How did the incident of the Prophet's father, Abdullah, being vowed to be sacrificed take place?

Details of the Question

What can be said about the chastity of the Prophet's (PBUH) father, Abdullah?

(editor) on Tue, 13/03/2018 - 15:16

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Qurayshis were watching Abdulmuttalib’s activity from the beginning and when they realized what was about to come , they notified their elders. Sometime after, Quraysh’s elders came to the excavated site and said:

“Oh, Abdulmuttalib! This is the well of our forefather, Ibrahim. We also have rights to this well. Let us partake in this task”.

Abdulmuttalib answered: “No, I cannot. This task has been assigned only to me and has been given to me from among you”.

The notables of Quraysh were not pleased with Abdulmuttalib’s finalized decision. From among them, Adiyy and Nawful spoke:

“You are a lonely man. You have nobody to rely on other than your only son. How is it that you defy and do not bow down to us?”

This remark burnt Abdulmuttalib inside because the Qureyshis were belittling him by saying he was desolate. He made his uneasiness exceedingly obvious, stayed quiet in sadness for some time, and then poured out his heart in this way:

“So, you are condemning me by saying I am lonely and desolate?”

When no answer came from his addressee and after thinking for some time, Abdulmuttalib opened his hands and turned his face towards the sky and said,

“I swear that if Allah gives me 10 sons that I will sacrifice one of them by the Ka’ba”1

These words of Abdulmuttalib were a prayer, an oath, and an offering.


Abdulmuttalib was at the perfect age of 40 when he extracted the Zamzam well.

Thirty years later, his number of sons became 10 thanks to the endowment of Allah Almighty. Meanwhile, he remembered the promise he had made many years ago: to sacrifice one of his sons by the Kaa’ba. However, which one should he sacrifice? All of them were more wonderful and loveable than the other. However, Abdullah was much different.

Abdullah was the eighth among the ten sons. He was much different than his siblings in terms of looks and character.

As soon as he came into this world, the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) noor that shone on his father’s forehead passed to his. This noor brought out a magnificent beauty and an exceptional cuteness/sweetness to his face. However, nobody noticed from where and how this beauty and cuteness came.

Abdulmuttalib’s Conversation with His Sons

All ten of his sons had grown.

Abdulmuttalib, who had not forgotten his promise, gathered them together and by explaining the story, he let them know that one of them had to be sacrificed. All of them accepted without hesitation and asked their father:

“Very well, then how should we do this? How are we going to determine who is to be sacrificed?”

Abdulmuttalib knew what to do in this type of circumstance. He answered:

“All of you should take an arrow, write your own name on it, and then give it to me!”

The obedient children immediately followed their father’s command. Each of them pulled an arrow, and after they wrote their own name on it, they handed it to their father. Abdulmuttalib collected all of the arrows and went straight towards the Kaa’ba. The method of resolving this situation had already been explained: An arrow would be drawn by the Hubal statue, and whosever name was drawn would be the one to be sacrificed…

Qurayshis would apply this method in these types of situations.

The Drawing of Lots

The city’s inhabitants gathered around Abdulmuttalib when he neared the Kaa’ba. Without hesitation, he handed the arrows to an arrow-drawing civil servant so that he would not be considered to have retracted his promise to Allah. All of those arrows had the names of his beloved children. Regardless of whichever arrow was drawn, a piece of him would be missing.

The civil servant pulled one of those arrows and read the name on the arrow with a quivering tone:


The compassionate father did not want to believe what he had heard. He pulled the arrow from the government official’s hands and looked over it carefully and read:


In an instant, his eyes were filled with tears and his throat was tangled with sobs. His compassion and feelings bulged and overflowed to such an extent that for a moment, it was as if he was going to shout “No!..”. At the last minute, he remembered the promise he had made to Allah and his steel-like will bridled his feelings and compassion.

“My son, Abdullah! Allah has chosen you to be sacrificed for Him. Among your siblings, he has granted this honor to you”.

This news, which burned and bit the family of Ab­dul­mut­ta­lib and saddened the people of Makkah at once. Everyone asked one another:

“Abdullah? Is that beautiful and sweet child going to be sacrificed?” 

Abdulmuttalib did not pay attention to his burning heart, hurricane of emotions, and feelings of compassion and mercy that resembled an ocean’s waves as he grasped his dearest son’s wrist and took him towards the statues of Isaf and Naila. It was as if Abdullah, whose face was covered with noor, had Hazrat Ismail’s submission. Not the slightest sign of displeasure appeared on his face.

Abdulmuttalib had a knife in one of his hands, and his son’s hand in the other. Everything was ready for his sacrifice. In the meantime, some noise was heard. The Qurayshi gentry was coming and one of them called out:

“Oh, Abdulmuttalib! What is it that you want to do?”

As Abdulmuttalib was looking at his son’s face which was covered with noor, he answered:

“I’m going to sacrifice him!”

As this answer emerged, it generated a wave of excitement and amazement in the crowd. They intervened by saying:

“Oh, Abdulmuttalib, how can this be? You are one of Mecca’s dignities. If you do this, then will everyone not follow you and do the same? If everyone sacrifices their son, then will our descent not come to an end?..” 

The entire crowd was opposed to Abdulmuttalib’s decision; even his emotions and feelings were in opposition. The only thing in favor of him was his steel-like will. He had made a promise to Allah and had to fulfill it definitely since Allah gave him his wish. Allah granted him ten sons and not sacrificing one of them would mean that he was being ungrateful. In the meantime, Abdullah’s uncle, Abdullah bin Mughira came forward and said:

“Oh Abdulmuttalib, by Allah, you cannot sacrifice him unless there is a legitimate excuse. If giving away all our property is necessary to save him, then we are ready to do so!”

It was as if Abdulmuttalib’s emotions, compassion, and mercy began to talk and were shouting the same things to him. However, his will would not make any concessions.

After the Qurayshis and their sons saw that their pleas yielded no results, they submitted the following proposal:

“Oh Abdulmuttalib, take Abdullah and go to Damascus. There is a woman there who is clairvoyant and wise. Everyone from east to west, who is in difficulty, transcends countries to go to her. She finds a cure for everyone’s difficulty. She will surely find a cure for you.  If she says to slaughter Abdullah, then do so, but if she finds a cure to save you, Abdullah, and us from sadness, then act according to that”.

This idea stood to reason for Abdulmuttalib. He immediately took Abdullah by his side and they set off to Damascus. When they arrived in Medina, they learnt that the clairvoyant woman was in Khyber, thus they went there from Medina. They found the soothsayer called Arrafa. Abdulmuttalib explained the situation completely to her.

The woman asked:

“What is the amount of ransom for one person in your area?”

Abdulmuttalib answered, “10 camels”.

Upon this, the clairvoyant woman said,

“Go and prepare 10 camels. With the child, take the 10 camels and go to the place where the arrows were drawn. Have your child stand on one side and have the camels stand on the other, and draw an arrow between them. If the arrow comes out for the camels, then sacrifice the camels and save the child. If the arrow comes out for the child, then continue to add an amount of ransom to the number of camels and draw arrows until your Creator is pleased with you! Whenever the arrow is drawn for the camels, then sacrifice them. In this way, both your Creator will be pleased with you and you will have saved your child from being sacrificed.” 2

Abdulmuttalib found this solution to be suitable and was about to walk on air. Without wasting time, he returned to Mecca. Abdulmuttalib’s family and the Meccan community were immensely happy upon hearing this news.

The Results of the Drawing

It was the following day after his return to Mecca. Abdulmuttalib took his beloved son and his 10 camels to the Kaa’ba. In accordance with the clairvoyant woman’s advice, a drawing of lots was about to be made between Abdullah and the camels.

In his state of happiness, Abdulmuttalib told the civil servant to “draw”. The arrow was drawn for Abdullah. They increased the number of camels to 20. The civil servant drew another arrow and again, it pointed to Abdullah. They increased the number of camels to 30. The arrow landed on Abdullah again. So they increased the number of camels to 40. The arrow came out for Abdullah once more. The number of camels was increased to 50; it was as if the arrow was insisting to be drawn for Abdullah. It became 60, 70, 80, and 90. The arrow was pointing to Abdullah with persistence. It was as if the arrow was receiving orders from another realm.

Abdulmuttalib was in a state of excitement and astonishment. During the course of every drawing, Abdulmuttalib did not abstain from raising his hands to the sky to offer a supplication.

The number of camels finally reached a hundred. When the arrow was drawn again, those who were watching with curiosity took a deep breath because the arrow pointed to the camels. Like everyone else, Abdulmuttalib’s eyes gleamed with happiness. However, his happiness did not last long and he immediately became serious.  He did not allow much time for others to congratulate him and he spoke in this way:

“By Allah, I am going to draw three arrows on end so that my heart will be satisfied”.

The drawing continued thrice more. Happiness was expressed through screams during each drawing because the arrows were pointing to the camels in all three rounds. Abdulmuttalib expressed his happiness by shouting, “Allahu Akbar! ,Allahu Akbar!” (God is the Greatest, God is the Greatest) and offered a supplication as he kneeled on the ground. In this way, Abdullah was saved from being sacrificed.

Abdulmuttalib, who was immensely happy that his beloved son was saved from being sacrificed, ordered a hundred camels to be taken to the place between Safa and Marwa, and to be sacrificed there, side-by-side. His order was followed immediately. The Meccan community greatly benefited from the meat of the camels that were sacrificed. The wolves, birds, dogs, wild, and domestic animals shared the remaining meat.

From that day onward, the custom of accepting a hundred camels for the amount of ransom has been embraced among the Qurayshis and Arabs.3

And our Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not change this custom.4

The son of two sacrificed ones

Indicating this incident and the attempt of Hz. Ismail's being sacrificed, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is reported to have said,

"I am the son of two sacrificed ones." [Hakim, al-Mustadrak, II, 604, 609; al-Ajluni, Kashful-Khafa, 1/199 (Hadith No.606), Beirut 1351] Diyah (blood money paid for a person who was killed) was 10 camels up to that time; after that incident, it was increased to 100 camels. (Ibn Hisham, 1/163) That blood money is 100 camels is based on this incident, which became customary in the course of time, in the history of Islam.

Hazrat Abdullah’s Chastity

It was the same day…

Everyone was pleased by the result and was leaving the place of drawing. Abdulmuttalib and his beloved son were coming to the city. Abdullah was far behind his father as they were passing by the Kaa’ba, and it was then that a woman approached him. This woman was named Ruqiyyah. She was Waraqa bin Nawfal’s sister and one of the many admirers of Abdullah’s legendary beauty. Like her sibling, Waraqa, she read the old Holy Books and in those books, she saw and learned about the characteristics of the Prophet that would appear during the end of time. When she faced Abdullah, she established a connection in her mind between the characteristics that she read about and the immense brightness that was on Abdullah’s face as she had never seen such brightness on anyone’s face till then.  Forgetting her grace and chastity, Ruqiyya approached Abdullah so that nobody else could obtain this glory and whispered:

“Young man, wait a moment.” Abdullah stopped.

She asked, “Where are you going?”

With the innocence of the noor (light) that shone on his face, he answered:

“We are going with my father”.

The woman did not dwell long upon this innocent answer and expressed her true intention. She offered to have illicit relations with him. In an instant, Abdullah’s face turned crimson red.  He did not pay attention to this illicit offer. He wanted to continue on his way. Yet Ruqiyyah wanted him all for herself. She rendered her desire into a more enticing offer:

“I have as many camels as the ones that were sacrificed on your behalf, so if you accept my offer then I will give them all to you”. Abdullah did not heed this appealing offer and provided an answer that promoted his innocence:

“Haram is so painful that the pain of death is lighter in comparison to it whereas halal is so sweet. Oh, woman, go and openly seek what is halal! Those who possess honor and chastity protect their faith scrupulously. How can they attempt and dare to commit an action that is deemed dishonorable?”

After his dignified answer, Abdullah continued on his way in front the beautiful Ruqiyyah, whose eyes were combined with looks of admiration and sadness.

Days later, Abdullah was married and came across the same woman on the streets of Mecca once more. The same Ruqiyyah did not exhibit the slightest signs of desire and longing. On the contrary, she was very apathetic and dull. Abdullah asked,

“What happened to you? Your condition has changed”.

Ruqiyyah answered,

“That day a mysterious noor (light) was shining on your forehead. I lost myself in the face of that noor, but now I cannot see it”.

Yes, the noor that shone on Hazrat Abdullah’s forehead was no longer there. Because it had transferred to the forehead of the greatest mother, Hazrat Amina, who was carrying the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in her womb. Actually, she was not the only woman who admired and was amazed by Hazrat Abdullah. All of the Qurayshi girls turned their eyes to this young man who was immaculate, free of bad conduct, and adorned with the best of traits and virtue. However, it was without being able to conceive the secret of the brightness on his face and without comprehending the wisdom of Allah Almighty having foreordained him with the greatest of honors, being the father of the Prophet (PBUH) of the end of time.


1. Sirah, 1/160; Tabaqat, 1/88; Tabari, 1/128.
2. Sirah, 1/163, Tabaqat, 2/174.
3. Sirah, 1/164; Tabaqat, 1/189; Tabari, 2/174.
4. Tabaqat, 1/89.

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