but i am not a real camel. i am a camel ghost. i appear and disappear, and there is an interesting story about my appearance and disappearance. i would like to tell it to you, for the real camels are always telling stories about muhammad, may allah bless him and grant his salvation.
the real camels came to know him when he was a young boy who herded them and the flocks and goats. they said he was kind to them and treated them tenderly and with affection, and they said that he never left them on their own to go and play like his companions did, but always stayed with them, carrying for them and protecting them from the dangers of the desert. the camels knew him also as a caring and thoughtful rider, as they carried him south to the yemen and bore him north to syria for trade. they saw him trading in the markets of makkah and madeenah and san’aa and damascus. they never saw anyone more or trust-worthy than him and they never once heard him swear on oath by the idols of quraysh like the arabs used to do.
but as for my story, well, it’s completely different. it’s a strange story, and it’s very interesting:
one day a merchant came to makkah. he was a stranger and had some camels to sell. the man who bought them was abu al hakam bin hisham, who the muslims called abu jahl, ‘the ignorant one.’
as was the practice of the kuffar in the jahiliyya before islam, abu jahl did not wasn’t to pay the price of the camels he had bought. he wanted to take them for nothing, so he avoided their owner was determined not to pay him for them.
the merchant went round makkah looking for a man to mediate between himself and abu jahl, someone who could make abu jahl pay the price of the camels. he asked everyone he met if they knew a man whose word was respected and who could get the money he was owed.
on the way the man met two merchants who were kuffar. he told them what abu jahl had done to him and asked them if they knew anyone who could help him.
it so happened that muhammad, may allah bless him and grant him salvation, was passing along the road at that very moment. he had begum receive revelations from allah and was secretly calling people in makkah to the way of islam, but the kuffar were opposed to him and stood in his way. they made fun of him and severely abused him and those who followed him.
one of the men thought to trick the prophet and to take the opportunity to pus him into the hands of abu jahl, the prophet’s greatest enemy and the staunchest of the kuffar of makkah in his ridicule of muhammad and in his abuse oh the prophet and his followers. so he said to the stranger:
“go to muhammad who is walking over there. he will help you get your money.”
the second man quickly understood his friend’s intention and he said to the stranger:
“yes. abu al hakam loves this man very much, he respects him and listens to what he has to say. hurry and catch up with muhammad. he will get you your money.
the merchant hurried after muhammad and told him his story saying: “i am a stranger in his town. i sold my camels to abu al hakam bin hisham. he did not pay me for them and he does not want to pay. i asked for a man who could help me get my money from him and they advised me to come to you. will you help me get my money from him? please, i beg you.”
muhammad took the man’s arm and set of with him for abu jahl’s house as the two men looked on and sniggered. then they followed muhammad and the merchant. the two kuffar stood some distance away waiting to see what abu jahl would do to the prophet, who had set off to confront him ask him to pay the price of the camels, which abu jahl was determined not to do. muhammad had fallen into the trap the two kuffar had set for him.
“the quraysh tribe will witness a new battle, and abu jahl will tear muhammad to pieces and all quraysh will laugh at him and mock him!”
the two men laughed loudly and congratulated one another on their successful idea, and waited to see all this happen to muhammad.
muhammad knocked on the door of abu jahl’s house and called out his name.
“who is it?” came a reply from behind the door.
“it is muhammad,” replied the prophet, praise and peace be upon him. “come out. i want to speak to you.”
abu jahl opened the door and came out, intending to do some great harm to muhammad. but the prophet calmly stood and said: “give this man his money.” all off a sudden abu jahl looked as if he had seen something which terrified him. he shook and his face turned yellow, and the words stuck in his mouth. he bowed his head in a sign of obedience and went back inside his house. the merchant was amazed! the two men who were watching from a distance were even more amazed. they had expected abu jahl would be furious and grab hold of muhammad immediately and give him a sound beating. but then they said to themselves that perhaps he had entered hid house to fetch an instrument of torture, a think stick or a whip or a rock, or a red-hot poker, for a hot poker was the least muhammad deserved for the bold behaviour.
they waited for abu jahl to come back out the red hot poker.
abu jahl did come back out, quickly, but with something else altogether. he came back out with the camel merchant’s money!
the two men looked at one another in disbelief.
the merchant could not believe that he had gotten his money back so easily and with such astonishing speed.
“is that every thing he owes you?” muhammad asked him.
“yes,” replied the merchant. “it’s all here.”
muhammad departed without waiting for a word of thanks or appreciation from the merchant. the two men rushed up to see for themselves, for they were totally baffled, unable to understand what had happened. the merchant counted out his money in front of them and said:
“thanks to that great man muhammad i got paid. i never imagined he would get all my money so easily and with such astonishing speed.”
the two men went round makkah telling the people of quraysh what had happened, relating how they had seen the cowardice of abu jahl and his disappointing against muhammad with their very own eyes. the whole tribe was amazed. the elders rushed to abu jahl’s house and knocked on his door so that they might know from him the truth about what had happened, how he had obeyed muhammad, and surrendered to him, and been afraid of him and paid the money to the merchant straight away when he had been so determined not to do so in the first place.
another surprise was waiting for them. abu jahl was afraid to open the door, and only did so reluctantly when he knew it was them. then he told them what had happened:
“i opened the door, intending to do great harm to muhammad because he had been so bold as to come with that merchant and ask for his money. but then of a sudden i saw a huge camel above muhammad’s head looming over him, opening its mouth and baring its teeth ready to pounce on me if i stood argued or refused. so i thought i should go inside before that terrifying camel attacked me. but as i went back into the house i could feel it following me. i felt it would attack me if i did not hurry up and take the money and pay the merchant everything i owed him. so that is what i did. then i closed the door and went back inside the house.”
one of those listening said: “of course you did. so the camel wouldn’t come after you again.”
“is that why you wouldn’t open the door for us?” said another. “were you afraid that it might be muhammad knocking the door again?”
“with the huge camel looking over his head,” added a third, “waiting to pounce on you.”
they all roared with laughter as they made fun of abu jahl.
the two kuffar gave their side of the story: “we saw what happened. there was no camel or anything else with muhammad or above his head.”
and other said: “it was muhammad’s character and courage that frightened you. you were alarmed because he came to you and openly demanded what you owed to the merchant. it was that fear and alarm that made you imagine you were seeing the camel ghost it looks like you’re still afraid of it coming back.”
the people of quraysh laughed long and loud at abu jahl and instead of laughing at muhammad, they laughed at their frightened trembling leader. and all because the two kuffar had wanted to play a trick on muhammad.