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Abdul Muttalib: Grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad

As you may recall, Ibrahim and his son Ismail had built the Ka'bah by the well of Zam Zam, which had provided water for Ismail and his mother, Hajira. But as generations passed, the Ka'bah became a center of idol worship and the well of Zam Zam had been buried under the sand and lost. The Arab tribe of Quraish had become guardians of the Ka'bah, which was the center of pilgrimage for all of Arabia.

We now come to the time of Muhammad's grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, a member of the Quraishi clan of Hashim, which was responsible for providing food and water to the pilgrims. One night Abdul Muttalib had a dream in which he was told to dig for the well of Zam Zam so that there would always be water for the pilgrims. The voice in the dream gave him detailed instructions on where he should dig.

Abdul Muttalib took his only son to the place where he knew he must dig, but as they started digging, a large crowd gathered to watch, some of whom opposed the idea of disturbing the ground next to their cherished idols. But Abdul Muttalib would not stop and continued to dig while his son stood guard beside him. It was a tense moment, until Abdul Muttalib's tools struck the covering of the long-lost well. Not only had he found the well, but the well had been filled at some time in history with the valuables which pilgrims had brought to the Ka'bah to offer to their idols. It was later decided that the treasure should be divided between the Ka'bah and Abdul Muttalib, and that the clan of Hashim should be in charge of Zam Zam, since it was their task to water the pilgrims.

Abdul Muttalib's experience at the well made him long for more sons who could stand beside him when the need arose. He prayed to Allah to give him more sons, and vowed that if he were blessed with ten sons, he would sacrifice one of them to Allah at the Ka'bah. His prayers were answered, and over the years he had nine more sons, the most favorite of whom was his youngest, Abdullah. He did not forget his vow, and when all his sons had grown up, he took them to the Ka'bah and had lots cast to determine who would be sacrificed. It was Abdullah who was chosen.

The entire community was in an uproar over the situation. The wives and daughters of Abdul Muttalib were upset and they called upon their families for support. The other brothers asked Abdul Muttalib to sacrifice something else instead of their youngest brother. Abdul Muttalib was upset because he had made a vow and must keep it, but he did not relish the idea of sacrificing his favorite son. Finally he agreed to consult a certain wise woman about whether a replacement could be provided, and what form it should take.

The wise woman provided the solution to the problem. She told Abdul Muttalib to cast lots between Abdullah and ten camels. If Abdullah were chosen, then he should add ten more camels, and continue until his Lord accepted the camels and the lot fell to them.

So they returned to the Ka'bah and cast lots, but Abdullah was chosen. They added ten more camels. But again Abdullah was chosen. This continued until there were one hundred camels. Only then did the lot fall to the camels. Abdul Muttalib had the test repeated a second and a third time, and each time the lot fell to the camels. Finally Abdul Muttalib was convinced that the hundred camels were acceptable to Allah as a replacement for his son. The camels were sacrificed and Abdullah was spared. He was to become the father of Muhammad .

(Note: Arabs before the advent of Islam were polytheists who considered Allah as one of their Lords.)


Published: March 1993

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Last modified 08/12/05 09:25 AM - Iqra - ISSN #1062-2756