Many of you will be aware that the small building known as the Maktabah Makkah al-Mukarramah is regarded as being the location of the birth of the best of all creation, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).
On a trip to the Hijaz last year I was honoured to meet a great Makkan scholar who I was previously unaware of, namely Dr Abd al-Wahab Ibrahim Abu Sulayman. Dr Abd al-Wahab is I am guessing is in his mid to late 70’s and was a student of the great Shaykh Hasan al-Mashat. He also happens to be a member of the committe of senior Saudi scholars and thus holds an important position in scholarly circles.
During my visit to his home I was fortunate enough to hear him discuss a number of issues relating to Maliki fiqh and his research on the birthplace of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) which he mentioned was established accurately without room for any doubt. I thought it may be of benefit to present a summary for English speaking Muslims of Dr Abd al-Wahab’s article on the authenticity of the location of the library . The article was written in an academic fashion and an attempt has been made to present the main findings and evidences in an easy to follow manner.
There has been much discussion surrounding the location of the Maktabah Makka al-Mukarramah and whether this is the location where the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born. Those who have not studied history have spoken on this issue without researching the matter, what follows is a presentation of historical evidences which prove beyond doubt that the knowledge of the precise location of the Prophetic birthplace was recorded and passed down accurately.
It is not difficult to know the place of birth of the noble individuals of a society. From the agreed upon matters in Islamic history is that the family of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) were from the noblest of Qurayshi families and highest of them in rank. Their place of residence in Makka was in the Shiab Bani Hashim which is a well known area in previous and in recent times. Bani Hashim, the family of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) held a position of leadership in the tribe of Quraysh, their children were of special importance, at their head being Muhammad bin Abdullah the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).
His (Allah bless him and give him peace) famly was their most noblest and greatest in rank and therefore were well known. It follows that the birth of al-Mustafa (Allah bless him and give him peace) which was the divine choice for the seal of messengership was a well known matter; whereas the birthplace of ordinary people who have no importance in society can be unknown. There is not the least doubt in the minds of knowledgeable intelligent people and uneducated ordinary people regarding the location of the birthplace of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). For this information is mass transmitted (tawatur) certain knowledge which has been established from records.
We begin this study with some examples – on the basis of citing as evidences and not as an exhaustive list- from the writings of authors in different fields and different sciences who paid attention in detailing/specifying the place in which al-Mustafa (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born in Makkah al-Mukarramah.
The later books of Prophetic biography relate that which the early companions and tabieen recorded in their works, thus it is the narration of trustworthy narrators from trustworthy narrators from trustworthy narrators. The authenticity of these statement is understood by all those who have any experience relating to Islamic heritage, more specifically the collections of the blessed prophetic hadith. Books along, their authors information and relevant quote is presented. Note: Some authors (as is known to those familiar with Islamic works) will first cite the strongest view and then follow it with the weaker opinions on the matter with the phrase ‘it is said’. This practice presents the strongest view to the reader and help identify any weak opinions which might have been mentioned in the past.
Book: Al-Istiab fi Asma’ al-Ashab
Author: The learned scholar and hadith specialist, Abi Umar Yusuf bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Abd al-Barr (d.463 H/1070 C.E)
That which he mentions regarding the birthplace of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the following (13/1),
“Al-Zubair said: He (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born in Makkah in the house which was identified by (being owned by) Muhammad bin Yusuf the brother of al-Hajjaj..”
Book: Rawd al-Unf (A commentary on the sirah of Ibn Hisham)
Author: The learned scholar, jurist and hadith specialist, Abil Qasim Abd al-Rahman bin Abdullah al-Suhayli (d.581H/1185CE)
He said (1/107),
“The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born in the mountain pass (Shiab), and it is said in the house by al-Safa. Afterwards it came in to the posession of of Muhammad bin Yusuf the brother of al-Hajjaj. It was then made in to a masjid by Zubaydah when she came to perform Hajj…”
Note: He first mentioned regarding the birth of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) the strongest view as is the practice of authors and then mentioned the weaker opinion which he prefaced with “it is said”. This is to denote that it is a weak opinion and not relied upon.
Book: Imta’ al-Asma’
Author: The learned scholar and historian, Taqi al-Din Ahmad bin Ali al-Maqrizi (d.885H/1441CE)
He said (1/3),
“Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born in Makkah in the house known as the house of Ibn Yusuf in the mountain pass (Shiab) of Bani Hashim on Monday on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal.”
Book: Subul al-Huda wal-Rashad fi Sirah Khayr al-Ibad
Author: The learned scholar, the Imam, Muhammad bin Yusuf al-Salihi al-Shami (942H/1535CE)
He (1/408) mentioned the strongest opinion which the majority of scholars adhere to which has been mentioned above, after which he cited the weaker opinions on this issue which are not relied upon.
Works on Makkan History
Makkan history has been blessed with a detailed recording of its facts from Makkan authors themselves. From this blessing has been that this history has been preserved not be mere historians but rather by scholars of hadith, jurists and judges who did not pay attention except to matters which were established according to their precise criteria. From these works are:
Book: Akhbar Makkah Wa Ma Ja’a Fiha Min al-Athar
Author: The Shaykh of the Makkan historians, Abi al-Walid Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Ahmad al-Azraqi (d.223H/837CE)
In the course of discussing the historical places in Makkah he said (2/199),
“Mawlid al-Nabi (Allah bless him and give him peace)-meaning-the house in which the Prophet (Allah bless him, his family and give him peace) was born. It is in the home of Muhammad bin Yusuf the brother of al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf. Aqil bin Abi Talib took it when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) migrated. Regarding this and other homes the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said in the year of the farewell pilgrimage ‘Has Aqil left us a place of shade?’ this was when he was asked, ‘Where should we stay O Messenger of Allah?’.
It continued to be in his possession and the possession of his son until he sold it to Muhammad bin Yusuf who entered it in to his home which was called al-Bayda’. It is known today as Ibn Yusuf. His home continued to be part of the larger house until al-Khayzaran performed Hajj, she was the mother of both Khalifah Musa and Harun. She made it in to a masjid which is prayed in and seperated it from the larger house…
Abu Walid narrated to us, he said: I heard my grandfather and Yusuf bin Muhammad affirming the matter regarding the Mawlid, and that it is that house. There is no difference over this amongst the people of Makka.
Abu Walid narrated to us, he said: A man from the people of Makkah called Sulayman bin Abi Marhab the Mawla of Bani Khaytham narrated to us: People who used to live in that house before it was seperated by al-Khayzaran from the larger house and were moved from it when it was made in to a masjid, they said: By Allah we were not afflicted in it by misfortune nor any need. However when we moved from it we have been faced with difficulties.”
Book: Akhbar Makkah fi Qadim al-Dahr wa Hadithuhu
Author: Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin Ishaq al-Fakihi (245H/859CE)
He authored a specific chapter entitled,
“The places where it is recommended to offer prayer in Makkah and the relics of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in it and an explanation of this.”
He further said (4/5),
“The house in which the the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born, in the Dar Ibn Yusuf. This house continued to be part of the larger home until al-Khayzaran the mother of the two Khalifahs Musa and Harun came and converted it in to a masjid to be prayed in, seperating it from the house. Some people of Makkah claim the a person from Makkah called Sulayman bin Abi Marhab would remember: People lived in this house, then moved from it and said, ‘By Allah we were not afflicted with any need nor misfortune when residing in it. When we left we have faced difficulties.’ It is from the most authentic of the relics according to the people of Makkah as verified by their scholars.”
Book: Shifa’ al-Gharam bi Akhbar al-Balad al-Haram
Author: Hafiz Abi al-Tayyib Taqi al-Din Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Ali al-Fasi al-Makki al-Maliki (775-832H)
He said (1/508),
“The place of birth which is called the Mawlid al-Nabi (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the place called Suq al-Layl which is well known to the people of Makkah…”
Note: Allamah al-Fasi mentioned the weaker opinions regarding the place of the blessed mawlid and highlighted they are weak opinions.
Book: Jami’ al-Latif fi Fadl Makkah
Author: Jamal al-Din Muhammad JarAllah bin Muhammad Nur al-Din bin Abi Bakr bin Ali Ibn Zahira al-Qurashi al-Makhzumi (986H/1578CE)
He detailed the places of visitation in Makkah beginning with the place of the blessed Prophetic mawlid saying (p.325),
“From amongst them is the greatest of them, the birthplace of our Master the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). We start with it as it is in Makkah in the place well known as Suq al-Layl well known as the Mawlid al-Nabi (Allah bless him and give him peace).”
Until he said,
“That this is his (Allah bless him and give him peace) birthplace is well known and passed on from generation to generation, transmitted by the later people from the earlier people. The custom in Makkah is that on the night preceding Monday on the 10th of Rabi al-Awwal every year the Shafi Qadi of Makkah visits the blessed place after the Maghrib prayer in a large group. Amongst them being the three Qadis and most of the notable scholars and people of virtue, residents with numerous lamps and large candles along with a large crowd”
Book: Al-Ialam bi Alam Bayt Allah al-Haram fi Tarikh Makkah al-Musharrafah
Author: Muhammad Qutb al-Din bin Ahmad Ala’ al-Din bin Muhammad al-Nahrawali al-Makki better known as al-Qutbi (917-990H/1511-1582CE)
He finished his work by detailing the historical places which have been transmitted down in Makkah with the heading (p.353),
“Epilogue regarding a mention of the blessed places and established locations in Makkah al-Musharaffah.”
He discussed them in detail beginning with a mention of,
“The home of Sayyidah al-Khadijah (Allah be pleased with her), then the birthplace of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), then Dar al-Arqam al-Makhzumi…”
He then proceeded to mention the rest of the places and that which relates to their history and building. Imam al-Qutbi al-Nahrawali limited himself to that which was well known during his time ending his article with the words,
“We have limited ourselves to the well known amongst them”
Book: Al-Araj al-Miski fi Tarikh al-Makki wa Tarajim al-Muluk wal-Khulafa’
Author: Ali bin Abd al-Qadir al-Tabari (d.1070H/1659CE)
He wrote a chapter entitled (p.68),
“Chapter Three: Regarding the well known places in it (Makkah al-Mukarramah) and Masajid”.
“In Makkah and its surrounding areas are well known areas…” -beginning with the mention of the birthplace of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saying that it was-“…at the entrance to Shiab Ali, it is well known and has been mentioned by…”
Book: Manaih al-Karam fi Akhbar Makkah wal-Bayt wal-Wulat al-Haram
Author: Ali bin Taj al-Din bin Taqi al-Din al-Sanjari (1057-1125H/1647-1713CE)
He mentioned the the locations to be visited in Makkah and recorded them by writing (1/440),
“There are a number of locations and places of visitation in Makkah which have been mentioned by the historians in their detailed works. A mention of some of them where needed…”
He then went on to detail it by saying,
“His (Allah bless him and give him peace) birth: It was on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal according to the well known opinion. He was born in the birthplace (Mawlid) which is well known in the year of the elephant, and their is agreement upon this…”
Book: Tahsil al-Maram fi Akhbar al-Bayt al-Haram
Author: Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Salim bin Umar al-Makki al-Maliki, better known as Ibn al-Sabbagh (d.1321/1903CE)
He wrote (2/586),
“Chapter Three: Regarding the places where dua is accepted in Makkah al-Musharrafah, its sanctuary and nearby areas…”
He then said,
“Qadi Majd al-DIn al-Shirazi mentioned in his book ‘Al-Wasl wal-Muna’ other places in Makkah and its sanctuary where dua is accepted because it is related from al-Naqqash the Mufassir that he said in his work on Hajj rites: Dua is accepted upon Thabir, Masjid al-Kabsh and others added in Masjid al-Khayf…”
Until he said,
“And in the house of Khadijah the wife of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the night preceding Friday and in the birthplace (Mawlid) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) on Monday at the time of Zawal…”
Book: Al-Iqd al-Thamin fi Fadail al-Balad al-Amin
Author: The learned scholar, historian and hadith specialist Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Hadrawi (1252-1327H)
He dedicated his third chapter (p.102-108) to the historical places in Makkah counting 31 places including mention of locations linked to the companions (Allah be pleased with them all). He included all that was mentioned by the earlier scholars, sifting through authentic and weak opinions and indentifying them as such.
Book: Ifadah al-Anam bi Dhikr Akhbar BaladAllah al-Haram
Author: The learned scholar and hadith specialist Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Ghazi al-Makki al-Hanafi (1290-1365H/1873-1945CE)
He presented a number of chapters on this subject in a detailed manner and cited most of that which the previous Makkan authors had recorded. Examples are his third chapter which is (2/37-62),
“A mention of the established blessed masajid.”
Also chapter four which is (2/67-85),
“A mention of the well known places in Makkah relating to births.”
There is no doubt that these trustworthy authors words carry weight, as the majority of them were from the specialists of hadith (Muhaddithin), jurists (Fuqaha), judges and people of knowledge from Makkah al-Mukarramah who had lived there since their childhood (if they were Makkan born), or its scholars who had taken up permanent residence. Their words regarding the location of the birthplace of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reliable transmitted information by which certain knowledge is established (tawatur al-ilmi) in its most clear and manifest form. There is no need for additional quotes and references, as those who require further references can refer specifically to the books of Hajj rites authored by the Makkan scholars.
It is known that the passing down of information from generation to generation is a method of the establishment of facts according to the scholars, and as highlighted by Ibn al-Qayyim in his work Ialam al-Muwaqqien (2/273).
Legal Confirmation Regarding the Library Being Located on the Site of the Prophetic Birth
A large group of people from the later generation transmit from the previous generation consisting of the sons and residents of Makkah regarding the specification of the locations which has been transmitted & established. They are well known to the people of Makkah and well known between their scholars and common people. Most of them were standing and observable before the expansion of the Haram al-Sharif in the year 1375H and the following expansions. The specification and confirmation of the location have been cited in this article from the statements of the previous scholars.
A recent affirmation of the location of the Prophetic birthplace is the ruling of the High Shariah Court of Makkah al-Mukarramah regarding this blessed place is deed number 140 in the fourth volume dated Jamadi al-Akhirah 1373H/1 February 1954. The deed was affirmed by the head of the Shariah High Court of the time Shaykh Abdullah bin Umar bin Duhaysh for the building of the library which stands on this place today.
The salient features of the wording of this deed which point to the widespread acceptance of this location being that of the prophetic birth are:
First: Shaykh Abdullah bin Duhaysh affirmed the location and its description by saying that it was,
“…well known as the Mawlid al-Nabi (Allah bless him and give him peace) in Shiab Ali in the area of Souq al-Layl, which is well known in its area to the extent that it does not require it to be specified nor described..”
It should be noted that no witnesses needed to be called either for this legal document due to the common knowledge of the location of the Prophetic birth.
Second: His Majesty King Abd al-Aziz (Allah have mercy on him) took the step of establishing a general library in this blessed place after consulting senior scholars over this.
Thus it is established clearly through mass transmitted information that the current Maktabah Makkah al-Mukarramah in its current location is the place where the noblest of creation our Master Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born.
To reaffirm this Dr Abd al-Wahab Ibrahim Abu Sulayman met with one Shaykh Ahmad Nasar, who is an elderly reliable person of the neighbourhood where the library stands who spent his whole life from birth to old age in the neighbourhood. He is similar to what we would describe as a councillor for the area where the library is located. He was asked a number of questions to further confirm this established evidence which exists regarding the location of the Prophetic birth. His answers to the questions left no doubt regarding that this location is indeed the birthplace of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Indeed the saying holds true, namely,”The people of Makkah are most knowledgeable of its mountain passes.”
Here ends the summary of the article originally authored by Dr Abd al-Wahab Ibrahim Abu Sulaiman, may Allah protect him, give him health, increase him in good deeds and allow us to benefit from him further. Amin