Episode 2: DEATH OF AMINA AND ‘ABDUL MUTTALIB
When the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him was six years old, his mother took him to Yathrib to pay a visit to her father. She also wanted to call on the grave of her late husband, but while on her way back to Makkah, she died at a place called Abwa. Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him must have felt lonely and sorrowful at the death of his mother in the middle of his journey. Incidents of such nature had been a common fixture in his life since birth, perhaps as a divine dispensation for his upbringing in a particular way, one which is reminiscent of the great role that he has to play in the future. Finally, the Abyssinian bondwoman, Umm Ayman Barkah, brought him to his grandfather in Makkah. ‘Abdul Muttalib loved Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him so dearly, making him the apple of his eye and never allowed him to be distant from his sight. When Muhammed was eight years of age, ‘Abdul Muttalib also passed away. Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him was now left behind, alone and abandoned. He had never seen his father, and would have had no recollection of him, but the death of the adoring grandfather must have been too depressing and inconsolable to bear.
ABU TALIB BECOMES THE GUARDIAN
Following the death of ‘Abdul Muttalib, Abu Talib took the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him under his care. Abdul Muttalib had also been insisting upon Abu Talib to take care of Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him himself. Accordingly, Abu Talib took Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him under his protection and even treated him with more care and affection than his own two sons, ‘Ali J’afar and ‘Aqil. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 179). Once, when Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him was nine years old, Abu Talib planned to go on a merchant caravan to Syria. Knowing this, Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him approached his uncle, and nestling close to him, insisted on accompanying him in the journey. Abu Talib was moved and agreed to take Muhammed with him to Syria. When the caravan reached Busra in Syria, it broke the journey for a short stay and while there, they met a monk by the name of Buhaira who lived in his cell. He came out against his practice, to welcome the merchants and made a great feast for them. The caravan found favor with Buhaira, so they say, because of something that he had seen while he was in his cell. When Buhaira saw Muhammed, he observed in him the signs of the Prophethood that he had known and advised Abu Talib: “Return to your home with this youth and guard him from the Jews; for great dignity awaits your nephew”. Abu Talib immediately took Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him back to Makkah by virtue of Buhaira’s advice.
God had made special arrangements for broadening the mind of Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him and had taken particular care to shut off the faults and failures of the pagan past from him. Since early youth, the reserved and unassuming young man was known for his gentle disposition and grave purity of life as well as for his candidness, honesty and integrity and his stern sense of duty. His was the straight and narrow path and none could find the slightest fault with him. The fair character and honorable bearing of Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him won for him, in the pinnacle of his youth, the title of Al'Amin, meaning the Trustworthy, from his fellow populace. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 183) Evil were the ways of young men in Makkah, and no misconduct brought anybody into jeopardy or accountability. But God helped Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him abandon the pleasures of life familiar to everybody in there. Such that on the contrary, he was rather kind to his kinsmen, alleviated the sufferings of others and spared or minimized expenses to meet their needs. Moreover, he entertained guests, was ever willing to join hands with anybody who had a noble and virtuous task and preferred to earn his livelihood by toiling hard for it even if it meant living a simple life to the point of austerity.
When the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him was around fourteen or fifteen years of age, the sacrilegious war, known as the Harb'ul'Fujjar, broke out between the Quraysh and the tribe of Qays. Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him was present at this event such that he picked up the arrows that the enemy had shot and gave them back to the Qurayshite fighters. This was to mark his first experience of military operations. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, 186) Now that Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him was coming into grips of his own life, he turned his attention to scouting a means of livelihood. Like other lads of his age, he took a shot at the tendering of sheep and goats. It was not deemed a disgraceful occupation in those days; rather, it helped one to be watchful, alert and quick, kind and considerate, besides allowing an opportunity to inhale the freedom of Arabian air and the power of its sand. More than that, it had been the convention of all the Prophets of old which complied with his future Prophetic task. The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him after all used to say: “Verily, there has been no Prophet peace be and blessings upon him who has not tended the flocks of goats.” On being asked again whether he had also performed the work of a shepherd, the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him affirmed. “Yes I did.” Muhammed peace be and blessings upon him was not completely new to the job for in his childhood days he used to accompany his fosterbrothers in tending their flocks and herds. The reports in the Saheeh show that the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him used to watch the goats upon the neighboring hills and valleys for a meager payment from their owners.