Muhammad: From Birth to Marriage

The Marriage of `Abdullah and Aminah

`Abd al Muttalib was seventy years old or more when Abraha arrived in Makkah to destroy the ancient house. His son `Abdullah was twenty-four years of age and was hence ready for marriage. His father chose for him Aminah, daughter of Wahb ibn `Abd Manaf ibn Zuhrah, the chief of the tribe of Zuhrah as well as its eldest and noblest member. `Abd al Muttalib took his son and went with him to the quarter of the tribe of Zuhrah. There, he sought the residence of Wahb and went in to ask for the hand of Wahb's daughter for his son. Some historians claim that `Abd al Muttalib went to the residence of Uhayb, uncle of Aminah, assuming that her father had passed away and that she was under the protection of her uncle. On the same day that `Abdullah married Aminah, his father `Abd al Muttalib married a cousin of hers named Halah. It was thus that the Prophet could have an uncle on his father's side, namely Hamzah, of the same age as he.

As was the custom in those days, `Abdullah lived with Aminah among her relatives the first three days of the marriage. Afterwards, they moved together to the quarter of `Abd al Muttalib, and soon he was to be called on a trading trip to al Sham. When he left, Aminah was pregnant. A number of stories circulated telling of `Abdullah's marriage with other women besides Aminah and of many women's seeking to marry `Abdullah. It is not possible to ascertain the truth of such tales. What is certainly true is that `Abdullah was a very handsome and strong young man; and it is not at all surprising that other women besides Aminah had wished to marry him. Such women would have at least temporarily given up hope once `Abdullah's marriage to Aminah was announced. But who knows! It is not impossible that they may have waited for his return from al Sham hoping that they might still become his wives along with Aminah. `Abdullah was absent for several months in Gaza. On his way back he stopped for a longer rest at Madinah, where his uncles on his mother's side lived, and was preparing to join a caravan to Makkah when he fell ill. When the caravan reached. Makkah his father was alerted to `Abdullah's absence and disease. `Abd al Muttalib immediately sent his eldest son al Harith to Madinah in order to accompany 'Abdullah on the trip back to Makkah after his recovery. Upon arriving at Madinah, however, al Harith learned that `Abdullah had died and that he had been buried in Madinah a month after the start of that same caravan to Makkah. Al Harith returned to Makkah to announce the death of `Abdullah to his aged father and his bereaved wife Aminah. The shock was tremendous, for `Abd al Muttalib loved his son so much as to have ransomed him with a hundred camels, a ransom never equaled before.

`Abdullah left five camels, a herd of sheep, and a slave nurse, called Umm Ayman, who was to take care of the Prophet. This patrimony does not prove that `Abdullah was wealthy, but at the same time it does not prove that he was poor. Furthermore, `Abdullah was still a young man capable of working and of amassing a fortune. His father was still alive and none of his wealth had as yet been transferred to his sons.

 

 

The Birth of Muhammad (570 C.E.)

There was nothing unusual about Aminah's pregnancy or delivery. As soon as she delivered her baby, she sent to `Abd al Muttalib, who was then at the Ka'bah, announcing to him the birth of a grandson. The old man was overjoyed at the news and must have remembered on this occasion his loved one `Abdullah. He rushed to his daughter-in-law, took her newborn in his hands, went into the Ka'bah and there called him "Muhammad." This name was not familiar among the Arabs, but it was known. He then returned the infant to his mother and awaited by her side for the arrival of wet nurses from the tribe of Banu Sa'd in order to arrange for one of them to take care of the new born, as was the practice of Makkan nobility.

Historians have disagreed about the year of Muhammad's birth. Most of them hold that it took place in "the Year of the Elephant," i.e. 570 C.E. Ibn 'Abbas claims that Muhammad was born on "the Day of the Elephant." Others claim that he was born fifteen years earlier. Still others claim that he was born a few days, months, or years, after "the Year of the Elephant." Some even assert that Muhammad was born thirty years and others seventy years later than "the Year of the Elephant." Historians have also differed concerning the month of Muhammad's birth although the majority of them agree that it was Rabi` al Awwal, the third month of the lunar year. It has also been claimed that he was born in Muharram, in Safar, in Rajab, or in Ramadan. Furthermore, historians have differed as to the day of the month on which Muhammad was born. Some claim that the birth took place on the third, of Rabi` al Awwal; others, on the ninth; and others on the tenth. The majority, however, agree that Muhammad was born on the twelfth of Rabi` al Awwal, the claim of ibn Ishaq and other biographers. Moreover, historians disagreed as to the time of day at which Muhammad was born, as well as to the place of birth. Caussin de Perceval wrote in his book on the Arabs that after weighing the evidence, it is most probable that Muhammad was born in August, 570 C.E., i.e. "the Year of the Elephant," and that he was born in the house of his grandfather `Abd al Muttalib in Makkah. On the seventh day after Muhammad's birth, `Abd al Muttalib gave a banquet in honor of his grandson to which he invited a number of Quraysh tribesmen and peers. When they inquired from him why he had chosen to name the child Muhammad, thus changing the practice of using the ancestors' names, `Abd al Muttalib answered: "I did so with the wish that my grandson would be praised by God in heaven and on earth by men."

 

 

Muhammad's Nurses

Aminah waited for the arrival of the wet nurses from the tribe of Banu Sa'd to choose one for Muhammad, as was the practice of the nobles of Makkah. This custom is still practiced today among Makkan aristocracy. They send their children to the desert on the eighth day of their birth to remain there until the age of eight or ten. Some of the tribes of the desert have a reputation as providers of excellent wet nurses, especially the tribe of Banu Sa'd. At that time, Aminah gave her infant to Thuwaybah, servant of Muhammad's uncle Abu Lahab, who nursed him for a while as she did his uncle Hamzah later on, making the two brothers-in-nursing. Although Thuwaybah nursed Muhammad but a few days, he kept for her great affection and respect as long as she lived. When she died in 7 A.H. Muhammad remembered to inquire about her son who was also his brother-in-nursing, but found out that he had died before her.

The wet nurses of the tribe of Banu Sa'd finally arrived at Makkah to seek infants to nurse. The prospect of an orphan child did not much attract them since they hoped to be well rewarded by the father. The infants of widows, such as Muhammad, were not attractive at all. Not one of them accepted Muhammad into her care, preferring the infants of the. living and of the affluent.

 

Halimah, Daughter of Abu Dhu'ayb

Having spurned him at first as her colleagues had done before her, Halimah al Sa'diyyah, daughter of Abu Dhu'ayb, accepted Muhammad into her charge because she had found no other. Thin and rather poor looking, she did not appeal to the ladies of Makkah. When her people prepared to leave Makkah for the desert, Halimah pleaded to her husband al Harith ibn `Abd al `Uzza, "By God it is oppressive to me to return with my friends without a new infant to nurse. Surely, I should go back to that orphan and accept him." Her husband answered; "there would be no blame if you did. Perhaps God may even bless us for your doing so." Halimah therefore took Muhammad and carried him with her to the desert. She related that after she took him, she found all kinds of blessings. Her herd became fat and multiplied, and everything around her seemed to prosper.

In the desert Halimah nursed Muhammad for two whole years while her daughter Shayma' cuddled him. The purity of desert air and the hardness of desert living agreed with Muhammad's physical disposition and contributed to his quick growth, sound formation, and discipline. At the completion of the two years, which was also the occasion of his weaning, Halimah took the child to his mother but brought him back with her to the desert to grow up away from Makkah and her epidemics. Biographers disagree whether Halimah's new lease on her charge was arranged after her own or Aminah's wishes. The child lived in the desert for two more years playing freely in the vast expanse under the clear sky and growing unfettered by anything physical or spiritual.

 

 

The Story of Splitting Muhammad's Chest

It was in this period and before Muhammad reached the age of three that the following event is said to have happened. It is told that Muhammad was playing in a yard behind the encampment of the tribe with Halimah's son when the latter ran back to his parents and said, "Two men dressed in white took my Qurayshi brother, laid him down, opened his abdomen, and turned him around." It is also reported that Halimah said, -"my husband and I ran towards the boy and found him standing up and pale. When we asked what happened to him, the boy answered, "Two men dressed in white came up to me, laid me down, opened my abdomen and took something I know not what away." The parents returned to their tent fearing that the child had become possessed. They therefore returned him to Makkah to his mother. Ibn Ishaq reported a hadith issuing from the Prophet after his commission confirming this incident. But he was careful enough to warn the reader that the real reason for Muhammad's return to his mother was not the story of the two angels but, as Halimah was to report to Muhammad's mother later on, the fact that a number of Abyssinian Christians wanted to take Muhammad away with them once they had seen him after his weaning. According to Halimah's report, the Abyssinians had said to one another, "Let us take this child with us to our country and our king, for we know he is going to be of consequence." Halimah could barely disengage herself from them and run away with her protege. This story is also told by al Tabari, but he casts suspicion on it by reporting it first at this early year of Muhammad's age as well as later, just before the Prophet's commission at the age of forty.

Orientalists and many Muslim scholars do not trust the story and find the evidence therefore spurious. The biographies agree that the two men dressed in white were seen by children hardly beyond their second year of age which constitutes no witness at all and that Muhammad lived with the tribe of Banu Sa'd in the desert until he was five. The claim that this event had taken place while Muhammad was two and a half years old and that Halimah and her husband returned the child to his mother immediately thereafter contradicts this general consensus. Consequently, some writers have even asserted that Muhammad returned with Halimah for the third time. The Orientalist, Sir William Muir, refuses even to mention the story of the two men in white clothes. He wrote that if Halimah and her husband had become aware of something that had befallen the child, it must have been a sort of nervous breakdown, which could not at all have hurt Muhammad's healthy constitution. Others claim that Muhammad stood in no need of any such surgery as God had prepared him at birth for receiving the divine message. Dermenghem believes that this whole story has no foundation other than the speculative interpretations of the following Qur'anic verses

"Had we not revived your spirit [literally, "opened your chest"] and dissipated your burden which was galling your back."[Qur'an, 94:1-3]

Certainly, in these verses the Qur'an is pointing to something purely spiritual. It means to describe a purification of the heart as preparation for receipt of the divine message and to stress Muhammad's over-taxing burden of prophethood.

Those Orientalists and Muslim thinkers who take this position vis-à-vis the foregoing tradition do so in consideration of the fact that the life of Muhammad was human through and through and that in order to prove his prophethood the Prophet never had recourse to miracle-mongering as previous prophets had done. This finding is corroborated by Arab and Muslim historians who consistently assert that the life of the Arab Prophet is free of anything irrational or mysterious and who regard the contrary as inconsistent with the Qur'anic position that God's creation is rationally analyzable, that His laws are immutable, and that the pagans are blameworthy because they do not reason.

 

 

Muhammad in the Desert

Until the fifth year of his life Muhammad remained with the tribe of Banu Sa'd inhaling with the pure air of the desert the spirit of personal freedom and independence. From this tribe he learned the Arabic language in its purest and most classical form. Justifiably, Muhammad used to tell his companions, "I am the most Arab among you, for I am of the tribe of Quraysh and I have been brought up among the tribe of Banu Sa'd ben Bakr." ["Most Arab among you" (Arabic, "a`rabukum") could well have been rendered "most eloquent among you." To be an Arab, or "to arabize" means to speak forth eloquently in Arabic, without stammering or grammatical mistakes, and with literary beauty. Urubah or Arabness is always something which admits of many degrees, the more Arab being always the man in better command of the Arabic language, Arabic diction, style, letters and all forms of literary beauty. Ya'rub, (literally, "he arabizes" or "speaks eloquent Arabic") was the n: me of the first Arab King, whom legend declares to be the first to have spoken in Arabic. As far as history goes, the Arabs have regarded the desert Arabic purer and more classical and beautiful than that of the towns; the tribes were graded in Urubah according to their racial purity as means for the preservation of the purity of Arabic. Hence, the Prophet's statement. -Tr.]

These five years exerted upon Muhammad a most beautiful and lasting influence, as Halimah and her people remained the object of his love and admiration all the length of his life. When, following his marriage with Khadijah a drought occurred and Halimah came to visit Muhammad, she returned with a camel loaded with water and forty heads of cattle. Whenever Halimah visited Muhammad, he stretched out his mantle for her to sit on as a sign of the respect he felt he owed her. Shayma', Halimah's daughter, was taken captive by the Muslim forces along with Banu Hawazin after the seige of Ta‘if. When she was brought before Muhammad, he recognized her, treated her well, and sent her back to her people as she wished.

The young Muhammad returned to his mother after five years of desert life. It is related that when Halimah brought the boy into Makkah, she lost him in the outskirts of the city. 'Abd al Muttalib sent his scouts to look for him and he was found with Waraqah ibn Nawfal. [Waraqah ibn Nawfal was a hanif (an ethical monotheist of pre-Islamic times). He was the relation of the Prophet's wife, Khadijah, from whom she sought advice regarding Muhammad's reports about revelation. (See p. 77.)] 'Abd al Muttalib took his grandson under his protection, and made him the object of great love and affection. As lord of Quraysh and master of the whole of Makkah, the aged leader used to sit on a cushion laid out in the shade of the Ka'bah. His children would sit around that cushion, not on it, in deference to their father. But whenever Muhammad joined the group, 'Abd al Muttalib would bring him close to him and ask him to sit on the cushion. He would pat the boy's back and show off his pronounced affection for him so that Muhammad's uncles could never stop him from moving ahead of them to his grandfather's side.

 

 

Orphanhood

The grandson was to become the object of yet greater endearment to his grandfather. His mother, Aminah, took him to Madinah in order to acquaint him with her uncles, the Banu al Najjar. She took with her on that trip Umm Ayman, the servant left behind by her husband 'Abdullah. In Madinah, Aminah must have shown her little boy the house where his father died as well as the grave where he was buried. It was then that the boy must have first learned what it means to be an orphan. His mother must have talked much to him about his beloved father who had left her a few days after their marriage, and who had met his death among his uncles in Madinah. After his emigration to that city the Prophet used to tell his companions about this first trip to Madinah in his mother's company. The traditions have preserved for us a number of sayings, which could have come only from a man full of love for Madinah and full of grief for the loss of those who were buried in its graves. After a stay of a month in Yathrib, Aminah prepared to return to Makkah with her son and set out on the same two camels, which carried them thither. On the road, at the village of Abwa’ [A village located between Madinah and Jahfah, twenty-three miles south of Madinah.] Aminah became ill, died, and was buried. It was Umm Ayman that brought the lonely and bereaved child to Makkah, henceforth doubly confirmed in orphanhood. A few days earlier he must have shared his mother's grief as she told him of her bereavement while he was yet unborn. Now he was to see with his own eyes the loss of his mother and add to his experience of shared grief that of a grief henceforth to be borne by him alone.

 

The Death of `Abd al Muttalib

The doubled orphanhood of Muhammad increased `Abd al Muttalib's affection for him. Nonetheless, his orphanhood cut deeply into Muhammad's soul. Even the Qur'an had to console the Prophet reminding him, as it were, "Did God not find you an orphan and give you shelter and protection? Did He not find you erring and guide you to the truth?" [Qur'an, 93:6-7] It would have been somewhat easier on the orphaned boy had `Abd al Muttalib lived longer than he did, to the ripe age of eighty when Muhammad was still only eight years old. The boy must have felt the loss just as strongly as he had felt that of his mother. At the funeral Muhammad cried continuously; thereafter, the memory of his grandfather was ever present to his mind despite all the care and protection which his uncle Abu Talib gave him before and after his commission to prophet hood. The truth is that the passing of `Abd al Muttalib was a hard blow to the whole clan of Banu Hashim, for none of his children had ever come to enjoy the respect and position, the power, wisdom, generosity, and influence among all Arabs as he had. `Abd al Muttalib fed the pilgrim gave him to drink, and came to the rescue of any Makkan in his hour of need. His children, on the other hand, never achieved that much. The poor among them were unable to give because they had little or nothing and the rich were too stingy to match their father's generosity. Consequently, the clan of Banu Umayyah prepared to take over the leadership of Makkah, till then enjoyed by Banu Hashim, undaunted by any opposition the latter might put forth.

 

Under Abu Talib's Protection

The protection of Muhammad now fell to Abu Talib, his uncle. Abu Talib was not the eldest of the brothers. A1 Harith was the eldest but he was not prosperous enough to expand his household responsibilities. A1 `Abbas, on the other hand, was the richest but he was not hospitable: he undertook the siqayah alone and refused to assume responsibility for the rifadah. Despite his poverty, Abu Talib was the noblest and the most hospitable and, therefore, the most respected among the Quraysh. No wonder that the protection of Muhammad devolved upon him.

 

 

Contents

 

The First Trip to al Sham

Abu Talib loved his nephew just as `Abd al Muttalib had done before him. He loved him so much that he gave him precedence over his own children. The uprightness, intelligence, charity, and good disposition of Muhammad strengthened the uncle's attachment to him. Even when Muhammad was twelve years old, Abu Talib did not take him along on his trade trips thinking that he was too young to bear the hardship of desert travel. It was only after Muhammad's strong insistence that Abu Talib permitted the child to accompany him and join the trip to al Sham. In connection with this trip which he took at an early age, the biographers relate Muhammad's encounter with the monk Bahirah at Busra, in the southern region of al Sham. They tell how the monk recognized in Muhammad the signs of prophethood as told in Christian books. Other traditions relate that the monk had advised Abu Talib not to take his nephew too far within al Sham for fear that the Jews would recognize the signs and harm the boy.

On this trip Muhammad must have learned to appreciate the vast expanse of the desert and the brilliance of the stars shining in its clear atmosphere. He must have passed through Madyan, Wadi al Qur'a, the lands of Thamud, and his attentive ears must have listened to the conversation of the Arabs and desert nomads about the cities and their history. On this trip, too, Muhammad must have witnessed the luscious green gardens of al Sham which far surpassed those of Ta'if back at home. These gardens must have struck his imagination all the more strongly as he compared them with the barren dryness of the desert and of the mountains surrounding Makkah. It was in al Sham that he came to know of Byzantine and Christian history and heard of the Christians' scriptures and of their struggle against the fire worshipping Persians. True, he was only at the tender age of twelve, but his great soul, intelligence, maturity, power of observation, memory and all the other qualities with which he was endowed in preparation for his prophet hood enabled him at an early age to listen perceptively and to observe details. Later on he would review in memory all that he had seen or heard and he would investigate it all in solitude, asking himself, "what, of all he has seen and heard, is the truth?"

In all likelihood, Abu Talib's trip to al Sham did not bring in much income. He never undertook another trip and was satisfied to remain in Makkah living within his means and taking care of his many children. Muhammad lived with his uncle, satisfied with his lot. There, Muhammad grew like any other child would in the city of Makkah. During the holy months he would either remain with his relatives or accompany them to the neighboring markets at `Ukaz, Majannah, and Dhu al Majaz. There he would listen to the recitations of the Mudhahhabat and Mu'allaqat [At the yearly market of 'Ukaz (near Makkah), held during the holy months, poets from all tribes competed with one another in poetry. They recited their compositions in public and the greatest was given the prize of having his composition written down and "hung" on the walls of the Ka'bah. According to al Mufaddal (d. 189 A.Ii./805 c.E.), Imru' al Qays (d. 560 C.E.), Zuhayr (d. 635 C.E.), al Nabighah (d. 604 C.E.), al A'sha (d. 612 C.E.), Labid (d. 645 C.E.),'Amr ibn Kulthum (d. 56' C.E.) and Tarafah (d. 565 C.E.) were authors of the greatest poems of preIslamic days, accorded this special honor. Hence, their name "al mu'allaqda," literally "the hanging poems." Other early historians of Arabic literature claimed that the mu'allaqat were eight, adding to the seven above-mentioned a poem of 'Antarah. Other pre-Islamic and early Islamic (up to 50 A.H./672 C.E.) poems, numbering 42 in all, were divided into six groups of seven poems each-the whole of pre-Islamic poetry adding up to seven groups of seven poems each-arranged according to their literary merit, poetic eloquence and force. They included: al mujamharat by 'Ubayd, 'Antarah, 'Adiyy, Bishr and Umayyah, al muntaqayat (literally, "the selected poems") by al Musayyib, al Muraqqash, al Mutalammis, 'Urwah, al ' Muhalhil, Durayd and al Mutanakhkhil; al mudhahhabat (literally, "The golden poems," or "written in gold") by 4assan ibn Rawahah, MAU, Qays ibn al Khatim, Uhayhah, Abu Qays ibn al Aslat and 'Amr ibn Umru' al Qays; al mashubat (literally, "the poems touched by Islam as well as pre-Islamic unbelief"), al malhamat (literally, "the epic poems"). For further details, see any literary history of the Arabs, or Muhammad 'Abd al Mun'im Khafaji, al Hayah al Adabiyyah fi al 'Asr al Jahili, Cairo: Maktabat al Husayn al Tijariyyah, 1368/1949. -Tr.] poems and be enchanted by their eloquence, their erotic lyricism, the pride and noble lineage of their heroes, their conquests, hospitality, and magnanimity. All that the visits to these market places presented to his consciousness, he would later review, approve of, and admire or disapprove of and condemn. There, too, he would listen to the speeches of Christian and Jewish Arabs who strongly criticized the paganism of their fellow countrymen, who told about the scriptures of Jesus and Moses, and called men to what they believed to be the truth. Muhammad would review and weigh these views, preferring them to the paganism of his people, though not quite convinced of their claims to the truth. Thus Muhammad's circumstances exposed him at a tender age to what might prepare him for the great day, the day of the first revelation, when God called him to convey His message of truth and guidance to all mankind.

 

 

The Fijar War

Just as Muhammad learned the routes of the caravans in the desert from his Uncle Abu Talib, and just as he listened to the poets and the orators in the markets around Makkah during the holy months, he learned how to bear arms. In the Fijar War [Literally, "the immoral war." -Tr.] he stood on the side of his uncle. The war was so-called because, unlike other wars, it was fought during the holy months. Arabia stood then under the convention that during the holy months no tribe should undertake any hostile activity against another; the general peace permitted the markets of `Ukaz between Ta'if and Makkah, of Majannah and Dhu al Majaz in the proximity of `Arafat, to be held and to prosper. On these market occasions, men were not restricted to trade. They competed with one another in poetry and debated, and they performed a pilgrimage to their gods in the Ka'bah. The market at `Ukaz was the most famous in Arabia. There, the authors of the Mu'allaqat poems recited their poetry. Quss exercised his oratory [Quss ibn Sa'idah al Iyadi, Archbishop of Najran.], and Jews, Christians and pagans spoke freely each about his faith in the peace and security that the holy months provided.

In violation of the holiness of such months, al Barrad ibn Qays al Kinani stealthily attacked `Urwah al Rahhal ibn `Utbah al Hawazini and killed him. Every year at this time, al Nu'man ibn al Mundhir, King of Hirah, used to send a caravan to `Ukaz to bring thither a load of musk and to take hence a load of hides, ropes, and brocade from Yaman. A1 Barrad al Kinani offered his services to guide the caravan as it passed through the lands of his tribe, namely Kinanah. `Urwah al Hawazini did likewise and offered to guide the caravan through the Hijaz on the road of Najd. King al Nu'man chose `Urwah and rejected the offer of al Barrad. The latter, enraged with jealously, followed the caravan, committed his crime, and ran away with the caravan itself. A1 Barrad then informed Bishr ibn Abu Hazim that the tribe of Hawazin would avenge the murder of `Urwah from Quraysh because the crime took place within the area under Quraysh jurisdiction. Indeed, members of the tribe of Hawazin followed members of the tribe of Quraysh and caught up with them before the latter entered the holy sanctuary. Hawazin, not yet satisfied, warned that they would make war next year at `Ukaz. This war continued to rage between the two parties for four consecutive years. It ended in reconciliation and a peace treaty, very much the kind of arrangement usually met with in the desert. The tribe with the lesser number of casualties would pay the other tribe the blood wit of the victims making up the difference. In the arrangement between Quraysh and Hawazin, the former paid the latter the blood wit of twenty men. Henceforth, al Barrad became the exemplar of mischief. History has not established the age of Muhammad during the Fijar War. Reports that he was fifteen and twenty years old have circulated. Perhaps the difference is due to the fact that the Fijar War lasted at least four years. If Muhammad saw its beginning at the age of fifteen, he must have been close to twenty at the conclusion of the peace.

There is apparent consensus as to the kind of participation that Muhammad had in this war. Some people claim that he was charged with collecting the arrows falling within the Makkan camp and bringing them over to his uncle for re-use against the enemy. Others claim that he himself participated in the shooting of these arrows. Since the said War lasted four years, it is not improbable that both claims are true. Years after his commission to prophet hood, Muhammad said, "I had witnessed that war with my uncle and shot a few arrows therein. How I wish I had never done so!"

 

 

The Alliance of Fudul

Following the Fijar War, the Quraysh realized that their tragedy and deterioration as well as all the loss of Makkah's prestige in Arabia which they entailed ever since the death of Hisham and `Abd al Muttalib were largely due to their disagreement and internal division. They realized that once they were the unquestioned leaders of Arabia, immune to all attacks, but that every tribe was now anxious to pick a fight with them and deprive them of what was left of their prestige and authority. With this recognition, al Zubayr ibn `Abd al Muttalib called together the houses of Hashim, Zuhrah, and Taym and entertained them at the residence of `Abdullah ibn Jud'an. At his request and appeal, they covenanted together, making God their witness, that they will henceforth and forever stand on the side of the victim of injustice. Muhammad attended the conclusion of this pact, which the Arabs called the Alliance of Fudul, [Literally, "the alliance for charity." -Tr.] and said, "I uphold the pact concluded in my presence when ibn Jud'an gave us a great banquet. Should it ever be invoked, I shall immediately rise to answer the call."

In the Fijar War, hostilities were waged only during a few days every year. During the rest of the year the Arabs returned to their normal occupations. Neither losses in property nor in life were grave enough to change the Makkans' daily routines of trade, usury, wine, women, and other kinds of entertainment. Was this Muhammad's daily routine as well? Or did his poverty and dependence upon his uncle for protection force him to stay away from the luxury and extravagance of his contemporaries? That he kept away from these indulgences is historically certain. That he did so not on account of his poverty is equally certain. The debauchees of Makkah who were hardly capable of providing for themselves the immediate needs of the day could still afford their life of turpitude. Indeed, some of the poorest among them could outdo the nobles of Makkah and the lords of Quraysh. Rather, the soul of Muhammad was far too possessed by his will to learn, to discover, and to know, to incline towards any such depravities. His having been deprived as a boy of the learning, which was the privilege of the rich, made him all the more anxious to learn on his own. His great soul whose light was later to fill the world and whose influence was to fashion history was so involved in its will to perfection that Muhammad could only turn away from the recreative pursuits of his fellow Makkans. As one already guided by the truth, Muhammad's mind was always turning towards the light of life evident in every one of its manifestations in the world. His constant preoccupation was with the discovery of the underlying truth of life, the perfection of its inner meaning. Ever since he was a youth his conduct was so perfect, manly, and truthful that all the people of Makkah agreed to call him "al Amin", or "the truthful", "the loyal."

 

 

Muhammad as Herdsman

Muhammad's occupation as herdsman during the years of his youth provided him with plenty of leisure to ponder and to contemplate. He took care of his family and neighbors' herds. Later, he used to recall these early days with joy, and say proudly that "God sent no prophet who was not a herdsman . . . Moses was a herdsman; David was also a herdsman; I, too, was commissioned to prophet hood while I grazed my family's cattle at Ajyad." The intelligent sensitive herdsman would surely find in the vastness of the atmosphere during the day and in the brilliance of the stars during the night fair enticement to thinking and contemplation. He would try to penetrate the skies, to seek an explanation for the manifestations of nature around him. If he were profound enough, his thoughts would bring him to realize that the world around him is not quite separate from the world within him. He would ponder the fact that he takes the atmosphere into his lungs that without it he would die. He would realize that the light of the sun revives him, that that of the moon guides him, and that he is not without relation to the heavenly bodies of the high and immense firmament. He would ponder the fact that these heavenly bodies are well ordered together in a precise system in which neither sun overtakes the moon nor night overtakes the day. If the security of this herd of animals demanded his complete and constant attention, if it were to be safeguarded against attack by the wolf and loss in the desert dunes, what supreme attention and what perseverence were needed to guard the order of the universe in all its detail! Such speculative thought can indeed divert man from preoccupation with worldly cares and passions; it can pull him beyond their apparent persuasiveness and appeal. Thus, in all his deeds, Muhammad never allowed anything to detract from his reputation, but answered to every expectation to which his nickname "al Amin" gave rise.

Further evidence to this effect may be found in the reports Muhammad made about this early period of his life. It is said that while he was a herdsman he had a companion whom he asked to take over his duties while he spent the night in town in some recreation as other youths were wont to do in those days. Before he reached his destination, however, Muhammad's attention was arrested by a wedding in one of the houses on the way. He stopped there to listen to the sounds emanating from the house and fell asleep. He came back to Makkah on another occasion for the same purpose, and again on the way his attention was arrested by the sound of beautiful music. He sat down on the street to listen, and again fell asleep. The temptations of Makkah had no power over the disciplined soul of Muhammad whose prime concern was contemplation. This is not surprising. Far lesser men than Muhammad have also overcome these temptations. He led a life far removed from vice and immorality, and found his pleasures in immersing himself in thought and contemplation.

 

 

The Life of Thought and Contemplation

The life of thought is satisfied with very little of the world's wealth and pleasure. Herding cattle and goats never brings much material return, anyway. Material return, however, did not concern Muhammad, for he regarded the world stoically and avoided, often with ascetic detachment, pursuing anything beyond the barest needs of survival. Did he not say, "We are a people who do not eat until we become hungry, a people who when sitting to eat would never eat their fill?" Was he not known throughout his life to call men to a life of hardness and himself to lead a life of stoic self-denial? Those who long after wealth and strive hard to obtain it satisfy passions which Muhammad never knew. Muhammad's greatest spiritual pleasure was that of beholding the beauty of the universe and responding to its invitation to ponder and to admire. Such pleasure is known only to the very few, but it was Muhammad's nourishment ever since he was a young child, and it was his only consolation when life began to try him with the unforgettably cruel misfortunes of the death of his father, of his mother, and of his grandfather. Spiritual and intellectual pleasures are free. Their pursuit demands no wealth but requires the moral tautness to direct one's gaze inward, to penetrate one's very essence. Even if Muhammad had never been called to prophet hood, his soul would never have allowed him to waste his energy in the pursuit of wealth. He would have been happy to remain as he was namely, a herdsman-but he would have been a herdsman whose soul encompassed the whole universe and was in turn encompassed by that universe as if he were the very center of it.

 

Khadijah

As we have said earlier, Muhammad's uncle, Abu Talib, was poor and had many mouths to feed. It was necessary that he find for his nephew a higher paying job than herdsmanship. One day he heard that Khadijah, daughter of Khuwaylid, was hiring men of the Quraysh tribe to work for her in her trade. Khadijah was a tradeswoman of honor and great wealth. She used to hire men to bid and compete in the market on her behalf and rewarded them with a share of the profits. Being of the tribe of Banu Asad and having married twice within the tribe of Banu Makhzum, she had become very rich. Her father Khuwaylid and other people whom she trusted used to help her administer her large wealth. She had turned down several noblemen of Quraysh who asked for her hand, believing that they were after her wealth. Bound to a life of solitude, she had given all her energy to the development of her business. When Abu Talib learned that she was preparing a caravan to send to al Sham, he called his nephew, who was then twenty-five years of age, and said to him, "My nephew, I am a man devoid of wealth and possessions. The times have been hard on us. I have heard that Khadijah has hired a man to do her trade for a remuneration of two young camels. We shall not accept for you a remuneration as little as that. Do you wish that I talk to her in this regard?" Muhammad answered, "let it be as you say my uncle." Abu Talib went to Khadijah and said, "0 Khadijah, would you hire Muhammad? We have heard that you have hired a man for the remuneration of two young camels, but we would not accept for Muhammad any less than four." Khadijah answered: "Had you asked this for an alien or a hateful man, I would have granted your request. How then can I turn you down when your request is in favor of a dear relative?" Abu Talib returned to Muhammad and told him the news, adding, "That is a true grace from God."

 

 

Muhammad in the Employ of Khadijah

On his first trip in the employ of Khadijah, Muhammad was accompanied by Maysarah, her slave, who was also recommended to Muhammad by his uncle. The caravan made its way to al Sham, passing through Wad! Al Zahran, Madyan and Thamud as well as those spots through which Muhammad had passed once before with his uncle Abu Talib when he was twelve years old. This trip must have recalled to Muhammad the memory of his first trip in that area. It furnished more grist for his thinking and contemplating as he came to know more of the doctrines and rituals of the people of al Sham. When he arrived at Busrah, he came into contact with Syrian Christianity and talked to the monks and priests, some of whom were Nestorians. Perhaps those very priests or some others discussed with him the religion of Jesus which had by then divided itself into several sects and parties. Muhammad's adeptness and loyalty enabled him to make great gains for Khadijah-indeed more than anyone had done before! -And his loyalty and gentleness had won for him the love and admiration of the slave, Maysarah. When the time came for them to return, Muhammad bought on behalf of Khadijah all that she had asked him to buy of the products of al Sham.

When the caravan had returned to al Zahran near Makkah, Maysarah said to Muhammad, "Run to Khadijah, O Muhammad, and bring to her the news of your success. She will reward you well." Muhammad galloped on his camel toward the residence of his employer and arrived there about noon. Khadijah happened to be in an upper story of her house, saw Muhammad coming, and prepared to receive him. She listened to his report which he must have rendered in his very eloquent style about his trip, the successes he achieved in his trade, and the goods he had imported from al Sham. She must have been well pleased with her new employee. Later on, Maysarah arrived and reported to her about Muhammad, his gentle treatment of him and his loyalty to her that confirmed what she had already known of Muhammad's virtue and superiority over the other youths of Makkah. Shortly, despite her forty years of age and the indifference with which she rejected the offers of the noblest of Quraysh, her satisfaction with her employee was to turn into love. She desired to marry this youth whose eloquence and looks had made such a. profound impression upon her. According to one version, she intimated her desire to her sister, and according to another, to her friend Nufaysah, daughter of Munyah. Nufaysah approached Muhammad and said, "What prevents you from getting married?" Muhammad answered; "I have no means with which to afford it." She said, "What if you were excused from providing such means and were called by a person of beauty, wealth, status and honor; what would be your response?" He answered, "Who can such a person be?" She said, "Khadijah." Muhammad wondered, "How could that be?" He too had felt inclined toward Khadijah but he never allowed himself to entertain the idea of marrying her. He knew of her rejection of the noblest and wealthiest men of Quraysh. When, therefore, Nufaysah reported to him in answer to his question, "I shall arrange it," he hastened to declare his acceptance. Soon Khadijah appointed the hour at which the uncles of Muhammad could find her people at her home and thus arrange for the completion of the marriage. It was her uncle, `Umar ibn Asad, who gave her away as her father Khuwaylid had died before the Fijar War. This fact disproves the claim that Khadijah's father did not agree to the marriage and that his daughter had given him wine in order to extract such agreement from him.

Here a new page in the life of Muhammad begins. It is the page of married and family life which had brought great happiness to him as well as to Khadijah. It was also a page of fatherhood in which he was to suffer the loss of children even as Muhammad had in his childhood suffered the loss of parents.