The Years with the Wet Nurses

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It was the custom in Mecca to send children to wet nurses in the villages so that they may grow up to be strong and that they may learn a pure Arabic since Mecca had a very hot and tiring atmosphere. Some tribes who lived away from the city were able to preserve their pure culture unadulterated by the inequities witnessed in the cities at the time of the Period of Ignorance. It was common practice for children to be sent away to have a healthier upbringing, and this practice had turned into a trade. There was a market for wet nurses in Mecca, people would gather here at particular times, the wet nurses and the parents of children would meet there and then the children would go with the wet mothers to the desert.

Likewise, Harith ibn Abduluzza and his wife Halima bint Abdullah ibn Harith had come from the land of Banu Sad with ten other women. The drought had been going on for some time, and there was nothing left at hand. The children in their entourage cried for a morsel to eat, but the mothers had no means to feed them. Because they themselves had not been able to eat for some time, their milk had dried up, and they were desperate for a little drop of anything in order to calm their children. Their only hope was for rain to fall. The way to Mecca had seemed endless. The thin donkey that Halima was riding and Harith’s old camel had trouble walking, and they kept falling behind their friends. When they finally made it to Mecca, their friends had already done their trade and each of them had taken a child to look after for a while and was now getting ready for the journey back. Halima and Harith started to look for children to wet nurse too. Only Muhammad, Abdullah’s fatherless son, was left in the town. Those who had knocked upon their door had decided not to take him when they learnt that his father was dead for fear that the family would not be able to pay the wet nurse’s wages. Of course they were unaware that he was the person to whom everybody would turn to soon.

Halima and Harith came to the door as well, and like the others, they also went to look for another baby, in fear of not getting paid. But they found none, and they did not want to return empty handed after their long journey. Halima said to her husband: “I don’t want to go back among my friends without having taken a child to breast-feed. Let’s go and take that orphan and then return.”

“Do so if you want to, maybe Allah will give us plenitude and good fortune through him,” said Harith, and so they returned to Abdul Muttalib’s door.

When Amina saw that they had returned, she first told them that the boy they wanted was no ordinary child. She then spoke about the ease she experienced during her pregnancy, her dream and what she had been told to be the meaning of this dream, for he was entrusted to Amina to keep not just for herself but for the whole of humanity till the end of time. That’s why he had to be shown extra care, and not a single hair strand on his head could be injured.

The family of Harith felt great contentment when they took the child from Amina. When Halima as-Sadia took him in her arms, she wanted to breast-feed him immediately. She was surprised to see that her breasts that had dried up were now filled with milk! First the Messenger of Allah and then the son of Halima, Abdullah, suckled from the breast. Then they both went to sleep. Normally, Abdullah was a restless child who would be impossible to put to sleep.

When they came near the old camel, they saw that the camel’s udders were also full of milk, for even it had benefited from this good fortune. They milked the camel and drank, and the night they spent in Mecca was the happiest ever in their lives. The next morning Harith had turned to Halima to say: “Know this well Halima, you have chosen your suckling child very wisely, from a very auspicious family.”

Just like her husband, Halima had also realized the plenitude bestowed upon them. She said: “I swear by Allah, that is what I believe as well.”

They finished their business in Mecca, and having found a suckling child, they set off for their homeland. Amina looked at her son affectionately as he departed for a long while, and she entrusted him to the hands of the Gracious Lord who has all the power and honor, so that nothing bad should befall him.

When Halima as-Sadia mounted her donkey with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him in her arms, she realized that the thin and weak animal that she had come to Mecca with had somehow changed and now was walking very briskly. Such was their pace that they had caught up with their friends who had left Mecca a day earlier, and it was clear that they would not be left behind this time. Their friends were trying to understand how it was that they did not seem to have any sign of tiredness while they themselves were exhausted from the journey. The called out to Halima: “O daughter of the Zuayb tribe, what is going on with you? Were you not the one who was always left behind? Or is this not the same donkey you rode when coming to Mecca?”

The now self-assured Halima answered with the joy of the grace she had been bestowed: “I swear it is! It is the very same donkey I came to Mecca with.”

And then she added: “I have verily chosen the most auspicious suckling baby ever.”

They asked: “Is that the son of Abdul Muttalib?”

Yes, there was true goodness in this event and Halima and Harith, who were always after good deeds, were now experiencing the goodness they had always hoped for.

The grace they had attained was not limited to the easing of their journey; on their return they would see that their land which was normally dry and not very fertile, would start to yield much better, and their sheep, whose stomachs would be full with the good produce of their land would produce much more milk. The owners of other herds would chastise their shepherds: “Woe to you! Go graze the sheep where Halima grazes hers so that our sheep also return with their bellies filled with milk.”

Halima as-Sadia was now someone whom everyone viewed with envy due to the plenty she was experiencing.

Two years passed in this manner, with visits to Mecca every six months. The Pride of the Universe had thus grown up. He was no longer suckling; the time that had been agreed upon had come. Although they were reluctant to do it, they had to bring the little Muhammad back to his mother.

Kesmez, Umit. “The Luminous Life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)” Tughra Books Press. December 2014.