22. The Welcome


“Well,” Um Ma’bad started, “From a distance I could see he was very fine-looking, for he had beautiful features and a radiant face. He wasn’t extremely tall, but he wasn’t short. His eyes were the most beautiful black with long lashes, and his eyebrows were delicate and almost connected. He was dignified when he was quiet, and his voice wasn’t sharp when he spoke. His words were like pearls one following the other. His companions listened to him with interest and rushed to do as he said. He was neither frowning and stern, nor simple and naïve.” “O, Um Ma’bad,” her husband responded, “you have described the person from Quraish that I had planned to accompany if I met. And I still will, if I can find a way to meet him.” There were others anxiously wanting to meet him also. The Muslims of Yathrib and its outskirts had been waiting for Prophet Muhammad (s). Most of them had believed in him without ever seeing him. They knew he was on his way, so every day they would go out and wait until it was too hot to stand in the sun. One day, after they had returned to their homes because of the noon heat, a Jew who stood on the roof of his many-storied house saw the Messenger and Abu Bakr approaching from a distance. He called out to the Muslims, “O Bani Qayla, here, your companion has come!” Great commotion and takbeer were heard as the Muslims went out to meet the Messenger (s). They came armed to show him that they were ready to defend him from any enemy. The Prophet (s) stayed in this area of Yathrib called Quba’ for four days. He asked the people to collect rocks from the lava plain to build a masjid, and the Prophet (s) carried rocks with them. He showed them where the qibla was and prayed in the not-yet-finished masjid. By now, Ali bin Abi Talib, who had stayed behind in Mecca for three days returning all the valuables to their rightful owners, caught up with them in Quba’. Some of the Muslims of Yathrib came to escort Prophet Muhammad (s) to the city and they were armed, too. They surrounded him, unable to turn their faces from him, in joy and love. Each time they would pass by the neighborhood of a tribe, its chiefs would say, “Come to us Oh Messenger (s), we will protect you!” The Prophet (s) would answer, “My camel has orders from Allah. It will know where to stop.” As this procession neared the city, hundreds of welcoming Ansar, the new Muslims of Yathrib, poured into the streets with great joy and longing. Men and women stood on their bare roof tops, and servants and children ran through the lanes calling out, “Allahu Akbar, the Messenger of Allah has arrived! Muhammad (s) has arrived!” The Abyssinians put on a spear show in celebration, and women and children sang Tala’al Badru Alayna.  Little girls of Bani Najjar tapped their tambourines and said, “We are little girls of Bani Najjar / How dear to us that Muhammad is our neighbor.” “Do you love me?” the Messenger of Allah (s) asked those girls, “Yes,” they answered. “And Allah is my witness that my heart loves you,” he said. Ten-year-old Anas bin Malik would say, “The day the Messenger of Allah (s) entered Yathrib, everything in the city lit up with a dazzling light. I witnessed that day, and not a single day was brighter or better than it.” From then on, the city’s name changed and it was called, al-Medina al-Munawarah – The Lit-up City. Everyone was celebrating, everyone, except for one sour-faced man who stood at his door watching with a scowl. The man was called Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salool; and when the Messenger (s) passed by his door, he didn’t reach out for the reins of the camel, he didn’t ask him into his home, although he was the chief of the Khazraj, instead he said, “Go to the people who invited you and stay with them.” The reason he was so upset was that his people had been arranging the jewels on a crown to make him their king. But then they heard of Islam and followed Prophet Muhammad (s) and that left Abdullah bin Ubayy feeling jealous and mad. The Prophet’s (s) camel showed no sign of stopping. It was as though it realized everyone was watching it, and waiting to see whose home it would choose. And so, it walked, confident and slow, confident and slow, paying no attention to the different people who reached out to gently tug at its reins. Finally, it paused and kneeled down. The Messenger (s) remained sitting. Then, the camel got up and took a few steps forward. Had it chosen its spot?

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16. Kings and Courts


The unbelievers of Quraish surrounded Mecca. They spoke to travelers coming in from every direction. Every single one of them had seen the moon split into two parts. And it had stayed so until it set! Still the unbelievers of Quraish refused to believe. This made Prophet Muhammad (s) sad. He wanted to save people. He wanted them to choose the right path. It was clear to him now that some of them knew the truth but just didn’t want to believe. Six years had passed. Six years since Muhammad (s) had received the first revelation, in the cave of Hira’. This was the seventh year and the Muslims were increasing day by day; and Quraish was increasing its harm to the Muslims day by day.  After trying to stop the spread of Islam in so many ways, they now began to discuss a new method. Perhaps if they punished all of Bani Hashim, Muhammad’s own tribe would turn against him. Prophet Muhammad (s) realizing things would be getting worse, recommended that his companions emigrate once again to Abyssinia.  Not everyone could leave Mecca. Some people had families they needed to care for, some people didn’t have the strength to make the trip or the money. Still, around 100 Muslims started packing to leave. This second migration to Abyssinia was more difficult than the first. It was very painful for the companions of the Prophet (s) to leave him; “Shall we leave Mecca, yet again, without you?” they asked sadly. Still 83 men and 18 women sailed in secret to Abyssinia. As soon as Quraish found out, they were enraged. How did so many Muslims get away? Many of those who left had no one to protect them and had by emigrating, escaped the torture of Quraish. By the time people from Quraish found out and followed them the ships had left.  When Prophet Muhammad told the Muslims to go to Abyssinia, he told them that its king – the Negus – was a fair ruler and that no one would be oppressed in his country. But some of the unbelievers of Quraish also knew the Negus and were friends with him. They decided to go to him and ask him to send these ‘rebels’ back. Amr bin al-Aas knew the King well, and so he was chosen to head the delegation. He took gifts with him and made sure there were many animal skins, which were a favorite of the King, then he set off.   Amr bin al-Aas first gave presents to the important men in the King’s court. He asked them to help him convince the King that the Muslims that came to their country should be returned. The next day, he stood before the King and explained to him that those who had come to him from Mecca were bad people. They had left their forefathers’ religion and had not accepted the King’s religion of Christianity. They were rebels that must be returned to their homeland and not protected. The King refused to do so until he heard their side of the story. He sent for the Muslims to come before him. The Muslims chose Ja’far – the Prophet’s uncle – to be their spokesperson; and many of them went along to see what would happen.       “What is this religion that has separated you from your people, yet you have not chosen my religion or any religion I have heard of?” asked the King. Ja’far first explained to the King, and all who were present, what their life had been like before Prophet Muhammad (s). He told them that the strong used to hurt the weak and that people worshiped idols made of stone; that they ate dead animals and were not kind to their neighbors. Next, he explained to the King who Prophet Muhammad (s) was; that he was someone honest, upright, and trustworthy, that everyone liked and respected. Then he said, “Muhammad told us that he was a Messenger to us from God. He asked us to believe God is one, and to worship Him not the idols. He ordered us to speak the truth, to be good to our relatives and neighbors, to feed the poor, and to fast. So, we believed in him and followed him. But our people got mad and started to harm us. When the torture became so great, we came to your country, and chose it over others for we hoped that we would not be oppressed in your land, Oh King.” The King asked if Ja’far could recite any Quran to him, and Ja’far recited the beginning of Surah Maryam. The King wept until his beard was wet and his cardinals wept, too. The King said, “Indeed, this and what Isa taught, come from the same source.” Then he turned to the men of Quraish and said, “Leave! I will not hand them over to you, and they are safe here.” To the Muslims he said, “Go back to wherever you wish to stay in my land. You will not be harmed or handed in.” Amr was very upset.  He swore he would go back the next day and tell the King something that would uproot the Muslims from this land. So, the next day he went to the King and said to him, “Oh King, they say about Isa son of Maryam bad words, send for them and ask them what they say.” So, the King called for them. And the Muslims were frightened and worried, but they decided to say what was in the Quran. Again, Jafar was the spokesperson and he said, “We say that Isa son of Maryam is the servant of God and His prophet, His spirit and His word, which he sent to Maryam the Pure.” The King listened carefully; then he said, “There is no difference between what you say and what we believe. Go – you are safe in my land; not for a mountain of gold would I see any of you hurt.” Then he asked the cardinals to return the gifts that Amr gave them.  And so, the Muslims lived there in peace.  But the people of Abyssinia started to whisper to one another. The King has left our religion and believes in another. They planned to fight a war against him. So, the King sent word to the Muslims, and he prepared ships for them and told them to board the ships but to stay close by. He told them to return if all was safe, but to sail to somewhere else, if he was defeated. The Abyssinians believed Isa to be the son of God, and they wanted the King to say the same or they would remove him by force. But, look! The King was writing, “I bear witness there is no God but Allah and Isa son of Maryam is His Servant and Messenger”. And he has put this parchment under his robes beneath his right shoulder. And he now has gone out to the people that want to kill him!

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15. The Moon and Miracles


The man retorted, “Before you go to kill Muhammad, go settle matters in your own family, Oh Umar. Your sister and her husband have become his followers.” “What?!” Umar was outraged. He turned towards his sister’s house. Inside, Khabbab bin al Aratt was reading Quran to them. Umar banged the door and his sister quickly hid the page of Quran in her clothes and hid the man who was teaching them in a closet. When Umar’s sister opened the door, he shouted at her, “What is this that I hear about you joining the followers of Muhammad?!” he struck her face and she started to bleed from her nose.  “Yes, I have,” she said defiantly. Seeing the blood, he felt sorry. “Show me what you were reading,” he said. “No, I will not,” she answered. He promised he would do the page no harm. So she said, “Then you must wash before you touch the Quran.” She showed him how to make wudu, and he did. Then she gave him the page from surah Taha that they had been reading. Umar read it to himself, “How beautiful!” he said. Quickly Khabbab, came out of hiding excitedly, “Oh Umar, I heard Prophet Muhammad (s) say, ‘Oh Allah guide the more beloved Umar to You.” I hope that it is you!” Again, Umar started walking toward  Dar al-Arqam. This time, his eyes were full of wonder and his heart was beating fast.  The person who opened the door and saw Umar standing there with his sword on his side was frightened. He went back through the passageway to the inner room and told the Muslims and they were all frightened. The Messenger (s) strode past them, he grabbed Umar by the front of his clothes, “Isn’t it time you accepted Islam, Oh Umar?!” “Yes, oh Messenger, Yes. I bear witness there is no God but Allah and that you are his Messenger.” And so, Umar accepted Islam. He was brave and he wanted everyone to know that he had become a follower of Muhammad, so the second day he announced his Islam to Quraish and no one dared harm him. Now Islam, had gained two powerful and important people. It scared Quraish to see Islam within six years increasing in numbers. But they continued to torture the Muslims, make fun of them, and ask Prophet Muhammad for miracles.  Quraish went to the Jews and asked them, “What miracle did Musa have?” They answered, “His staff would turn into a snake and his hand would glow white.” Then Quraish went to the Christians and they asked, “What miracles did Isa have?” They answered, “He would cure the blind and the leper and bring back the dead to life with Allah’s permission.”  So, the idol worshipers went to Muhammad and said, “We want you to turn mount Safa into gold and we will believe you.” Prophet Muhammad, prayed to Allah and Jibreel came to him and said, “Your Lord greets you in peace and says that if you wish, He will turn Safa into gold, but if then they do not believe they will be punished a punishment like no one else ever received. And if you wish, he will open the door of repentance and mercy for them.” Prophet Muhammad said, “I choose the door of repentance and mercy.” One day they came to the Prophet (s) and said, “Oh Muhammad, if you are truthful, show us a sign and let that sign be the splitting of the moon into two parts: one half over this mountain and the one half over the other.” The moon was full that night and Messenger (s) always hoping they would accept and believe the truth asked, “If I do, will you believe?” “Yes,” they said. So, Prophet Muhammad (s) prayed to Allah and asked for this miracle and the moon split into two parts. The Prophet (s) said, “Oh Allah, be witness.” It remained so until the moon set. Do you think the people of Quraish believed? No, they didn’t. They believed it was some spell they were under, some magic he was tricking them with. They said to one another, “Let us find travelers coming into Mecca and ask them if they saw what we saw. If they saw the moon split in two, then he is telling the truth.” They searched and quickly found travelers who had come into Mecca that same night. What would they answer? Was it really a spell that the idol worshipers were under? Would they now have proof that it never really happened? That Muhammad was lying to them?

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13. A Message to All


It was a different kind of ayah – actually two ayahs; and they would change Prophet Muhammad’s (s)  life completely. One was, “And warn your closest relatives,” and the other revealed shortly thereafter was, “Then declare what you are commanded and turn away from the mushrikeen”.  So, Prophet Muhammad (s) was asked to announce Islam and not keep it a secret anymore. The Messenger (s) hurried to obey Allah’s order. He invited about fifty of his family members to dinner. He had a big meal prepared. When everyone had finished eating, he explained to them about Islam. Not one of them was interested. He invited them a second time, and when they had finished eating, he stood up and explained to them about Islam and asked for their support. His uncle Abu Talib said he would protect him, and his uncle Abu Lahab said bad words to him; only young Ali said words that pleased the Prophet (s). Next, the Prophet (s) needed to tell everyone about Islam. It would no longer be a secret anymore. He climbed to the top of a hill called Safa and called out to them —  family by family. People wondered what this was all about, so they came to listen to the man they had always respected and loved. Those who couldn’t come in person sent someone to find out what he was going to say. He said, “If I were to tell you that behind this mountain was an army that was about to go to war with you would you believe me?” They all said, “Yes, of course. You have never lied to us.” He said, “Then I tell you that I am God’s Messenger to you to warn you of great punishment if you do not believe.” There was a hush while people thought about what he said, then Abu Lahab called out, “May you fail for the rest of this day! Is this what you called us for?” He turned and walked away and the people scattered back to their work. Prophet Muhammad (s) the loving, the merciful, the kind, continued to call people to Islam, but the unbelievers were arrogant and they looked down on the Muslims because so many of them were slaves and poor. They made fun of the Messenger (s) and his followers and tried to stop the spread of Islam. Many of them knew he was telling the truth but they refused to admit it because they were arrogant and jealous.  Abu Jahl, an important man of Quraish, once said to a friend, “I know he is truthful, but his clan fed (the pilgrims), so we fed (the pilgrims); they watered (the pilgrims) so we watered, too. Just when we stood shoulder to shoulder, they now say they have a prophet! Where will we get a prophet from? I will never believe in him!”  The disbelievers of Quraish tried different ways to stop Prophet Muhammad (s) from spreading Islam and to discourage people from accepting it. There was one man who would take Prophet Muhammad’s (s) place when he left, saying: “I can tell you better stories,” and he would tell them stories of the Persian Kings. There was a group who offered the Prophet (s) a proposal, “We will worship what you worship, if you will worship our idols, first.” This is when Surah al-Kafiroon was revealed. As the time for the Haj pilgrimage drew near, Quraish began to worry, what would people coming to Mecca for Haj think? We need to warn them about Muhammad and make sure they do not listen to him! They decided to have several people welcome newcomers to the city and caution them not to listen to the crazy man.  Prophet Muhammad (s) took advantage of the fact that people came from distant places to go on Haj and they stayed in camps. He started going from one tribe’s camp to another, calling them to Islam. Abu Lahab followed in his footsteps, telling the people in each camp, “He’s a liar, he’s a liar.” When nothing worked to stop Islam from spreading, Quraish began to seriously harm the Muslims. Each tribe began to torture the Muslim members amongst them. They locked them up, beat them, made them hungry and thirsty, and dragged them over the burning sands of Mecca at noon. Even important members of a tribe like, Abu Bakr, Uthman, al-Zubayr, and Mus’ab were tortured. But the people who were not important in the eyes of Quraish and had no one to defend them were tortured the worst. Bilal, Yasir, Sumayya, their son Ammar, and Khabbab, all were harmed daily. Sometimes, they no longer knew what they were saying.  Abdullah bin Masood was the first to recite Quran aloud to Quraish. They beat him up as he continued to recite Surah al-Rahman. When he returned to the companions with his face all bruised and swollen, they said to him, “This is what we feared would happen to you.” He answered that if the Messenger (s) so wished he would recite to them again the next day. The Messenger (s) seeing what the Muslims were going through and being unable to protect them said, “If you were to go Abyssinia, you will find there a king that is fair and just. It is a land of truth. So in Rajab of the fifth year of Islam, 11 men and 4 women travelled in secret to the sea, got on two ships, and sailed to Abyssinia. Quraish found out and sent men to stop them, but got to the shore too late.  Three months later they heard that Prophet Muhammad (s) was reading Quran, and when he came to an ayah that had sujood, not only did he and the Muslims make sujood, but that all of Quraish who were listening did, too! Quraish had entered Islam! What happy news! The Muslims packed their things and hurried back to Mecca.

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10. The Names


Ten years of peace and happiness had passed since Khadija and Muhammad had gotten married. They had three daughters of their own and two sons: adopted Zaid and cousin Ali. And now a lovely baby girl was born. They named her Fatima and she was the one that looked most like her father. As the youngest member of the family, everyone grew attached to her especially her father. Muhammad was well loved and respected by everyone in Mecca. When people wanted to save something valuable, they left it with him. They called him The Honest because he always told the truth, and The Trustworthy because he never cheated anyone.  One day, the leaders of Quraish decided to repair the walls of the Kaba that had become unstable from the many flash floods. Some of the bricks were wobbly so Quraish took them down and rebuilt the walls with them. When they were finished, the most important stone of all was left: the black stone. This stone was very special because it is of the original stones that Prophet Ibraheem built with. Men from the different tribes began to fight over who would have the honor of carrying the black stone to its place. Tempers flared and had a fight taken place, a war would have followed among the tribes. They decided to cool down and let the first person who came upon them choose the one who would carry the stone. Muhammad happened to be the first person who entered the area, and they were all so relieved to see it was someone wise that would now decide. “We all agree with whatever you decide,” they said. Muhammad took off his overgarment. He laid it on the ground and put the stone on it. Then he asked for a representative from each tribe to come and carry the edge of his robe; then they lifted it so that everyone was carrying the stone and they walked together to the Kaba. When they reached the corner where it belonged, Muhammad placed it in its empty space. One day when Muhammad was walking away from the city, he heard a voice say, “Peace be upon you O Messenger of God.” He turned around; there was no one there. Again, he heard a voice say, “Peace be upon you O Messenger of God.” All around him were only trees and stones. This began to happen often. Then his dreams began to come true. Whatever he dreamt of at night would happen the next day in every detail. Then Muhammad began to like being alone. The city was a busy, noisy place to be. Muhammad often left the city and climbed the mountain farther and farther away from the city. The higher he climbed the less sounds he heard. In a cave called Hira’, he could see the city sprawled beneath, with the Kaba a small dot in the middle of the valley, and all around him, plains and mountains and the majestic sky. It was something Muhammad would do more and more often: this trip to the cave with some food that would last him a few days. What was he thinking there? What was he doing? We know that his trips became more and more frequent and that he began to stay longer and longer at this cave. Sometimes Khadija would count the days and figure that he must have run out of food, then she would prepare new supplies for him and climb the steep mountain to take them to him in person.  One day in the month of Ramadan, while Muhammad was there in the cave, he suddenly felt something squeezing him tight and a voice saying, “Read!” Muhammad was frightened and unable to breathe. Then the squeezing stopped, and he was able to answer, “I do not read.” Few Arabs could read then and Muhammad was not one of them. Then again, he felt something or someone one overcome him till he was breathless, and the voice repeated, “Read.” “I am not of those who read,” repeated Muhammad. He looked around but there was no one there, and yet a third time the squeezing and the command: “Read! Read in the name of your Lord who created. He created the human being from a clot of blood. Read and your Lord is the one who knows most. He taught the human being with a pen.” At this point Muhammad could take no more. The Arabs believed in jinn and devils, and he figured it must be something that was about to harm him. He dashed out of the cave and rushed home as fast as he could.  He was trembling and shaking now. “Cover me, cover me,” he called out, as he went straight to bed. Khadija was immediately at his side. “What is it, my husband?” she asked. Muhammad told her the whole story, and he told her how he was afraid it may have been some creature trying to harm him.   “No, by God,” she said, “God would never let you down. You take care of relatives, help the burdened, give to the poor, host the guest, and take part in any good cause. But let us go to my cousin Waraqa bin Nowfal and see what he thinks.”  Waraqa was old and blind, but he had become a Christian and had read the Bible and the Old Testament. When he heard what had happened to Muhammad, he grew excited and he said, “This is the Namoos!”

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8. Growing Up


The truth was that the Monk had invited them because he wanted to meet that boy. The boy was Muhammad, and Monk Baheera had seen signs as he watched from his monastery that made him curious about the child. While everyone was busy eating and drinking, Baheera watched Muhammad. Then he went to where Muhammad was sitting and began to ask him questions. He began by saying, “By al-Lat and al-Uzza answer my questions truthfully…”   But Muhammad made a face and said, “Please don’t ask me by those names for I never hated anything like I hate them.” Baheera was happy to hear that because he had invited all the people in the caravan so he could meet this person. In the old scriptures he had read about a prophet whose time had come, and he wanted to see if the description fit this young boy.  Baheera then began to ask him about what he ate and how he slept and how he spent his day. Then he went to Abu Talib and asked how the boy was related to him. Abu Talib said, “He is my son.” “No,” said Baheera “he must have no father.” “True,” said Abu Talib, “he is the son of my brother who died before he was born.”  Baheera then took Abu Talib aside and said to him, “Take your brother’s son back to your land for there are Jews in Sham who may kill him if they see him! He is young now and it would be easy to attack him.” Abu Talib was frightened. Perhaps he remembered the incident between his father’s friend the monk and his father concerning Muhammad. He remembered his father telling him no one’s footprint was more like Ibraheem’s footprint than Muhammad’s. He did not argue with Baheera. He did not continue to Sham. There at the outskirts of the city, he traded his goods and returned quickly to Mecca. For a long time after this incident, Muhammad stayed in Mecca. Abu Talib had many children, and he was not very wealthy. Muhammad did not want to be a burden upon him. In fact, he wanted to help his uncle, so he began to work as a shepherd. He would take the sheep and goats up the mountain to graze. He had to watch the herd and make sure none of the playful daring animals got away. He had to make sure the weak or injured animals didn’t get left behind. He had to care for the baby animals and make sure their mothers got enough to eat. It was hard work, but it was beautiful up in the mountains where one could see so much sky and the city way below. And so, Muhammad grew older. He was a grown boy now, and he wanted to do what young boys did for fun. Young people liked to go to weddings, for there was music and singing and food and drink and the partying lasted till very late at night. One day, Muhammad asked his shepherd friend to watch his sheep for him while he went down to the city to attend a wedding. His friend agreed. Muhammad followed the music to the wedding but as soon as he got there, he fell asleep. He woke up as the morning sun rays fell upon his face! Once again, he asked his friend to watch his herd while he went to attend a wedding. Again, he fell asleep and woke up to find himself alone, and the sun beating down on him. Allah had protected him twice; and he never tried again. Muhammad grew older and was known for his honesty, trustworthiness, and exceptional character. People were drawn to him, and they trusted him. Abu Talib was going through hard times and didn’t have enough money, so he encouraged Muhammad to do trade for people in Mecca. Muhammad was in his mid-twenties now, and he was strong and capable. In Mecca, there lived a wealthy woman called Khadija. Khadija did business by paying young men to do trade for her. When she heard of Muhammad’s good reputation, she sent her servant Maysara to ask him if he would do business for her. Muhammad agreed, and Maysara went with him. When they returned, they brought back much more profit than usual. Maysara told Khadija about how honest and trustworthy Muhammad was. She offered him, and his friend that was with him, delicacies and asked them to go again for her. Again, they made a lot of money, and she was very pleased. Long ago when Khadija was a young girl, she had gone with the women of Quraish to the Kaba to celebrate a religious occasion. All the young unmarried girls were together. An old Jewish man passed by them and said, “Young girls of Quraish, a prophet is due to come to your people, if one of you can be his wife let her do so.” The girls laughed and made fun of the old man and said harsh words to him and threw pebbles at him. But Khadija never forgot his words. Perhaps they were on her mind now more than ever, for she was thinking of a plan.

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7. A Loving Family


Muhammad was late in returning, but he did return. He had accomplished the mission and had brought the camels back. When Abdul-Muttalib saw his grandson Muhammad returning, he rushed to him and hugged him tight, “My son! I worried about you like I have never worried about anyone before. By God I will never send you after anything again nor will you ever be separated from me.” But death did separate them. Abdul-Muttalib died when Muhammad was eight years old. He left him in the care of his Uncle Abu Talib. Abu Talib was chief of Mecca now. He remembered how his father Abdul-Muttalib had said to him one day, “O Abu Talib, you know the stone that has the imprint of Ibraheem’s foot? (the one Ibraheem stood on to build the Kaba’s walls higher) Well, the most similar footprint to that one is Muhammad’s. I believe important things will happen to him.” For two years Muhammad had been his grandfather’s favorite person. Abdul-Muttalib’s love helped ease the sadness of losing his mother. But now he was eight years old and alone again. But it was as though Abu Talib and his wife both felt the loneliness of the new member of their family. Or perhaps it was that something very special made everyone who met Muhammad feel an attachment to him. Abu Talib quickly developed new habits. He would not sit to a meal unless Muhammad was present. At night he would rise to check on him and cover him. His wife, Fatima, would save him sweets and delicacies that sometimes were her own share. She was as loving to him as a mother. Again, he was surrounded and enveloped in love. He grew attached to his uncle and to his uncle’s wife, as well.  Abu Talib was a merchant like most of the people of Mecca. He made money by buying merchandise in Mecca and selling it in Sham and then buying things from Sham to sell in Mecca. This trip was made in summer, a similar one was made in winter to Yemen. Sometimes Abu Talib would go on the trip in person, and other times he would send people and pay them for making the trip. One day when Abu Talib was about to travel to Sham with his caravan, Muhammad came to him and pleaded with him not to leave him behind. Muhammad was about twelve years old. His uncle took pity on him and agreed to take him along. It was not a common practice to take young boys on such a trip.  When they reached the city of Busra on the outskirts of the land of Sham, a messenger stopped them and told them that the monk Baheera was inviting them all to a meal in his temple. This was strange, for caravans always passed by this temple and were never invited before. The travelers were tired and were happy to accept the invitation. They left Muhammad with their camels and goods and walked toward the monastery feeling happiness and wonder. The monk scanned the crowd as they began to eat, “O Quraish, I invited you all to eat! Why didn’t you all come?” A man answered, “We are all here; we left no one behind but a young boy to tend to the camels.” The Monk said, “I insist that you all eat of my food. Send for him!”

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6. Sad Partings


  “Two men dressed in white came to me,” began Muhammad, “they lay me down and cut open my chest! Then they washed my heart and filled my chest with light.”  Haleema was very frightened. First some people try to kidnap him, then this! She and her husband discussed the matter and decided to take him back to his mother first thing in the morning.  That night was a sad night for Muhammad’s milk-parents. There was something special about this child, no doubt. They had enjoyed having him as a member of their family. They had felt the many blessings since they took him from his mother and grandfather. Now it seemed like his life was in danger. Haleema’s husband was afraid this last incident had harmed the child and he wanted to return him to his mother before any harm showed or became apparent.  When Amyna saw Haleema back with Muhammad, she was surprised.  “What brings you back so soon milk-mother, when you were so intent upon keeping him?” she asked. Haleema answered, “I did keep him for a while but then I brought him back to you as you wished.” Amyna said, “This is not like you. Tell me the truth,” insisting on knowing the reason. When Haleema told her about the opening of his chest, Amyna quickly reassured her that her son would come to no harm, and that he would be great one day. And so, Haleema, sadly took leave of Mecca. Muhammad missed Haleema but was happy to be living with his mother. Time passed and he grew older; until one day when he was about six years old, his mother decided to take him to visit his uncles in Yathrib. The city of Yathrib was north of Mecca, and Baraka – the young servant – came along. There they met relatives. They stayed for a month in the house of al Nabigha, where Muhammad learned to swim in one of the wells. He enjoyed this new skill so well that he practiced it daily. Some Jewish men used to come and watch him. They seemed interested in him. Shortly after they set off in the direction of Mecca to return home, Amyna got sick; and sadly, she died. It was almost the same place, and probably the same disease, that her husband Abdullah had died from nearly seven years ago. Who did young Barakah and younger Muhammad travel home with? Did she realize she was dying? Did she have any last words for him? Did he want to stay longer by her grave? We don’t know. What we do know is that about fifty years later, he visited her grave and cried so hard that those who were with him wept too. Muhammad returned to Mecca with Baraka and she continued to care for him. But the sadness of losing his beloved mother was so great and nothing Baraka did could replace what he lost. His grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, was the chief of Mecca. Everyone feared him and few people dared speak to him unless they had something important to say. But Abdul-Muttalib felt sorry for his fatherless, motherless grandchild. He took over caring for him and took a liking to Muhammad.  Every afternoon people would bring out a mattress to the shade of the Kaba for Abdul-Muttalib to sit on. All his sons would sit around it, and not even his oldest son or closest friend dared to sit on it with him. Yet Muhammad, as a young boy, would sit on the mattress. His uncles would try to pull him off but his grandfather would come and say, “Leave my son.” And he would pat his back and look lovingly at everything Muhammad did. He would say, “My son will be someone important.” Abdul-Muttalib had a friend who was the bishop of Najran. One day as they sat in the northern side of the Kaba talking, the bishop said, “We find in our books that a prophet will come of the children of Ismaeel, and he will be born in this city.” The Bishop began to describe the awaited prophet, then he saw the child Muhammad. He looked at his eyes and his back and his feet.  “This is the one!” he said, “Who is he to you?”  “He is my son,” said Abdul-Muttalib. But the bishop said, “What we know is that he should have no father.” Abdul-Muttalib then told his friend that he was his grandson and that his son, the child’s father, had died before he was born. After this incident, he told his son Abu Talib to keep an eye on Muhammad, and he told Baraka to watch him closely. One day Abdul-Muttalib sent Muhammad after some camels of his, and he didn’t return. Abdul-Muttalib was very worried. He went around the Kaba, saying over and over again, “O God return my rider Muhammad. Return him to me and You will have done me a great favor!” Had something awful happened to him? he wondered.

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