Early Manhood of the Prophet Muhammad

وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ

So now we move on the early manhood of the prophet Muhammad of which there were three main events. However, as we previously mentioned, there was also another, unauthentic story of his pre-teen years.

The famous story goes like this: when Muhammad was around 11 years old, Abu Talib took him – alongside Abu Bakr, with Bilal as the slave of the caravan – to Syria. Now on the way they passed by the monastery of a monk called Bukhairah, who normally never even interacted with the travellers whenever they passed by, however this time he followed them out. He then told Abu Talib that Muhammad was going to be a prophet, as he saw the clouds shelter him and the trees prostrate to him and some other signs besides. And so he told them to be careful as if the Romans caught him they would attempt to capture and kill him, as he was destined be the leader of all the Arabs.

This story is almost certainly inauthentic, and many, many famous early Muslim scholars have credited it such. Now, normally stories of the Seerah are not scrutinised with as much rigour as the hadith – which we use to determine fiqq – and so some weaker legends come through in modern tellings and usually that is not a problem. However, when the stories begin raising issues, such as this one, it is much more important to study the credibility and isnaad of the stories so as prevent incorrect information being spread. The main issue with this story is that people use it to try and claim that this was the incident where Muhammad got the idea of being a prophet from, and also where he got all of the information and stories of the previous prophets – such as Isa (AS) and Musa (AS) – from. As the Arab people had never even heard of these prophets before – let alone known about their stories – the idea that Muhammad could talk about them in such detail is a fact that is unprecedented and unexplainable, and so modern orientalists claim that this story explains where he got all of that information from.

However there are many problems with this claim, and the story itself. In itself, the idea that a young boy of 11 would be able to memorise all of the stories of these prophets in such a short time is implausible, but it’s compounded by the fact that the story itself does not seem authentic as Abu Bakr himself was a child at the time with no connection to Muhammad and Bilal was not even born at that point. Also, the fact that Muhammad did not use this incident to later try to convince Abu Talib when he doubted his prophethood also renders this story less than credible. And so this story should not really be re-told, other than to point out its lack of authenticity.

And so we not move on to the certified events that took place in his young manhood (of which we only know of three as very little was recorded of that time), the first being that Muhammad initially worked as a shepherd for much of his teenage years. As narrated by the prophet, ‘Allah has never sent a prophet except that he was a shepherd,’ and indeed this is true, as Musa (AS) and Dawud (AS) are both recorded as shepherds as are many other prophets. And there are a few wisdoms to this: firstly being a shepherd provides you with solitude to think and become closer to Allah, as you are working directly with Allah’s creation without anyone else to influence you. Another is that is gives you leadership qualities, as sheep need to be herded like men or else they go astray, and so it makes you soft on one hand when dealing with the animals but brave and tough on the other when you are needed to defend your flock. And another quality is that it gives you is humility and patience, and as the prophet himself said, ‘The people who own horses are to be the ones who are full of pride, and the people who own camels are going to be the ones full of arrogance, and the people who own sheep will be the ones full of sakinah and wiqaar (humility and humbleness).’

The next recorded incident is that of the Fijar (evil) wars. The Fijar wars were a series of battles fought between two branches of tribes in Arabia; that of the branch of Kinaanah of which the Quraish were part of, and that of the Qais Ailaan which was composed of tribes such as the Ghathafan and Hawazin. Someone from the Kinaanah killed someone from the Hawazin, and so the Hawazin attacked the Kinaanite tribes causing them to rush back into the Haram to seek refuge (as since the time of Ibrahim (AS) it was sacred territory). However the Hawazin were so angry that they did not stop their assault and continued attacking the Kinaanah, and so broke the sanctity of the Haram. And now this was a huge, huge crime, and so the Quraish were incredible angered by this and declared all-out war on the Hawazin, and thus the Fijar wars began. Now the prophet narrates, ‘I remember fighting in the Wars of Fijar, and I would collect arrows for my uncles and hand them back to them. And I do not regret participating in that war.’

The next incident was even more famous than that of the Fijar wars, and it was called the Hilf Al-Fudhul or Hilf Al-Muthayyabiin. This was an incident that took place in the prophet’s early twenties in the month of Dhul-Qa'idah (not an Islamic month), and was when a merchant from the tribes of Zubayd in Yemen came to Mecca just before hajj and sold some items to Al-‘Aas ibn Waail – the father of Amr ibn Al-‘Aas. Now Al-‘Aas ibn Waail was a high ranking politician, and because the trader was all the way from Yemen and had no-one who would defend or fight for him, he was not considered someone of high importance. And the story goes that Al-‘Aas ibn Waail told the trader to return after hajj and then he would pay him. The merchant returned, however to Al-‘Aas ibn Waail told him to come back the next day for his money; yet when the trader came back again he said the same thing, and this repeated until finally the Yemeni merchant realised he wasn’t going to get paid. And so he went to the heads of all the sub-tribes seeking intervention, however none were willing to help him as to Al-‘Aas ibn Waail was far too well respected and he was not. So then he decided to make it a public issue: he went to the Ka’bah at Asr time and recited a poem he had made describing his injustice, and soon his issue spread all over Mecca. 

Now Az-Zubair ibn Abdul Muttalib (the prophet’s eldest uncle) heard of this and said, ‘We have to do something about this, this cannot go on anymore,’ and thus he gathered all of the senior members of Quraish ­– including Muhammad , despite his young age – in the house of Abdullah ibn Jud'an. Abdullah ibn Judan was a distant uncle of Aisha, and was considered the most noble and hospitable of all the people of Mecca before the dawah began. And so all of these important people formed a pact that stated that they would side with the oppressed against the oppressor – regardless of what ethnicity or what tribe the oppressed or oppressor was from – and they signed it in public in front of the Ka’bah. Now, they were all illiterate, so to sign the treaty they all dipped their hands in perfume and put it on the a place on the Kahbah, and this is the reason why it is called Hilf Al-Muthayyabiin – the Treaty of the Perfumers. The other name – Hilf Al-Fudhul – means the Treaty of No Business, as when to Al-‘Aas ibn Waail heard about what had happened he became irritated and said, ‘Why did they have to get involved in a matter that is none of their business?’ And so it took the ironic name of Fudhuli.

These are the three authentic incidents that took place in the prophet’s early manhood, and from them we can glean some wisdom. The main lesson that can be taken from this is that a Muslim is perfectly allowed to take part in non-Muslim wars and societal contributions, as these things affect him as well as the non-Muslims around him. The prophet told us that he did not regret taking part in these events and would even still uphold the Hilf Al- Fudhul even after becoming a Muslim, and these narrations show us that it is a Muslim’s right to take part in the community. And indeed, it was in this way that the prophet built his respect and standing which later aided him in this dawah as the Messenger of Allah.


Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 008