Blessings of Orphan
The orphan brings many spiritual, material and emotional blessings (baraka) to whoever cares for them. The story of Halima, a wet-nurse from the clan of Sa’d, illustrates this perfectly.
It was an Arab custom to place new-born babies in the care of a wet-nurse from a desert tribe. The idea was that the child would grow up in the natural environment of the desert, learning the ways of the Arabs and the purest form of Arabic before settling in the city with its parents. Halima was from one such Bedouin clan, and it became her destiny that she was to care for the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Story of Halima Sa’diyyah
In the year in which Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was born, the Bedouin clan of Sa’d arrived in Makkah. Among their women was Halima, who was accompanied by her husband and baby son. They had always suffered great poverty, but this year had been particularly difficult because of famine. The donkey that carried her to Makkah was so weak from hunger that it often stumbled. Halima's baby cried all the time because she could not feed him properly, and their old she-camel failed to produce milk.
All the women of the clan of Sa’d found a child to take back with them, but not Halima. There was one baby left in Makkah, the orphaned Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). As it was customary for the baby’s father to pay the wet-nurses, none of the women would take the orphan. Halimah said to her husband, “I don’t like that I should be the only woman of our clan to return without a baby, I want to take that orphan”. Her husband agreed, adding, “Perhaps it will be that Allah will bless us because of him.”
She said, "When I went to get him he was wearing a woolen dress, whiter than milk. A fragrance of musk spread from him. He lay on his back in sleep, underneath him a piece of green silk. I did not like to wake him because of his beauty and grace, but I came close to him and put my hand on his chest. He smiled and opened his eyes. I kissed him between his eyes and put him to my right breast which gave him all the milk he wanted. Then I placed him on the left, but he refused. That was the way he always was. After he was satisfied, I gave my son his fill. As soon as I brought him to my camp, both my breasts began pouring milk. By Allah's grace, Muhammad drank until he was satisfied (Allah bless him and give him peace), as did his brother. My husband went to our old camel for milk, and lo, it was full. He milked enough for both of us to drink our fill and we had a wonderful night. Later my husband said, “Oh Halima, it looks like you have picked a blessed soul. We spent the first night in blessings and bounties, and Allah continues to give us more and more ever since we chose him.” (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Orphan Brings Rain
This theme of the apparently helpless orphan bringing unseen benefits returns several times in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Once during a drought some men of Quraish came to Abu Talib and said, “Oh Abu Talib, the valley is parched and our families are suffering. Let us go and pray for rain.” Abu Talib came out, and with him was a young orphan boy who looked like the sun after the clouds have cleared.
He was surrounded by other young children. Abu Talib led him to the Ka’ba and had him stand with his back against it. Although the sky did not hold even a tiny cloud, as soon as the young boy lifted his hands, clouds began to arrive from every direction and it rained. The valley blossomed in Mecca and the desert became fertile. Abu Talib composed the following verses about this:
"To this dazzling one
falls the rain for the sake his face.
He is the orphan’s refuge
and the widow’s shelter"
(Ibn Asakir narrated this from Jalhama ibn Urfuta)
The Orphan Brings Tranquillity
This idea of the orphan bringing unexpected benefits is not restricted to the person of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Once, a man whose heart was weighed down with gloom approached the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to complain of his state. The holy Prophet advised him to stroke the head of an orphan, and in that simple act he would find tranquillity. (Hadith Ahmad)