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03. The Children of Ismā’īl

Seeratul Muhammad ﷺ

Over the years Ismā’īl’s children themselves had children. His descendants increased and formed tribes that spread out all over Arabia. One of these tribes was called Quraysh. Its people never moved away from Makkah and always lived near the Ka’bah. One of the duties of the leader of Quraysh was to look after those who came on pilgrimage to the Ka’bah. The pilgrims would come from all over Arabia and it was a great honour to provide them with food and water. As time passed, however, the Arabs stopped worshipping Allah directly and started bringing idols back with them from the different countries they visited. These idols were placed at the Ka’bah, which was no longer regarded as the sanctuary of Allah, as Ibrāhīm had intended it. It was, however, still respected by the Arabs. Around this time, the well of Zam Zam disappeared beneath the sand and Qusai, one of the leaders of Quraysh, became the ruler over Makkah. He held the keys to the temple and had the right to give water and food to the pilgrims, to take charge of meetings and to hand out war banners before battle. It was also in his house that the Quraysh settled their affairs.

After Qusai’s death, his son ‘Abdu Manaf, who had become famous during his father’s lifetime, took over the leadership of Quraysh. After him came his son Hashim. It is said that Hashim was the first to begin the two great caravan journeys of Quraysh, one in the summer to Syria and the north, and one in the winter to Yemen and the south. As a result, Makkah grew rich and became a large and important centre of trade. One summer, Hashim went north to buy goods to sell in Yemen. On his way, he stopped in Yathrib to trade in the market and there he saw a beautiful woman. She was Salma’, the daughter of ‘Amr ibn Zeid, who was from a much-respected family. Hashim proposed marriage to her and was accepted because he was an honourable and distinguished man. In time, Salma’ gave birth to a beautiful son and as some of his hair was white they called him Shaybah. The mother and son stayed in the cooler and healthier climate of Yathrib, while Hashim returned to Makkah, but every time he would visit them, he would take his caravan to the north.

During one of these journeys, however, Hashim became ill and died. Shaybah, a handsome, intelligent boy, grew up in his uncle’s house in Yathrib. He was proud of being the son of Hashim ibn ‘Abdi Manaf, the head of Quraysh, guardian of the Ka’bah and protector of the pilgrims, even though he had not known his father who died while he was very young.

At Hashim’s death, his brother al-Muttalib took over his duties and responsibilities. He travelled to Yathrib to see Shaybah, Shaybah decided that as he would one day inherit his father’s place, the time had come for him to live in Makkah. It was hard for Salma’ to let her son go with his uncle but she finally realized that it was for the best. Al-Muttalib returned to Makkah, entering the city at noon on his camel with Shaybah behind him. When the people of Makkah saw the boy they thought he was a slave and, pointing at him, called out:

“Abd al-Muttalib”, ‘Abd’ meaning in Arabic for ‘slave’.

Al-Muttalib told them that Shaybah was not a slave but it was his nephew who had come to live with them. From that day on, however, Shaybah was always affectionately called Abd al-Muttalib. On the death of al-Muttalib, who died in Yemen where he had gone to trade, ‘Abd al-Muttalib took his place. He became the most respected member of his family, loved and admired by all. He was unlike all those Arabs who had given up the teachings of Ibrāhīm.

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