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The tomb of Amena Bent Wahb “the prophet’s mother”. | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The tomb of Amena Bent Wahb

The tomb of Amena Bent Wahb

The tomb of Amena Bent Wahb

Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat- 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, 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 by removing the tomb away from the people and archaeologists. 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” which means damaged place, named after 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. Some are keen to color the stones in green while others cover the surface of the grave with folds of green cloth out of respect to the Prophet’s mother and to seek closeness to her orphan child, the last of prophets (PBUH).

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 behavior 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 honors 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 clashing between the visitors and the persistence of the villagers. 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. We would feel terrible when those visitors turn their faces away from us asking, “What kind of hospitality is this?” 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 mountain contradicting historical and biographical books that mention that her grave is situated among many others. 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”.

However, 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 in the village, but I cannot confirm that it holds 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 beginnings of Islamic history such as the remains of old wells and 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 and hoping to reach 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.

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 said, “among these tombs is the tomb of the prophet’s mother but no one knows the exact location within 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. 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 is situated on the road to Hajj. Everyone viewing this place is amazed at how the older generations 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 straw and pebbles to protect the heads of by passers from falling stones and dust. 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 was built 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 traveling Bedouins used to settle down with their animals when summer would approach. Many old shallow wells are situated nearby, the most famous of which 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 on his way to Medina and spent the night, 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 one can 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 dusty hot air 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 washed there, and was given a donkey as a present from villagers. He said that he read in the classical books that the first Islamic military operation that the prophet (PBUH) took part 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 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 sadly, &#34Saudis 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 and that demonstrate the beginnings of our Islamic history.”

According to a number of biographical accounts of the prophets life (Sirah) that mention both his parents, the land of Al-Abwaa is where the remains of the prophet’s mother lie, however we did not stop at what is referred to as 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 but 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 delaying the journey of the caravan for days. 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, &#34everyone 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 joined him until we reached the graves. He gave us an order and we sat down. He passed the graves until he arrived to one of them and sat and whispered to it. Then he was sobbing loudly 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, &#34Oh, messenger of Allah, what made you cry, for it made us cry and panic? He took Omar’s hand gestured and said, &#34did you panic at my crying?&#34 We said &#34yes, messenger of Allah.&#34 He then said two or three times 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 (companions) Lady Berka Bent Tha’labah (Omm Ayman), the prophet’s nursemaid, was with Amena Bent Wahb when she went to visit Bani Annagar in Medina, the uncles of his grandfather Abdul Muttaleb. However, on her way back to Mecca, she fell ill 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 kindly cared for him just as his grandfather Abdul Muttaleb filled had and Allah Almighty gave the Prophet (PBUH) the tenderness of his grandfather and Omm Ayman to make up for the loss of his parents.