Just as Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) grazed goats in his childhood with his foster brothers while in the custody of Hazrat Haleemah (radhiyallahu ‘anha), similarly he also grazed goats as he grew older.
Hazrat Jaabir bin Abdillah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) narrates, “We were once with Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in a place named Zahraan when we began to pluck fruit from the peelu tree (i.e. the salvadora persica tree whose branches are used as a miswaak). Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said to us, ‘Look for and pick the fruit that is dark, as it is tastier (compared to the other fruit).’ We then asked, ‘O Rasul of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)! Did you graze goats (as the person who grazes goats generally knows about these things)?’ Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) replied, ‘Yes, (I had grazed goats in my life), and there is no Nabi of Allah Ta‘ala who did not graze goats.’” (Saheeh Bukhaari #5453)
In another Hadith, Hazrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Every prophet who Allah Ta‘ala sent had grazed goats.” The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) asked, “Did you also graze goats, O Prophet of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)?” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) replied, “Yes, I also used to graze the people’s goats in Makkah Mukarramah (before nubuwwah) in lieu of a few qaraareet (i.e. a few coins).” (Saheeh Bukhaari #2262)
In one narration, Nasr bin Hazn reports that once, the people who owned camels boasted over their camels before the people who owned goats and vice versa, with each group regarding their animals to be superior. When Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) learnt of this, he explained the virtue of grazing goats saying, “Nabi Moosa (‘alaihis salaam) was sent as a Nabi, and he had grazed goats. Similarly, Nabi Dawood (‘alaihis salaam) was appointed as a Nabi, and he also grazed goats. I was sent (by Allah) as a Nabi, and I would also graze the goats of my family in (a place called) Ajyaad.” (Fat-hul Baari 4/441)
The Wisdom Behind the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) Grazing Goats Before Prophethood
The wisdom behind the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) grazing goats before prophethood is that Allah Ta‘ala wished to prepare them to take care of their ummats. Hence, being a shepherd to grazing goats was an introduction to the role they would later on fulfil in the world of being shepherds in guiding their ummats towards the straight path.
It is a known fact that grazing camels and cattle is not as difficult and challenging as grazing goats. The reason is that controlling the flock of goats and keeping them together is an arduous task. At times, one or two goats will break away from the flock and go in one direction, while the other goats will run in another direction. The shepherd is left frustrated in trying to bring them together and keep them together.
If he pursues the few goats that strayed away, the entire flock will be unattended and at risk of being attacked by a wolf or predatory animal. Similarly, if he abandons the goats that strayed away from the flock, then there is a fear that they will be attacked and devoured by a predatory animal or wolf.
It is for this reason that the shepherd is burdened with the difficult and burdensome task where from morning until evening, he has to constantly keep his gaze on the flock in trying to protect them and keep them together.
Exactly the same was the condition of the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam). Night and day, they remained concerned and worried about the success and salvation of their ummats. The individuals of the ummah run astray in different directions, just like goats and sheep, while the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) continue to call them back to the straight path with complete love, compassion and kindness.
The ummah moving astray from the path of hidaayah causes great worry and concern in the hearts of the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam), as the relationship they have with their ummats is like the relationship of parents with their children. Yet, despite the great challenges they face in the path of deen, they exercise patience and maintain tolerance. At no time do they become frustrated or give up their mission of inviting the people to Allah Ta‘ala, advising them or teaching them deen.
Just as goats are ignorant and unaware of the fatal attacks of the wolves and predators, in the same way, the ummah is ignorant and unaware of the destructive attacks of the nafs and shaitaan. Similarly, just as the shepherd continues to worry about his flock and stops them from straying away, in the same way, the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) remain constantly worried and concerned about their ummats, and continue to prevent them from breaking away and treading the path of misguidance, thereby falling prey to the attacks of nafs or shaitaan.
Such is the deep worry and concern of the Nabi for the success and salvation of his ummah that the ummah do not even possess one percent of his worry and concern for their own salvation.
Source: The Illustrious Sahaabah