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The Unlettered Prophet (sws) (5)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

Arrival of the Promised Prophet

Five hundred and fifty years after the departure of Jesus (sws) from this world, it was time for Abraham’s (sws) prayer to be answered, for that individual to be born, who was to: 

Achieve the highest status within the caliphate of God

Termination of the institution of institution of prophethood to which all prophets and messengers of God had aspired

Be presented by God not only to one nation, but to the entire peoples of the world as a human being of exemplary character for them to emulate

Preserve the divine guidance in such a manner that it would be impossible to either hide any part of it, or to distort it

Be waited for by the Jews, Christians and the Ishmaelites, all wishing for him to be born among them.


Finally, this honour fell to the Ishmaelites who, despite being polytheists, possessed several good qualities and were in control of the centre made by Abraham (sws) for worship of God. The great Prophet of God, Muhammed (sws) was born amongst them, and he was the harbinger of a great Muslim nation that became responsible to carry God’s word to other nations of the world until its end.


The Family Tree

the Ishmaelites had special arrangements to preserve information related to their lineage. They remembered not only their own but also those of other tribes. This is why historical books include the family trees of both men and women dating back to several generations. Prophet Muhammad (sws)’s family tree is as follows:

Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hāshim ibn ‘Abd Munāf bin Qussay ibn Kilāb ibn Murrah ibn Ka‘b ibn Luyyī ibn Ghālib ibn Fahr ibn Mālik in Nadr ibn Kanānah.

His mother was Āminah bint Wahb ibn ‘Abd Munāf ibn Zahrah ibn Kilāb ibn Murrah. Thus, from Kilāb ibn Murrah, both mother and father’s lineage merge onwards. Beyond Kanānah, this reaches Adnān and then Ismā‘īl (sws) finally. This lineage is one of the most respected ones in Arab families. Families are the backbones of an individual. Just as a gold mine produces gold and a silver one produces silver, families with good ancestral background produce individuals with high integrity. The Prophet (sws) has said: 

God selected the Banū Kanānah from the children of Ismā‘īl, and the Quraysh from within the Banū Kanānah. He decided to dignify the Banū Hāshim from within the Quraysh, and chose me from the Banū Hāshim.1

 His father, ‘Abdullāh, was 24 years old when his father, ‘Abd al-Muttalib asked for the hand in marriage of the daughter of Wahb ibn Munāf, who was the leader of the Banū Zahrah. According to historians, Wahb had died a few years ago, and Āminah’s guardian was her uncle, Wuhayb ibn Munāf. The latter agreed, and the two were married. Sometime later, ‘Abdullāh joined a trade caravan going to Syria and his father asked him to make an agreement on trade of dates in Yathrib on the return journey. He stopped at Yathrib to do so, fell ill and was unable to travel. When his caravan returned to Makkah without him, his father was worried and sent his elder brother Hāris to take care of him and bring him back. When Hārith reached Yathrib, he found that ‘Abdullāh had already passed away. Hārith came back with the tragic news. Muhammad (sws) was yet to be born.


Date of Birth

Historians agree that Muhammad (sws) was born on a Monday during the second week of the month of Rabī‘ al-Awwal. There is some disagreement on the date. The accepted date is the 12th, but research shows that if this is accepted, it does not conform to a Monday. Most historians have agreed on 9th Rabī‘ al-Awwal according to the Egyptian astronomer Mahmood Pasha. Qādī Suleymān Mansūrpurī has also mentioned this date in his book, Rehmat li al-‘Ālamīn. The date conforms to 22nd of April, 571, AD, and 1st Jeth, 628, Bakrami.2



The Prophet (sws) was initially breastfed by his mother and Abū Lahab’s slave Thūbiyah. It was a custom among the Quraysh that they sent their new born infants to the Bedouin tribes of the desert so that they would be nourished in the open air, away from the pollution of the city. Makkah’s language, too, had become tainted with other languages from incoming traders of other regions and countries, and the Quraysh had to give special attention to the protection of their original language and to gain mastery over its purity. The tribe of Banū Sa‘d that lived between Makkah and Tāi’f was known for the purity and command over its language, and its women often came to Makkah to take children who would be gladly given in their safe keeping so that the latter would learn to speak the original Arabic language.

Following this custom, when the Prophet’s mother attempted to make arrangements for a foster mother from the tribe of Banū Sa‘d, the latter were found to be hesitant, probably because of his fatherless state. They may have thought that they may not get adequate compensation in return. In any case, a woman called Halīmah agreed to take him. Halīmah was extremely poor, and the camel she was riding was also very undernourished, which was the main reason why no rich women of the Quraysh had been willing to give her any of their own children. Thus, when Halīmah was unable to find a suitably rich child, she settled on the orphaned child. As a result, her home was filled with plentiful blessings, and she was never sorry about her decision. The Prophet (sws) stayed in the Banū Sa‘d until the age of five. He would say to his companions later:

I speak better than all of you because I am from the Quraysh and my language is the language of Banū Sa‘d ibn Bakr.3  

Although Makkah was an international city where the language of Arabia and Yemen was understood, yet special care was taken to preserve the language within the Quraysh.


Mother’s Death

When the Prophet (swsh) had spent a few years in the desert, Halīmah Sa‘diyah brought him back to Makkah and at last he was able to bask in his mother’s love. When he was six years of age, his mother took him to Yathrib, her purpose being, ostensibly, to visit her husband’s grave. She stayed with the maternal relatives of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Banū ‘Adī ibn al-Najjār for about one month. During this period, the Prophet (sws) had an opportunity to get to know Yathrib and its environs. On the return journey, his mother fell ill, and at a place called Abwā’ on the way, she passed away. Umm Ayman, who was ‘Abdullah’s slave and was travelling with Āminah, brought him back to Makkah and took him under her care.

Being a member of the Banū Hāshim family, He now came under the guardianship of ‘Abd al-Muttalib who showered much kindness upon him. He would take him to the Ka‘bah and seat him next to himself. This situation held only for two years and when the Prophet (sws) was eight years old, his grandfather too died. As the pall bearers led his coffin out, he too walked behind, and cried as he remembered his grandfather’s love and kindnesses.

‘Abd al-Muttalib had made his eldest son his heir, so the Prophet came under his uncle’s guardianship. It seems that from childhood, he was closer to this uncle, and he too loved him most. Many books on the Prophet’s life have recorded the lullabies that he would sing to him. The Prophet (sws) remained under his protection during his lifetime.

Of all his uncles, he was the kindest to him. It is also said that ‘Abd al-Muttalib had instructed him to look after him after his death.4  

A battle was fought between the Banū Kanānah and Hawāzin under Zubayr. This battle is known by the name of Harb al-Fujjār. Zubayr participated in this as the rich leader of the Banū Hāshim. The Hilf al-Fudūl of which he was the driving spirit was signed during his time. The Prophet (sws) had also been a part of this agreement and he had been 20 years old at the time. When he married at the age of 25, the sermon had been given by Abū Tālib as the head of the family. This means that Zubayr had died when the Prophet (sws) was 23-25 years old, and he had no need for further support. Thus he had spent his entire guardianship years with Zubayr.


Interests of Adolescence

The Prophet (sws) took camels and goats out for grazing as a pastime. Some researchers believe that this statement does not fit well with the narration of his circumstances. According to them, the youth of Quraysh were not given to adopting the profession of grazing camels. This work was done by slaves. In our view, there should be no problem in accepting that just as young boys show interest in every new hobby and try to gain familiarity with it, so would the Prophet (sws) have been interested, although he would not have adopted it as a profession. In the tribe of Banū Sa‘d, shepherding was a livelihood choice, not a hobby of the boys. It is not any wonder that the Prophet (sws) would have become interested. Other boys too were engaged in it. When ‘Umar (rta) was the caliph, a woman from Makkah had a complaint and said: “O’ ‘Umar, I have seen your days when you shepherded goats the whole day in ‘Ukkāz and people called you O’ Umayr, O’ Umayr. Now that you are the caliph of Muslims, fear God in matters related to the public.”5 ‘Umar (rta) had the responsibility of the department of ministries and he was highly influential in Makkah. Obviously he had not chosen shepherding as a profession. He probably would go with a shepherd out of interest.

The young men of Quraysh also learnt the skills of warfare. The Prophet (sws) was an excellent archer, swordsman, fencer and wrestler. These skills were put to use against the disbelievers in later phases. He was also a great ware strategist and to this day, planners pay tribute to his battle strategies. Obviously he must have obtained such training during his youth.


Hilf al-Fudūl

In the days gone by, when the Banū Jurham were in control of Makkah, some people came to an agreement with the aim of protecting the oppressed. Of those making the agreement, three carried the name Fadl and thus the agreement was called Hilf al-Fudūl. The agreement had been in abeyance for centuries, but many people had remembered it, and it came to light when the Prophet (sws) was 20 years old.

A trader from the tribe of Zubayd came to Makkah with his produce. One of the Quraysh lords, ‘Ās ibn Wā’il made a trade agreement under which he took the products in his custody, but when the questions arose of payment, he started to make excuses. When the trader sought help from people he knew, no one was willing to speak out against ‘Ās because of the latter’s status. Dejected, he climbed the mount of Abū Qubays, calling out: “O children of Fahr! A person away from his home and without any support has been robbed of his belongings. The poor, wretched man is still in ihrām and has not yet performed the ‘umrah. O ye who present yourselves between the sacred stone of Aswad and the Hatīm, come to his help; for who is worthy of such a sacred and pure place, he who is truthful and sincere, or he who is deceitful and a usurper of rights?”

Zubayr ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and others ran to the trader. When he explained his plight, they gathered at the house of the Quraysh lord ‘Abdullah ibn Jad‘ān at the behest of Zubayr. It was agreed that they would create a new agreement on the lines of the previous Hilf al-Fudūl, that would aim to: protect travelers; support those who need help; protect those who are weak against oppression by those who are strong, and stand with the oppressed ones without any discrimination between locals or foreigners. The tribes of Banū Hāshim, Banū Muttalib, Banū Asad, Banū Zahrah and Banū Tamīm were party to this agreement.

After this, everyone got together to convince ‘Ās ibn Wā’il to give the Zubaydī trader what he owed to him. The agreement proved to be useful in settling subsequent matters too.

The Prophet (sws) participated in this agreement in his youth. After prophethood, he would say: “The agreement reached at the house of ‘Abdullāh ibn Jada‘ān is dearer to me than red camels. If I were to be invited to be party to another such agreement today, I would accept immediately.”6  


Earning a Livelihood

When the Prophet (sws) was old enough to start earning his own living, he began to travel for trade related purposes, as any other young man from the Quraysh. Some narratives about his trade travels indicate that his early travels were undertaken to Syria in the company of Abū Tālib. The fact is, however, that Abū Tālib was not a rich man. He could barely afford to maintain his own family. He was also lame and so it must have been difficult for him to travel. His source of income was the selling of perfume, or trade of grain.7 It is difficult to believe that his nephew could have gone with him on long tours. However, since the Prophet (sws) was under the guardianship of Zubayr who was well to do and a well known trader, he might have gone with him to Syria, Yemen and Bahrain once old enough to do so. According to Ibn Kathīr, he went to Yemen at the age of 14. Initially, he would have travelled merely for company. Later, as he would have found a trade caravan, he would have taken some produce and gone along. The life histories include travels to Syria and Yemen, but several Ahādīth indicate that he must have seen many Arab countries, and that his knowledge of the countries was not based on what he had heard, but what he had seen for himself. Even the companions were often surprised of the extent of his knowhow about countries that only the residents of these countries would have known. It is likely, therefore, that his trade related travels could have been many more than what have been reported in historical books.

After the initial training on trade, he started his own trade based on the principles of partnership of capital investment by others, and his own services. He would take products from various traders of the city and travel to markets with caravans, sell the products, and on his return, take his share from the profits. He gained so much repute on his ability for judgment, honesty, truthfulness, sincerity and trustworthiness that he began to be called by the names of Sādiq and Amīn. No one would ever regret doing business with him. His dealings were always managed with the greatest sense of responsibility. When one of the companions, Sā’ib ibn Sayfī ‘Ā’iz Makhzūmī accepted Islam, people spoke of his integrity and the Prophet (sws) said that he knew him from the old days when he was dealing in trade. At this the companion said: “Indeed, you always kept matters straight.” The same was said by Qays ibn Sā’ib Makhzūmī. Sā’ib was Khadījah (rta)’s first husband ‘Atīq ibn Makhzūmī’s nephew.



After the death of Zubayr ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet (sws) thought of getting married. He was around 22-23 years old at the time. He requested for Abū Tālib’s daughter Umm-i Hānī Hind’s hand in marriage. It was at the same time that Hubayrah ibn Abī Wahab Makhzūmī from Abū Jahal’s family also did the same. Abū Tālib decided in the latter’s favour. When the Prophet (sws) asked for the reason why someone else was preferred over his nephew, the answer was that the equals of those who have a high status in society must be of equally high status.8

Thus the orphaned state of the Prophet (sws) and his not being well off became a barrier for this marriage. Abū Tālib had his daughter married into a strong and influential family. Her husband Hubayrah remained a self declared enemy of the Prophet (pbuh) and did not accept Islam. After the conquest of Makkah, he escaped towards the sea.

When the Prophet (sws) was 25 years old, possibilities for his marriage began to arise. Khadījah bint Khawaylid ibn Asad ibn ‘Abd al-‘Uzzā ibn Qusayy was a reputable lady from the Banū Asad tribe of the Quraysh. She had been married earlier to ‘Atīq ibn ‘Ā’iz Makhzūmī, with no offspring. She then married Abū Hālah Hind ibn Niyash Tamīmī, and had three sons, Hālah, Tāhir and Hind who were all companions.9

Khadījah would invest her capital in trade. She would give funds to any trader who travelled to Syria or Yemen, and on his return, she would take her profit from his earnings. Since the Prophet (sws)’s profession was also trade, she requested him if he could take her products to the markets and sell it, and take whatever profit accrued to him. The business that the Prophet (sws) managed with Khadījah (rta)’s capital thrived so much due to his exceptional abilities that she was very impressed. It is likely that he may have gone several times and not just once. She had sent her slave Maysarah with him one occasion, and on his return he praised his manners, behavior and attitude. According to various narratives, she was so pleased with what she heard that she decided to marry him, and sent a friend called Nafīsah to inquire about his wishes. He agreed.

It appears from the manner in which historians have recorded this event that Khadījah (rta) was a stranger and she heard of the Prophet’s (sws)’s reputation and sent him for trade related travel, was impressed with the reports of her slave and gave a proposal of marriage. This is not so. Various tribes of Quraysh kept marrying into each other, and were often visiting each other as well. The Prophet (sws)’s aunt Safiyyah bint ‘Abd al-Muttalib was Khadījah’s sister-in-law, married to her brother ‘Awwām bin Khawaylid. Hence this potential relationship would have been well known. It is possible that Safiyyah may have initiated the proposal, and Khadījah (rta) may have accepted it, and then sent Nafīsah to speak with the Prophet (sws). When they married, Khadījah’s (rta) walī was ‘Amr ibn Asad because Khawaylid bin Asad had died. Abū Tālib read the sermon. The Prophet (sws)’s uncle, Hamzah bin ‘Abd al-Muttalib was also present at the occasion.

According to biographers, Khadījah (rta) was 40 years old at the time of her marriage. But not everyone agrees with this. Ibn Kathīr has stated her age as 35, and others as 25. They have categorically said that at the time of her death, she was 50 years old, and so she must have been 25 when she married the Prophet (sws). In support of this, Ibn Kathīr has quoted the narratives of Bayhaqī. Dr. Hamīdullāh states that she was 28 years old.10 Compared with 40 years, the age of 25 or 28 seems much more tenable. It was common in Arabia to get girls married early after puberty, as had happened in case of the prophet’s own children and ‘Ā’ishah (rta) herself. After the birth of three children, and death of a husband, a woman of high societal status did not stay unmarried for long. In a society practicing polygamy, there were plenty of men ready for marriage, and divorced or widowed women made no difference. This is why even the companions married widowed and divorced women several times.

Apart from this, the couple had two sons and four daughters. Considering that a woman’s capacity to bear children is reduced drastically after the age of 40, Khadījah (rta) is likely to be 25 or 28 years of age when she married the Prophet (sws). According to Qādī Sulaymān’s research, the Prophet’s youngest son ‘Abdullāh was born after prophet hood. If Khadījah (rta)’s had been 40 years old at the time of her marriage, she would have been 56 years old when ‘Abdullāh was born, which is medically difficult to accept. In our view, Bayhaqī’s narrative and Dr. Hamīdullāh’s opinion is correct.

According to known records, the Prophet (sws) freed his father’s slave-maiden, Umm-i Ayman, and Khadījah (rta) gave her slave, Zayd ibn Hārithah (rta) to her husband who freed him and adopted him. Zayd ibn Hārithah (rta) began to be called Zayd ibn Muhammad, and was treated with much love and kindness by the Prophet (sws). Zayd (rta) was not a slave by race, but a member of the tribe of the Banū Kilāb. He was kidnapped when he was a child and sold as a slave in Makkah. His relatives were informed of his presence in the Banū Hāshim. When his father and other relatives came to Makkah to claim him, the Prophet (sws) said to them that if the child wishes to go, he will not stop him. When Zayd (rta) was asked, he preferred to stay under the protection of the Prophet (sws).


Construction of the Ka‘bah

When the Prophet (sws) was 35 years old, heavy floods caused much damage to the Ka‘bah. The Quraysh decided that it should be rebuilt. It should be raised above the ground to keep it safe from floods. The building was without a roof and its walls were low. It was decided to raise it high and to give it a ceiling. They also decided that all tribes would participate in its construction and would put in their share from wealth earned from legitimate means. There would be no input from wealth that was gained unfairly or through usurping another’s right. When this decision was reached, it so happened that a ship from foreign lands loaded with construction material got stuck in the sandy sea shore of Jeddah. When all efforts to steer it clear back to the sea failed, the ship bearers wanted to get rid of the material. When the Quraysh came to know of this, they purchased the wood and other material and brought it to Makkah. They divided the pulling down of the existing structure between the different tribes, and then reconstruction on the same foundations started. When the walls were a few feet above ground, the stage was reached to install the ‘Hajr-i Aswad. Each tribe wanted to have the honour of doing so. Several suggestions were made but no settlement could be reached. The matter became one of heated debate, but before people would draw out their swords to settle it, an elder from the Quraysh suggested that any person belonging to Quraysh who enters first from the entrance of the Banū Shaybah be deemed as the arbitrator who should decide the matter. Everyone accepted this and all eyes turned to this entrance. The person to make the first entry was Muhammad (sws) who was known as Sādiq and Amīn, and who was the most trusted of all individuals. All those present were relieved to see him, satisfied that he would resolve the issue justly and fairly.

After assessing the situation, the Prophet (sws) laid out a blanket on the ground and placed the Hajr-i Aswad at its centre. He then asked the leaders of all the Quraysh tribes to lift the blanket from its sides, and then climbed the wall himself. When the blanket was raised, he took the stone and put it in its place. In such a manner, the issue that had begun to develop serious proportions was addressed through his wisdom and farsightedness.

The Abrahamic design of the Ka‘bah had two corners at the southern wall, and the northern wall was in the shape of a half circle. The funds collected by the Quraysh were insufficient for this construction. The northern wall was therefore left incomplete after filling in the foundations. The remaining square part was roofed, and its door was raised to the level of the ground. The half circle that had been left out still remains without a roof, and is called the Hatīm . Pilgrims consider it a great privilege to enter it and offer nawāfil there.


(Translated from Hayāt-i Rasūl-i Ummī by Nikhat Sattar)









1. Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 4 (Beirut: Dār Ihyā’ al-turāth al-‘arabī, n.d.), 1782 (no. 2276).

2. Qādī Sulaymān Mansūpurī, Rahmah li al-‘Ālamīn, vol. 2, 16.

3. Muhammad ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-fikr, n.d.), 76.

4. Ahmad ibn Yahyā ibn Jābir ibn Dā’ūd al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1996), 85.

5. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Al-Istī‘āb, vol. 2, 723.

6. Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, 86.

7. Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Ma‘ārif, 249.

8. Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 6, 112.

9. Qādī Sulaymān Mansūpurī, Rahmah li al-‘Ālamīn, vol. 2, 173-176.

10. Dr. Muhammad Hamīdullāh, Rasūl Akram kī Siyāsī Zindagī, 65.

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