5. A Blessed Baby

When babies were born in the city of Mecca, their parents would send them to the desert. The desert was a healthy place where babies were safe from the diseases of the city, and where they could grow strong in its fresh, clean air. It also was the best place to learn to speak Arabic in its purest form. Women would come from the desert to choose babies to breastfeed and care for. The Bedouin women always looked for a baby with a rich father who would pay them well. A baby with no father was not a baby they could expect extra gifts from. The problem baby Muhammad (s) faced was that his father was dead. To the Arabs, having no father meant you were an orphan. It meant as a baby you would not be chosen by the Bedouin women.

The women who came from the desert were offered baby Muhammad (s), but they were searching for a child whose family would pay well. His mother Amyna was sad. His grandfather Abdul-Muttalib was concerned. Finally, a woman called Haleema, who was the only one of her friends that couldn’t find a baby to breastfeed, returned to them. She had seen the baby earlier, and her heart was filled with love. She couldn’t stop thinking about him. 

Haleema and her husband were very poor. She had a baby of her own who cried and cried because she didn’t have enough milk. The donkey she rode was very weak and very slow; it straggled behind all the other camels and held them up. The night before they were to leave Mecca, she told her husband about the baby no one took. “Perhaps Allah will show us mercy if we take the orphan,” he said. And so it was that she took the orphan baby, peace and blessings be upon him. 

Haleema says, “As soon as I put the baby to my breast, milk overflowed. But when I turned him to the other breast, he refused to nurse. It was as though he knew that he had a brother to share my milk with. I put my son to the other side, and he nursed his fill. Then my husband went to milk our old and dry she-camel. He came back with the container brimming with milk for us. He said to me, “Oh Haleemah, you have taken a blessed child!” But the biggest surprise was when our old donkey began to race the camels to the front of the caravan, and everyone asked me if I had bought a new one!”

And so baby Muhammad (s) lived in the desert with Haleema for two years. Her neighbors would tell their shepherds, “Go graze our animals where Haleema’s animals graze”, but theirs remained skinny, while hers were fat and gave much milk.

The blessed baby (s) quickly grew sturdy and strong. As a toddler, while other children woke up with sticky eyes and dried drool, Muhammad (s) woke up as though he had just washed his face and combed his hair. While other children whined and teased, Muhammad (s) was a pure pleasure to have around. Soon he was weaned, and it was time to take him back to his mother. Haleema and her family had grown so attached to Muhammad, that she decided to visit his mother to ask for her permission to keep him longer.  She spoke to Amyna for a long time and finally convinced her that he needed to stay with them longer to grow healthier and stronger, to not catch the sickness of Mecca.

Haleema was soon to regret her decision; for on her way home a group of monks met her and they were interested in the child, Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him. They watched him for a while then they told her they wanted to take him with them, and they argued with her. It was hard but finally Haleema got away from them.

Again, not long after she had returned to her tribe’s camp-site something very strange happened that scared Haleema for Muhammad’s safety, further. While the children were playing in an area beyond the tents, one of her sons came running to her, “Mother, Mother, come see what has happened to our city brother!” Haleema dropped what she was doing, and she and her husband rushed to where Muhammad (s) stood. His face had no color and he looked stunned. “What happened? What happened?” they cried.