DIGGING OF THE WELL
SACRIFICING ABDULLAH IBN ABDULMUTTALIB
INCIDENT OF ELEPHANTS (FEEL)
We all know the famous story of Ismaeel’s (AS) mother when she was left alone in the dessert where she ran between Safa and Marwa and water came out. She said, ‘zamzam, which means ‘stop stop’. The complete narration is in Bukhari.
The last tribe to leave Arabia was the tribe of Jurhum. They had to leave because of a war, but before they left, they hid the well so their enemies wouldn’t find it.
So the well had been lost for years. Later, Abdul Muttalib saw a dream when he was taking his nap, 4 times in a row. A handsome man will appear and called him to ‘dig up’ with 4 different names (dig up that which is good, dig up that which is beneficial) finally ‘dig up zamzam’. So he knew what the dream was about.
Abdul Muttalib only had his son Haarith at that time. He started digging up with his son until he found the well. When he discovered the well, the first thing to come out of his mouth was, ‘Allah Akbar’ because he still believed in Allah.
After that discovery, all Quraish came to claim the water, and it became a matter of life and death. Abdul Muttalib didn’t mean to hold the water for himself but he wanted to be the controller of the well. At that time, he made du’a to Allah that if He gave him 10 sons, he will sacrifice one of them for Allah in front of ka’bah!
At that moment, the leaders of Quraish decided to resolve the situation and find a solution. As superstitious they were, they decided to go to a fortuneteller who could guide them how to divide Zamzam. She was a woman whose exact whereabouts were unknown. So they all left together to find her. On the way they ran out of water, and they were about to die. So they asked Abdul Muttalib what they should do. He suggested that each one of them dig his own grave and wait as death reaches them one by one. As a person dies, his companion will burry him until the last one is left and before the last one dies, he himself will lay down in his grave and wait for his death in there!
All of them acted upon the suggestion. However, Abdul Muttalib himself couldn’t watch everyone just sit there and wait for death. As mentioned earlier, Arabs were not coward. So he said, “We cannot do this. Let us die searching for water. We cannot die like cowards sitting here!”
As he got back on his camel and his camel started to get up, the camel hit the back of ground and water gushed out. All the Quraish took this miracle as a ‘sign’, and gave Abdul Muttalib the leadership and gave him the control over Zamzam.
SACRIFICING ABDULLAH IBN :ABDULMUTTALIB
Eventually, Allah (swt) blessed him with 10 sons. Harith from one mother. Zubair, Abdullah and Abu Talib were full brothers. Abu Lahab, from another mother. Abbas and Dhirar. Hamza, Muqawwab and Hajjal from another mother. He had 5 wives.
And he had 6 daughters: Saffaiya, Umm Hakim, Atikah, Umaima, Arwaa and Barra.
Of these 16, Abbas, Hamza and Saffiya accepted Islam. For others, scholars have differed. And Allah knows best.
When all of Abdul Muttalib’s sons grow up and reached their full youth, he explained his dream to them. This reflects what was discussed of Arab’s characteristics, honesty and true to their words. He had made a promise years ago and when the time came to fulfill it, he stood true to his words.
So he drew lots among his sons and Abdullah’s name was chosen. Abdullah was not only the most beloved to Abdul Muttalib but he was most beloved to all of the Quraish even.
Hence, when people of Quraish saw Abdul Muttalib walking towards the ka’bah with Abdullah, they inquired of the situation. Upon being told of his promise, they advised him to find a ‘solution’. They suggested to consult a sorcerer again. When the matter was asked, she suggested that lots should be cast between Abdullah and 10 camels and if the arrow falls against `Abdullah, 10 more camels should be added and so forth until his Lord accepts them and the arrow falls against the camels. The lot was cast and it fell against Abdullah, then 10 more camels were added and once again lot was cast and it fell against Abdullah again, this kept happening until 100 camels were added and then the arrow fell against the camels. However, Abdul Muttalib was not satisfied and added another 10 camels, and drew the lot again. Once again, it fell against the camels, but he wanted to be more sure so he did this 2 more times until there were 130 camels and the camels were duly sacrificed.
130 camels at that time was a fortune but Abdul Muttalib sacrificed that to fulfill his vow!
STORY OF FEEL
Abraha was the governor of Yemen. He was Christine and he was under Najashi who was the king of Abyssinia. When he heard of ka’bah and how all Arabs visit there every year, he became jealous and wanted to invite all Arabs to come to him. He built a grand and magnificent church thinking that Arabs would come to his house. Although, his was indeed grand and magnificent but Arabs were not attracted to it neither paid it any respect. In fact, when one of the Arabs heard that Abraha was taken by pride, to put Abrah’s pride down, he went to that house and urinated and defecated in it and then ran away after this.
When Abraha saw this he became enraged and furious with anger and decided to destroy Arab’s house, ka’bah, as a retaliation. He gathered up a strong army of Habashis and Yaminis, who were physically very strong people. Moreover, he took an army of elephants. Some scholars say one elephant, some say 8 and some say more. The largest of these elephants was Mahmood who was a very well-trained animal.
As they marched against Ka’bah to destroy it, some of the Arab tribes, within the outskirts of Meccan, tried to stop Abraha but there was no way they could defeat elephants, they were not trained to fight elephants. Also, physically Yaminis and Habashis were very strong. So a number of tribes tried to fight but could not.
When the army reached Taif, unfortunately people of Taif didn’t have none of this gheera/jealousy for their icon of worship. Rather, not only they cleared the way for the army, they even offered to help Abraha and provided him with a guide named Abu Rughaal.
Abu Rughaal took them towards the direction of Ka’bah and they encamped outside Mecca. He died when they were camping outside of Mecca. Basically he did his dirty job and then Allah Willed that he died right there. His grave became an icon afterwards, where people would come and stone his grave out of hatred. Even the Jahiliyyah Arabs considered him a ‘traitor’ and stoned his grave as a sign of ‘hatred’. Not a single group would pass by except that they would stone his grave.
Going back to the story of Abraha, when they were camping outside Mecca, there they captured a large group of animals, 200 of those belonged to AbdulMuttalib. Next, Abraha demanded the leader of the city because he wanted to tell him that they just want to attack the ka’bah not the city, so if the Meccans leave them alone they wont even attack Meccans. AbdulMuttalib came with the messenger and story goes like this:
“Abdul Muttalib entered the tent where Abraha was sitting. When Abraha saw him, Abraha was afflicted with awe and veneration. (Narrator said) Abdul Muttalib was a grand, magnificent and powerful man In other words; he was a leader even by looks.
When he came in, Abraha was too embarrassed to allow him to sit at his feet and he didn’t want to invite him to his podium because of the wazeers around him, so Abraha came down to Abdul Muttalib and sat with him on the ground. And said, ‘What do you have to say.’ He spoke with respect. Abdul Muttalib said through the translator, ‘I have come to you to talk to you about my 200 camels to give them back to me.’ Abraha said, ‘When you came in you had the awe and respect of my heart, now you have lost all of that.’ Abdul Muttalib asked, ‘why’. Abraha said, “I have come to attack your house, the house of you God, and the house of your forefathers, the icon of your religion, and you come to me talking about camels and sheep. I have come to destroy your house of worship and you come to me talking about camels and sheep!”
Abdul Muttalib said, ‘I am the Rabb (Lord) or controller of my camels and as for the Lord of the House, he will protect it, I don’t have any power to do that.’
And to be honest, Abdul Muttalib’s response was a response of a wise man. He saw that the Arabs tried to defeat Abraha and they couldn’t do that so there was no point fighting him. They would all die in the process. So after making a long du’a in front of the ka’bah to protect it, he asked the people of Mecca to leave the city and allow Abraha to do what he wishes to do. If Allah wants to destroy them He will destroy them.
Then after the city was empty, Abraha aligned his army and ordered Mehmood to attack. This elephant even refused to stand up! This was the first time Mehmood had disobeyed Abraha. They tried to whip him, (the narration says) that they even brought an ax and struck him with it in the head, and they brought coals and ambers from behind him to burn him to go towards Mecca, the elephant would not even budge. They turned the elephant to the left, it ran; they turned it to the right, it ran; they turned it back to Yemen it ran; but when they turned it towards the direction of ka’bah, it stayed where it was.
This is referred to many many years later in a hadeeth in Sahih Bukhari, when the Prophet’s camel Qaswa stopped in the mount of Hudaybiyyah, the companions said, ‘Qaswa has become stubborn and arrogant.’ The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘No, Qaswa has not become stubborn and arrogant, rather the One who stopped the elephants has stopped Qaswa.’
So while Abrah’s army was trying to attack, (Abdul Muttalib and Arabs were watching from on top of the mountains), hours and hours passed by trying to get the elephants to move, and it was then when all of a sudden they see in the horizon, flocks of birds, flocks of birds they had never seen before. When they came, each bird had 3 pebbles, one in its jaw/peek and two in each hand. When this pebble touched a human being, that person would start to dissolve, literally dissolve, body parts would fall off from him. Some of them died immediately and some of them died after a long time. In fact, Abraha himself didn’t die immediately; he died the most painful death. When they were going back to Yemen, he was sick and his nails would be falling off one after another and blood and pus would come out of it. He died in the journey and didn’t even taste the comfort of his house again.
It is reported in Tirmidhi: Qubaas ibn Ahsam, a companion, was once asked, ‘Are you bigger or the Prophet? (anta akbar min rasul)’ He replied, “No, the Prophet (pbuh) is ‘akbar’ (bigger) but I am older (i.e. I was born before him). I remember my mother taking me to the place of the elephants, and I could see the elephant dung had turned/become green.” [How much the companions respected the Prophet (pbuh) that he didn’t called himself ‘bigger’ then the Prophet out of respect!]
Likewise, Aisha narrated when she was a young girl, she could remember (she was born in Mecca) seeing the guide and care-taker of the elephant, blind and old begging the people for food (they had no food in Mecca) at the base of the idols.’
Benefits of these 3 incidents (Story of Zamzam-well, Abdullah’s sacrifice, & Feel):
- It shows the status of Ka’bah in the eyes of Arabs, so much so that they died defending it and this ultimate respect made Abraha jealous of It.
- It is a natural tendency of men, Muslim/non-Muslims to fight and defend for their ideals and values. When the mushrikoon were prepared to die defending what they believed in, how much so we as Muslims should be prepared to sacrifice!
They believed in Ka’bah as holy and didn’t allow anyone to desecrate it, should we not take a lesson from it. In their kufr and in their shirk they died defending what they believed in, should we not have more ‘gheerah’ more ‘right’ defending our religion!
- Defending our beliefs, our religion earns the respect of all of mankind. Look at Abraha, he was trying to destroy the ka’bah but he lost respect of Abdul Muttalib when he refused to defend his beliefs. Defending our beliefs, sacrificing wealth, life, will not only earn Allah’ respect but the respect of humanity.
- Status of traitors is always humiliating. They are always despised in life and death. Look at the grave of Abu Rughaal, even the women and children would throw pebbles at his grave. Traitors are always despised in this world and in hereafter. And this is something in our religion of Islam as well, there are many ahadeeth and narrations about traitors and what happened to those who give up their values and ideals for the sake of this world.
- Blessed lineage of Prophet Muhammad: this is something we don’t understand in our times but there are family’s lineages that are respected more. Similarly, Arabs had their ultimate lineage, and the lineage was Quraish and among Quraish was Banu Hashim, and within Banu Hashim was Abdul Muttalib. How did they earn this status? Through these incidents. For Abdul Muttalib to dig up the well of Zamzam raised up his ranks; story of the graves and water coming from under his camel, raised up his ranks; praying in front of ka’bah and requesting to evacuate the city raised up his ranks; and by raising the rank of Abdul Muttalib the ranks of his progeny were raised too. Abdullah, the one chosen to be sacrificed was ransomed by 130 camels, raising his own rank and status although he died at a young age but that incident raised his rank among Arabs.
- Two ancestors of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were ransomed and saved by Allah (swt): Isma’eel (AS) and his father Abdullah, first and the last of his ancestors. Ismaeel was ransomed by a divine ram, and to this day we celebrate that ritual. Abdullah was ransomed by 100 camels [originally 100].
- The fact that the Prophet was born in the year of elephant was an indication of his coming. In fact, some narrations say that Amna was pregnant when this incident happened. In fact, Abraha’s defeat in itself is a sign for imagine what would have happened if Abraha had succeeded and Meccans were taken as slaves; what would have happened if Amna was taken as slave girl instead of a free women, imagine how the Prophet would have been raised! Imagine what if she had died in that war or if there was no ka’bah.
- Likewise and the final point scholars have derived is the wisdom behind Abraha being a Christian and jahiliyyah Arabs mushrikoon (pagans). Allah (swt) didn’t show izzah (honor) to neither Christians nor mushrikoon yet He still protected His house Alone. He didn’t allow mushrikoon to defend against Christians, they all ran away. On the other hand, Abraha was a Christian, a follower of Najashi, and he was destroyed as well. This clearly shows that Allah is neither pleased with mushrikoon nor Christians yet He will preferred and perfected His religion and that was with the coming of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Mushrkoon were not worthy enough to protect the ka’bah because they were pagans and Abraha, despite the fact that he was a Christian was not worthy of showing respect to the ka’bah as he tried to destroy it. Who is there who is worthy of ka’bah? None of the two who are present, i.e. somebody is about to be sent who is worthy of showing respect to the kabah and that person was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He (pbuh) came and gave ka’bah Its due rights and respect that neither mushrikoon nor Abraha could give it.
And this is the divine wisdom in the story of Feel.
Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Saving of kab’ah is an indication of blessings not only of the ka’bah Itself but also of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because at that time he was in the womb of his pregnant mother. So Allah protected the Prophet and protected the ka’bah through the incident of ‘feel’ showing you that something is about to happen. Indeed, the incident of Abraha is a miracle and it is worthy of mention and that is why it is mentioned to this day.”