The Office of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi extends its Condolences on the Demise Anniversary of the Holy Prophet's Grandfather ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib

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A Glance at the Life of the Beloved Grandfather of the Holy Prophet ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib

The Office of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi extends its Condolences on the Demise Anniversary of the Holy Prophet's Grandfather ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib

When discussing the biography of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ) and talking about his ancestry, one of the influential people who must necessarily be talked about is the Prophet’s venerable grandfather, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib.


The Demise Anniversary of ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib

Rabīʻ al-Awwal 10th


Who was ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib?

Historical accounts indicate that, in one of his trips to the city of Yathrib, Hāshim ibn ʻAbdimanāf, the Prophet’s great-grandfather, married Salmā, the daughter of ʿAmr ibn Zayd, who was a member of the Banī-Najjār clan. But after that, Hāshim did not return to Mecca; he travelled to the city of Gaza in Palestine but he passed away and was buried there.[1]

When he was setting out on his journey, his wife was pregnant with his son, but he never saw his son. When Hāshim’s son was born, he was named “Shaybah” which means “gray-haired” in Arabic.[2] The reason for this naming was that the newly-born boy was fair-haired.[3]

There is some controversy regarding how long this child lived with his mother in Yathrib; but history suggests that he lived there for seven years give or take.[4] But then, his paternal uncle, Muṭṭalib went to Yathrib and took him back to Mecca to live among his own clan and with the family of his father. When the people of Mecca and the members of the Quraysh clan saw that boy, they assumed that Muṭṭalib had bought himself a new slave so they nicknamed him “ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib” which translates to “the slave of Muṭṭalib”, and later the name stuck.[5]

ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib lived in Mecca for years and when all of his uncles had passed away, he inherited the official positions of the city which were passed down generation after generation in his clan. Due to his great management skills as well as his munificence and good communications skills, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib gained public recognition and admiration with the people of Mecca. He was also chosen as the chief of the Quraysh clan due to his great character qualities, and he was chosen to judge among people as well.

He was a compassionate, caring, and responsible chief; history suggests that in times of famine, he would manage the situation in the best way, feeding all the people and even the birds and the wild animals to save their lives. With regard to this issue, his son, Abūṭālib (‘a) once said: “In times when even the generous refrain from giving [i.e. in times of famine] we give people so much food that they have a lot of leftover to feed the birds with!”[6] 


The Faith of ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib and the Prophet’s Ancestors

It can be understood from ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib’s wise words and deeds as well as the stories which have been narrated about him that, during a time when Mecca was ravaged by polytheism and superstitions, he remained a faithful monotheist. He believed in the One God and the Hereafter, and he would always say: “A wrongdoer would face the punishment of his misdeeds in this life and, in the event that his life passes and if he is not punished in this life, he will suffer the due punishment for his misdeeds in the Hereafter.”[7]

The discussion of the faith and beliefs of the Prophet’s ancestors, who were all descendants of prophet Ibrahim (ʻa), requires a complete book to be written. However, given the ample historical evidence in this regard, it can be concluded that all of the Prophet’s ancestors, including his grandfather ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib, were believing monotheists.

By studying the related historical reference, one does not come across any evidence explicitly indicating that the Prophet’s ancestors had been polytheists; on the contrary, there are lots of historical proofs which prove that they were all monotheists and believers. As regards ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib himself, people had nicknamed him “Ibrahim the second” [meaning a pure monotheist like his noble ancestor Prophet Ibrahim (ʻa)].[8]

Another piece of evidence in this regard comes from the way ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib confronted Abrahah. When Abrahah and his army marched toward the city of Mecca to demolish the Kaʻbah, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib was the chief of Mecca. When he was told that Abrahah had confiscated his herd of camels, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib went to see him and take back his camels. During his meeting with Abrahah, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib said to him: “This House [meaning the Kaʻbah] has a God who will protect it.”[9] These remarks clearly show that he had faith in the God of the Kaʻbah.

There are also proofs in the Quran which indicate that the Prophet’s ancestors were believing monotheists. One of the rather frequently-cited Quranic verses in this regard is verse 35 of Surah Ibrahim which reads:

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَٰذَا الْبَلَدَ آمِنًا وَاجْنُبْنِي وَبَنِيَّ أَنْ نَعْبُدَ الْأَصْنَامَ

And [call to mind] when Ibrahim said: “O’ Lord! Make this city [i.e. Mecca] a place of security, and keep me and my children away from worshipping idols”.”

There is a consensus among the Quranic exegetes that what is meant in this verse by “this city” is the city of Mecca and what is meant by “my children” is Ibrahim’s lineage, i.e. the ancestors of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ).[10]

There are also other verses in the Quran which signify this issue; yet, for the sake of brevity, we will not discuss them here.

In addition to the abundant historical evidence, indicating that ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib as well as the other ancestors of the Prophet were monotheists, there are numerous Islamic traditions which substantiate this view. According to one such traditions, once the Prophet (ṣ) said the following to Imam Ali (ʻa): “O’ Ali! ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib never took part in gambling by Azlām,[11] nor did he worship idols, nor did he eat of the meat of the offerings which were sacrificed for the Idols; he would always say: “I am a follower of Ibrahim’s creed”.[12] 

Based on another tradition, it is narrated that Imam Ali (ʻa) swore that Abuṭālib, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib, Hāshim, and ʻAbdimanāf never worshipped the idols and that they had faith in the religion of Ibrahim (ʻn) and performed prayer toward the Kaʻbah.[13]


ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib’s Competent and Skillful Management of the Affairs of People   

ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib was known for his competence and skill in managing the affairs of the people of Mecca. One example, which was discussed above, was the measures he took to protect the lives of the people during Abrahah’s invasion of Mecca. When he went back to Mecca after his meeting with Abrahah, he ordered people to evacuate Mecca, take shelter in the mountains, and take their possession with them. He did this in order to make sure nobody was hurt by Abrahah’s army.[14] Further, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib also played a great role in restoring the well of Zamzam.

Historical accounts indicate that, long before ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib was borne, fierce conflicts broke out in Mecca between two of the tribes which resided in the city. Therefore, in order to prevent the riches in the Kaʻbah, which included a lot of jewelry and gold, from being stolen in one of those conflicts, all of that treasure was taken out of the Kaʻbah and thrown in the well of Zamzam. The well was then filled and sealed with soil.

When ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib was made the chief of Mecca, he constantly sought to find the exact location of the well and to restore it once again so as to have the honor of reopening that sacred well all to himself. It is said that once when he was sleeping by the side of the Kaʻbah, he had a dream in which he was shown the location of the well and also ordered to dig and restore it. The first time he had that dream, he did not pay it any attention; however, he kept having the same dream two or three times after which he decided to dig the well based on his dream.

So he began digging the well until he found the piece of rock placed on the well to seal it all those years ago. He was exhilarated and he began calling Allah’s name and digging deeper and deeper until he first found the treasures buried in the well and then the water underneath them.[15] 

Among the other things done by ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib were the good customs and traditions that he instated. Traditions which were later recognized and endorsed by the Quran. Based on a tradition from Imam al-Ṣādiq (ʻa), once the Prophet (ṣ) said the following to Imam Ali (ʻ,): “ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib instated five traditions during the pre-Islamic era which were later reinstated and endorsed by Allah as Islamic rules: he declared that it was prohibited for a person’s sons to get married to their father’s wives [stepmothers]. Allah endorsed this rule by stating the following in the Quran: “And do not marry those women whom your fathers had married.”[16] Once he found a treasure [probably the one that was buried in the well of Zamzam] and he paid one fifth of it as charity to the poor; Allah has similarly ordered the following in the Quran: “And know that whatever booty you may take, one fifth of it is for Allah”.[17] When ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib dug and restored the well of Zamzam, he called it “the drinking place of the Hajj pilgrims”; similarly, Allah referred to it using the same name: “Have you considered the providing of water to the Hajj pilgrims and the maintenance of Masjid Al-Haram equal to [the deeds of] he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and engages in Jihad in the Way of Allah?”[18] ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib also determined the blood money for a man who is killed to be one hundred camels which needed to be given to the family of the murdered person by the murderer; Allah later reinstated this tradition in Islam. Finally, when circumambulating the Kaʻbah during the Hajj pilgrimage, the members of the Quraysh circled the Kaʻbah as many times as they wished as there was no law regarding it. ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib specified the ṭawāf to be composed of 7 rounds; later on, Allah endorsed this rule in Islam.[19]


ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib’s Love and Affection for the Prophet of Islam (ṣ)

ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib loved his grandson, the Prophet of Islam (ṣ), much more than any other grandchildren of his. When the Prophet (ṣ) was still a baby, he lost his father and he was then sent to live and grow up with some nomads, something which was the custom of the Arabs in those times.

But when he was 5 years old, he was brought back to Mecca to be raised and brought up by his grandfather, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib. After that, it was clear for everyone that ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib loved this grandchild of his much more than anyone else.

One of the reasons why ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib cared so much for the Prophet (ṣ) was that he was orphaned at young age. So he wanted to do whatever he could so that his beloved grandson would not miss his father. The second reason why ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib loved the Prophet (ṣ) so much was that, from the very young age, he showed noble character qualities in himself and also great intelligence and great manners.

But perhaps the most important of all were the prophecies that ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib had read in the past s c r i p tures and history references and the ones that he had heard from religious authorities regarding the advent of a great Reformer. He could clearly see that those prophecies and des c r i p tions perfectly matched his beloved grandson. Many religious clerics of various creeds had also told him, upon seeing his grandson, that he had a bright and glorious future; therefore ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib knew that his grandson was destined for a great future.[20]

Historical accounts indicate that, it was a custom for people to lay a carpet by the side of the Kaʻbah and in its shade for ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib to sit [as he was the chief of the Quraysh]. He would sit on the carpet and his sons would stand around him as a sign of respect for their father.

Sometimes, the Prophet (ṣ), who was a small boy of six or seven at that time, would come and sit on the carpet by the side of his grandfather; ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib’s sons, the Prophet’s uncles, would then try to take him up and prevent him from sitting on that carpet. But ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib would prevent them from doing that and would say to them: “Leave my grandson alone; I swear to Allah that he will soon raise to a lofty rank and position and he will have a bright future. I can see that he will one day become your chief and all the people will be at his command.” ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib would then take the Prophet back from his sons and let him sit by his side and then strike his shoulders and kiss him on the cheek.

At around this time, when the Prophet (ṣ) was six or seven years old, another tragedy occurred which left him sorrowful, and also made ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib give him even more attention and care more for him; the Prophet (ṣ) lost his mother “Āminih” too.[21]

Then almost one year later, as recorded in the history, when the Prophet (ṣ) was only eight years of age, ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib also passed away and the Prophet (ṣ) was left heartbroken once more. Umm Ayman has said with regard to this tragedy that when ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib’s body was being taken away for burial, the Prophet (ṣ) would walk behind the crowd, constantly crying, until they arrived to the Ḥajūn and buried ʻAbdulmuṭṭalib beside the tomb of his great ancestor, Quṣay ibn Kilāb.[22] May his holy soul be at rest and peace!





Keywords: Prophet’s biography and way of life, Abdulmuṭallib, Yathrib, Hāshim ibn ʻAbdimanāf, Mecca, Quraysh, monotheist, Ibrahim (ʻa), ʻĀmm al-Fīl, Abrahah, Zamzam, Idol-worship, the Prophet’s Sunnah, Khums, blood money, ritual circumambulation of the Kaʻbah.


[1] Balādhuri, Ahmad ibn Yahya ibn Jābir ibn Dāwūd. Jumal min Anṣāb al-Ashrāf. Researched by: Zakār Suheyl Zakār al-Zirikli Riyāḍ. Pub: Dār al-Fikr. 1st ed, Beirut, 1417 Ah. Vol. 1, p. 64.

[2] Azartāsh Azarnūsh. Farhang-e Mu’aser Arabi-Farsi. Pub: Ney Pub. 10th ed., Tehran, 1388 Sh. P. 349.

[3] Jumal min Ansāb al-Ashrāf, ibid.

[4] Ibn Hishām, Abu-Muhammad Jamāliddin ʻAbdulmalik. Al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, Ibn Hishām. Researched by: Al-Saqā, Mustafā al-Abyārī, Ibrahim al-Shilbi, ʻAbd al-Ḥafīẓ. Pub: Shirkah Maktabah wa Maṭʻabah Mustafa al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī wa Awlādah. 2nd ed., Egypt, 1955. Vol. 1, p. 137.

[5] Al-Ṭabari, Muhammad ibn Jarīr. Tārīlkh al-Ṭabari. Pub: Dār al-Turāth. 2nd ed., Beirut, 1387 Sh. Vol. 2, p. 248.

[6] Al-Yaʻqūbī, Ahmad ibn Isḥāq. Tārīkh Al-Yaʻqūbī. Pub: Dār al-Ṣādir. Beirut, vol. 2, p. 10.

[7] Al-Ḥalabi, Ali ibn Ibrahim. Al-Sīrah al-Ḥalabiyyah. Revised by: Al-Khalili, Abdullah Muhammad. 2nd ed., Beirut, 2006. Vol. 1, p. 9.

[8] Tārīkh al-Yaʻqūbī, ibid, p. 11.

[9] Majlisi, Mohammad Baqir ibn Mohammad Taqi. Biḥār al-Anwār. Dār Iḥyā’ al-Turāth al-Arabi. 2nd ed., Beirut, 1403 Ah. Vol. 17, p. 226.

[10] Baḥrānī, Sayyid Hāshim ibn Suleiman. Al-Burhān fi Tafsīr al-Quran. Pub: Mu’assesah Bi’thah. 1st ed., Qom, 1374 Sh. Vol. 3, p. 311.

[11] It is a kind of gambling over the meat of animals. It is interesting to note that one type of meat that is specified in verse 3 of Surah al-Mā’idah as prohibited to eat is the one which is obtained from animals which have been won in gambling. The method of this kind of gambling has been as follows: ten people would buy an animal and slaughter it. Then they would pick ten twigs and write “winner” on seven of them and “loser” on the remaining three. They would then put all those twigs in a special bag and they would then randomly take them out, one by one, in the name of a certain person. The seven individuals who got a “winner” twig would have a share of the meat and they would not need to pay anything for it. The remaining three who got a “loser” twig would each need to pay one third of the price of the animal without having any share of its meet. The twigs which were used in this type of gambling were called “Azlām” [in the plural]. Islam prohibited the use of any meat that is obtained in this way because it has been obtained through gambling which is itself unlawful in Islam. The Quran has stated the following in this regard: “حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَة... وَ أَنْ تَسْتَقْسِمُوا بِالْأَزْلامِ‏...”. [For more information in this regard, refer to: Makarem Shirazi, N. Tafsīr Nemūneh. Compiled and edited by: a group of researchers. Pub: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyyah. 32nd ed., Tehran, 1374 Sh. Vol. 4, pp. 260-261].   

[12] Biḥār al-Anwār, ibid, vol. 77, p. 56; Ibn Bābwayh, Muhammad ibn Ali, Al-Khiṣāl. Researched/revised by: Ghaffārī, Ali Akbar. Pub: Jāmi’eh Mudarrisin Qom publication. 1st ed., Qom, 1362. Vol. 1, p. 313.

[13] Al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq, Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Hussayn ibn Musa ibn Bābweyh Qomi. Kāmāl al-Dinn wa Itmām al-Niʻmah. Researched, revised by: Ghaffārī, Ali Akbar. Pub: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyyah. 2nd ed., Tehran, 1395 Sh. Vol. 1, p. 174.

[14] Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī. Ibid, vol. 2, p. 134.

[15] Ibn Kathīr, Abulfidā Ismail. Al-Bidāyah wa al-Nahāyah. Pub: Dār al-Fikr. Beirut, 1407 Ah, vol. 2, p. 244.

[16] Al-Nisā’, 22: “وَلا تَنْکِحُوا ما نَکَحَ آباؤُکُمْ مِنَ النِّساءِ”.

[17] Al-Anfāl, 41: “وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّما غَنِمْتُمْ مِنْ شَی‏ءٍ فَأَنَّ لِلَّهِ خُمُسَهُ”.

[18] Al-Tawbah, 19: “أَ جَعَلْتُمْ سِقایةَ الْحاجِّ وَ عِمارَةَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرامِ کَمَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَ الْیوْمِ الْآخِر”.

[19] Al-Khiṣāl, ibid, pp. 212-213.

[20] For more information, refer to: Ibn Saʻd, Muhammad. Al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā. Farsi Translation by: Mahdavi Dāmghāni, Mahmoud. Pub: Farhand va Andisheh Publication. Tehran, 1374, vol. 1, pp. 105-107.

[21] Beyhaqī, Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali ibn Musa. Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah wa Maʻrifah Aḥwāl Ṣāḥib al-Sharīʻah. Pub: Dār al Kutub al-ʻIlmiyyah. 1st ed., Beirut, 1405 Ah. Vol. 1, p. 88.

[22] Ibn al-Jawzi, Abulfaraj Abdurrahman. Al-Muntaẓam fi Tārīkh al-Umam wa al-Mulūk. Researched by: Muhammad Abdulqādir ʻAṭā and Mustafa Abdulqādir ʻAṭā. Pub: Dār al-Kutub al-ʻIlmiyyah. 1st ed., Beirut, 1412 Ah. Vol. 2, p. 282.

Published on: « 2019/11/7 »
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