The Prophet as a child




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 – had been. In fact, he was even more distinguished as a child, as he was under the special guardianship of Allaah The Almighty, Who was preparing him to be a Prophet.

The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that Allaah The Almighty created mankind and decreed that he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, would be the best of them; He then divided people into two categories, choosing the best of them to include him. Allaah The Almighty further classified people into different societies, decreeing that he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, 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, is one of pure ancestors, extending back to Aadam (Adam) . The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that he was the product of lawful marriages from the time of Aadam 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, 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, 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 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 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, arrived at her house, soon gained weight and produced milk. Therefore, Haleemah convinced the mother of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, 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, 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) came to him. Jibreel 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, had been killed, whereupon they soon noticed him approaching them, shivering with fear.

Haleemah dreaded that he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, 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, 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, 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, did not come back for a while, he became greatly worried. In verses of poetry, he supplicated to Allaah The Almighty to confer His favor by returning Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to him. When the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, 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, 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. It was part of the Divine plan and wisdom to prepare him, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, 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 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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