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!”