Haleemah, the wet nurse of the Prophet
As the scorching sun beat down on the red desert sands, the heat wavered in the air. It had been a difficult year for the bedouins.
The cooling rains had not come and they had nothing to eat. So, a pitiful small group of women from the tribe of Banoo Sa`d bin Bakr, set out for Makkah in search of babies to nurse.
In those days, the town people often sent their babies out into the pure, desert environment in the care of Bedouin wet nurses. There, the children would grow strong, away from the city benefiting from the pure Arabic language of the Bedouin people.
On the other hand, the Bedouins were also paid well for this service. So, as Haleemah sat upon her frail, brown donkey, she hoped she would find a good baby to nurse.
Haleemah had traveled with her husband and her baby and they were all so very hungry, but their old she-camel did not even have a drop of milk. Each night, Haleemah’s little baby cried itself to sleep because she did not have any milk in her breast, and Haleemah’s small, skinny donkey was so weak he plodded slowly through the desert.
Haleemah and her husband could only hope and pray for rain and relief.
A Mother’s Love
Back in Makkah, Aaminah was becoming more and more concerned for her little, fatherless son. She wondered who would take care of him and give him a proper, traditional upbringing.
Although Aaminah knew that `Abdul- Muttalib was very dedicated to her son, she knew he already had many great burdens. As the leader of the Quraysh he had many responsibilities, and he had a large family to take care of, so how could he also care for her little son ? On the other hand, Aaminah knew that raising her baby in the pure desert environment was best, but who would accept an orphan? Most of the wet nurses refused orphans because they had no father to guarantee payment. And if anyone did accept him, how could she bear to part with her only child? Thus, many concerns and emotions surged through the young mother’s mind as she considered the future of her little, orphan son.
The Wet Nurses Come to Makkah
When Haleemah and her family finally arrived in Makkah, she was very disappointed. Poor Haleemah could not find a single baby to nurse …. except one – an orphan!
Haleemah was disappointed because she really needed the money the father would pay, so she refused to take the little orphan boy. How could his grandfather and mother pay her? Yet, she did not want to return to her village without a baby to nurse. So, Haleemah decided to take the little orphan boy. “By Allah, I don’t want to go back with the other women without a baby. I should go to that orphan and take him”, Haleemah told her husband. Haleemah’s husband immediately agreed. “There isn’t any harm by doing so and maybe Allah (SWT) will bless us through him,” he replied.
When Haleemah took the little orphan boy, she raised him to her breast, and to her surprise, she found that she had lots of milk for him. In fact, after the little orphan baby had finished drinking, Haleemah fed her own baby and they both peacefully fell asleep. Then, another strange thing happened. When Haleemah’s husband went to milk the she-camel, he found to his surprise, that she gave lots of milk. Haleemah and her husband were truly astonished as they gratefully drank the fresh milk, and fell asleep, full and satisfied. The next morning, Haleemah’s husband said, “By Allah, Haleemah, you must understand that you have been able to get a blessed child.” “By the grace of Allah, I hope so,” Haleemah replied.
Indeed, Haleemah had chosen a special, little orphan. She had chosen Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib (PBUH) While baby Muhammad (PBUH) was with Haleemah and her family, they were continually blessed with good fortune. On the journey back to their village, Haleemah’s ride was strong and galloped ahead.
Then, when they arrived at their village, they had an even greater surprise. To their amazement, the dry, blistering sands were now covered with lush, green grass, and their animals were fat and full of milk. After that, Haleemah and her husband were certain that their blessings were due to the special, little orphan they had brought from Makkah.
Baby Muhammad (PBUH) stayed with Haleemah amongst the people of Sa’d for two years.
Haleemah dearly loved little Muhammad (PBUH) and he had several foster brothers and sisters to play with.
However, Haleemah noticed a natural goodness in him that made him stand out from the other children and she loved him as if he was her very own son. Thus, when the time came for Haleemah to return the child to his own people in Makkah, she became very anxious and sad. How could she part with this blessed child? How could their days seem full without him in their midst?
Haleemah longed to keep the child with her, but she knew that his real mother must miss him too. So, she reluctantly took Muhammad (PBUH) back to Makkah. Instead of leaving the child in his mother’s care, Haleemah pleaded with Aaminah to let him stay with them a bit longer. She insisted that the child would be safer back in the fresh desert air, far away from the sicknesses of the town, and finally Aaminah agreed. Thus, little Muhammad (PBUH) returned with Haleemah to the wide, open desert and to the people of Sa’d.
Little Muhammad (PBUH) thrived amongst the people of Sa’d and his presence made Haleemah and her family very happy. Unlike most children his age, he was shy and gentle. He never raised his hands to hurt anyone and he never took anything that did not belong to him. He even extended kindness to the sheep he pastured and they seemed to be attracted to the quiet, sympathetic child.
Then, one day, something happened. The children had all been out playing as usual when some of the boys came running over to Haleemah. “Verily, Muhammad (PBUH) has been murdered!” they screamed. The children explained that while they had been playing, a man had appeared, ripped open little Muhammad’s chest, and took his heart out.
The “man” was really the angel Jibreel (PBUH) sent by Allah (SWT) to purify the heart of Muhammad (PBUH). The Angel Jibreel (PBUH) then washed little Muhammad’s heart with Zam-Zam water in a gold basin.
Still, you can imagine how terriﬁed poor Haleemah must have been as she raced to her beloved suckling. Much to her relief, when they found him, he was perfectly fine except that his face was pale. However, this event had a traumatic effect on Haleemah and after that, she constantly worried about the child’s safety. Although she loved him dearly, she decided to return the child to his mother in Makkah.
Thus, Iittle Muhammad (PBUH) left the sprawling, dusty desert, where the blue heavens met the brown earth and where the stars sparkled like jewels in the night sky.
When they arrived in Makkah, it was very painful for Haleemah to say goodbye to the special, little boy whom she had nurtured for so long. Yet, she knew she had to let him go. Thus, she left the city, and the blessed, little boy.
As she journeyed back to her people, she felt as though she had left a piece of her heart behind.