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Abd al-Muttalib (Arabic عبد المطلب‎) (ca. 497 – 578), named at birth Shaybah ibn Hashim, was the loving grandfather of Muhammad and the son of Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, after whom the distinguished clan of Banu Hashim names itself but was raised by his uncle Al-Muttalib.

Early life[]

Life in Yathrib[]

He was born in the womb of Salma bint Amr from the tribe of Bani al-Najjar in Yathrib (later Medina) after his father died in Gaza. 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 Muttalib came to take him to Mecca. "When he saw him, tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks, he embraced him and took him on his camel." The boy, however abstained from going with him to Mecca until he took his mother’s consent. Al-Muttalib asked her to send the boy with him to Mecca, but she refused. He managed to convince her saying: "Your son is going to Mecca to restore his father’s authority, and to live in the vicinity of the Sacred House (Ka'bah)." There in Mecca, people wondered at seeing the boy, and they considered him the slave of Muttalib (and hence called him Abd al-Muttalib). Al-Muttalib said: "He is my nephew, the son of my brother Hashim." The boy was brought up in Al-Muttalib’s house, but later on Al-Muttalib died in Bardman in Yemen so ‘Abdul-Muttalib took over and managed to maintain his people’s prestige and outdo his grandfathers in his honourable behaviour which gained him Mecca’s deep love and high esteem.

Usurp by Nawfal[]

When Al-Muttalib died, Nawfal usurped ‘Abd al-Muttalib of his charges, so the latter asked for help from Quraysh but they abstained from extending any sort of support to either of them. Consequently, he wrote to his uncles of Bani al-Najjar (his mother’s brothers) to come to his aid. His uncle, Abu Sa‘d bin ‘Adi (his mother’s brother) marched to Mecca at the head of eighty horsemen and camped in Abtah in Mecca. ‘Abd al-Muttalib received the men and invited them to go to his house but Abu Sa‘d said: "Not before I meet Nawfal." He found Nawfal sitting with some old men of Quraysh in the shade of Al-Ka‘bah. Abu Sa‘d drew his sword and said: "I swear by Allah that if you don’t restore to my nephew what you have taken, I will kill you with this sword." Nawfal was thus forced to give up what he had usurped, and the notables of Quraysh were made to witness to his words. Abu Sa‘d then went to ‘Abd al-Muttalib’s house where he stayed for three nights, made 'Umrah and left back for Medina. Later on, Nawfal entered into alliance with Bani ‘Abd Shams ibn ‘Abd Munaf against Bani Hashim. When Khuza‘a, a tribe, saw Bani al-Najjar’s support to ‘Abd al-Muttalib they said: "He is our son as he is yours. We have more reasons to support him than you." ‘Abd Munaf’s mother was one of them. They went into An-Nadwa House and entered into alliance with Bani Hashim against Bani ‘Abd Shams and Nawfal. It was an alliance that was later to constitute the main reason for the conquest of Mecca.

Divine interventions[]

The well of Zamzam[]

In brief, ‘Abd al-Muttalib received an order in his dream to dig Zamzam well in a particular place. He did that and found the things that Jurhum men had buried therein when they were forced to evacuate Mecca. He found the swords, armours and the two deer of gold. The gate of Al-Ka‘bah was stamped from the gold swords and the two deer and then the tradition of providing Zamzam water to pilgrims was established.
When the well of Zamzam gushed water forth, the Quraysh made a claim to partnership in the enterprise, but ‘Abd al-Muttalib refused their demands on grounds that Allah had singled only him out for this honourable job. To settle the dispute, they agreed to consult Bani Saa‘d’s diviner. On their way, Allah showed them His Signs that confirmed ‘Abd al-Muttalib’s prerogative as regards the sacred spring. Only then did ‘Abd al-Muttalib make a solemn vow to sacrifice one of his adult children to Al-Ka‘bah if he had ten.

The elephant army

The Abyssinian (Ethiopian) viceroy Abraha Al-Sabah in Yemen had seen that the Arabs made their pilgrimage to Al-Ka‘bah so he built a large church in San‘a in order to attract the Arab pilgrims to it to the exclusion of Mecca. A man from Banu Kinana tribe understood this move, therefore he entered the church stealthily at night and besmeared its front wall with excrement. When Abraha knew of that, he got very angry and led a great army – of sixty thousand warriors – to demolish Al-Ka‘bah. He chose the biggest elephant for himself and his army included nine or thirteen elephants. When he reached the valley of Muhassar, between Muzdalifah and Mina, the elephant knelt down and refused to go forward. Whenever they directed it northwards, southwards or eastwards, the elephant moved quickly but when directed westwards towards Al-Ka‘bah, it knelt down. Meanwhile, Allah loosed upon them birds in flights, hurling against them stones of baked clay and made them like green blades devoured. These birds were very much like swallows and sparrows, each carrying three stones; one in its peak and two in its claws. The stones hit Abraha’s men and cut their limbs and killed them. A large number of Abraha’s soldiers were killed in this way and the others fled at random and died everywhere. Abraha himself had an infection that had his fingertips amputated. When he reached San‘a he was in a miserable state and died soon after. The incident is recorded in the Quran as the Surah al-Feel ("The Elephant (Army)").


Abd al-Muttalib married Sumra bint Jandab, Lubna bint Hajira, Fatimah bint Amr, Halah bint Wahab-Zuhriya, and Natila bint Khabab - Khizriji.

From Sumra bint Jandab:

  • Harith

From Lubna bint Hajira:

From Fatimah bint Amr:

From Halah bint Wahab:

  • Hamza
  • Muqum
  • Hijl
  • Saffiyah

From Natila bint Khabab - Khizriji:

  • Abbas
  • `Zarrar ibn `Abd al-Muttalib

Abdu'llah of Banu Hashim and Aminah bint Wahab of Banu Zuhra were the parents of the Muhammad.

Shaiba ibn Hashim died in 578 when Muhammad was eight. Shaiba ibn Hashim's grave can be found in Jannat al-Muallah cemetery in present day Mecca in Saudi Arabia.


External links[]