The Vow

The air in Makkah resonated with the sound of jubilant applause and laughter. Men and women placed their hands on their mouths and took out joyous sounds.

“Ululololololo…!” they sang merrily. “Ululolololololo!”

Mughirah’s eyes sparkled with cheer and ecstasy as he witnessed the sight before him. He had all the reasons to celebrate.

Not only was he the chief of the Makhzum tribe, but he had also just been blessed with another baby boy. One more son to add to his tribe.

“What a moment of pride for me,” Mughirah thought to himself. “My sons will grow up to be my protection, my strength,” he beamed.

This was a common perception amongst the Arabs. They felt it a great honor and pride to stand tall amongst their robust male offspring.

Abdul Muttalib, Mughirah’s cousin, was also an Arab, who was a wise and generous man. Allah the Almighty had blessed him in many many ways.

He was a kind and gracious human being. People would be mesmerized by his commanding and charismatic disposition.

Furthermore, Allah the Almighty had granted him the privilege of rediscovering the well of Zamzam.

Zamzam had originally been bestowed upon Bibi Hagar and Ismael (peace be upon him) as a miracle, when Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had left them in the desert of Makkah following Allah’s orders.

But after they passed away, the spring of Zamzam had been covered up by a group of notorious and selfish men from Jurhum, called the Jurhumites.

Years later, it was through a true dream, that Allah guided his special slave, Abdul Muttalib, to rediscover it.

Despite all the prestige, Abdul Muttalib, unlike Mughirah, had only one son, Harris. Abdul Muttalib was, however, not the sort to complain or be ungrateful.

He would not miss a chance to praise his Lord, Allah the Almighty, for all His blessings. But there was one moment, one moment of intense yearning, when Abdul Muttalib had secretly wished.

He had prayed in his heart to his Lord. It is believed that it was when Abdul Muttalib was following the commands of Allah to unearth the lost treasure of Zamzam.

It had been him and his only son Harris, digging the ground with their heavy pick axes.

A group of influential men from the Arabic tribe of Quraish had gathered around to see what they were doing.

“Stop what you’re doing immediately!” they had shrieked angrily. “We will not allow you to dig in this holy spot,” they had threatened Abdul Muttalib.

Abdul Muttalib had stood determinedly and courageously ignored the threats. He had asked his son, Harris to stand guard and pose as a shield for him.

“I wish I had more sons,” Abdul Muttlalib had thought in his heart wistfully. “Their large number would have easily scared the crowd away,”  he had contemplated.

In this moment of desperation, when only one male offspring of Abdul Muttalib tried to intimidate a mob of angry Quraish men, Abdul Muttalib, had secretly vowed.

“Oh Allah, if you will grant me ten sons, I will sacrifice one of them to you at the Kaabah,” Abdul Muttalib had promised with conviction.

As strange as it may sound, before the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) people openly offered sacrifices in the way of Allah and the idols. It was their misconception, that this way their prayers will be answered.

This had become a common practice after Ibrahim and Ismael (peace be upon them) had passed away and Arabs had started to worship idols.

Allah the Almighty answered Abdul Muttalib’s sincere prayers and during the course of time, Abdul Muttalib became a proud father of ten sons.

Many years passed and all of Abdul Muttalib’s sons grew up to be exemplary men just like him. Abdul Muttalib very well remembered what he had promised Allah in despair.

He was true to his word, honest and sincere. His sons were also men of great character and strong wills. One of them was particularly special to Abdul Muttalib.

He was Abdullah. Allah had blessed him with chastity and intelligence, due to which he was loved by all.

Abdul Muttalib gathered his sons and told them about the vow.

My sons, I made this promise to Allah and now you are all grown up, I must fulfil my oath,” Abdul Muttalib confided in them.

“Whatever you say, we shall obey your command,” they said in submission to their father. “Your vow, is our vow,” they comforted him.

“Each one of you will write your name on an arrow, then I will take it to the Kaabah,” Abdul Muttalib instructed. It was a common practice amongst the Arabs to make selections this way. Names of candidates would be written on arrows.

They would be shuffled and someone important would randomly draw them. On this day, they selected the guardian of the chief idol Hubal, to do the honors.

They reached the Kaabah where the idol was placed and arrows were to be cast. The air crackled with tension. Every breath could be heard as the sons of Abdul Muttalib wrote their names on their respective arrows. Beads of anticipatory sweat broke on Abdul Muttalib’s forehead.

He closed his eyes and prayed to Allah. It was remarkable that Abdul Muttalib did not pray to any idol made of lifeless stone. Even in this moment of sheer anguish, he did not beg before Hubal, or any other statue.

“Oh Allah, my son Abdullah is the sweetest and dearest to me, please let it not be him,” Abdul Muttalib prayed earnestly.

The arrows were shuffled and the guardian of Hubal drew out one randomly. “Abdullah,” it said, ominously.

With a lump in his throat, Abdul Muttalib clutched his knife, ready to sacrifice his beloved son to Allah. Abdullah followed obediently, his face as pale as death. Together, they trudged towards the spot where sacrifices were offered.

During this time, a curious crowd had gathered to witness the disturbing goings-on. Mughirah, the chief of the Makhzum tribe, exclaimed in an authoritative voice, “Stop this! There is no way that you will sacrifice him. It’s wrong in every way!”

“Take all our property and give it as ransom to Allah,” Mughirah commanded. “Father please, offer something else as sacrifice, not our dear brother,” Abdullah’s brother Abu Talib begged desperately. Pleads like, “Don’t do this,” “Stop,” “Sacrifice something else,”  echoed all around Abdul Muttalib.

He finally gave up and listened to his family as they cried earnestly. Yet, the unsettling feeling of not fulfilling the vow nagged at his heart. “We will call upon a wise woman to judge the matter,” a man from the Quraish tribe advised wisely.

Abdul Muttalib, along with a group of men, approached the wise woman and informed her of the situation.

“Make Abdullah stand next to a herd of ten camels,” she instructed. “Cast your arrow, if it falls next to Abdullah, add ten more camels to the herd,” she explained. “You have to continue doing this until you cast an arrow and it falls next to the camels,” the wise woman directed.

Abdul Muttalib, the men of Quraish and the Makhzum tribes, and Abdullah’s brothers, all set to follow the orders of the wise old woman.

They gathered their arrows and shot, wishing sincerely that the arrow would fall against the camels. All eyes were on the arrow as it flew through the air, slicing the tense silence.

Dreadfully, it fell next to Abdullah, once again. “Add ten more camels to the herd,” said one of the men. And so it was done.

The action was repeated until finally, the arrow soared through the air and miraculously fell next to the camels.

By this time, the count of camels had reached a hundred.

Relief crept in the hearts of the onlookers who let out a whispered cheer. In this way Abdul Muttalib fulfilled his promise made to Allah.

He sacrificed a hundred camels and saved his son, who later on became the father of our Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).

The meat of the sacrificed camels was given to everyone to eat. It was even left for animals to devour.

Reflecting on this historic event, the Holy Prophet has been reported to have said, “I am the offspring of the slaughtered two.” (Meaning Ismael (peace be upon him and Abdullah)

Written By:

Mahrukh Nida Ahsan


Muhammad by Martin Lings

The Life of Muhammad by A. Guillaume

A translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat RasulAllah 

The Sealed Nectar by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri

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Mahrukh Nida Ahsan, MA Mass Communication A teacher, reader and writer who takes inspiration from classic English literature and poetry. A self help book with a warm cup of tea is her go-to combination. She enjoys spreading laughter and crafting pretty little things.

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Abdul Muttalib dug the sandy ground with his pickaxe following the command of Allah to excavate the well of zamzam. His lone companion in his toil was his only son, Haris.

If God grants me ten sons, I’ll sacrifice one in His way at the Kaaba, Abdul Muttalib vowed.
Years later, he remembers his promise but his breath catches in his throat as he eyes his ten beloved sons.

Will Abdul Muttalib fulfil his promise? Who will be sacrificed in the way of Allah?

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