It’s been recorded in Hujjatullahi ala al-Alameen and Taarikh Ibn Asaakir that 1,000 years before the arrival of the Holy Prophet SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam, the King of Yemen (Tabaa Awwal Hamīri) assembled 12,000 of his scholars and officials, 132,000 horsemen, and 113,000 foot soldiers to accompany him on a tour of his kingdom. During this expedition, they arrived in the city of Makkah and were surprised to find none of its residents interested in coming out to salute them. When the king enquired from his officials as to the reason for this, his prime-minister responded,
“There’s a structure in this city called ‘the House of Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta’ala’ which people from all over – way more than this army, in fact – come to pay their respects towards and to the city’s residents. Why then would they concern themselves with this measly procession?”
The king became infuriated upon hearing this and swore,
“I’ll tear that structure down and have all of these people killed!”
He then suddenly found blood emerging from his eyes, nose and mouth (along with a liquid so horrendous in smell that no-one in his company could bear sitting next to him). After seeking help from his numerous doctors to cure this condition of his (all to no avail), one of his priests finally stepped forward and said,
“O King! This sickness is from the Heavens, while we possess cures only from the Earth. The only way to rid yourself of it is to seek forgiveness for any bad intention you may have had recently.”
So, the king repented from his earlier plans against the Kaaba and the Makkans and immediately found his condition return to its normal state again! Unable to contain his happiness, he then ordered for a silk covering to be prepared and draped over the Kaaba, before presenting every resident of the city with wealth and some silk clothing.
The army then proceeded to Madinah al-Munawwarah. Upon their arrival, those that were scholars of the Heavenly Books examined its sand, stones and landscape and immediately recognized the area to be the future residence of the Final Prophet SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam. For this reason, they turned to their king and said,
“We’d rather die than leave this city! Should fortune favour us, the Final Messenger will one day arrive and bless us with his companionship. Otherwise, the sand from his feet will surely land on our graves, and this will be sufficient for our salvation.”
So, the king built 400 houses for them in the city, and in the region of his chief-priest’s residence, he constructed a few houses better than the others (intending that when the Holy Prophet SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam did arrive, he’d choose to stay in one of them). After then giving them enough money to begin their new lives, the king gave a letter to his main priest with the following instruction,
“Give this to the Prophet if you see him in your lifetime. If not, keep it in your family until he arrives.”
This letter passed from generation to generation in the priest’s family (for 1,000 years) until it finally came into the hands of the famous Companion, Hadrat Abu Ayyub al-Ansaari Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu (who requested his servant, Abu Layla, to safeguard it). Written in it was the following,
‘From the most insignificant creation, Tabaa Awwal Hamīri, to the Intercessor of Sinners & Leader of Prophets Alaihim as-Salam, Muhammadur-Rasoolullah SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam. O Beloved of Allah SallAllaho Alaika wa Sallam, I bring faith upon you, the book which will be revealed to you, and the religion that you will propagate. Should I see you in my lifetime, it would only be my good fortune. Otherwise, I ask that you intercede for me and do not forsake me. I’m from your first Ummah and also pledge allegiance (بيعة) to you. I hereby testify that Allah is One and that you are his true Messenger SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam.’
When the Prophet neared Madinah al-Munawwarah at the end of his migration, its residents were so ecstatic to meet him that they came out in large numbers, decorating and tidying their homes and streets, all with the intention of having the blessed Messenger choose to stay with them over everyone else.
Since he did not want to show favour to one family over another, Sayyiduna Rasoolullah entered the city and said,
“Leave the nose-string of my camel and let it to walk freely. Wherever it stops, I’ll stay there.”
In this way, the camel roamed for a short while until it finally stopped outside the house of Hadrat Abu Ayyub al-Ansaari Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu (who was, incidentally, staying in the very same residence built by the King of Yemen 1,000 years earlier!). When his servant, Abu Layla, presented himself before the Prophet SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam, Rasoolullah SallAllao Alaihi wa Sallam noticed him and said,
“You’re Abu Layla; I’m the Messenger of Allah. Give me the King’s letter.”
Rasoolullah was then presented with the letter; and after reading it, he said in reply,
“I congratulate the virtuous brother Tabaa.” [Mizaan al-Adyaan, Page 171]
Lesson: The Holy Messenger was praised even before his birth… and the people who praised him even received honour for their praise! How then can we, who are in the Ummah of the Beloved Prophet SallAllaho Alaihi wa Sallam, not be shown any favour by him?! We also come to know the Prophet is aware of the past, and that cleaning and decorating buildings on the arrival of esteemed personalities is not a bad practice. In fact, it is the practice of the Sahabah al-Kiram Alaihim ar-Ridwan.