First Revelation Regarding the Preaching
“And warn your tribe of near kindred.’’ [26:214]
This was the first Verse to be revealed in this context. It is included in Surah Ash-Shu`ara’ (Chapter 26 — The Poets) which relates the story of Moses from his early days of Prophethood going through his migration with the Children of Israel, their escape from Pharaoh and his folk, and the drowning Pharaoh and his armies. This Chapter in fact narrates the different stages that Moses passed through in his struggle with Pharaoh and the mission of calling his people unto Allah. Moreover, it includes stories that speak about the terrible end in store for those who belied the Messengers such as the people of Noah, `Ad, Thamud, Ibrahim, Lut, and Ahlul-Aikah (‘Companions of the Wood’, a group of people who used to worship a tree called Aikah). These stories are mentioned along with that of Pharaoh and his people in order to teach those who spread falsehood the outcome of those who did the same before them and their end. It also lets them know the awaiting punishment from Allah if they continue spreading falsehood, and lets the believers know that the good end is for them, not the supporters of evil.
Calling the Closest Kinspeople
In obedience to Allah’s Commands, Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) called his kinsmen of Bani Hashim with a group of Bani Al-Muttalib bin `Abd Manaf. The audience numbered fortyfive men.
Abu Lahab immediately took the initiative and addressed the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “These are your uncles and cousins, speak to the point, but first of all you have to know that your kinspeople are not in a position to withstand all the Arabs. You must bear in mind that your relatives are sufficient for you. If you follow their tradition, it will be easier for them than to face the other clans of Quraish supported by other Arabs. Verily, I have never heard of anyone who has incurred more harm on his kinspeople than you.’’ Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) kept silent and said nothing in that meeting.
He invited them to another meeting and managed to secure an audience. He (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then stood up and delivered a short speech explaining the matter clearly.
``I celebrate Allah’s praise, I seek His help, I believe in Him, I put my trust in Him, I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of being worshipped but Allah with no associate. A guide can never lie to his people. I swear by Allah that there is no god but He, that I have been sent as a Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to you in particular, and to all the people in general. I swear by Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!) that you will die just as you sleep, you will be resurrected just as you wake up. You will be called to account for your deeds. It is then either Hell forever or the Garden (Paradise) forever.’’
Abu Talib replied: “We love to help you, accept your advice and believe in your words. These are your kinspeople whom you have gathered and I am one of them but I am the fastest to do what you like. Do what you have been ordered. I shall protect and defend you, but I cannot quit the religion of `Abdul-Muttalib.’’
Abu Lahab then said to Abu Talib: “I swear by Allah that this is a bad thing. You must stop him before the others do.’’ Abu Talib, however, answered: “I swear by Allah to protect him as long as I am alive.’’
On Mount As-Safa
After the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) became sure of Abu Talib’s commitment to his protection while he called the people unto Allah, he stood up on Mount As-Safa one day and called out loudly: “Ya Sabahah! ’’
Groups of the Quraish came to him. He called them to Tawhid (Islamic Monotheism), faith in Allah, his Messengership and the Day of Resurrection.
Al-Bukhari reported part of this story on the authority of Ibn `Abbas. He said: “When the following Verses were revealed:
``And warn your tribe of near kindred.’’ [26:214]
Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ascended Mount As-Safa and started to call: “O Bani Fihr! O Bani `Adi (two clans of Quraish).’’ Many people gathered and those who could not, sent somebody instead to report to them. Abu Lahab was also present. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If I were to tell you that there were some horsemen in the valley planning to raid you, would you believe me?’’ They said: “Yes, we have only witnessed the truth from you.’’ He said: “I am a warner to you before a severe torment.’’ Abu Lahab promptly replied: “Perish you all the day! Have you summoned us for such a thing?’’ The Verses were immediately revealed on that occasion:
``Perish the two hands of Abi Lahab...’’ [111:1]
Muslim reported another part of this story on the authority of Abu Hurairah (May Allah be Pleased with him), he said: “When the following Verses were revealed:
``And warn your tribe of near kindred.’’ [26:214]
Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) called all the people of Quraish; so they gathered and he gave them a general warning. Then he made a particular reference to certain tribes, and said: “O Quraish, rescue yourselves from the Fire; O people of Bani Ka`b, rescue yourselves from the Fire; O Fatimah(May Allah be Pleased with her), daughter of Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), rescue yourself from the Fire, for I have no power to protect you from Allah in anything except that I would sustain relationship with you.’’
It was indeed a loud, open call stating unequivocally to the closest people that belief in his Message constituted the basic element of any future relation between him and them, and that the blood relation on which the entire Arabian life was based, had lost its relevance in the light of that Divine ultimatum.
Declaring the Truth and the Polytheists’ Reaction
The Prophet’s voice kept reverberating in Makkah until the following Verse was revealed:
``Therefore proclaim openly, that which you are commanded, and turn away from Al-Mushrikun (polytheists).’’ [15:94]
Then Allah’s Messenger began to proclaim the invitation to Islam at the gatherings and assemblies of the idolaters.
He would recite from Allah’s Book to them, saying as the Messengers told their peoples:
“O people! Worship Allah, you have no god but Him.’’ [7:59]
Then he began worshipping Allah right before their eyes, praying aloud in the courtyard of the Ka`bah during the daytime while they watched.
He then started expressing disapproval of the superstitious practices of idolatry, revealing its worthless reality and utter uselessness, and giving concrete proofs that idolatry by itself, or taking it as the media through which an idolater could approach Allah or draw closer to Him, is manifest falsehood.
All this resulted in increased acceptance of the call, and people began entering Allah’s religion one after another.
This caused enmity to develop between the converts and their relatives, and these developments made the Quraish shudder in disgust over what they saw.
An Advisory Council to Hinder Pilgrims From Muhammad’s Call
During those days, the Quraish had another serious concern; the proclamation of the Call was a few months old when the pilgrimage season was about to commence. The Quraish knew that the Arab delegates were coming within a short time. They agreed that it was necessary to think about a strategy that could push away the Arab pilgrims from the new faith preached by Muhammad.
They went to see Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah to plan something on this issue. Al-Walid invited them to agree on a unanimous resolution that could enjoy the approval of them all. However, they remained in a state of disagreement. Some suggested that they should describe him as a Kahin, i.e., soothsayer; but this suggestion was turned down on grounds that his words did not rhyme in a similar manner. Others proposed to slander him as Majnun, i.e., possessed by Jinn; this was also rejected because no signs peculiar to that state of mind were detectable if they claimed thus. “Why not say he is a poet?’’ some said. Here again they could not reach a common consent, alleging that his words were completely outside the lexicon of poetry. “Alright then, let us accuse him of practicing witchcraft,’’ was a fourth suggestion. Here also Al-Walid showed some reluctance, saying that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was known to have never involved himself in the practice of blowing on knots, and admitted that his speech was sweet in its entirety, root and branch. He, however, found that the most plausible charge that could be levelled against Muhammad was “magical eloquence”. The ungodly company adopted this opinion and agreed to propagate one uniform formula to the effect that he was a magician so powerful and commanding in his art that he could successfully separate son from father, man from his brother, wife from her husband and man from his clan.
It is noteworthy in this regard to say that Allah revealed sixteen Verses as regards Al-Walid and the cunning method he devised to manipulate the people expected to arrive in Makkah for pilgrimage. Allah says:
“Verily, he thought and plotted; so let him be cursed! How he plotted! And once more let him be cursed, how he plotted! Then he thought; then he frowned and he looked in a bad tempered way; then he turned back and was proud; then he said: `This is nothing but magic from that of old; this is nothing but the word of a human being!’’’ [74:18-25]
As for Allah’s Messenger, he would go to the people who gathered during the Hajj season, following them to their camps in `Ukaz, Majannah and Dhul-Majaz, inviting them to Allah. Abu Lahab would shadow the
Prophet’s steps crying aloud, “Do not listen to him for he is a liar; he is an apostate.’’ Nevertheless, Muhammad managed to create a stir in the whole area, and even to convince a few people to accept his Call.
Attempts Made to Check the Onward March of Islam
Having fully perceived that Muhammad could never be prevented from his Call, the Quraish, in a desperate attempt to suppress the tidal wave of the Call, turned to other dishonorable means acting from base motives:
1. Taunting, degrading, ridiculing, belying and instigating laughter by their actions, all of which were directed towards the new converts in general, and the person of Muhammad in particular, with the aim of imbuing the spirit of despair into their high morale, and slowing their continuous struggle.
They concentrated their efforts on degrading the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as a man possessed by a Jinn or an insane person:
``And they say, O you (Muhammad) to whom the Thikr (the Qur’an) has been sent down: `Verily, you are a mad man.’’’ [15:6]
or a liar practicing witchcraft:
``And they (Arab pagans) wonder that a warner (Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) has come to them from among themselves! And the disbelievers say: `This (Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) is a sorcerer, a liar.’’’ [38:4]
Their eyes would also look at the righteous man as if they would `devour him’, or stop him, or disturb him from the position of steadfastness or firmness. They used all sorts of terms of abuse: `madman’ or `one possessed by an evil spirit’, and so on:
``And verily, those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes through hatred when they hear the Reminder (the Qur’an), and they say: `Verily, he (Muhammad) is a madman!’’’ [68:51]
Among the early converts, there was a group who had unfortunately no strong clan at their back to support them. These innocent souls were ridiculed and taunted in season and out of season. Referring to such people, the elite Quraish nobles used repeatedly to ask the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), with jest and disrespect:
``Allah has favored from amongst us?’’ [6:53]
``Does not Allah know best those who are grateful?’’ [6:53]
They were as Allah described for us:
``Verily! (During the worldly life) those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed; and whenever they passed by them, used to wink one to another (in mockery); and when they returned to their own people, they would return jesting; and when they saw them, they said: `Verily! These have indeed gone astray!’ But they (disbelievers, sinners) had not been sent as watchers over them (the believers).’’ [83:29-33]
2. Distorting the teachings of Muhammad, creating doubts, circulating false propaganda, forging groundless allegations about his doctrines, person and character, and exaggerating in a manner so as to screen off any scope of sound consideration from the public. With respect to the Qur’an, they used to allege that it was:
``Tales of the ancients, which he (Muhammad) has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.’’ [25:5]
The wicked people went on ceaselessly insinuating to people that the Qur’an was not a true Revelation:
``This (the Qur’an) is nothing but a lie that he (Muhammad) has invented, and others have helped him at it.’’ [25:4]
``It is only a human being who teaches him.’’ [16:103]
They also raised another baseless and superficial objection:
``Why does this Messenger (Muhammad) eat food and walk about in the markets (like ourselves)?’’ [25:7]
The Noble Qur’an strongly refuted their allegations and explained that the statements of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were Revelations of the Lord, and their nature and content presented a bold challenge to those who attributed his words to some base origin — at times to the deranged rants of a dreaming reformer, at others to the feelings of an obsessed poet or the uncertain mutterings of an insane man.
3. Contrasting the Qur’an with the mythology of the ancients in order to divert people’s interest from the Word of Allah. It is narrated that An-Nadr bin Harith, went to Heerah where he got conversant with the traditions of the kings of Persia and the accounts of people like Rustum and Isphandiyar, and then returned to Makkah. He would always shadow the Messenger’s steps wherever he preached the new faith and cautioned people against Allah’s wrath. An-Nadr would directly follow the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and narrate to the same audience long tales about those people of Persia. He would then always add a question after his talk, cunningly inquiring if he did not surpass Muhammad. Ibn `Abbas related that An-Nadr used to purchase female singers who would, through their bodily charms and songs, entice away from Islam anyone developing the least attachment to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him); in this regard, Allah revealed:
``And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the path of Allah.’’ [31:6]
At the beginning of the fourth year of the Call and for a period of some months thereafter, the polytheists confined their harassment tactics to those mentioned above. After they realized that they could not restrict the inflow of people to Islam without persecuting the believers and torturing them, they arranged for another meeting. This time, they consulted amongst themselves and approved of a campaign of persecuting the Muslims and torturing them to get them to leave their religion. Each of the leaders began persecuting anyone in their tribe found to be following the religion of Islam.
Whenever Abu Jahl heard of the conversion of a man of high birth with powerful friends, he would deride his good sense and intellect, undermine his judgment and threaten him with terrible consequences if he was a merchant. If the new convert was socially weak, he would beat him mercilessly and subject him to unspeakable torture.
The uncle of `Uthman bin `Affan (May Allah be Pleased with him) used to wrap `Uthman in a mat of palm leaves, and set fire under him. When Umm Mus`ab bin `Umair heard of her son’s conversion, she subjected him to starvation and then expelled him from her house. He used to enjoy a luxurious and easy life, but as the outcome of the tortures he had to bear, his skin became marked with wrinkles and his suffering showed.
Bilal (May Allah be Pleased with him), the slave of Umaiyah bin Khalaf, was severely beaten by his master when the latter came to know of his conversion to Islam. Sometimes a rope was put around his neck and street urchins were made to drag him through the streets and even across the hillocks of Makkah. At other times he was subjected to prolonged deprivation of food and drink. Once, he was bound during the hottest part of the day and left in the valley in Makkah. Then Umaiyah had a giant stone brought and placed it upon his chest. He said, “By Allah! I will not stop until you are dead or until you reject Muhammad and worship Lat and `Uzza.’’ Yet, even while Bilal (May Allah be Pleased with him)was suffering, he said only, “One, One.’’ Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him) was passing by, and moved by pity, he purchased him and released him from slavery.
Another victim of the cruelty of Quraish was `Ammar bin Yasir, a freed slave of Bani Makhzum. He, along with his mother and father, embraced Islam in its early phase. They were repeatedly made to lie on the burning sand and were beaten severely.
‘Ammar was at times thrown on embers. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once passed by while they were being tortured and said:
“O family of Yasir! Be patient, you will certainly find your place in Paradise.’’
Yasir, the father, died because of the unrelenting torture. Sumaiyah, `Ammar’s mother was bayoneted to death by Abu Jahl himself, and thus merited the title of the first woman martyr in Islam.
‘Ammar himself was subjected to various modes of torture and was always threatened with continuous severe suffering unless he abused Muhammad and made an open confession of error to Al-Lat and `Uzza.
In a weak moment, he uttered a word interpreted as his retraction from Islam, although his heart never wavered, and he came back at once to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who consoled him for his pain and confirmed his Faith. Immediately afterwards the following Verse was revealed:
``Whoever disbelieved in Allah after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith.’’ [16:106]
Abu Fakih Aflah, a freed slave of Bani `Abdud-Dar, was another of those helpless victims. The Makkan polytheists used to lay him down on scorching sand with a stone on his back so that he could not move, leaving him in this state until he lost consciousness. They used to tie his legs with rope and drag him around a lintel until they thought he was dead. Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him) also passed him while he was being tortured, and he purchased his freedom for the sake of Allah. The oppressors used to fasten his feet with a rope and drag him in the streets of Makkah.
Khabbab bin Al-Aratt was the slave of Umm Anmar bint Saba` AlKhuza`iyah. He was also an easy victim to similar brutality on every possible occasion and experienced unprecedented torture and ill treatment. He was seized by his hair and dragged, twisted by his neck and thrown into fire. Then his tormentors would drag him through the fire and not stop until his back was burnt.
Even the women converts were not spared, and the list is too long to include all of them. Zanirah, An-Nahdiyah and her daughter, Umm `Ubais and many others had their full share of persecution at the hand of the oppressors — `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him) included — of course, before his conversion to Islam.
Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him), who was wealthy among the early believers, purchased and freed some of those slaves, just as he did with regard to Bilal (May Allah be Pleased with him) and `Amir bin Fuhairah.
The pagans would also throw some of the Companions into animal enclosures and then drag them into the hot sun. They would put an iron armor on some of them and throw them upon boulders to swelter in the sun. No one would let his conversion to Islam be known, except that he would have to undergo severe torture and suffering for the sake of Allah.
As for the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), it was not easy to harm him because he had such significance, nobility and matchless perfection of character that prevented even his enemies from committing any act of foolishness against him. He had, as well, Abu Talib, his uncle, who came from noble descent and had a large, influential clan to support him. This situation was a source of great worry to the infidels, but they felt that they could no longer exercise patience or show any tolerance before a frightening power marching steadily to rescind their religious office and worldly authority.
The Quraish Approach Abu Talib
Ibn Ishaq said, “Some men among the notables of the Quraish went to Abu Talib. They said; “O Abu Talib! Your nephew curses our gods; finds fault with our way of life, mocks our religion and degrades our forefathers; either you must stop him, or you must let us get at him. For you are opposed to his views just as we are in opposition to him; and we will rid you of him.’’ Abu Talib tried to calm them down by giving a polite reply. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), however, continued on his way of preaching Allah’s religion and calling to it. The Quraish could not be patient for very long while they witnessed his work in inviting others to Allah. The more he worked, the more they talked about the problem.
The Quraish Pressure Abu Talib
The notables of the Quraish came to Abu Talib and insisted that he put a stop to his nephew’s activities. Such activities, if allowed unchecked, they said, would draw him into severe hostility. Abu Talib was deeply distressed at this open threat of his people and their enmity, but he could not afford to desert the Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) too. He sent for his nephew and told him what the people had said, adding, “Spare me and yourself and put not a burden on me that I can’t bear.’’ Upon this the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) thought that his uncle would let him down and would no longer support him, so he replied:
“O my uncle! By Allah if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, I would not abandon it until Allah has made me victorious or I perish therein.’’
The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up, and as he turned away, his uncle called him and said, “Come back, my nephew,’’ and when he came back, he said, “Go and preach what you please, for by Allah, I will never forsake you.’’
He then recited two lines of verse with significant meanings of full support to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and absolute gratification by the course that his nephew had chalked out in Arabia.
The Quraish Confront Abu Talib a Second Time
Seeing that Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was still intent on his Call, the Quraish realized that Abu Talib would never forsake his nephew even if this incurred their enmity. Some of them then went to see him once more, taking with them a youth called `Umarah bin Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah, and said, “O Abu Talib! We have brought you a smart boy still in the bloom of his youth, to make use of his mind and strength and take him as your son in exchange for your nephew, who has run counter to your religion, brought about social conflict, found fault with your way of life, so that we kill him and rid you of his endless troubles; man for man.”
Abu Talib’s reply was, “This is really an unfair bargain. You give me your son to bring him up and I give you my son to kill him! By Allah, it is something incredible!’’ Al-Mut’im bin `Adi, a member of the delegation, interrupted saying that the Quraish had been fair in the bargain because “they meant only to rid you of a source of hateful trouble, but as I see, you are determined to refuse their favors.’’
Abu Talib, of course, turned down all their offers and challenged them to do whatever they pleased.Historical sources do not give the exact date of these two meetings with Abu Talib. However, they seem more likely to have taken place in the sixth year of Prophethood with a brief lapse of time in between.
Atrocities Against Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
Abu Lahab himself took the initiative in the new series of persecutions, and started instigating countless incidents of harmful acts, and other manifestations of hatred and nastiness against Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He stopped at nothing — from throwing stones at him, forcing his two sons to divorce their wives Ruqaiyah and Umm Kulthum, the Prophet’s daughters, showing delight at the death of his second son and calling him `the man cut off from offspring’, and then shadowing his steps during the pilgrimage seasons and in open forums, as we mentioned earlier, to belie him and persuade the bedouins against him and his Call. Tariq bin `Abdullah Al-Muharabi narrated that he would not stop at merely rebuking the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), rather he would throw stones at him until his ankles bled.
His wife, Umm Jamil bint Harb, the sister of Abu Sufyan also had her share in this merciless campaign. She proved that she was not less than her husband in the enmity and hatred she had for the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). In order to cause him bodily injury, she used to tie bundles of thorns with ropes of twisted palm-leaf fiber and scatter them in the paths which the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was expected to take.
She was an ill-mannered and bad-tempered woman who used abusive language, and was highly skilled in the art of hatching intrigues, and enkindling the fire of enmity and hatred. She was deservedly labeled as ‘the carrier of firewood’ in the Noble Qur’an.
On receiving this news, she directly proceeded to the Ka`bah with a handful of pebbles to throw at the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
However, Allah the Almighty took away her sight and she saw only Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him) who was sitting next to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
She then addressed Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him) in the most insolent manner, threatening to break his Companion’s mouth with her handful of pebbles, and recited a line of verse having words full of disrespect and disobedience:
“We have disobeyed the dispraised one, rejected his Call, and alienated ourselves from his religion.”
When she left, Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him) turned to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and inquired about the matter. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“She did not see me. Allah prevented her from being able to see me.’’
Abu Bakr Al-Bazzar also recorded this story, but in his version when she stopped at Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him), she said, “O Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him)! We ridicule your companion.’’ Abu Bakr (May Allah be Pleased with him) replied, “No by the Lord of this structure(Ka’bah)! He has not articulated nor uttered poetry.’’ She replied: “You have said the truth.’’
Abu Lahab and his household used to inflict shameful forms of torture and harassment in spite of the blood relation that tied them, for he was the Prophet’s uncle and lived next door to him. Similarly, other neighbors of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would cause harm to him in his own house as well.
Ibn Ishaq said, “The group of those who used to harm Allah’s Messenger in his house included Abu Lahab, Al-Hakam bin Abul-’As bin Umaiyah, `Uqbah bin Abi Mu’ait, `Adi bin Hamra’ Ath-Thaqafi and Ibn Al-Asda’ AlHudhali. These were his neighbors and he was not safe from any of them except for Al-Hakam bin Abul-’As. One of them would throw the womb of a sheep on him while he was praying, another would throw it in his prepared pot (of food). Then Allah’s Messenger would use a rock to screen himself from them when he prayed. When they would throw these harmful things on him, he would remove them with a piece of wood and put it by the door then say:
“O Bani `Abd Manaf! What kind of neighborly treatment is this?’’ Then he would throw it in the street.
Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Ibn Mas’ud, narrated: “Once the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was offering prayers near the Ka`bah. Abu Jahl was sitting with some of his companions. Some of them said to the others, `Who among you will bring the guts of a camel of Bani so-and-so and put it on the back of Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when he prostrates?’ The most wretched of them (‘Uqbah bin Abi Mu’ait) got up and brought it. He waited until the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prostrated and then placed it on his back between his shoulders. I was watching but could not do anything. I wished I had some people with me to hold out against them.
They started laughing and falling upon one another in their mirth. Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was in prostration and he did not lift his head up until Fatimah(May Allah be Pleased with her)(the Prophet’s daughter) came and removed it from his back.
He raised his head and said thrice,
’O Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!)! Destroy the (infidels of) Quraish.’
It was hard for Abu Jahl and his companions when the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) invoked Allah against them as they had a belief that prayers and invocations were accepted in this city (Makkah). The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
’O Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!)! Destroy Abu Jahl, `Utbah bin Rabi’ah, Shaibah bin Rabi’ah, Al-Walid bin `Utbah, Umaiyah bin Khalaf, and `Uqbah bin Abi Mu’ait…’
And he mentioned the seventh whose name I cannot recall. By Allah in Whose Hand my life is, I saw the dead bodies of those persons who were counted by Allah’s Messenger in the Qalib (one of the wells) of Badr.” The seventh person was `Umarah bin Al-Walid.
Umaiyah bin Khalaf would slander and talk badly about Allah’s Messenger whenever he saw him. It was about him that Allah revealed:
``Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.’’ [104:1]
Ibn Hisham said, ‘‘Al-Humazah is the one who publicly mocks a person… and Al-Lumazah is the one who secretly declares the defects of people and defames them.’’
`Uqbah bin Abi Mu’ait, Umaiyah’s brother, once attended an audience of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and listened to him preaching Islam. A close friend of his, Ubai bin Khalaf, heard of this. He could not bear this, so he strongly condemned `Uqbah and ordered him to spit in the face of Allah’s Messenger, and he shamelessly did it. Ubai did not spare any conceivable means to harm the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him); he even ground old decomposed bones and blew the powder on him.
Al-Akhnas bin Shuraiq Ath-Thaqafi used to slander the character of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and vilify him at every opportunity. The Noble Qur’an, in direct reference to this man’s shameful deeds, attached to him nine repulsive characteristics:
``And obey not everyone who swears much, -- and is considered worthless, a slanderer, going about with calumnies, hinderer of the good, transgressor, sinful, cruel -- after all that base-born (of illegitimate birth).’’ [68:10-13]
Sometimes Abu Jahl would come to listen to Allah’s Messenger recite the Qur’an, then he would leave without believing in it, nor taking heed to its warnings. He would harm Allah’s Messenger in speech, he would take every opportunity to obstruct the Message of Allah, and then he would go around arrogantly boasting about what he did. Allah revealed about him:
``So he (the disbeliever) neither believed (in this Qur’an, in the Message of Muhammad) nor prayed!’’ [75:31]
He, moreover, wanted to debar the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from praying in the Noble Sanctuary. It happened once that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was praying within the area of the Sacred House, when Abu Jahl proceeded toward him threateningly and uttering abusive language. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) admonished him severely to which Abu Jahl answered back rudely claiming that he was the mightiest in Makkah; Allah then revealed:
``Then, let him call upon his council (of helpers).’We will call out the guards of Hell(to deal with him)." [96:17]
In another version of the same incident, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took Abu Jahl by his neck, moved him back and forth severely saying:
``Woe to you [O man] And then (again) woe to you! Again, woe to you [O man] And then (again) woe to you!’’ [75:34, 35]
Notwithstanding this reproach, Abu Jahl never woke up to his mistakes nor did he realize the harm of his foolish actions.
On the contrary, he was determined to go to extremes, and swore he would throw dust in the Messenger’s face and step on his neck. No sooner had he proceeded to fulfill his wicked intention than he was seen turning back, shielding himself with his hands (as if something horrible was in his pursuit).
His companions asked him what was the matter. He said: “I perceived a ditch of burning fire and some wings flying.’’ Later on, the Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commented saying:
``If he had proceeded further, the angels would have plucked off his limbs one after another.’’
Such was the disgraceful treatment meted out to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Muslims at the hands of the evil pagans who claimed that they were Allah’s people, living in His Sanctuary.
The House of Al-Arqam
In the light of this inhuman harassment, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) deemed it wise to advise his followers to conceal their conversion, in both word and deed. He took the decision to meet them secretly lest the Quraish should get to know of his designs, and plot to foil his goals. He also wanted to avoid open confrontation with the polytheists because at that early stage, such action would not be in the interest of the fledgling Call to Islam, that was still fragile and weak. Once, in the fourth year of Prophethood, the Muslims were on their way to the hillocks of Makkah to hold a secret meeting with the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when a group of polytheists observed their suspicious movement and began to abuse and fight them. Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas beat a polytheist and shed his blood and thus recorded the first instance of bloodshed in the history of Islam.
On the other hand, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) proclaimed the Islamic faith and preached it openly with deep devotion and steadfast pursuit. However, for the general welfare of the new converts and in consideration of the strategic interests of Islam, he took Dar Al-Arqam, the estate of Al-Arqam bin Abul-Arqam Al-Makhzumi on AsSafa, as a temporary center to meet his followers secretly and instruct them in the Qur’an and in Islamic wisdom.
The First Migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
The series of persecutions started late in the fourth year of Prophethood, slowly at first, but steadily accelerated and worsened day by day and month by month.
By the middle of the fifth year, the situation got so grave and intolerable that the Muslims began to think of feasible ways to avert the painful torture meted out to them.
It was in this depressing and desperate period that Allah informed them that His earth was not restricted for them, alluding to migration. He revealed Surat Az-Zumar (Chapter 39 — The Groups) saying in it:
``Good is for those who do good in this world, and Allah’s earth is spacious. Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning.’’ [39:10]
The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) knew that Ashamah, who held the title of Negus, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), was a just ruler who would not wrong any of his subjects, so he permitted some of his followers to seek asylum in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
In Rajab of the fifth year of Prophethood, a group of twelve men and four women left for Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Among the emigrants were `Uthman bin `Affan (May Allah be Pleased with him) and his wife Ruqaiyah (the daughter of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)). With respect to these two emigrants, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
``They are the first people to migrate in the cause of Allah after Ibrahim and Lot.’’
They slipped out of Makkah under the heavy curtain of a dark night and headed for the sea where two boats happened to be sailing for Abyssinia (Ethiopia), which was their destination. News of their intended departure reached the ears of the Quraish, so some men were sent after them, but the believers had already left the port of Shu’aibah towards their place of protection, where they were received warmly and accorded due hospitality.
In Ramadan of the same year, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went into the Holy Sanctuary where there was a large host of Quraish polytheists, including some notables and elders. Suddenly he began reciting Surat An-Najm (Chapter 41 — The Star). The aweinspiring Words of Allah descended unexpectedly upon them and they were stunned by them. It was the first time they were astounded by the truthful Revelation. Formerly, it had been the favorite trick of the people who wished to dishonor Revelation, to avoid listening to it by talking loudly and rudely when it was being read, so that even the other listeners would not be able to hear. They used to think that they were drowning out Allah’s Speech; they would say:
``Listen not to this Qur’an, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation) that you may overcome.’’ [41:26]
When the unspeakably fascinating Words of Allah came into direct contact with their hearts, they were spellbound and lost consciousness of the material world around them and were caught in a state of complete attentiveness to the Divine Words to such an extent that when the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reached the stormy ending:
``So fall you down in prostration to Allah and worship Him (Alone).’’ [53:62]
The idolaters, unconsciously and with full compliance, prostrated themselves in a truly helpless state. It was in fact a wonderful moment when the Truth cleaved through the shameless souls of the arrogant ones and the attitude of the scoffers. They stood stunned when they perceived that Allah’s Words had conquered their hearts and they had done the very act that they had been trying hard to eradicate and exterminate. The other polytheists who had not been present on the scene accused and blamed them severely; consequently they began to fabricate lies and began blaming the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), alleging that he had attached to their idols great respect and ascribed to them the power of desirable intercession. This was merely a desperate attempt to establish a justification for prostrating themselves with the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) on that day. Of course, this foolish and wicked slanderous behavior was in line with their already common practice of telling lies and hatching plots.
News of this incident was reported to the Muslim emigrants in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). They were informed that the entire Quraish had embraced Islam so they made their way back home. They arrived in Makkah in Shawwal of the same year. When they were only at an hour’s distance from Makkah, they discovered the reality of the situation. Some of them returned to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), others entered secretly into the city or went in publicly but under the protection of a local notable person.
The Second Migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
The polytheists were incensed on receiving news about the hospitality and warm welcome accorded to the Muslims in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), and started meting out even more severe ill-treatment and torture to the Muslims.
Thereupon Allah’s Messenger permitted the helpless servants of Allah to seek asylum in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for a second time. Migration this time was not as easy as it was the previous time, for the Quraish were on the alert to the least suspicious moves of the Muslims.
In due course, however, the Muslims managed their escape too fast for the Quraishites to spoil their attempt. The group of emigrants this time comprised eighty-three men and nineteen or, in some versions, eighteen women. Whether or not `Ammar was included is still a matter of doubt.
Quraish Machinations Against the Emigrants
The Quraish could not tolerate the prospect of a secure and safe haven available for the Muslims in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), so they dispatched two messengers to request their expulsion. They were `Amr bin Al-`As and `Abdullah bin Abi Rabi`ah — (before they embraced Islam). They took with them valuable gifts for the king and his clergy, and won over some of the courtiers to their side. The pagan envoys demanded that the Muslim refugees should be expelled from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and handed over to them, on the ground that they had abandoned the religion of their forefathers, and their leader was preaching a religion different from theirs and from that of the king.
The king summoned the Muslims to the court and asked them to explain the teachings of their religion. So they gathered there, determined to speak the truth before him. He asked them, “What is this religion that has caused you to separate from your people, to not enter my religion or any of the others’?’’ Ja`far bin Abi Talib stood up and addressed the king in the following words:
“O king! We were an ignorant people. We worshipped idols and ate the meat of dead carcasses. We were accustomed to lewd behavior, to severing the ties of kinship, neglecting our neighbors, and the strong among us consumed [the property of] the weak. This is how we were, but then Allah sent a Messenger to us. We were aware of his lineage, his truthfulness, that he was trustworthy, and chaste. He began inviting us to Allah, that we single Him out and that we worship him. So we left the religion of our forefathers that we had followed previously, we left the worship of stones and idols, of all others besides Allah. He also commanded us to be truthful in our speech, fulfill trusts, nurture the ties of kinship, be kind to our neighbor, and to refrain from spilling blood unlawfully. He forbade us from lewd behavior, from obscene speech, from consuming the orphan’s wealth, and from slandering chaste women. He commanded that we worship Allah Alone without associating anything with him, he commanded us to perform the prayer, give charity, and fast” — and he listed the Islamic injunctions. He continued, “Thus, we trusted him and believed in him, and followed the religion of Allah that he delivered. We began to worship Allah Alone, we would not associate anything with Him, and we began prohibiting what He made unlawful for us, as well as allowing what He had made lawful for us. At this, our people rose as enemies against us, punishing us, torturing us to get us to leave our religion and return to worshipping idols instead of worshipping Allah, and they expected us to consider all the filthy things lawful as we previously did. So when they overpowered us, oppressed us and restricted us, when they came between us and our religion, then we came to your land, we chose you over others besides you, desiring to be your neighbor, and hoping that you — O king — will not wrong us.’’
The Negus said, “Is there anything with you that he told you to be from Allah?”
Ja`far said, “Yes!’’ The Negus said, “Then recite some of it for me.’’ He then recited the opening Verses of Surat Maryam (Chapter 19 — Mary) wherein is told the story of the birth of both John and Jesus Christ, down to the account of Mary having been fed with the food miraculously. Thereupon the king, along with the bishops of his kingdom, was moved to tears that rolled down his cheeks and even wet his beard. He exclaimed: “It seems as if these words and those which were revealed to Jesus are rays of light which have radiated from the same source.’’ Turning to the subdued messengers of Quraish, he said, “I am afraid, I cannot give you back these refugees. They are free to live and worship in my kingdom as they please.’’
The next day, the two messengers went to the king again and said that
Muhammad and his followers blasphemed against Jesus Christ. The Muslims were summoned again and asked what they thought of Jesus. Ja`far again stood up and replied: “We speak about Jesus as we have been taught by our Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), that is, he is the servant of Allah, His Messenger, His spirit and His Word breathed into the Virgin Mary.’’ The king remarked that they believed the same. Then turning to the frowning members of the delegation and to his bishops who got angry, he said that they may fret and fume as they liked but Jesus was nothing more than what Ja`far has said about him. He then assured the Muslims of full protection. He returned, the gifts the delegation of the Quraish had brought with them and sent them away. The Muslims lived in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) undisturbed for a number of years till they left to Madinah.
This is the version narrated by Ibn Ishaq, and others mentioned that `Amr bin Al-`As went to the Negus after the battle of Badr. To bring these two views in accord, others say that the delegation went on two occasions. However, the question and answer session between the Negus and Ja`far that they say occurred on the second occasion, is the same in general content as that narrated here by Ibn Ishaq. Thus, it is obvious that the event took place when they first arrived in Abyssinia.
The Tyrants’ Decision to Kill the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
Now that all the schemes and conspiracies of the Quraish had failed, they returned to their old practices of persecution and inflicting torture on the Muslims in an even more severe and brutal manner than ever before. They also began to nurse the idea of killing the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Muslims who remained in Makkah were very few. They were either the influential elite, who were thereby safe from annoyances, or they were neighbors of such people. Yet, they had to hide their Islam, and keep it out of the public eye as much as possible since they were not safe from the harm of their neighbors.
As for Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), he would pray and worship Allah openly before the eyes of the tyrants, inviting publicly and covertly to Allah. There was nothing that could prevent or divert him from this. For this was the essence of the order to convey the Message of Allah (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when He said:
``Therefore proclaim openly that which you are commanded, and turn away from Al-Mushrikun.’’ [15:94]
Among what is mentioned in the books of Sunnah and Seerah about the events of this period is the incident with `Utaibah bin Abi Lahab. He once approached the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and most rebelliously and shamelessly shouted at him, “I disbelieve in:
`By the star when it goes down.’ [53:1]
and in the one who:
`...approached and came closer.’’’ [53:8]
In other words: “I do not believe in any of the Qur’an.’’
He then began treating the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) arrogantly and laid a violent hand on him, tore his shirt and spat at him, but he missed the face of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Thereupon, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) invoked Allah’s wrath on `Utaibah and supplicated:
``O Allah! Set one of Your dogs on him.’’
Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!) responded positively to the Prophet’s supplication, and it happened in the following manner: Once `Utaibah with some of his companions from the Quraish set out for Syria and took accommodation in Az-Zarqa’. There a lion approached the group to the great fear of `Utaibah, who at once recalled Muhammad’s words in supplication, and said: “Woe to my brother! This lion will surely consume me just as Muhammad supplicated. He has really killed me in Syria while he is in Makkah.’’ The lion jumped at `Utaibah, snatched him from his people, and crushed his head.
It is also reported that an idolater from the Quraish, named `Uqbah bin `Abi Mu`ait once pressed the Prophet’s neck with his feet until his eyes protruded while he was prostrating himself in prayer.
More details reported by Ibn Ishaq testify to the tyrants’ deeply-rooted intentions of killing the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Abu Jahl, the archenemy of Islam, once addressed some of his accomplices: “O people of Quraish! It seems that Muhammad is determined to go on finding fault with our religion, degrading our forefathers, discrediting our way of life and abusing our gods. I bear witness to our god that I will carry a very heavy rock and drop it on Muhammad’s head while he is in prostration to rid you of him once and for all. I am not afraid of whatever his clan, Banu `Abd Manaf, might do.’’ The unfortunate audience approved his plan and encouraged him to translate it into decisive action.
Demonstrating their intent to kill the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is what is recorded by Ibn Ishaq from `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As, that some people of the Quraish were at Al-Hijr (of Isma’il) complaining that they had been too patient with the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who suddenly appeared in their midst and began his usual circumambulation. They started winking at him and uttering sarcastic remarks but he remained silent for two times, then on the third, he stopped and addressed the infidels saying:
“O people of Quraish! Listen, I swear by Allah in Whose Hand is my soul, that you will one day be slaughtered to pieces.”As soon as he (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) uttered the word ‘slaughter’, they all stood shocked and switched off to a new style of language portraying fear and even horror trying to soothe his anger and comfort him saying: ``You can leave Abul-Qasim, for you have never been foolish.”
In the morning of the following day, they gathered talking again about him. This time, they confronted and surrounded him. I saw one of them strangling him with his upper-garment. Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him) came over crying, “Do you want to kill a man just because he says, `My Lord is Allah’?’’ Then they left him alone. Ibn `Amr said, “That was the worst behavior I had ever seen from the Quraish.’’
`Urwah bin Az-Zubair narrated: I asked Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As to tell me of the worst thing that the pagans did to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He said: “While the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was praying in Al-Hijr of AlKa`bah, `Uqbah bin Abi Mu’ait came and put his garment around the Prophet’s neck and strangled him violently. Abu Bakr (May Allah be Pleased with him) came and caught him by his shoulder and pushed him away from the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said: `Do you want to kill a man just because he says: My Lord is Allah’?”
In the narration of Asma’, she said: Someone came yelling to Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him), “Look at your companion.’’ So he left us while wearing four braids. He left while saying to them, “Do you kill a man simply because he says, `Allah is my Lord’?’’ So they beat Abu Bakr(May Allah be Pleased with him). He returned to us, and whatever we touched of his hair, would fall out.’’
The Conversion of Hamzah bin `Abdul-Muttalib
In a gloomy atmosphere infested with dark clouds of injustice and oppression, there shone a promising light for the oppressed on the horizon, i.e., the conversion of Hamzah bin `Abdul-Muttalib in Dhul-Hijjah, the sixth year of Prophethood.
It is recorded that one day, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was seated on the hillock of Safa when Abu Jahl happened to pass by and abused the religion preached by him. Muhammad, however, kept silent and did not utter a single word. Abu Jahl went on unchecked, took a stone and cracked the Prophet’s head which began to bleed. The aggressor then went to join the Quraish in their place of assembly. It so happened that shortly after that, Hamzah, while returning from a hunting expedition, passed by the same way, his bow hanging by his shoulder. A slave-girl belonging to `Abdullah bin Jad’an, who had noted the offensive behavior of Abu Jahl, told him the whole story of the attack on the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
On hearing this, Hamzah was deeply offended and hurried to Al-Ka`bah and there, in the courtyard of the Holy Sanctuary, found Abu Jahl sitting with a company of Quraishites. Hamzah rushed to him and struck his head with the bow violently and said: “You have been abusing Muhammad; I too follow his religion and profess what he preaches.’’
The men of Bani Makhzum came to his help, and the men of Bani Hashim wanted to provide help, but Abu Jahl sent them away saying: “Leave Abu `Umarah alone, by Allah I did shamelessly abuse his nephew.”
In fact, Hamzah’s conversion derived initially from the pride of a man who would not accept the concept of others humiliating his relative.
Later on, however, Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!) purified his nature and he managed to grasp the most trustworthy handhold (faith in Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!)). He proved to be a source of great strength to the Islamic faith and its followers.
The Conversion of `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him)
Another significant addition to the strength of Islam was the conversion of `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him) in Dhul-Hijjah, the sixth year of Prophethood, three days following the conversion of Hamzah. He was a man of fearless courage and determination, feared and respected in Makkah, and until then a bitter opponent of the new religion. The traditional account reveals that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once raised his hands in prayer and said:
“O Allah! Give strength to Islam especially through either of two men you love more: `Umar bin Al- Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him) or Abu Jahl bin Hisham.” ‘Umar, obviously, was the one who merited that privilege.
When we scrutinize the several versions that speak of `Umar’s conversion, we can safely conclude that various contradictory emotions were conflicting with one another in his soul. On the one hand, he used to regard the traditions of his people highly, and was used to indulgence in wine parties; on the other hand, he greatly admired the fortitude of the Muslims and their persistent dedication to their faith. These two extreme views created an uncertainty in his mind and made him at times tend to believe that the doctrines of Islam could bear better and more sacred seeds of life, which is why he would always experience fits of rage directly followed by unexpected fatigue. On the whole, the account of his conversion is very interesting and requires us to go into some details.
One day, `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him) set out from his house, and headed for the Holy Sanctuary where he saw the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) offering prayer and overheard him reciting the beginning of Surat Al-Haqqah (Chapter 69, The Reality) of the Noble Qur’an. He said to himself, “By Allah! This is poetry as the Quraish have said.’’ Then the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recited:
``This is verily the word of an honored Messenger (i.e., Jibreel (May peace be upon him!) or Muhammad which he has brought from Allah). It is not the word of a poet, little is that you believe!’’ [69:40-41]
So he said to himself, “He is a soothsayer.” The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was then reciting:
``Nor is it the word of a soothsayer (or a foreteller), little is that you remember! This is the Revelation sent down from the Lord of the `Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).’’ [69:42-43] Up to the end of the Surah.
`Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) narrated: “Then Islam came into my heart.’’
However, the dark layer of pre-Islamic tendencies, the deep-seated traditional prejudice as well as the blind pride in his forefathers overshadowed the essence of the great Truth that began to find its way into his heart. He, therefore, persisted in his violence against Islam and its believers, being unmindful of the pure innate nature and disposition that lay behind the fragile cover of pre-Islamic ignorance and mentality. His sharp temper and excessive enmity towards the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) led him one day to leave his house, sword in hand, with the intention of killing the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He was in a fit of anger, irritated and fuming. Nu’aim bin `Abdullah, or [it is reported] a man from the tribe of Zahrah, or a man from the tribe of Makhzum — met him along the way. He asked him where he was headed. `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) said furiously: “To destroy that man, Muhammad.’’ He said, “How will you be safe from Bani Hashim and from Bani Zahrah while you have killed Muhammad? Why don’t you take care of your own family first and set them right?’’
“Which of the folk of my house?’’ asked `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) angrily. “Your brother-in-law and your sister have apostatized (meaning to say: They have become followers of Muhammad) and abandoned your religion.’’
`Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) headed to his sister’s house. As he drew near, he heard the voice of Khabbab bin Aratt, who was reciting the
Qur’anic Chapter Ta-Ha to them from some pages. Khabbab, perceiving the noise of ‘Umar’s footsteps, went inside the house. Fatimah(May Allah be
Pleased with her), `Umar’s sister, took hold of the page and hid it. However, `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) had already heard the voice. “What was that sound I heard just now?’’ he said, entering angrily. Both his sister and her husband replied, “You heard nothing.’’ “Nay,’’ said he swearing fiercely, “I have heard that you have turned from your religion.’’
He moved forward towards his brother-in-law and beat him severely, but Fatimah(May Allah be Pleased with her) rushed to the rescue of her husband. Thereupon, `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) fell upon his sister and struck on the head. The husband and wife could not contain themselves and cried aloud: “Yes, we are Muslims, we believe in Allah and His Messenger Muhammad, so do what you will.’’
When `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) saw the face of his dear sister smeared with blood, he felt pity and said: “Let me see what you were reading, so that I may know for myself what Muhammad has brought.’’ Fatimah(May Allah be Pleased with her) was satisfied with the assurance, but said: “O brother, you are unclean on account of your idolatry, none but the pure may touch it. So go and wash first.’’ He did so, and took the page and read the opening Verses of the Chapter Ta-Ha until he reached:
``Verily! I am Allah! La ilaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me and maintain prayer (Salat), for My Remembrance.’’ [20:14]
‘Umar read the Verses with great interest and was fascinated with them. “How excellent it is, and how graceful! Please guide me to Muhammad,’’ he said. And when Khabbab heard that, he came out of concealment and said, “O `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him), I hope that Allah has answered the prayer of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), for I heard him say: ‘O Allah! Strengthen Islam through either `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him) or Abu Jahl bin Hisham.’’’ `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) then left for a house in Safa where Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had been holding secret meetings along with his Companions.
`Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) reached that place with the sword swinging by his arm. He knocked at the door. The Companions of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) turned to see who the intruder was. One of them peeped through a chink in the door and turned back in worry, saying: “It is `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) with his sword.’’ Hamzah, dispelling the fears of his friends, said: “Let him in. As a friend he is welcome. As a foe, he will have his head cut off with his own sword.’’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked his Companions to open the door. In came the son of Khattab. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advanced to receive the dreadful visitor, caught him by his garment and scabbard, and asked him the reason for his visit. At that `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) replied: “O Messenger of Allah, I come to you in order to believe in Allah and his Messenger and that which he has brought from his Lord.’’ Filled with delight, Muhammad together with his Companions shouted: ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is Great) saying it so loud that it could be heard at the Ka`bah.
The conversion of `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) was a real triumph for the cause of Islam. So great and instant was the effect of his conversion on the situation that the believers who had until then worshipped Allah within the four walls of their homes in secret, now assembled and performed their rites of worship openly in the Holy Sanctuary itself. This raised their spirits, and anxiety and uneasiness began to seize the Quraish.
Ibn Ishaq narrated on the authority of `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) : “When I embraced Islam, I remembered the archenemy of Muhammad, i.e., Abu Jahl. I set out, and knocked at his door. When he came out to see me, I told him directly that I had embraced Islam. He immediately slammed the door repulsively disapproving my move as infamous and my face as ugly.”In fact, `Umar’s conversion created an enormous stir in Makkah and some people denounced him as an apostate, yet he never wavered in Faith, on the contrary, he persisted in his stance even at the risk of his life.
The polytheists of Quraish marched towards his house with the intention of killing him. It is recorded by Al-Bukhari that `Abdullah bin `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) narrated: “While `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) was at home in a state of fear, there came Al-`As bin Wa’il AsSahmi Abu `Amr, wearing an embroidered cloak and a shirt having a silk hem. He was from the tribe of Bani Sahm who were our allies during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance. Al-`As said to `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him): `What’s wrong with you?’ He said: `Your people claim that they will kill me if I become a Muslim.’ Al-`As said: `Nobody will harm you after I have given protection to you.’ So Al-`As went out and met the people gathered in the whole valley. He said: `Where are you going?’ They replied: `We want the son of Al-Khattab who has embraced Islam.’ Al-`As said: There is no way anybody can touch him.’ After this, the people backed away.’’
`Umar’s conversion had a tremendous impact on the Muslims in Makkah. Mujahid, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas, related that he asked `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be Pleased with him) why he had been given the epithet of Al-Farooq (he who distinguishes truth from falsehood), he replied: “After I embraced Islam, I asked the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): `Aren’t we on the right path here and in the Hereafter?’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) answered:
`Of course you are! I swear by Allah in Whose Hand my soul is, that you are right in this world and in the Hereafter.’
I, therefore, asked the Prophet : `Why then do we have to conduct our activities secretly? I swear by Allah Who has sent you with the Truth, that we will leave our concealment and proclaim our noble cause publicly.’
We then went out in two groups, Hamzah leading one and I the other. We headed for the Masjid in broad daylight when the polytheists of Quraish saw us, their faces went pale and they got incredibly depressed and resentful.
On that very occasion, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) attached to me the epithet of Al-Farooq.”
Ibn Mas’ud related that they (the Muslims) were never able to pray at the Ka`bah until `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) embraced Islam.
Suhaib bin Sinan Ar-Rumi, in the same context, said that it was only after `Umar’s conversion, that they started to proclaim the Call, assemble around and circumambulate the Sacred House freely.
They even dared to retaliate against some of the injustices done to harm them.
In the same context, Ibn Mas`ud said: “We have been strengthened a lot since `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) embraced Islam.’’
Quraish’s Representative Negotiates With Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
Shortly after the conversion of these two powerful heroes, Hamzah bin `Abdul-Muttalib (May Allah be Pleased with him) and `Umar bin AlKhattab (May Allah be Pleased with him), the clouds of tyranny and oppression started clearing away and the polytheists realized that it was no use meting out torture to the Muslims. Consequently, they began to direct their campaign on a different course.
The authentic records of the biography of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) show that it had occurred to the Makkan leaders to credit Muhammad with ambition. They, therefore, time and again tried to tempt him. Ibn Ishaq reported a narration from Muhammad bin Ka`b Al-Qurazi who said it was narrated to him that one day some of the important men of Makkah gathered in the enclosure of the Ka`bah, and `Utbah bin Rabi’ah, a chief among them, offered to approach the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and contract a bargain with him whereby they would give him whatever worldly wealth he asked for, on condition that he kept silent and no longer proclaimed his new Faith. The people of Quraish approved his proposal and requested him to undertake that task. `Utbah approached Muhammad and addressed him in the following words:
“O nephew! You are a man who holds an important family position among us, with noble lineage. Yet, you come to your people with a grave matter that separates their groups. You have outraged our gods and religion and accused our forefathers and wise men of impiety and error and created strife amongst us. So listen to my proposals for you to consider, and perhaps you will accept one of them.’’
Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Speak Abul-Walid, I am listening.’’
He said, “O nephew! If you are doing all this with a view to getting wealth, we will join together to give you greater riches than any member of the Quraish possesses. If ambition moves you, we will make you our chief. If you desire kingship we will readily offer you that. If you are under the power of an evil spirit which seems to haunt and dominate you so that you cannot shake off its yoke, then we shall call in skillful physicians to cure you.’’
“Have you said all that you had to say?’’ asked Muhammad ; and then hearing that all had been said, he spoke forth, and recited:
`` Ha-Mim. A Revelation from Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. A Book whereof the Verses are explained in detail; -- a Qur’an in Arabic for people who know. Giving glad tidings and warning, but most of them turn away, so they listen not. And they say: `Our hearts are under coverings (screened) from that to which you invite us...’’’ [41: 1-5]
Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went on reciting the Chapter while `Utbah sat and listened attentively with his hand behind his back to support him. When the Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reached the Verse that required prostration, he immediately prostrated himself. After that, he turned to `Utbah saying:
“Abul-Walid! You have heard my reply, you are now free to do whatever you please.’’
`Utbah then returned to his company to tell them of the Prophet’s attitude. When his companions saw him, they swore that he had returned to them with an expression unlike the one he had before meeting the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He immediately communicated to them the details of his proposal and the reply he received, and added saying: “I have never heard words similar to those he recited. They definitely relate neither to poetry nor to witchcraft nor do they derive from soothsaying. O people of the Quraish! I request you to take note of my advice and grant the man full freedom to pursue his goals, in which case you could safely detach yourselves from him. I swear that his words bear a supreme Message. Should the other Arabs rid you of him, they will then spare you the trouble, on the other hand if he gains power over the Arabs, then you will enjoy his kingship and share him in his might.’’ These words of course fell on deaf ears, and did not appeal to the infidels, who mocked at `Utbah and claimed that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had bewitched him.
In another version of the same event, it is related that `Utbah went on attentively listening to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) until the latter began to recite Allah’s Words:
“But if they turn away, then say (O Muhammad): ``I have warned you of a Sa`iqah (a destructive awful torment) like the Sa`iqah which overtook (the people of) `Ad and Thamud.’’ [41:13]
Here `Utbah stood up panicked and stunned, placed his hand on the Prophet’s mouth and requested him: “I beg you in the Name of Allah and the ties of kinship to stop lest the calamity should befall the people of Quraish.’’ He then hurriedly returned to his companions and informed them of what he had heard.
The Heads of the Quraish Challenge the Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Abu Jahl Passes Judgment on Him
Still the Quraish had hope. This was because the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had not clearly rejected their offers in a way that would completely rule out an agreement. One day they gathered behind the Ka`bah after sunset for a meeting and sent a message to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) inviting him to attend. When he came, they presented him with the same proposals that `Utbah had done previously. He made clear to them that none of these applied, that he was merely a Messenger conveying the Message of his
Lord. If they accepted then it would benefit them in this life and the Hereafter; if they rejected it then he would be patient until Allah judged between them and him.
Then they asked him to produce a sign, asking his Lord to either move a mountain for them, level the city, make the dawn appear, or bring to life some of the dead so they would believe him. He responded in a similar manner.
Then they told him to ask his Lord to send an angel to them testifying to his words, bringing gardens, treasures, and castles of gold and silver. He answered again in the same manner.
Then they asked him to bring a punishment: that he makes a piece of the sky fall down upon them, he replied:
“That is up to Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!), He does as He wills.’’
At this, they criticized him sharply and threatened him, and he went away, grieving and upset.
After he had gone, Abu Jahl, the archenemy of Islam, addressed them: “O people of Quraish! It seems that Muhammad is determined to go on finding fault with our religion, degrading our forefathers, discrediting our way of life and abusing our gods. I bear witness to our god that to rid you of him, once and for all, I will carry a heavy rock and drop it on Muhammad’s head while he is in prostration. I am not afraid of whatever his tribe, Banu `Abd Manaf, might do.’’ The unfortunate audience approved his plan and encouraged him to translate it into action.
In the morning of the following day, Abu Jahl lay waiting for the arrival of Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to offer prayer. The people of Quraish were in their assembly rooms waiting for news. When the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prostrated himself, Abu Jahl proceeded, carrying the big rock to fulfill his wicked intention.
No sooner had he approached the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) than he turned back pale-faced, shuddering with his hands straining while the rock dropped. The people watching hurried forward asking him what was wrong. He replied: “When I approached, a male camel unusual in figure with fearful canines intercepted and almost devoured me.’’ Ibn Ishaq reported that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), in the context of his comment on the incident, said:
``It was Jibreel (May peace be upon him!), if Abu Jahl had approached closer, he would have killed him.
The Quraish Attempt to Negotiate
Although the Quraish tried to challenge the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Abu Jahl tried to kill him, they still hoped to come to some terms of agreement with the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) since they were not completely convinced that he was false. Rather they felt about the Message, as Allah said:
``They are in grave doubt concerning it.’’ [11:110]
They saw that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was firm in the matter of his religion, and they wanted to meet him somewhere in the middle of the road. They were willing to give up some of their faith, requesting him to give up some of his. They thought that through this method they would be able to arrive at the truth, if what he called them to was indeed true.
Ibn Ishaq reported that some people were mocking Allah’s Messenger while he was circumambulating around the Ka`bah. They included Al-Aswad bin Al-Muttalib bin Asad bin `Abdul-`Uzza, Al-Walid bin Al-Mughirah, Umaiyah bin Khalaf, and Al-`As bin Wa’il As-Sahmi, and these were the elders of their people. They said, “O Muhammad! Come and let us worship what you worship, and you worship what we worship. We can be partners with you in this matter. If the one you worship is better than what we worship then we will get some kind of benefit. Whereas, if what we worship is better than the one you worship then you will get some kind of benefit. So Allah revealed:
``Say: ‘O you disbelievers! I will not worship what you worship...’’ to the end of the Surah 
‘Abd bin Humaid and others reported that Ibn `Abbas said that the Quraish said, “If you submit to our gods then we will worship your god.’’ So Allah revealed:
``Say: ‘O you disbelievers!...’’ to the end of Surah 
At-Tabari and others report that Ibn `Abbas said that the Quraish said, “Worship our gods for one year, and we will worship your god for one year.’’ So Allah revealed:
``Say: `Is it other than Allah that you order me to worship O you fools?’’ [39:64]
The Quraish’s Bewilderment and Their Consultation With the Jews
The route the pagans had taken began to seem dark after these events, and they were perplexed over what to do. Finally one of their devils, An-Nadr bin Harith stood to advise them saying: “O Quraish! By Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!)! You have experienced an unprecedented phenomenon which has rendered you helpless. Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) grew up here and nursed among you, and he always proved to be highly obliging, the most truthful and trustworthy young man. However, when his sideburns began to gray, he brought forth this problem. You said, `He is a sorcerer.’ No by Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!)! He is not a sorcerer for we have seen sorcery and its spells. Then you said, `He is a soothsayer.’ No by Allah! He is not a soothsayer, for we have seen soothsayers and their taste for passions and we have heard their rhymes. Then you said, `He is a poet.’ No by Allah! He is not a poet, for we have seen poets and heard their words of song and obscenity. Then you said, `He is possessed.’ No by Allah! He is not a possessed, for we have seen the possessed and he has never been witnessed to develop any sort of hallucinations or fits peculiar to the insane. O people of the Quraish, this is really a serious matter and I recommend that you seriously consider what to do.’’
Then the Quraish decided to contact the Jews for help in this matter. They authorized An-Nadr bin Harith to go with some others to the Jews of Madinah.
There the rabbis told him, “Ask him three questions. If he informs you about them then he is indeed a Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Ask him about the young men who went away in earlier times; what happened to them? Ask him about a man whose journeys reached the east and west of the earth; what was his prophecy? Ask him about the soul; what is it?’’
When he returned to Makkah he said that he had returned with some details that could be used against Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he informed them about what the Jews said.
Thus, the Quraish asked Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) about these three matters. After a few days, Surat AlKahf was revealed; it narrated the story of the young men known as the People of the Cave. It also narrated about the journeys of the man known as Dhul-Qarnain. The answer about the soul was revealed in Surat Al-Isra’. This clarified to the Quraish that the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was following the truth, yet the wrongdoers were bent on disbelief.
Abu Talib Assembles His Family
While the pagans were doing this, Abu Talib still had a deep portent of fear for his nephew. He had given considerable thought to the previous series of incidents including the case of `Uqbah bin Abi Mu`ait’s attempt to strangle the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Abu Jahl with his rock, and finally `Umar’s intention to kill Muhammad (before his conversion). Since all of these men were from Banu Hashim and Banu AlMuttalib, the wise man understood that all this unequivocally pointed to a serious plot being hatched to kill the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Abu Talib exhorted them to protect the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). All of them, whether believers or disbelievers, responded positively except his brother Abu Lahab, who sided with the idolaters.
General Social Boycott A Pact of Injustice and Aggression
After exhausting their plots, and with the covenant of Banu Hashim and Banu Al-Muttalib to protect Allah’s Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the pagans grew even more desperate to get the tribes to abandon their plan to protect him — at whatever the cost. They held a meeting at Khaif Banu Kinanah in a place called Wadi Al-Muhassab, and formed a confederation hostile to both Bani Hashim and Bani Al-Muttalib. They all took an oath not to have any business dealings with them nor any sort of inter-marriage, social relations, visits and even verbal contact until the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was given up to them to be killed. They wrote this down, drawing up a pact and a covenant. Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “They say that this was written down by Mansur bin `Ikrimah bin `Amir bin Hashim, or Nadr bin Al-Harith. What is correct is that it was Bagheed bin `Amir bin Hashim. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) invoked Allah’s curse upon Bagheed, whose hand was later paralyzed.
This treaty was affixed to the wall of the Ka`bah, all of Banu Hashim and Banu Al-Muttalib were boycotted, whether they were believers or disbelievers, except for Abu Lahab.
Abu Talib wisely and quietly took stock of the situation and decided to withdraw to a valley on the eastern outskirts of Makkah. Banu Hashim and Banu Al-Muttalib, who followed suit, were thus confined within a narrow pass (Shi`b of Abu Talib), from the beginning of Muharram, or later as some say, the seventh year of Muhammad’s mission till the tenth year, viz., a period of three years. It was a horrible and deadly siege. The supply of food was virtually stopped and the people in confinement faced great hardships. The idolaters used to buy whatever food commodities entered Makkah lest they should leak to the people in Ash-Shi’b, who were so constrained that they were compelled to eat leaves of trees and skins of animals. The cries of little children suffering from hunger used to be heard clearly. Nothing eatable reached them except, when on a few occasions, some small quantities of food were smuggled by some compassionate
Makkans. During `the prohibited months’ when hostilities traditionally ceased, they would leave their confinement and buy food coming from outside Makkah. Even then, the foodstuff was unjustly overpriced so that their financial situation would cause them to fall short of finding access to it.
Hakim bin Hizam was once on his way to smuggle some wheat to his aunt Khadijah(May Allah be Pleased with her) when Abu Jahl intercepted him and tried to prevent him. Only when Al-Bukhtari intervened, did Hakim manage to reach his destination. Abu Talib was so concerned about the personal safety of his nephew that whenever people retired to sleep, he would ask the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to lie in his place, but when all the others fell asleep, he would order him to change his place and take another, all in attempt to trick a potential assassin.
Despite all the odds, Muhammad persisted, and his determination and courage never weakened. He continued to go to the Ka`bah and to pray publicly. He used every opportunity to preach to outsiders who visited Makkah for business or on a pilgrimage during the sacred months and Hajj season.
Dissolution of the Pact
This situation ultimately created disagreement among the various Makkan factions, who were tied to the besieged people by blood relations. After three years of blockade, in the month of Muharram,the tenth year of Muhammad’s mission, the pact was broken. Hisham bin `Amr, who used to smuggle some food to Bani Hashim secretly at night, went to see Zuhair bin Abi Umaiyah Al-Makhzumi and condemned him for agreeing to the intolerable treatment meted out to his uncles in exile. The latter expressed weakness, but agreed to work with Hisham and form a pressure group that would secure the liberation of the exiles. Motivating each other on the basis of ties of kinship, there emerged a group of five people who set out to abolish the pact and declare all its clauses null and void. They were Hisham bin `Amr, Zuhair bin Abi Umaiyah, Al-Mut`im bin `Adi, Abul-Bukhtari and Zam`ah bin Al-Aswad. They decided to meet in their assembly place and begin their mission from the precinct of the Sacred House.
After circumambulating seven times, Zuhair and his companions approached the assembly of people there and criticized them for indulging in the pleasures of life whereas their kith and kin of Bani Hashim were perishing on account of starvation and economic boycott. They swore they would never give up until the parchment of boycott was torn to pieces and the pact broken at once. Abu Jahl, standing nearby, replied in a sharp tone that it would never be torn. Zam’ah became angry and accused Abu Jahl of telling lies, adding that the pact was established and the parchment was written without seeking their approval. Abul-Bukhtari interfered and backed Zam’ah. Al-Mut’im bin `Adi and Hisham bin `Amr attested to the truthfulness of their two companions. Abu Jahl, with a cunning attempt to settle the heated argument that was running counter to his evil plans, surmised that the issue had already been resolved earlier [i.e, they were acting in collusion with one another].
Abu Talib meanwhile was sitting in a corner of the Masjid. He came to communicate to them that a Revelation had been sent to his nephew, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), to the effect that ants had eaten away those parts of the document that had points of injustice and aggression except the parts that bore the Name of Allah. He proposed that he would be ready to give Muhammad up to them if his words proved untrue, otherwise, they would have to withdraw and cancel their boycott. The Makkans agreed to the soundness of his proposition. AlMut`im went to see the parchment and there he discovered that it was eaten away by ants and nothing was left except the part bearing the Name of Allah.
Thus, the declaration was cancelled, and Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the other people were permitted to leave Ash-Sh’ib and return home. In the context of this trial to which the Muslims were subjected, the polytheists had an unparalleled opportunity to experience a striking sign of Muhammad’s Prophethood (the ants eating away the parchment) but to their miserable lot they persisted and increased in disbelief:
``But if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say `This is continuous magic.’’ [54:2]
The Final Phase of the Diplomacy of Negotiation
Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) emerged from the period of boycott and continued preaching his Faith as usual. The Quraish, likewise, cancelled the boycott but continued their atrocities and oppression on the Muslims. Abu Talib, despite having reached eighty years of age, was still keen on shielding his nephew but by that time, due to the adverse circumstances and continual turmoil, he had weakened considerably. No sooner had he emerged victorious from the inhuman boycott, he was troubled by persistent illness and physical weakness. Seeing this serious situation, and fearing the stain of infamy that the other Arabs could attribute to them in case they took any aggressive action against the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) after he had lost his main support, Abu Talib, the polytheists of Makkah decided to negotiate with the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once more and grant some concessions they had previously withheld. They delegated some representatives to see Abu Talib and discuss the issue with him.
Ibn Ishaq and others reported that when a serious illness caught Abu Talib, the Quraish began to review the main events of that period, which included the conversion of `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) and Hamzah (May Allah be Pleased with him) to Islam, coupled with the tremendous stir that Muhammad had created among all the tribes of the Quraish. They considered it necessary to see Abu Talib before he died to pressure his nephew to negotiate a compromise on the various disputed points, because they were afraid that the other Arabs might accuse them of opportunism.
The delegation of Quraish comprised 25 men including notables like `Utbah bin Rabi’ah, Shaibah bin Rabi’ah, Abu Jahl bin Hisham, Umaiyah bin Khalaf and Abu Sufyan bin Harb. They first paid tribute to him and confirmed their high esteem of his character and position among them. Then they shifted to the new give-and-take policy that they claimed they wanted to follow. To bolster their argument, they proposed that they would refrain from interfering in his religion if he did the same.
Abu Talib summoned his nephew and informed him of his meeting with them, and said: “My nephew, here are the nobles among your people. They have proposed this meeting to submit a policy of mutual concessions and peaceful coexistence.’’ Allah’s Messenger turned to them saying:
``I will guide you to the means by which you will gain control over both the Arabs and non-Arabs.’’
In another version, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) addressed Abu Talib in the following words:
“O uncle! Why don’t you call them unto something better?’’
Abu Talib asked him, “What is it that you invite them to?’’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied:
“I invite them to hold fast to a Message that is bound to give them access to kingship over the Arabs and non-Arabs.’’ According to Ibn Ishaq’s version:
“It is just one word that will give you supremacy over the Arabs and nonArabs.’’
The Makkan deputies were taken by surprise and began to wonder what sort of word was that which would benefit them to that extent. Abu Jahl asked, “What is that word? I swear by your father that we will surely grant you your wish followed by ten times as much.’’ He said:
“I want you to testify that there is no deity worthy of being worshipped but Allah, and then dissociate yourselves from any sort of worship you harbor for any deities other than Allah.’’
They immediately clapped their hands in ridicule, and said “How can you expect us to combine all the deities in one God? This is something incredible!’’ On their way out, they said to one another, “By Allah this man will never give up, nor will he offer any concessions. Let us hold fast to the religion of our forefathers, and Allah will in due course deliver His judgment and settle the dispute between us and him.’’ About this incident Allah revealed the following Verses:
‘‘ Sad : [These letters (Sad, etc.) are one of the miracles of the Qur’an and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings]. By the Qur’an full of reminding. Nay, those who disbelieve are in false pride and opposition. How many a generation We have destroyed before them, and they cried out when there was no longer time for escape! And they (Arab pagans) wonder that a warner (Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) has come to them from among themselves! And the disbelievers say, `This (Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) is a sorcerer, a liar. Has he made the gods (all) into One God (Allah). Verily, this is a curious thing!’ And the leaders among them went about (saying): `Go on, and remain constant to your gods! Verily, this is a thing designed (against you)! We have not heard (the like) of this among the people of these later days. This is nothing but an invention.’’’ [38:1-7]
The Year of Grief
Abu Talib’s Death
In Rajab, the tenth year of the Prophethood, Abu Talib fell ill and passed away, six months after leaving the confinement at Ash-Sh`ib. In another version, Abu Talib breathed his last in Ramadan, three days prior to the death of Khadijah(May Allah be Pleased with her). On the authority of AlMusaiyab, when Abu Talib was on the deathbed, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) entered the room where he saw Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiyah. He requested his uncle:
``My uncle, profess that there is no true God but Allah, and I will bear testimony before Allah (of your being a believer).’’
Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiyah addressing him said: “Abu Talib, would you abandon the religion of `Abdul-Muttalib?’’ Allah’s Messenger continued to request him, and the same thing was said to him (by Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiyah) — until Abu Talib gave his final decision and stuck to the religion of `Abdul-Muttalib and refused to profess that there is no true God but Allah. Upon this Allah’s Messenger remarked:
``By Allah, I will persistently beg pardon for you till I am forbidden to do so (by Allah).’’
After that Allah, the Magnificent and Glorious revealed this Verse:
``It is not (proper) for the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and those who believe to ask Allah’s forgiveness for the Mushrikun (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire (because they died in a state of disbelief).’’ [9:113]
And Allah also revealed:
``Verily! You (O Muhammad) guide not whom you like.’’ [28:56]
There is no need to explain Abu Talib’s protective and caring behavior. He was a fortress that protected the Islamic Call from the offenses of the tyrants and the foolish ones. Yet he remained upon the religion of his forefathers, to no avail.
Al-`Abbas bin `Abdul-Muttalib narrated that he said to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “You have not been of any avail to your uncle (Abu Talib) (though) by Allah, he used to protect you and get angry on your behalf.’’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“He is in a shallow fire, and had it not been for me, he would have been at the bottom of the (Hell) Fire.’’
Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri narrated that he heard the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say, when the mention of his uncle was made:
``I hope that my intercession may avail him, and he be placed in a shallow fire that rises up only to his heels.’’
Khadijah(May Allah be Pleased with her)Passes Away to the Mercy of Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!)
Only two or three months after the death of his uncle, Allah’s Messenger experienced another great personal loss. The Mother of the Believers, his wife Khadijah (May Allah be Pleased with her) passed away in Ramadan of the tenth year of his Prophethood, when she was sixty-five years old, and he was fifty. Khadijah (May Allah be Pleased with her) was in fact a blessing of Allah for the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). She, for twenty-five years, shared with him the toils and trials of life, especially in the first ten years of his Prophethood. He mourned over her death deeply, and once he replied in an outburst of tender emotions:
``She believed in me while the people disbelieved in me. And she trusted in me while the people belied me. And she helped and comforted me, in person and wealth, when the people would not. Allah provided me with children by her, and He did not with others.’’
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be Pleased with him) reported that Jibreel (May peace be upon him!) came to Allah’s Messenger and said: “Allah’s Messenger, (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) lo, is coming to you with a vessel of seasoned food or drink. When Khadijah she comes to you, offer her greetings from her Lord, and give her glad tidings of a palace of jewels in Paradise where there is no noise and no toil.’’
The Accumulation of Grief
These two painful events took place within a short period of time and added to his grief and suffering. The Makkans now openly declared their campaign of torture and oppression. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) lost all hope of bringing them back to the right path, so he set out for At-Ta’if seeking a supportive atmosphere. However, there too, he was disappointed and underwent unbearable torture and ill-treatment that far outweighed the harms he was subjected to in his native town.
His Companions were subjected to similar torture and unbearable oppression to such an extent that his closest friend, Abu Bakr (May Allah be Pleased with him) fled out of Makkah to escape the pressure and wanted to leave for Abyssinia (Ethiopia). However, Ibn Ad-Daghinah who met him at Birkul-Ghimad managed to discourage him from emigrating and brought him back under his protection.The death of Abu Talib made the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) defenseless, and the polytheists availed themselves of this opportunity to give free rein to their hatred and high-handedness and subject him to oppression and physical assaults.
Once a disrespectful Quraishite intercepted him and sprinkled sand on his head. When he arrived home, his daughter washed the sand away and wept. The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Do not weep, my daughter. Allah will verily protect your father.’’ And he said:
“The Quraish did not have an effect on me such as they did after the death of Abu Talib.’’
The rapid succession of misfortunes, led the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to call that period, `The Year of Grief and Sorrow’. Thenceforth, that year bore that label.
His Marriage to Sawdah in Shawwal, the Tenth Year of Prophethood
In Shawwal of that same year, that is the tenth year of his Prophetic mission, Allah’s Messenger married Sawdah, the daughter of Zam’ah. She was one of the early converts who had migrated with the second group of emigrants to Abyssinia. She was married to As-Sakran bin `Amr who had converted and migrated with her but died in the land of Abyssinia, or after returning to Makkah.
She was the first woman the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) married after the death of Khadijah. Some years later she granted her turn with the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to her co-wife, `Aishah (May Allah be Pleased with her).
Factors Inspiring Patience and Perseverance
It is natural for people of intellect to meditate deeply on the factors that inspired the early Muslims to their miraculous constancy and perseverance. It is natural to wonder how they tolerated indescribable persecution and stood steadfast in the face of cruel torture. With respect to these questions, we deem it wise to touch upon those underlying reasons:
- Unshakable Belief in Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him)
The first and foremost factor is no doubt, unshakable belief in Allah (Might and majesty belong to Him!) Alone coupled with correct knowledge of Him. A man with this belief deeply rooted in his heart will look at difficulties as trifling, that cannot compare with the sweetness of Belief:
``Then, as for the foam, it passes away as scum upon the banks, while that which is for the good of mankind remains in the earth.’’ [13:17]
Other factors that branch out from that belief and assist in strengthening it are:
- Beloved Leadership
Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the great leader of the Muslim community and humanity at large, was an exemplary man in his perfect manners and noble attributes; no one could measure up to his qualities of nobility, honesty, trustworthiness and abstemiousness. It is narrated that three people of the Quraish each separately and secretly listened to some Verses of the Noble Qur’an. Later, this secret was uncovered and one of them asked Abu Jahl (one of the three) what he thought of what he heard from Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He answered: “We vied for the honor of leadership and generosity with Banu `Abd Manaf and shared equal privileges competitively. They then began to boast saying that a Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has arisen from among them upon whom Revelation came down from heavens. I swear we will never believe in him.’’
Abu Jahl himself, the great enemy of Islam, used to say repeatedly: “O Muhammad, we are in no position to belie you, we rather disbelieve what you have brought us (Islam).’’ So Allah said:
‘‘... It is not you that they deny, but it is the Verses (the Qur’an) of Allah that the Zalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers) deny.’’ [6:33]
One day, the disbelievers of Quraish issued a sarcastic remark at him three times. He remained silent but the third time, he remarked:
“O Quraish! Slaughter is in store for you.’’
They were taken aback and utter fear filled their hearts to such an extent that even the most hostile among them began to make up for their insult by the best friendly terms they could afford. When they threw the intestines of a camel on him while the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was prostrating in prayer, he invoked Allah’s wrath on them, and they immediately were caught in an inexpressible state of worry and were convinced that they would be destroyed. He supplicated against `Utaibah bin Abu Lahab, after which `Utaibah never overcame the certainty that his prayer would be answered. Then, when he saw the lion that eventually attacked him, he said, “By Allah! Muhammad has killed me while he is in Makkah.’’
Ubai bin Khalaf always used to threaten the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he would kill him. One day the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied that rather he would kill him by Allah’s Will. When Ubai received a scratch in his neck, on the day of Uhud, he, under the sense of horror, remembered the Prophet’s words and remarked: “I am convinced he would be able to kill me even if he spat on me.’’ Sa`d bin Mu`adh said to Umaiyah bin Khalaf in Makkah: “I heard Allah’s Messenger say one day that the Muslims would surely kill you.’’ Umaiyah was in a state of extreme panic and swore he would never step out of Makkah. Even when Abu Jahl obliged him to march with them to fight the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) on the day of Badr, he bought the best and fastest camels in Makkah in order that they hasten his escape. Even his wife warned him, his reply was “By Allah, I have no intention of going out with the Quraish, I will disengage from them after a short distance.’’
That was the extent of the awe and terror haunting his enemies wherever they were. His friends and Companions, on the other hand, held him dearest to them, and he occupied the innermost place of their hearts. They were always ready to defend him and secure his wellbeing even at the risk of their lives. One day, Abu Bakr bin Abi Quhafah (May Allah be Pleased with him) was severely beaten by `Utbah bin Rabi’ah, a terrible polytheist. His whole body was bleeding and he was on the verge of death, yet when his people took him back home extremely dismayed at his mistreatment, he swore he would not eat or drink anything until they had told him about the wellbeing of his noble Companion, Muhammad. That was the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice that characterized the behavior of those early Companions.
- Sense of Responsibility
The early Companions were fully aware of the responsibility they were expected to shoulder. They were also convinced that those charges were inescapable even though they were being persecuted, for fear of the far reaching consequences that humanity would suffer in case they evaded their obligations.
- Unwavering Belief in the Truth of the Hereafter
This was the cornerstone that strengthened their sense of responsibility. The light of their religion established a deep certainty that one day they would be raised on the Day of Resurrection and account for all worldly deeds, small or big. They were sure that their future in the other world would depend wholly on their actions in their provisional life on earth, either to everlasting Garden (Paradise) or everlasting chastisement in Hell. Their whole life was divided between hope for Allah’s mercy and fear of His punishment.
``...Who give that (their charity) which they give (and also do other good deeds) with their hearts full of fear (whether their alms and charities, etc., have been accepted or not), because they are sure to return to their Lord.’’ [23:60]
They knew that life with all its amenities and strife was worthless when compared to the Hereafter. Such deep convictions brought about in them a sense of indifference to all troubles and hardships that attended their life.
- The Qur’an
The Verses and Chapters of the Noble Qur’an were revealed at that depressing and critical stage, supporting and advancing arguments on the truth and soundness of the principles of Islam, around whose axis the entire Call of Muhammad revolved. They constituted the immutable basis upon which the best Divinely decreed society was to be established. The Qur’anic Verses also served to excite the feelings of the believers, strengthen their souls on their course of patience and endurance and introduce them to the most purposeful examples and injunctions:
``Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, `When (will come) the Help of Allah?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near!’’ [2:214]
‘‘ Alif-Lam-Mim. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: `We believe’, and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test).’’ [29:1-3]
These Verses also constituted an irrefutable answer to the false allegations of the disbelievers, and a clear warning of the terrible consequences that would result if they persisted in their disbelief.
On the other hand, the Noble Qur’an was leading the Muslims to a new world and enlightening them as to its features, the beauty of Lordship, the perfection of Godship, the impact of kindness and mercy and the manifestations of the desire for Allah’s Pleasure. The Verses expressed meaningful messages carrying glad tidings of the Divine Mercy leading to eternal bliss in a blissful Garden (Paradise). At the same time, they indicated the end of the tyrants and disbelievers who would be brought to Divine Justice and then dragged through the Fire where they would taste the punishment of Hell.
- Glad Tidings of Success
Having experienced the trials of life, the Muslims were certain that entrance into the fold of Islam did not require hardships or digging one’s own grave. They were aware that the Islamic Call had one goal: terminating the preIslamic practices and destroying its unjust system, extending its influence all over the earth and taking firm control of the political situation worldwide to lead humanity along a course conducive to Allah’s Pleasure, and rid people of worshipping Allah’s servants to worshipping Allah, Himself. Glad tidings of this nature were revealed, sometimes explicitly and at other times implicitly, in a manner relevant to the situation.
When the Muslims were forced to undergo constraints, or when their life appeared series of continual trials, Verses would be revealed that narrated similar stories of past Prophets with their people, and the sufferings and pains they had experienced. The Verses would also include clues indicating the final end of the Makkan disbelievers and their evil destination, while bearing glad tidings to the believers and promising the true servants of vicegerency on earth and victory of the Islamic Call.
Here we mention some of the Verses of this category mentioning glad tidings, and referring to the final victory that would crown the firmness and patience of the Muslims:
``And verily, Our Word has gone forth of old for Our servants, -- the Messengers, that they verily would be made triumphant. And that Our hosts, they verily would be the victors. So turn away (O Muhammad) from them for a while, and watch them and they shall see (the punishment)! Do they seek to hasten on Our torment? Then, when it descends into their courtyard (i.e., near to them), evil will be the morning for those who had been warned.’’ [37:171-177]
In the same context, Allah told His Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):
``Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs.’’ [54:45]
He also said:
``They will be a defeated army like the confederates of the old times.’’ [38:11]
The Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) had the following:
``And as for those who emigrated for the cause of Allah, after suffering oppression, We will certainly give them goodly residence in this world, but indeed the reward of the Hereafter will be greater, if they but knew.’’ [16:41]
In the context of the story of Joseph (Yusuf), there was:
``Verily, in Joseph and his brethren there were Ayat for those who ask.’’ [12:7]
i.e., the Makkans will suffer the same end that befell Joseph’s brothers, meaning, failure and surrender. In another instance, Allah speaks about the Messengers:
``And those who disbelieved, said to their Messengers: `Surely, we shall drive you out of our land, or you shall return to our religion!’ So their Lord inspired them: `Truly, We shall destroy the Zalimun (polytheists, disbelievers and wrongdoers). And indeed, We shall make you dwell in the land after them. This is for him who fears standing before Me (on the Day of Resurrection or fears My punishment) and also fears My threat.’’’ [14:13,14]
During the war between the Persians and the Romans, the disbelievers were hoping that victory be the former’s lot, because both parties professed polytheism, whereas the Muslims prayed for a Roman victory because both groups believed in Allah, His Messengers, Books, the Revelation and the Hereafter.
The war resulted in the overthrow of Rome by Persia. The polytheists were pro-Persian, and they hoped that the emerging movement of Islam, which at that time was (from a worldly point of view) very weak and helpless, would collapse under their persecution. However, they misread the true signs of the times. They were told that they would soon be disillusioned in both their calculations, and it actually so happened when Heraclius carried his campaign into the heart of Persia and the Makkan Quraish were beaten at Badr:
``And on that Day, the believers (i.e., Muslims) will rejoice (at the victory given by Allah to the Romans against the Persians) with the help of Allah.’’ [30:4,5]
Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also warned and gave them news of the Hereafter. During the Hajj season he would attend the markets of `Ukaz, Majannah and Dhul-Majaz, to convey the Message. He was not merely conveying good news of Paradise, rather he was clearly warning them saying:
“O people! Say: ‘La ilaha illallah’ so that you may be the victors, and by it rule over the Arabs, followed in religion by the non-Arabs, dying to be kings in Paradise.’’
This is what the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had told the pagans who had come to console Abu Talib on his deathbed. He made it clear to them that they only had to say a single phrase by which the Arabs would follow them in their religion and they would rule over the non-Arabs. Khabbab bin Al-Aratt said, “I came to the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) while he was resting on his Burd (a type of clothing) under the shade of the Ka`bah. We had been subjected to hardships by the idolaters so I said, `Why do you not call upon Allah?’ So he sat up, his face reddening and said:
“Among the people before you one would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from his bones and nerves, yet he would not change his religion. Allah will secure this matter such that a rider will go easily from San`a’ to Hadramout fearing none but Allah – (one of the narrators added and the wolf regarding his sheep) — yet you are a hasty people.’’
Glad tidings of better prospects for Islam and the Muslims were not confined to Muhammad’s followers, in fact they were being disclosed time and again to both believers and disbelievers.
Whenever the two parties met, the latter would taunt the former and mockingly say: “Here are the sovereigns of earth who will defeat Chosroes and Caesar.’’ However, the believers, in anticipation of that shining divinely decreed future, would persevere and tolerate all sorts of persecution and humiliation, regarding them as summer clouds that would soon clear away.
The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) maintained and sustain his followers’ spirits with the light of Belief, purify them by implanting Qur’anic wisdom in their hearts, and cultivate their minds deeply with the spirit of Islam. He did this in order to elevate them to a state of noble spirituality, pure heartedness and absolute freedom from materialism; to cultivate a high morale powerful enough to resist worldly lusts and consequently lead them from darkness to light. He would constantly teach them to be tolerant, forgiving and discipline themselves in order to be well established in their religion, to disregard lust, and devote themselves to attaining the Pleasure of Allah, with a desire for the Garden (Paradise). He encouraged them to be enthusiastic about sciences relating to their Faith, calling themselves to account, suppressing false desires, keeping all incendiary incidents under firm control and finally observing selfdiscipline, patience and firmness.