophethood, there was a great flood in Makkah that swept towards Al-Ka‘bah and almost demolished it. Quraish was obliged to rebuild it to safeguard its holiness and position. The chiefs of Quraish decided to use only licit money in rebuilding Al-Ka‘bah, so all money that derived from harlotry, usury or unjust practices was excluded. They were, at first, too awed to knock down the wall, but Al-Waleed bin Al-Mugheerah Al-Mukhzumi started the work. Seeing that no harm had happened to him, the others participated in demolishing the walls until they reached the basis laid by Abraham. When they started rebuilding its walls, they divided the work among the tribes. Each tribe was responsible for rebuilding a part of it. The tribes collected stones and started work. The man who laid the stones was a Roman mason called Baqum. The work went on in harmony till the time came to put the sacred Black Stone in its proper place. Then strife broke out among the chiefs, and lasted for four or five days, each contesting for the honour of placing the stone in its position. Daggers were on the point of being drawn and great bloodshed seemed imminent. Luckily, the oldest among the chiefs Abu Omaiyah bin Mugheerah Al-Makhzumi made a proposal which was accepted by all. He said: "Let him, who enters the Sanctuary first of all, decide on the point." It was then Allâh’s Will that the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) should be the first to enter the Mosque. On seeing him, all the people on the scene, cried with one voice: "Al-Ameen (the trustworthy) has come. We are content to abide by his decision." Calm and self-possessed, Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) received the commission and at once resolved upon an expedient which was to conciliate them all. He asked for a mantle which he spread on the ground and placed the stone in its centre. He then asked the representatives of the different clans among them, to lift the stone all together. When it had reached the proper place, Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) laid it in the proper position with his own hands. This is how a very tense situation was eased and a grave danger averted by the wisdom of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Quraish ran short of the licit money, they collected, so they eliminated six yards area on the northern side of Al-Ka‘bah which is called Al-Hijr or Al-Hateem. They raised its door two metres from the level ground to let in only the people whom they desired. When the structure was fifteen yards high they erected the roof which rested on six columns.

When the building of Al-Ka‘bah had finished, it assumed a square form fifteen metres high. The side with the Black Stone and the one opposite were ten metres long each. The Black Stone was 1.50 metre from the circumambulation level ground. The two other sides were twelve metres long each. The door was two metres high from the level ground. A building structure of 0.25 metre high and 0.30 metre wide on the average surrounded Al-Ka‘bah. It was called Ash-Shadherwan, originally an integral part of the Sacred Sanctuary, but Quraish left it out. [Bukhari 1/215; Fiqh As-Seerah p.62-63; Ibn Hisham 2/192-197]

A Rapid Review of Muhammad’s Biography before Commissioning of the Prophethood

Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was, in his youth, a combination of the best social attributes. He was an exemplary man of weighty mind and faultless insight. He was favoured with intelligence, originality of thought and accurate choice of the means leading to accurate goals. His long silence helped favourably in his habit of meditation and deep investigation into the truth. His vivid mind and pure nature were helpfully instrumental in assimilating and comprehending ways of life and people, individual and community-wise. He shunned superstitious practices but took an active part in constructive and useful dealings, otherwise, he would have recourse to his self-consecrated solitude. He kept himself aloof from drinking wine, eating meat slaughtered on stone altars, or attending idolatrous festivals. He held the idols in extreme aversion and most abhorrence. He could never tolerate someone swearing by Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzza. Allâh’s providence, no doubts, detached him from all abominable or evil practices. Even when he tried to obey his instinct to enjoy some life pleasures or follow some irrespectable traditions, Allâh’s providence intervened to curb any lapse in this course. Ibn Al-Atheer reported Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) as saying: "I have never tried to do what my people do except for two times. Every time Allâh intervened and checked me from doing so and I never did that again. Once I told my fellow-shepherd to take care of my sheep when we were in the upper part of Makkah. I wanted to go down to Makkah and entertain myself as the young men did. I went down to the first house of Makkah where I heard music. I entered and asked: ‘What is this?’ Someone answered: ‘It is a wedding party.’ I sat down and listened but soon went into deep sleep. I was awakened by the heat of the sun. I went back to my fellow-shepherd and told him of what had happened to me. I have never tried it again."

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Jabir bin ‘Abdullah that he said: "While the people were rebuilding Al-Ka‘bah, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) went with ‘Abbas to carry some stones. ‘Abbas said: ‘Put your loincloth round your neck to protect you from the stones.’ (As he did that) the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) fell to the ground and his eyes turned skyward. Later on he woke up and shouted: ‘My loincloth... my loincloth.’ He wrapped himself in his loincloth." In another report: "His loins were never seen afterwards." [Bukhari Chapter: The Building of Al-Ka'bah, 1/540]

The authorities agree in ascribing to the youth of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) modesty of deportment, virtuous behaviour and graceful manners. He proved himself to be the ideal of manhood, and to possess a spotless character. He was the most obliging to his compatriots, the most honest in his talk and the mildest in temper. He was the most gentle-hearted, chaste, hospitable and always impressed people by his piety-inspiring countenance. He was the most truthful and the best to keep covenant. His fellow-citizens, by common consent, gave him the title of Al-‘Ameen (trustworthy). The Mother of believers, Khadijah [R], once said: He unites uterine relations, he helps the poor and the needy, he entertains the guests and endures hardships in the path of truthfulness. [Bukhari 1/3]