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!”