It would have been somewhat easier on the orphaned boy had Abd al Muttalib lived longer than he did, but with the decree of Allah, the Prophet’s grandfather passed away at the age of eighty whilst the Prophet was eight years old.
The charge of Muhammad ﷺ now fell to Abu Talib, his uncle. Abu Talib was not the eldest of the brothers but notably the most appropriate and took the charge of his nephew in the best way, singling out the boy with great respect and high esteem. Abu Talib remained for forty years cherishing his nephew and extending all possible protection and support to him; at times to his own detriment.
When the Prophet was twelve years old, he went with his uncle Abu Talib on a business journey to Syria. When they reached Busra they met a monk called Bahira who recognised the Prophet and said while taking his hand: “This is the master of all humans. Allah will send him with a Message which will be a mercy to all beings.” Abu Talib asked: “How do you know that?” He replied: “When you appeared from the direction of ‘Aqabah, all stones and trees prostrated themselves, which they never do except for a Prophet. I can recognize him also by the seal of Prophethood which is below his shoulder, like an apple. We have got to learn this from our books.” He also asked Abu Talib to send the boy back to Makkah and not to take him to Syria for fear of the Jews. Abu Talib obeyed and sent him back to Makkah with some of his servants.
End of 578 CE
Lessons and Wisdom
Muhammad ﷺ felt the pain of life as an orphan losing both his parents in quick succession. He also experience a life of poverty and both these factors would have shaped him to become more sensitive to and in touch with the feelings of others.
Like many a prophet before him, he temporarily experienced life as an upper class citizen moving in circles of the elite in the shadows of his grandfather Abdul Muttalib. Here Muhammad ﷺ would have learnt a great deal about the affairs of the elite, their language, political and social nuances, and would have increased his nobility in their eyes. Later on this would also play a pivotal role in helping him further the message of Islam.
Even though the people of Mecca had left nomadic life behind, they still regarded the Bedouin as the guardians of authentic Arab culture. As a child Muhammad ﷺ had been sent to live in the desert with the tribe of his wet nurse Halima in order to be educated in the nomadic ethos. It made a profound impression on him though he never grew inclined to their irreligiousness and lack of speculation about the supernatural.
The childhood life of Muhammad ﷺ made it difficult for his later enemies to criticize his moral conduct before prophethood or to suggest that he had ulterior motives behind his call to reform. Had the case been that Muhammad ﷺ lived an immoral life before prophethood, they would have surely questioned his sincerity and doubted his integrity.
Polemical rebuttals particular to this year
This part of the timeline seeks to address some of the most commonly held criticisms and attacks levelled at the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
A series of short articles critically analysing these polemics begins from 595 CE and continues later in the following two eras: Makkan and Madinan Eras
Edicts and Rulings
Muhammad ﷺ was known for his wisdom and sound reasoning. The incident when he put the Black Stone back in its place in the Ka’bah is indicative of that.
The Ka’bah had been damaged by a flood which caused cracks in its walls, so the people of Makkah decided to knock it down and rebuild it. So they did that, but when they reached the place where the Black Stone was to go, a fierce dispute erupted as to who would have the honour of putting the Black Stone in place. Each tribe wanted to have this honour. The dispute reached the point where they were threatening to fight one another, then they agreed that the first person to come in through the gate of Bani Shaybah should judge amongst them. That person was the Muhammad ﷺ, and when they saw him, they said, “This is Al-Ameen (the trustworthy), we will accept his judgement.” When they told him about that, he solved the problem in a manner that was approved of by all parties. He spread out his cloak, then he picked up the Stone and put it on his cloak. Then he told them that each tribe should take hold of one edge of the cloak and lift it up. When the Stone reached its place, he took it and put it there with his own hand, and they all approved of that. By means of his wisdom, Allah protected the blood of the Arabs from being shed in a feud that only Allah, the Exalted, the Almighty, knows its extent.