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Title: Abdul-Muttalib  
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Subject: Halah bint Wuhayb, Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, Abdullah ibn Abdul-Muttalib, Fatimah bint Amr, Salma bint Amr
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Shaybah ibn Hāshim (Arabic: شيبة ابن هاشم عبد المطّلب‎; c. 497 – 578), better known as ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib, since he was raised by his uncle Muṭṭalib,[1] was the grandfather of Islamic prophet Muḥammad.


  • Early life 1
  • Chieftain of Hashim clan 2
  • The digging of the well Zamzam 3
  • The Year of the Elephant 4
  • Sacrificing his son Abdullah 5
  • Wives of Shaybah ibn Hāshim 6
  • Children of Shaybah ibn Hāshim 7
  • The family tree and some of his important descendents 8
  • Death 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Early life

His father was Hāshim ibn `Abd Manāf,[2] the progenitor of the distinguished Hāshim clan, a subgroup of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. They claimed descent from Ismā'īl and Ibrāhīm. His mother was Salmah bint `Amr from the Banū Najjār, a clan of the Khazraj tribe in Yathrib (later called Madinah). Hashim died while doing business in Gaza, before ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib was born.[3]

He was given the name "Shaybah" meaning 'the ancient one' or 'white-haired' because of the streak of white through his jet-black hair, and is sometimes also called Shaybat al-Ḥamd ("The white streak of praise").[4] After his father's death he was raised in Yathrib with his mother and her family until about the age of eight, when his uncle Muṭṭalib went to see him and asked his mother Salmah to entrust Shaybah to his care. Salmah was unwilling to let her son go and Shaybah refused to leave his mother without her consent. Muṭṭalib then pointed out that the possibilities Yathrib had to offer were incomparable to Mecca. Salmah was impressed with his arguments, so she agreed to let him go. Upon first arriving in Mecca, the people assumed the unknown child was Muttalib's slave, giving him the name ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib (slave of Muṭṭalib).[5]

Chieftain of Hashim clan

When Muṭṭalib died, Shaybah succeeded him as the chief of the Hāshim clan. Following his uncle Al-Muṭṭalib, he took over the duties of watering and feeding the pilgrims and carried on the practices of his forefathers with his people. He attained such eminence as none of his forefathers enjoyed; his people loved him and his reputation was great among them.[6]

‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb's

grandfather Nufayl ibn Abdul Uzza arbitrated in a dispute between ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib and Ḥarb ibn Umayyah, Abu Sufyan’s father, over the custodianship of the Kaaba. Nufayl gave his verdict in favor of ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. Addressing Ḥarb ibn Umayyah, he said:

"Why do you pick a quarrel with a person who is taller than you in stature; more imposing than you in appearance; more refined than you in intellect; whose progeny outnumbers yours and whose generosity outshines yours in luster? Do not, however, construe this into any disparagement of your good qualities which I highly appreciate. You are as gentle as a lamb, you are renowned throughout Arabia for the stentorian tones of your voice, and you are an asset to your tribe."

The digging of the well Zamzam

‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib said that while sleeping in the sacred enclosure, he had dreamed that he was ordered to dig at the slaughter-place of the Quraysh between the two idols Isāf and Nā’ila. There he would find the Zamzam well, which the Jurhum tribe had filled in when they left Mecca. The Quraysh tried to stop him digging in that spot, but his son Al-Ḥārith stood guard until they gave up their protests. After three days of digging, ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib found traces of an old well and exclaimed, "Allahuakbar!" Some of the Quraysh disputed his claim to sole rights over water, but in the end they allowed him to keep it. Thereafter he supplied pilgrims to the Kaaba with Zamzam water, which soon eclipsed all the other wells in Mecca because it was considered sacred.[7][8]

The Year of the Elephant

According to Muslim tradition, the Ethiopian governor of Yemen, Abrahah al-Ashram, envied the Kaaba's reverence among the Arabs and, being a Christian, he built a cathedral in Sana'a and ordered pilgrimage be made there.[9] The order was ignored and someone desecrated (some saying in the form of defecation[10]) the cathedral. Abrahah decided to avenge this act by demolishing the Kaaba and he advanced with an army towards Mecca.[11]

There were thirteen elephants in Abrahah's army[12][13] and the year came to be known as 'Ām al-Fīl (the Year of the Elephant), beginning a trend for reckoning the years in Arabia which was used until 'Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb replaced it with the Islamic Calendar.

When news of the advance of Abrahah's army came, the Arab tribes of Quraysh, Kinānah, Khuzā'ah and Hudhayl united in defense of the Kaaba. A man from the Ḥimyar tribe was sent by Abrahah to advise them that Abrahah only wished to demolish the Kaaba and if they resisted, they would be crushed. `Abdul-Muṭṭalib told the Meccans to seek refuge in the nearest high hills while he, with some leading members of Quraysh, remained within the precincts of the Kaaba. Abrahah sent a dispatch inviting ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib to meet with him and discuss matters. When ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib left the meeting he was heard saying, "The Owner of this House is its Defender, and I am sure He will save it from the attack of the adversaries and will not dishonor the servants of His House."[14]

It is recorded that when Abrahah's forces neared the Kaaba, Allah commanded small birds (abābīl) to destroy Abrahah's army, raining down pebbles on it from their beaks. Abrahah was seriously wounded and retreated towards Yemen but died on the way.[15] This event is referred to in the following Qur'anic chapter:

"Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant? Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? And He sent against them birds in flocks, striking them with stones of baked clay, so He rendered them like straw eaten up."
— Qur'an sura 105 (Al-Fil)

This conflict occurred in 570, according to many sources the same year that Muhammad was born.

Sacrificing his son Abdullah

Al-Harith was ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib's only son at the time when he dug the Zamzam Well.[16] When the Quraysh were trying to stop his digging, he vowed that if he were to have ten sons to protect him, he would sacrifice one of them to Allah at the Kaaba. Later, after nine more sons had been born to him, he told them he must keep the vow. The divination arrows fell upon his favorite son Abdullah. The Quraysh protested ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib's intention to sacrifice his son and demanded that he sacrifice something else instead. ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib agreed to consult a "sorceress with a familiar spirit". She told him to cast lots between Abdullah and ten camels. If Abdullah were chosen, he had to add ten more camels, and keep on doing the same until his Lord accepted the camels in Abdullah's place. When the number of camels reached 100, the lot fell on the camels. ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib confirmed this by repeating the test three times. Then the camels were sacrificed, and Abdullah was spared.[17]

Wives of Shaybah ibn Hāshim

Shaybah ibn Hāshim married:

Children of Shaybah ibn Hāshim

According to Ibn Hisham, ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib had ten sons and six daughters.[18] However, Ibn Saad lists twelve sons.[19]

By Sumrah bint Jandab:

  1. Al-Ḥārith ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. He was the firstborn and he died before his father.

By Fatimah bint Amr:

  1. Abu Talib ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. He became the leader of the Hashim clan after his father. He was the father of the future Caliph 'Alī.
  2. Al-Zubayr ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. He was a poet and he died before Islam. He left no sons behind.
  3. Abdullah ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib, the father of Muhammad.
  4. Barrah bint ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  5. Arwa bint ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  6. Umama bint ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  7. Atika bint ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  8. Umm Hakim al-Bayda bint ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. She was the maternal grandmother of the third Caliph Uthman ibn Affan.

By Lubnā bint Hājar:

  1. Abdul 'Uzzā ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib (Abu Lahab).

By Halah bint Wuhayb:

  1. Ḥamzah ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  2. Ṣafiyyah bint ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  3. Ḥijl ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. His real name was Mughirah, and he had no children. Al-Ghaidāq was his epithet as he was a wealthy man famed for his generosity. Some say that al-Ghaidaq's real name was Nawfal.
  4. al-Muqaowwim ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.
  5. ‘Abd al-Ka’bah ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib. There are some scholars who omit ‘Abd al-Ka’ba's name, saying that al-Muqawwim was his agnomen. He is not listed by Ibn Hisham or Ibn Saad.

By Natīlah bint Khubāb al-Khazrajī:

  1. 'Abbās ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.[20]
  2. Ḍarrār ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib: He left no descendants. When he lost his way during a pilgrimage season, causing his mother to almost lose her mind fearing for his life, she made an oath to clothe the Ka’ba if Allah returned him to her, and a man of Jutham brought him back.
  3. Quthum ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib: He died young.[21] He is not listed by Ibn Hisham.

By Mumanna'ah bint 'Amr of the Khuza'a tribe:

  1. Mus'ab al-Ghaydāq ibn ‘Abdul-Muṭṭalib.[22] He is not listed by Ibn Hisham.

The family tree and some of his important descendents

Quraysh tribe
Abd Manaf ibn Qusai
Ātikah bint Murrah
‘Abd Shams
Salma bint Amr
Umayya ibn Abd Shams
‘Abd al-Muttalib
Abu al-'As
ʿAbd Allāh
Abî Ṭâlib
ʾAbī Sufyān ibn Harb
Affan ibn Abi al-'As
(Family tree)
Khadija bint Khuwaylid
`Alî al-Mûrtdhā
Khawlah bint Ja'far
ʿAbd Allâh
Marwan I
Uthman ibn Affan
Fatima Zahra
Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah
ʿAli bin ʿAbd Allâh
Umayyad Caliphate
Uthman ibn Abu-al-Aas
Hasan al-Mûjtabâ
Husayn bin Ali
(Family tree)
al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ‘Ubayd Allah al-Thaqafī
Muhammad "al-Imâm" (Abbasids)


Abdul Muttalib's son ‘Abdullāh died four months before Muḥammad's birth, after which Abdul Muttalib took care of his daughter-in-law Āminah. Āminah also died six years later, and Abdul Muttalib looked after Muhammad until his own death in 578 CE at the age of 82.

Shaybah ibn Hāshim's grave can be found in the Jannat al-Mu'allā cemetery in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

See also


  1. ^ The correct form of the name is with two T's (Ta's) and one L (Lam). Thus for instance in Ibn Mākūlā's work: Al-Ikmāl fī Raf' al-Irtiyāb 'an al-Mu'talif wa al-Mukhtalif fi al-Asmā' wa al-Kunā Wa al-Ansāb. vol. 7. pg. 200. Quote: "And as for Muṭallib it is with Ḑammah (u) of the Mīm, and Tashdīd (doubling) of the Ṭā' ; and there is a group of them (i.e people called by this name)."
  2. ^ Muhammad ibn Saad. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir. Translated by Haq, S. M. (1967). Ibn Sa'ad's Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, vol. 1, p. 81. Delhi: Kitab Bhavan.
  3. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 p. 81.
  4. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 pp. 81-82.
  5. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 pp. 85-86.
  6. ^ Muhammad ibn Ishaq. Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, p. 61. Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 62-65.
  8. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 pp. 86-89.
  9. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 21.
  10. ^ Abdulmalik ibn Hisham. Notes to Ibn Ishaq's Biography of Allah's Messenger. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, Note 35, p. 696. Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 22-23.
  12. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 26.
  13. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 p. 99.
  14. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 24-26.
  15. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 26-27.
  16. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 64.
  17. ^ Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume pp. 66-68.
  18. ^ Ibn Hisham/Guillaume Note 97 pp. 707-708.
  19. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 pp. 99-101.
  20. ^ al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir (1998). Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l-Muluk: Biographies of the Prophet's Companions and Their Successors 39. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 24. 
  21. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 p. 100.
  22. ^ Ibn Saad/Haq vol. 1 p. 100.

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