Makkah, the Ka'bah, and the Quraysh

   Geographic Position of Makkah

About eighty kilometers east of the shore of the Red Sea a number of mountain chains run from north to south paralleling the shore line and dovetailing with the caravan route between Yaman and Palestine. These chains would completely enclose a small plain, were it not for three main outlets connecting it with the road to Yaman, the road to the Red Sea close to the port town of Juddah and the road leading to Palestine. In this plain surrounded by mountains on all sides stands Makkah. It is difficult to trace its origins. In all likelihood these origins lie thousands of years in the past. It is certain that even before Makkah was built the valley on which it stands must have been used as a resting point for the caravan routes. Its number of water springs made it a natural stopping point for the caravans going south to Yaman as well as for those going north to Palestine. Isma`il, son of Ibrahim, was probably the first one to dwell there permanently and establish it as a permanent settlement after it had long been a resting station for transient caravans and a market place in which the northbound and southbound travelers exchanged their goods.

 

Ibrahim-May God's Peace be upon Him

Granted that Isma'il was the first to make of Makkah a permanent habitat, the history of the city before Isma'il is rather obscure. Perhaps it can be said that Makkah was used as a place of worship even before Isma'il had migrated there. The story of the latter's migration to Makkah demands that we summarize

the story of his father, Ibrahim-may God's peace be upon him. Ibrahim was born in 'Iraq to a father whose occupation was carpentry and the making and selling of statues for worship. As Ibrahim grew up and observed his father making these statues out of pieces of wood, he was struck by his people's worship and consecration of them. He doubted these deities and was troubled by his doubt. One day he asked his father to explain how he could worship that which his hand had wrought. Unsatisfied by his father's answer, Ibrahim talked about his doubts to his friends, and soon the father began to fear the consequences for the security of his son as well as for his own trade. Ibrahim, however, respected his own reason too much to silence its voice. Accordingly, he sought to convince his people of the futility of idol worship with argument and proof. Once he seized the opportunity of the absence of worshipers from the temple and destroyed all the statues of the gods but that of the principal deity. When he was accused in public of this crime he was asked: "Was it you Ibrahim, who destroyed our gods?" He answered: "No, rather, it was the principal god who destroyed the other gods. Ask them, for they would speak, wouldn't they?"[Qur'an, 21:62-63]. Ibrahim's destruction of the idols came after he had long pondered the error of idol worship and searched earnestly for a worthier object of devotion.

"When the night came, and Ibrahim saw the star rise, he took it to be the true God. Soon, however, the star set and Ibrahim was disappointed. 'How could a veritable God set and disappear?' he asked himself. He then observed the moon shining brilliantly and thought: 'That is my Lord.' But when it too set, he was all the more disappointed and thought: 'Unless God guides me truly, I shall certainly go astray.' Later on Ibrahim observed the sun in its brilliant and dazzling glory and he thought: 'This finally must be my Lord, for it is the greatest of all.' But then it too set and disappeared. Ibrahim was thus cured of the star worship common among his people. `I shall devote myself,' he therefore resolved, 'to Him Who has created the heavens and the earth, I shall dedicate myself as a hanif and not be an idol worshiper. [Qur'an, 6:76-79]

 

 

Ibrahim and Sarah in Egypt

Ibrahim did not succeed in liberating his people from paganism. On the contrary, they punished him by throwing him into the fire. God rescued him by allowing him to run away to Palestine together with his wife, Sarah. From Palestine he moved on to Egypt, which was then ruled by the Hyksos or Amalekite kings. Sarah was a beautiful lady, and as the Hyksos kings were in the habit of taking into their households any beautiful married women they met, Ibrahim therefore pretended that Sarah was his sister and hence unmarried so that the king might not take her away and kill him in the process. The king, however, did take her and later realized that she was married. He returned her to Ibrahim, blamed him for his lie, and gave him a number of gifts, one of which was a slave girl by the name of Hagar. [Haykal here reports a typical case of Israelitism in the Muslim tradition. With little variation the story of Genesis had passed into Muslim legends through Jewish converts to Islam. -Tr.] As Sarah remained barren after many years of married life, she urged her husband to go into Hagar. After Ibrahim did so, Hagar soon bore him his son Isma'il. Later on, after Isma'il became a youth, Sarah bore a son who was called Ishaq.

 

Who Was the Sacrificial Son?

Historians of this period disagree on the matter of Ibrahim's sacrifice of Isma'il. Did the event take place before the birth of Ishaq or thereafter? Did it take place in Palestine or in the Hijaz? Jewish historians insist that the sacrificial son was Ishaq, not Isma'il. This is not the place to analyze this issue. In his book Qisas al Anbiyd', Shaykh `Abd al Wahhab al Najjar concluded that the sacrificial son was Isma'il. His evidence was drawn from the Qur'an itself where the sacrificial son is described as being Ibrahim's unique son, which could only be Isma'il, and only as long as Ishaq was not yet born [Genesis 22:2 also calls Isaac Abraham's "only son," thus corroborating the claim and making the Bible's declaration of Isaac as the sacrificial son a very likely emendation of the Biblical text. -Tr.]. For with the birth of Ishaq, Ibrahim would have no "unique" son but two, Isma'il and Ishaq. But to accede to this evidence implies that the sacrifice should have taken place in Palestine [Unfortunately, Haykal has not shown how this implication follows from the claim in favor of Isma'i1. -Tr.]. This would equally be true in case the sacrificial son was Ishaq, for the latter remained with his mother Sarah in Palestine and never left for the Hijaz. On the other hand, the report which makes the sacrifice take place on the mountain of Mina near Makkah identifies the sacrificial son as Isma'il. The Qur'an did not mention the name of the sacrificial son, and hence Muslim historians disagree in this regard.

 

The Qur'anic Version of the Sacrifice

The story of the sacrifice is that Ibrahim saw in a dream God commanding him to sacrifice his son to Him. In the morning he took his son and went out to fulfill the command. "When they reached the destination Ibrahim said to his son: `My son, I saw in a dream God commanding me to sacrifice you. What will you say?' His son answered: `Fulfill whatever you have been commanded; by God's will you will find me patient.' When Ibrahim threw his son on the ground for the sacrifice and both had acquiesced to the commandment, God called out to him: `O Ibrahim, you have fulfilled the commandment. We shall reward you as We reward the virtuous. You have manifestly succeeded in your travail.' We ransomed him with a worthy animal to sacrifice."[Qur'an, 37:102-107]

 

 

The Historians' Version

Some historians tell this story in more dramatic way. The beauty of some versions justifies a brief pause despite the fact that the story itself does not belong in this apercu of Makkan history. It is told, for instance, that when Ibrahim saw in his dream that he should sacrifice his son and ascertained that that was God's commandment, he asked his son to take a rope and a knife and to go ahead of him to a nearby hill in order to collect some wood for fuel. The boy complied with his father's request. Satan took the guise of a man, came to Isma'il's mother and said:"Do you know where Ibrahim is taking your son?" She answered: "Yes, they both went to collect some wood." Satan said:"By God, he did not take him except to sacrifice him." The mother answered, "Not at all! His father is even more loving and gentler to him than me." Satan said: "But he claims that God has commanded him to do so." The mother answered: "If God has thus commanded him then so let it be." Thus Satan lost the first round. He ran to the son as he was following his father and repeated to him the same temptations he offered to his mother. But the son answered in exactly the same way as his mother did. Satan then approached Ibrahim and told him that what he saw in his dream was only a Satanic illusion that he may kill his son and grieve there at the rest of his days. Ibrahim dismissed him and cursed him. Iblis (Satan) returned maddened and frustrated at his failure to dissuade Ibrahim, his wife, and his son from fulfillment of God's command. The same storytellers also report that Ibrahim divulged his dream to his son and asked for his opinion. They report the son as answering: "O father, do what you are commanded to do." A still more fanciful version of the story reports the son as saying: "O father, if you want to kill me, then bind me tight that I may not move and splatter you with my blood and thus reduce my own reward for the fulfillment of God's command. I know that death is hard, and I am not certain I will stay still when it comes. Therefore sharpen your blade that you may finish me quickly. Lay me face down rather than on my side, for I fear that if you were to witness my face as you cut my throat you would be moved by compassion for me and fail to complete that which God had asked you to do. And if you see fit to return my shirt to my mother that she may remember me therewith and, perhaps, find some consolation, please do so.' Ibrahim answered: `My son, you are the best help in the fulfillment of God's command.' As he prepared for the sacrifice, bound the child, and laid him down, Ibrahim was called to stop. For he had given evidence of his obedience to God's command, and the son was ransomed with a sheep which Ibrahim found close by and which he killed and burnt."

That is the story of the sacrifice. It is the story of submission to God and His decree as well as of the fulfillment of His commandment.

 

 

Ibrahim, Isma'il, and Hagar's Trip to the Valley of Makkah

Ishaq grew up in the company of his brother Isma'il. The father loved both equally, but Sarah was not pleased with this equation of her son with the son of the slave girl Hagar. Once, upon seeing Isma'il chastising his younger brother, she swore that she would not live with Hagar nor her son. Ibrahim realized that happiness was not possible as long as the two women lived in the same household; hence, he took Hagar and her son and traveled south until they arrived to the valley of Makkah. As we said earlier, the valley was a midway place of rest for caravans on the road between Yaman and al Sham. The caravans came in season, and the place was empty at all or most other times. Ibrahim deposited Isma'il and his mother there and left them some sustenance. Hagar built a little hut in which she settled with her son and whereto Ibrahim returned when he came. When water and provisions were exhausted, Hagar set out to look for food, but she could not find any. As the storytellers put it, she ran towards the valley seeking water and, not finding any, would run in another direction. After running to and fro seven times between Safa and Marwah, she returned in despair to her son. But what surprise when she found him! Having scratched the surface of the earth with his foot, he uncovered a water fountain which sprung under his feet. Hagar drank and gave Isma'il to drink until they were both satisfied. She then closed in the spring that its water might not be lost in the sand. Thereafter the child and his mother lived in Makkah. Arab travelers continued to use the place as a rest stop, and in exchange for services they rendered to the travelers who came with one caravan after another, Hagar and Isma'il were sufficiently provided for.

Subsequently a number of tribes liked the fountain water of Zamzam sufficiently to settle nearby. Jurhum was the first such tribe to settle in Makkah. Some versions assert that Jurhum was already settled in Makkah even before Hagar and her son arrived there. According to other reports, no tribes settled in Makkah until Zamzam had sprung forth and made life possible in this otherwise barren valley and hence, after Isma'il's advent. Isma'il grew up, married a girl from the tribe of Jurhum and lived with this tribe in the same area where he built the holy temple. Thereafter, the city of Makkah arose around the temple. It is also told that Ibrahim once took leave of Sarah to visit Isma'il and his mother. When he inquired about the house of Isma'il and found it, he asked Isma'il's wife, "Where is your husband?" She answered, "He went out to hunt." He then asked her whether she had any food or drink to give him. She answered in the negative. Before he turned back, Ibrahim asked her to convey to her husband a message. "Give him my greetings," he said, "and tell him that he should change the threshold of his house." When Isma'il's wife related to her husband his father's message, he divorced her and married a girl from the Jurhum tribe, the daughter of Mudad ibn `Amr. This second wife knew well how to entertain Ibrahim when he came to visit his son a second time later. At the end of his second visit, Ibrahim asked Isma'il's wife to greet her husband for him and to tell him, "Now the threshold of your house is straight." Twelve sons were born to Isma'il from this marriage with the Jurhum girl. These were the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Arabized or Northern Arabs. On their mother's side these were related through Jurhum to the Arabizing Arabs, the sons of Ya'rub ibn Qahtan. They were also related to Egypt through their grandmother on their father's side, Hagar, which was a close relation indeed. Through their grandfather Ibrahim, they were related to `Iraq and to Palestine, his old and new abodes.

 

 

Discussion of the Story

Despite disagreement on details, the main theme of this story which history had brought down to us, namely the emigration of Ibrahim and Isma'il to Makkah, is backed by an almost complete consensus on the part of the historians. The differences center on whether, when Hagar arrived with Isma'il in the valley of Makkah, the springs were already there and whether the tribe of Jurhum had already occupied the place and had welcomed Hagar when Ibrahim brought her and her son to live in their midst. When Isma'il grew up, he married a Jurhum girl and had several sons from her. It was this mixture of Hebrew, Egyptian and Arab blood that gave to Isma'il's descendants resoluteness, courage, and all the virtues of the native Arabs, the Hebrews, and the Egyptians combined. As for the detail regarding Hagar's difficulty when she ran out of water and of her running to and fro between Safa and Marwah and the way, in which Zamzam sprang forth, all these are subject to debate.

Sir William Muir, for instance, doubts the whole story of Ibrahim and Isma'il's trip to Hijaz and denies it altogether. He claims that it is one of the Israelitisms which the Jews had invented long before Islam in order to strike a link with the Arabs by making them descendents of Ibrahim, now father of all. Since the Jews regarded

themselves as descendants of Ishaq, they would become the cousins of the Arabs and therefore entitled to Arab hospitality if the Arabs were declared the sons of Ishaq's brother, namely Isma'il. Such a theme, if properly advocated, was probably thought to help establish Jewish trade in the Peninsula. In making this claim, Muir assumed that the religious situation in Arabia was far removed from the religion of Abraham. The former was pagan whereas Ibrahim was a Hanif and a Muslim. For our part, we do not think that this is sufficient reason to deny a historical truth. Our evidence for the paganism of the Arabs is centuries later than the arrival of Ibrahim and Isma'il to the scene. It cannot therefore constitute any proof that at the time of Ibrahim's arrival to Hijaz and his building of the Ka'bah with his son Isma'il that the Arabs were pagan. Neither would Sir William's claims be corroborated had the religion of the Arabs been pagan at the time. Ibrahim's own people, whom he tried to bring forth to monotheism without success, were also idol worshipers. Had Ibrahim called the Arabs to monotheism, as he did his own people earlier, and not succeeded, and the Arabs remained idol worshipers, they would not have acquiesced to Ibrahim's coming to Makkah nor in his son's settlement there. Rather, logic would here corroborate the report of history. Ibrahim, the man who left `Iraq to escape from his people and traveled to Palestine and to Egypt, was a man who knew how to travel and was familiar with desert crossing. The road between Palestine and Makkah was one trodden by the caravans for ages. There is, therefore, no reason to doubt a historical event which consensus has confirmed, at least in its general themes.

Sir William Muir and others who shared his view claim that it is possible that a number of the descendants of Ibrahim and Isma`il had moved to the Arabian Peninsula after they had settled in Palestine and that the blood relationship had developed after their arrival to Arabia. That is a fine opinion indeed! But if it is possible for the sons of Ibrahim and Isma'il to do such a thing, why should it not have been possible for the two men, Ibrahim and Isma'il personally, only a generation or two earlier? How can we deny a confirmed historical tradition? And how can we doubt an event which the Qur'an, as well as a number of other old scriptures, has mentioned?

 

 

Ibrahim and Isma'il's Construction of the Ka'bah

Together Ibrahim and Isma'il laid down the foundations and built the holy temple. "It was the first house built for public worship in Makkah. It still stands as a blessing and guidance to mankind. In it are manifest signs; that is the house of Ibrahim. Whoever enters it shall be secure."[Qur'an, 3:96-97] God also says: "For We made the house a refuge and a place of security for the people. We commanded them to take the house of Ibrahim as a place of worship and We have commanded Ibrahim and Isma`il to purify My house for pilgrims and men in retreat, for those who kneel and prostrate themselves in prayer. When Ibrahim prayed, `0 Lord, make this town a place of security and give its people of Your bounty, those of them who have believed in God and in the day of judgment,' God answered: 'Yea, even those who do not believe will enjoy my security and bounty for a while before I inflict upon them the punishment of fire and the sad fate they deserve.' As Ibrahim and Isma'il laid the foundations and raised the walls of the house, they prayed: 'O Lord, bless our work; for You alone are all hearing and all-knowing.'[Qur'an, 2:125-127]

 

Religious Development in Arabia

How did it happen that Ibrahim built the house as a place of refuge and security for the people so that the believers in God alone might use it for prayer, and then it became a pantheon full of statues for idol worship? What were the conditions of worship after Ibrahim and Isma'il? In what form and with what ritual was worship conducted in the holy house? When were these conditions and forms superceded by paganism? In vain do we turn the pages of history books looking for answers to these questions? All we find therein are presumptions which their authors think are reports of facts. The Sabeans were star worshipers, and they enjoyed great popularity and prestige in Arabia. As the reports go, the Sabeans did not always worship the stars for their own sake. At one time it is said that they had worshiped God alone and venerated the stars as signs of His creation and power. Since the majority of people were neither endowed nor cultivated enough to understand the transcendent nature of the Godhead, they confused the stars with God and took them as gods. Some of the volcanic or meteoric stones appeared to men to have fallen from heaven and therefore to be astral in nature. Consequently, they were taken as hierophanies of the astral divinities and sanctified as such. Later on they were venerated for their own sake, and then worshipped as divinities. In fact, the Arabs venerated these stones so much that not only did they worship the black stone in the Ka'bah, but they would take one of the stones of the Ka'bah as a holy object in their travels, praying to it and asking it to bless every move they made. Thus all the veneration and worship due to the stars, or to the creator of the stars, were now conferred upon these stones. It was in a development similar to this that paganism was established in Arabia, that the statues were sanctified, and that sacrifices were made to them.

This is the picture which some historians give of religious development in Arabia after Ibrahim dedicated the Ka'bah to the worship of God. Herodotus, father of written history, mentions the worship of al Lat in Arabia; and Diodorus, the Sicilian, mentions the house of Makkah venerated by the Arabs. Their two witnesses point to the antiquity of paganism in the Peninsula and therefore to the fact that the religion of Ibrahim was not always observed there.

 

 

The Arab Prophets

During these long centuries many prophets called their tribes to the worship of God alone. The Arabs gave them little hearing and continued with their paganism. Hud was one of those prophets sent to the tribe of 'Ad which lived in the north of Hadramawt. Few tribesmen responded to his call. The majority were too proud to relinquish their old ways and they answered, "O Hud! You brought us no sign. We cannot relinquish our gods just because you tell us to. We shall not believe" [Qur'an, 11:53]. Hud kept on calling for years, but the more he called the more obstinate they became. Similarly, Salih arose in the tribe of Thamud who lived in al Hijr between Hijaz and al Sham, this side of Wadi al Qura and to the southeast of the land of Madyan, close to the Gulf of `Aqabah. His call bore no more fruit than Hud's. Shu'ayb arose among the people of Madyan who then lived in the Hijaz. He called them to the worship of God alone, but they refused to hear and they perished as the people of 'Ad and Thamud before them. The Qur'anic narratives told us about the stories and missions of other prophets who called men unto God alone, and of their peoples' obstinacy and pride, their continued paganism, their worship of the idols of the Ka'bah, and their pilgrimage to the Ka'bah from every corner of the Arabian Peninsula. All this is implied in God's statement, "And We inflict no punishment on anyone until We have sent them a prophet to warn them"[ Qur'an, 17:15]

 

Offices of the Ka'bah

Ever since its establishment, the Ka'bah gave rise to a number of offices such as those which were held by Qusayy ibn Kilab when he took over the kingship of Makkah, in the middle of the fifth century C.E. His offices included hijabah, siqayah, rifadah, nadwah, liwa' and qiyadah. Hijabah implied maintenance of the house and guardianship over its keys. Siqayah implied the provision of fresh water-which was scarce in Makkah-as well as date wine to all the pilgrims. Rifadah implied the provision of food to the pilgrims. Nadwah implied the chairmanship of all convocations held. Qiyadah implied the leadership of the army at war. Liwa was the flag which, hoisted on a spear, accompanied the army whenever it went out to meet the enemy and, hence, it meant a secondary command in times of war. All these offices were recognized as belonging to Makkah, indeed to the Ka'bah, to which all Arabs looked when in worship. It is more likely that not all of these offices developed at the time when the house was constructed but rather that they arose one after the other independently of the Ka'bah and its religious position, though some may have had to do with the Ka'bah by nature.

At the building of the Ka'bah, Makkah could not have consisted, even at best, of more than a few tribes of `Amaliq and Jurhumis. A long time must have lapsed between Ibrahim and Isma'il's advent to Makkah and their building of the Ka'bah on the one hand, and the development of Makkah as a town or quasi-urban center on the other. Indeed, as long as any vestiges of their early nomadism lingered in the mind and customs of the Makkans, we cannot speak of Makkah as urban. Some historians would rather agree that Makkah had remained nomadic until the kingship of Qusayy in the middle of the fifth century C.E. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine a town like Makkah remaining nomadic while her ancient house is venerated by the whole surrounding country. It is historically certain that the guardianship of the house remained in the hands of Jurhum, Isma'il's in-laws, for continuous generations. This implies continuous residence near the Ka'bah-a fact not possible for nomads bent on movement from pasture to pasture. Moreover, the well established fact that Makkah was the rendezvous of the caravans traveling between Yaman, Hirah, al Sham and Najd, that it was connected to the Red Sea close by and there from to the trade routes of the world, further refutes the claim that Makkah was merely a nomad's campsite. We are therefore compelled to acknowledge that Makkah, which Ibrahim called "a town" and which he prayed God to bless, had known the life of settlement many generations before Qusayy.

 

 

Ascendancy of Quraysh

After their conquest of the `Amaliq, the tribe of Jurhum ruled Makkah until the regime of Mudad ibn `Amr ibn al Harith During these generations, trade had prospered so well that the tribe of Jurhum waxed fat and forgot that they were really living in a desolate place and that they ought to work very hard to keep their position. Their neglect led to the drying up of the Zamzam spring; furthermore, the tribe of Khuza'ah had even thought of conquering Makkah and establishing their authority over its whole precinct.

Mudad's warning to his people did not stop their indulgence and carelessness. Realizing that his and his tribe's power was on the decline and would soon be lost, he dug a deep hole within the well of Zamzam in which he buried two golden gazelles and the treasure of the holy house, with the hope that he would return some day to power and reclaim the treasure. Together with the Jurhum tribe and the descendants of Isma'il he withdrew from Makkah in favor of the tribe of Khuza'ah, who ruled it from generation to generation until the advent of Qusayy ibn Kilab, the fifth grandfather of the Prophet.

 

Qusayy ibn Kilab (circa 480 C.E)

Fatimah, daughter of Sa'd ibn Sayl, mother of Qusayy, married Kilab and gave him two sons, Zuhrah and Qusayy. Kilab died when Qusayy was an infant. Fatimah then married Rabi'ah ibn Haram who took her with him to al Sham where she gave birth to a son called Darraj. Qusayy grew up knowing no other father than Rabi'ah. When a quarrel broke out between Qusayy and some members of the Rabi'ah tribe, they reproached him as they would a foreigner and betrayed the fact that they never regarded him as one of their own. Qusayy complained to his mother and related to her the reproach he heard. Her answer was as defiant as it was proud. "O my son," she said, "your descendance is nobler than theirs, you are the son of Kilab ibn Murrah, and your people live in the proximity of the holy house in Makkah." This was the cause of Qusayy's departure from al Sham and return to Makkah. His seriousness and wisdom soon won him the respect of the Makkans. At the time, the guardianship of the holy house was in the hands of a man of the Khuza'ah tribe called Hulayl ibn Hubshiyyah, a very wise man with deep insight. Soon Qusayy asked for and married Hubba, daughter of Hulayl. He continued to work hard at his trade and acquired much affluence, great respect, and many children. When his father-in-law died, he committed the keys of the Ka'bah to Hubba, wife of Qusayy. But the latter apologized and committed the keys to Abu Ghibshan, a man from Khuza'ah. Abu Ghibshan, however, was a drunkard and one day he exchanged the keys of the Ka'bah for a jug of wine from Qusayy. The Khuza'ah tribe realized that it was in danger should the guardianship of the Ka'bah remain in the hands of Qusayy whose wealth and influence were always increasing and around whom the tribe of Quraysh was now rallying. They therefore thought to dispossess him of his guardianship. Qusayy called upon the Quraysh tribe to help him and, with the concurrence of a number of tribes from the surrounding area, he was judged the wisest and the mightiest and confirmed in his guardianship. When the tribe of Khuza'ah had to evacuate, Qusayy combined in his person all the offices associated with the holy house and became king over the Quraysh.

 

 

Construction of Permanent Residences in Makkah

Some historians claim that Makkah had no constructed houses other than the Ka'bah until Qusayy became its king because neither Khuza'ah nor Jurhum wanted to raise any other construction besides the holy house and neither one spent his life outside of the holy area in the open desert. They added that upon his assumption of the kingship of Makkah, Qusayy commanded his people, the Quraysh tribe, to build their residences in the vicinity of the holy house. They also explained that it was Qusayy who built the house of Nadwah where the elders of Makkah met under his chairmanship in order to run the affairs of their city, for it was their custom not to allow anything to happen without their unanimous approval. No man or woman of Makkah married except in the Nadwah and with the approval of the Quraysh elders. According to this view, it was the Quraysh that built, at the command of Qusayy, their houses around the Ka'bah, leaving sufficient space for circumambulation of the holy house. Their residences in the vicinity were spaced so as to leave a narrow passage to the holy house between every two houses.

 

The Descendants of Qusayy

Although 'Abd al Dar was the eldest of Qusayy's children, his brother 'Abd Manaf was more famous and more respected by the people. As Qusayy grew old and weak and became unable to carry out the duties of his position, he delegated the hijabah to 'Abd al Dar and handed over to him the keys of the holy house. He also delegated to him the siqayah, the Liwa, and the rifadah. [For definitions of these terms, see pp. 31-32] The rifadah implied a contribution the tribe of Quraysh used to levy from every member to help Qusayy in the provision of food for pilgrims incapable of procuring nourishment on their own. Qusayy was the first to impose the rifadah on the Quraysh tribe; and he incepted this practice after he rallied the Quraysh and dislodged the tribe of Khuza'ah from Makkah. At the time the rifadah was imposed, Qusayy said, "O people of Quraysh! You are the neighbors of God and the people of His house and temple. The pilgrim is the guest of God and visitor of His house. Of all guests that you receive during the year, the pilgrim is the most worthy of your hospitality. Provide for him food and drink during the days of pilgrimage."

 

 

The Descendants of `Abd Manaf

`Abd al Dar discharged the new duties incumbent upon him as his father had directed. His sons did likewise after him but could not match the sons of 'Abd Manaf in honor and popular esteem. Hence, Hashim, `Abd Shams, al Muttalib and Nawfal, the sons of `Abd Manaf, resolved to take over these privilege from their cousins. The tribe of Quraysh stood divided into two factions, each supporting one of the contestants. The descendants of 'Abd Manaf concluded the Hilf al Mutayyibbin, a treaty so called because the covenantors dipped their hands in perfume as they swore allegiance to its new terms. The descendants of 'Abd al Dar, for their part, entered into another treaty called Hilf al Ahldf [literally, the alliance of the allies-Tr.], and the stage was set for a civil war which could have dissolved the Quraysh tribe. A

peace was reached, however, under which the descendants of 'Abd Manaf were granted the siqayah and rifadah, and the descendents of 'Abd al Dar kept the hijabah, the liwa', and the nadwah [For definitions of these terms, see pp. 31-32]. Thereafter the two parties lived in peace until the advent of Islam.

 

Hashim (646 C.E.)

Hashim was the leader of his people and a prosperous man. He was in charge of the siqayah and the rifadah. In the discharge of his duties he called upon every member of the Quraysh to make a contribution for use in providing food for the pilgrims. Like his grandfather Qusayy, he argued with his contemporaries that the pilgrims and visitors to the house of God are God's guests and, therefore, worthy of their hospitality. He discharged his duties well and provided for all the pilgrims during the time of their pilgrimage in Makkah.

 

Makkan Affluence and Prosperity

Hashim did for the people of Makkah more than his duty demanded. In a year of drought he was generous enough to provide food for the whole population and turned the occasion into one of joy. It was he who regulated and standardized the two main caravan trips of the Makkan traders, the winter trip to Yaman, and the summer trip to al Sham. Under his good ordering and wise leadership Makkah prospered and its position rose throughout the Peninsula. It soon became the acknowledged capital of Arabia. From this position of influence the descendents of `Abd Manaf concluded peace treaties with their neighbors. Hashim went in person to Byzantium and to the neighboring tribe of Ghassan to sign a treaty of friendship and good neighborliness. He obtained from Byzantium permission for the tribe of Quraysh to move anywhere in the territories of al Sham in peace and security. 'Abd Shams, on the other hand, concluded a treaty of trade with the Negus of Abyssinia and Nawfal and al Muttalib, both a treaty of friendship with Persia and a trade treaty with the Himyaris of Yaman. The glory of Makkah increased with its prosperity. The Makkans became so adept in trade that nobody could compete with them. The caravans came to Makkah from all directions, and the goods were exported in two big convoys in summer and winter. Surrounding Makkah all kinds of markets were built to deal with all the attendant business. This experience developed in the Makkans competence in business affairs as well as adeptness in the administration of the calendar and interest in financing.

Hashim remained the uncontested chief of Makkah throughout his life. Nobody thought of competing with him in this regard. His nephew, however, Umayyah ibn `Abd Shams, did entertain such ideas but he lost and chose to live in exile in al Sham for ten full years. On one of his trips to al Sham, Hashim stopped in Yathrib where he saw a woman of noble birth engaging in business with some of her agents. That was Salma, daughter of `Amr of the Khazraj tribe. Hashim fell in love with her and inquired whether she was married. When he learned that she was a divorced woman, but a very independent person, he asked her directly to marry him. As his position and prestige were known to her, she accepted. She lived with him in Makkah for a while before she returned to Madinah where she gave birth to a son called Shaybah, whom she kept with her in Yathrib. [The author is using the pre-Islamic and Islamic names of the same city interchangeably. Pre-Islamic "Yathrib" had, upon the Prophet's emigration thereto and the establishment therein of the first Islamic polity, become "Madinah al Nabi" (literally, the city of the Prophet) and "Madinah" for short. -Tr.]

 

 

Al Muttalib

Several years later Hashim died on one of his trips and was buried in Gaza. His brother, al Muttalib, succeeded him in his posts. Though al Muttalib was younger than `Abd Shams, he was well esteemed by the people. The Quraysh used to call him "Mr. Abundance" for his generosity and goodness. Naturally, with such competence and prestige as al Muttalib enjoyed, the situation in Makkah continued to be prosperous and peaceful.

One day al Muttalib thought of his nephew Shaybah. He went to Yathrib and asked Salma to hand the child over now that he had become fully grown. On return to Makkah, al Muttalib allowed the young man to precede him on his camel. The Quraysh thought that he was a servant of al Muttalib and called him so, namely `Abd al Muttalib. When al Muttalib heard of this he said, "Hold it, Fellow Tribesmen. This man is not my servant but my nephew, son of Hashim, whom I brought back from Yathrib." The title `Abd al Muttalib was so popular, however, that the young man's old name, Shaybah, was forgotten.

 

Abd al Muttalib (495 C.E.)

When al Muttalib sought to return to his nephew the wealth which Hashim left behind, Nawfal objected and seized the wealth. `Abd al Muttalib waited until he grew and then asked for the support of his uncles in Yathrib against his uncles in Makkah. Eighty Khazraj horsemen arrived from Yathrib ready to give him the military support he needed in order to reclaim his rights. Nawfal refused to fight and returned the seized wealth. `Abd al Muttalib then was assigned the offices which Hashim occupied, namely the siqayah and the rifadah, after al Muttalib passed away. He experienced no little difficulty in discharging the requisite duties because at that time he had only one son, al Harith. As the well of Zamzam had been destroyed, water had to be brought in from a number of sub-sidiary wells in the outskirts of Makkah and placed in smaller reservoirs near the Ka'bah. Plurality of descendants was an asset in the execution of such a task as this but `Abd al Muttalib had only one son, and the task nearly exhausted him. Naturally, he gave the matter a good deal of thought.

 

 

The Redigging of Zamzam

The Makkans still had memories of the Zamzam well which was filled with dirt by Mudad ibn `Amr of the Jurhum tribe a few hundred years back and wished that it could be reactivated. This matter concerned `Abd al Muttalib more than anyone else, and he gave it all his attention. Suffering under his duties, he thought so much about the matter that he even saw in his dreams a spirit calling him to re-dig the well whose waters sprang under the feet of his ancestor, Isma'il. But no one knew where the old well stood. Finally, after much investigation, `Abd al Muttalib was inspired to try the place between the two idols, Isaf and Na'ilah. Helped by his second son al Mughirah, he dug at the place until water sprang forth and the two golden gazelles and swords of Mudad of the Jurhum tribe appeared. The Quraysh wanted to share his find with `Abd al Muttalib. After objecting, he finally came to an agreement with them to determine the rightful ownership of the treasure by the drawing of lots among three equal partners, namely the Ka'bah, the Quraysh, and himself. The divinatory arrows were drawn near the idol Hubal within the Ka'bah, and the result was that the Quraysh lost completely, `Abd al Muttalib won the swords, and the Ka'bah won the two gazelles. `Abd al Muttalib ordered his part, namely the swords, reforged as a door for the Ka'bah, and placed the two golden gazelles within the holy house as a decoration. Now that the Zamzam water was close by, `Abd al Muttalib performed his siqayah duties with ease.

 

The Vow and Its Fulfillment

`Abd al Muttalib realized the limitations, which his lack of children imposed upon him. He vowed that should he be given ten sons to grow to maturity and to help him in his task he would sacrifice one of them to God near the Ka'bah. `Abd al Muttalib's wish was to be fulfilled: he had ten fully-grown sons. When he called them to assist him in the fulfillment of his vow, they accepted. It was agreed that the name of each one of them would be written on a divinatory arrow, that the arrows would be drawn near Hubal within the Ka'bah and that he whose name appeared on the drawn arrow would be sacrificed. It was then customary among the Arabs whenever they faced an insoluble problem to resort to divination by means of arrows at the foot of the greatest idol in the area. When the arrows were drawn it was the arrow of 'Abdullah, the youngest son of 'Abd al Muttalib and the most beloved, that came out. Without hesitation 'Abd al Muttalib took the young man by the hand and prepared to sacrifice him by the well of Zamzam between the idols of Isaf and Na'ilah. 'Abd al Muttalib insisted upon the sacrifice, but the whole of Quraysh insisted that 'Abdullah be spared and that some kind of indulgence be sought from the god Hubal. Finally, in answer to 'Abd al Muttalib's inquiry as to what should be done to please the gods, al Mughirah ibn 'Abdullah al Makhzumi volunteered the answer, "Perhaps the youth can be ransomed with wealth; in that case, we shall be pleased to give up all the necessary wealth to save him." After consultation with one another, they decided to consult a divineress in Yathrib renowned for her good insight. When they came to her, she asked them to wait until the morrow; upon their return she asked, "What, in your custom, is the amount of a man's blood wit?" "Ten camels," they answered. She said, "Return then to your country and draw near your god two arrows, one with the name of the youth and the other with the term 'ten camels.' If the arrow drawn is that of the youth, then multiply the number of camels and draw again until your god is satisfied. They accepted her solution and drew the divinatory arrows which they found to converge on 'Abdullah. They kept multiplying the number of camels until the number reached one hundred. It was then that the camels' arrow was drawn. The people were satisfied and told 'Abd al Muttalib, who stood nearby in terror, "Thus did your god decide, O 'Abd al Muttalib." But he answered, "Not at all! I shall not be convinced that this is my god's wish until the same result comes out three times consecutively." The arrows were drawn three times, and in all three it was the camels' arrow that came out. 'Abd al Muttalib then felt sure that his god was contented, and he sacrified the one hundred camels.

In this way the books of biography have reported to us some of the customs of the Arabs and of their religious doctrines. In this way they have informed us of the Arabs' adherence to these doctrines and of their loyalty and devotion to their holy house. In confirming this custom al Tabari reports that a Muslim woman had once vowed to sacrifice one of her sons. She sought the advice of `Abdullah ibn `Umar without much avail. She went to `Abdullah ibn al 'Abbas who advised her to sacrifice one hundred camels after the example of `Abd al Muttalib. But when Marwan, the governor of Madinah, knew of what she was about, he forbade her to do it, holding to the Islamic principle that no vow is valid whose object is illegitimate.

 

 

The Year of the Elephant (570 C.E.)

The respect and esteem which Makkah and her holy house enjoyed suggested to some distant provinces in Arabia that they should construct holy houses in order to attract some of the people away from Makkah. The Ghassanis built such a house at al Hirah. Abrahah al Ashram built another in Yaman. Neither of them succeeded, however, in drawing the Arabs away from Makkah and its holy house. Indeed, Abrahah took a special care to decorate the house in Yaman and filled it with such beautiful furniture and statues that he thought that he could draw thereto not only the Arabs but the Makkans themselves. When later he found out that the Arabs were still going to the ancient house, that the inhabitants of Yaman were leaving behind the newly built house in their own territory and did not regard the pilgrimage valid except in Makkah, he came to the conclusion that there was no escape from destroying the house of Ibrahim and Isma'il. The viceroy of the Negus therefore prepared for war and brought a great army for that purpose from Abyssinia equipped with a great elephant on which he rode. When the Arabs heard of his war preparations, they became quite upset and feared the impending doom of Makkah, the Ka'bah, its statues, and the institution of pilgrimage. Dhu Nafar, a nobleman from Yaman, appealed to his fellow countrymen to revolt and fight Abrahah and thus prevent him from the destruction of God's house. Abrahah, however, was too strong to be fought with such tactics: Dhu Nafar as well as Nufayl ibn Habib al Khath'ami, leader of the two tribes of Shahran and Nahis, were taken prisoners after a brief but gallant fight. On the other hand, the people of al Ta'if, when they learned that it was not their house that he intended to destroy, cooperated with Abrahah and sent a guide with him to show him the way to Makkah.

 

Abrahah and the Ka'bah

Upon approaching Makkah, Abrahah sent a number of horsemen to seize whatever there was of Quraysh's animal wealth in the outskirts. The horsemen returned with some cattle and a hundred camels belonging to `Abd al Muttalib. The Quraysh and other Makkans first thought of holding their ground and fighting Abrahah, but they soon realized that his power was far superior to theirs. Abrahah sent one of his men, Hunatah al Himyari to inform `Abd al Muttalib, chief of Makkah, that Abrahah had not come to make war against the Makkans but only to destroy the house and that should the Makkans not stand in his way, he would not fight them at all. When 'Abd al Muttalib declared the intention of Makkah not to fight Abrahah, Hunatah invited `Abd al Muttalib and his sons and some of the leaders of Makkah to Abrahah's encampment in order to talk to Abrahah directly. Abrahah received `Abd al Muttalib well and returned his seized camels. But he refused to entertain any suggestion of saving the Ka'bah from destruction as well as the Makkans' offer to pay him one-third of the yearly crop of the Tihamah province. The conference therefore came to no conclusion, and `Abd al Muttalib returned to Makkah. He immediately advised the Makkans to evacuate the city and withdraw to the mountains and thus save their own persons.

It was certainly a grave day on which the Makkans decided to evacuate their town and leave it an open city for destruction by Abrahah. `Abd al Muttalib and the leaders of the Quraysh grasped the lock of the door of the Ka'bah and prayed to their gods to stop this aggression against the house of God. As they left Makkah, and Abrahah prepared to send his terrifying and formidable army into the city to destroy the house, smallpox spread within its ranks and began to take its toll. The epidemic attacked the army with unheard of fury. Perhaps the microbes of the disease were carried there by the wind from the west. Abrahah himself was not spared; and terrified by what he saw, he ordered the army to return to Yaman. Attacked by death and desertion, Abrahah's army dwindled to almost nothing, and, by the time he reached San'a', his capital in Yaman, he himself succumbed to the disease. This phenomenon was so extraordinary that the Makkans reckoned time with it by calling that year "The Year of the Elephant." The Qur'an had made this event immortal when it said,

"Consider what your Lord had done to the people of the elephant. Did he not undo their evil plotting? And send upon them wave after wave of flying stones of fire? And made their ranks like a harvested cornfield trodden by herds of hungry cattle?" [Qur'an, 105:1-5]

 

 

The Position of Makkah after the Year of the Elephant

This extraordinary event enhanced the religious position of Makkah as well as her trade. Her people became more committed than ever to the preservation of their exalted city and to resist every attempt at reducing it.

 

Makkan Luxury

The prosperity, affluence, and luxury which Makkah provided for its citizens, like an island in a large barren desert, confirmed the Makkans in their parochial zeal. The Makkans loved their wine and the revelry it brought. It helped them satisfy their passionate search for pleasure and to find that pleasure in the slave girls with which they traded and who invited them to ever-increasing indulgence. Their pursuit of pleasure, on the other hand, confirmed their personal freedom and the freedom of their city, which they were prepared to protect against any aggressor at any cost. They loved to hold their celebrations and their drinking parties right in the center of the city around the Ka'bah. There, in the proximity of three hundred or more statues belonging to about three hundred Arab tribes, the elders of the Quraysh and the aristocracy of Makkah held their salons and told one another tales of trips across desert or fertile land, tales of the kings of Hirah on the east or of Ghassan on the west, which the caravans and the nomads brought back and forth. The tribes carried these tales and customs throughout their areas with great speed, efficiency, and application. Makkan pastimes consisted of telling these stories to neighbors and friends and of hearing others, of drinking wine, and of preparing for a big night around the Ka'bah or in recovering from such a night. The idols must have witnessed with their stone eyes all this revelry around them. The revelers were certain of protection since the idols had conferred upon the Ka'bah a halo of sanctity and peace. The protection, however, was mutual, for it was the obligation of the Makkans never to allow a scripturist, [Literally, "man with a book or scripture," following the Qur'anic appellation for Jews and Christians, "People of the Book," or "scripturists."] i.e., Christian or Jew, to enter Makkah except in the capacity of a servant and under the binding covenant that he would not speak in Makkah either of his religion or of his scripture. Consequently, there were neither Jewish nor Christian communities in Makkah, as was the case in Yathrib and Najran. The Ka'bah was then the holy of holies of paganism and securely protected against any attack against its authorities or sanctity. Thus Makkah was as independent as the Arab tribes were, ever unyielding in its protection of that independence which the Makkans regarded as worthier than life. No tribe ever thought of rallying with another or more tribes in order to form a union with superior strength to Makkah, and none ever entertained any idea of conquering her. The tribes remained separated, leading a pastoral nomadic existence but enjoying to the full the independence, freedom, pride, and chivalry, as well as the individualism which the life of the desert implied.

 

 

The Residences of Makkah

The houses of the Makkans surrounded the Ka'bah and stood at a distance from it proportionate to the social position, descendance, and prestige these inhabitants enjoyed. The Qurayshis were the closest to the Ka'bah and the most related to it on account of the offices of sidanah and siqayah' ["Siddnah" is synonymous to "hijabah." For a definition of this and "siqayah," see pp. 31-32] which they held. On this account no honorific title was withheld from them, and it was for the sake of these titles that wars were fought, pacts concluded, and treaties covenanted. The texts of all Makkan treaties and pacts were kept in the Ka'bah so that the gods who undoubtedly, were taken as witnesses thereto, might punish those covenanters who violated their promises. Beyond these stood the houses of the less important tribes, and further still stood the houses of the slaves, servants and those without honor. In Makkah the Jews and Christians were slaves, as we said earlier. They were therefore allowed to live only in these far away houses on the edge of the desert. Whatever religious stories they could tell regarding Christianity or Judaism would be too far removed from the ears of the lords and nobles of Quraysh and Makkah. This distance permitted the latter to stop their ears as well as their conscience against all serious concern. Whatever they heard of Judaism or Christianity they obtained from a monastery or a hermitage recluse in the desert which lay on some road of the caravans.

Even so, the rumors circulating at the time about the possible rise of a prophet among the Arabs caused them great worry. Abu Sufyan one day strongly criticized Umayyah ibn Abu al Salt for repeating such Messianic stories as the monks circulated. One can imagine Abu Sufyan addressing Umayyah in some such words as these, "Those monks in the desert expect a Messiah because of their ignorance of their own religion. Surely they need a prophet to guide them thereto. As for us, we have the idols right here close by, and they do bring us close to God. We do not need any prophet, and we ought to combat any such suggestion." Fanatically committed to his native city as well as to its paganism, it was apparently impossible for Abu Sufyan to realize that the hour of guidance was just about to strike, that the prophethood of Muhammad-may God's blessing be upon him-had drawn near, and that from these pagan Arab lands a light was to shine over the whole world to illuminate it with monotheism and truth.

 

`Abdullah ibn `Abd al Muttalib

`Abdullah ibn `Abd al Muttalib was a handsome young man admired by the unmarried women of his town. They were fascinated by the story of ransom and the hundred camels which the god Hubal insisted on receiving in his stead. But fate had already prepared `Abdullah for the noblest fatherhood that history had known, just as it had prepared Aminah, daughter of Wahb, to be mother to the son of `Abdullah. The couple were married and, a few months after their marriage, `Abdullah passed away. None could ransom him from this later fate. Aminah survived him, gave birth to Muhammad, and joined her husband while Muhammad was still an infant.

Following is a geneological tree of the Prophet with approximate birth dates.

 

 

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Qusayy
(400 C.E)
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'Abd al 'Uzza
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'Abd Manaf
(430 C.E.)
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'Abd al Dar
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Asad
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al Muttalib

Hashim
(464 C.E.)
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Nawfal

   

'Abd Shams
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Khuwaylid
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Umayyah
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al 'Awwam

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Khadijah

 

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Harb
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al Zubayr

   

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Abu Sufyan
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'Abd al Muttalib
(497 C.E.)
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Mu'awiyah



   

Hamzah

al 'Abbas

'Abdullah
(545 C.E.)

Abu Lahab

Abu Talib

al Harith

 
       

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Muhammad (pbuh)
(570 C.E.)

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Uqayl

'Ali

Ja'far

 
         

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al Hasan

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al Husayn