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The Birth of Muhammad (570 C.E.)

6328 2008/05/16 2024/05/29

there was nothing unusual about aminah's pregnancy or delivery. as soon as she delivered her baby, she sent to `abd al muttalib, who was then at the ka'bah, announcing to him the birth of a grandson. the old man was overjoyed at the news and must have remembered on this occasion his loved one `abdullah. he rushed to his daughter-in-law, took her newborn in his hands, went into the ka'bah and there called him "muhammad." this name was not familiar among the arabs, but it was known. he then returned the infant to his mother and awaited by her side for the arrival of wet nurses from the tribe of banu sa'd in order to arrange for one of them to take care of the new born, as was the practice of makkan nobility.

historians have disagreed about the year of muhammad's birth. most of them hold that it took place in "the year of the elephant," i.e. 570 c.e. ibn 'abbas claims that muhammad was born on "the day of the elephant." others claim that he was born fifteen years earlier. still others claim that he was born a few days, months, or years, after "the year of the elephant." some even assert that muhammad was born thirty years and others seventy years later than "the year of the elephant." historians have also differed concerning the month of muhammad's birth although the majority of them agree that it was rabi` al awwal, the third month of the lunar year. it has also been claimed that he was born in muharram, in safar, in rajab, or in ramadan. furthermore, historians have differed as to the day of the month on which muhammad was born. some claim that the birth took place on the third, of rabi` al awwal; others, on the ninth; and others on the tenth. the majority, however, agree that muhammad was born on the twelfth of rabi` al awwal, the claim of ibn ishaq and other biographers. moreover, historians disagreed as to the time of day at which muhammad was born, as well as to the place of birth. caussin de perceval wrote in his book on the arabs that after weighing the evidence, it is most probable that muhammad was born in august, 570 c.e., i.e. "the year of the elephant," and that he was born in the house of his grandfather `abd al muttalib in makkah. on the seventh day after muhammad's birth, `abd al muttalib gave a banquet in honor of his grandson to which he invited a number of quraysh tribesmen and peers. when they inquired from him why he had chosen to name the child muhammad, thus changing the practice of using the ancestors' names, `abd al muttalib answered: "i did so with the wish that my grandson would be praised by god in heaven and on earth by men."


muhammad's nurses

aminah waited for the arrival of the wet nurses from the tribe of banu sa'd to choose one for muhammad, as was the practice of the nobles of makkah. this custom is still practiced today among makkan aristocracy. they send their children to the desert on the eighth day of their birth to remain there until the age of eight or ten. some of the tribes of the desert have a reputation as providers of excellent wet nurses, especially the tribe of banu sa'd. at that time, aminah gave her infant to thuwaybah, servant of muhammad's uncle abu lahab, who nursed him for a while as she did his uncle hamzah later on, making the two brothers-in-nursing. although thuwaybah nursed muhammad but a few days, he kept for her great affection and respect as long as she lived. when she died in 7 a.h. muhammad remembered to inquire about her son who was also his brother-in-nursing, but found out that he had died before her.

the wet nurses of the tribe of banu sa'd finally arrived at makkah to seek infants to nurse. the prospect of an orphan child did not much attract them since they hoped to be well rewarded by the father. the infants of widows, such as muhammad, were not attractive at all. not one of them accepted muhammad into her care, preferring the infants of the. living and of the affluent.


halimah, daughter of abu dhu'ayb

having spurned him at first as her colleagues had done before her, halimah al sa'diyyah, daughter of abu dhu'ayb, accepted muhammad into her charge because she had found no other. thin and rather poor looking, she did not appeal to the ladies of makkah. when her people prepared to leave makkah for the desert, halimah pleaded to her husband al harith ibn `abd al `uzza, "by god it is oppressive to me to return with my friends without a new infant to nurse. surely, i should go back to that orphan and accept him." her husband answered; "there would be no blame if you did. perhaps god may even bless us for your doing so." halimah therefore took muhammad and carried him with her to the desert. she related that after she took him, she found all kinds of blessings. her herd became fat and multiplied, and everything around her seemed to prosper.

in the desert halimah nursed muhammad for two whole years while her daughter shayma' cuddled him. the purity of desert air and the hardness of desert living agreed with muhammad's physical disposition and contributed to his quick growth, sound formation, and discipline. at the completion of the two years, which was also the occasion of his weaning, halimah took the child to his mother but brought him back with her to the desert to grow up away from makkah and her epidemics. biographers disagree whether halimah's new lease on her charge was arranged after her own or aminah's wishes. the child lived in the desert for two more years playing freely in the vast expanse under the clear sky and growing unfettered by anything physical or spiritual.


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