Born on a Monday circa 570 CE
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born in Bani Hashim area of Makkah, Saudi Arabia,into a prestigious clan who had dominated the political scene of Makkah for some generations. He was born on a Monday but the exact date of his birth is not known. Early historical textbooks mention a number of dates and there's no unanimous decision regarding the date of the Prophet's birth. Some historians and scholars believe he was born around 569 CE, others around 570, and others around 571.
The vast majority of early historian state that Prophet was born in the Year of the Elephant. This again is difficult to calculate exactly, but the majority of the historians say this corresponds to 570 CE.
What is definitely known is that he was born on a Monday as the Prophet (pbuh) himself had mentioned this in an authentic hadith.
In a Hadith narrated by Abu Qatada Ansari (Allah be pleased with him), he reports that a man ask Allah's Messenger (saw) why he fasted on Mondays, whereupon he said: "This was the day I was born on and this was the day revelation began to me [i.e. verse Iqra sent down]."
Sahih Muslim, Book 6, Number 2606
Earliest books estimate date of birth as 2nd, 8th, 10th or 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal
There are over 10 opinions in the earliest books of Islam on the exact day the Prophet was born, none of which are indisputable, or are solid evidence. All of them are opinions of early authors and narrators. They vary from 2nd, 8th, 10th or 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal.
The first and most famous historical book on the seerah (biography) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the Siratu Rasul Allah (Life of the Messenger of Allah) by Ibn Ishaq, a historian born in Madinah. Ibn Isḥaq collected oral traditions about the life of Prophet and orally dictated these to his pupils.
Without quoting any chain of narrators (isnad) and based on his own knowledge, Ibn Ishaq said that Prophet was born Monday 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal in the Year of the Elephant. But the birth of the Prophet is 53 years before Hijrah, and Ibn Ishaq died 150 A.H. so there's over 200 years gap between Ibn Ishaq and the Prophet (pbuh).
The second earliest book on the prophet's life was by Ibn Sa'd, a Muslim scholar from Iraq who died around 230 A.H. Ibn Sa'd narrated that some people believed the Prophet was born on the 10th Rabi' ul-Awwal and others say 2nd.
Ibn Kathir, the eminent historian from Syria who died 774 A.H., says the majority of opinion was that the Prophet was born in the month of Rabi' ul-Awwal but others have stated other months. But scholars differ on the exact date. There is one group who say 2nd Rabi' ul-Awwal. Among these are Abu Ma'shar Al-Sindi (a scholar of Hadith literature from present-day Pakistan who died 171 A.H.), al-Waqidi (an eminent historian from Madinah who died 207 A.H.), and Ibn Abd-al-Barr (an 11th century Maliki judge and scholar in Portugal who died 463 A.H.).
A second group who believe that the Prophet was born on 8th Rabi' ul-Awwal. Among these are Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri (a hadith scholar from Madinah who died 124 A.H.), Imam Malik ibn Anas (Muslim jurist, theologian, and hadith traditionist from Madinah who died 179 A.H.), and Ibn Hazm (Spanish poet, historian and philosopher who died 456 A.H.).
A third group who believe it was 10th Rabi' ul-Awwal. Among these are Ibn Abbas (a cousin of the Prophet and early Qur'an scholar who died c. 64 A.H.), Ja'far as-Sadiq (a descendent of the Prophet who the Shia consider as sixth Imam and who died 148 A.H.), and Ibn 'Asakir (a Syrian Islamic scholar who died 571 A.H.).
And finally there's a fourth view, held by Ibn Ishaq, that it was 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal though there is no isnad on this matter.
There are others like scholar Muhammad Sulaiman Al-Mansurpuri and the astronomer Mahmud Pasha who believe that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born on Monday morning, the 9th of Rabi' ul-Awwal (i.e. 20-22 April 571).
How 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal became the most popular date
In medieval Islam Ibn Ishaq's 12th Rabi- ul-Awwal was the most popular view. And this remains the popular view today, even though the other dates (i.e. 2nd, 8th and 10th) were narrated by descendants of the Prophet while the 12th does not have a chain of narration. So the question is why?
Firstly, almost all modern historians rely on Ibn Ishaq's seerah of the Prophet as their reference. Very rarely do they research into other books or materials. For them, Ibn Ishaq's collection of traditions is almost undisputable.
Secondly, the first time the Prophet's birthday was celebrated as a public event i.e. Milad un Nabi (or Mawlid al-Nabi), the authorities chose 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal as the date. So this date, event, and custom spread like wildfire. The first recorded Milad un Nabi was around 517 A.H., that is six centuries of Islam. So for over 500 years the concept of celebrating the Prophet birthday was unknown to Muslims. Since Arabs did not originally record birth dates - like many Asian generations - they did not celebrate birthdays. This recording and celebration is a Western concept which is the modern day norm.
The first group to celebrate was the Fatimid of Egypt, a dynasty who practised an extreme branch of Shia. They are the ancestors of modern day Aga Khans and Bohras, the Ismailis. The Fatimid instituted of over 30 festivals with various motives, for example to improve economy, distract attention, showcase popularity of ruling family, etc. Every few weeks there was a festival. A 150 years later, c. 670 A.H., some Sunni governors - not Caliph - thought the Milad un Nabi was a good idea and they imported the festival to Mosul, Iraq, and stuck to the 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal date. This was a very luxurious festival and various governors and rulers would compete with each other to see who could have the bigger and grander festival. Free meat, free bread, free gifts were given to people. So it became a national festival, mainly to attract trade and commerce to the state.
Today, 12th Rabi' ul-Awwal has become the most popular quoted date for the birth of the Prophet (pbuh).
Calendar introduced properly later
The difference in dates is merely due to the earlier and later method of calendar calculations. Originally, the Arabs did not have a calendar as we understand it today. They would have a calendar based on events e.g. the year of the drought, the year of invasion, the year of the elephant, etc. And subsequently they would relate an incident based upon its time lapse after that event e.g. two years after the year of drought, etc. This was the calendar system until the second caliph (head) Umar ibn al-Khattab introduced the Islamic hijri calendar which the Muslims have been using ever since.
There are so many legends regarding the actual birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which are not academically sound. For example, some say the Prophet was born circumcised, or that he was born and fell straight into sajdah (prostration), or that after birth he lifted his finger to the sky to say the shahadah (declaration of faith), or that the jinns were denied entry into Heaven on the day of his birth (this happened only when the Qur'an was first revealed). Ibn Ishaq does not mention none of these things as he didn't have this information. Yet when you look at books written in 700 A.H. or 800 A.H. there are so many details about the life of the Prophet which makes you question what was their source for this information.
We don't need to invent lies to praise the Prophet (SAW). We don't need to invent fairytales. Allah has praised him enough. We don't need to fabricate things.
What is really amazing is that the earliest books you go to [regarding his life] has the least information. But as you go on and on in history, then the books get bigger and bigger and the details get more and more. And you wonder where did this come from?
...We don't need to invent these things about the Prophet (SAW). He is the best human being. The facts are enough to show us that. And when we resort to these tales, wallahi [by Allah], it makes our religion not look as dignified as it needs to.
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, Islamic scholar
Light emanating from mother to city of Busra in Syria
There's only one authentic hadith where the Prophet himself discusses his own birth. It's narrated in Imam Ahmed's book where the Prophet (pbuh) said:
I am the supplication of my father Ibrahim and the glad tiding of Isa. And when my mother was carrying me [In another version he said gave birth to me] my mother saw a light emanate from her that cast its light to the city of Busra in the land of Syria.
Musnad Ahmad, Book 5, Number 262
When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the palaces of Syria.
Aminah on her son Muhammad (pbuh), as reported by Ibn Sa'd 1/63
The Prophet did not mention whether this light was either in a dream or a physical light. But it came from his mother Aminah and illuminated the palaces of the city of Busra of Sham (located in present-day southern Syria, near Jordan). Scholars have interpreted the light as referring to the Prophet himself.
Importance of Sham
Sham is a blessed land according to Islam. But the geographical boundary of Sham is not confined to modern day Syria only. Sham or Islamic Syria includes modern day Jordan, Palestine, and Syria among others. Amazingly, Sham was the first major country that was conquered by the Muslims after the Arabian Peninsula. This occurred after the death of the Prophet when the caliphate was under Umar ibn al-Khattab.
Sham was also the right arm of the Roman Byzantine Empire. Damascus was the jewel of the Romans before the advent of Islam. Everything took place here: commerce, trade, culture, civilisation. It was impossible for the Arabs to think that one day Damascus would be the core of Islamic civilisation. But Damascus became the capital of Ummayids.
So by showing that the light from Prophet's mother was emanating to Syria, there was a divine sign that Islam was going to conquer this land. And that's what exactly happened.
Muslims also believe that Isa (Jesus) (pbuh) will descend to Sham – not Makkah or Madinah – before the end of days as this was the land that was made holy by his ancestors.
Prophet's mother Aminah immediately sent someone to inform his paternal grandfather Abdul-Muttalib of the happy event. Happily he came to her, carried the infant to Al-Ka'bah, prayed to Allah and thanked Him. 'bdul-Muttalib called the baby "Muhammad", meaning "Praiseworthy". This was unique and unusual. The name 'Muhammad' was known to Arabs but it was not common among them. It was a very uncommon name. There was nobody in Makkah with that name. When people asked Abdul-Muttalib regarding his thought process for choosing such a rare name, he answered that he wanted his grandson to be praised by the people of the earth as he was to be praised the people of the heaven.
Abdul-Muttalib also circumcised his grandson on his 7th day as was the custom of the Arabs and held a feast for him.
The name 'Muhammad' occurs four times in the Qur'an:
Uncle Abu Lahab - later the Prophet's worst enemy - sets free slave girl upon hearing the good news of Prophet's birth
The message of the prophet's birth reached Abu Lahab, his elder uncle and later his staunchest enemy. Abu Lahab was one of the 9 uncles of the Prophet. He was a step brother of Prophet's dad Abdullah. Abu Lahab had no full brother, whereas Abdullah and Abu Talib (Ali's dad) were born to the same mother.
Such was his happiness and excitement on hearing about the Prophet's birth, Abu Lahab freed the slave girl Thuwaibah (also spelt Thuwaybah) who gave him the good news. It was the custom of Arabs to show generosity at receiving good news, and since this was the newborn son of his recently deceased brother, Abu Lahab decided to free Thuwaibah, who would later become the first woman to suckle Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) after his own mother.
This generous act, according to an authentic hadith, had a small reprieve for Abu Lahab following his death.
When Abu Lahab died, someone from his household saw him in a dream, they asked him what happened in the grave he said "I am being punished severely, but on Mondays, I get water from my finger with which I freed Thuwaybah.
Other name of Prophet Muhammad in the Qur'an
Throughout the rest of the Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is addressed in the second person, not by his name but by the appellations prophet, messenger, servant of God ('abd), announcer (bashir), warner (nathir), reminder (mudhakkir), witness (shahid), bearer of good tidings (mubashshir), one who calls [unto God] (dā‘ī) and the light-giving lamp (siraj munir).
Thuwaibah - first woman to suckle the Prophet after his own mother
The first woman who suckled Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) after his mother was Thuwaibah, the freed slave (concubine) of Abu Lahab. She suckled him along with her own son Masruh. Thuwaibah had previously suckled the Prophet's uncle Hamzah bin Abdul-Muttalib and later Abu Salamah bin 'Abdul-Asad Al-Makhzumi.
Arabic custom encouraged sending children to noble bedouin
It was the general custom of the Arabs living in towns to send their children away to bedouin wet nurses so that they might grow up in the free and healthy surroundings of the desert. This may come across as strange from modern-day perspective, after all, why would you give your own newborn to be raised away from your home?
But this was the custom of the rich, elite and nobility of the Quraysh. They only gave their child to certain selected tribes for rearing their children, not to just any random tribes. The concept is similar to modern-day rich families having nannies.
The mothers gave their child to be raised in desert for number of reasons. Firstly, to raise child in pure and healthy environment. Back then, infant mortality was extremely high (and remained so until just 100 years ago). So by removing the child away from highly populated area where there was greater chance of catching diseases into cleaner environment, the parents hoped to prolong the child's life. It was seen as a mercy for the child.
Also they wanted to build the stamina of the child and make them adjusted to rough life. By bringing them up in tougher environment than the city and town life, they hoped to make their adult lives easier. Since children adapt more quickly to environment and their circumstances than adults, this was viewed as great training ground. The hardship of Makkah would appear as luxury to them when they returned.
Children could avoid the pampering by other family members by growing up in desert away from them. They were handed over to a particular family to raise the child in a disciplined way. The belief was that in the desert one learned self-discipline, nobility, and freedom. That they would develop a robust frame and acquire the pure speech and manners of the bedouins, who were noted both for chastity of their language and for being free from those vices which usually develop in sedentary societies. This also gave young Muhammad (pbuh) the chance to learn Arabic and Arab traditions.
The tribes known for rearing children, were known for their fluency in Arabic. The Arabs viewed the language of the city as being corrupted, influenced by other languages and culture. So the Quraysh wanted to protect their heritage and purity of their language, hence why they sent their children to villages and desert where the language was uncorrupted and they were still speaking the ancient language and dialect.
Halimah As-Sa'diyah of Banu Sa'd adopts baby Muhammad (pbuh) and infant brings her good fortune
The most famous tribe for fostering children were the Banu Sa'd bin Bakr tribe. It was this tribe that adopted the Prophet (pbuh). Among their members was a poor woman called Halimah bint Abi Dhuaib who was married to Al-Harith bin Abdul 'Uzza (also called Abi Kabshah) from the same tribe. They had one daughter, Ash-Shayma, who was around 7 or 8 years old and a newly born son. Like Thuwaibah, Halimah had previously suckled the Prophet's uncle Hamzah bin Abdul-Muttalib.
It was an annual practice to foster a child. The foster families would come to Makkah annually at a certain time of the year for a week and see which rich families children they would adopt for the next 2 - 3 years. The biological mother of the child would choose the foster family she liked the most to give her child to.
Halimah narrates the story herself in the first person. It's recorded in number of books of hadith and seerah, so is considered authentic. According to her narration, she and her husband were greatly suffering in poverty so by fostering a child they had hoped to get some money. They are desert dwellers and desert dwellers don't get much income. So Halimah convinced her husband they should go to Makkah in search of a rich child.
The birth of her newborn son allowed Halimah's milk to flow so she could foster another child. Halimah went with a group of newly mothers, possibly 5 - 10 members of her clan, and went Makkah to find the new batch of mothers who wanted to adopt their child. One of them was called 'the orphan child' (referring to the Prophet). They were told his father was already dead. Some of the women didn't even go and see Aminah as they felt they wouldn't get much money from an orphan child. Others, including Halimah, went and visited Aminah but were discouraged by their poverty and they moved on. When the week finished, all of Halimah's friend had acquired a foster child except for her. And the only child that was left was Muhammad (pbuh).
Halimah told her husband that she felt embarrassed that all her friends had a foster child except her. So her husband said why don't you take the orphan child, perhaps Allah will bless us through him. Such was his soft heart, he reassured her that there are other blessings beyond money.
So Halimah adopted Muhammad (pbuh) and their good fortune began to pour in.
Traditions delightfully relate how Halimah and the whole of her household were favoured by successive strokes of good fortune while the baby Muhammad (pbuh) lived under her care. For example, Halimah had only one old goat which stopped giving milk. However, as soon as the Prophet entered the tent the goat's udder became full. The barren land sprouted forth luxuriant grass and beasts came back to them satisfied and full of milk. Halimah also had an old donkey when she came to Makkah which was lean and almost lame. But when she put the Prophet on the animal it became the fastest animal much to the amazement of Halimah's fellow travellers.
It was a year of drought and famine and we had nothing to eat. I rode on a brown she-ass. We also had with us an old she-camel. By Allah we could not get even a drop of milk. We could not have a wink of sleep during the night for the child kept crying on account of hunger. There was not enough milk in my breast and even the she-camel had nothing to feed him. We used to constantly pray for rain and immediate relief.
At length we reached Makkah looking for children to suckle. Not even a single woman among us accepted when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was offered to her. As soon as they were told that he was an orphan, they refused him. We had fixed our eyes on the reward that we would get from the child's father. An orphan! What are his grandfather and mother likely to do? So we spurned him because of that.
Every woman who came with me got a suckling and when we were about to depart, I said to my husband: "By Allah, I do not like to go back along with the other women without any baby. I should go to that orphan and I must take him." He said, "There is no harm in doing so and perhaps Allah might bless us through him". So I went and took him because there was simply no other alternative left for me but to take him. When I lifted him in my arms and returned to my place I put him on my breast and to my great surprise, I found enough milk in it. He drank to his heart's content, and so did his foster brother and then both of them went to sleep although my baby had not been able to sleep the previous night.
My husband then went to the she-camel to milk it and, to his astonishment, he found plenty of milk in it. He milked it and we drank to our fill, and enjoyed a sound sleep during the night. The next morning, my husband said: "By Allah Halimah, you must understand that you have been able to get a blessed child". And I replied: "By the grace of Allah, I hope so".
Extended stay due to increased blessings
Generally, the foster care custom was to take care of the child for one-and-half or two years. During this period the foster family would normally show the child to their biological mother and leave them for few weeks. There's no record of how often Aminah had her child, though it's likely to be many.
Halimah and her family raised little Muhammad (pbuh) for two years until he was weaned. During this period Halimah had witnessed so many blessings that she was scared of losing the Prophet. So Halimah made many excuses to Aminah in a desperate bid to persuade her not to take the child back to Makkah and leave him with her for longer. Aminah, moved by Halimah's passion and dedication, decided to extend the stay even though she wasn't able to pay the type of money other members of Quraysh were able to do for their child. But Halimah didn't care for that as she was more interested in the blessings that she received while having Muhammad (pbuh) under her care.
We then took him back to his mother requesting her earnestly to have him stay with us and benefit by the good fortune and blessings he had brought us. We persisted in our request which we substantiated by our anxiety over the child catching a certain infection peculiar to Makkah. At last, we were granted our wish and the Prophet stayed with us until we returned with him.
Muhammad (pbuh) stayed with Halimah until he was about 4 or 5 years of age. Then something happened which would have profound effect. But in order to understand this, firstly we need to know the relationship between shaytan (Iblis) the devil and newborn children.
Iblis and qareen, the evil whisperers
According to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), shaytan pricks every child as soon as they're born out of jealousy and anger, that is why they cry when they come out of their mother's womb. Because Allah preferred Adam and Children of Adam over him, Iblis has become our enemy and hates us. He will try to lead us astray from our cradle to the grave. But Iblis has no control over us. He only calls, seduce or incites us to do bad, and it's our choice to listen or reject. Iblis will whisper something bad to us - it's not our own feeling though it is coming from inside us - and it is our job to fight it.
Surah 14 Ibrahim, ayat 22
And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded, "Indeed, Allah had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves. I cannot be called to your aid, nor can you be called to my aid. Indeed, I deny your association of me [with Allah] before. Indeed, for the wrongdoers is a painful punishment."
For every child that is born, Iblis assigns a qareen (also known as hamzad), a spiritual double, to be with us 24/7 throughout our life just to whisper a bad thought and lead us astray. That's how much Iblis and his cohorts hate us because of their jealousy and anger. Even Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had a qareen. But Allah helped the Prophet against him and the qareen accepted Islam and would only whisper good things to him.
The Noble Qur'an mentions about qareen in Surah 43 Az-Zukhruf.
Surah 43 Az-Zukhruf (The Ornaments of Gold), ayat 36
And whoever is blinded from remembrance of the Most Merciful - We appoint for him shayatin [a devil], and he is to him a qareen [companion]
All prophets (peace be upon them) protected from major sins
Allah send prophets to guide mankind. As such their character is impeccable and pure. Unlike ordinary humans, it is the blessing of Allah that all the prophets are saved from carrying out a major sin. They may commit minor sins (such as getting angry), but never a major one.
Black clot removed from young Muhammad's heart by Angel Jibrail (and repeated once more later during isra and miraj)
It was during the second phase of care under Halimah and her family that the opening of Prophet's chest occurred as described in the Qur'an.
Surah 94 Ash-Sharh (The Relief), ayat 1
Did We not expand for you, [O Muhammad], your breast?
Angel Jibrail (Gabriel) came down to earth to Muhammad (pbuh) when he was playing with other children, including his foster brother and sister. All the kids ran away as they were scared, except Muhammad who stood his ground. It was incredible bravery from the 4 year old. Jibrail came and overpowered him, but not one to give up, the 4 year old tried to fight off the strongest angel. But Jibrail forced him on the ground, ripped his chest open, took his heart out, and extracted a black portion (or black blood clot) from his heart and threw it away.
That was the part of Shaytan in thee.
Angel Jibrail said to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) regarding the black portion/clot
Jibrail then washed the heart in gold cup/basin of Zamzam water, put it back into his body and sealed his chest.
So the dark relationship that existed between shaytan and a human being no longer existed for Muhammad (pbuh) since this was cut out for him by Jibrail. This points to a number of important meanings. The spiritual lesson of this is that Allah opened his heart to Islam as a religion and law, and the opening of a person's heart to new ways and approach is the first step to change. Allah also opened his chest in order to fill his heart with wisdom, knowledge and faith since Muhammad (pbuh) was being prepared for a clean and pure life which would become the most respectable and dignified life man has ever known.
So we [Muslims] believe the first open heart surgery was of the Prophet's. This was a physical act, not a spiritual act. Hence why Allah left the scar on the chest to demonstrate to people. It was a spiritual cleansing but it was physically done.
In the meantime the other children ran to their parents screaming and fearing for Muhammad (pbuh). They suspected he had been murdered. Halimah and others rushed towards him and found Muhammad (pbuh) sitting. His face was pale. Shockingly, he wasn't wailing or screaming or crying. He knew he suffered something but he was still controlling his emotion.
This incident has been mentioned in authentic hadiths and the Companions of the Prophet (the Sahabahs), like Anas, also saw the line on the Prophet's chest where it had been opened up.
I have seen the mark that was left on his chest.
Anas, Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 92
Halimah gets worried and returns Muhammad (pbuh) to Aminah
The incident had worried Halimah and she decided to return the child to his mother before any serious problem befell him. So she quietly returned him to Aminah in Makkah.
Jibrail repeats heart cleansing act once more, nearly 45 years later
This incident of taking the heart and washing it occurred one more time, almost 45 years later when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) went on the journey of Isra and Miraj to the Heavens. Jibrail did the same thing to him, the only difference was this time there was no black clot as it was already removed when he was a young child.
Out of all the entire surrounding places, the only city that the Prophet travelled in, and had relative in, was but one village of Yathrib (Madinah). It was the custom of Arabs to preserve their lineage and keep their kinship since it was a jahili society devoid of government and law and order and you were protected by your relatives. Your prestige was established by your relatives and they dictated your protection wherever you went.
Aminah decide to visit Yathrib, possibly in respect of the memory of her late husband Abdullah who was buried there. She set out to cover a journey of 300 miles (500 km) with her 6-year-old orphan boy and woman servant Umm Aiman who was marriage gift from her father-in-law Abdul-Muttalib. Very little is known about Umm Aiman which is sad as she lived till an old age, outlived the Prophet (pbuh) and also became a Muslim. So we could've known a lot from her, especially about the Prophet's early life and his parents. But Umm Aiman did narrate this story of voyage to Yathrib as she was part of it and witnessed it first-hand.
The three of them travelled to Yathrib and possibly stayed few months as it was far away and would've taken them many days to reach there. On their way back to Makkah Aminah fell severely ill and passed away in a village called Al Abwa. This was a small settlement located between Makkah and Madinah which is still present today. Umm Aiman had Aminah buried by the people of the village. The year was circa 576 CE.
Thus at the tender of six Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) became an orphan with neither a father nor a mother. He had no siblings, just the extended family e.g. grandad, uncles, cousins, etc.
Prohibition of visiting graves lifted becaues of Aminah
Once when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an adult he detoured from his journey to Madinah and quietly split away from the Sahabahs (Companions). Puzzled, the Sahabahs followed him silently and did not ask any question. They reached a grave where the Prophet (pbuh) sobbed heavily, so much so that his long beard became soaked. It was very rare to see the Prophet cry, and that too openly in public. Such was the love that the Companions had for the Prophet, they were heartbroken and began crying automatically.
Muhammad (pbuh) mentioned to them that this was his mother's grave. He had initially prohibited Muslims from visiting the grave other than to bury someone. But he sought Allah's permission to visit his mother's grave in Al Abwa and decided to lift the prohibition. It then became permissable for a Muslim to visit a grave so they could contemplate the real significance of life and remember they too shall taste death. So the Muslim law to visit grave came from this Prophet's visit to Aminah's grave.
Abdul-Muttalib took on the responsibility of looking after his grandson even though he was an old man (probably over 80) and blind. He had warm emotions towards the boy whose recent disaster (his mother's death) added more to the pain of his past bereavement. Abdul-Muttalib was more compassionate and loving with his grandson than with his own children. He never left the boy fall prey to loneliness, but always preferred him to his own kids.
Muhammad (pbuh) the only person allowed to be on same platform as chief Abdul-Muttalib
Abdul-Muttalib had a raised platform in front of and connected to the Ka'bah because he was the chieftain of the Quraysh. It was his platform from where, in the afternoon, he would discuss the public affairs. It was the equivalent of a king's throne. Nobody sat on it. Neither his sons, grandchildren or other relatives and colleagues.
In one incident, young Muhammad (pbuh) ran and jumped onto the platform to be next to his grandad. His uncles pulled him back down. But Abdul-Muttalib stopped them and told them to leave him as Muhammad was his child and he could remain on the platform. Therefore, out of all his grandchildren the only person Abdul-Muttalib allowed to be on that platform was Muhammad (pbuh).
A mattress was put in the shade of Al-Ka'bah for Abdul-Muttalib. His children used to sit around that mattress in honour to their father, but Muhammad (pbuh) used to sit on it. His uncles would take him back, but if Abdul-Muttalib was present, he would say: "Leave my grandson. I swear by Allah that this boy will hold a significant position". He used to seat the boy on his mattress, pat his back and was always pleased with what the boy did.
Ibn Hisham, Book 1, Number 168
Abdul-Muttalib scolds his sons for sending little Muhammad to desert to search for lost camels all by himself
In another incident, the uncles of Muhammad (pbuh) sent him to find some camels they had lost. According to biographer Ibn Sa'd, the reason for choosing the then 7 or 8 year old child was that he never did anything except that it was successful. And since camels were expensive creatures which they couldn't afford to lose, the uncles decided to send him as he was sure to bring them back. So they sent the little boy out all alone in the desert to find their missing camels. Abdul-Muttalib was furious with them when he heard this. He was pacing up and down waiting for Muhammad (pbuh) who was delayed in coming back. As soon as he came, Abdul-Muttalib hugged him and said from now on I will never let you out of my sight. This further shows he had a special care and concern for Muhammad (pbuh).
In care of his paternal uncle Abu Talib
When Muhammad (pbuh) was around 8 years old his grandfather Abdul-Muttalib passed away in Makkah. One of the thing Abdul-Muttalib did in his deathbed was to entrust Muhammad (pbuh) to his son Abu Talib, the only full brother of Prophet's dad Abdullah. Abu Talib also became the new leader of Banu Hashim after his dad's death. This was another example of Muhammad (pbuh) bringing good fortune to those who looked after him.
Abu Talib took the charge of his nephew in the best way. He put him with his children and preferred him to them. He singled the boy out with great respect and high esteem. Abu Talib lived a long life. He passed away when the Prophet was over 50 years old so he remained with the Prophet for 40 years, cherishing his nephew and extending all possible protection and support to him. His relations with the others were determined in the light of the treatment they showed to the Prophet (pbuh).
Ibn 'Asakir reported on the authority of Jalhamah bin 'Arfuta who said: "I came to Makkah when it was a rainless year, so Quraish said "O Abu Talib, the valley has become leafless and the children hungry, let us go and pray for rainfall". Abu Talib went to Al-Ka'bah with a young boy who was as beautiful as the sun, and a black cloud was over his head. Abu Talib and the boy stood by the wall of Al-Ka'bah and prayed for rain. Immediately clouds from all directions gathered and rain fell heavily and caused the flow of springs and growth of plants in the town and the country.
Mukhtasar Seeratir-Rasul by Sheikh Abdullah An-Najdi (page 15,16)
Why was Muhammad (pbuh) orphaned at such a young age?
From the early life of the Prophet, one question arises is why did Allah the Almighty put so much trial and tribulation on a child? He was orphaned three times by the age of 8. If Allah had willed he could've been born in lap of luxury, had parents until he became a prophet, or at least have them around until he became a young man. So why did Allah do this to him?
There are many reasons for doing so.
First and foremost, Allah showed Muhammad (pbuh) that he will take of him like he did with Musa (Moses). He be raised under His care, protection and guidance. Allah took this responsibility directly.
Secondly, as traumatic as it is to be an orphan since nobody on earth can love you as much as your own mum and dad, being an orphan gives you many qualities which the Prophet would need later in his life. Being pampered and living a life of luxury is not going to prepare him for a life of sacrifice and mission of calling to Allah. Most orphan are more mature, independent and wise then the peers. Also, usually a child born in poverty and harsh environment is more responsible than those which are better off.
Going through this experience first-hand makes a person understand what is poverty, ruthlessness, living in harsh environment, and this usually makes them more sensitive, compassionate, and soft towards others especially the needy.
That's why there is so many hadiths relating to caring for orphans. It is a central pillar of Islam to take care of orphans. No doubt the Prophet (pbuh) was relaying his own experience and sentiments in many of these hadiths.
There's a story mentioned in one book of hadith, Sunan At-Trimidhi (also known as Jami' at-Tirmidhi), and few books of seerah such as that by Ibn Ishaq which has been controversial and much debated.
It is mentioned that when Muhammad (pbuh) was still young and not yet reached puberty, therefore possibly 11 or 12 years old, Abu Talib took him to Syria along with Abu Bakr and Bilal (later Companions of the Prophet). On the way to Syria they passed by a monastery where a monk used to live who had never been in the habit of receiving or entertaining them before. His name was Bahirah. This time when they were with the Prophet, for the first time Bahirah came out searching for them and greeting them. He invited them all back to his house for a feast. When they asked him why he was doing this, Bahirah said that you have in your midst a boy who will become a prophet. He said that he saw the cloud shelter him, and the trees also shelter him, and the stones prostrated to him. He told Abu Talib to take care of him.
Bahirah instantly recognised the Prophet (pbuh) and said while taking his hand: "This is the master of all humans. Allah will send him with a Message which will be a mercy to all beings".
Abu Talib asked: "How do you know that?"
He replied: "When you appeared from the direction of 'Aqabah, all stones and trees prostrated themselves, which they never do except for a Prophet. I can recognize him also by the seal of Prophethood which is below his shoulder, like an apple. We have found this in our books".
Bahirah notices prophetic signs
While they were sitting and eating the feast they saw seven Roman soldiers appear, who were allegedly searching for the prophet who was prophecised to come. They wanted to capture him and kill him. Bahirah hid them and made excuses to ward off the soldiers and they left. Bahirah then told Abu Talib to take the Prophet back immediately to Makkah so the Prophet was sent back along with Abu Bakr and Bilal.
Most Islamic scholars have accepted the story as being authenticated.
Monk story rejected by many eminent scholar and historians including Imam Az-Zahabi and Ibn Kathir
Some of the more critically minded, verifying scholars such as Imam Az-Zahabi (also spelt Al-Dhahabi), one of the greatest chroniclers of 7th century and a student of Ibn Tayymiah, historian Ibn Kathir, theologian Ibn Sayyid al-Nas and others said something is wrong about the story. Of them, Imam Az-Zahabi has criticised it the most.
Some of the questionable aspect of the story were:
- Abu Bakr was only a child at the time and why would he go on a trip with Abu Talib, especially since he's not directly related to the Prophet?
- Bilal was not even born yet and he was not acquired by Abu Bakr until after Islam was revealed. So how did Bilal come into the picture?
- Why did the trees shelter him when the cloud was already sheltering him?
- Why did the Prophet not remind Abu Talib of the story when he was rejecting the Prophet's prophethood?
- Why did the Quraysh find it problematic to accept Muhammad's prophethood if Bahirah the Monk has already announced it to everyone?
- Why did the Muhammad himself not understand what was happening to him when Jibrail revealed the Qur'an to him? Why did he ran off to Khadijah confused and terrified to ask what was happening to him? He should've been waiting for this time to come if he already knew he'd become a prophet.
Some scholars have responded to this by accepting that Abu Bakr and Bilal may have been incorrectly mentioned. Which then begs the question, why have those scholars only chosen to omit this information and not others?
But there is a far more problematic issue for Muslims.
Critics of Islam use monk story to prove Muhammad (pbuh) learnt about Judaism and Christianity through him
Most of the non-Muslim historians and scholars and orientalist use this story to conclude that this is how the Prophet found out all his information about Jews and Christians.
One of the most puzzling aspect of the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was where did he learn so much about Judaism and Christianity if the Arabs remained untouched by their knowledge? If Muhammad (pbuh) was not a prophet and thus not receive this via Divine revelation, how did this illiterate man know so much about these faiths?
The Bahirah story provides them with the answer.
However, Muslims argue, even if this story is authentic, the assumption that Bahirah taught the Prophet about these faiths is ludicrous. Muhammad (pbuh) is barely 11 - 12 years old, he sits with the monk for around 20 - 30 minute, for only one feast, one event, how could he memorise all these encyclopaedic information and regurgitate 40 years later? And if by some miracle he was able to do this, how do you answers those questions raised by Imam Az-Zahabi?
Muslims have pointed out to these critics that among our own people we already have historians and scholars that have questioned this story, and consider it to not make sense. In fact, Imam Az-Zahabi considers the story to be fabricated.
This is something we need to be very cautious and careful about, the fabrication of hadiths.
Unfortunately, throughout our history, people, many of them sincere-minded, love to just fabricate things about their religion. Why? They have their reasons. Some of them have evil reasons, but many of them have good reasons. So one person fabricated a lot of hadiths about rasullah and the Qur'an. There's a very famous fabricated hadith, that every surah has a blessing. "The blessing of Surah Al-Baqarah is this..., the blessing of Al-Imran is this...Every surah". When Imam Ahmad finally captured this fabricator, he said how could you fabricate about the Book of Allah? He [the fabricator] said "Oh, I found the people getting busy in fiqh and books of history, I wanted them to go back to Qur'an. So I fabricated something, may be they'll read the Qur'an because of it."
Throughout history there have been people, for whatever reason, who just fabricate. That's where there's a whole science called Science of Hadith. It's a very detailed, structured science.
...So we have to understand, when it comes to the seerah, a lot of people, because of emotionalism, because of this and that, they wish to add things that are not found in the early books...People want to exaggerate. We don't need to exaggerate. Our Prophet is the best human being and what we know about him is enough to tell us that. When we put these [false] stories in, we give our religion a bad name. When people look at it they think what type of religion is this? We don't need to do this. Allah has told us what we need to know. In the authentic blessings of our Prophet, there are plenty that we can stick to. We don't need to resort to these pseudo fables and legends. It's disservice to us, it'll harm our religion, and our Prophet is not in need of it.
So in my opinion, and the opinion of Az-Zahabi and others, this story about the monk Bahirah, it doesn't make sense. Logically it doesn’t make sense. Even if you think about it, if Bahirah had truly said to Abu Talib that this is going to be the prophet of the Arabs, surely Abu Talib would not have found it strange, surely he wouldn't have told the Prophet why are you preaching this message [of Islam], surely when the Quraysh found out about it, again it's common sense. It does not make sense this occurred and therefore Allah knows best but this story does appear to be weak.