Search for a Foster Mother
According to the customs prevalent among the Makkan elites a few days after birth the new-born babies were entrusted to the custody of rural womenfolk who specialized in the art of nursing the babies such desert-living ladies would visit Makkah periodically in caravans to carry away foster babies of their choices. They would then engage themselves in their feeding and upbringing in the free and bracing environment of the desert. When the foster babies grew a bit older they were returned to their parents. Foster mothers were rewarded by parents for their service.
few days Prophet’s birth caravan foster mothers hailing from the neighbouring desert had entered Makkah city in search of foster babies. Old and emaciated Haleema Saadia was one of those in that group of foster mothers. It so happened that virtually everyone succeeded in getting a baby. Haleema however, was still without one. In fact, lady Amina had discussed the proposition of her baby’s adoption with practically every foster mother. Everyone, however, had declined to adopt baby Muhammad. The had apprehended that the prospects of reward in the deal of an orphan foster child were rather bleak and dubious.
When Amina tried to persuade Haleema for the job she too felt quite reluctant. After all what shall she do with a fatherless child in the lap of a helpless widow? How would a widow manage to pay proper remuneration for the painstaking services of a foster mother? As those calculations and apprehensions weighed rather heavily with Haleema she too had refused to adopt baby Muhammad despite the fact that she happened to be the only foster mother who had failed to hold of any baby.
All the deals for foster babies over the caravan soon began to prepare for a retreat to the desert Haleema’s lap was as empty as ever before. She was in a fix. She held hurried consultations with Harith, her equally good-natured husband. Why not adopt Muhammad whom none was willing to carry? Some thing was certainly better than nothing. Instead of returning home empty-handed why not take a poor child? Harith appreciated the idea. Supporting his wife’s proposal he said, “yes, I agree with you. Who knows this measure may be a blessing in disguise for us.” Accordingly Haleema went back to lady Amina. The matter was settled amicably and Haleema picked up aby Muhammad
Lean Pony and Old Camel
After the formal agreement Haleema and Harith began to pack up for the return journey along with the rest of the caravan. They had only a lean pony for riding and an old she-camel for milk. At that time Makkah’s neighbourhood was in tight grips of severe drought and famine. Animal fodder was hard to find. While on way to Makkah Haleema had experienced great hardship in riding her lean and famished pony. Throughout the journey she had lagged behind her fellow-travellers again and again. She had been the butt of their jokes and taunts for the annoyingly sluggish pace her famished pony had kept all along the way.
The deal having been struck with lady Amina, Haleema had picked up Muhammad. When she hugged the bright baby she was amazed to find that her erstwhile dry breast became wet all of a sudden. Baby Muhammad sucked her breast to his full. Along with him Haleema’s own son and now Muhammad’s foster brother, also had the mother’s milk to his satisfaction. Their tummies full with milk the two babies slept peacefully. Haleema felt amazed as well as happy over the unexpected shape of things. She remembered full well that the previous night she had to keep awake because her hungry baby, who could not be breast-fed, had been crying all the time. He could not be fed on old she camel’s milk either as she too was dry.
As Harith went near the aging she-camel he found her udders overflowing with milk. When milked it gave plenty of the stuff. Both he and his wife drank to their entire satisfaction. That night they enjoyed quite a peaceful sleep.
Waking up next morning the first thing Harith said was: “Haleema, I have begun to realize that the baby in our custody appears to be some blessed soul because we are being showered with Divine bounties ever since we adopted him.” When they were all set for the return journey Haleema rode her lean pony and took baby Muhammad in her lap. They then joined the retreating caravan of the foster mothers.
It so happened that the very lean pony which while coming to Makkah had been lagging behind began to trot faster and faster. It ran ahead of all others. So much so that the other vomen had to shout again and again: “O Haleema, be steady. That does not seem to be the same lean and lanky pony on whom you started your journey with us when we had set out for Makkah.” Haleema’s repeated assurances that it was the same animal would convince none.
Towards the sunset that memorable day Haleema reached her tent in the desert safe and sound with baby Muhammad clinging firmly to her breast.