The year is 570 CE, five years after the death of the Roman Emperor Justinian. An army of men, horses and elephants ruthlessly march towards the city of Makkah, intending to wipe it out of existence. This is the army of the Abysinnian warlord Abraha, who after conquering Yemen is now advancing towards the sacred city of Makkah. One of the notables of Makkah, Abdul-Muttalib, has ordered all the women and children to go up into the mountains and take refuge there whilst the men go and fight. However, the men of Makkah are of no match to the deadly Abysinnian lancers who soon crush their resistance on the borders of the city.
Victory seems imminent for Abraha. Yet when the army advances to the fringes of the city, headed by its lead elephant, the creature stops unexpectedly and refuses to go any further towards the direction of Makkah. No amount of budging will make this beast go towards the direction of conquest, yet when the army turn it around, it is more than willing to go back. Suddenly from the distant horizon, a huge flock of birds is seen. Ominously it makes its way to the scene of the battle. In their beaks and claws the birds carry with them stones. Like lightning do they descend upon the confused army of Abraha and pelt them viciously with the stones. The stones start to cut and tear away at the bodies of these aggressors and reduce them to helpless wretches. The army of the tyrant are sent back in humiliation. It is no less than a miracle which has saved this sacred city.
This event was to be remembered by the Arabs as the year of the elephant and was to hold great significance in the balance of power in Arabia. But it was the event which occurred fifty days later in the same year which was not only to be remembered, but would also change the course of history forever. It was on the 12th day of the month of Rabi' al-Awwal, that in the house of Abdul-Muttalib a child was born. It was the child of Amina, the wife of Abdullah, the son of Abdul-Muttalib. This was the child who would change the way of life of all those around him. This was the child who would unite all people under one way. This was the child who would bring the great empires of the world to a standstill.
This child was Muhammad, the last and final messenger of Allah to mankind.
Mohammad's father (Abdullah Ibn Abd Al-Muttalib) died before his wife (Aminah bint Wahab) delivered her baby (Mohammad peace be upon him)
While the prophet peace be upon him was still an infant in his mother womb her mother Aminah bint Wahab said that she felt as if she was a different person because she had no consideration for materialism of the humans. She was just like a specter that hovers in the air. Someone came to her while she was asleep and told her, "You are pregnant with the leader and the Prophet of this Ummah." He came to her again before she gave birth and told her, "Say after you have delivered him, 'I seek protection for him with the One (Allah) from the evil of every jealous.' Then name him 'Muhammad'. "
Thus did Aminah continue to see dreams. And more than once did the dreams give her glad tidings, strengthen her, encourage her to be patient, console her and elevate her stand and that of the pregnancy she was carrying. The delivery day was a great day. It was on the twelfth day of Rabee'ul-awwal at dawn.This very time has its meaning and significance. It has its dimensions in the horizons of time. It was the dawn that removed the darkness from mankind, the accumulated darkness that had made mankind deviated from the straight path and the darkness of humans' injustice against their fellow humans.
Aminah said "When I delivered him, a light came out with him that illuminated what is between the East and the West. The light illuminated palaces and markets of Syria until I saw the necks of the camels in Basra. I saw three erected flags: one at the East, one at the West and the third over the Ka'bah." [Women around the prophet, Mohammad Ali Qutb]
The name Muhammad was given to the child by his grandfather Abdul-Muttalib. The name was one which was known amongst the Arabs at that time but was not common. The literal meaning of Muhammad is 'the praised one', and it is reported that upon being asked why Abdul-Muttalib had named his grandson so, he replied:
"I did so with the desire that my grandson would be praised by Allah in Heaven and by men on earth." [The History of Islam and the Muslims, Iqbal Mohammed, vol 1 p. 138]
It seems as if the desire of Abdul-Muttalib came true, for it was the name of Muhammad, upon whom be peace, which was to be uttered and praised more times than that of any person in history. In fact it is not only men who praise this remarkable man, but also the Creator of the Heavens and the earth, Allah, and the inhabitants of the heavens, the angels:
"Allah and His angels bless the Prophet. O you who believe! Bless him and salute him with a worthy salutation." [Al-Qur'an 33:56]
The grandson of Abdul-Muttalib was destined to become the greatest man ever to live.
He was nursed by Haleemah As-Sadiyya who breast-fed him and witnessed some of his blessings and miracles at the time he lived under her care in the dwellings of Bani Sa'd.
Muhammad's early life was wrought with unhappiness as he never saw his father Abdullah who died before he was born. At the age of six his mother, Aminah passed away and he was entrusted into the care of his beloved grandfather Abdul-Muttalib. However, at the age of twelve, Abdul-Muttalib also passed away and Abu Talib, the uncle of Muhammad, peace be upon him, took charge of him. With such distress and heartache so early on in life, one would imagine that this boy would grow up to be rebellious and troublesome, as is the case in so many of our societies today. But this was obviously not to be.
With some additions from the book of Mohammad Qutb "women around the prophet"
- Read more about his childhood with the women who raised him:
Muhammad (pbuh) returned to live with his mother in Mecca when he was about three years old. Three years later Aminah decided to take her son to visit his uncles in Yathrib. She told her maid, Barakah, to prepare everything they would need for the long journey, and then they joined one of the caravans going there. They stayed in Yathrib a month and Muhammad (pbuh) enjoyed the visit with his cousins. The climate there was very pleasant and he learned to swim and to fly a kite.
On their way back to Mecca, however, Aminah became ill and died. She was buried in the village at al-Abwa not far from Yathrib. Muhammad (pbuh) returned sadly to Mecca with his mother's maid He was now six years old and had lost both his father and mother. He was then adopted by his grandfather, 'Abd al-Muttalib, who loved him dearly and kept him by his side at all times. It was the custom of 'Abd al-Muttalib to sit on a blanket near the Ka'bah. There he was always surrounded by people who had come to speak to him. No one was allowed to sit on the blanket with him, however, except his grandson Muhammad (pbuh), which shows how close they were to each other. Many times 'Abd al-Muttalib was heard to say: 'This boy will be very important one day.'
Two years later 'Abd al-Muttalib became ill and Muhammad (pbuh) stayed by him constantly. 'Abd al-Muttalib told his son, Abu Talib, to adopt Muhammad (pbuh) after his death, which he did. Abu Talib had many children of his own,
but Muhammad (pbuh) immediately became part of his family and the favorite child. The time came for Quraysh to prepare a caravan to go to Syria. Abu Talib was going with them and he took Muhammad (pbuh) along. It was Mohammed's first journey to the north. After days of travel, the caravan arrived at a place near Syria where the Romans used to come to trade with the Arabs. Near this marketplace lived a monk called Bahira'. His cell had been used by generations of monks before him and contained ancient manuscripts.
Bahira' saw the caravan in the distance and was amazed to see that over it was a large white cloud. It was the only cloud in a clear blue sky and it appeared to be shading one of the travelers. The monk was even more surprised to see that the cloud seemed to follow the caravan but disappeared when the person it was shading sat down under a tree. Bahira' knew from the scriptures that a prophet was expected to come after Jesus and it had been his wish to see this prophet before he died.
Realizing that what he had just seen was a miracle, he began to think that his wish might, after all, come true.
The monk sent an invitation to the Meccans to come and eat with him. The Arabs were surprised because they often passed by and Bahira' had never invited them before. When the group was all together for the meal, the monk said, 'Is this everyone?' 'No', someone said, 'a boy was left watching the camels.' Bahira' insisted that the boy should join them. The boy was Muhammad (pbuh). When he arrived Bahira' said nothing, but watched him all through the meal. He noticed many things about his appearance which fitted the description in the old manuscripts. Later on he took him aside and asked Muhammad (pbuh) many questions. He soon found out how he felt about the idols in the Ka'bah. When Bahira tried to make him swear by them, as the Arabs used to do, Muhammad (pbuh) said, 'There is nothing in this world that I hate more'. They talked together about Allah and about Mohammed's life and family. What was said made Bahira certain that this was indeed the Prophet who would come after Jesus.
Then the monk went to Abu Talib and asked him how he was related to Muhammad (pbuh). Abu Talib told him that Muhammad (pbuh) was his son. Bahira replied that this could not be so because the boy was destined to grow up an orphan, and he ordered Abu Talib to watch over Muhammad (pbuh) with great care. There are many stories told about Mohammed's youth. Some tell of how he used to take the family's sheep to graze and was always kind to them. While they grazed he would sit thinking about the mysteries of nature. Unlike those around him, he never worshipped the idols and never swore by them.
He also wondered why people were always struggling for power and money, and this saddened him and made him feel lonely, but he kept his feelings to himself. He was a quiet, thoughtful boy, and rarely played with other boys of his age. On one occasion, however, Muhammad (pbuh) went with some of the boys to a wedding in Mecca.
When he reached the house he heard the sounds of music and dancing but just as he was about to enter he suddenly felt tired and, sitting down, fell asleep. He didn't wake up until late the next morning and thus missed the celebrations. In this way Allah prevented him from doing anything foolish for He was keeping Muhammad (pbuh) for something much more important.
It was his uncle Abu Talib who then reared and brought him up. Abu Talib was a trader and businessman and he sometimes took his nephew along with him on his trade journeys. It was these trade journeys which eventually formed the alliance between Muhammad and his future wife Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her. Khadija was a wealthy widow from Makkah who was known for her noble character and morals. Soon Muhammad, peace be upon him, was working for Khadija as a manager for her trade caravans. It was his honesty and efficiency which led to Khadija's proposal, and soon after Muhammad had returned from a trade journey to Syria, they were married.
The early life of Muhammad, peace be upon him, before his prophethood, is unknown to most people. His life is highlighted by his sublime character and noble manners. The world of Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a world of idolatry, a world in which women and slaves had no rights whatsoever, a world in which men would cheat each other for a few dirhams.
However Muharnmed, upon whom be peace, was not like those around him. He was not known to swear or talk in a vile manner, nor was he known to drink or gamble. His honesty surpassed that of all others and he was known with the title of al-Amin (the trustworthy). In fact it was this quality of honesty which attracted so many people to his noble message.
The nature of the Arabs at the time of Muhammad, peace be upon him, was very barbaric and they would fight over the smallest of things, such as one tribes camel grazing on the land of another tribe. This would often result in wars which would last for years and take thousands of lives. In the year 605 CE the Kaabah was accidentally burnt down and a massive reconstruction programme had to be initiated. Many people were involved in it's rebuilding. However, upon its completion, the issue of replacing the black stone in its original place, the south east corner of the Kaabah, arose. Each of the major tribes and clans wanted the honour of placing the black stone in its proper place. Civil war loomed over the Arabian peninsula. It was then suggested by Abu Ummayah al-Mughira, one of the elders of Makkah, that the way to settle this dispute was to let the first person to come through the masjid gate the next morning, decide the fate of the matter. Lo and behold the first man to enter the masjid the next morning was indeed Muhammad.
Upon seeing him some of the Arabs exclaimed with joy, "Here is the trustworthy one, we shall agree to his decision - he is Muhammad". Muhammad, peace be upon him, asked for a sheet or a robe to be brought to him and to have the black stone placed in the middle of it. He then asked the elders of each of the major tribes to lift up the sheet from each of the corners. The elders did as they were instructed and took the black stone over to the south east corner. Muhammad, peace be upon him, then took the stone and placed it firmly in its resting place And so it was Muhammad, upon him be peace, who with wisdom and honesty saved the Arabs from self-destruction. [The History of Islam and the Muslims, Iqbal Mohammed, vol 1 pp. 163-166]