The Prophet (pbuh) said, "There was no prophet who was not a shepherd." How did the Prophet (pbuh) narrate that he worked as a shepherd?

The Details of the Question

The Prophet (pbuh) said, "There was no prophet who was not a shepherd." How did the Prophet (pbuh) narrate that he worked as a shepherd?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was in the tenth year of his blissful life.

During this time, he told his uncle, Abu Talib, whose custody he was under, that he wanted to herd Abu Talib’s sheep. At first, his uncle, who loved him wholeheartedly, did not consent. However, he eventually accepted on account of our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) persistence and intense desire. However, this time, his wife, Lady Fatima, ardently opposed. How could their hearts consent to leaving our Holy Prophet (PBUH), whom they loved more than their own children, under the scorching sun?

Nevertheless, the Pride of the Universe (PBUH) was determined. For this reason, he was able to obtain Lady Fatima’s consent. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) began to take the sheep and goats to the valleys and hills where they would graze during the morning.

In this way, he was able to help his uncle, even if it was in a very small way, to save money since it was no longer necessary to hire a shepherd. He also acquired the chance of deeply contemplating on the existence of the ground and skies in solitary. In the fields, he would watch the sublime scenery which Allah revived at every moment; thus, his soul would experience an incomparable pleasure and attain deep enlightenment from viewing these sights. At the same time, this duty, which he had taken upon himself, allowed him the opportunity to keep him away from the lies, fraud, deceit, and hypocrisy of the corrupt society in which he lived. 

After the duty of Prophethood had been given to our Pride (PBUH), who spent his holy life herding sheep, he went to the fields with his companions (Sahaba). They started to pick the fruit of the siwak tree in a place called Marr az-Zahran. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said to his companions amid his smiles that soothed hearts:

“Among this wild fruit, choose the black kind since it is the most delicious.”
The companions were amazed and curious.  They asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah! Only a shepherd would know the good and bad types of this fruit. Did you herd sheep?”
Once again, the Pride of the Universe (PBUH) replied amid his smiles that soothed hearts, “There is no prophet who has not herded sheep.”1

One day, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) reminisced to his companions a sweet memory in his life:

“Prophet Moses (AS) was sent as a prophet; he herded sheep. Prophet David (AS) was sent as a prophet; he herded sheep. I too was sent as a prophet and would herd my family’s sheep in Jiyad (a place that is at the bottom part of Mecca).”2

It can be seen that at ten years old, our Holy Prophet (PBUH), who is described as the one “who possesses the highest ethics” in the Quran, did not favor being without work due to his diligence and benevolence and did not deem it appropriate to be a burden on someone else.

It is possible to find the traces of one-year experience of herding sheep in these holy words, which can cover several books of commentary and interpretation.

“You all are shepherds. You are responsible for those whom you guard. A state chieftain is responsible for those who are under his rule. An individual is obliged to protect and take care of his children and is responsible for them. A woman is responsible for her husband’s home. A servant is a watchman and is responsible for his employer’s goods. An individual is the watchman of his father’s goods and is responsible for them. You are all responsible for those who are under your command.”3


1. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 1/125-126; Bukhari/247-248; Muslim, 6/125; Ibn Majah, Sunan, 2/727.
2. Tabaqat, 1/126.
3. Muslim, 6/8.

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