33 – After the Year of Sadness

In the year which followed the Year of Sadness, the Pilgrimage fell at the beginning of June; and on the Feast of the Sacrifices the Prophet went to the valley of Mina where the pilgrims camp for five days. It had been his practice now for several years to visit the various groups of tents and to declare his message to anyone who would listen, reciting for them such verses of the Revelations as he felt moved to recite. The nearest point of Mina to Mecca is ‘Aqabah, where the road rises up steeply from the valley towards the hills in the direction of the holy city; and it was this year at ‘Aaqabah that he came upon six men of the tribe of Khazraj, from Yathrib. He did not know any of the six, but they had all heard of him and of his claim to prophethood, and as soon as he told them who he was their faces lit up with interest, and they listened to him attentively. Every man of them was familiar with the threat of their neighbors, the Yathrib Jews: “A Prophet is now about to be sent. We will follow him and we will slay you as ‘Ad and Iram were slain”; and when the Prophet had finished speaking, they said to each other: “This is indeed the Prophet that the Jews promised us would come. Let them not be the first to reach him!” Then, after one or two questions had been asked and answered, each of the six men testified to the truth of the Prophet’s message and promised to fulfill the conditions of Islam which he laid before them. “We have left our people,” they said, “for there is no people so torn asunder by enmity and evil as they; and it may be that God will unite them through thee. We will now go to them and summon them to accept thy religion even as we have accepted it; and if God gather them together about thee, then no man will be mightier than thou.”[1]

The Prophet continued to visit Abu Bakr regularly at his house amongst the dwellings of the Bani Jumah. These visits were a memorable feature of the childhood of ‘A’ishah, Abu Bakr’s younger daughter. She could not remember a time when her father and mother were not Muslims, and when the Prophet was not a daily visitor to them.

During this same year that followed Khadijah’s death, the Prophet dreamed that he saw a man who was carrying someone wrapped in a piece of silk. The man said to him: “This is thy wife, so uncover her.” The Prophet lifted the silk and there was ‘A’ishah. But ‘A’ishah was only six years old, and he had passed his fiftieth year. Moreover Abu Bakr had promised her to Mut’im for his son Jubayr. The Prophet simply said to himself: “If this be from God, He will bring it to pass.”[2] A few nights later he saw in his sleep an Angel carrying the same bundle of silk, and this time it was he who said to the Angel: “Show me.” The Angel lifted the silk and there, again, was ‘A’ishah, and again the Prophet said: “If this be from God, He will bring it to pass.”[3]

As yet he mentioned these dreams to no one, not even to Abu Bakr. But now there came a third confirmation, of a different kind. Khawlah, the wife of ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un, had been very attentive to the various needs of the Prophet’s household ever since Khadijah’s death; and one day when she was in his house she suggested to him that he should take another wife. When he asked her whom he should marry, she said: “Either ‘A’ishah the daughter of Abu Bakr or Sawdah the daughter of Zam’ah.” Sawdah, the cousin and sister-in-law of Suhayl,[4] was now a widow, aged about thirty. Her first husband, Sakran, Suhayl’s brother, had taken her with him to Abyssinia, and they had been among the first to return to Mecca. Not long after their return Sakran had died.

The Prophet told Khawlah to seek to arrange his marriages to both the brides she had suggested. Sawdah’s answer was: “I am at thy service, O Messenger of God,” and the Prophet sent back word saying: “Bid a man of thy people give thee in marriage.” She chose her brother-in-law Hatib, who by this time had also returned from Abyssinia, and he gave her in marriage to the Prophet.

Meantime Abu Bakr approached Mut’im, who was persuaded without difficulty to forgo the marriage of ‘A’ishah to his son; and, some months after the marriage of Sawdah, ‘A’ishah also became the Prophet’s wife, through a marriage contracted by him and her father, at which she herself was not present. She said afterwards that she had had her first inkling of her new status when one day she was playing with her friends outside, not far from their house, and her mother came and took her by the hand and led her indoors, telling her that henceforth she must not go out to play, and that her friends must come to her instead. ‘A’ishah dimly guessed the reason, though her mother did not immediately tell her that she was married; and apart from having to play in their courtyard instead of in the road, her life continued as before.

About this time Abu Bakr decided to have a small mosque built in front of his house. It was surrounded by walls, but open to the sky, and there he would pray and recite the Qur’an. But the walls were not high enough to prevent passers-by from looking over them, and often a number of people would stand there and listen to his recitation, while at the same time they would see something of his reverence for the revealed Book, which moved him to the depth of his being. Umayyah now feared that the number of Abu Bakr’s converts would still be further increased, and at his instance the leaders of Quraysh sent a deputation to Ibn ad-Dughunnah, reminding him of what they had said at the outset of his protection, and pointing out that the walls of Abu Bakr’s mosque were not sufficient to make it part of his house. “If he will worship his Lord within doors, then let him do so,” they said, “yet if he must needs do it openly, then bid him absolve thee of thy protection of him.” But Abu Bakr refused to give up his mosque, and the formally absolved Ibn ad-Dughunnah of his pact, saying: “I am content with the protection of God.”

It was on that very day that the Prophet announced to him and to others of his Companions: “I have been shown the place of your emigration: I saw a well watered land, rich in date palms, between two tracts of black sones.”[5]


[1] I.I. 287
[2] B. 91, 20
[3] ibid.
[4] See chapter 24 – Family Divisions
[5] B. 37, 7

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