It was a bright dawn over Makkah. The Holy Prophet headed for the Harem to offer the post-dawn optional prayers. In the course of a normal day he would do this in the spacious courtyard around the Kaaba.
But today he intended to do it inside the Kaaba. He looked around for the key-bearer Osman bin Talha. He could spot him lying on his side in the shade of a wall in a corner of the Harem with eyes half-closed. ‘Osman’, the Prophet jerked him slightly, ‘Would you lend me the keys? I would like to pray inside the Kaaba.’
‘Muhammad! Is it you who wants to pray inside the Kaaba? You know that our deities line the walls inside. And you have been driving the people away from them all these years. Yet you have the audacity to demand the keys.’
Prophet: “But Osman! You know that this House belongs to Allah, the One, the Almighty. He is the one to be worshipped alone. None else. I have no intention to defile the place. I merely intend to do the salah and get away. I mean no harm to your deities.”
Osman: “No, that is not acceptable to the Quraysh. We loathe your ways and manner of worshipping the God. There is no way you can be allowed inside. These keys can never be given to you.”
Prophet: “Osman, you are being arrogant. You are denying the right to worship of an individual. Kaaba is not yours. Nor does it belong to the Quraysh. It is for all those who have surrendered to God. It is the House of Allah, the One, the invisible and the Almighty. Remember! A day will come when the keys of the Kaaba will be in my hands. And I will give them to anyone I would like, Insha Allah.”
Osman: “I am sure that day would never come. If at all it does, it would be a day of disgrace for the Quraysh.”
Prophet: “That will be a day of honour for the Quraysh and it will be simply unforgettable.”
Years passed by. The Quraysh continued their policy of denying the entry to the Holy Prophet and his followers into the Kaaba. Even Abu Talib, the old veteran among the Quraysh chieftains, could not persuade them to give up this haughty attitude. Persecution against the Prophet and his followers mounted to intolerable limits till they migrated to Yathrib.
The Prophet was welcomed with open arms by the people of Yathrib. The ranks of the Muslims kept swelling. Three wars with Makkans finally altered the balance of power. The Makkans were compelled to come to terms with the rising force of Islam. The treaty at Hudaibiya ensured peace in the Arabian Peninsula. It came as a morale booster for the Muslims. People began to enter the fold of Islam in large numbers. The Prophet stitched alliances with several tribes. The Makkans could no longer stop the tide. Within less than a year, they revoked the treaty of Hudaibiya. The Prophet led a contingent of 10,000 followers to Makkah. The plan was to liberate the Holy City from the Quraysh and sanitise and restore the Kaaba to worship of One God. The Prophet declared general amnesty to all Makkans who remained indoors, who sought shelter in the Harem, in the house of Abu Sufiyan and all women, children and the old people.
By the evening, Makkah was taken over. There was no fighting, no bloodletting. The Prophet entered the Harem on a camel, bent low in supplication with thousands of Muslims in tow.
He demanded the keys of the Kaaba. Osman bin Talha was produced before him. He was shivering with fear. Osman vividly remembered the day he had ridiculed the Prophet and denied the very keys to him. The Prophet’s words were echoing into his ears: Remember! A day will come when the keys of the Kaaba will be in my hands. And I will give them to anyone I would like, Insha Allah.”
The Prophet demanded the keys to be handed over to him. With his downcast gaze, Osman lifted the hands that held the keys.
A slight smile was playing across the Holy Prophet’s lips. Osman was in no position to see him eye to eye.
The Prophet took the keys, held it in his hands for a while and placed them back into the hands of Osman bin Talha. “Osman, You will continue to keep these keys. And it will remain with your family till the Day of Judgement. Nobody will ever take them away from your family.”
Shamefaced, Osman fell at the Prophet’s feet.
The keys of the Holy Kaaba remain with the descendants of the family of Osman bin Talha to this day.