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Muhammad in the Desert

3739 2008/05/16 2024/06/21

until the fifth year of his life muhammad remained with the tribe of banu sa'd inhaling with the pure air of the desert the spirit of personal freedom and independence. from this tribe he learned the arabic language in its purest and most classical form. justifiably, muhammad used to tell his companions, "i am the most arab among you, for i am of the tribe of quraysh and i have been brought up among the tribe of banu sa'd ben bakr." ["most arab among you" (arabic, "a`rabukum") could well have been rendered "most eloquent among you." to be an arab, or "to arabize" means to speak forth eloquently in arabic, without stammering or grammatical mistakes, and with literary beauty. urubah or arabness is always something which admits of many degrees, the more arab being always the man in better command of the arabic language, arabic diction, style, letters and all forms of literary beauty. ya'rub, (literally, "he arabizes" or "speaks eloquent arabic") was the n: me of the first arab king, whom legend declares to be the first to have spoken in arabic. as far as history goes, the arabs have regarded the desert arabic purer and more classical and beautiful than that of the towns; the tribes were graded in urubah according to their racial purity as means for the preservation of the purity of arabic. hence, the prophet's statement. -tr.]

these five years exerted upon muhammad a most beautiful and lasting influence, as halimah and her people remained the object of his love and admiration all the length of his life. when, following his marriage with khadijah a drought occurred and halimah came to visit muhammad, she returned with a camel loaded with water and forty heads of cattle. whenever halimah visited muhammad, he stretched out his mantle for her to sit on as a sign of the respect he felt he owed her. shayma', halimah's daughter, was taken captive by the muslim forces along with banu hawazin after the seige of ta‘if. when she was brought before muhammad, he recognized her, treated her well, and sent her back to her people as she wished.

the young muhammad returned to his mother after five years of desert life. it is related that when halimah brought the boy into makkah, she lost him in the outskirts of the city. 'abd al muttalib sent his scouts to look for him and he was found with waraqah ibn nawfal. [waraqah ibn nawfal was a hanif (an ethical monotheist of pre-islamic times). he was the relation of the prophet's wife, khadijah, from whom she sought advice regarding muhammad's reports about revelation. (see p. 77.)] 'abd al muttalib took his grandson under his protection, and made him the object of great love and affection. as lord of quraysh and master of the whole of makkah, the aged leader used to sit on a cushion laid out in the shade of the ka'bah. his children would sit around that cushion, not on it, in deference to their father. but whenever muhammad joined the group, 'abd al muttalib would bring him close to him and ask him to sit on the cushion. he would pat the boy's back and show off his pronounced affection for him so that muhammad's uncles could never stop him from moving ahead of them to his grandfather's side.


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