Thursday, March 21, 2013

Women around the Prophet: His Matriarchs and Relatives

When the Prophet was about six years old, his grandfather Abdul Muttalib took him to Yathrib.  His mother Aminah and his “nanny” Barakah came along.  The purpose of the journey was to visit the grave of Abdullah, the son of Abdul Muttalib, the husband of Aminah, the father of Muhammad, and the master of Barakah.

But the greater reason for the journey was to introduce the young Muhammad to his relatives in Yathrib.  The town Yathrib, as we know, was the place the Prophet and his Companions migrated.  The name of this town was later changed to Madinah after the Prophet’s migration.  This name stays until our times.  Let’s use Madinah instead of Yathrib from hereon, because this name is known to all.

But who were the relatives of the Prophet who lived in Madinah?  They were the clan of Abdul Muttalib’s mother, Banu an Najjar, a sub-tribe of Khazraj, one of the two main tribes in Madinah.  Her name was Salma bint Amr bin Zayd bin Labid.

The great grandfather of Muhammad, Hashim, whose name the clan of the Prophet, Banu Hashim, is associated with, married Salma bint Amr in one of his visits to Madinah.  He was on his trade mission to Sham (Syria).  He was in fact the first to introduce the trade mission to Sham in the summer and to Yemen in the winter, a tradition that we learn from Surah al-Quraysh (Chapter 106).

Due to his marriage with Salma, Hashim stayed with his wife for a while in Madinah before continuing with his trading mission to Sham (at the Gaza city).  He died and was buried there, leaving his widowed wife who was pregnant with a baby boy at that time.  When she gave birth to him, they named him Shaybah.  In case you are curious, it is said that he was named Shaybah (literally, old man) because he was born with a few grey hairs.  Hashim’s family in Makkah, meanwhile, was not aware that he had a son in Madinah, until many years later.

When Shaybah was about ten years old, his uncle Muttalib, the brother of Hashim, went to Madinah to persuade his mother and her tribe to let the young Shaybah be brought and raised in Makkah.  His mother Salma and her tribes were at first disagreed with the idea, no doubt because they loved the boy and did not want to be separated from him. 

Undeterred, Muttalib stayed in Madinah for three months and finally managed to persuade them to let him bring his nephew to Makkah.  His main argument was that Hashim, his brother, was the leader of Makkah, and his son should be allowed to live in Makkah so that he would be their leader when he became a grown up man.

When Muttalib brought the young Shaybah with him to Makkah, people thought that the boy was his slave.  So they called him Abdul Muttalib (literally, the slave of Muttalib).  Muttalib objected to that, saying that the boy was his nephew, the son of their deceased leader, Hashim.  Nevertheless, the name stuck throughout his life and beyond. 

Since the Prophet’s great grandmother was from Banu an-Najjar of Madinah, there was, therefore, some Yathrib or Madinah blood in him.  This proved to be quite handy for his mission later on, for the first clan that accepted his mission was Banu an-Najjar, the clan of his great grandmother.  Thus, when the Prophet migrated to Madinah, the town was not a complete stranger to him, for here lived his relatives, and he had been there as a young boy.

Anyway, when Abdul Muttalib became the most prominent of leaders in Makkah, one day he went to the place near Kaabah where animals were slaughtered.  Due to the vow that he made years earlier, it was not an animal that he was about to slaughter this time; it was one of his sons, Abdullah.

When Abdul Muttalib was about to fulfill his vow, one of his wives, the one who gave birth to Abdullah, went hysterical.   When she failed to persuade her husband to call off his intention, she quickly called for her cousin, al-Mughirah, for help.  Meanwhile, Abdul Manaf, one of Abdul Muttalib’s sons, tried all he could to stop his father from slaughtering his brother.  At the same time, Umayyah, the cousin of Abdul Muttalib, also tried to stop his cousin from continuing with his vow.

Abdul Muttalib of course did not really want to slaughter his son.  Abdullah was after all his most beloved son.  But he also did not want to break his vow with God.  In the ensuing suspense, Al-Mughirah proposed that the vow be ransomed with other things.  “Even if we have to exhaust all our wealth,” al-Mughirah said, “we would do so.”  To make this long story short, 100 camels were slaughtered in place of Abdullah.

Now, our concern here is not with this well-known story.  It is with the important figures in the story. 

First, who was the woman (one of Abdul Muttalib’s wives) who went hysterical when Abdullah was about to be slaughtered?  She was Fatimah bint Amr, the mother of Abdullah.  Her name with lineage is Fatimah bint Amr b. A'idh b. Imran b. Makhzum b. Yaqaza b. Murra b. Ka'b b. Lu'ayy b. Ghalib.   Because she was the mother of Abdullah, that made her the grandmother of the Prophet.

You will see that just like the name of one his daughters, the Prophet’s grandmother also went with similar name, Fatimah.  But it was to Ali bin Abu Talib, the cousin of the Prophet, that the honor of having Fatimahs around him should be given, for Ali was probably the only one whose grandmothers, mother, wife, daughter and granddaughter are named Fatimah.

Fatimah bint Amr was Ali’s grandmother as well, because his father Abu Talib was the full brother of Abdullah.  His grandmother from his mother side was also called Fatimah, that is Fatimah bint Qays, who was the mother of his mother, Fatimah bint Asad bin Hashim bin Abdul Manaf bin Qusayy.  His wife was Fatimah bint Muhammad, the daughter of the Prophet.  And Ali also had one daughter whom he named Fatimah (from different wife, not Fatimah bint Muhammad), and a granddaughter by the same name.

Another name in the above story is al-Mughirah.  Who was he?  He was the head of Makhzum clan at that time, a close friend of Abdul Muttalib, and a cousin of Fatimah bint Amr.  If you are familiar with Seerah, you would notice that one of the most notorious enemies of the Prophet came from this clan.  Yes, he was none other than Abu Jahal. 

Now, Abu Jahal was not actually called Abu Jahal.  That was the name given by the Prophet to him, a gift, we may say, for his fierce opposition.  His real name was Amr.  His full name was Amr bin Hisham bin al-Mughirah bin Abdullah b. Umar b. Makhzum b. Yaqaza b. Murrah b. Ka'b. 

Al-Mughirah, the cousin of Fatimah bint Amr, was Abu Jahal’s grandfather.  Al-Mughirah was also the grandfather of the great Islamic general, Khalid al-Walid.  Yes, Khalid full name was Khalid bin al-Walid bin al-Mughirah bin Abdullah b. Umar b. Makhzum.  Khalid and Abu Jahal was first cousin.  Khalid’s father and Abu Jahal’s uncle, al-Walid, was the famous enemy of the Prophet.  This al-Walid was the head of Banu Makhzum when the Prophet started his mission.

Back to Abu Jahal, his real name was Amr, as we have seen above.  But he liked to style himself Abu al-Hakam (pronounce Abul Hakam), meaning the Father of the Wise, or the Father of Wisdom.  It was by this name that he was known during the Prophet’s time. Since he rejected Islam, however, the Prophet did not see any wisdom in that, so he changed the name to Abu Jahal, the Father of Ignorance.  Of course Abu Jahal was not amused with that name calling.

Another name in the story above is Umayyah.  This is another well-known name.  One who reads Islamic history must have heard of Umayyah Dynasty, which was founded by Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan.  Yes, this was the same Umayyah who gave the name to the first Islamic dynasty. 

Umayyah was the cousin of Abdul Muttalib.  His father, Abdul Shams, was the brother of Hashim.  He was also the grandfather of Abu Sufyan, another fierce enemy of the Prophet, before he became Muslim after the conquest of Makkah.  Abu Sufyan, as we have seen in the first part of this series, was the husband of Hind, the fierce female opponent of the Prophet, before she too embraced Islam.  This couple, Abu Sufyan and Hind, were the parent of Muawiyah, the founder of Umayyah Dynasty.

The last name in the story above is Abdul Manaf.  Now, you may have heard that sometimes the Prophet is said to be of Banu Hashim.  Sometimes he is said to be of Banu Abdul Manaf.  At other times, he is said to be of Banu Abdul Muttalib.  That is the Arab’s way of identifying to which group he belongs to.  Banu simply means the children of, or the descendants of.  The Prophet descended from Abdul Muttalib, who descended from Hashim, who descended from Abdul Manaf.  That is why sometimes it is said that the Prophet belong to the tribe of Abdul Manaf (or Banu Abdul Manaf).

But the Abdul Manaf in the story above was not the great great grandfather of the Prophet, of whom Banu Abdul Manaf was called.  He was actually his uncle who was his guardian after the death of his grandfather.  He was none other than Abu Talib, whose given name was Abdul Manaf.  Since he had a son called Talib, Abdul Manaf was therefore known as Abu Talib.  He was the father of Ali, and the full brother of Abdullah.

Sometime after the above event, Abdul Muttalib went looking for a woman to be a wife for Abdullah.  He took a bride for himself first, whose name was Halah bint Wahab, or Wuhayb.  He chose Halah’s first cousin to be the bride for Abdullah.  Her name was Aminah bint Wahab bin Abdul Manaf bin Zuhrah. 

The Prophet’s mother, Aminah, is well known to many Muslims.  Suffice to say here that she belong to Zuhrah Clan, the clan of Sa’d Abu Waqqas, the conqueror of the Persian Empire, one of the Ten Promised Paradise.  She died when the Prophet was only six years old, on her way back from Madinah, as mentioned in the beginning of this article. 

After visiting her husband’s grave, and introduced her son (the boy Muhammad) to his relatives in Madinah, and let the boy played with his relatives for a few months, it is said that she was caught by a viral fever, but was undetected until the four of them (Abdul Muttalib, Barakah, Muhammad and herself) took the journey back to Makkah.  The fever developed and proved to be fatal, and she was buried at the place call al-Abwaa, somewhere between Madinah and Makkah.

The only thing to add is that her cousin Halah gave birth to two of the well-known personalities in Islamic history.  The first was Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle, who fell martyr in the Battle of Uhud.  The second was Safiyya, the Prophet’s untie, who gave birth to Zubayr bin Awwam, one of the leading companions.  Zubayr was among the Ten Promised Paradise.  He was one of the six candidates to replace Umar al Khattab. 

When we trace the matriarchs of the Prophet, we could see the relationship between the main actors in the Seerah of the Prophet.  Whether they are companions or enemies, they belong to the same tribe.  This is not surprising, because they are all Qurasyh.  We hope the above gives some picture to the readers.

Related Articles:

Ten Promised Paradise
All in the Family