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04. The Well of Zam Zam

Seeratul Muhammad ﷺ

The well of Zam Zam, which disappeared when the Arabs placed idols around the Ka’bah, remained buried under the sand. Thus, for many years the people of Quraysh had to fetch their water from far away. One day, ‘Abd al-Muttalib was very tired from doing this and fell asleep next to the Ka’bah. He had a dream in which he was told to dig up Zam Zam. When he woke up, he was puzzled because he did not know what Zam Zam was, the well was buried many years before he was born. The next day, he had the same dream, but this time he was told where to find the well. ‘Abd al-Muttalib had one son at that time and together, they began to dig. The work was so difficult that ‘Abd al-Muttalib made an oath to Allah that if one day he were to have ten sons to help him and stand by him, in return he would sacrifice one of them in Allah’s honour. After working for three days they finally found the well of Zam Zam.

Years passed by and ‘Abd al-Muttalib did, in fact, go on to have ten sons. They grew into fine, strong men and the time came for him to keep his promise to Allah. He told his sons about the promise and they agreed and decided to draw lots, which was used by the Quraysh when discussing important matters. ‘Abd al-Muttalib told each son to get an arrow, write their own name upon it and then bring it to him. This they did, after which he took them to the Ka’bah where there was a man whose special task it was to cast arrows and pick one from among them. This man solemnly proceeded to do this. On the arrow he chose was written the name of ‘Abd Allah, the youngest and ‘Abd al-Muttalib’s most favourited son. Even so, the father took his son near the Ka’bah and prepared to sacrifice him. Many of the Quraysh leaders were present and they became very angry because ‘Abd Allah was very young and much loved by everyone. They tried to think of a way to save his life. Someone suggested to take advice from a wise old woman who lived in Yathrib, and so ‘Abd al-Muttalib took his son and went to see if she could decide what to do. Some of the Meccans went with them and when they got there, the woman asked:

“What is the price of a man’s life?” They told her: “Ten camels”, for at that time, if one man killed another, his family would have to give ten camels to the dead man’s family in order to keep the peace among them.

So the woman told them to go back to the Ka’bah and draw lots between ‘Abd Allah and ten camels. If the camels were chosen, they were to be killed and the meat was to be given to the poor. If ‘Abd Allah was picked, then ten more camels were to be added and lots were drawn again and again until they finally fell on the camels.

‘Abd al-Muttalib returned to the Ka’bah with his son and the people of Makkah. There they started to draw lots between ‘Abd Allah and the camels, starting with ten camels. ‘Abd al-Muttalib prayed to Allah to spare his son and everyone waited in silence for the result. The choice fell on ‘Abd Allah, so his father added ten more camels. Again the choice fell on ‘Abd Allah and they did the same thing again and again, adding ten camels each time. Finally, they reached one hundred camels and only then did the lot fall on the camels. ‘Abd Allah was saved and everyone was very happy. ‘Abd al-Muttalib however, wanted to make sure that this was the true result so he repeated the draw three times and each time it fell on the camels. He then gave thanks to Allah that He had spared ‘Abd Allah’s life. The camels were sacrificed and there was enough food for the entire city, even the animals and birds. ‘Abd Allah grew up to be a handsome young man and his father eventually chose Aminah, the daughter of Wahb, as a wife for him. It was a good match, for she was the finest of Quraysh women and ‘Abd Allah was the best of the men. He spent several months with his wife but then he had to leave her and travel with one of the caravans to trade with Syria. On his way back to Makkah from Syria, ‘Abd Allah became ill and had to stop off in Yathrib to recover. The caravan, however, continued on its way and arrived back in Makkah without him. On hearing of ‘Abd Allah’s illness, ‘Abd al-Muttalib sent another son, al-Hareth, to bring ‘Abd Allah back to Makkah, but he was too late. When he arrived in Yathrib, ‘Abd Allah passed away. Aminah was heartbroken to lose her husband and the father of her child she would soon give birth to. Only Allah knew that this orphan child would one day be a great prophet, and that orphan was the beloved Muhammad صَلَّى ٱللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ.

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