Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Al-Abwaa’ (south of Al-Medina Al-Munawwarah): | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

On the old Hijra road between Mecca and Medina, on an old famous rocky hill, it is believed that there is where the tomb of Amena Bent Wahb, the prophet’s mother (PBUH) lies.

In the past few years, the old controversy over the reality of the burial place was revived. The argument was soon ended when a group of extremists settled it and removed the tomb off the ground, away from the people, archaeologists as well as disturbing history. In the middle of a wide valley, Al-Abwaa’ village (210 km south of Al-Medina) is famous for being the most important stop on the old road to pilgrimage. This is due to its abundance of water and plants that satisfy the needs of those performing either the Hajj pilgrimage or Umrah pilgrimage. The area is now known as “Al-Khreibah” (damaged place) as a result of the damage caused by violent floods.

Although it contains many old wells, the most famous is “Bin Mibeirek” though their waters are now shallow and undrinkable. They are also surrounded by archaeological rest houses.

Folks in Abwaa’ have no doubt that lady Amena took her last breath somewhere in their ancient village on her way back from Yathrib (Al-Medina) to Mecca. However they cannot determine the exact place where she was buried.

Most visitors of Abwaa’, who usually come on religious occasions, are those on the pilgrimage coming from India, Pakistan, South East Asian

countries, Iran, Egypt and many others. They would visit the resting place of prophet’s mother due to their customs and traditions loaded with incenses, musk, small scented wooden sticks, ambergris, and different types of perfumes to decorate the gravestones with. Some are keen to colour the stones in green while others cover the surface of the grave with folds of green cloth out of respect of the Prophet’s mother and seeking closeness to her orphan child, the last of prophets may peace be upon him.

Followers of the Shiite Jaferi sect are committed to constantly visiting the village because as well as the importance of the grave; it is the birthplace of Imam Mousa Al-Kadhem (in the 128th year of Hijra) the grandson of the Prophet’s (PBUH) grandson.

Many of the villagers are outraged, especially the stronger followers of the religion, by the customs of those visitors and their behaviour in glorifying

tombs, an act that is banned in Islam. Their anger usually causes violence and verbal clashes with those who behave in this exaggerated way in order to prevent them from any sort of action that honours tombs. These villagers believe that this is a form of idolatry and the worship of another besides Allah. All this paved the way for the removing of the famous tomb.

Uncomfortably, Rashed Al-Yubi (Abu Sa’d) retells stories about the attitudes of when the visitors and the persistence of the village folk met. The villagers would try to explain that what these people do at graves deviates from the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) and endangers their faith. He said, “They wouldn’t listen to our advice and honesty of wanting nothing but good for them. The worst behaviour was when those visitors turn their faces away from us asking, “is this your hospitality?” With remarkable confidence, Sheikh Salem AL-Mohammady, an elderly chief of Al-Abwaa village, confirms that the prophet’s mother was buried in Abwaa. But the famous tomb on top of the hill cannot be related to her. He justifies by saying, “the tomb lies alone on top of a mount contrary to what books of history and biographies mention about her burial among many tombs. He added, “what is confirmed is that as the prophet (PBUH) was passing by Al-Abwaa with a group of his Sahaba (companions), he passed by various tombs to stop by one of them, before he told his friends that it was the tomb of his mother Amena Bent Wahb”. But the question is that if the famous tomb is claimed to be in the village, where is its exact location?

Al-Mohammady answered after much reluctance, “There’s an old tomb known as (Omm Othman) which is the oldest tomb known in the village, but I cannot confirm that it encloses the body of the prophet’s mother (PBUH).” When asked who Omm Othman was, the woman who may be better known than the prophet’s mother, Al-Mohammady only stretched his lips and shrugged his shoulders, implying that he knows nothing about the whole matter.

Within seven continuous hours, Abu Sa’d, the guide who knows every intricate detail about the area, crossed Al-Abwaa valley with us, one of the largest valleys in the Tuhami Hijaz area. We stopped many times at evidence of the infancy of the Islamic history, remains of old wells, ancient mosques which had nothing left of them but a few arrangements of stones specifying their old location where it was reported that the Prophet (PBUH) had performed prayer. Visitors ask to go there for the honour of following the footsteps of the Prophet and the blessings of praying in them.

The tires of our car penetrated the borders and sand hills at a high speed, Leaving behind them clouds of sand and dust with the hope of reaching their destination before sunset. It was obvious how keen the guide was to get us lost in this wide desert so that no one would know the way back to it. Before we became concerned about getting there at all, Abu Sa’d pointed his finger and in a hesitating voice leading us towards what seemed like an old tomb in the heart of the valley and saying “among these tombs is the tomb of the prophet’s mother but no one knows the exact location among the corners of these stony areas.”

There was nothing to indicate that this was an old tomb but the Remains of stones that were consumed by time and neglect, scattered here and there above this open part of the valley. The tomb, on the whole, is not by any means distinguished from the sandy space surrounded by small thorny trees, except that its herbs and grass are greener or so they seem to onlookers. Not far from the place, it stands loftily, towards the south, cloaked in black.

There are various archaeological areas in the village especially in the Southern part towards Mecca where “Reea Harsha” lies. Reea Harsha is a high mountain that stands on the road to Hajj. Everyone viewing this place is taken by amazement at how older populations were able, using their primitive tools, to dig an eight-meter wide road in a solid volcanic mountain, to clear the way for pilgrims. They added to it by establishing a stonewall known as “Radhm” carefully arranged and aligned on the sides of the road. Nearly six meters above it, is a thick crust of a mix of soil, straw and pebbles to protect the heads of by passers from falling stones and dust over their heads. Abu Saad confirms that Reea Harsha was the most difficult stage on the old hajj road. At the bottom of the hill to the north the white mosque is erected close to the place where the village dwellers believe the prophet (PBUH) performed prayer.

To the north of Al-Abwaa valley there is an area known as “Al-Ased” which is an open range where travelling Bedouins used to settle down with their farm animals at when summer would approach. Many old shallow wells lie close to it; the most

famous of them is “Bin Mebeirek”. Wells are usually found at rest points on the old hajj road where travellers would sit and drink water during their travel from Mecca to Medina.

We left Al-Ased behind us and headed towards a site called “Tal’at aby Sareeha” which is the place where the prophet PBUH stopped his animal on his way to Medina and spent the night there, as local people confirm. As usual, nothing indicated the history and importance of the place, but it is still preserved in the hearts of the inhabitants, generation after generation. The richness of natural life in the valley attracts the visitor’s eye. On the branches of Acacias and Lotus trees (Christ’s thorn) you see the nests of a bird locally known as “Suwaid Abal-An’am” which is woven in a marvellous ball-like shape with straw and feathers.

It has openings towards the east so that hot air loaded with dust will not enter as a protection to eggs and newborns. Among the famous birds in Al-Abwaa are “Al-Qamary”, “Al-Naghazy” and “Al-Sa’ow”.

In a pasture of thick grass and trees, behind a small mount, Sheikh Salem Yusuf Ateyya Abu Galey Al-Mohammad, the elderly chief of Al-Abwaa, sat drinking coffee alone on a sofa covered with sheep leather. In front of him, there was a bowl full of dates mixed with purified natural butter in pearl millet seed flour. He was watching one of his shepherds while working and driving sheep herds into their barns before sunset. Behind him, around a high tower, the wings of pigeon flocks were flapping around the openings of their high nests.

The Sheikh told tales about his ancient village where around five thousand people live, most of them are from the tribes of Harb, Banu Mohamed, Bani Ayoub Men al-beladiyah, Al-Yubi, Al-Mohammady and Anno’many and Assadah. Most inhabitants work in agriculture. It is famous for tomato plants, okra, melons, and other crops like barley and vegetables. Schools at different educational levels are available for girls and boys. The area also includes a health centre offering medical care for its inhabitants who are well known for the support that they give each other. They are also known for kindness, hospitality and noble Arab customs.

Sheikh Mohammady says that Al-Abwaa is full of monuments. The prophet (PBUH) and his friends passed by it many times. There are two mosques where it is confirmed that he performed prayer in. It was also reported that he showered there, and was given a donkey as a present from villagers.

He said that he read in the classical books that the first military expedition that the prophet (PBUH) went through in Islam was in Al-Abwaa, twelve months after his arrival at Medina. It was in the month of Safar, during which he never fought and was never injured. The prophet remained in Al-Abwaa for the rest of the month and went back in the month of Rabeea Al-Awwal. His flag in this battle was white and was held by Hamza Ibn Abdel Muttaleb (May Allah Be Pleased with him). Agreement was made in a place called “Shu’ayb Garooh” which is still known by this name until today.

He added that old books mention that the prophet (PBUH) spent the night in a place that is known as Omm Mureikha”. He then went to “Omm Al-Barak” on his way to “Al- Mosejeid”. This was the old route of Hijra. Sheikh Mohammady didn’t hide his feelings concerning the neglect of the Hijra path, which needs more attention and repair, because of the parts that were buried or disappeared. He said in apparent sadness: “Saudis travel each year abroad and care for visiting monuments on their tourist travels. It is more important that we take care of the monuments in our cities and villages that contain archaeological treasures that demonstrate the beginnings of our Muslim history.”

According to a number of biographical accounts of the prophets life (Sirah) that mention both his parents agree that the land of Al-Abwaa is where the

remains of the prophet’s mother lie, but we didn’t stop at what refers to the place of the tomb of the prophet’s father (PBUH).

Historical literary works relate that the reason for her burial in Al-Abwaa is that Abdullah, the prophet’s father (PBUH) had set out for Medina to get dates and died there. His wife, Amena used to go visit his grave in Medina every year with Abdul Muttaleb and Omm Ayman the prophet’s nursemaid (PBUH).

When she was in Al-Abwaa leaving for Mecca, she died there. It is also claimed that Abu Taleb, the prophet’s uncle visited his uncles, Bani An-Naggar in Medina and took Amena with him. On his way back to Mecca she died in Al-Abwaa.

In his book “This is Fatimah Al-Zahraa”, Doctor Mohamed Abdu Yamani,

Former Saudi minister of mass media, mentioned that lady Amena Bent Wahb was with one of the caravans on her way back to Mecca after visiting her husband’s grave in Medina. “There in Al-Abwaa a fierce storm blew that delayed the set out of the caravan for days. The lady Amena became weaker with illness and unable to walk. She died in the arms of her dear son. Her last words to him were: “everyone who is alive is dead and everything that is new is fading and every great thing is decaying”. He said farewell to her dear body in the area of Al-Abwaa”. In this literary work of exceptional quality, he mentioned the story of the prophet’s visit to his mother’s grave forty years after her loss. He mentions a saying of the prophet, “Abdullah Ibn Mass’oud said: the prophet went out and we went out with him till we reached the graves. He gave us an order and we sat down. He passed the graves till he arrived to one of them and sat and long whispered to it then he was loudly sobbing so we cried with him (PBUH). Then he came towards us (PBUH) and Omar Ibn AL-khattab received him (may Allah be pleased with him) and said: Oh, messenger of Allah, what made you cry, for it made us cry and panic? He took Omar’s hand gestured and said: did you panic at my crying? We said: yes, messenger of Allah. He said two or three times then that the grave you saw me whispering to is of my mother Amena Bent Wahb, I asked the Lord for permission to visit her and he allowed me”. It was mentioned in the biography of the Sahabah (companion) woman Berka Bent Tha’labah “Omm Ayman”, the prophet’s nursemaid, that she was with Amena Bent Wahb when she went to visit Bani Annagar in Medina, the uncles of his grandfather Abdul Muttaleb, when on her way back to Mecca, she fell sick and died in Al-Abwaa. Omm Ayman came back with the prophet (PBUH) and became his nursemaid and dedicated herself to looking after him. She cared for him with all her kindness just like his grandfather Abdul Muttaleb filled him with love and Allah Almighty gave him the tenderness of his grandfather and Omm Ayman to make up for the loss of his parents.