Halima Al-Sadiya - Fostering an Orphan
Lady Knights

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

Where the young mothers of an impoverished bedouin tribe, Bani Sa'ad, made their way to the bustling town of Mecca. They hoped to return home with Qurashi infants they would foster for a few years in return for the financial support of the infants' families. The affluent people of Mecca often sent their infant sons to live in the desert with the bedouins because they wished for their sons to grow up strong and healthy.

The Bani Sa'ad tribe had suffered cruelly from an unrelenting drought that year. Both the people and the livestock were thin and hollow-eyed from hunger and it was the tribe's hope that fostering some Qurashi infants, as was their custom, would get them comfortably through the next couple of years.

When Halima and her husband arrived in Mecca with the other members of the tribe, they looked eagerly for infants to foster. Unfortunately it was not easy because even among the poor, Halima and her husband were considered poor.

Halima had been so very hungry herself that she hardly had any breast-milk to offer her own infant son. He had spent many a night weeping fretfully with hunger during their journey to Mecca. So it came as no surprise to Halima and her husband that they were no one's first choice as foster parents.

All of the Quashi parents looked over the potential foster parents and chose the best among the lot. Soon, all of the couples from the Bani Sa'ad caravan had a new foster child and were happily heading home. Halima and her husband discussed their lack of success in finding a foster child and decided they did not want to return home empty handed. So they thought about accepting a child who had been rejected by everyone else, an orphan boy named Muhammad.

The child was not an ideal choice as far as anyone was concerned, simply because he was an orphan. The father of a fostered child often gave gifts and payments to the fostering family in addition to what was agreed upon for the fostering, and so no one wanted to foster a fatherless child.

"By god, I hate to go back as the only woman who has not gotten a baby. I shall return to the family of that orphan and I will take him!" Halima said to her husband with determination.

"Very well," her husband replied unenthusiastically, "Perhaps god will bless us for taking him."

After accepting the cheerful orphan baby, Halima and her husband left Mecca and hurried in an attempt to catch up to the Bani Sa'ad caravan. Not long after they left, the two infants, their own son and their foster son, became hungry and signaled their hunger in a loud and demanding manner that only an infant can manage.

To her surprise and confusion Halima found that she had enough milk to feed both infants their fill after which both boys contentedly went to sleep. What's more, their camel who had not produced any milk for some time, provided both Halima and her husband with enough milk to fill both their bellies. For the first time in a very, very long time, Halima's family went to sleep with full stomachs to the sound of silence, no infant wept with hunger that night.

After a wonderfully peaceful night and many hours of sound sleep, the small family awoke and prepared to continue their journey.

"You know," said Halima's husband as he helped his wife onto the camel's back, "I think that a blessed breeze is blowing over us."

"I hope so," Halima replied with a thoughtful smile as she gazed at her new foster son, sleeping contentedly next to her son.

That very same day, they overtook the caravan and to their surprise and the surprise of their companions, the small family found themselves constantly outpacing the other members of the caravan.

The other women in the caravan called out to Halima, "O Daughter of Abu Thu'abe, wait for us! Is that not the same camel on which you came?!"

"Yes, by god, it is one and the same," Halima replied with a pleased smile.

"There is some mystery in this," the ladies murmured to one another with sideways looks at the camel trotting proudly at the head of the caravan. When they had gone to Mecca it had been trudging along dejectedly at the rear of the caravan, now it seemed like a new creature, all bright-eyed and light-footed.

When the caravan arrived at the territory of the Bani Sa'ad tribe, everyone settled in and life in the tribe returned to normal. While the people of the tribe could still not call themselves rich, they knew that they would not starve that year, or in the coming years, thanks to the presence of the Qurashi foster children.

As the days passed, the people of the tribe noted with surprise and not a little envy that the livestock owned by Halima and her family returned everyday from the tribe's barren grazing lands looking plump and well-fed. Everyone else's livestock returned looking thin and hungry.

Displeased the people told the shepherds, "Take the flocks to where the shepherd that works for daughter of Abi Thu'abe takes her flock!"

The shepherds replied that all the sheep grazed from the same meager offerings that the desert grew. They could not explain why the animals belonging to Halima and her family always looked so well-fed or gave such abundant milk while the other animals were thin and had no milk to give. It was a mystery.

The next two years were unusually prosperous ones for Halima and her family. So when the time came for the people of Bani Sa'ad to return the foster children to their Qurashi parents, Halima and her husband decided to try and convince their foster son's mother to let them keep him for a few years more.

When Halima and her family arrived in Mecca, they took their foster son to see his mother. Amnah, the boy's mother, had missed her son fiercely and had only allowed him to be fostered out because of pressure from her deceased husband's family. So when Halima asked to keep Muhammad for a few years more, Amnah refused.

Halima persisted and reminded Amnah of a disease that was spreading through Mecca and how vulnerable the small boy would be to it if he stayed. Eventually, Amnah was worn down by Halima's arguments and she reluctantly allowed Halima to leave, taking her only child away again.

Great was Amnah's surprise when one day, Halima showed up suddenly on her doorstep.

"What brings you, O Nurse?" Amnah asked, checking her lively young son over anxiously.

"He is strong and healthy," Halima reassured the anxious mother, "And I have done my duty by him. As he is your only child, I feared something might befall him and so I have brought him home to stay with you, just as you wished."

"That is not the truth," Amnah said sternly, "Tell me what you are holding back! What happened?"

Halima hesitated then told Amnah, "One day, my son came running in. He said that two strange men had caught hold of his Qurashi brother and had sliced his stomach open and reached inside of him. So my husband and I rushed out and found the boy standing there unharmed but with a strange look upon his face. We both embraced him and implored him to tell us what had befallen him. He replied that two men wearing blindingly white clothes had caught hold of him and cut his stomach open and searched for something within him, he knew not what. When we returned home, my husband said he feared our (foster) son had been harmed in some way and that we should take him home before the harm shows. So we did, and now he is here."

"You fear this is the work of some devil?" Amnah asked calmly.

"Yes," Halima replied in a soft, frightened voice.

"No, by god," Amnah said confidently, "The devil has no power over my son. My son is special. Shall I tell you what I know?"

"Yes," said Halima, sounding curious now.

"When I got pregnant with Muhammad," Amnah said, "I dreamt that a great light came out of me and lit up places as far as the castles of Al-Sha'am. And I did not suffer the way other pregnant women do. The pregnancy was light and easy and so was his birth. When he was born he landed on the floor, with his hands down on the floor and his face lifted up to the sky." Amnah paused as the memories rolled over her, "Do not worry, I will keep him. Go home and remember what I said."

Many years later, though she did not live to see it, Muhammad proved his mother right. He changed the world and brought a great deal of light and enlightenment to numerous people. His foster mother, Halima did live to see it, and despite the many years that had passed, whenever she went to see him, he would warmly welcome her, call her "Mother" and care for her as only a loving and dutiful son could.

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

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Halima Al-Sadiya: حليمة بنت عبد الله بن الحارث السعدية.
    • Amnah bint Wahab: آمنة بنت وهب بن عبدمناف بن زهرة الزهرية.
    • Muhammad : خاتم الأنبياء الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم
    • Bani (or Banu i.e. sons of) Sa'ad: بني سعد بن بكر.

  1. Al-Dimishqi, A. (2009 AD, 1430 H). البداية و النهاية [The Beginning and the End]. Beirut: Al-Maktaba Al-Assrya Publishing and Distributing. Volume I. Book 2. Page 173-179.
  2. Halbi, M. (2006 AD, 1427 H). المائة الأوائل من صحابيات الرسول [The Hundred First Lady Contemporaries of the Messenger] (2nd Ed). Beirut: Dar El-Marefah Publishing & Distributing. Page 393-395.
  3. Al-Suhaibani, A. (2004 AD, 1425 H). صور من سير الصحابيات [Brief Biographies of Lady Contemporaries]. Riyadh: Dar Aalam Al-Kutub Publishing and Distributing. Page 97-101.

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