THE FOSTER MOTHER OF THE HOLY PROPHET (PEACE BE UPON HIM).
Halima Sa’diyah (blessing of Allaah be on her) belonged to a very poor family of the tribe of Banu Sa’d. She was the daughter of Abu Zuwaib and was married to one Haris. She was destined to discharge the most honourable and envious duty of fostering and bringing up a child who was the lord of humanity in this world and the hereafter. But for this honour, her name would have remained in oblivion and the world would not have known her.
The people of Banu Sa’d were reputed for their eloquence in which they excelled all other Arab tribes. They had another blessing of Allaah. The water of their wells was very sweet water. It was on this account that the Holy Prophet used to take pride and say that he was the most eloquent in the whole of Arabia, firstly because of his own tribe, al_Quraish, excelled in eloquence, and secondly that he was brought up among the people of Banu Sa’d – the most sweet tongued people of Arabia.
For seven days after his birth the Holy Prophet sucked his mother’s milk, then Thuwaiba (may Allaah bless her) nursed him for some days. Thuwaiba also nursed Hazrat Hamza (may Allaah bless him), the uncle of the Holy Prophet, who was then two years old. Along with them Thuwaiba nursed Abu Salma (may Allaah bless him), the nephew of Hamza. This linked these two persons with the Holy Prophet as his foster brothers.
Once a proposal to marry the daughter of Hamza was put before the Holy Prophet which he turned down saying that Hamza was his foster brother and the girl was thus his niece. On another occasion when the people asked him whether he had a mind to marry the daughter of Abu Salma he gave the same reply.
Thuwaiba was a bondswoman of Abu Lahab; the uncle of the Prophet. When she brought the tidings of the birth of the Holy Prophet to her master, he at once set her free as an expression of his joy on this happy occasion and told her to nurse the newly-born child. About Thuwaiba some authorities expressed that she had embraced Islam and died after the Holy Prophet’s migration to Medina.
It was a custom in Arabia that the parents, be they rich or poor, did not keep their children with their mothers, but gave them in the custody of the women of nearby villages where better climate kept them sturdy. For three years or more the babies were kept in the villages. Occasionally the parents would visit the children or called the nurse to their homes to see the babies. Every now and then women from the nearby villages visited the cities to take charge of the newly-born babies. On the occasion of the Holy Prophet’s birth ladies of the tribe of Banu Sa’d had come to the holy city of Mecca for this purpose. Halima also accompanied them.
All the ladies were entrusted with the babies of well-to-do families and everyone declined to accept the little orphan. Muhammad, (peace be on him) who was deprived of his father while in embryo. They were reluctant to take a fatherless child, expecting no good return for ltheir services.. And what good return could they expect from a poor widow? But none knew the worth of the child who was the most beloved prophet of Allaah and it was beyond their comprehension to foresee the blessings Allaah would bestow upon the world through this orphan. It was Halima’s good luck that she had failed to secure any other baby.
Little did she know that her failure was a blessing in disguise and that she had been chosen for the greatest honour. She consulted her husband and with a heavy heart she said:
“I do not like to return empty-handed nor shall I take an orphan, so what should I do. Only one child is left and that is the grandson of Abdul Muttalib. It is an orphan. But the grandfather is a noble-man and is the head of the Quraish tribe”.
Her husband replied:
“There is no harm if you take this child. Perhaps Allaah may bless us.”
Her husband’s consent spurred Halima and she at once took up the child.
Halima narrates her own story thus:
“When we came to Mecca, the country was famine-stricken. The forests were dry and so were the beasts of burden. Our animals for riding were enfeebled by starvation. They were reduced to skeletons. My own child was starving as I had not enough milk in my breast. But there was a miraculous change in our condition as soon as I took charge of the orphan baby. My dry breast was full of milk and my child sucked it fully. Our she-camel, which had gone completely dry, had its teats full of milk. My husband milked it and both of us had full sip. In the night we had a sound sleep. My husband said, “It appears to me that we have taken a very auspicious child. All this is due to him.
“We stayed in the city of Mecca for a couple of days. When our caravan marched back after taking leave of the parents of the babies, I also took leave of the mother of Muhammad (peace of Allaah be on him). Taking the child in my lap I rode on the back of my donkey and all were astonished to see that this donkey which could hardly walk before, due to starvation, was now running briskly ahead of all the caravan. Seeing this my companion ladies envied and remarked, “Halima is very lucky in having got such an auspicious child.” On reaching home we found more bounty being showered on us. When our herd of goats returned from the jungle they were all full of milk. Daily my goats returned full of milk while other people’s goats were dry as before. All the ladies envied me and repented on their folly of having rejected such an auspicious child. To derive benefit of Allaah’s benevolence people mixed their goats with ours and Allaah did bestow His bounty on them.”
From all these incidents Halima was convinced that the baby in her charge was not an ordinary one and that he would one day shine out in the world. She reared him with the utmost care and affection. Unlike other nurses she never reproached him, nor did the child give any chance to offend her. Even in this tender age his behaviour was extraordinary. Unlike ordinary babies he never spoiled the bed. He never teased his foster mother by crying like other children. He always sucked only one breast leaving the other for his foster brother. Halima fostered him with the greatest ease and comfort.
When the Holy Prophet was two years old Halima took him to his mother, Amina (blessing of Allaah be on her). The mother of the Holy Prophet was overjoyed to see her healthy little son. Although for a widow the separation of her only child was most unbearable but Amina acceded to the request of Halima to take away the child back in view of the unhealthy climate of Mecca at that time.
The Holy Prophet stayed with Halima for three years more and on this second occasion he accompanied his foster brother Abudllah to the jungle for grazing the goats. At the age of five the Holy Prophet was far ahead of his years. He was very clean and tidy and took pleasure in helping others.
Now that the Holy Prophet was fairly grown up, Halima deemed it proper to take him back to his mother. It was six years after the year of al-Feel (i.e. 576 AD), when the Holy Prophet was 5 years and 2 days old that Halima returned this “precious jewel” to his mother. Though acute poverty prevented Amina to reward Halima liberally, yet she rewarded Halima much to her satisfaction. But the separation of such an auspicious child far outweighed the return for her services and Halima returned to her native place with a heavy heart.
Mother Amina’s joy over the possession of her precious child knew no bounds, but little did she know that the icy hand of death would soon separate her from her little son who would one day become the saviour of humanity.
Halima was alive for many years. According to some historians she was alive even as late as the sixty first year of the Holy Prophet’s age in the 9th year of Hijra. In this year she is said to have come to the Holy Prophet at a place Jairana. On that occasion the Holy Prophet was distributing meat among his people when Halima came to see him. The Holy Prophet showed great respect to her and spread his covering to seat her on. People were astonished to see this spectacle. The Holy Prophet told them that she was his foster mother.
Halima had several children. She had two daughters named Anisa and Huzafa also called Sheema. She had one son, named Abdullah. Sheema was older than the Holy Prophet.
Once the army of Islam captured in a battle a large number of persons belonging to the tribe of Hawazain. Sheema was also among the prisoners. She said to the army officers:
“I am the sister of your Prophet. Take me to him.”
She was brought before the Holy Prophet. She narrated some events of old days of the Prophet’s childhood and the Holy Prophet recognised her. The memory of those days of the old associates moved the Holy Prophet to tears. Sheema was given the choice either to live with the Holy Prophet – her foster brother – with dignity and comfort, or to return to her place. Sheema expressed her desire to return and the Holy Prophet offered her three male and one maid servants and some goats and camels as gifts and she, after having embraced Islam, returned to her abode. Such were the lofty traits of character of the Holy Prophet. He had a soft corner in his heart even for the poorest.