Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.): Birth and Da'wah
By: Yasin T. al- Jibouri
Year of The Elephant (570 A.D.)
The above-mentioned episode had happened when ‘Abdul-Muttalib was young. Now we come to the most important event of his life. It took place just eight years before his death. By then, he was the patriarch of the tribe.
By the second millennium B.C., the Minaeans of South Arabia had already extended their trade far into the north of the Arabian Peninsula. After them, the Sabeans created a kingdom which prevented the emergence of any strong central power. They were succeeded by the Himyarites (to whom Queen Balqees of Sheba [Saba'], wife of prophet Solomon, belonged) were lucky enough to escape the domination of the Roman empire after Aelius Gallus's attempt to subject them to the dominion of Augustus had misfired.
These Himyarites had once extended their kingdom to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to the west of the Red Sea, but the tide of politics shifted. In 530 A.D., the Christian Abyssinian governor over Yemen and Southern Arabia, Abraha ibn al-Sabah al-Ashram, conquered South Arabia and pressed forward for an attack on Persia in the north but failed to advance beyond Mecca when his army was attacked, as we are told in the Holy Qur'an, by a heavenly host of tiny birds called Ababeel.
It was on August 29th of that year, the Year of the Elephant, that the last Messenger of God, Muhammad, was born. After his conquest of Yemen and Nejran, Abraha became the region's vicegerent on behalf of the Ethiopian Negus. He built a magnificent cathedral in San’a, Yemen, in the hope that it would supersede Mecca as the great place of pilgrimage for all Arabia. He had marble brought to it from one of the palaces of Balqees the Queen of Sheba and he set up crosses in it of gold and silver. Its pulpits were made of ivory and ebony.
He wrote to the Negus saying, “I have built thee a church, O King, the like of which was never built for any king before thee, and I shall not rest until I have diverted unto it the pilgrimage of the Arabs.’ He did not keep that thought to himself, and the tribes throughout Hijaz and Nejd were very angry. A man of Kinanah, a branch of Quraish, went to San’a for the deliberate purpose of defiling the church which he did one night then returned safely to his people.
When Abraha heard of it, he vowed that in revenge he would raze the Ka’ba to the ground. Having made his preparations, he set off for Mecca with a large army in van of which he placed an elephant. Some Arab tribes of north San’a tried to stop him, but the Abyssinians overpowered them and captured their leader, Nufayl of Khath’am. By way of ransom for his life, Nufayl offered to act as Abraha's road guide. When Abraha's army reached Taif, the men of Thaqif came out to meet him, being afraid that he might destroy the temple they had built for their god al-Lat in mistake for the Ka’ba. They pointed out to him that he had not yet reached his destination, offering him a road guide of their own for the remainder of the trip. Although Nufyal was already with him, Abraha accepted their offer, but the Thaqif guide died on the way, about two miles from Mecca, at a place called al-Mughammis where he was buried. The Arabs took to stoning his grave which is still being stoned to this day.
Abraha halted at al-Mughammis and sent a detachment of horsemen to Mecca's outskirts. They plundered whatever they could find on the way and sent it back to Abraha including two hundred camels which were the property of ‘Abdul-Muttalib, Muhammad's grandfather. Quraish and other neighbouring tribes held a war council and decided that it was useless to try to resist the enemy. Meanwhile, Abraha sent a messenger to Mecca to ask for their chief. He was to tell him that Abraha had not come to fight but only to destroy the Ka’ba, and if he wished to avoid bloodshed, he must come to the Abyssinian camp.
‘Abdul-Muttalib, therefore, had no choice except to meet Abraha. When the latter saw him entering his tent, he was so impressed by him that he rose from his royal seat to greet him and to seat him beside himself on the carpet. Abraha did not speak Arabic; Amheric was his tongue, so he had to communicate with ‘Abdul-Muttalib through an interpreter whom he told to inquire if ‘Abdul-Muttalib had a favour to ask. ‘Abdul-Muttalib replied that the army had taken two hundred of his camels and he asked that they should be returned to him. Abraha was surprised at this request and said that he was disappointed in him because he was thinking of his camels rather than his religion which was being attacked. ‘Abdul-Muttalib replied, “I am the lord of the camels, and the Ka’ba likewise has a Lord Who will defend it.’
‘Abdul-Muttalib returned with his camels to Quraish whom he advised to withdraw to the hills above the town. Accompanied by his family and others, he went to the Sanctuary, stood beside it then prayed the Almighty for His help against Abraha and his army. He took hold of the door of the Ka’ba and, crying to Allah, prayed in the following words (of poetry): Allah! Surely a man defends his own home, therefore, Thou shouldst protect Thy Own House. Their cross and their wrath can never overcome Thy wrath. O Allah, help Thy Own people against the fellows of the cross and its worshippers.
‘Abdul-Muttalib's light covered the Ka’ba, so much so that the Meccans asked him about it. “Go home! By Allah, never did my forehead's light overwhelm anything except that I won victory, and now it has done just that!’ Then he, too, went to the summit of the hill, Abu Qubays. The next morning, Abraha prepared to march into the town with the intention to destroy the Ka’ba and then return to San’a. His elephant, richly decorated, was led into the front of the army which was already drawn up.
When the huge animal reached its position, his keeper Unays turned him the same way as the troops were turned, that is, towards Mecca, but instead of marching, the elephant knelt down and refused to move. Even beating him about the head with iron bars and sticking iron hooks into his belly did not stir him to move; he remained like a solid rock. When the entire army turned in the direction opposite of that of Mecca, the elephant voluntarily rose to its feet, turned around and followed. When they turned round about again in the direction of Mecca, the elephant knelt down as if it was prostrating in humility.
Earlier that same day, ‘Abdul-Muttalib had an encounter with the elephant. He asked the animal, “Do you know why they had brought you here?’ The animal beckoned with his head that he did not. “They brought you here so that you may demolish the House of your Lord. Are you going to do that?’ The elephant shook his head as a signal negating that he would. Then ‘Abdul-Muttalib withdrew.
Suddenly the sky grew dark and a strange sound was heard. Soon a great wave of darkness swept upon the army from the direction of the sea, and the air above their heads, as high as they could see, was full of birds called “ababeel.’ Those few who survived said that each bird had three pebbles the size of dried peas, one in its beak and one between the claws of each foot. They kept pelting Abraha's army with those pebbles which were very hard and launched with such velocity that they pierced even coats of mail.
Every stone found its mark and killed its man. As soon as a body was struck, its flesh began to rot, some more gradually than others. Among the survivors were Unays and the elephant, but all were terror-stricken. A few survivors remained in Hijaz and worked as shepherds or did other work, but the main part of the army returned in disorder to San’a. Many died by the wayside and many others, including Abraha, died soon after their return. After that day, Quraish were called “the people of God,’ earning more respect than ever before because God had answered their prayers and saved the Ka’ba from destruction.
It is to this important event that Allah refers in Chapter 105: In the Name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful
Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the fellows of the Elephant? Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? And He sent against them birds in flocks, striking them with stones of baked clay, so He rendered them like straw eaten up. (Qur'an, 105:1-5)
Some historians have tried to minimize the impact of the Divine intervention by suggesting that the army perished because of an epidemic of smallpox. But that explanation creates more puzzles than it solves. How was it that the whole army was seized by that epidemic just when it was advancing on the Ka’ba? How was it that not a single soldier survived that epidemic? Why no Meccan caught that contagious epidemic? And, if there was no epidemic in Mecca before or after that sudden burst of the plague, where did that epidemic come from?
This epoch-making episode happened in 570 A.D. It was on August 29th of this same year that the Prophet of Islam was born ‘Abdullah and Amina.
‘Abdullah son of ‘Abdul-Muttalib, Muhammad's father, was not in Mecca to witness that miracle. He had gone to trade in Palestine and Syria with one of the caravans. On his way home, he had lodged with his grandmother's family in Yathrib. It was there and then that he fell ill and shortly thereafter died at the youthful age of 25 before the birth of his holy son. To his wife Amina, the news was a death blow which she could not survive. Mecca was overtaken with grief at the news of ‘Abdullah's son. ‘Abdullah was greatly cherished, loved and respected as his father, the chief of Mecca.
Amina daughter of Wahab ibn ‘Abd Munaf, his wife and mother of our holy prophet Muhammad, never felt any heaviness on account of her pregnancy and, therefore, for quite some time could not tell for sure that she was pregnant. She was conscious of a light within her. One day it shone forth from her so intensely that she could see the castles of Bostra (or Busra) in Greater Syria (actually in Trans-Jordan, to be exact). She is reported to have said,
When I conceived him, I saw in a vision someone approaching me and saying to me: “You have conceived the best person among all mankind.’ In every month of that year, I used to hear someone calling from somewhere in the heavens: “Glad tidings! Time has come for the blessed one to come out to earth!’ When birth-pangs overtook me, I saw women as tall as palm-trees who gazed at me, whereupon a light emanated from me at the very moment when Muhammad emerged into the world, and I saw him prostrating, so much so that I was able, through that light, to see everything as far as the castles of Bostra.
It was then that I heard a voice saying: “Name him Muhammad, for I am the Praised One, and this is the one who will always be praised, and whose name I derived even from My own!’ I also saw three persons looking as though the sun rises from their faces and who were carrying a silver can and a wash bowl of green chrysolite. They washed him and marked the back area between his shoulders, then they wrapped him in silk and said to him: “Glad tidings to you, O one loved by Allah! You are the master of all the descendants of Adam, the dignity of life on earth, and the honour of the life hereafter! Congratulations to whoever accepts your call and loves you and upholds your wasi after you and the Imams from among your descendants, the wasis who will be pleased!’
The voice also told her ‘… When he is born, say: ‘I place him under the protection of the One God from the evil of every envier', then name him Muhammad.’ She was frightened and did not know what to make of that voice. In order to repel its effects, she was advised to wear iron lockers till her delivery. Indeed, what Amina heard had a precedent. In Genesis XVII:19, we read: “And God said (to Abraham): Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac.’ Also in Matthew I:21: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.’
At the time of Muhammad's birth, Amina was at her uncle's home, and she sent word to ‘Abdul-Muttalib asking him to come to see his grandson. ‘Abdul-Muttalib hastened joyfully to see the infant, took him in his arms and went to the Ka’ba. There, he offered thanks to God for the gift and named him “Muhammad’ which means “the praised.’ Then he took him back to his mother. On the way, he showed him to his own family. He himself was shortly to have another son by Amina's cousin Hala. At the moment, his youngest son, ‘Abbas, was three years old. Abbas met him at the house door. “This is your brother! Kiss him,’ said he. And Abbas kissed him.
Amina's grief for the loss of her young husband was so intense, it dried the milk in her breasts, and she could not nurse Muhammad. For this reason, he had to be entrusted to Thuwayba, a maid servant of Abu Lahab, one of Muhammad's uncles, for a short period of time. Some tribes in Mecca were famous for nursing and rearing children, and one of them was that Banu Sa’d ibn Bakr, a branch of Hawazin, whose territory lay to the north-east of Mecca, the hills south of Taif, to be exact. Amina was in favour of entrusting her son to the care of a woman of this tribe.
And so it was: Halima daughter of Abu Thu'ayb of Banu Sa’d, wife of Harith, became Muhammad's nurse. Halima kept Muhammad with her for about five years. He was now grown up and no longer needed his foster mother's care. Halima reluctantly gave him back to his mother Amina. But Muhammad's mother did not enjoy the company of her first-born for any length of time: in 575 A.D., she proceeded to Medina accompanied by Umm Ayman to visit the grave of her late husband and to show her son to his father's maternal relatives.
Umm Ayman was the slave girl of ‘Abdullah, Muhammad's father. After no longer than a month of staying at Medina, Amina felt that her heart was failing. She eventually died at Abwa' midway between Medina and Mecca where she was buried. Umm Ayman brought Muhammad, who was now six years old, back to Mecca where he was placed in the charge of his grandfather ‘Abdul-Muttalib who had already reached the patriarchal age of four scores.
Umm Ayman remained his nurse. ‘Abdul-Muttalib took charge of raising young Muhammad thereafter for no more than two years following which he died in 578 A.D., leaving an 8-year old orphan. Muhammad very bitterly felt the loss of his grandfather, and he followed his bier weeping. On his death-bed, ‘Abdul-Muttalib embraced Muhammad for the last time and entrusted him to the care of his son Abu Talib, brother of ‘Abdullah, Muhammad's father, by both parents, enjoining him to treat the orphan as he would his own son. Abu Talib very affectionately promised his father to do so, and he lived up to his promise. He loved Muhammad very much, let him sleep by his own bed-side and took him whenever he went. He continued doing so till Muhammad was about twelve years old.
Faith of The Ancestors of The Prophet
It is the accepted belief of the Shi’a Ithna-’Asheris, the Hanafis, and the Shafi’is, that the ancestors of the Prophet from ‘Abdullah to Qidar ibn Isma’il, and from there right up to Adam, were true believers. They believed in the One and Only God and faithfully followed the Divine religion of their times. From Qidar to ‘Abdullah, all of them followed the Shari’a of Prophet Ibrahim which was the religion prescribed for them by God.
Imam Jalaluddin al-Sayyuti has written nine books on this subject and has proven beyond doubt that all the ancestors of the Prophet were true believers. Shaykh ‘Abdul-Haqq Muhaddith Dehlawi has written the following: “All the ancestors of the Prophet from Adam up to ‘Abdullah were pure and clean from the uncleanness of disbelief and paganism. It was not possible for Allah to put that Holy Light (of the Prophet) into dark and dirty places, i.e. the loin of a pagan man or the womb of a pagan woman. Also, how could it be possible for Allah to punish the ancestors of the Prophet on the Day of Judgement and thus humiliate him in the eyes of the world?’
The Prophet himself has said: “I was always being transferred from the loins of the clean ones to the wombs of the clean ones.’
‘Allamah al-Majlisi has written that it is the unanimous belief of Shi’a scholars that the father, mother and all ancestors of the Prophet followed the true religion, that his Light never entered into the loin of any pagan man or the womb of any pagan woman. Also, they accept traditions saying that all his ancestors were “Siddiqun’ (truthful ones): They were either prophets or successors of prophets (wasis).
After Isma’il, all his ancestors were successors of Isma’il. Other traditions specify that ‘Abdul-Muttalib was a “Hujjat’ (Proof) of Allah and that Abu Talib was his successor.
The Commander of the Faithful Ali ibn Abu Talib said: “By Allah, neither my father ever worshipped the idols, nor my grandfather ‘Abdul-Muttalib, nor his father Hashim, nor his father ‘Abd Munaf. They prayed facing towards the Ka’ba and followed the religion of Ibrahim.’
If you look again at the preceding life-sketches of some of the ancestors of the Prophet, you will find that many traditions established by them are now included into the tenets of Islam. Qusayy started the night-stay at al-Mash’ar al-Haram during the hajj, and Allah kept that system in Islam. Can anybody think that Allah would confirm a religious rite established by a pagan?!
Likewise, you have seen how the customs established by ‘Abdul-Muttalib were adopted in Islam. Could Allah glorify ‘Abdul-Muttalib if he had been a pagan?!
Also, read again the events of the discovery of Zamzam and the appearance of the well in the desert. Read again the events of ‘Amul-Fil, and see the firm conviction that Allah would surely save His House. That statement, repeated several times, shows that ‘Abdul-Muttalib knew before hand what was going to happen. Why was he so sure? There can only be one explanation: He was informed by Allah. And this, in turn, proves the earlier statement that he was a “Hujjat’ of Allah.
In all these events and narrations, he is always seen praying to Allah, and there is no hint from any quarter that he ever prayed to the idols of Quraish (to Hubal, Lat or ‘Uzza). When he finds Zamzam, he exclaims: ‘Allahu Akbar!’ When he emphasizes anything, he swears by the Name of Allah. When he stakes his claim, he says that it was given to him by Allah. What further proof is needed to show that it was a family of true believers?
The Prophet said: “Jibril (Gabriel) said to me: ‘I searched the east and the west of the earth, but I did not find anyone superior to Muhammad; and I searched the east and the west of the earth, but I did not find the children of any father better than the children of Hashim.'‘
Also, the Prophet said: “Verily, Allah chose Kinanah from the children of Isma’il, and He selected Quraish from Kinanah, chose the children of Hashim from Quraish, and selected me from the children of Hashim.’
At the discovery of Zamzam, ‘Abdul-Muttalib encountered the enmity of Quraish. He was quite worried because he had only one son to help him. He, therefore, prayed to Allah, making a nathr (vow, pledge or covenant) that if Allah gave him ten sons to help him against his enemies, he would sacrifice one of them to please Allah. His prayer was answered, and Allah gave him not ten but twelve sons, out of whom 5 are famous in the Islamic history: ‘Abdullah (the Prophet's father), Abu Talib (Ali's father), Hamzah, ‘Abbas and Abu Lahab. The other seven were: al-Harith (already mentioned), Zubayr, Ghaydaq, al-Muqawwim, Dharar, Qutham, and Hijl (or Mughirah). He had six daughters: ‘Atika, Umayma, Bayda', Barra, Safiyya, and Arwi.
When ten sons were born, ‘Abdul-Muttalib decided to sacrifice one of them according to his nathr. Lot was cast and ‘Abdullah's name came out. ‘Abdullah was the dearest to him, but he did not flinch from the decision of the fate. He took ‘Abdullah's hands and started towards the place where sacrifices were offered. His daughters started crying, begging him to sacrifice ten camels in place of ‘Abdullah. At first, ‘Abdul-Muttalib refused. But when the pressure of the whole family and, in fact, the whole tribe, mounted, he agreed to cast lot between ‘Abdullah and ten camels. Again the name of ‘Abdullah came out. On the suggestion of the people, the number of the camels was increased to twenty; again, the same result. Repeatedly, the number was increased to thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty and ninety.
But the result was always the same. At last the lot was cast between 100 camels and ‘Abdullah. Now the lot came out for the camels. The family was jubilant, but ‘Abdul-Muttalib was not satisfied. He said: “Ten times the name of ‘Abdullah has come out. It is not fair to ignore those lots just for one lot.’ Three times more, he repeated the lot between ‘Abdullah and 100 camels, and every time the lot came out for the camels. Then he sacrificed the camels, and the life of ‘Abdullah was saved.
It was to this incident that the Prophet referred when once he said: “I am the son of the two sacrifices,’ meaning the sacrifices of Isma’il and ‘Abdullah.
The mother of ‘Abdullah (and the grandmother of the Prophet) was Fatima daughter of ‘Amr ibn ‘Aith ibn ‘Amr ibn Makhzum. She was also the mother of Abu Talib, Zubayr, Bayda', Umayma, Barra and ‘Atika.
A year before “the year of the elephant,’ ‘Abdullah was married to Aminah daughter of Wahab ibn ‘Abd Munaf ibn Zuhrah ibn Kilab. In that very gathering, ‘Abdul-Muttalib married Hala, daughter of Wuhayb, a cousin of Amina. Hala gave birth to Hamzah, and Thuwayba, slave-girl of Abu-Lahab, breast-fed him. She also gave her milk to the Prophet for some time. Thus, Hamzah was the uncle of the Prophet and also his cousin as well as foster brother.
Various traditions put the age of ‘Abdullah at the time of his marriage at 17, 24 or 27 years.
‘Abdullah, like many other Meccan businessmen, used to go with the trade caravans to Syria. While returning, he fell ill and stayed at Yathrib. When ‘Abdul-Muttalib sent al-Harith to look after him and bring him back, he had already passed away. ‘Abdullah was buried in Yathrib. His grave was walled up by the Wahhabis and nobody was allowed to visit it. Then, in the 1970s, the Wahhabis dug up his body together with those of 7 companions of the Prophet and buried them somewhere else. It was done on the pretext of extending the Mosque.
‘Abdullah had left some camels, goats, and a slave-girl, Umm Ayman. The Prophet got them all as his inheritance.
Prophecies Predicting His Advent
The advent of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) was prophecized in sacred scriptures of many creeds. Here are proofs:
Prophecy in Hindu Sanskrit Scriptures:
Here is the original Sanskrit text:
Translation: People, listen emphatically! The Man of Praise (Muhammad) will be raised among the people. We take the emigrant in our shelter from sixty thousand and ninety enemies whose conveyances are twenty camels and she-camels, whose loftiness of position touches the heavens and lowers it.
Prophecy in the Parsi (Ancient Persian) Scripture:
Here is the original text written in ancient Pahlavi:
Translation: When the Persians sink so low in morality, a man will be born in Arabia whose followers will upset their throne, religion and everything. The mighty stiff-necked ones of Persia will be over-powered. The house which was built (the Ka’ba) and in which many idols have been placed will be purged of idols, and people will say their prayes facing towards it. His followers will capture the towns of the Parsis and Taus and Balkh and other big places round about. People will embroil with one another. The wise men of Persia and others will join his followers.
Prophecy in the Bible:
Following is the text on pp. 225 - 227 of the Gospel of Saint Barnabas, an English translation by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg of the original Italian manuscript found at Vienna's Imperial Library: The priest (disciple) asked, “How shall the Messiah be called, and what sign shall reveal his coming?’ Jesus answered: “The name of the Messiah is Admirable, for God Himself gave him the name when He created his soul and placed it in celestial splendor. God said: 'Wait, Muhammad, for thy sake I will create Paradise, the world, and a great multitude of creastures whereas I make thee a present, in so much that whoso shall bless thee shall be blessed, and whoso shall curse thee shall be cursed.
When I shall send thee into the world, I shall send thee as My Messenger of Salvation, and thy word shall be true insomuch that the heavens and the earth shall fail but thy faith shall never fail.' Muhammad is his blessed name.’ Then the crowd raised their voices saying, “O God! Send us Thy Messenger! O Muhammad! Come quickly for the salvation of the world!’
The Prophet is Born (570 A.D.)
Muhammad was born in such a family on Friday, the 17th of Rabi’ul-Awwal, in the first year of ‘Amul-Fil, Year of the Elephant, which corresponded to August 29, 570 A.D., to bring the Message of God to the world. In Sunni circles, the 12th of Rabi’ul-Awwal is more famous. Thus, the prayer of Ibrahim while constructing the Ka’ba was granted: “Lord! And raise a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Thy verses, and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them, indeed Thou art the Mighty, the Wise’ (Qur'an, 2:129).
And the tidings of Christ came true: Children of Israel! Surely I am the messenger of Allah to you, verifying that which is before me of the Torah and giving the good news of a Messenger who will come after me whose name will be Ahmad.(Qur'an, 61:6)
When Muhammad was about six years old (in 575 A.D.), he lost his mother as well; so, the doubly-orphaned child was brought up by ‘Abdul-Muttalib with the most tender care. Umm Ayman was now his governess. It was the will of God that Muhammad should undergo all the suffering, pain and privation incidental to human life in order that he would bear them with becoming fortitude and raise his stature in human perfection. Not two years had passed before ‘Abdul-Muttalib also expired.
‘Abdul-Muttalib died in 578 A.D. at the age of 82, leaving the care and custody of the orphaned Muhammad to Abu Talib. Abu Talib and his wife, Fatima bint Asad, loved Muhammad more than their own children. As the Prophet himself said, Fatima bint Asad was his “mother’ who kept her own children waiting while she fed the Prophet, kept her own children cold while she gave him warm clothes. Abu Talib always kept the child with him day and night.
Abu Talib had succeeded ‘Abdul-Muttalib in siqaya and rifada and was an active participant in the trade caravans. When Muhammad was 12 years old (now we are in 582 A.D.), Abu Talib bade farewell to his family to go to Syria. Muhammad clung to him and cried. “Who are you leaving me with, O uncle,’ asked him Muhammad, “with my mother, or with my father?’ Both his parents had by then died. Abu Talib was so moved that he took the child with him. The caravan reached Busra (or Bostra) on the highway to the ancient city of Damascus, Syria. Abu Talib's trade caravan stayed near the monastery of a Nestorian monk, Buhayrah, whose Christian name was Sergius (or Georgius) and whose small Nestorian church or monastery was on the highway to Bostra.
Buhayrah noticed something unusual about the caravan with which Abu Talib and Muhammad travelled: A piece of cloud was shadowing Muhammad from the merciless heat of the sun, going with him wherever he went. When he came and sat under a tree there, the tree branches bowed down as if they were paying him homage. All this was noticed by Buhayrah (or Bahirah) the monk who sent word to the caravan to go to his church cell to eat. That cell contained, among other few items, some old manuscripts among which was one that contained the prediction of the coming of a Prophet to the Arabs.
Buhayrah was quite familiar with the contents of that book. He felt that the coming of the prophet would soon take place, and during his own lifetime. This feeling was shared by another Christian monk who was living in Mecca, and his name was Waraqah ibn Nawfal. He was first cousin of Khadija daughter of Khuwaylid, wife of the Prophet . Buhayrah knew that such a sign was of great significance. “Could it be that he had at last come and was among those travellers?,’ He asked himself. “O men of Quraish! I have prepared food for you,’ he addressed them, “And I would like you to come to me, every one of you, young and old, bondman and freeman.’
They came to his cell. Muhammad was left to look after their camels and belongings. As they approached, Buhayrah examined them carefully, one by one, but he could not see anything corresponding to the description in his book, nor did anyone among them seem to be adequately great enough to warrant two miracles which he himself had just witnessed. Perhaps they had not all come to him, so he asked them: “Men of Quraish! Let none of you stay behind.’ “There is none that has been left behind,’ they said, “save a boy, the youngest among us.’ “Treat him not so,’ said Buhayrah, “but call him to come, and let him be present with us at this meal.’ Abu Talib and the others realized their thoughtlessness and blamed themselves, saying, “Ibn (the son of) ‘Abd-Allah should not have been left behind,’ and one of them went back to him, hugged him, and brought him to sit with everyone there.
The very first glance that Buhayrah cast at young Muhammad was sufficient to explain the miracles which he had just witnessed. He looked at him attentively the whole time, examining each movement he made and every word he uttered. When they had finished eating, Buhayrah went to his youngest guest and asked him a few questions about how he lived and slept, and about his general affairs. Muhammad unhesitatingly informed him of these things, for he looked to him as a venerable man, and his questions were courteous. He did not even hesitate to draw off his cloak when finally the monk asked him if he could see his back, his shoulders. Buhayrah was now convinced beyond the shadow of doubt that he saw the new Arabian Messenger of Allah when the latter's shoulders were exposed to the examining eyes of Buhayrah the monk: the mark of the seal of Prophethood was there, just as it was described in his ancient book, and in the exact place.
He turned to Abu Talib and said: “What kinship hath this boy with thee?’ “He is my son,’ Abu Talib said. “He is not thy son,’ the monk emphatically responded, adding, “it cannot be that this boy's father is alive.’ “He is my brother's son,’ said Abu Talib. “Then what of his father?’ asked the monk. “He died,’ said Abu Talib, “when the boy was still in his mother's womb.’ “That is the truth,’ said Buhayrah. “Take thy brother's son back to his country, and guard him against the Jews, for by God, if they see him and know of him that which I know, they will contrive evil against him. Great things are in store for this nephew of thine. He shall be the Prophet of this nation.’
This encounter is recorded in several English references, but we would like to introduce to the reader another testimonial which he most likely has not read yet; it is an English translation from a major Arabic source; here it is: Ibn Abbas, the Prophet's uncle, quotes his father Abbas who in turn quotes ‘Abdul-Muttalib quoting Abu Talib as saying: Eight years had passed since the birth of the Messenger of Allah when I went out to Syria in a trade caravan. It was extremely hot. When I decided to start the trip, some of my people said to me, “What will you do with Muhammad? And to whose charge are you going to leave him?’ I said, “I shall not leave him with anyone; he will be with me.’ They said, “Are you going to take a child out in such extremely hot weather?! Do you really take such person out with you?!’ I said, “By Allah! He shall never part with me wherever I go, and I shall have a low conveyance for him.’ Muhammad and the camel he was riding were in front of me, and he was always ahead of everyone else, always in the vanguard. Whenever the heat intensified, a white cloud like a piece of snow would greet him then stand over his head and would never leave him.
The cloud may even sometimes rain upon us different kinds of fruit as it followed us. We were short of water once to the extent that we could not buy a water-bag for less than two dinars, but whenever and wherever we alighted, lakes would be filled, water would become plentiful, and the ground would turn green with grass. We were enjoying fertility and goodness. The camels of some among us would refuse to advance, so Muhammad would rub his hands on them, and they would then instantly move on.
When we came near to Bostra, some priests advanced towards us as fast as beasts of burden. And the cloud never parted with the Messenger of Allah. A priest from among them did not pay any attention to the caravan or to any of its merchants, nor did he speak to anyone at all. He looked at Muhammad and immediately recognized him. I heard him saying, “If there is anyone at all, it has to be you!’ We alighted under a huge tree having only a few branches near the monk's monastery. It was not a fruit tree. Caravans used to sit in its shade. When the Messenger of Allah alighted under that tree, it shook and spread its branches over the Messenger of Allah, instantly bearing three kinds of fruit: two of them grow in the summer and one in the winter.
Each and every one of us was extremely surprised. When Buhayrah, the monk, saw that, he took sufficient food for the Messenger of Allah, then he came to us and asked us, “Who is in charge of this child?’ I said, “I am.’ He asked me, “What kinship are you to him?’ “His uncle,’ I said. He said, “Man, he has many uncles; which one of them are you?’ I said, “I am the brother of his father by the same mother.’ He said, “I testify that it is he or else I am not Buhayrah at all!’ Then he asked me,’Do you permit me to serve him this food so he may eat of it?’ I turned to the Prophet and said, “Son! There is a man here who would like to be generous to you; so, you may eat of his food.’ Muhammad asked me, “Is it food for just myself rather than for any of my companions?’ Buhayrah answered, “Yes, it is specifically for you.’
The Prophet said, “I shall not eat any food so long as these men do not.’ Buhayrah said, “But I do not have food more than this much.’ He now asked Buhayrah, “O Buhayrah! Do you permit them to eat with me?’ Buhayrah answered in the affirmative. He said, ‘Bismillah,’ then ate, and we ate with him. By Allah! We were one hundred and seventy men, and each one of us ate to his fill, so much so that we even belched! Buhayrah, meanwhile, was standing next to the Prophet, keeping insects away from him. He was puzzled to see how many men ate of that very little food. From time to time, Buhayrah would kneel down to kiss Muhammad's head and cheeks. Whenever he kissed him, he said, “It is he! It is he! I swear by the Lord of Jesus!’ People did not understand what he was talking about. One man from our caravan said to Buhayrah, “You surely must have something in mind!
We used to pass by you before, and you never offered us anything (to eat) at all!’ Buhayrah said, “By Allah I do have something in mind and something else, too, and I see what you do not see, and I know what you know not. Under this tree there is a child had you only come to know about him what I know, you would have carried him on your necks till you reach his land. By Allah! I have not been generous to you except for his own sake! I have seen how light came in front of him extending from the heavens to the earth. By Allah! I have seen men carrying fans of emeralds and sapphire fanning him and others scattering all kinds of fruit over him. Then I saw this cloud that never parts with him. Even my cell ran to him just as a beast of runs. Then I saw how this tree had very few branches then suddenly its branches became many, then it shook up and produced three different types of fruit: two typical of summer fruit and one typical of winter fruit.
Then I saw how these lakes had lost all their water since the Israelites became corrupted and since the disciples came to drink of them, so we found in the book of Simon of Safa that he had cursed them, so their water dried up. Then he (Simon) added saying that whenever those lakes become full of water, you should know that it is for the sake of a Prophet who will appear in the land of Tihama and who will migrate to Medina. His name among his people is al-Ameen and in the heavens Ahmad, and he is from the progeny of Ishmael son of Abraham. By Allah! He is the one!’
Then Buhayrah added saying, “O child! I would like to ask you about three merits by the Lat and the ‘Uzza!…’ Hearing the names of the Lat and the ‘Uzza, the Messenger of Allah became angry and said, “Do not ask me anything in their name, for by Allah, I hate nothing more than them. They are idols my people have carved.’ Buhayra exultingly said, “This is one (Sign)!’ Then he said, “By Allah, would you tell me…’ Muhammad said, “Ask me whatever you wish, for you have asked me in the Name of my Lord and yours Who has no peer at all.’ Buhayrah asked him about his sleep and his awakening, and Muhammad answered his questions. Then Buhayrah asked him about other matters, and Muhammad answered him, too.
Now Buhayrah knelt down and kissed Muhammad's feet as he said, “O son! How sweet your smell is! O one whose followers will be more numerous than those who follow any other prophet! O one whose light is the source of the light of the whole world! O one through whose name the mosques shall be populated! It is as though I see you leading the troops, those on foot and those on horseback, and Arabs and non-Arabs shall follow you willingly or unwillingly. It is as though I can see you smashing the Lat and the ‘Uzza, and I see the Ka’ba controlled by none other than you; you shall put its keys wherever you please. How many a hero from Quraish and from the other Arab tribes shall you subdue? With you are the keys of the Garden and of the Fire, and the destruction of the idols shall take place at your hands. The Hour shall not come to pass except after all kings embrace your creed even against their will!’
He kept kissing his hands once and his feet another as he said, “If I live to see your advent, I shall strike with the sword just as an arm strikes another! You are the master of all the offspring of Adam, the master of the messengers, the Imam of the pious, the seal of the prophets! By Allah! The earth smiled on the day you were born, and it shall remain so till the Day of Judgment, happy on your account! By Allah! The synagogues and the idols wept and so did the devils, so they shall remain weeping till the Day of Judgment! You are the fulfillment of Abraham's plea to his Lord, the glad tidings of Jesus, the holy, the purified from the impurities of jahiliyya!’ Then he turned to Abu Talib and said, “What kinship do you have with this child, for I see that you never part with him?’ Abu Talib said, “He is my son.’ Buhayrah said, “He is not thy son, for the son of this child cannot be living, nor can his mother.’ Abu Talib said, “He is the son of my brother, and his father died when his mother was pregnant, then his mother died when he was six years old.’
Buhayrah said, “You have said the truth; such is he, but I think you ought to take him back to his land on this account, for there is no Jew nor a Christian nor anyone having a divine Book without having come to know about the birth of this child. If they see him and come to know about him just what I have come to know, they shall desire to harm him, and those who desire so most of all are the Jews.’ Abu Talib asked him, “Why so?’ Buhayrah said, “It is so because the son of your brother shall be both a Messenger and a Prophet, and the Great Spirit (Gabriel) shall visit him just as he used to visit Moses and Jesus.’
Abu Talib said to him, “No, God willing, Allah shall never neglect him.’ Then we left for Syria. When we came close to Syria, by Allah, I saw all the mansions of Syria as if they were shaking and a great streak of the sun was emanating from them. When we were in the middle of Syria, we could not traverse the Syrian market because of the stampede of people who were looking at the Messenger of Allah. And the news spread to all parts of Syria, so much so that not a single rabbi or priest remained without coming to meet him.
There are other eye witnesses who reported the same. They were some of the merchants who had participated in Abu Talib's trade caravan. Let us review some of these accounts: Ya’li, the famous Arab genealogist, narrates the following: Khalid ibn Aseed ibn Abul-’as and Taleeq ibn Abu Sufyan ibn Umayyah went out in the same trade caravan wherein the Messenger of Allah participated. They were with him, and they narrated saying that they observed him as he walked or rode or did anything to the animals or to the birds. They narrate saying: When he was in our midst as we reached Bostra's market, we came across a group of Christian priests. As soon as the priests saw us, the colour of their faces changed into yellow, as if saffron had painted their faces, looking as though they were struck by lightning.
They said to us, “You have to come to meet our most senior; he is nearby at the grand church.’ We asked them, “Why should we? What do you have to do with us?’ They said, “You will not be harmed in the least, and we may shower you with our generosity.’ They thought that one of us was Muhammad. We went with them and entered the huge building of the church. Their most senior priest sat in the middle, and his students were all around him. He had opened a book in his hands and kept looking once at us and once at the book.
Then he said to his students (who had brought us to him), “You have not done anything at all. You did not bring me the person I seek although he is here (in town).’ Then he asked us who we were, and we told him that we belonged to Quraish. “Which (clan) of Quraish do you belong to?’ he asked. “To ‘Abd Shams,’ we answered. “Is there someone else besides you?,’ he asked again. We said, “Yes, a child from Banu Hashim whom we call the orphan of ‘Abdul-Muttalib.’ By Allah, the moment he heard that, he gasped in a way that we thought he was going to faint. Then he leaped as he said, “Woe unto us! The Christians, by Christ, have surely perished!’ Then he stood up and used one of his crosses as a cane to lean on, and he was very deeply indulged in his thoughts. As many as eighty patriarchs and a number of students were around him. He asked us, “Is it easy for you to let me see him?’
We answered him in the affirmative then he accompanied us and saw Muhammad standing at Bostra's market. By Allah, it was as if we never saw his face before, for it was shining like the moon, and he had bought a good deal of merchandise and earned a good deal of profit and also bought a good deal. We were about to tell the high priest that was him, but he was faster than us. “This is he! I have recognized him, by Christ!,’ said he. He came close to Muhammad, kissed his head then said, “You are the holy one!’ Then he kept asking him about his marks of Prophethood, and the Prophet kept answering him. We heard the high priest saying this to him: “If I ever live till your time (of Prophethood) comes, I shall do justice to the sword.’ Then he said to us, “Do you know what is with him? Iife and death are with him. Whoever clings to him shall live for a long time, and whoever departs from him dies a death after which there shall be no life at all. He is the one with whom the greatest victory is,’ then he kissed his face and returned.
The major Christian sects during Muhammad's lifetime were: the Copts, the Syrian (Chaldean) Nestorian (to whom Buhayrah belonged), and the Armenian Christians from the main churches of Antioch (Antakiya), Rome, and Egyptian Alexandria.
Abu Talib, acting on Buhayrah's advice, sold all his merchandise for cheaper prices then and there, returning at once to Mecca.
Sacrilegious War (Harbul-Fijar) (585 A.D.) and League of The Virtuous (Hilful-Fudul) (595 A.D.)
At a market-place known as ‘Okaz, a great annual fair used to be held in the month of Thul-Qi’dah during which war and bloodshed were forbidden. At the time of the fair, ‘Okaz presented a scene of pleasure and abandonment with its dancing girls, gaming tables, drunken orgies, poetic contests and shows of prowess ending frequently in brawls and bloodshed. At one of the fairs, war broke out between Quraish and Banu Kinanah (the parent tribe) on one side and the Qais ‘Aylan on the other.
I happened during the sacred months (during which Arabs were supposed to stop all wars and feuds). This war continued for 9 years with a considerable loss of life and varying fortunes. This is referred to by historians as Harb al-Fijar or the “Sacrilegious War.’ Muhammad was 14 or 15 years old when he was obligated to take part twice to help his uncle Zubayr. His height was average, and so was his strength, yet he had a marked aptitude for archery and gave every promise of being an excellent bowman like his great ancestors Abraham and Ishmael. A powerful wartime asset of his lay in the strength of his eyesight: he was reputed to be able to count no less than twelve of the stars of the constellation of the Pleiades.
The lewd scenes, drunken affrays and the horrors of the war must have created a deep impression on the sensitive mind of young Muhammad whose heart bled as he witnessed the detestation that war had brought and for those who fell victim to it. Quraish were ultimately victorious. A league was formed, on the suggestion of Zubayr, Muhammad's uncle, to prevent disturbances of the peace, to help the victims of oppression, and to protect travellers. It was founded at the house of ‘Abdullah ibn Ju’dan. Muhammad took a very active interest in the functioning of this league which came into being as a result of a settlement known as Hilf al-Fudul between Banu Hashim, Banu Taym, Banu Asad, Banu Zuhrah and Banu Muttalib.
He, despite his young age, diligently worked to improve people's morals and ethics and to cultivate in their hearts the fear of the Almighty God. At the age of twenty, Muhammad proposed certain measures to contain if not end the violence and the injustice of the time. At this instance, Zubayr, the oldest surviving sons of ‘Abdul-Muttalib, formed a league whose members would explain to the main tribes comprising Quraish to bind themselves by an oath to secure justice to the helpless. The Hashimites, the Banu Zohra, and the Banu Taym took part in the league and swore that they would stand up as the champions of the injured and would see that injustices did not remain unpunished and that the claims of the oppressed were fully satisfied. This oath is known as “Hilf al-Fudul,’ League of the Virtuous. It proved its usefulness both in preventing violence and as a means to enforce restitution. In his later years, Muhammad expressed his pleasure at having taken the initiative in that league which was formed at the house of ‘Abdullah ibn Jod’an. It continued to function for half a century following the inception of Islam.