Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading Martin Lings' Biography of Prophet Muhammad (Part 3)


My summaries of Martin Lings' chapters of  'Muhammad - His Life Based on the Earliest Sources'. Dr. Lings who was also known as Abu Bakr Siraj Ad-Din, was born a Protestant. Born on 24th January, 103 years ago, he died an accomplished Muslim in 2005. One whose body was buried in his England rose garden, whose spirit remained a fragrant flower among prominent Islamic scholars.

7. The Year of the Elephant

Abrahah a viceregent of Abyssinian had ruled Yemen
adorned Sana'a with cathedral so grand
to rival Mecca that was his intent

Kinanah of Quraysh trespassed his church
made Abrahah furious hence fixed a revenge
attack Mecca with a great army
with an elephant leading the men

Arabs of north Sana'a resisted him
failed miserably and lost their leader
Nufayl captured but offered himself a ransom
guide the enemy against his own tribesmen
A man of Tai'f offered a helping hand too
though he died in Mughammis, a blameworthy man

Abrahah sent a messenger to Mecca
Wished not to fight except to destroy Ka'bah
Abd al-Muttalib took the challenge and confronted the foe,
demanded his stolen camels
200 of them altogether
'I am the lord of the camels' said he
'and the temple has a lord who will defend it'
 But Abrahah doubted it, so "we shall see"

Abd al-Muttalib ordered the Quraysh to head for the hills
as he and a select few prayed at the Ka'bah
Abrahah was getting ready to fight
but Nufayl took control of the elephant
made it kneel instead of charge
much to Unays' dismay, the animal refused to obey his guide

Then Abrahah's troop got swarmed by birds too many
each had 3 pebbles killing his army
some survived and retreated to Sana'a
but many died afterwards including Abrahah

Elephant and Unays however, escaped
While Nufayl fled to the Meccan hills
Quraysh became even more prominent
'the people of God' they came to be known
God honored their Ka'bah with His protection

AbdAllah had missed the whole event
as he was busy travelling with a trade caravan
fallen ill while in Yathrib,
died when Harith came to meet
the entire Mecca terribly grieved

Pregnant Aminah was in deep sorrow
found solace in her unborn child
beaming light as far as Syria
for 'thou carriest in thy womb the lord of this people'
some voices whispered to AbdAllah's widow

Muhammad was born a few weeks later
a name suggested by the whisperer
She was also asked to say:
'I place him beneath the protection of the One,
from the evil of every envier'

Abd al-Muttalib came to fetch his grandson
took him to the Holy House in his arms
let his son Abbas kiss the sweet newborn
before sending him back to his mom

8. The Desert

Arabs customarily sent their babies to the desert
escape the town's epidemics
for fresher air and quieter time
let them suckle and wean among the Bedouin

Preferring nomadic life to fixed settlement
tent dwellers they were, free to move
unlike the townsman prisoned by permanency
nobler is one who is lord of his own space
desert life makes one more eloquent

Aminah wanted the same for her child
searched for a nurse of Bani Sa'd ibn Bakar
a tribe reputed for nursing and child rearing
Halimah binti Abu Dhu'ayb was one of them
came to Mecca looking for a nurseling

Halimah was feeling unlucky
a weak ass for travel and her breasts were dry
an old camel deprived of milk was all she had
a poor nurse she was desperate for a rich baby

None was on offer except an orphan
Halimah was initially reluctant
Muhammad's family didn't meet her expectation
no choice she had but to take him home

Her fate suddenly changed with that decision
her ass travelled faster unlike before
breasts overflowed to her son's delight
who shared feeding with Muhammad so both were full
her old camel's udders were milking too

Halimah and husband Harith were very pleased
baby orphan brought them some great gifts
enjoyed bounties for two full years
as Muhammad grew unmatched by others

Boy was taken to her mother
to whom Halimah begged to keep him longer
Aminah agreed to let them go
back to the desert with feelings of wonder

Muhammad was playing with her brothers
when two men in white appeared from nowhere
onto Muhammad they did cut
the brothers all testified

Halimah & Harith searched everywhere
but the men disappeared sooner
leaving neither scar nor traces of blood
found nothing save the boy's birthmark
an oval shape between his shoulders

Three years later Muhammad remembered better
two men in white came with a gold-basin of snow
split his chest and opened his heart
removed a black clot therefrom
then washed them with snow
the men uttered some words he did hear:
"Satan touches every son of Adam
the day he is born
except Mary and her son"

9. Two Bereavements

Halimah and Harith got afraid of that incident
they took him back to Aminah in Mecca
feared for his safety they wanted the boy returned
but Aminah believed her baby was extraordinary

Muhammad lived in Mecca happily
loved by grandfather, uncles and aunts
played with cousins Hamzah and Safiyyah
Mother then took him to Yathrib to visit family
a slave girl Barakah was to accompany

Ill Aminah passed away in Ahwa'
at the tender age of six
poor-fated Muhammad
orphaned yet once more

Barakah took him back to be with Abd al-Muttalib
grandfather loved him very dearly
Young Muhammad given special attention
was even brought to the chief men's Assembly

Doting grandfather left him too
only 2 years after his own mother
in the care of Abu Talib he was entrusted
despite two bereavements
Muhammad continued to be loved
with pride and merriment

[To be continued InshaAllah]

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