a small donkey that served haleema and her family is going to tell us her story.
i lived hundreds of years ago in the desert with a woman named haleema as- sa’diya. she was a wet-nurse who suckled children instead of their mothers. in those days there was no powdered milk in tins and it was a custom of the arabs at that time to give their children to a wet nurse who would take them to live with her in the desert.
haleema was a poor woman who struggled hard to make ends meet. she lived with her husband, al harith, in a tent in a region where there was very little rain and very little vegetation. times where hard and i was thin and bony.
one day haleema led me to the front of the tent. i was most pleased. i thought i was going out to the pasture with the sheep to eat some green grass. but haleema climbed on my back with her little child who never stopped crying, while her husband got on his old she-camel.
then we set off across the desert.
it was very hot and i could hardly lift my feet off the ground because, to be honest, i was very tired. even walking was hard work for me. the child was still crying and haleema wanted to feed him so he would be quiet but there was not a single drop of milk in her breasts.
seeing this, her husband said to her:
“how can you go to bring another child to feed when you don’t even have milk enough for your own child?
haleema replied: “when i get another child to feed, his family will pay me some money.
then i will buy food and when i eat and i regain my strength there will be milk enough in my breasts to give them both. don’t you understand? the important thing is that i find a rich child whose family can pay me a large sum of money.”
i wanted to know where we are going, so i asked the she-camel who knew the desert paths better then me.
“we are going to makkah,” she answered.
i was very happy when i heard the word makkah. i immediately felt my energy return and i started to trot along at quite a pace. “how?” you might ask. i have no idea! i moved so quickly that we arrived in makkah before all the others who had set off before us. haleema thanked me because i had given her the opportunity to beat the other woman and she could choose the child she would feed.
haleema went off searching here and there but after along time she came back sad and exhausted. i heard her say to her husband:
“it looks as if we will return as we came: with only hunger to accompany us."
i felt sorry for her. poor woman! no one had wanted to give her their child because she looked so poor and weak.
after she had rested for a while she went off to look again. she did not come back for a long time, then suddenly we saw her running towards us. she looked so, so happy.
“praise be to allah," she called to her husband joyfully. we were happy too and we rejoiced with her. she had found a child. when she reached me i smelt a scent as sweet as musk. it was the smell of the child she has brought. she was carrying him in her arms. he was a sweet and tender child, and beautiful, like the full moon.
her husband al harith came up and looked into the child’s face and he too was overjoyed. “whose son is he? what’s his name?“he asked his wife.
“his name is muhammad, muhammad ibn abdullah ibn abdulmuttalib. his grandfather is abdulmuttalib the lord and leader of quraysh tribe. his father abdullah died while the child was still in his mother’s womb, poor thing. his mother is amina bint wahb, a noble woman of the arabs from one of their most eminent and distinguished families.
happiness and joy spread over the face of al harith as he helped haleema up on to my back with muhammad and her own child, who i could see was also delighted and was chuckling away merrily.
al harith mounted his she-camel and off we set. i found myself trotting, then galloping, with astonishing speed. i overtook all these who had left makkah with us and then caught up with those who had left earlier. i felt strong and full with energy as if i had been standing all the time in a meadow eating and drinking. al harith’s she-camel was racing me too, running like a horse. at last we reached the tent of haleema and al harith.
no sooner had we arrived than wonderful things began to happen to us. our circumstances changed immediately. for months not a single drop of rain had fallen from the sky and now all of a sudden clouds where gathering and rain was falling and watering the earth. the land became green with pasture and we; the sheep, and the she-camel and myself, found enough grass to feed us all, and plenty of water to drink. everything changed; the land, the sky, the water, the people, the sheep, the tent. everything was better. everything was more beautiful after the child muhammad came to stay with us.
haleema was overjoyed. before, she did not have enough milk for her own little boy. now she had enough for him and the child muhammad with even some left over. she was happy, happy because of all the health and goodness she now enjoyed. and her husband was just as happy.
haleema would often ride me with the child muhammad. these were the happiest moments of my life. i would trot along with them on my back under the desert sun & not even feel the strong heat. i felt as if a cloud were sheltering me from the sun, protecting me from its burning heat.
when muhammad was two years old he was weaned & it was time for haleema to take him back to his mother. haleema climbed onto my back with the child & i took them to makkah. all the way there, haleema was silent, deep in thought.
we entered makkah & went straight to muhammad’s house. haleema dismounted & took the child in to his mother. after a short while i heard haleema’s voice from inside. i heard her asking lady amina to let muhammad stay with her a while longer. haleema began to implore lady amina until the woman took pity on her & agreed that muhammad could come back with us.
so we returned. we almost flew through the air with joy. i sped along so fast that any one who saw me could hardly believe i was haleema’s old donkey. and when al harith saw us, he could hardly believe his eyes, he was so happy that muhammad had come back.
muhammad stayed with us again. the good life continues and the blessings continued, and our joy and happiness with him continued. and days and months passed.
then one day, haleema’s son came running up:
“two men have come,” he shouted. “they are wearing white clothes, pure dazzling white. they’ve taken my brother muhammad.”
“taken him?” shouted al harith. “he has been placed in our safe keeping. we are responsible for him and his safety.”
haleema and her husband jumped to their feet and ran off to look for muhammad. i ran after them to see what was the matter. we found muhammsd standing quietly with a sweet smile on his shining face. and even though he was safe and well, haleema and al harith were both afraid and they decided to take him back to his family.
muhammad went back to his mother but he left us the good fortune-he had brought with him. he left us the rain and the green pasture, and the health and prosperity, and he left us the happiness and the delight and the joy which only grew when we later learned the story of the two men. they were angels who had come to wash the heart of muhammad and purify it, in preparation for him to bear the great message, the message of islam, may praise and pace be upon him.