The Life of Muhammad

By: Allama Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi

Translation by: Abdullah al-Shahin

p. 139-164
It may be useful to talk in brief about Mecca because it was the country where Prophet Muhammad (a.s.) was born and brought up, and where he announced his immortal mission in which but a group of slaves and weak people there believed whereas the chiefs and wealthy people resisted and fought with all weapons.

The talk about the Prophet (a.s.) and the study of his life require us to talk about Mecca and the cultural, ideological, and economic life of its people for I think it is from the requirements of the study on the Prophet (a.s.).

Other names of Mecca

For its importance to people, Mecca was named with some other names such as:

1. Ummol Qura (mother of villages)

Allah the Almighty has called it so in the Holy Qur’an when saying, (that you may warn the Mother of Villages and those around her).[1] It has been called so because it was the most important city.[2] In another place in the Qur’an, Allah has said, (And thus have We revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an, that you may warn the Mother of Villages and those around it).[3]

2. Al-Balad al-Ameen (the safe country)

It has been called so in the Holy Qur’an that Allah says, (I swear by the fig and the olive, and Mount Sinai, and this land of security).[4]

3. Becca

It was called so because it exhausted the arrogants if they disbelieved in it unjustly.[5] Allah says in the Qur’an, (Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Becca, blessed and a guidance for the nations).[6]

4. The Inviolable House

Mecca has been honored and called “the Inviolable House” that Allah made a Qibla for all people. It is narrated that this House (the Kaaba) had been built before Adam (a.s.). Abul Waleed al-Azraqi narrated a tradition from Imam Zaynol Aabidin (a.s.) that he said, “Allah the Almighty has sent his angels and said: Build Me a building in the earth like the House (in the Heaven) in form and size. Allah has ordered all those in the earth from His creatures to circumambulate it as the inhabitants of the Heavens circumambulate the much-frequented House (in the Heaven), and this was before the creation of Adam.”[7]

The one who built this house (the Kaaba) and made it a center for worshipping Allah was Prophet Abraham (a.s.) and his son Prophet Ishmael (a.s.). It was the first House in the earth that had been taken as a place of worshipping Allah. Allah has said, (Most surely the first house appointed for mankind is the one at Becca, blessed and a guidance for people).[8]

It is the most honored House that Allah has glorified and said about, (And when We made the House a pilgrimage for men and a (place of) security, and: Appoint for yourselves a place of prayer on the standing-place (for prayer) of Abraham. And We enjoined Abraham and Ishmael saying: Purify My House for those who visit (it) and those who abide (in it) for devotion and those who bow down (and) those who prostrate themselves).[9]

Abraham (a.s.) asked Allah to grant Mecca security and endow its people with fruits. Allah has said, (And when Abraham prayed: My Lord, make this a region of security and bestow upon its people fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day).[10] Allah has imposed on His people the pilgrimage to this glorified House by saying, (and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon people for the sake of Allah, (upon) every one who is able to undertake the journey to it).[11] Mecca has other names, as well, mentioned in the lexicons that one can refer to.

Its locality

Mecca extends from the west to the east in a distance of about three kilometers long and nearly half of that wide in a valley inclining from the north to the south between two mountain chains that are about to join each other in the east, west, and the south; that is to say the three gates of Mecca. Therefore, a comer cannot see its buildings except when he is at its gates. The north mountain chain consists of the mountain of al-Falaj (al-Falaq) in the west, and then the mountains of Qay’aqan, al-Hindi, La’la’, and Kada’ at the top of Mecca where the Prophet (a.s.) entered Mecca at conquering it. The south mountain chain consists of the mountain of Abu Hadeedah to the west, then Kada’, then Abu Qubays to the east of these two mountains, and then Khandamah. From the Kaaba, you can see the versants of these mountains full of houses and buildings in series until the bottom of the valley.[12]

Mecca lies in a barren valley surrounded by black mountains with no water source except the well of Zamzam and the water that is brought from other places. We shall talk about the economic life of Mecca in a coming chapter.

Mecca is the most beloved place to the Prophet

Mecca was the most beloved country to the Prophet (a.s.). In the year of the Conquest (of Mecca), he stopped when throwing the stones during the ritual of the hajj and said, “By Allah, you (Mecca) are the best of Allah’s land, and you are the most beloved of Allah’s land to me. If I was not forced to go out (of Mecca), I would not go out. It was not violable to anyone before me, and it shall not be violable to anyone after me. It was not violable to me except for a short time of a day, and then it is inviolable. Its trees should not be cut (during the Ihram in the hajj), its grass should not be mowed, and its lost things should not be picked except by their seeking owners.” Some man said, “O messenger of Allah, except al-Ithkhir because it is for our houses and our graves.” The Prophet (a.s.) said, “Except al-Ithkhir.” Then he said, “Whoever is patient with the hot of Mecca for an hour the Hell will be far from him for a distance of (travel of) one hundred years, and the Paradise will be near to him for two hundred years.”[13]

The Prophet glorifies the Kaaba

The Prophet (a.s.) sanctified the Inviolable House (the Kaaba) and glorified it so highly. Once, he was in the mosque. He turned towards the House and said addressing it, “I know that Allah the Almighty has not put a house in the earth more beloved to Him than you, and there is no country in the earth more beloved to me than you. I had not left you willingly, but those, who were unbelievers, forced me to leave.”[14]

The Prophet (a.s.) took great care of the Inviolable House, loved it too much, and made it the most holy place of worship in the earth.

The Prophet puts the Rock in its place

The tribe of Quraysh rebuilt the Kaaba after it had been destroyed. Aa’id bin Imran bin Makhzum, who was the Prophet’s (maternal) uncle, advanced and said to Quraysh, ‘O people of Quraysh, do not put (spend) in building it from your gains except good (well-gotten property). Let no dowry of a prostitute, money of usury, or an oppression against any one of people be included in it (the Kaaba).’

The clans of Quraysh began building the House. When they reached to the place of the Black Rock, the clans disagreed on putting it in its place. Each clan wanted to put it in its place to gain the honor and pride of that. The dispute grew and they were about to fight each other. Abu Umayya bin al-Mugheerah, who was from the obeyed notables of Quraysh, suggested, ‘Let the arbitrator between you on what you are disputing for be the first one who will enter from the gate of Bani Shayba…’ They all accepted his suggestion and saw that it would put an end to their dispute. The first one who entered from the gate of Bani Shayba was Muhammad (who was not prophet yet). They all cried out, ‘This is Muhammad the trustworthy…we accept his judgment…’

They told the Prophet (a.s.) what happened, and he solved the problem in a way that satisfied all of the clans. He asked them to bring a garment and said to them, ‘Let every clan of you hold a side of the garment and you all will participate in this virtue.’ They lifted the Black Rock in this way and the Prophet (a.s.) received it from them and put it in its place. The people of Quraysh admired this behavior of the Prophet (a.s.) that kept them safe from fighting each other.

The first who lived in Mecca

The first ones who lived in Mecca were Hagar and her son Ishmael (a.s.). Prophet Abraham (a.s.) took them there. At that time, the tribes of Jurhum passed by Mecca. They suffered thirst. One of them saw some birds hovering in that land and felt that there was water in that place. He told the caravan who hurried towards that place and found a spring, which was the well of Zamzam, and saw a woman with her child. They asked her to permit them to stay beside the well and she permitted them.

Ishmael was the guardian over the affairs of the Kaaba and other affairs of Mecca. When he died and was buried beside his mother Hagar, his son Nabit undertook the affairs of the House. After him, the tribes of Jurhum overcame the guardianship of the Kaaba and the affairs of Mecca. At the time of Jurhum, the tribe of Khuza’ah emigrated to Mecca and a war broke out between them and the tribe of Jurhum. Khuza’ah won the war and seized the emirate over the Kaaba from Jurhum.

The tribe of Khuza’ah ruled in Mecca and managed the affairs of the Kaaba for about three hundred years or more. Then, the tribes of Quraysh attacked them and seized Mecca from them after a war. The guardianship over the Kaaba and the emirate of Mecca became in the hands of Quraysh until the advent of Islam. Quraysh dug many wells and established some projects to improve the economic life in Mecca. Qussay (Prophet Muhammad’s great grandfather) assumed the emirate and established in his house a building and called it “Dar an-Nadwa; club or council” which we shall talk about soon.

The cultural life

That which dominated among some tribes of Mecca was the keeping of rights and assuring the benefits of strangers and the weak, and therefore two foundations were founded:

Dar an-Nadwa

It was like a parliament of nowadays. It was established by Qussay who made its door at the Mosque of the Kaaba. The people of Quraysh met there to deliberate with each other about the affairs of the town and the Inviolable House. The system of Dar an-Nadwa did not permit anyone under forty years to attend its meetings. It grew stronger and had importance among the Arabs. It was a center for deciding disputes and disagreements. Qussay entrusted the responsibility of Dar an-Nadwa to his son Abd Manaf.[15]

Hilf al-Fudhool (alliance of virtues)

The Alliance of al-Fudhool was one of the most important events in Mecca. It was founded to help the weak and keep the rights of strangers and minorities that lived in Mecca. It was a matter of pride for the people of Mecca and for the Arabs all because of its noble values. This alliance was established in the house of Abdullah bin Jad’an. The Prophet (a.s.) reached it and he said about it, ‘I witnessed in the house of Abdullah bin Jad’an the Alliance of al-Fudhool, and if I am invited to it in Islam, I will respond.’

It is worth mentioning that once a dispute took place between Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) and al-Waleed bin Utba bin Abu Sufyan who was the emir over Medina appointed by Mo’awiya. Al-Waleed wronged Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) who said, ‘I swear by Allah, that either you treat me justly or I will take my sword and rise in the mosque of the messenger of Allah and then I will call for the Alliance of al-Fudhool.’ Ibn az-Zubayr was present. He said, ‘And I swear by Allah, that if al-Husayn called for it, I would respond to him until he would be treated fairly or we would die.’ Al-Musawwir bin Makhrama az-Zuhri and Abdurrahman bin Uthman bin Abdullah at-Tamimi said the same. When al-Waleed heard that, he submitted and gave back Imam al-Husayn’s right.’[16]

The religious life

Idolatry was dominant in Mecca which was a fort for this belief that resulted from ignorance and shallow thinking. From the very devoted ones to the idols was Abu Sufyan the chief of the Umayyad family and one of the heads of Quraysh. He was very terrified when he saw the Prophet (a.s.) circumambulate the Kaaba and recite the hymn of Islam “Labaykallahumma labayk…”

He was very terrified and he cried out, ‘Exalt Hubal!’[17]

The Prophet (a.s.) replied to him, ‘O Abu Sufyan, Allah is more Exalted and more Glorious.’

More than three hundred idols were hung on the walls of the Kaaba. The people of Quraysh absolutely believed in those idols.

Who denied the idols

Some people of bright reason denied and mocked at the idols. The following are some of them:

1. Umru’ ul-Qayss

Umru’ ul-Qayss was one of the most famous poets in the pre-Islamic age. When his father was killed, he went to avenge on the killers. He went to an idol called Thul Khalasah that the Arabs sanctified. He sought what was best by arrows near the idol whether to fight against the killers of his father or not. It was negative for three times. He gathered the arrows, broke them, and hit the face of the idol with them. He abused and mocked at the idol and said, ‘If your father was killed, you would not let me free!’[18] Then, he went to avenge his father.

2. Ghawi bin Abdul Uzza

One day, he passed by an idol called Suwa’ and saw two foxes eat before it and then go up and urinate over its head. That scene provoked doubts inside him. He mocked at the idols and recited, “Is he a god that foxes urinate on his head?!

He is low on whom foxes urinate!”[19]

3. Zayd bin Umar

Zayd bin Umar scorned idolatry and thought that the worshipping of idols was as degrading of reason.

4. A nomad man

Once, a Bedouin with his camels passed by the shore of Jeddah. There was an idol called Sa’d. He came with his camels to the idol that it might bless them. When the camels saw the bloods of sacrifices on the idol, they ran away here and there. The Bedouin took a stone, threw the idol with it, and said, ‘May Allah not bless you as god! You startle my camels.’ Then he tried his best until he gathered his camels again. He left while reciting,

“We have come to Sa’d that he may reunite us,

but he scattered us; so we are not from Sa’d.

Surely Sa’d is but a rock on the earth,

who can call neither for deviation nor guidance.”[20]

5. Khuza’a bin Abd

Khuza’a bin Abd al-Muzani was the custodian of the idol of the tribe of Muzayna that was called Nahm. He apostatized the idol and went to the Prophet (a.s.) to be a Muslim.

6. Abdurrahman

When Abdurrahman bin Abi Sabrah reached the advent of the Prophet (a.s.), he went to an idol called Faras and destroyed it. Then he went to the Prophet (a.s.) and became a Muslim.

The belief of the Hashemites

The certain thing is that the Hashemite family believed in the religion of Prophet Abraham (a.s.) and they did not worship idols. Imam Ali (a.s.) said,

‘By Allah, neither my father, my grandfather Abdul Muttalib, Abd Manaf, nor Hashim had ever worshipped an idol. They worshipped Allah and were offering prayers towards the House (the Kaaba) due to the religion of Abraham and were keeping to it…’[21]

This shows that the Hashemite family believed in monotheism and was not deviant from the straight path of Allah.

The Prophet destroys the idols

Prophet Muhammad (a.s.) destroyed the idols in the Kaaba as his grandfather Prophet Abraham (as.) had done before. This was before his being sent to people as prophet. Imam Ali (a.s.) narrated,

“The Prophet (a.s.) and I went until we arrived in the Kaaba. The messenger of Allah asked me to sit down and he mounted on my shoulders. When I wanted to get up, he noticed a weakness in me. He dismounted and he himself sat down for me and asked me to mount on his shoulders. I mounted on his shoulders and he got up. I imagined that if I wanted, I would reach the horizon of the heaven. I went up the House and there was on it an idol of brass or copper. I began moving it right and left, from behind and from before until I could pluck it out. The messenger of Allah (a.s.) asked me to throw it down and I did. It broke into pieces as pots break. Then I got down. The messenger of Allah (a.s.) and I hastened back until we hid among houses for fear that someone of people might see us.”[22]

When Allah granted the great conquest over Mecca to His prophet, there were three hundred idols or more hung on the walls of the Kaaba which the tribes of Quraysh worshipped away from Allah. Among their famous idols there were Na’ilah, Asaf, Manaf, Thul Khalasah, Thul Kuna, Thul Sharaf, al-Uqaysar, Nahm, Sameer, and others.[23]

The master of those idols was Hubal which was the god of Abu Sufyan; Mo’awiya’s father and Yazid’s grandfather. It was made of copper and tied with iron pegs on the wall of the Kaaba. Imam Ali (a.s.) got upon the Prophet’s shoulders, plucked this idol out, and threw it to the ground while the Prophet (a.s.) was reciting this verse (And say: The truth has come and the falsehood has vanished; surely falsehood is a vanishing (thing)).[24] Then, Imam Ali (a.s.) threw down the rest of idols and thus the Kaaba was purified[25] of those filths hung on the walls and taken as gods by Quraysh.

The economic life

Mecca was a stage for lively commercial activities. It had many commercial caravans and great capitals were used in speculation. The caravans of Mecca brought from Yemen the products of India, the silk of China, and the textiles of Aden, besides gold nuggets from Africa, and cotton, linen, silk, and colored clothes from Syria and Egypt. Weapons, grains, and oils were also imported from Syria. Profits reached one hundred percent in these trades.[26]

The people of Quraysh had two commercial journeys a year; one to Yemen in winter because it was warm, and the other to Sham in summer because it was cool. Without these two commercial journeys, the people of Quraysh could not live in Mecca which was safe from enemies because it had the Inviolable House of Allah.

Al-Kalbi, the historian says, ‘The first one who brought wheat from Sham was Hashim bin Abd Manaf (the Prophet’s grandfather).’

In Mecca, there were some very wealthy people among whom was Khadeeja (the Prophet’s wife). She invested her capitals in trade. The Prophet (a.s.) (before prophethood) worked with her monies in trade and got great profits. We shall talk about this in a coming chapter.

Abu Jahl’s mother had a shop of perfumes, Hind (Mo’awiya’s mother) sold goods for the tribe of Kalb in Syria,[27] and Abu Sufyan himself was the leader of the commercial caravans of Mecca.

Anyhow, Mecca was a commercial center and most of its merchants practiced usury in their dealings. Al-Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib was one of the usurers. He had great wealth from this way. From the very wealthy people of Mecca was Abdullah bin Jad’an at-Tamimi, some Umayyad families, al-Waleed bin al-Mugheerah al-Makhzumi, Abdullah the father of Umar bin Abi Rabee’ah the poet, and others. The wealthy class lived at utmost ease and luxury and had tens of slaves whereas great masses of the inhabitants of Mecca lived wretchedly.

The social life

The most prominent Arab families that lived in Mecca were the Hashemite family and the Umayyad family. The natures and morals of these two families were too different. We refer in brief here to the natures of both.

The Hashemites

The Hashemites were famous for honor, succor, and high morals, and they were ideal examples of all perfect characteristics that mankind would pride on especially the Prophet’s family that was a gift from Allah’s mercy.

The Alawid[28] tree, since the dawn of its history until now, did not fruit but what benefited people. The Alawids undertook the interests of the wronged and the oppressed and all human rights. They did their best in the way of Allah, and they spread good and mercy among all people.

The Umayyads

The dominant morals of the Umayyads were oppression, selfishness, and aggression against people. Their defects, sins, and bad characteristics had blackened the face of history. Their souls were full of grudge and enmity against the Hashemites. They resisted Islam and strove to put out the light of the Islamic mission since its beginning. They stood against the Prophet (a.s.) and led armies to fight and do away with him, but Allah the Almighty repelled and abased them and supported His messenger against them.

The Umayyads bore malice and enmity against the Hashemites men and women. Historians mention that once Lady Aatikah bint Abdul Muttalib saw in sleep a vision that terrified her. She went to her brother al-Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib. She told her vision to him and said, ‘I fear that evil and calamity may afflict your people. Keep secret what I shall tell you…’

She told, ‘I saw a rider coming on a camel until he stopped at al-Abtah (mountain) and began shouting loudly: O people of perfidy, come on to your deaths! He said that three times. I saw that people crowded around him…then he took a rock and threw it. It dropped and when it reached the foot of the mountain, it broke into pieces. No house from the houses of Mecca remained except that a piece from that rock entered into it…’

Al-Abbas was terrified by that dream and he could not conceal it. He spread it among people. The news reached the Umayyads among whom there was Abu Jahl. They began mocking. Abu Jahl went to al-Abbas and said to him mockingly, ‘O bani[29]Abdul Muttalib, are you not satisfied that your men prophesy that now your women began prophesying?’

The vision of Aatikah came true that abasement and destruction afflicted the people of Quraysh. The battle of Badr took place and the tribe of Quraysh was defeated disgracefully. Killing, sorrow, and mourning entered all their houses.

[1] Qur’an, 6:92.
[2] The Encyclopedia of the Sacred Places; Mecca, vol. 1 p.11.
[3] Qur’an, 42:7.
[4] Qur’an, 95:1-3.
[5] The Encyclopedia of the Sacred Places; Mecca, vol. 1 p. 11.
[6] Qur’an, 3:96.
[7] Masalik al-Absar, vol. 1 p. 94.
[8] Qur’an, 3:96.
[9] Qur’an, 2:125.
[10] Qur’an, 2:126.
[11] Qur’an, 3:97.
[12] The Encyclopedia of the Twentieth Century, second edition, vol. 9 p. 327.
[13] Mu’jam al-Buldan, vol. 5 p. 183.
[14] Akhbar (the news of) Mecca by Abul Waleed al-Azraqi, vol. 2 p. 155.
[15] Buloogh al-Irab, vol. 2 p.272, the Encyclopedia of the Sacred Places; Holy Mecca, vol. 1 p.42.
[16] Al-Kamil fit-Tareekh, vol. 2 p. 42.
[17] Hubal was one of the most important idols of Quraysh.
[18] Al-Aghani, vol. 8 p.68, al-Asnam (idols) by ibn al-Kalbi, p.35, as-Seera an-Nabawiyya by ibn Hisham, vol. 1 p.88
[19] Shawahid al-Mughni by as-Sayyouti, p.109.
[20] Al-Asnam, p. 37.
[21] Kamaluddeen, p. 104.
[22] Sifat as-Safwah, vol. 1 p. 163, Musnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal, vol. 1 p.84.
[23] Mustadrak al-Hakim, vol. 2 p. 366.
[24] Qur’an, 17: 81.
[25] Encyclopedia of Imam Ameerul Mo’minin Ali bin Abi Talib, vol. 1 p. 60.
[26] Encyclopedia of the Sacred Places; Holy Mecca, vol. 2 p. 192.
[27] Ibid., p. 190.
[28] The progeny of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.).
[29] Bani or Banu means “the tribe or family of”.

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