The Prophet’s Childhood
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
The prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ childhood is not something that much is known about. And of course this makes sense, as who was there to witness and record such information, especially at a time when Muhammad ﷺ was not considered someone of importance. In fact, the record we have of the first 53 years of his life is less than half of the record of his last 10. Nevertheless, to preserve the chronology of the Seerah we must first study this period of his life.
The first thing to note about the prophet’s childhood is that he was not raised by his mother, Aminah, but was instead fostered by a Bedouin tribe called the Baui Sa'ad ibn Bakr by Halima binti Sa'adiya. Halima and her husband had been suffering from poverty, and so when the Banu Sa’ad went to visit Mecca that year for the fostering of the new-borns, they also decided to go and take a child to foster. Now only the wealthy elites of Mecca could afford to give their children to the Bedouin’s to be fostered, and as Aminah was the wife of the deceased Abdullah –son of the chieftain Abdul Muttalib – she also wanted her son to be raised by the Bedouins. However no woman – including Halima – wanted to take the child of someone whose father was dead, as they did not expect much money from that. However at the end of the trip, every woman who had come from the Bedouins had managed to get a child to raise except for Halima, and so she and her husband went back to Aminah and decided to take the ‘orphan child’ Muhammadﷺ , hoping that ‘Perhaps Allah will bless us through him.’ And so Muhammad ﷺ was taken by Halima to be fostered by her for two years.
But why did the Arabs want their children to be raised by the Bedouin tribes? There were a few reasons for this:
They wanted their children to be raised in a healthy environment – Infant mortality was high back then, and to raise them away from large amounts of people increased their chances of survival.
They wanted to adjust the children to a rough life – Although life in Mecca was rough by our standards, to the Meccans it was the norm. And so they wanted their children to be raised in the rougher desert environment so that they would find the life of Mecca as luxury, and so become tougher.
They wanted the children to be fluent in Arabic – The Arabic in a city like Mecca would have become corrupted by other cultures coming to trade and such. The Arabs wanted their children to be raised in clean Arabic, and so be fluent in the language.
Now, as soon as Halima took Muhammadﷺ she began to be blessed by all number of miracles. For example, the mount that she had ridden to Mecca on had been the slowest of the whole caravan, however as soon as she put Muhammad ﷺ on its back it began racing ahead of all of the other animals. And because of these miracles, when the two years that Halima was supposed to raise Muhammad ﷺ were up and she returned back to Aminah, she made excuses in order to keep him for longer and eventually managed convince Aminah to allow him to remain with her for a few more years.
Now it was in this second phase when the prophet was four years old that Jibrael (AS) came to him. All of the children that the prophet had been playing with became terrified and ran away, except for the prophet himself who stood his ground. Now Jibrael overpowered the young boy and forced him onto the ground, before opening his chest and taking out his heart. He then removed a black portion of the heart and discarded it, saying, ‘This is Shaitaan’s portion that he had in you,’ before washing the heart in Zamzam and replacing it back in the chest of the prophet which he sealed up. This black spot is in every person’s heart, and is created when he first comes out of the mother’s womb and Shaitaan pricks the baby out of jealousy and hatred. This is also the reason why babies cry when they are born (as narrated by the prophet in a Sahih Hadith). Because Jibrael removed this black spot from the prophet, he could never in his life commit any major sins (as no other prophets could).
And so the children told Halima, ‘Our brother has been killed!’ and so she ran outside to find the prophet sitting, pale, with a scar down his chest. And because of this incident Halima decided to quietly return Muhammad ﷺ back to Aminah.
Now for the prophet’s time with Aminah there is only one event recorded. Narrated by Umme Ayman – the slave of Aminah – When Muhammad ﷺ was six years old, Aminah took him to Yathrib to see some relatives (as we know, Abdul Muttalib’s mother was from Yathrib). On the way back, however, she fell ill and died, and Umme Ayman buried her in the nearby village of Abwa. And so when Muhammad ﷺ returned he was entrusted to his grandfather Abdul Muttalib, with whom we only have a few small stories.
One of these which shows the love that Abdul Muttalib had for Muhammad ﷺ is the one about the platform. So Abdul Muttalib was the chief of Mecca, and so he had a raised platform connected to the Ka’bah which he would sit on each afternoon and discuss the affairs of the Quraish. At this point Abdul Muttalib was an old, blind man, and also a legend of Arabia, and so the raised platform was a sort of throne which no-one except him was allowed to be on – not even his sons or grandsons. However it is reported that one day Muhammad ﷺ ran and jumped onto the platform while Abdul Muttalib was dealing with the affairs of the city, and so everyone tried to pull him off when Abdul Muttalib said, ‘Leave him be, he is with me,’ and so out of all of his grandchildren only the prophet was allowed to sit on the platform.
Then when he was around eight years old Muhammad ﷺ once again became an orphan as Abdul Muttalib died, and he was then entrusted to his uncle Abu Talib who was Abdullah’s only full brother. And he remained with until he was a young man. Now, there is a well-known story that Abu Thalib took Muhammad ﷺ on a trip to Syria when he was around 11 years old with Abu Bakr and Bilal, however this is actually not authentic. At the time Abu Bakr was just a child with no relation to Abu Thalib or Muhammad ﷺ – and Bilal hadn’t even been born! This is a story that has often been taken at face value by the Seerah writers, however when coming across stories like this it is important to verify their authenticity and study where they came from.
As we can see, the childhood of the prophet was one of much hardship and grief. Three times he was made an orphan, one when his father died, one when his mother died and one when his grandfather died, all of which were incredibly difficult on him. These situations matured the young prophet, and prepared him for a life of struggle and hardship which would come with being the messenger of Allah. And so from here we can glean some the plan that Allah put in place from the very start to give the prophethood to Muhammad ﷺ and how he was prepared for this from a young age, and how from even in his childhood he began developing into the best of people with the most perfect and beautiful of characters.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 006