Abd Al-Muttalib bin Hashim - Sons and Sacrifices
Arabian Knights - Volume 1

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Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Called Mecca where a man named Abd Al-Muttalib hoped and wished and prayed that god would bless him with healthy sons who would live to adulthood. In those days, many children were born and almost as many children died, so Abd Al-Muttalib knew that his wish could not easily be fulfilled.

After a great deal of thought, Abd Al-Muttalib became convinced that god would grant him his heart's desire if he added a little incentive to his prayers. So he swore a mighty oath that if he had ten sons, and they all grew up to be strong and healthy men, he would sacrifice one of them to god in front of the Ka'aba (the House of God).

Many years later, Abd Al-Muttalib was reminded of his youthful oath by the sight of his sons; his ten strong and healthy sons to be exact. Each and every one of them had grown to adulthood and become a source of pride and joy to his aging father. Whenever Abd Al-Muttalib looked at his sons, he thought of his oath with a deep sense of regret.

To ignore the oath and not carry through with it was simply unthinkable. Abd Al-Muttalib had made a bargain with god. If he did not keep his end of the bargain, god might take back what he had given Abd Al-Muttalib: ten sons.

With a heavy heart, Abd Al-Muttalib gathered his sons together, told them of his rash oath, and asked them their opinion on the matter.

“The matter is as you see it, Father,” they replied, “We are yours to do with as you wish.”

Heartened by their reply, Abd Al-Muttalib told each of his sons to go and get an arrow. When they returned carrying their respective arrows, he gathered all the arrows in a bunch and announced that the owner of whichever arrow was picked would be the son he would sacrifice.

All the young men held their breath as their father shook the bag he had placed the arrows in. As he reached his hand into the bag, the silence was stark and absolute. Abd Al-Muttalib withdrew an arrow and saw to his horror that it belonged to his youngest son, Abdullah.

All the young men exhaled, some with relief that they were safe, some with horror that the much-loved Abdullah had been chosen. One son however exhaled with what could only be called a sob of grief.

Abu Talib, Abdullah's full-blooded brother could not believe that Abdullah had been so ill-fated. Abdullah seemed to go through life with his own personal lucky star shinning down on him. For Abdullah's luck to desert him at such a crucial moment was both unthinkable, and unbearably tragic.

Abd Al-Muttalib numbly put the arrow down and taking his youngest son, Abdullah, by the hand, he wordlessly set out for the Ka'aba in the center of Mecca.

Abu Talib sat in stunned silence with the rest of his brothers, or rather his half-brothers. Abdullah was the only one of his brothers from the same mother. Suddenly, as though they had all been released from some evil spell that held them immobile, they wheeled around as one and hurried after their father and brother.

“No!” Abu Talib screamed when he saw his father lay his brother down between two of the idols placed in front of the Ka'aba, and then raise his knife.

“Father, don't!” Abu Talib cried out as he launched himself at his father and struggled with him for possession of the knife. Abu Talib glanced down as he fought his father and his eyes met the sad, resigned eyes of his brother, Abdullah.

“No, father! Please, don't!” Abu Talib begged.

The other people around the Ka'aba were surprised when they saw Abd Al-Muttalib holding a knife and struggling with his son, Abu Talib, over the prone form of his youngest son, Abdullah. They quickly gathered around the three and demanded to know what was going on.

When everything was explained, the men of the Banu Makhzoom clan stepped forward and swore to protect Abdullah from his father. They said Abdullah's mother was from the Banu Makhzoom clan and they would not allow Abd Al-Muttalib to kill a man of their blood.

“If you must fulfill your oath,” they said hotly, “Then pick one of your other sons. One who does not have Banu Makhzoom blood in his veins!”

“I chose his arrow, not the arrow of one of his brothers. The decision has been made. He must be the one sacrificed,” Abd Al-Muttalib replied grimly.

“Never!” the men of Banu Makhzoom cried out fiercely, “We will fight to the last man and sacrifice all of our wealth to save him.”

Just then the elders of the clans of Quraish interrupted, “What you propose to do is no small thing. If you kill your own son, then you will never have another moment of peace as long as you live!”

Seeing the determined look on Abd Al-Muttalib's face, the elders continued, “Wait! Just wait! Why not go and consult the priestess of Bani Sa'ida? Who better than she to tell you what god's will is in this matter?”

Abd Al-Muttalib hoped there was a way of settling his oath without killing his son, so he readily agreed to the Qurashi elders' suggestion.

That very day, Abd Al-Muttalib set out with a delegation of Banu Makhzoom men to consult the priestess of Bani Sa'ida. As soon as they arrived, Abd Al-Muttalib explained his oath to the priestess and how god had subsequently granted his prayers, giving him ten strong and healthy sons who had lived to adulthood.

The priestess listened with interest to Abd Al-Muttalib's story but when he asked her what he should do, she told him expressionlessly, “Leave me now. Return tomorrow and I will tell you then what you must do.”

Content to leave the matter in her capable hands, the men respectfully took their leave.

The next day, they returned to the priestess who asked them, “What is the usual amount of a blood-debt for your people?”

The men replied almost in unison, “Ten camels.”

“Very well,” the priestess said briskly clapping her hands together, “Go home and take the boy back to the Ka'aba and take with you ten camels. Once there, mark an arrow for the boy and an arrow for the ten camels, place them in a bag, reach in blindly and choose one. If the camels' arrow is chosen, then sacrifice the camels in place of the boy. If the boy's arrow is chosen, then add another ten to the number of camels and try again. Every time the boy's arrow is chosen, add another ten camels and keep doing that until god is satisfied with the number of camels to be sacrificed in the boy's place. When that happens, the camels' arrow will be chosen, your god will be appeased, and your son will be safe.”

Happy with the sage advice of the priestess, the men returned to Mecca and told everyone about the priestess’ solution to Abd Al-Muttalib’s quandary.

The elders of Mecca were greatly relieved by this turn of events. They gathered round Abd Al-Muttalib and told him encouragingly, “Follow the example of your ancestor Ibrahim when he was going to sacrifice his son Ismael. As an elder of his descendants it is seemly for you to do as he did and sacrifice an animal in place of your son.”

The next morning Abd Al-Muttalib took his son, Abdullah, and ten camels to the Ka'aba. Once he arrived, he found all of Mecca waiting there, eager to see how things would turn out.

Abd Al-Muttalib prepared and marked the arrows, placed them in a bag, closed his eyes and chose one. The arrow was the one marked for Abdullah. So the camels to be sacrificed became twenty and Abd Al-Muttalib tried again. Thirty camels to be sacrificed and Abd Al-Muttalib tried again. Forty camels to be sacrificed and Abd Al-Muttalib tried again. Again and again and again, Abd Al-Muttalib chose an arrow. Each and every time it was Abdullah's arrow that was pulled from the bag.

Abd Al-Muttalib began to fear that this was god's way of forcing him to sacrifice Abdullah. Perhaps, he thought uneasily, god would settle for nothing less than the life of his son.

Shaking off these dark thoughts, Abd Al-Muttalib tried again. Ninety camels were to be sacrificed and Abd Al-Muttalib reached with shaking hands to try again. One hundred camels were to be sacrificed. Praying quietly and swallowing his growing fear and desperation, Abd Al-Muttalib chose another arrow.

The arrow chosen was marked for the camels! Abdullah whooped with joy and all the people surrounding Abd Al-Muttalib began to cheer and call out, “God is satisfied and your son is safe, Abd Al-Muttalib!”

“No!” Abd Al-Muttalib said sternly, shocking and silencing the jubilant crowd. “I will not be sure of that until the camels' arrow is chosen thrice.”

Everyone stared as Abd Al-Muttalib quietly chose another arrow from the bag. The camels' arrow! Abd Al-Muttalib chose for the third time, finally allowing hope to dawn in his heart. The camels' arrow was chosen again! God truly was satisfied! One hundred camels would be sacrificed in place of his son! Abdullah was safe!!

Abd Al-Muttalib closed his eyes and thanked god quietly and fervently as the people around him cheered and called out their congratulations.

Without stopping to celebrate, Abd Al-Muttalib went to choose the one hundred camels he was going to sacrifice in Abdullah's place. He chose the most beautiful, strong and healthy of all the camels in his herds. Then he drove them to the Ka'aba and one by one, sacrificed them to god.

Once the camel meat was made available to all those who wished to partake of it, Abd Al-Muttalib allowed all of the feelings he had held in check to finally wash over him. Trembling with joy and relief, Abd Al-Muttalib gathered his ten sons together, and walked proudly home with them while soft prayers of gratitude fell from his lips.

*Written by © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?

Notes:
  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Abd Al-Muttalib: عبد المطلب بن هاشم القرشي.
    • Abdullah bin Abd Al-Muttalib: عبدالله بن عبدالمطلب بن هاشم القرشي.
    • Abu Talib: أبو طالب بن عبدالمطلب بن هاشم القرشي‎.

Sources:
  1. Ibrahim, M., Al-Mowla, M., Al-Bajawi, A. (2011 AD, 1432 H). قصص العرب [Stories of the Arabs]. Beirut: Al-Maktaba Al-Assrya. Volume 1. Page 63-65.
  2. Al-Dimishqi, A. (2009 AD, 1430 H). البداية و النهاية [The Beginning and the End]. Beirut: Al-Maktaba Al-Assrya Publishing and Distributing. Volume 1. Book 2. Page 148-149.

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