It is well-known that Makkah was the religious center for the Arabs, and housed the custodians of the Ka`bah. Protection and guardianship of the idols and carved stone images that were honored by all the Arabs, lay in the hands of the Makkans. Accordingly, we can gauge the difficulty of achieving the target of reform and goodness in a place considered the center of idolatry. Working in such an atmosphere no doubt requires unshakable will and determination. That is why the initial call to Islam assumed a limited form so that the Makkans would not be enraged by the unexpected surprise.
The Early Converts
The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) naturally initiated his sacred mission right from home and then moved to the people closely associated with him. He called unto Islam whomsoever he thought would attest to the truth which had come from his Lord. In fact, a host of people who did not nurse even the least seed of doubt as regards the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), immediately responded and readily embraced the true faith. They are known in Islamic history as the early converts.
Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her) the Prophet’s spouse, the Mother of Believers, was the first to enter the fold of Islam followed by his freed slave Zaid bin Harithah bin Sharahil Al-Kalbi (May Allah be Pleased with him), his cousin `Ali bin Abi Talib (May Allah be Pleased with him), who had been living with him since his early childhood, and next came his intimate friend Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah be Pleased with him). They all professed Islam on the very first day of the call. Abu Bakr (May Allah be Pleased with him), from the first day he embraced Islam, proved to be an energetic and most zealous activist. He was wealthy, obliging, mild and upright. People used to frequent his house and draw close to him for his knowledge, friendship, pleasant company and business. He invited to Islam whomever he had confidence in. Through his personal efforts a good number of people converted to Islam, such as `Uthman bin `Affan AlUmawi (May Allah be Pleased with him), Az-Zubair bin `Awwam Al-Asadi (May Allah be Pleased with him), `Abdur-Rahman bin `Awf(May Allah be Pleased with him), Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas Az-Zuhri (May Allah be Pleased with him) and Talhah bin `Ubaidullah At-Taimy (May Allah be Pleased with him). These eight men constituted the forerunners and more specifically the front line of the new faith in Arabia. Among the early Muslims were: Bilal bin Rabah (the Abyssinian), Abu `Ubaidah `Amir bin Al-Jarrah from Bani Harith bin Fihr (the most trustworthy of the Muslim nation),Abu Salamah bin `Abdul-Asad, Al-Arqam bin Abul-Arqam from the tribe of Makhzum, `Uthman bin Maz’oun and his two brothers Qudamah and `Abdullah, `Ubaidah bin Al-Harith bin Al-Muttalib bin `Abd Manaf, Sa’id bin Zaid Al-’Adawi and his wife Fatimah — daughter of AlKhattab (the sister of `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him)), Khabbab bin Al-Aratt, `Abdullah bin Mas’ud Al-Hudhali and many others. These were known as the first of Muslim predecessors. They belonged to various clans of the Quraish. The biographer Ibn Hisham, counted them to be more than forty. And considering some of them to be among the foremost converts may not be correct.
Ibn Ishaq said: “Then people entered the fold of Islam in hosts, men and women and the new faith could no longer be kept secret.’’
The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to meet and teach the new converts the religion in privacy, because the call to Islam was still running on an individual and secret basis. Revelation accelerated and continued after the first Verses of “O you wrapped in garments.’’ The Verses and parts of Surahs (Chapters) revealed at this time were short with wonderful strong pauses and fascinating rhythms in full harmony. The central topic running through them focused on purifying the soul, and preventing the Muslims from falling prey to the deceptive glamour of life. The early Verses used to give as well a highly accurate account of Hell and the Garden (Paradise), leading the believers down a new course diametrically opposed to the ill practices widespread amongst their compatriots.
As-Salat (the Prayer)
The order for Salat was not among the early Revelations. Ibn Hajar said: “Definitely the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to pray before `The Night Journey’ but it still remains a matter of controversy whether or not the prayer was established as an obligatory ritual before imposing the rules of the usual five prayers a day. It is related that obligatory prayer was established twice a day, in the morning before sunrise and after sunset.’’ It is reported (through a chain of narrators) that when the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) received the first Revelation, the angel Jibreel (May peace be upon him!) proceeded to teach him how to perform Wudhu (ablution). When the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) finished, he took a handful of water and sprinkled it on his loins. A narration with similar meaning was recorded by Ibn Majah. Similar was reported from AlBara’ bin `Azib and Ibn `Abbas, but in his narration Ibn `Abbas said, “And that was during the beginning of its obligation.’’
Ibn Hisham mentioned that when there was a time for prayers, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Companions would go into a mountain valley to pray secretly.
Abu Talib once saw Allah’s Messenger and `Ali (May Allah be Pleased with him) praying, he asked them what they were doing. When he was informed that it was obligatory prayer, he told them to stay constant in their practice.
The Quraishites Learn About the Call
During this stage of the Call, even though conducted in a private manner and on an individual basis, news leaked to the Quraish but they paid little attention to it since the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was not assaulting their religion nor speaking about their gods.
After three years of undercover activism, a group of believers emerged stamped by a spirit of brotherhood and cooperation with one definite objective in their mind: propagating and deeply establishing the call unto Islam. For full three years Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had been content to teach within a rather narrow circle. The time, however, had come to preach the faith of the Lord openly. Then Revelation descended giving Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the duty of publicizing it for his people, to confront them, invalidate their falsehood, and crush down their idolatrous practices.