Muhammad: The Prophet's Childhood (The Child)

The Dawn: The Prophet's Childhood (The Child)

Muhammad was hardly six years old when his mother died and the charge of the child then fell exclusively on his grandfather 'Abd al-Muttalib. He loved him as dearly as his own life. But Muhammad's sorrows were not yet over. Two years later, his aged grandfather who was not eighty-two also died. The young boy followed the bier of his grandfather at the age of eight, with a heavy heart and terful eyes. The charge of the Prophet was now passed on to his uncle Abu Talib, who was the brother of the Prophet's father 'Abd Allah. Like all other young boys of his age, the Prophet tended the sheep and goats of Mecca and grazed them upon the neighbouring hills and valleys. While he was in Medina he used to remember this period of his life and he remarked: "It has a certain similarity with the function of the Prophets. Moses had tended flocks of goats and the same was the case with David. Now I have been commissioned with this office, and I also tended the goats and sheep of my family at the place known as Ajyad. (1)

This occupation of tending the flocks is congenial to the thoughtful and meditative temperament which is an indispensable quality of a Prophet. "While he watched the flocks, his attention would be riveted by the signs of an Unseen Power spread all around him. The twinkling stars and bright constellations gliding through the dark blue sky silently along, would be charged to him with a special message; the loneliness of the desert would arm with a deeper conviction that speech which day everywhere utters unto day; while the still small voices, never unheard by the attentive listener, would smell into grandeur and more imperious tones when the tempest swept with its forked lightening and far rolling thunder along the vast solitudes of the mountains." (2)

The Holy Qur'an also calls upon man to ponder over both the world external to him (afaq) and the wolrd within his self (nafs).Therein he will find, according to the Qur'an, not only the signs of the Lord, but the eternal principle of harmony and balance:

We have not created the heavens and the earth and whatsoever is between them in sport. We have not created them except to bear the truth, but most people know it not. (44:39)

The Qur'an stresses that there are signs of the Ultimate Reality in the sun, the moon, in the lengthening out of shadows, in the alternation of day and night and in the variety of human complexions and tongues; in successes and reverses among people, in fact, the whole of nature as revealed to the sense-perception of man and the records of man's past. And it is the duty of every sincere man, who is anxious to be in harmony with the demands of Reality, to reflect on these signs and not to pass by them, "as if he is deaf and blind". This note 'as if he is deaf and blind' is of very great significance. Wherever attention is drawn to the manifestation of life calling for reflection and introspection, expressions as "herein are portents"; "herein are signs for the folk who reflect"; "for men of knowledge"; "for the folk who heed"; and for the folk who understand echoes and reverberate only to emphasize the importance which the Qur'an attaches to reflection as a means of obtaining insight "Show us the nature of things as they really are," is a characteristic prayer of the Prophet. The first step on the road to it is reflection. Thus opportunity for meditation is provided to the Prophets by bringing them to the heart of nature.

There is a tongue in every leaf

A voice in every rill,

A voice that speaketh everywhere,

In flood and fair, through earth and air,

A voice, that's never still.

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1. Ibn Hajar, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 364, of Ijarah. See also Bukhari, "Kitab al Ijarah."

2. William Muir: The Life of Muhammad (London, 1894(, pp. 18-19.

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