The Youth of the Prophet Muhammad

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The Holy Prophet (s) participated in an agreement for the protection of the rights of the oppressed and the downtrodden, known as Half al-Fudul, when he was twenty years old. Several years before his prophethood he used to herd the sheep of the people of Makkah. On the advice of his uncle he joined the trade caravan of Lady Khadija. His trustworthiness and good judgment led Lady Khadija (a) to propose to marry him. Muhammad (s) who was famous for his trustworthiness among the people extinguished the flames of war among Arab tribes by his judicious handling of the case of placing Hajar al-Aswad (the Black Stone) at its designated place in the Kaaba.

Muhammad – The Trustworthy (Amin)

Without a doubt a prophet who is not known for his good speech and manners before becoming a prophet cannot win the hearts and minds of the people with the help of any miracle. The life of the Prophet (s) is also not an exception to this rule. He was famous for his trustworthiness (amanah) in his youth in a society which was filled with corruption and vice. This trait had so captivated the people of Makkah that he was known to everyone as Muhammad al-Amin (the trustworthy). [1]

Half al-Fudul

In the past there used to be a pact by the name of Half al-Fudul among the Jahrumis. The basic tenet of the pact was to safeguard the rights of those who had no rights. The names of the founding fathers of this pact all started from the Arabic root ‘fadl’. [2] Some members of the Quraysh had also agreed to a pact whose aim was similar to the older pact to defend the rights of the weak and the downtrodden. Therefore, the name of the Quraysh agreement was also Half al-Fudul. This agreement has been called the best and most valuable agreements of the Quraysh which brought together leaders of various sub-tribes of the Quraysh. [3]

The agreement came about when a member of the Bani Zubayd tribe asked the chiefs of Makkah for help. The man had come to Makkah and sold his goods to ‘As ibn Wa’il who belonged to one of the sub-tribes of Quraysh called the Bani Sahm. However, ‘As ibn Wa’il did not pay the amount that was due on him. The Zubaydi man did not have any member of his tribe in Makkah and thus did not have any helper and supporter. As a last resort, he went on top of the Abu Qubays Hill when the leaders of the Quraysh had gathered at the Ka‘ba and after reciting emotional poetry implored them for help. His poetic verses shook the hearts of men known for their honor in the Arabian peninsula.

The Quraysh under the leadership of Zubayr ibn Abd al-Muttalib alongwith the elders of the Bani Hashim, Bani Abd al-Muttalib, Bani Zohra, Bani Tamim and Bani Haris gathered in the house of Abd Allah ibn Jaz‘an and swore with one another not to allow anyone to be wronged in Makkah, whether the oppressed party is an acquaintance or a stranger, whether rich or poor. They then went to ‘As ibn Wa’il and took what was due on him and gave it to the Zubaydi man. [4][5]

The Holy Prophet (s) participated in this pact which ensured the rights of the oppressed and was only twenty years old at the time. The participation of the Holy Prophet (s) in this pact is a sign of his support for ‘human rights’ in a society that was renowned for its ignorance and vice. Of particular importance is his participation in the pact at the young age of twenty [6] when others of his age were busy in enjoying the trivial pleasures and diversions of this world. Human and civic values like support for the weak and oppressed and social justice were foreign concepts in this society more famously known as the society of jahiliyyah (ignorance). However, he participated with the elders of the Quraysh in this pact and would always remember it with fondness. He would say:

‘I witnessed a pact in the house of Abdullah ibn Jaz‘an that even if one offered me red-haired camels in its place it would not make me so happy and if I am invited to such a pact in the Islamic era I would have no qualms in accepting it.’ [7]

This pact continued to act as a protection and safeguard for the weak and dispossessed members of society. In the following years, on several occasions strangers and foreigners sought the help of the founding members of this pact to get their due rights and escape oppression.

From Shepherding to Trade

Divinely chosen leaders have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. A part and parcel of this responsibility are problems & difficulties, torment and sometimes even the possibility of being killed. The more noble the goal, the greater the problems and calamities that befall a person. Thus, one of the requirements for the success of divinely inspired leaders is patience and fortitude in the face of all these difficulties. Patience and fortitude develop overtime in a person. It is inevitable that a person fights his circumstances so as not to be overpowered by problems and difficulties in his life. It has been narrated in history that most of the prophets sent by God spent a period in their lives as herdsmen before becoming prophets. By being patient over rearing animals which do not have the ability to think and understand they were prepared to train human beings. This is also the message of a tradition which says:

‘God never sent a prophet without (first) giving him the responsibility of shepherding animals so as to teach him about guiding and leading human beings.’ [8].

Many biographers have narrated from the Prophet (s) that he said:

‘All prophets were given the job of herding animals (at one point in their lives).’

It was asked:

‘Even you O Prophet (s)?’

He replied:

‘Yes, I used to herd the sheep of the people of Makkah at (a place called) Qararit.’ [9]

Prophet’s (s) Second Journey to Syria

Lady Khadija, the daughter of Khuwaylid, who was known for her nobility and wealth in Makkah, would appoint people in different cities for trade. When Prophet Muhammad (s) was a young man of twenty five years of age his uncle Abu Talib suggested to him:

‘I wish you would meet Lady Khadija as she appoints men for trading purposes who travel to various cities. Her trading activities are spread from Egypt to Ethiopia. She is searching for a man who can take charge of her trading activities. [10]

On the other hand Lady Khadija also came to know about the rectitude, trustworthiness and good morals of Prophet Muhammad (s) and sent for him:

‘If you take responsibility of my trading activities I will pay you more than others and will also send my own bondman Maysarah to help you.’

Prophet Muhammad (s) accepted this proposal and accompanied by Maysarah travelled to Syria with the Quraysh caravan. [11]

Maysarah noticed several extraordinary deeds from Prophet Muhammad (s) and his respect for the Prophet grew as the journey progressed. Prophet Muhammad (s) was the one who profited the most in this journey. On their return journey back to Makkah the Quraysh caravan passed the ruins of the people of ‘Ad and Thamud and the young man from Makkah after noticing the silence of death in these two cities remembered the previous journey he had made to these two cities with his uncle Abu Talib.

The caravan reached near Makkah. Maysarah said to Muhammad (s):

‘It would be befitting if you were to enter Makkah before us and inform Lady Khadija about the unprecedented profits we have reaped this year.’

Prophet (s) accompanied by Maysarah entered upon Lady Khadijah and informed her about their trading exploits that year. Maysarah also narrated everything he had seen about the greatness of the Prophet (s) to Lady Khadija. In this journey Nestor, the Monk, who was aware of the signs of the coming prophet, on seeing the young Muhammad (s) predicted of his prophethood. [12] Similarly, Maysarah saw the Prophet (s) develop a difference of opinion with a person over an article of trade. That person said to Muhammad (s):

‘Swear by the gods Lat & ‘Uzza so that I accept your word.’

Muhammad (s) said:

‘I have never sworn by Lat and ‘Uzza throughout my life.’


Marriage to Lady Khadija (a)

Khadija (a) was a foresighted and honorable lady and among the Quraysh had a noble lineage. [14] She was known by the titles of the ‘Lady of the Quraysh’ (Sayyadat Quraysh) [15] and ‘Tahira’ (the Pure Lady) [16] as a result of her high moral character and social stature. It has been popularly narrated that she had married twice and both of her husbands had died. [17] Famous men like Aqabah ibn Muhit, Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan had proposed to her but she had refused all of them. [18]

History is a testament that this marriage was a result of Lady Khadija’s (a) faith in righteousness, chastity and virtue. She wanted to marry a man who was righteous, devout and pious. On the basis of her knowledge of Muhammad’s (s) bright future and also his probity and uprightness in his business dealings she wanted to marry the Prophet (s). [19]

The Marriage Proposal from Lady Khadija

All historians agree that the marriage proposal was sent by Lady Khadija (a). The Lady was related to the Prophet (s) through a common ancestor ‘Qusayy’. On the basis of the report of Ibn Hisham, Khadija personally expressed her desire to marry Muhammad (s) and said:

‘O the Son of my Uncle! On the basis of our common ancestry, the honor and respect you have among your people, your integrity, good morals and honesty, I really want to marry you.’

The respected son of Quraysh replied:

‘I must inform my uncles about this proposal and the marriage should take place on the basis of their counsel.’ [20]

The Prophet (s) discussed the proposal with his uncle Abu Talib and it was decided that all the nobles of the Quraysh should be invited to the wedding ceremony. Abu Talib recited a sermon which began with praising and glorifying God. He introduced his nephew thus:

‘My nephew Muhammad ibn Abdullah (s), on being compared with any man of Quraysh, will be better than him. Although he does not possess any wealth, but wealth passes away like a shadow and nobility of character

The Event of Placing the Black Stone (Hajr al-Aswad)

The honesty and integrity of Muhammad (s) and his trustworthy nature had so penetrated the hearts of people that they accepted his decision in placing the Hajr al-Aswad (the Black Stone) in its rightful place in the Kaaba. [21] He also used his discretion and prudence in resolving this schism.

When Prophet Muhammad (s) was 35 years old as a result of flash-floods from the mountains of Makkah, the walls of the Kaaba suffered damage in several places. At that time the Kaaba had no roof and the walls did not have the ability to protect the reserves inside. The leaders of the Quraysh had decided that after the flooding they would demolish the existing structure and rebuild it. During the renovation phase serious differences arose amongst the various sub-tribes of the Quraysh over the question of placing the Hajr al-Aswad. The customs and biases of the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah) were rekindled in the Quraysh. Some took a blood-oath by putting their hands in a chalice of blood that they would not allow any other tribe to place the Hajr al-Aswad in the wall of the Kaaba. [22]

They finally agreed on the advice of the eldest person among the Quraysh. The first person to enter Masjid al-Haram (The Sacred Mosque) from the Gate of Bani Shaybah (Gate of Safa) shall arbitrate among the tribes. Fortuitously, Muhammad (s) entered. Everyone exclaimed:

‘This is Muhammad, the trustworthy (amin), and we are happy to oblige him.’

On the orders of the trustworthy son of Quraysh a cloth was brought and Hajr al-Aswad was placed in its middle. Each of the leaders of the Quraysh held one end of it and brought the Black Stone near the wall of the Kaaba. Muhammad (s) placed it in its position with his own hands. [23] With this solution of the Prophet (s), the conflict among the tribes of the Quraysh was resolved and a bloody war was avoided.


  1. Muhammad, Ibn Sa’d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, volume 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Sadir, Bi Ta, 1957), 121; ‘Abd al-Malik, Ibn Hisham, al-Sirat al-Nabawiyyah, volume 1 (Cairo: Matba‘at Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1355 A.H.), 210; Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Husayn, Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nabuwwah, volume 1 (Tehran: Markaz Intisharat ‘Ilmi wa Farhangi, 1982-83), 211; Muhammad Baqir, Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, volume 15 (Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1384 A.H.), 369
  2. Ja‘far, Subhani, Furugh Abadiyat, (Qom: Markaz Intisharat Dar al-Tabligh Islami, 1989-90), 151
  3. Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat, volume 1, page 128
  4. Ahmad, Abu Yaqub, Tarikh Yaqubi, volume 2 (Najaf: Bina, 1358 A.H.), 13
  5. Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirat al-Nabawiyyah, volume 1, page 142
  6. Abu Yaqub, Tarikh al-Yaqubi, volume 2, page 13
  7. Ibid; Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirat al-Nabaviyyah, volume 1, page 142
  8. Shaykh Abbas, Qummi, Safinat al-Bihar wa Madinat al-Hikam, volume 8 (Qom: Dar al-Uswah, 1344 A.H.), 165
  9. Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirat al-Nabaviyyah, volume 2, page 166
  10. Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, volume 16, 22
  11. Ibn Hisham, al-Sirat al-Nabaviyyah, volume 1, 199; Muhammad, Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1410 A.H.) 81
  12. Majlisi, Bihar, volume 15, 18
  13. Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqat al-Kubra, volume 1, 130; Ali, Ibn Athir, al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, volume 2 (Beirut: Dar Sader, 1399 A.H.) 39; Muhammad ibn Jarir, Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk, volume 2 (Beirut: Dar al-Qamus al-Hadith, Bi Ta) 196; Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nabuwwah, volume 2, 215; Ali ibn Muhammad, Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, volume 5 (Tehran: Al-Maktabat al-Islamiyyah, 1957) 435
  14. Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, volume 2, 39; Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nabuwwah, volume 1, 215
  15. Ali ibn Burhan al-Din, al-Halabi, al-Sirat al-Halabiyyah volume 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifah, Bi Ta), 424
  16. Ibid; Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, volume 5, 434
  17. Sharaf al-Nabi, 201
  18. Tabari, Tarikh, volume 2, 197; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, volume 2, 40
  19. Majlisi, Bihar, volume 16, 121
  20. Ibn Hisham, al-Sirat al-Nabaviyyah, volume 1, 204
  21. Ibn Sad, Tabaqat, volume 1, 210; Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nabuwwah, volume 1, 211
  22. Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil, volume 2, 45
  23. Yaqubi, Tarikh, volume 2, 14-15; Majlisi, Bihar, volume 15, 337-338; Ibn Sad, Tabaqat, volume 1, 145-146