Splendid Pearls

Rabi’ al-Awwal | The Noble Birth of Our Master Muhammad ﷺ | A narration of His ﷺ birth by Abu Nuaym al-Isfahani

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[Ibn Abbas] said: [Lady Amina] used to say:

“I began to have labour pains (lit. “there befell me what befalls women,” la-wad akhadhanī mā ya ‘khudhu ‘l-nisā’), and no one, male or female, knew about my situation; I was alone in the house, and Abd al-Muttalib was circumambulating [the Kabah]. She said: I heard a great crash and a mighty sound (sami’tu wajba shadīda wa-amran azīman) and it struck me with terror – that was on a Monday. I saw [a vision] as if the wing of a white bird stroked my heart, and then all the alarm, panic, and suffering that I had felt left me. Then I turned, and there was a white drink; I thought that it was milk. I was thirsty, so I took it and drank it, and a bright light radiated from me. Then I saw women like lofty palm-trees, resembling the daughters of Abd al-Muttalib[1], surrounding me. As I was wondering [over this] and asking myself, “Woe is me, how did these women know about me?” my labor became intense. I heard the crashing becoming louder and more fearsome all the time. Suddenly I saw a piece of white brocade stretched between the heavens and the earth, and a voice saying (idhā qā‘il yaqul), “Take him where no one can see him.” [Lady Amina] said: I saw men standing in the air, holding silver ewers in their hands; I was dropping sweat like pearls, sweeter smelling than fragrant musk. I was saying, “If only Abd al-Muttalib had come to me” – but Abd al-Muttalib was far away. She said: I saw a flock of birds that had come without my noticing from whence they came, until they covered my chamber. Their beaks were made of emerald and their wings of rubies. The veil was lifted from my sight (fa-kushifa lī ‘an basarī) and at that moment I saw the eastern and western horizons of the earth. I saw three banners raised, a banner in the east, a banner in the west, and a banner on top of the Ka’bah. The labor pains seized me and I was in great distress. I felt as if I were leaning against the limbs of women; they became numerous, to the point that it was if there were many hands in the house, but I did not see anything (kuntu ka’annī mustanida ilā arkān al-nisā‘ wa-kathurna ‘alayya hattā ka’anna al-aydī ma’ī fī‘l-bayt wa-anā lā arā shay’an ). I gave birth to Muhammad; when he came out of my womb I turned and looked at him, and lo and behold, I saw him prostrating himself, with his finger raised like one who was pleading and supplicating. Then I saw a white cloud that had come from the sky come down until it covered him and he was concealed from my sight; I heard a voice call out, “Take Muhammad around the east and west of the world; take him into all the oceans, so that they will know his name, his description, and his form, and they will know that in [the oceans] he is called ‘al-Māhi’ (‘the Effacer’), because there is no polytheism but that it will be effaced by him in his time.” Then [the cloud] revealed him again in the twinkling of an eye, and lo, he was clothed in a woollen robe that was whiter than milk, and underneath him was a piece of green silk. He was grasping three keys of brilliant white pearl, and a voice said, “Muhammad has grasped the keys of victory, the keys of the wind, and the keys of prophecy.” Then another cloud, from which the whinnying of horses and the fluttering of wings could be heard, approached until it covered him and he was concealed from my sight. I heard a voice call out, “Take Muhammad around the east and the west, and the birthplaces of the prophets; present him to every being with a spirit (kull ruhānī), whether jinn, human, bird or beast. Give him the contentment (safā) of Adam, the tenderness (riqqa) of Noah, the friendship (khulla) of Abraham, the tongue (lisān) of Ishmael, the good tidings (bushra) of Jacob, the beauty of Joseph, the voice of David, the patience of Job, the renunciation (zuhd) of John, and the magnanimity (karma) of Jesus. Immerse him in the moral qualities of the prophets.” Suddenly a voice said, “Good! Good! Muhammad has grasped all the world, and none of its people remain but that they have entered his grasp.” Then I saw three people, in the hand of one of whom was a silver ewer, in the hand of the second a basin of green emerald, and in the hand of the third a piece of white silk. He unfolded it and took from it a seal that dazzled the eyes of its beholders. He washed it [with water] from that ewer seven times, then sealed between [Muhammad’s] shoulders with the seal and wrapped it in the silk. Then he picked him up and held him between his wings for a while, then returned him to me.”

[1] Other narrations read “the daughters of Abd Manaf. Transmitted from Abu Nu’aym al-Isbahānī in Jalāl al-Din al-Suyutī, al-Khasā‘is al-kubrā aw kifāyat al-tālib al-labīb fī khasā‘is al-habīb, ed. Muhammad Khalīl Harās [Cairo]: Dār al-Kutub al-Hadīthīya, n.d., 1:120-1.

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