When Abdul Muttalib was digging the well of Zam Zam, he felt that his position amongst the Quraish was weak because he had only one son. At that time he made a Nazr, a promise to Allah, that if he got 10 sons, he would sacrifice one of them to Allah.
Allah blessed Abdul Muttalib with many children. He had 12 sons, some whose names were Harith, Abu Talib, Hamza, Abbas, Abu Lahab and Zubayr. He also had 6 daughters.
When the number of his sons reached ten, Abdul Muttalib knew it was time to fulfil the Nazr. Although it was very difficult for him to sacrifice and lose one of his beloved sons, he did not want to break his promise to Allah. After discussing the matter with his sons, he decided that one would be selected by drawing lots. When the lots were drawn, the name of Abdullah, the father of our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household), came up.
Abdullah was the youngest and most loved son of his father, but Abdul Muttalib did not turn away from his duty and took Abdullah to the place of sacrifice. However, his family and the people of Quraish were very sad at the thought of losing the young Abdullah and begged Abdul Muttalib to find another solution.
When the problem was put before a wise man, he suggested that a lot should be cast between Abdullah and 10 camels. In case the lot still fell to Abdullah, a further 10 camels should be added and the lot cast again. This should be repeated till the lot fell to the camels.
In those days the penalty for the accidental killing of a person (blood price) was 10 camels, and the Quraish liked this solution. After a great deal of persuasion, Abdul Muttalib agreed.
A lot was cast between Abdullah and 10 camels but the result was Abdullah. The number was increased to 20, but still Abdullah's name came out. The number was increased by 10 until it reached 100. Finally when a lot was cast between Abdullah and 100 camels, the lot fell to the camels. The people were overjoyed, but Abdul Muttalib was not sure he had fulfilled his duty to Allah. So he drew the lots three more times, and each time it fell to the camels.
Finally, Abdul Muttalib was satisfied that his action was correct. He ordered that 100 camels belonging to him should be slaughtered that same day in front of the Holy Ka'ba and no person or animal should be stopped from eating the meat.
In this way Allah protected Abdullah, who later was to become the father of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his household). One year before Aamul Feel (The Year of the Elephant), Abdullah got married to Aamina, daughter of Wahab. Aamina was to become the mother of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household).
One year after his marriage, Abdullah was returning from trade in Syria and fell ill in Madina. When Abdul Muttalib heard about it, he sent his son Harith to go and see him. By the time Harith arrived, Abdullah had died. He was buried in Madina. He died two months before his great son was born.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) used to say, "I am the son of two sacrifices, Prophet Isma'il (A.S.) and Abdullah".