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Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 4: The Stormy Opposition

Chapter 4:
The Stormy Opposition:

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| Slave Converts Tortured | First Emigration to Abyssinia | The Second Emigration | Alleged Compromise with Idolatry | Public Preaching | First Deputation to Abu Talib | Second Deputation | The Prophet's Strong Stand | Third Deputation | Quraish Offer Leadership and Wealth | Ban against the Hashimites | Death of Abu Talib and Khadijah | Journey to Ta' if | Pledges of Aqabah |

"Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, We believe, and will not be tried" (29:2).

Whenever the Divine will inspires a band of righteous people to work as torch-bearers of Truth to a corrupt humanity, there never fails to appear at the same time a band of those who pitch themselves in deadly opposition to them, and inflict upon them all kinds of trouble and torture. And in truth the storm of opposition is absolutely indispensable. The persecutions to which they are subjected serve as a crucial test of the sincerity of their motives. They unhesitatingly put up with humiliations, endure hardships and cruelties, but never for a moment give up the truth for which they stand. In fact, they live if they can, for the Truth; and die, if they must, for the Truth. Besides, afflictions constitute the only training ground for fostering virtues of steadfastness and perseverance, without which man cannot attain to moral perfection. Unless one is hemmed in on all sides by overwhelming obstacles and visited with hardships and privations, one cannot cultivate these qualities. Adversities that befall such people are in fact blessings in disguise, which conduce to their moral advancement. Over and above these, there is a third object. The Almighty God wants to bring home to mankind that a plant tended by the Divine hand, however slender it may look survives the most furious blasts of hostile winds. Consequently, in accordance with this Divine law, the Holy Prophet and his companions had to suffer untold troubles at the hands of the opponents.

The Holy Prophet Persecuted:

In the beginning, Makkan opposition to the message of Islam gook the form of sneering and jeering at the Holy Prophet. They did not attach much importance to the movement, thinking that it would die out in due course. It was treated with contempt and indifference as being unworthy of serious attention. All that the believers received at the hands of the Mans in those days was ridicule and disdain. Resort to violence was not yet thought necessary. When they passed by the believers, they would laugh and wink at them in derision [The Quran, 83:30, 34]. Sometimes they would call the Holy Prophet an idle visionary, given to poetic fancies, destined to come to naught as a matter of course [The Quran, 52:30]. There was something wrong with his brain, they would say. But as men of light and position gradually gathered round him, the Makkans were awakened to a sense of danger. Now they did not content themselves with indifference and ridicule, but took to active violence. Once, when the Holy Prophet was saying his prayers in the Ka'bah, lying prostrate, Abu Jahl placed the dirty foetus of a she-camel on his neck. As he used to go out of his house for prayers at dawn, one way adopted to annoy him was that branches of prickly shrubs were strewn in his way, so that in the darkness he should become entangled in them. Sometimes dust was thrown at him; sometimes he was pelted with stones. One day, a number of men from among the Quraish nobility fell upon him. One, ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu‘ait, threw his mantle around his neck and twisted it till he was on the point of strangulation. Abu Bakr, appearing at the scene intervened and rescued him, saying: "Do you mean to kill a man merely because he says that God is his Lord?"

Slave Converts Tortured:

The brunt of the oppression had to be borne by those not coming of some family of note among the Quraish and especially by the slaves, male as well as female. These were subjected to the most cruel tortures. Islamic teachings, however, possessed a charm too strong for all these afflictions. They would part with life itself rather than give up Islam, which had taken deep root in their hearts. Bilal, the Abyssinian, was tortured in a most heartless manner by his master to make him renounce Islam. His oppressor made him lie flat on the burning ground in the scorching heat of the Arabian midday sun. Heavy slabs of stone were then placed on his chest. Notwithstanding such extremely painful torments he would loudly repeat, almost in a state of senselessness "Ahad" (One), i.e., there is but one God. Ammar's father, Yasir, and his mother, Sumayyah, were persecuted in a most barbarous way. Yasir's legs were tied to two camels and the beasts were driven in opposite directions. He was brutally torn to pieces. Sumayyah was killed in a similarly brutal but far more disgraceful manner. Lubainah was the handmaid of 'Umar. The latter, in his pre-conversion days, used to beat her till he was tired. Then he would say: "I leave thee now not because I pity thee but because I am tired of beating thee."

Even converts of high birth were not spared. They were persecuted by their own kinsmen. ‘Uthman came of a noble family and occupied a high social position. Yet his uncle tied him with a rope and gave him a severe beating. 'Umar's treatment of his cousin and sister has already been described. Zubair was wrapped up in a matting and made to inhale smoke. Abu Bakr was not immune. They were, one and all, subjected to one form of cruelty or another; but no amount of suffering could drive the love of Islam out of their hearts. The Makkans themselves were struck with wonder at such steadfast adherence. But their fortitude only added fuel to the fire of their persecutors' rage, and the latter resorted to still more bitter persecutions.

First Emigration of Abyssinia:

By the fifth year after the Call, the Holy Prophet had collected round him a band of over fifty devoted comrades. A common faith consolidated them into a brotherhood which was cemented all the more closely by Makkan persecutions. Besides, their numerical strength was growing day by day. The Holy Prophet was so tender-hearted that his heart would ache at the sight of pain, even of his foes. How could he then bear the sight of the tortures of his own friends? Doubtless, these friends were a source of great strength to himself, and of much good to his cause. He could ill afford to dispense with a single one of them. Nevertheless when he saw that. the Makkans were daily growing in their bitterness and cruelty, he advised Muslims to betake themselves to a place of safety ["And those who flee for Allah's sake after they are oppressed, We shall certainly give them a good abode in the world" (16: 41)]. Single-handed would he brave the worst storms of the Makkans' opposition rather than see his companions subjected to such ruthless tortures. He had no anxiety or dread of his infuriated foe on his own account. He, therefore, advised his companions to seek shelter in Abyssinia, saying: "There is a land where no one is wronged - a land of justice. Stay there until it pleases Allah to open for you a way out of these difficulties." The inhabitants of Abyssinia as well as their king, called the Negus, were Christians by faith. The first batch of emigrants, numbering eleven, was formed to sail for Abyssinia. Four of them were accompanied by their wives, ‘Uthman, with his wife Ruqayyah, the Prophet's daughter, among them. In the month of Rajab in the fifth year of the Call, the party left Makkah, some mounted, others on foot. Arriving at the port, they hurriedly embarked and left the shores of their homeland to seek safety elsewhere.

The Quraish, as soon as they heard of their departure, despatched men post-haste to bring them back. To their disappointment, however, the vessel had already left. But this was not the end of their wrath. They were anxious that Islam should not get a foothold anywhere. It was at last decided to send a delegation to the Negus to ask him not to give the Muslims shelter and to hand them over to the Makkans. ‘Abd Allah ibn Rabi‘ and ‘Amr ibn ‘As were chosen for the mission, and they went to Abyssinia with handsome presents. The first step they took on arrival was to enlist the sympathies of the priestly class. They told them that the Muslims had set up a religion which was antagonistic to Christianity, and supplemented this appeal to their religious prejudice by making them valuable presents. Thus, they succeeded in prevailing upon clerics to exert their influence with the King on their behalf, and made their way to the court of the Negus. They put up a claim for the extradition of the Muslim immigrants who, they alleged, were guilty of an innovation in religion in opposition to their ancestral faith as well as to Christianity. The King thereupon summoned the Muslims to his court demanding of them to submit what defence they could, to the charge of heresy brought against them. On this, one of them Ja'far ibn Abi Talib, rose, and thus addressed the King:

"O King! We were an ignorant people, given to idolatry. We used to eat corpses even of dead animals, and to do all kinds of disgraceful things. We did not make good our obligations to our relations, and ill-treated our neighbours. The strong among us would thrive at the expense of the weak, till, at last, God sent a prophet for our reformation. His descent, his righteousness, his integrity and his piety are well-known to us. He called us to the worship of God, and exhorted us to give up idolatry and stone worship. He enjoined us to speak truth, to make good our trusts, to respect ties of kinship, and to do good to our neighbours. He taught us to shun everything foul and to avoid bloodshed. He forbade all manner of indecent things - telling lies, misappropriating orphans' belongings, and bringing false accusations against the chastity of women. So we believed in him, followed him, and acted upon his teachings. Thereupon our people began to wrong us, to subject us to tortures, thinking that we might thus abjure our faith and revert to idolatry. When, however, their cruelties exceeded all bounds, we came out to seek an asylum in your country, where we hope we shall come to no harm."

After this, Ja'far recited to him a passage from the Holy Quran, which touched his heart. The Negus told the Quraish embassy that he would by no means hand over the refugees to them. Thus disappointed they hit upon another plan. Next day, they tried to incite the King by telling him that the heretics did not believe in the Divinity of Jesus. But in this, too, their hopes were frustrated. The Muslims confessed they did not look upon Jesus as God but as a prophet. The Negus, picking up a straw and pointing to it, said: "Jesus is in fact not even this much more than the Muslims have described him to be." The Quraish delegation was thus unsuccessful.

It is noteworthy that the Quraish felt much upset at the Muslims' emigration to Abyssinia. They pursued them first to the port to capture them, and, being disappointed, followed them to the court of the Negus. What, after all, made them so ill at ease? Was it the Muslims' anti-idolatrous propaganda that turned the Quraish so dead against them? But the emigrants were now too far off to offend their susceptibilities by speaking ill of their idols. Assuredly, the animosity aroused through religious differences had by now become personal. They could not tolerate that the Muslims, whom they had driven from their homes, should flourish anywhere. They were bent upon their destruction and therefore went all the way to the Negus to cause them trouble. For precisely the same reason they allowed the Holy Prophet and his companions no rest even at Madinah, where they had subsequently emigrated. At Madinah, there was no power to shield the Muslim refugees against their blood thirsty enemies, the Quraish, who, therefore, were emboldened to extirpate them with the sword. The instinct of self-preservation roused the Muslims to strike a blow in self-defence. This was the beginning of Islamic wars, entered upon as a purely defensive measure. The Quraish did not let them alone even when they had driven the from their hearth and home. The Muslims were therefore left with no alternative but to turn at bay and face their persecutors manfully. Nevertheless, there are critics who, blindfolding their eyes to solid historical facts, ascribe the initiatory steps in these battles to the Holy Prophet, and on that account stigmatize Islam as a religion of the sword. Nothing, however, can be farther from the truth. The events in connection with the Abyssinian Emigration, as set forth above, throw enough light on the fact, that, heresy or no heresy, the Quraish were bent upon the utter annihilation of the Muslim brotherhood at all costs.

The Second Emigration:

When the Quraishite delegation returned unsuccessful from Abyssinia, their rage knew no bounds. They continued their persecutions with added fury. So far, they had been viewing the Muslims' fortitude under such cruelties with great astonishment. But the Abyssinian emigration gave them conclusive proof that the Muslims were ready to run all risks and undergo every form of hardship in the cause of Islam. They would shrink from no danger in the path of Allah. Moreover, when the Muslims remaining at Makkah came to know of the generous protection extended by the Negus to their brethren, a number of them left for Abyssinia the next year. This is known as the Second Emigration to Abyssinia. The Quraish did their utmost to check this tide of emigration, but in vain. Besides children, as many as one hundred and one, both male and female, fled to Abyssinia. They settled there, all of them, with the exception of ‘Uthman and his wife, who soon returned to Makkah. It was not until seven years after the Holy Prophet's flight from Makkah that they rejoined their Muslim brethren at Madinah. In accordance with the Truce of Hudaibiyah in the sixth year of Hijrah there was to be a state of truce between Muslims and the Quraish for ten years. This provided a certain amount of security for the Muslims in the land of Arabia and made it possible for the Abyssinian Muslims to come back to their kith and kin. It also furnishes a clue to the fact that even in Madinah, the Muslims were not in a state of safety until 7 A.H., when the Truce of Hudaibiyah brought them a brief respite.

The sympathetic treatment accorded to the Muslims by the Negus was gratefully reciprocated by the former. During their sojourn in the kingdom when hostilities broke out with a rival state, Muslims ungrudgingly placed their quota of service at his disposal. They also prayed to God for his victory. This shows how grateful a people they were. From that early period they had for their motto the Quranic verse: "Nothing but good must be the return for good. [The Quran, 55: 60]"

Alleged Compromise with Idolatry:

An incident in connection with the First Emigration to Abyssinia is noteworthy. Some time later the chapter entitled al-Najm [The Quran, Chapter 53] was revealed to the Prophet, at the end of which comes the verse enjoining prostration before God. The Holy Prophet, while reciting this chapter, prostrated as soon as he came to the verse which says: "Then prostrate before God and adore (Him). [The Quran, 53 : 62]" According to an authentic report, the idolatrous Makkans present there also joined in the prostration, for they professed faith in God notwithstanding their worship of idols. A perverted version of this incident has been given by some. The Holy Prophet, they allege, thinking it expedient to make a compromise with the idolaters, allowed in this chapter a concession to idol-worshippers. And this is why the idolaters too bowed down in prostration. But the report on which this allegation is based is absolutely unwarranted. There is no trustworthy account of the incident except the one referred to above. The fact that some Abyssinian emigrants returned home does not show that a compromise had been effected.

The news of the disbelievers' prostration may, on the other hand, have created an impression that they had accepted Islam, and, the news having reached the Abyssinian Muslims, some of them may have come back to their motherland. But as a matter of fact, the few emigrants who returned to Makkah did so with a view to informing the rest of their brethren of the peace and liberty they enjoyed under the rule of the Negus, and thus persuading them to accompany them thither. This is what actually happened, and it resulted in the second Emigration to Abyssinia.

Public Preaching:

Attempts to suppress the propagation of Islam were not confined to the persecutions to which the Holy Prophet and his comrades were subjected ["And if We had not made thee firm, thou mightest have indeed inclined to them" (The Quran, 17:74)]. Many and varied were the ways adopted to extinguish the Divine light. Preaching was in the beginning carried on in secret. But soon the Holy Prophet received Divine revelation to promulgate his commission publicly and to warn his near relations [The Quran, 15:94; 26:214]. Thereupon he had openly to proclaim the Divine message. Climbing one day on Mt. Safa, he called out to each one of the Quraishite tribes till they all assembled there. "Have you," enquired the Holy Prophet, "ever heard me tell a lie?" In one voice they replied that they had ever known him to be righteous and trustworthy. "If I tell you that hidden behind this mountain is a large army ready to attack you" enquired the Holy Prophet, "would you believe me?" "Certainly," was the unanimous reply "for we have never heard you tell a lie." Then he announced to them the word of God, exhorted them to give up idolatry, to eschew all forms of evil, to believe in the oneness of God, and to come to the path of virtue. At this they all became furious, Abu Lahab in particular behaving most rudely. By and by this man's enmity to the Holy Prophet became extremely bitter. He and his wife tormented and persecuted him in every way possible. In the days of pilgrimage when people from all parts of Arabia met together, the Holy Prophet used to move about among them communicating his message. Wherever he went, Abu Lahab followed close upon his heels, warning the people not to take him seriously, for, he said, he was insane.

First Deputation to Abu Talib:

When the Quraish saw that neither oppression nor obstacles succeeded in suppressing the Islamic movement, that its adherents did not mind undergoing any amount of hardship, and that they would rather suffer exile than give up Islam, they secretly resolved to make away with the Holy Prophet. Consequently, every effort was made to put an end to his life in an underhand manner, failing which the Quraish made up their mind to make an open attempt on his life. But, according to the social code of Arabia, every tribe was in honour bound to protect each one of its members. An attempt to take the life of the Holy Prophet, it was apprehended, might lead to civil war. It was thus necessary to obtain the consent of Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle, before taking the proposed bloody step. Accordingly, a deputation of Quraish chiefs, including Abu Jahl, waited upon Abu Talib in this connection. In order to win him over to their wicked plot, they addressed him thus: "Your nephew slights our gods, finds fault with our ancestral religion, calls us and our forefathers ignorant and misguided. You should deal with him yourself or permit us to settle accounts with him. You are as much duty-bound to vindicate the honour of our common faith as we are." Abu Talib, however, put them off with evasive though polite words. Obviously, the accusations brought against the Holy Prophet were highly exaggerated. He never abused their gods, for the Holy Quran positively forbids doing so: "Abuse not those whom they call upon besides Alfa-h. [The Quran, 6:108]" The Holy Quran, intact as it is to-day, in all its original purity, may be consulted from one end to the other to see that it contains not a single word of abuse against the gods of the infidels. All it says concerning them is that they can do no good, nor can they avert any harm, and that polytheism and idolatry are evil courses [The Quran, 25:55].

Second Deputation:

The Holy Prophet, however, delivered his message, as usual, and as days rolled by, many a heart was deeply impressed with the truth of Islam. The Quraish, finding their previous warning to Abu Talib utterly ignored, firmly resolved this time to press the point to a decisive issue. They reminded Abu Talib of their first representation and told him they could no longer tolerate the state of things. He must either withdraw his protection from the Holy Prophet or make common cause with him, so that they might fight it out to a finish. This ultimatum precipitated a very critical situation. Abu Talib found himself on the horns of a dilemma. The prospect of a war against his own kith and kin on the one hand, and the deep attachment he cherished for his nephew on the other, made it hard for him to decide which course to adopt. In this state of perplexity, he sent for the Holy Prophet and explained the entire situation to him. "Have pity on me" he said, "and do not charge me with a responsibility too heavy for me. I am not a match for the united opposition of the whole of the Quraish."

The Prophet's Strong Stand:

A critical situation! The entire clan was thirsting for his blood and, but for the intervention of Abu Talib, would have taken his life in broad daylight. But alas! Abu Talib's door was also about to close against him. Now there was no earthly protection to shield him against the wrath of his enemies. His companions, who would have laid down their lives for his sake were far off on the continent of Africa. Could all this mean anything other than sure and imminent destruction? It would have been but human had the Holy Prophet's heart sank within him. It would have been but natural, had the instinct of self-preservation reconciled him to the expedience of coming to a compromise with his opponents and thus, having saved his life, betaken himself to some other place and there propagated his faith. Did any such inclination, perfectly excusable under circumstances so critical, creep into his heart? No, not a shadow of it. He had an unshakable conviction in Divine protection. He would not yield an inch of ground in regard to his mission which was in fact the be-all and end-all of his life. No sooner did the above words issue from Abu Talib's lips than he declared without the least hesitation: "O uncle! Should they place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in order to make me renounce this mission, it shall not be. I will never give it up until it pleases God to make it a triumph or I perish in the attempt." But, conscious of the disappointment his attitude must have caused to his uncle, who had so tenderly brought him up and had been protecting him at great risk, tears welled up in his eyes and he departed with a. sad heart. Abu Talib had not abjured his ancestral form of worship, but of the Holy Prophet's high character he was much enamoured. It was far easier for him to face death rather than leave the Holy Prophet alone. Forthwith he sent for the Holy Prophet again, and thus assured him: "Do whatever you will. Under no circumstances will I desert you."

Third Deputation:

The Quraish had little doubt about Abu Talib's yielding to their united demand. They were much surprised when they heard of his determination to stand by the Holy Prophet. An internecine war among themselves, they thought, was fraught with grave danger. It might ruin the sovereign authority of their clan for good. This time, therefore, they made an attempt to prevail upon Abu Talib by offering him a lure instead of forcing him with a threat. Taking ‘Ammarah ibn Walid a handsome youth, along with them, they asked Abu Talib to adopt him as his son and hand over Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to them for execution for his offence against their established ancestral religion. "What an amazing proposal!" replied Abu Talib. "You want me to take charge of your boy to bring him up, while you have mine to be put to death. This can never be." The Quraish were thus once again disappointed. Apprehending lest they should resort to violent measures against his family, the Banu Hashim, Abu Talib summoned all members of the family, and warned them of the danger. It was unanimously agreed that the Holy Prophet would in no case be handed over to the Quraish, whatever measures they might adopt against the Banu Hashim. With the solitary exception of Abu Lahab, who had joined hands with the enemy, the entire family was prepared to take up arms in defence of the Holy Prophet, so great was the regard in which he was held by the Banu Hashim. They all loved him for his lofty morals. Notwithstanding religious differences, they were ready to protect him at the risk of their own lives.

Quraish Offer Leadership and Wealth:

The Quraish, however, had not yet exhausted their resources for reaching a settlement without resort to bloodshed. They had yet another card to play. Persecution had proved futile, but it struck them that allurements, offered direct to the Holy Prophet, might yet succeed. A deputation was accordingly formed to come to an understanding with him on this basis. They called on the Holy Prophet and offered him the most tempting terms, which were:

"If your ambition is to possess wealth, we will amass for you as much of it as you wish; if you aspire to win honour and power, we are prepared to swear allegiance to you as our overlord and king; if you have a fancy for beauty, you shall have the hand of the finest maiden of your own choice."

Irresistible temptations no doubt! From a destitute, helpless and persecuted man to a mighty potentate is a big lift. But the Holy Prophet's heart was free from the alloy of self-seeking. To the utter surprise and disappointment of the Quraish delegation he replied: "I want neither pelf nor power. I have been commissioned by Allah as a warner to mankind. I deliver His message to you. Should you accept it, you shall have felicity in this life as well as in the life to come; should you reject the word of Allah, surely Allah will decide between you and me."

This frustrated the last attempt of the Quraish at a compromise. Persuasion through temptation proved as fruitless as persecution. The persecution was unbearable, but the temptation was well-nigh irresistible. Were it not for Divine steadfastness infused into the Holy Prophet's bosom, the tortures inflicted on him and the temptations placed in his way would have shaken him from his position. But he stood firm as a rock, baffling all attempts to dissuade him from his mission. It is to this that the Holy Quran alludes in the following verse: "And if We had not made thee firm, thou mightest have indeed inclined to them a little. [The Quran, 17: 74]"

Ban against the Hashimites:

Disappointed on all sides, the Quraish decided to resort to the use of their last weapon. It was the seventh year since the Call, and the majority of Muslims had made good their escape to Abyssinia. Hamzah and 'Umar had embraced Islam. Abu Talib had refused point-blank the Quraishite demand that he should withdraw his protecting hand from the Holy Prophet. Excepting Abu Lahab, the whole of the Banu Hashim family had decided to stand by him and fight for him till the last man. Moreover, the light of Islam went on spreading from one clan to another. The Quraish therefore decided to place a social ban on the Banu Hashim. Intermarriage and commercial relations with them were strictly forbidden. An agreement to this effect was drawn up and the scroll hung up in the Ka'bah to give it a look of sanctity. On hearing of this the Banu Hashim betook themselves to a secluded part of Makkah, known as the Shi‘b, the prohibited quarter. But Abu Jahl spared no pains to keep a vigilant watch to ensure that the blockade was strictly observed. When Hakim ibn Hazam, for instance, tried to supply provisions to Khadijah, who was nearly related to him, Abu Jahl offered obstruction. But never throughout these trying times did the Banu Hashim waver in their resolution. They cheerfully suffered all this for the sake of the Holy Prophet, which they would never have done if they had not had a deep rooted respect for him. While the ban lasted the preaching of the Holy Prophet was confined to within the four walls of the Shi‘b. In the days of pilgrimage, however, when Arabs looked upon bloodshed as an unpardonable sacrilege, he would come out and communicate his message to people assembled from far and near. Abu Lahab followed him like a shadow, warning the people against his teachings. He was a liar, he would say, and must not be believed. As a result, wherever the Holy Prophet went to deliver his message he met the taunting questions why was it that his own people discarded him if he was righteous in his claim. In short, this was a period of great hardship for the Banu Hashim and of suspension of all propagating activities.

In the meantime, there arose a murmur against the hardship to which the Banu Hashim were subjected. The gentle-hearted among the Quraish increasingly felt the injustice and severity of the ban till the day came when some openly condemned it.

Consequently, five of their leading men decided among themselves that the ban should be removed and the agreement torn to pieces. The scroll, containing the agreement, suspended on the Ka'bah, had been eaten by ants. This was brought to the notice of the Quraishite chiefs by Abu Talib as a mark of Divine disapproval. It was consequently agreed upon that the pledge should be declared null and void if on inspection it was found defaced. Accordingly they went to the Ka'bah to examine the agreement which turned out to be actually eaten away. The opportunity was eagerly seized upon by those who had already felt the injustice of the ban. Putting on their arms they went over in a body to the gate of the Shi‘b and openly announced their opposition to the agreement of interdiction. They brought the Banu Hashim out and sent them to their respective homes. Nobody had the courage to offer resistance. The ban had lasted three years.

Death of Abu Talib and Khadijah:

Immediately after coming out of the Shi‘b Abu Talib, the Holy Prophet's uncle, who had so far proved his mainstay, passed away. Though he had not accepted Islam, yet the Holy Prophet had a very deep attachment for him. The bereavement was, therefore, a great shock. But calamities, they say, seldom come single. Shortly afterwards, his faithful wife Khadijah, also died. She had all along served the Holy Prophet wholeheartedly and had been a never failing source of solace in moments of sadness and sorrow. In her death, he suffered an irreparable loss. Both these losses were sustained in the tenth year after the Call, which is on that account known in Islamic history as ‘Am al-Huzn, i.e., the Year of Grief. With the loss of two great comforters and helpers, such as Abu Talib and Khadijah, the Prophet had to face even greater difficulties.

Journey to Ta’if:

The Holy Prophet had now to face still greater difficulties in the propagation of his message. Whatever restraint Abu Talib and Khadijah had exerted on the malice of the Quraish was now removed. Their hands were now free to deal with him to the full gratification of their malice ["And surely they proposed to unsettle thee from the land that they might expel thee from it, and then they will not tarry after thee but a little" (The Quran, 17:76)]. In spite of the gloomy situation, however, the Holy Prophet's conviction in his ultimate triumph remained unshaken. When walking about one day, dust was thrown at him. He came home; his daughter washed his head and shed tears at the sad plight of her beloved father. "Do not weep, my child," said he consolingly, "Allah will surely help your father." So deep-rooted was his faith in the ultimate success of his mission, in the face of this bitter opposition! He never entertained the idea of betaking himself, like the rest of his companions, to Abyssinia, where he would have found a safe asylum. He did not for one moment despair of the regeneration of the land of his birth. He felt confident that the peninsula must some day awaken to the truth of Islam. Surrounded as he was by a thick mist of disappointing circumstances, his eye could yet perceive a ray of hope. The conviction that his deadly enemies would one day be his devoted friends was deeply seated in his heart. The hardheartedness of the Makkans, however, forced him to turn his attention to Ta'if, where he hoped people might listen to his word. Thither he went with Zaid and approached three brothers, who came of the noblest family of the place. But to his disappointment, all of them turned a deaf ear. For about ten days he stayed there delivering his message to several people, one after another, but all to no purpose. On every side he was met with the taunt that he must first convince his own people if he were true in his claim. At last, he was asked to go away; but as soon as he walked out of the town, the dregs of society, at the instigation of the elders of the town, followed him hooting. They lined the route on both sides for a great distance and, as he passed along between them, his legs were pelted with stones. When dripping with blood and unable to walk further he sank to the ground, a wretch would again raise him up by the hand. "Walk on," he would shout at him "this is no place for you to rest." This went on for three long miles. He was pelted with volleys of stones till his very shoes were filled with blood. At last, when his persecutors left him, he seated himself in an orchard, to take a little rest. The owner of this small garden, ‘Utbah ibn Rabi'ah, non-believer though he was, took pity on him and sent him a bunch of grapes by his Christian slave ‘Addas. The Holy Prophet, as he stretched out his hand towards the grapes, uttered the words, "In the name of Allah," - words which every Muslim is commanded to repeat when setting his hand to any piece of work. Surprised at this, the slave curiously asked him what the words were. On being informed of the message of Islam, he readily accepted its truth.

Rejected by man in every quarter, the Holy Prophet turned in this state of utter helplessness to Almighty God. His prayer is not an expression of despondency or plaintiveness; on the other hand, notwithstanding apparent helplessness, it is full of confidence in the future. It runs thus:

"O my Lord! to Thee do I complain of the feebleness of my strength, of lack of my resourcefulness and of my insignificance in the eyes of people. Thou art Most Merciful of all the merciful. Thou art the Lord of the weak. To whom art Thou to entrust me, to an unsympathetic foe, who would sullenly frown at me, or to a close friend, whom Thou hast given control over my affair. Not in the least do I care for anything except that I may have Thy protection for me. In the light of Thy face do I seek shelter - the light which illumines the heaven and dispels all sorts of darkness, and which controls all affairs in this world as well as in the Hereafter. May it never be that I should incur Thy wrath, or that Thou shouldst be angry with me. There is no strength, but through Thee."

What human heart can appreciate the purity of the soul that gave utterance to sentiments so sublime under circumstances so trying? Is it imaginable that the heart of an impostor should be capable of emotions so noble, especially after suffering so much? With what marvellous calmness he underwent hardships that no son of man could bear. With what surprising fortitude he bore privations that might have driven others to self-destruction. With what firm faith in God, with what cheerful resignation to His supreme will, with what unalloyed spiritual happiness! All sufferings he says, are insignificant so long as he enjoys God's pleasure.

Pledges of ‘Aqabah:

A few days later he returned to Makkah, on the assurance of Mut‘im ibn 'Adi to protect his life. He had been clearly told that he had to leave Makkah, but light had not yet shone upon him as to the place to which he should emigrate. The days of pilgrimage came and he called on each one of the clans that had flocked there from all parts of Arabia. But whichever gathering he addressed, explaining Islamic principles, Abu Lahab kept by him, telling the people not to believe him as he was a heretic and wanted to overthrow the spiritual sway of the Lat and the ‘Uzza. Consequently, he could attract little attention. Some of the clans harshly rejected him. But he did not lose heart. One tribe expressed a liking for his teachings but pleaded their inability to renounce their ancestral religion all at once. Another put him a question whether, in the event of his triumph, they would have a share in the kingdom he might achieve, should they join hands with him. In reply, the Holy Prophet told them that it rested entirely with God to bestow kingdom on whomsoever He thought fit. The incident, though trivial, speaks volumes for the Holy Prophet's sincerity of purpose. If personal ascendancy were the object of his efforts, as so often alleged, what prevented him from winning over a whole clan by merely holding out a promise to them? The fact is that the achievement of temporal power was never the goal of his endeavour. His heart was burning within him at the degenerate state of man. Man's elevation in the scale of humanity was the one purpose of his life. He was eagerly looking to Divine help which, he had no shadow of doubt, must be forthcoming, although he could not tell when.

While thus preaching Islam to the various tribes at the time of pilgrimage, the Holy Prophet happened to meet a few men of the Khazraj, a clan of Madinah. After ascertaining who they were, he asked them if they were from among the associates of the Jews, to which they replied in the affirmative. Then he communicated the message of Islam to them. As Madinah contained a considerable Jewish element in its population, they had already heard that the time of the appearance of the Promised Prophet, as prophesied in the Jewish scriptures, was at hand. Thus, the claim of the Holy Prophet to be that Prophet was not altogether a surprise to them. What with the intrinsic beauty of the teachings of Islam which the Holy Prophet. explained to them and their expectation of the advent of that Prophet, the conviction that he was indeed the Prophet went home to these visitors. Consequently all six accepted Islam. This came about in the eleventh year of the Call. On their return to Madinah, much enthusiasm concerning the new faith prevailed there and the Holy Prophet's name became a household word. A considerable number joined the fold of Islam, and a dozen of them went over to Makkah next year to perform the pilgrimage. These swore allegiance to the Holy Prophet, at a place known as ‘Aqabah in the following words: "We will not set up any associates with Allah. We will not steal, nor commit fornication, nor kill our offspring, nor bring false accusations against others. We will not disobey the Holy Prophet in anything that is right." This goes by the name of the First Pledge of ‘Aqabah and it took place in the twelfth year of the Call.

Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umair was deputed by the Holy Prophet to instruct them in the teachings of Islam. As a result of Mus'ab's efforts, Islam spread in Madinah with rapid strides. Leading men from among the Aus and the Khazraj embraced the faith, so that on the occasion of the next pilgrimage season as many as seventy-three men and two women visited Makkah. The Holy Prophet met with them one night, again at ‘Aqabah. ‘Abbas his uncle, who bore him company, though yet a non-believer, thus opened the conversation:

"You are aware of the position Muhammad occupies amongst us. So far, we have been protecting him from his enemies. He is quite safe and respected here. But now you wish him to accompany you to your town and live with you there. If you believe you will fulfil the covenant on which you wish to take him there, and pledge to shield him in every way, you are at liberty to undertake the responsibility. If, however, you think you will not be able to protect him you had better give him up from this very moment. And mind you, you are welcome to take him along with you, provided you are prepared to withstand the united opposition of both the Arabs and the Gentiles."

The Madinites, who came to be known as Ansar (Helpers) in the history of Islam, replied that they were ready to swear allegiance to the Holy Prophet just as it might please the latter. Thereupon the Holy Prophet recited a passage from the Holy Quran, delivered a brief sermon and then said: "I demand allegiance of you to the effect that you would defend me against my enemies, just as you defend your wives and children." On this, the chief, among them, Bara ibn Ma'rur, placing his hand on the Holy Prophet's, said that they all swore allegiance to him on the point. This done, the Holy Prophet appointed twelve of them as their chiefs.

It is thus evident that the Holy Prophet went over to Madinah at the invitation of the Madinites themselves. It was customary in Arabia that whenever a member of a particular clan joined another, they would pledge themselves to protect him; for as a rule a clan was responsible only for the protection of its own particular members. It also transpires from the event that he knew full well, as did ‘Abbas, that even in Madinah, the Mans would allow him no rest. It was therefore necessary to have the Ansar's pledge to defend the Holy Prophet in the event of an attack by the enemy. The apprehension was justifiable; the Makkans had already given ample proof of their malice by going all the way to Abyssinia in pursuit of Muslim emigrants. The pledge taken on this occasion is known as the Second Pledge of ‘Aqabah and it took place in the thirteenth year of the Call.

The understanding arrived at and the allegiance sworn being strictly confidential, its knowledge was confined to the few Muslims including ‘Abbas. Even the non-Muslims of Madinah did not know what exactly had happened. The Makkans, therefore, could get no information from them. However, when the pilgrimage was over and people had departed from Makkah, the matter became known, for the Holy Prophet himself was not keen about its secrecy. The Makkans went out in pursuit of the Madinite caravan but could not overtake it. They seized two men, one of whom escaped, while the other, Sa'd ibn ‘Ubadah, was dragged all the way back to Makkah. But the latter had once done a kindly office to some Makkans at Madinah, and on their intercession he was set free. Thereafter the companions emigrated to Madinah, in small parties, in complete secrecy from the Makkans.

At last, the time came when the Holy Prophet was left at Makkah in the company of but two of his companions, Abu Bakr and ‘Ali, all the rest having reached Madinah. The circumstances throw further light on the implicit faith which the Holy Prophet had in God. The bitterness of the Makkans' enmity was daily growing in intensity. The fact that Islam was taking root in Madinah added fuel to the flame of their wrath. Practically alone in the midst of his deadly foes, the Holy Prophet was exposed to great danger. Nevertheless, he was not as anxious for himself as for his companions, whom he sent off to a place of safety, himself staying behind in the midst of his blood-thirsty enemies.


Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 4: The Stormy Opposition


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