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Guarding the Ka`bah, Watering and Feeding the Pilgrims

All people of Makkah in general and chieftains of Quraish in particular have realized their duties towards the Ka`bah and its pilgrims. They thought they were invested with the rights of sacredness and choice over all the Arabs because they were chosen by God to be the neighbors of the Sacred House. They also considered themselves the people of the House and its guardians as well as they knew the importance of their land and what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Honor and Sacredness. Thereby, they co-operated to shoulder their responsibilities towards the pilgrims regarding them as guests of Allah’s House in their land.

At that time, there were fifteen outstanding posts in (the tribe of) Quraish which they distributed among its clans to guarantee balance and peace and to prevent struggle and competition amongst them over these posts. Also, they aimed to secure the necessary peace and tranquility to encourage pilgrims and traders to come to Makkah every year. The most honorable of these posts were guarding the House, watering and feeding the pilgrims.

As for the post of guarding the House, its holder guards, maintains, retains the Ka`bah’s keys, opens its door for people and closes it. This is absolutely the most unparalleled post. The second post is the right of watering the pilgrims. This task was not an easy one because of the scarcity of water in Makkah. The one who assumes this right used to establish cisterns of leather in the precinct of the Sanctuary to which he transfers fresh water from the wells around Makkah on camels. The right of watering the pilgrims was invested with Banu Hashim Ibn `Abd Manaf. The third post is the right of feeding (i.e. levying a tax to provide for the pilgrims). The one invested with this right used to levy a tax from notables of Quraish every year to provide food for those of the pilgrims who were too poor to provide for themselves regarding them as guests of the Ka`bah. Qusayy Ibn Kilab was the first to assume this right. Then it moved to Banu Nawfal, then to Banu Hashim. Maintenance of the Sacred House is also amongst the highest posts which are connected to the Ka`bah. It means not to let any obscenity, or wickedness, or wrangling in the Sanctuary.

Quraish spared no effort to encourage pilgrims from all over the world to come to Makkah. They used to stand on the side of the oppressed and to deal justly with people. For the furtherance of justice and the protection of the weak, they had signed a pact of chivalry that henceforth, at every act of oppression in Makkah, they stand together as one man on the side of the oppressed against the oppressor until justice is done, whether the oppressed was a man of Quraish or one who had come from abroad.

Qusayy Ibn Kilab, the founder of Quraish, assumed the right of levying a tax from its notables to provide for the pilgrims. His posterity inherited this right after his death. So it became a hereditary tradition. Ibn Hisham defined the right of levying a tax to provide for the pilgrims saying that they paid Qusayy Ibn Kilab a tax every year on their flocks, so that he might feed those of the pilgrims who were too poor to provide for themselves. When Qusayy firstly imposed this tax on Quraish, he said, “O men of Quraish, you are God’s neighbors, the people of His House and the people of the Sanctuary; and at this feast come to you God’s visitors, the pilgrims to His House. They are God’s guests, and no guests have such claim on your generosity as His guests. So, provide them with food and drink in seasons of Hajj so that they may talk of your generosity.” They voluntarily agreed to pay him a tax every year from their properties to provide food for the pilgrims.

Qusayy ruled over them all as king, with undisputed power. He assumed the posts of guarding the House, watering the pilgrims, providing for the pilgrims, he also lead the House of the Assembly and the ensign of war. Qusayy Ibn Kilab ordered people of Quraish to build their houses near the Ka`bah and to leave enough space for circumambulation around the Ka`bah.

Three children were born to Qusayy; they are `Abd Ad-Dar, `Abd Manaf and `Abd Al-`Uzza. `Abd Ad-Dar was his eldest son, but `Abd Manaf was the most honored and the highly respected in his people. Qusayy preferred his first-born, `Abd Ad-Dar, and shortly before his death he said to him, “My son, none shall enter the Ka`bah except that you open it for him, and no hand but thine shall knot for Quraish their ensign of war, nor shall any pilgrim draw water for drink in Makkah except it be of thy providing, nor shall Quraish resolve upon any matter except it be in thy house.”

After the death of Qusayy, `Abd Ad-Dar and then his posterity assumed all these posts. But very soon, sons of `Abd Manaf Ibn Qusayy, `Abd Shams, Hashim, Al-Muttalib and Nawfal, disputed with sons of `Abd Ad-Dar regarding these rights and demanded that they should be transferred to their clans. This dispute divided clans of Quraish and they were about to go to war when a compromise was suggested, and it was agreed that the sons of `Abd Manaf Ibn Qusayy should have the rights of levying the tax and providing the pilgrims with food and drink, whereas the sons of `Abd Ad-Dar Ibn Qusayy should retain the keys of the Ka`bah, the ensign of war and their other rights, and that their house should continue to be the House of the Assembly.

Hashim’s brothers agreed that he should have the responsibility of levying the tax and providing for the pilgrims. Once Quraish passed through a period of drought from which they suffered much. Thereby, Hashim traveled to Palestine and bought a large amount of flour and then came back instantly to Makkah to make bread from this flour and then he smashed this bread to be offered to his people. That was why they called him Hashim instead of his original name `Amr. He then slaughtered animals and offered them to his people. Hashim was held in much honor throughout the Arabian Peninsula .

Hashim’s younger brother Al-Muttalib took over the rights of watering the pilgrims and of providing for them after Hashim’s death. When `Abd Al-Muttalib grew old, he was involved in disputes over his father’s posts: but with the help of his maternal uncles from Banu An-Najjar, `Abd Al-Muttalib was able to restore his father’s posts. Ibn Hisham mentioned the outstanding position of `Abd Al-Muttalib saying, “`Abd Al-Muttalib took over the rights of feeding and watering the pilgrims and levying the tax to provide for them after his uncle’s death. It was even said that he surpassed his forefathers in the fulfillment of this task. He became the most outstanding among his people and he was held in much respect and honor.

`Abd Al-Muttalib shouldered the heavy responsibility of feeding and watering the pilgrims. He suffered much in providing the necessary amounts of water for the pilgrims and the newcomers to Makkah; especially that Makkah passed by a long period of drought during which there was scarcity of rains and the wells around Makkah were about to dry up while they were near the season of Hajj. One night, `Abd Al-Muttalib saw a vision that led him to discover the old place of the Well of Zamzam. `Abd Al-Muttalib along with his son Al-Harith came out to the place where he knew that he must dig. They succeeded in their endeavor and water gushed forth from this Sacred Well to provide water generously for the pilgrims and the people of Makkah.

While digging the Well of Zamzam, `Abd Al-Muttalib found a treasure for Maddad Al-Jurhumi who had previously buried it in this well and filled it up (with earth) when he had been forced to leave Makkah and so that his enemies shall not find it. Also, he was unable to carry this treasure with him to his exile. With the passing of years, this treasure was hidden under heaped up sands. People of Quraish disputed with `Abd Al-Muttalib regarding this treasure and claimed the right to a share in it. `Abd Al-Muttalib agreed that lots should be cast to put an end to this dispute.

The treasure included two pieces of gold in the shape of gazelles, swords and coats of mail. The process of divining arrows resulted in that the two pieces of gold went to the Ka`bah, whereas the swords and the coats of mail went to `Abd Al-Muttalib who made of these swords a door to the Ka`bah and then hanged the two gold pieces over this door.

After the discovery of the Well of Zamzam, `Abd Al-Muttalib had become transferring water from it to the nearby cisterns surrounding the Ka`bah. He used to desalinate this water with dried dates and raisins since his son Al-`Abbas had gardens of grapes in (the nearby town of) At-Ta’if and he used to provide his father with the necessary needs from raisins.

Up till now, the rights of guarding the House, watering the pilgrims and providing for them are unparalleled honors.

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