Anecdotes from the Life of the Prophet Muhammad

by Mumtaz Ahmad Faruqui

Before the Call

In the year 570 of the Christian era, a son was born to Amina, wife of Abdullah, son of Abdul Muttalib, the head of the powerful and revered tribe of Quraish of Mecca in Arabia. Before the birth of the child, his father, Abdullah, had died. The grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, named the child Muhammad (meaning the praised one), while the child’s mother, Amina, named him Ahmad [meaning one who renders praise (to God)].

According to the custom prevailing amongst the gentry, the child was handed over to a wet-nurse named Halima Sadia, with whom he stayed for a little more than four years at which time his mother took charge of him entirely. The young Muhammad was about six years old when his mother died and he was thus twice orphaned. His grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, then looked after him till the boy was eight years old, when Abdul Muttalib breathed his last. The upbringing of the boy then became the responsibility of his paternal uncle, Abu Talib, who looked after him till he grew up into manhood. The boy, however, was not taught to read or write and he remained illiterate in this sense for the rest of his life.

When Muhammad was twelve years old, he first accompanied his uncle, Abu Talib, on a business trip to Syria, via Palestine. It is stated that when they reached Basra, a place located in the south of Syria, a Christian monk, Buhaira, happened to see the lad and was struck with wonder. He told Abu Talib that he saw in the lad certain signs which indicated that he would one day be that final and universal Prophet of God whose advent had been foretold both in the Old and the New Testaments. Buhaira also warned Abu Talib to guard Muhammad well, and especially against the Jews. In his youth, Muhammad preferred to indulge in trading and commercial activities, and by his truthfulness and honesty soon earned the titles of al-Amin and al-Sadiq (i.e., an honest and truthful dealer).

It was due to this good reputation that a rich widow, Khadijah, asked for his services in conducting business transactions on her behalf. It was in this connection that he again accompanied a caravan to Syria. On entering that country, the caravan camped near a church. There, another monk, Nastura, happened to see Muhammad. Nastura felt so interested in Muhammad that he went and brought some of his sacred documents and started reading them, at the same time looking Muhammad all over. On being questioned, Nastura remarked that the young man seemed to fit in with the signs and descriptions given of that last and greatest of the prophets whose advent had been foretold in their Holy Books. This was the second incident of its kind.

The courtesy and good work shown by Muhammad earned him the admiration of the rich and gentle lady Khadijah. Through proper channels, she proposed marriage to him, and this was duly solemnised. Muhammad was then only twenty-five years old, while Khadijah was forty. From this union, in due course of time, were born three sons and four daughters. All the sons died in infancy while the daughters lived and grew up.

The sacred house of God (Kaba [Kabah]) once caught fire and was burnt to the ground. However, when it came to affixing the sacred Black Stone onto the wall, a quarrel arose amongst the Quraish tribal leaders; they could not agree as to who should have the honour of handling the sacred stone. To avoid serious trouble, they agreed to choose a judge who would decide the issue for them. It is significant that Muhammad was chosen to be that judge, and he successfully resolved the difficulty of the tribal leaders. He spread a white sheet on the ground and put the Black Stone in the middle of it, and then asked all the tribal leaders to catch hold of the corners and edges of the sheet and carry the stone to its site. This being done, Muhammad then picked up the stone and affixed it in its place. Everyone was pleased with this action. This incident indicates the respect and faith which the people reposed in Muhammad when he was only an ordinary citizen of Mecca. Coming events, it is said, cast their shadows before.