The Messenger’s Birth
The life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was truly amazing. But where should we begin his story? Should we begin from his noble birth? Or should we begin with the story of his father, Abdullah, or with the story of his grandfather Abdul-Muttalib? Although history has entwined their lives, we must go even further back. Like a beautiful quilt spread before us, we must find the first golden threads of the Prophet’s Message. Thus we shall begin with the Father of all Prophets, lbraaheem (PBUH) who supplicated to Allah to send a Messenger to his nation.
“Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed. You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (Surah al-Baqarah: Ayah 129)
Allah (SWT) answered his supplication by sending the Messenger, Muhammad (PBUH) as a mercy to all mankind. So let us travel back through time, to the days when lbraaheem (PBUH) searched for the golden threads of truth and was guided to the True Religion.
The Story of lbraaheem
Many, many years ago, around 1800 BC, lbraaheem (PBUH) was born in the land that we call Iraq today.
lbraaheem (PBUH) lived in a dusty, barren land with his father, who was a polytheist, statue- maker.
lbraaheem (PBUH) however, was an open-minded, and clever young man. He was very disturbed by the idol worship that his people practiced. He would watch his father as he carved the idols from stone or wood, and he realized that they neither helped, nor harmed the people who bought them. This made lbraaheem (PBUH) very confused, and he wondered why they would worship idols.
“He said, ‘Do you worship that which you [yourselves] carve.” (Surah as-Saaffaat: Ayah 95)
“Why wouldn’t they worship the Creator?” he thought. lbraaheem (PBUH) thought about this matter constantly. “There must be a Creator, who is the most worthy of worship”, he reasoned. Using the stars, the moon and even the sun as examples, he advised his people that none of these things deserved to be worshipped because they too, were created.
The dazzling stars disappeared with the dawn; the silver moon waxed and waned, and the orange sun rose and set beyond the dusty horizon. lbraaheem (PBUH) knew there was a Creator — the One who had fashioned the universe and placed man within its sphere. He said,
“While Allah created you and that which you do?” (Surah as-Saaffaat: Ayah 96)
So when it came to pass, that lbraaheem (PBUH) was entrusted by Allah with this Message, he said,
“O my father, indeed there has come to me of knowledge that which has not come to you, so follow me; I will guide you to an even path”. (Surah Maryam: Ayah 43)
lbraaheem (PBUH) called his people to worship Allah (SWT) (Alone) without associating anyone with Him, and to worship Allah (SWT) with complete sincerity. However, his people did not accept his new religion. In fact, they tried to kill him, but Allah (SWT) saved him from their plot. Eventually, he left Iraq and migrated to Syria, and then, he went on to Palestine.
However, lbraaheem (PBUH) was not alone in his travels; his wife, Saarah traveled with him. Saarah could not have any children, so lbraaheem (PBUH) married an Egyptian woman named Haajar, who bore him a son named lsmaa’eel (PBUH).
Then, the angels delighted and surprised lbraaheem (PBUH) by announcing that Saarah would also bear him a son, although she was very old. This son was named lshaaq (PBUH). Thus, many of the prophets who carried the Message of Allah (SWT) were descendents of lbraaheem (PBUH) including Moosaa (PBUH) ‘Eesaa (PBUH) and Muhammad (PBUH).
Haajar and lsmaa’eel in Makkah
After lsmaa’eel (PBUH) was born, lbraaheem (PBUH) took the child and his mother to a dry, desolate valley.
Then, by the command of Allah (SWT) he left Haajar and her infant son in the valley. Soon, their provisions were exhausted. So poor Haajar ran to the hill of Saffaa and ascended it.
She desperately needed help to save herself and her little child. Seeing no one around, she ran down the mountain, across the valley and up the hill of Marwah. But there was still no help in sight.
Frantic with concern for her little child, poor Haajar ran back and forth between the two mountains over and over, seven times. It is reported that after that, an angel dug a hole with his heel, or with the tip of his wing, and blessed water ﬂowed from that place. This was the water of Zam-Zam. Haajar quickly scooped up some of the water, drank and suckled her child. By the mercy of Allah, they were saved!
The Story of the Sacriﬁce
The years passed, lbraaheem (PBUH) grew older and Ismaa`eel (PBUH) became a strong young man. Then, one night, lbraaheem (PBUH) had a dream in which Allah (SWT) commanded him to sacriﬁce lsmaa’eel (PBUH). Surely, this was a great trial for lbraaheem (PBUH) to be commanded to sacriﬁce his ﬁrstborn son, who had previously been saved from death in the valley.
However, lbraaheem (PBUH) knew that this was a test from Allah (SWT) to conﬁrm his faith, and he was determined to carry out Allah’s (SWT) Command. So he resolved himself to sacriﬁce his ﬁrstborn son and told lsmaa’eel (PBUH) about his dream.
“O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” (Surah as-Saaffaat: Ayah 102)
Young lsmaa’eel (PBUH) answer was filled with obedience and respect for his father, as a Prophet and Messenger of Allah, and he said,
“O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast”. (Surah as-Saaffaat: Ayah 102)
Thus, they both submitted to the Will of Allah (SWT).
Determined to carry out Allah’s Command, lbraaheem (PBUH) led lsmaa’eel (PBUH) to a secluded area and prepared to sacrifice him.
Meanwhile, lsmaa’eel (PBUH) lay still, bravely making his intention to be sacrificed in the way of Allah (SWT)
Suddenly, there came a call from Allah (SWT)
“We called to him, “O Abraham,You have fulfilled the vision.” (Surah as-Saaffaat: Ayah 104 – 105)
lbraaheem (PBUH) and lsmaa’eel (PBUH) had both displayed great devotion and obedience to Allah’s (SWT) Commands. Thus, Allah provided them with another sacrifice in place of lsmaa’eel (PBUH) which the majority of the scholars say was a ram.
“And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” (Surah as-Saaffaat: Ayah 107)
Allah (SWT) then commanded them to build the Ka ‘bah. So together, lbraaheem (PBUH) and young lsmaa’eel (PBUH) raised the foundation of the Holy House, purely to please Allah (SWT).
Prophet lbraaheem invoked Allah (SWT) to have people make pilgrimage there, to bless its inhabitants with fruits and provisions, and to make it a place of security for all believers.
However, lbraaheem (PBUH) also prayed to Allah (SWT) to send to his people a Prophet from amongst them, who spoke their language and who would guide them to righteousness. Thus, the curtains on lbraaheem’s story closed with the completion of his Message, the worship of the True Creator, and the spread of the True Religion.
Idols in the Holy Sanctuary
Like the dusty, red sands that whipped across the scorching desert, the years flew by and there came a time when idolatry again prevailed over lbraaheem’s (PBUH) religion. Only a few followers remained, and being so few, they could not influence the majority.
Although the Holy House remained a sacred place, idols now polluted its pure structure. Many people had forgotten the religion of lbraaheem (PBUH) and had again, started to worship idols. Then, when the source of the pure, blessed water from the Zam-Zam well was buried, another great landmark of lbraaheem’s religion also disappeared.
Nevertheless, Allah (SWT) had answered lbraaheem’s (PBUH) supplication for a Messenger from amongst them. Thus, as the darkness of ignorance again spread across the land, a new glimmer of hope flickered on the horizon. This new hope, from the descendants of lsmaa’eel (PBUH) would be fulfilled through the family of ‘Abdul-Muttalib, the chief of the Hashimite tribe.
Abdul-Muttalib-The Grandfather of the Messenger
‘Abdul-Muttalib was responsible for providing food and water to the pilgrims that came to visit the Ka ‘bah, and he was highly respected by the people of Makkah. Then, ‘Abdul-Muttalib received an order in a dream to dig for the Zam-Zam well in a particular place. When he did this, water gushed forth from the Zam-Zam well.
‘Abdul-Muttalib had found it near the Ka ‘bah, and he was overjoyed! However, he realized that with this great discovery, also came more responsibility. Now, he would have his normal duties of caring for the pilgrims, and the added responsibility of caring for the Zam-Zam well. Thus, ‘Abdul-Muttalib then began the tradition of providing the pilgrims with Zam-Zam water.
The Quraysh tribe saw the potential for power and influence in being the caretaker of the Zam-Zam well. Therefore, they wanted to be partners with ‘Abdul-Muttalib, but he refused their request. He insisted that he, alone, was chosen for this honorable job. So the Quraysh brought in a judge to settle the dispute, and the judge agreed with ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s claims. ‘Abdul-Muttalib made a solemn vow to sacrifice one of his adult children, if he had ten.
The Year of the Elephant
‘Abdul-Muttalib also witnessed another great event. This great event started when Abrahah As-Sabah AI-Habashi, the Abyssinian deputy in Yemen, built a huge church in San’aa to attract pilgrims away from the Ka’bah. However, when someone put filth in the church, Abrahah was furious! He gathered a huge army of sixty thousand warriors, and prepared to demolish the Ka’bah.
Meanwhile, the terrified Makkans fled to the hills and mountaintops in preparation for the invasion.
The invaders’ army was amazing. Some of the warriors even rode elephants, but Abrahah rode the largest elephant of all. They were confident that they would succeed. Then something happened. As they were about to enter Makkah, the elephants sat down and refused to go forward. The elephants would walk quickly in every direction, except towards the Ka ‘bah. There is no doubt that Allah (SWT) was protecting the Holy House.
Suddenly, the skies became filled with flocks of small birds. Each bird carried three stones of baked clay, one in the beak, and one in each tiny claw. Then, by the Command of Allah (SWT) the birds began to drop the stones of baked clay on Abrahah’s warriors. Whoever it struck was killed while the other terrified warriors ran away. Wounded, and confused, many of them also died and by the time Abrahah reached San’aa, he too died as a result of his wounds.
“Have you not considered, [O Muhammad], how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not make their plan into misguidance? And He sent against them birds in flocks, striking them with stones of hard clay, and He made them like eaten straw.” (Surah al-Feel: Ayah 1-5)
News of this great event spread far and wide, and the rulers of other kingdoms realized the sacredness of the Holy Ka ‘bah. Many of them had already heard about the coming of a Prophet, and now they wondered if this event had any significance to his coming.
Abdullah – The Father of the Messenger
Eventually, ‘Abdul-Muttalib was blessed with ten sons and six daughters. So when his children had grown up, ‘AbdulMuttalib gathered his sons and told them about the vow of sacrifice he had made. Then, as was the tradition of that time, all of his sons’ names were written on arrows, shuffled, and drawn to see who would be sacrificed. Much to ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s regret, the tradition showed that ‘Abdullah was the one to be sacrificed.
‘Abdullah was the most beloved of all his sons, and his favorite. Still,’Abdul-Muttalib was determined to keep his vow, and prepared to sacrifice his beloved son. Fortunately, the boy’s uncles intervened and pleaded with their brother to bring a divineress to settle the matter. Finally, it was resolved that ‘Abdul-Muttalib should sacrifice one hundred camels instead of ‘Abdullah.
When the time came for ‘Abdul-Muttalib to choose a wife for his favorite son, he chose Aaminah, the daughter of Wahab bin ‘Abd Manaaf bin Zahra bin Kilaab. Aaminah was a noble girl and her father was the chief of Banoo Zahra. She and ‘Abdullah were married in Makkah, but soon after, ‘Abdullah’s father sent him to Madeenah to buy dates. When ‘Abdul-Muttalib learned that Aaminah was to have a baby, he wished that his son had not traveled.
The caravans were always exposed to great dangers on the way, and robbers were a great threat. `Abdul-Muttalib tried to dismiss these thoughts from his mind, and focused on thoughts of his favorite son returning home safely. However, when the caravan returned, `Abdullah did not return with it. His beloved son had become ill and died.
The Messenger’s Birth
Still, the glimmer of hope that had ﬂickered on the horizon remained and continued to grow brighter and brighter like the morning sun as it rises. Then, in Makkah, in the year 571 C.E., Aaminah delivered a son and hope radiated upon the world. lbraaheem’s (PBUH) prayers were to be answered, and the Messenger (PBUH) was born.
Aaminah immediately informed the baby’s grandfather, `Abdul-Muttalib, of his birth. Delighted to hear the good news, he hurried to receive his orphan grandson and took the baby to the Ka’bah. There, he prayed to Allah (SWT) thanking Him for his birth. Then, ‘Abdul-Muttalib chose a unique name for the baby. He called the baby Muhammad.
A Mercy to All Mankind
Although the pre-Islamic Arabs had many virtuous ways, when the Messenger (PBUH) was born, Makkah reeked with oppression and injustice.
The strong oppressed the weak, and trivial arguments would spark horrible tribal wars.
The rich oppressed the poor, and men, fearing poverty, would often go calmly into the blue-black desert nights to bury their baby girls alive.
Yet, around the Arabian Peninsula, kings and emperors sat upon thrones of pure gold, dressed in rich clothes inlaid with jewels. Thus, in a time when ignorance and treachery spread over the world like a dark cloud, the time had drawn close when Muhammad (PBUH) would be chosen to guide all of humanity to righteousness.
His call to resume the religion of lbraaheem (PBUH) would rock the ungodly societies of Makkah from the foundations of their idol worship to the core of their superstitions.