2. The Gray-Locked One

Once upon a time there lived a very important Prophet called Ibraheem. When his baby Ismaeel was born, Allah asked Prophet Ibraheem to take the baby and his mother to a certain place in the desert and leave them there. Hajar, the baby’s mother, knew that Allah would take care of them so when the baby began to cry with thirst, she climbed up a nearby hill to look for water, or for travelers that carried water. She hurried seven times between two hills climbing up, so she could look in every direction for water. Suddenly the baby stopped crying. Hajar rushed to him and found to her surprise that a spring of water had started to gush where baby Ismaeel was kicking his feet. And that was the beginning of Zamzam!

Birds saw the water and flew towards it to drink. People saw the birds flying and they followed them to the water. They asked Hajar if they may live there and she said, yes. They built their houses next to the water and that was the beginning of the city of Mecca! 

Prophet Ibraheem would visit his family in this city. When Ismaeel grew older, Allah told Prophet Ibraheem to build the Kaba. So together they raised its walls and ever since, people have loved to go and visit the Kaba and go around it in worship, and drink from Zamzam.

Ismaeel became a Prophet; and later his sons and their sons lived in Mecca. Time passed and people began to forget what the Prophets taught.  An angry tribe buried Zamzam and no one knew where it was. For a long time, people remembered there used to be a well close to the Kaba but they did not know where. Some people began to think it was just a story people told.

Many years later, there lived a man who had a special job in Mecca. He fed the pilgrims that came to the Kaba, and gave them water. He dug many wells, so the visitors would have enough to drink, and he was a very generous man. His name was Hisham, and he made his money through trade. Merchants in Mecca travelled to Sham in the summer, and to Yemen in the winter, buying and selling to make money. On one of his trips, Hisham stopped in the city of Yathrib and married an important woman there, called Selma. Shortly after, he left with his caravan and died on the way. Selma gave birth to a baby boy. She named him Shaybah –  meaning gray-haired –  because the baby had a white lock that stood out against the rest of his black hair. 

After Hisham died, his brother Al-Muttalib took over the feeding and watering of the people that came to the Kaba. When he heard that his brother had a son in Yathrib, he went with a group of men from Mecca to find him. As soon as Al-Muttalib saw the young boy, he recognized him, for he looked just like his own brother Hisham (the child’s father). Al-Muttalib gave young Shaybah rich clothing and asked him to come back to Mecca with him. Shayba refused to go without his mother’s permission. Shayba’s mother only agreed after she was told how her son had an important position to fill in Mecca.

When the people of Mecca saw Al-Muttalib returning with a young boy riding behind him, they thought he had bought a slave so they called out to him, “Abd Al-Muttalib, Abd Al-Muttalib;” (meaning slave of Al-Muttalib). Al-Muttalib became angry and explained that this was his nephew, but the name stuck.

Abdul-Muttalib grew to be as generous and as noble as his father and uncle. People loved him and praised him so that he was called the ‘Praised Gray-Locked One’, he was also called ‘The Generous’ and he was called the ‘Feeder of the Birds of the Sky’ because each day he would take some of his food to the top of the mountain for birds and beasts to feed upon. He was so loved and respected that when Al-Muttalib died, Quraish chose him to be responsible for the watering and feeding of the people who would come to visit the Kaba. 

One night, Abdul-Muttalib had a dream telling him where to dig for the forgotten well of Zamzam. No one believed him or agreed to help him, but his only son. That made him sad. “If only a person’s sons will help him, then I wish I had many sons,” he thought. So Abdul-Muttalib made a promise that if God gave him ten sons to stand by him, help him, and make him strong, he would sacrifice one of them to God. That is how he thought he would thank God. Sure enough, that happened! Time passed and the number of sons that were born to him reached ten; and when they were grown, Abdul-Muttalib told them of his promise and that it was time for him to keep his word to God. But who would he choose? 

To be fair, he wrote their names on ten thin sticks for the keeper of the idol Hubal to choose from. His son Abdullah’s name was chosen, and so with a heavy heart, he went to sacrifice him. Abdul-Muttalib loved his son Abdullah very much. So, when Abdullah’s brothers and his maternal uncles stopped him saying, “Wait, we have a plan!” He agreed to listen.