Abd al-Muttalib

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Abd al-Muttalib
An old picture of Al-Ma'at Cemetery before it was demolished by Wahhabis in 1343/1925.
An old picture of Al-Ma'at Cemetery before it was demolished by Wahhabis in 1343/1925.
Full NameShayba b. Hāshim b. ʿAbd Manāf
TeknonymAbu l-Harith
EpithetSaqi l-Hajij
Well-known AsThe grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (s)
Religious AffiliationMonotheist
Well-known RelativesProphet Muhammad (s)Abd AllahAbu TalibAbbasHamza
Birth127 before Hijra/498-9
Place of BirthYathrib
Place of ResidenceYathrib, Mecca
Death/MartyrdomRabi' I 10, 45 BH/February 5, 578
Burial PlaceAl-Ma'at Cemetery
Notable rolesHead of Quraysh, one of the elites of Mecca

ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib b. Hāshim b. ʿAbd Manāf, (Arabic: عبدالمطّلب بن هاشم بن عبد مناف ) (b. 127 before Hijra/498-9 - d. 45 BH/578) is the paternal grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (s), and the chief of the Quraysh tribe. He was also one of the nobles of Mecca. Born in Yathrib, he migrated to Mecca when he was seven and became a nobility. The astonishing event of the Army of the Elephant (the attack of Abraha) occurred during his rule in Mecca.


Abd al-Muttalib is from the Quraysh tribe and is the offspring of Hashim, thus related to the Banu Hashim. He descends from Prophet Ibrahim (a). His mother, Salma, daughter of Amr, is from the Banu Najjar of Khazraj clan. This family became the companions of the Prophet (s) after he migrated to Medina.[1]

Family tree of the Prophet (s)
400 CE
'Abd al-'Uzza
'Abd Manaf
430 CE
'Abd al-Dar
464 CE
'Abd Shams
'Abd al-Muttalib
497 CE
Khadija (a)
Abd Allah
b. 545 CE
Abu Talib
Muhammad (s)
b. 571 CE
'Ali (a)
b. 599 CE
Fatima (a)
'Abd Allah
Al-Hasan (a)
b. 625 CE
Al-Husayn (a)
b. 626 CE

Name and Epithet

Abd al-Muttalib's name was Shayba, and his epithet was Abu l-Harith.[2] It is said that he was addressed with other names and epithets as well, such as Amir, Sayyid al-Batha', Saqi l-Hajij, Saqi l-Ghayth, Ghayth al-Wara fi l-'Am al-Judub, Abu l-Sadat al-'Ashara, 'Abd al-Muttalib, Hafir Zamzam,[3] Ibrahim Thani,[4] and Fayyad.

In regards to the epithet Abd al-Muttalib which is most popular, it is said that a couple of years after the death of Hashim, Muttalib (paternal uncle of Abd al-Muttalib) took him from Yathrib to Mecca.[5] When people saw Muttalib entering the city with 'Abd al-Muttalib, they thought he was Muttalib's slave, bought from Yathrib. He, therefore, became known as Abd al-Muttalib, and this name stuck.[6]


Abd al-Muttalib's father, Hashim, married Salma, daughter of Amr b. Zayd from the Banu Najjar clan, in one of his trips to Yathrib.[7] Before the birth of his son, he traveled to Gaza in what is nowadays Palestine, died and was buried there.[8] Based on various historians, Abd al-Muttalib lived with his mother in Medina for seven years or more,[9] before he went to Mecca with his uncle, Muttalib.[10]

Personality of Abd al-Muttalib

Muttalib inherited his brother's position and was appointed as chieftain. Sometime later, he died in Yemen, in a land called Radman. The positions he had inherited from his father were passed down to Abd al-Muttalib, who was his nephew. Abd al-Muttalib became a noble in Mecca as a result of his magnanimity, good management, and strategies. He became famous and his superiority became clear. Quraysh acknowledged his nobility as well.[11]

Al-Ya'qubi says: "Abd al-Muttalib was an unparalleled noble of Quraysh in those days, for God had granted him magnanimity He had granted no one else before, and quenched his thirst from the Zamzam well (in Mecca) and Dhu l-Harm (in Ta'if). Quraysh appointed him as referee for [issues relating to] their wealth. He fed the people in times of famine and hunger, so much so that he had even fed the mountains' birds. In this regard Abu Talib says:

When the hands of gamblers start to tremble (i.e., when the generous start to become stingy), we shall give people so much food that even the birds will eat from what is left.

Abd al-Muttalib did not worship idols and believed in the oneness of God. He was loyal to his pledges and started various traditions, some of which have been mentioned in the Qur'an."[12]

Al-Ya'qubi cites himself in a narration that quotes the Prophet (s), "God will resurrect my grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, with the looks of the prophets and the awe of the kings."[13]

Army of the Elephant

Army of the Elephant: A scene from Muhammad (s): The Messenger of God directed by Majid Majidi

According to religious and regional narrations, Abraha's offensive against Mecca, famously known as the Army of the Elephant, was contemporary to Abd al-Muttalib. Abraha marched from Yemen to Mecca with an army of elephants to destroy the Ka'ba.[14] Abraha's army pillaged the camels of Quraysh, for which a meeting between Abd al-Muttalib and Abraha was organized, where Abd al-Muttalib only requested his camels be freed. Abraha said, "I thought you had come to negotiate about the Ka'ba." Abd al-Muttalib replied, "I am the master of the camels, and that house (Ka'ba) has a master for itself." He went back to Mecca and told the people to go to the mountains and take their belongings with them.[15] Only a couple of Abraha's men survived and fled the following day when a giant flock of birds attacked his army.[16]

Digging the Zamzam Well

According to historical documents of Mecca, before Qusay b. Kilab's conquest, who was Abd al-Muttalib's grandfather, the Jurhum tribe ruled over Mecca. The oppressiveness of their tribesmen evoked a rise against them by other tribes. In the end, the Khuza'a tribe defeated them. 'Umar b. Harith, the final Jurhum ruler, went inside the Ka'ba and hid all the jewelry and valuable presents gifted to the Ka'ba in the Zamzam Well and filled the well with soil to hide it.

Years later, Abd al-Muttalib attempted to find the well. As it is said, he found the place of the well in a dream and was given the mission to excavate it. Abd al-Muttalib excavated Zamzam, found the jewelry, and spent it for the Ka'ba. Zamzam once again sprang with water.[17]


According to reports, Abd al-Muttalib faced disagreement and obstruction by the Quraysh when he decided to excavate the well. He pledged that if God gives him ten sons, he would sacrifice one of them next to the Ka'ba. God Almighty blessed him with ten sons. He randomly selected one of his sons, and Abd Allah's name came out, but he sacrificed a hundred camels instead.

'Ali Dawani believes this story is not true and was composed by the Umayyads, arguing based on the weak chain of narrators that includes unknown or weak persons, and the fact that child sacrificing was a pagan tradition while Abd al-Muttalib was a monotheist. He believes that the Umayyads fabricated this story to decrease Imam Ali's (a) position by damaging his ancestral nobility.[18]


According to some reports, Abd al-Muttalib adhered to the religion of Hanif and was not an idol worshiper. Al-Mas'udi, 3rd/9th-10th century historian, talks of disputes about the religion Abd al-Muttalib professed and explains that one belief is that neither he nor any of the Prophet's (s) ancestors were idol worshipers.[19] Al-Shaykh al-Saduq narrates from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that the Prophet (s) said to Imam Ali (a), "Abd al-Muttalib never gambled and never worshipped idols and... and he always said, 'I adhere to the religion of my father, Ibrahim.'"[20]

Traditions Established by Abd al-Muttalib

In his book, Al-Khisal, al-Shaykh al-Saduq narrates from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that the [Prophet (s)]] said to Imam 'Ali (a), "Abd al-Muttalib established five traditions during the Age of Ignorance that God [also] obligated in Islam: He disallowed sons from marrying their father's wives and God has said in the Qur'an:

He found a treasure (this could be the treasure he excavated from the Zamzam well) and gave a fifth of it as charity, God says in the Qur'an:

When he excavated Zamzam, he named it Siqayat al-hajj (Station for Hajis to drink), and God has said:

Abd al-Muttalib set the blood money for killing a man with one hundred camels, and God also applied this in Islam. The Quraysh did not know how many times they must circumambulate the Ka'ba (do tawaf), Abd al-Muttalib set this to seven, and God applied these seven circumambulations to Islam as well.[21]

Al-Ya'qubi wrote: He established traditions that the Prophet (s) acted upon, and verses were revealed for it, and they were:

Loyalty to pledges, a hundred camels for blood money, illegalized marriage with maharim, refraining from entering a house from its roof, amputation of a thief's hand, disapproved of killing daughters, Mubahala, the prohibition of wine, the prohibition of adultery and appointed punishment for it, lottery, prohibition of circumambulating the Ka'ba naked, respect for guests, supplying Hajj expenses with legitimate money, respect for Haram months, avoid ostentation and hypocrisy.[22]


According to some sources, Abd al-Muttalib passed away on Rabi' I 10.[23] It is mainly believed that the Prophet (s) was eight years old when Abd al-Muttalib passed away (45 BH/578 CE)[24] at the age of eighty-two, or one hundred and eight, or one hundred and forty.

It is said that before his demise Abd al-Muttalib summoned his daughters, "Cry for me and read the elegies you want to read about me, so I can hear what you want to read for me after death before I die." His daughters did so, they mourned, and each read their elegies.

Umm Ayman has been quoted saying that the Prophet (s) followed the corpse of Abd al-Muttalib in his funeral and cried until they buried him next to his grandfather, Qusay b. Kilab, in al-Hajun neighborhood.[25]


Abd al-Muttalib had ten sons: Harith, Abd Allah, al-Zubayr, Abu Talib, Hamza, Muqawwim (Miqwam), Abbas, Dirar (Darar), Quthum, Abu Lahab (who was also called Abd al-Uzza), Ghaydaq.[26]

He had six daughters: 'Atika, Safiyya, Umama, Barra, Arwa, and Umm Hakim (al-Bayda).[27]

Apart from Hamza, Abbas, and Abu Talib, none of the Prophet's (s) paternal uncles, and none of his paternal aunts except Safiyya, and according to some narrations Arwa, became Muslim.[28]

See Also


  1. Ibn Athīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 6, p. 151.
  2. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 1, p. 27.
  3. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 15, p. 128.
  4. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 11.
  5. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 3, p. 2-8.
  6. Rasūlī Maḥallātī, Zindigānī-yi Muḥammad (s), vol. 1, p. 91.
  7. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 1, p. 65.
  8. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 1, p. 65.
  9. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 137.
  10. Rasūlī Maḥallātī, Zindigānī-yi Muḥammad (s), vol. 1, p. 91.
  11. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubra, vol. 1, p. 77; Ibn Khaldūn, al-ʿIbar, vol. 1, p. 386.
  12. See: Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 11.
  13. See: Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 14.
  14. Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 92.
  15. Maqdisī, al-Bidaʾ wa l-tārīkh, vol. 1, p. 532.
  16. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 47.
  17. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 2, p. 244.
  18. See: Dawānī, Tārīkh-i islām, p. 54.
  19. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 2, p. 109.
  20. Ṣadūq, al-Khiṣāl, vol. 1, p. 455.
  21. Ṣadūq, al-Khiṣāl, vol. 1, p. 455.
  22. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 10.
  23. Ṭūsī, Miṣbāḥ al-mutahajjid, vol. 2, p. 791; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 97, p. 222.
  24. Ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntaẓam, vol. 2, p. 282.
  25. Ibn Athīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 1, p. 73.
  26. Maqdisī, al-Bidaʾ wa l-tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 722.
  27. Maqdisī, al-Bidaʾ wa l-tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 722.
  28. Maqdisī, al-Bidaʾ wa l-tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 722.


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