Heritage of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
Before beginning the study of the life of the prophet, we must first take a look at the lives of his ancestors. In this way we can understand that truly Muhammad was the best of people, perfect in every way even in his lineage. As it was, lineage was one of the most important aspects of a person to the Arabs of the time, and so in understanding the prophet’s we can understand his place in society and why he was the best person to be chosen as the messenger of Allah.
From our earlier studies, we should already know that the prophet was from the Adnaani Arabs, and in fact he was the 20th exact descendant of Adnaan himself. We should also understand that this meant he was from the best of people at the time, as the Adnaani Arabs had settled in Mecca in the centre of Arabia and therefore all of the other tribes had to pass through them when trading. This meant their influence, wealth and learnedness eventually grew past even that of the original Qahtaani Arabs. But who were the 20 forefathers of the prophet exactly?
The prophet ancestry was exactly Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaaf ibn Qusoy ibn Kilab ibn Murrah ibn Ka'ab ibn Luay ibn Ghaalib ibn Fihr ibn Maalik ibn An-Nadhar ibn Kinaanah ibn Khuzaymah ibn Mudrika ibn Ilyas ibn Mudhor ibn Nizaar ibn Ma'ad ibn Adnaan. These are the exact 20 people between the prophet and Adnaan, and we know this for certain. Many of these people were extremely influential to the status and formation of the Quraish, and were very well respected, meaning that when the prophet came he came from the most noble of lineages. Let’s look at the most notable of these people:
First, a sentence on Mudhor. It’s said that Mudhor was the first Arab to train camels – which as we know came to be incredibly important to them – and was also the first to develop ‘Camel Poetry’. Camel Poetry was the way they taught camels to go faster or slower, or to follow commands; essentially the way they controlled the camels. Now let’s look at Kinaanah:
Kinaanah actually means ‘the pouch to store arrows’, and was not actually his name. He was called that because he was known for his incredible bravery, store of wisdom and knowledge. It was said that people would do hajj just to meet with Kinaanah, he was that knowledgeable. Many of his sayings have been recorded in classical Arabic, and he was considered a legendary figure.
Next we look at the person called Quraish. But if you take a look at the lineage of the prophet again, you notice that there is no-one called Quraish. That’s because it’s a laqab (title), and in fact it’s because of this person that the tribe of Quraish is called what it is. But who is that person, and what does the word mean? The prophet Muhammad ﷺ said when talking about his lineage, ‘Allah chose Kinanah from all of the descendants of Ismail. And He chose Quraish from Kinanah. And He chose the Banu Hashim from Quraish. And He chose me from the Banu Hashim.’ So this shows the nobility of the lineage of the prophet, but once again, who is Quraish? Well there are two main opinions, but the strongest of them is that Fihr – the 11th ascendant of the prophet – is the one who was spoken of. If that is the case, then all of the tribe of Quraish are the descendants of Fihr, and if you look at all the forefathers of the Ashara Mubasharoon (the 10 promised Jannah, all Quraishi) their closest common ancestor is, indeed, Fihr. As to what the word means there are also three opinions. One is that it comes from the word ‘to trade’, another is that it comes from ‘gathering together (because all the tribes gathered under Qusoy – see below)’ and the last is that it comes from the word ‘to conquer’.
Now let’s look at the more immediate ancestors of the prophet, up till Qusoy (5th ascendant). Now Qusoy (his real name was Zayd) was the one who really began the ascent of power of the Quraish, at least until the prophet himself came and took it much further. He lived around 400CE, so about 170 years before the prophet himself, and the most important thing that he did was that he brought the city of Mecca back into the hands of the Quraish from the Khuza’a (remember them?). Now initially Mecca was inhabited by the tribe that Ismail (AS) had married into, the Jurhum, however they began to do bad and overtax the people and such. And so the Khuza’a came and kicked everyone out, including Fihr’s descendants (early Quraish). But then eventually Qusoy came and married the daughter of the chieftain of Khuza’a and became extremely beloved of the people, so much so that when the chieftain died they wanted him to take over rather than the waiting sons. So Qusoy went to war with them, and he called all the scattered tribes of Banu Fihr together (some say this is why they are called Quraish) and took back Mecca.
His son Abd Manaaf (his real name was Mughirah) was very beloved and famous for his leadership and handsomeness, and was given many responsibilities in the city.
Now his son, Hashim (real name Amr – Hashim means to grind and he was called that because he used to grind barely and share food with pilgrims – so he was a very generous man), gave probably the most important economic boost to the Quraish: he instituted the Rihlat As-Shitaa'i wa As-Saif – the Journey of the winter and summer. Mentioned in Surah Al-Quraish, this was a trade journey north to Rome (Silk Road) in summer and south to Yemen (Indian and African spices and goods) in the winter, which connected Mecca to the world trade routes. Thereby Hashim and the Quraish became extremely wealthy.
Now when Hashim died, Salma – mother of Abdul Muttalib (real name Shaybat al-Hamd – ‘shaybat’ means white lock of hair and ‘hamd’ means praise, as he was born with a white streak of hair) – took her son back to the city where she was from – Yathrib. And he was raised there until one of his uncles – called Muttalib – visited and recognised Shaybat as Quraishi. He took the child back to Mecca, where, when people saw the boy they thought he was Muttalib’s slave and so he was given the name Abdul Muttalib which stuck. There he carved out his own legacy, which we won’t go too deep into but rather just mention the three main events that took place in his life: The rediscovery of Zamzam, the vow to sacrifice Abdullah and the incident of Surah Al-Feel.
Now the well of Zamzam, which was found by Ismail (AS), had actually been hidden for a very long time. When the Khuza’a were about to take over Mecca, the Jurhum had as an act of spite covered up the well of Zamzam. For all of the hundreds of years afterwards people had been trying to find the well of Zamzam, however to no avail. Abdul Muttalib, however, was shown the location by Allah in a dream, and he found it and began excavating with his only son. The people of Quraish mocked him for trying to find the long lost well, however he kept on digging and digging until he discovered something extremely precious – water. And at that point his own people of Quraish surrounded him and tried to claim the property off of him, to which of course he refused. And a fight was about to break out, and so Abdul Muttalib made a du’a: ‘O Allah, if you ever give me 10 sons to defend me, then I promise I'll sacrifice one for you.’ And then eventually, after a very long incident, Abdul Muttalib managed to keep the rights to the well.
Now Abdul Muttalib was blessed with 18 children, 12 sons and 6 daughters, and when his sons had all grown up he had to follow through with his vow to sacrifice one of them. And so he took his most beloved son – Abdullah – to the front of the Kahbah to sacrifice him, however the Quraish told him to instead go to a certain priestess and see if there was a way out. And he was told to sacrifice 100 camels instead of his son, and from then on the price of a human life became equal to that. Even to this day in the Shariah, the price of blood money for manslaughter is still equivalent to 100 camels, and this is where it originated from.
The final and most famous story of Abdul Muttalib’s is that of Surah Al-Feel. So the governor of Yemen at the time was called Abraha, and when he saw his people migrating north to do hajj he said, ‘I will build you a house that is far better than any of your houses; and you will come for hajj under here.’ And so he built a massive cathedral and told his people that they must go there instead of to Mecca. When one of the Bedouins heard this, he went into the cathedral and defecated in it. Abraha became so angry at this that he said: ‘As revenge I will destroy this house, so people must come to my house.’
And so he gathered his army and his war elephants and marched onto the Kahbah. Now on the way in Mecca he captured over 200 animals of Abdul Muttalib, and so Abdul Muttalib went to meet him. Now Abraha assumed that he had come to talk about the fact that he wanted to destroy the Kahbah, however Adbul Muttalib told him, ‘I didn't come to you to talk about the Kahbah… I want my camels… The Kahbah not my business; The House has its own Lord who will protect it, and the camels have their lord whose job it is to protect them.’ And so Abraha, impressed, gave the animals back.
Now, the lead elephant of Abraha’s army – called Mahmud – would not go towards the Kahbah, no matter how much he was whipped. And while the army was stopped waiting for Mahmud to move, large birds sent by Allah came and descended upon the immobile army. And with them they brought rocks, rocks straight from Jahannam. And these flock of birds dropped the rocks onto the elephants and the soldiers, and every time they would hit something it would dissolve right there and then. Simply dissolve. And so in this way Allah protected his house from those who attempted to destroy it.
Now, if we look back on the prophet’s lineage, we can clearly see that something huge is about to happen. Every ancestor establishes something of momentous value for the Quraish – Qusoy politically, Hashim economically and Abdul Muttalib in the rediscovery of Zamzam. And this set the stage for the arrival of Muhammad ﷺ, who would bring the greatest glory and blessing from Allah unto the Quraish and unite the Arabs under him to conquer the rest of the world.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 005