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The Prophet as a child

Thursday 15/10/2009

Great people often display hints of their greatness to come, early on in life. We can surely imagine, then, how the childhood of the best of men, the most eminent of messengers and the last of Prophets – Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) – had been. In fact, he was even more distinguished as a child, as he was under the special guardianship of Allah The Almighty, Who was preparing him to be a Prophet.

The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said that Allah The Almighty created mankind and decreed that he,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), would be the best of them; He then divided people into two categories, choosing the best of them to include him. Allah The Almighty further classified people into different societies, decreeing that he,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), would be in the most honorable tribe; and after dividing people into households, declared him to be of the noblest family. [Ahmad]
 
Further, the lineage of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), is one of pure ancestors, extending back to Aadam (Adam), may Allah exalt his mention. The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said that he was the product of lawful marriages from the time of Aadam, may Allah exalt his mention, down to his own parents; and, his ancestry was never stigmatized by adultery. [At-Tabaraani]
 
It was on a Monday morning of the Year of the Elephant, corresponding to 571 AD, that the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), was born in Makkah, into the noblest tribe of Banu Haashim, of the Quraysh clan, from the nation of Arabs.
 
The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), was brought up an orphan, as his father passed away while visiting his maternal uncles in Madeenah, before his birth. He came under the guardianship of his grandfather, ‘Abdul-Muttalib, who provided for him with the best care and much affection. As per the tradition of the time, he chose capable wet nurses to breastfeed the infant Muhammad. After first having been fed by Thuwaybah, the slave girl of Abu Lahab, the baby was handed over to Haleemah As-Sa‘diyyah, may Allah be pleased with her, with whom he spent his formative years in the desert of Banu Sa‘d, as she was keen to keep him with her, even after the two years of nursing had elapsed. This was because of the blessings she felt being conferred on her household by his presence.
 
Haleemah, may Allah be pleased with her, recounts how she could not even breastfeed her own child, but when she brought Muhammad back with her, not only was there enough milk for him, but also her own son. In addition, her cattle which was emaciated before the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), arrived at her house, soon gained weight and produced milk. Therefore, Haleemah, may Allah be pleased with her, convinced the mother of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), to let the toddler return with her to the desert, so he may also be safe from the epidemic ravaging the inner-city of Makkah.
 
In the desert of Banu Sa‘d, the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), grew up strong in stature, eloquent in speech and exhibiting self-reliance. It was here, that, as a four-year-old, he was playing with other boys, when two angels including Jibreel (Gabriel), may Allah exalt his mention, came to him. Jibreel, may Allah exalt his mention, cracked opened his chest, took out his heart and cleansed it of a black spot, said to symbolize the influence of Satan. Afterwards, the angels washed his insides and his heart in a golden vessel containing Zamzam water, and put his heart back in. This whole incident was witnessed by his playmates, who rushed to his wet nurse, crying that Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), had been killed, whereupon they soon noticed him approaching them, shivering with fear.
 
Haleemah, may Allah be pleased with her, dreaded that he,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), had been harmed in some way, so she returned him to his mother, who told her of the strange vision – a light illuminating the palaces of Ash-Shaam (the Levant) – she had seen when she gave birth to him.
 
The incident with Jibreel was later fully understood; it was a preparation of young Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), to be a Prophet, by being purified from any effect and whispers of Satan, and from the pitfalls and deviation of the pre-Islamic period.
 
In Makkah, the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), was raised by his mother until the age of six, when she died at Al-Abwaa', a village between Makkah and Al-Madeenah. His grandfather, ‘Abdul-Muttalib, then compensated him for the loss of his parents' affection, giving him priority over all his other children. Once, he sent him in search of a lost she-camel, but when the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), did not come back for a while, he became greatly worried. In verses of poetry, he supplicated to Allah The Almighty to confer His favor by returning Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), to him. When the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), finally arrived, he conveyed his anxiety to him, promised never to send him on any errand again, adding that he must stay by his side.
 
The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), continued to receive such consideration for two years, until his grandfather died when he was eight. His guardianship was then transferred to his uncle, Abu Taalib, who carried on his father’s legacy, providing him with the best care and paying exclusive respect to him. His support and protection for him was unwavering, and he forged ties with some and took on a hostile attitude towards others for his sake for over forty years, until he died three years before the Hijrah (emigration).
 
Thus, sorrows successively struck throughout the life of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ). It was part of the Divine plan and wisdom to prepare him,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), for Prophethood, so that the rampant behavior of the pre-Islamic period, with all its haughtiness and vanity would not taint him. Grief softened his heart and refined his character. He became indeed, as Khadeejah, may Allah be pleased with her, referred to him: “compassionate to the weak, giving to the destitute, hospitable to guests and helpful and supportive to the afflicted.”

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