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“If I were to tell you that there were some horsemen in the valley planning to raid you, will you believe me?”
The Second Phase: Open Preaching | The Sealed Nectar | Saifur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri
First Revelation regarding the Preaching
“And warn your tribe (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) of near kindred.” [Al-Qur’an 26:214].
This was the first verse to be revealed in this concern. It is included in Sûrah Ash-Shu‘arâ (Chapter 26 – The Poets) which relates the story of Moses (Peace be upon him) from his early days of Prophethood going through his migration with the Children of Israel, their escape from the Pharaoh and his folk, and the drowning Pharaoh and his hosts. This Chapter in fact narrates the different stages that Moses (Peace be upon him) passed through in his struggle with Pharaoh and the mission of calling his people unto Allâh. 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, Abraham, Lout and Ahlul-Aikah (Companions of the Wood). (A group of people who used to worship a tree called Aikah)
Chronologically, this Chapter belongs to the middle Makkan period, when the contact of the light of Prophecy with the cultural milieu of pagan Makkah was testing the Makkans in their most arrogant mood. The Message that this Chapter communicates is in brief: “The Truth is insurmountable. When the spirit of Prophecy came to Makkah, it was resisted by the votaries of evil; but Truth, unlike falsehood, is bound to stay, whereas falsehood is surely perishable.”
Calling the Closest Kinspeople
In obedience to Allâh’s Commands, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) rallied his kinsmen of Bani Hashim with a group of Bani Al-Muttalib bin ‘Abd Munaf. The audience counted forty-five men.
Abu Lahab immediately took the initiative and addressed the Prophet (Peace be upon him): “These are your uncles and cousins, speak on to the point, but first of all you have got to know that your kinspeople are not in a position to withstand all the Arabs. Another point you have got to bear in mind is that your relatives are sufficient unto you. If you follow their tradition, it will be easier for them than to face the other clans of Quraish supported by the other Arabs. Verily, I have never heard of anyone who has incurred more harm on his kinspeople than you.” The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) kept silent and said nothing in that meeting.
He invited them to another meeting and managed to secure audience. He then stood up and delivered a short speech explaining quite cogently what was at stake. He said: “I celebrate Allâh’s praise, I seek His help, I believe in Him, I put my trust in Him, I bear witness that there is no god to be worshipped but Allâh with no associate. A guide can never lie to his people. I swear by Allâh, there is no god but He, that I have been sent as a Messenger to you, in particular and to all the people, in general. I swear by Allâh 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 collected 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 can’t quit the religion of ‘Abdul-Muttalib.”
Abu Lahab then said to Abu Talib: ” I swear by Allâh that this is a bad thing. You must stop him before the others do.” Abu Talib, however, answered: “I swear by Allâh to protect him as long as I am alive.” [Fiqh As-Seerah p.77,78]
On Mount As-Safa
After the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) became sure of Abu Talib’s commitment to his protection while he called the people unto Allâh, he stood up on Mount As-Safa one day and called out loudly: “O Sabahah! [This is an Arabic expression used when one appeals for help or draws the attention of others to some dangers] ” Septs of Quraish came to him. He called them to testify to the Oneness of Allâh and believe in his Messengership and the Day of Resurrection. Al-Bukhari reported part of this story on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas [R]. He said: “When the following verses were revealed:
“And warn your tribe (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) of near kindred.” [Al-Qur’an 26:214]
The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) ascended Mount As-Safa and started to call: “O Bani Fahr! O Bani ‘Adi (two septs of Quraish).” Many people gathered and those who couldn’t, sent somebody to report to them. Abu Lahab was also present. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “You see, if I were to tell you that there were some horsemen in the valley planning to raid you, will you believe me?” They said: “Yes, we have never experienced any lie 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 [Bukhari 2/702; Muslim 1/114]:
“Perish the two hands of Abi Lahab…” [Al-Qur’an 111:1].
Muslim reported another part of this story on the authority of Abu Hurairah [R] – He said: “When the following verses were revealed:
“And warn your tribe (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) of near kindred.” [26:214]
The Messenger of Allâh (Peace 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 Fire; O Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) , rescue yourself from the Fire, for I have no power to protect you from Allâh in anything except that I would sustain relationship with you.” [Muslim 1/114; Bukhari 1/385,2/702]
It was verily a loud suggestive Call stating unequivocally to the closest people that belief in his Message constituted the corner-stone of any future relation between him and them, and that the blood-relation on which the whole Arabian life was based, had ceased to exist in the light of that Divine ultimatum.
Shouting the Truth and the Polytheists’ Reaction
The Prophet’s voice kept reverberating in Makkah until the following verse was revealed:
“Therefore proclaim openly (Allâh’s Message – Islamic Monotheism), that which you are commanded, and turn away from Al-Mushrikûn (polytheists).” [Al-Qur’an 15:94]
He then commenced discrediting the superstitious practices of idolatry, revealing its worthless reality and utter impotence, and giving concrete proofs that idolatry per se or taking it as the media through which an idolater could come in contact with Allâh, is manifest falsehood.
The Makkans, on their part, burst into outrage and disapproval. Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) words created a thunderbolt that turned the Makkan time-honoured ideological life upside down. They could ill afford to hear someone attaching to polytheists and idolaters, the description of straying people. They started to rally their resources to settle down the affair, quell the onward marching revolution and deal a pre-emptive strike to its votaries before it devours and crushes down their consecrated traditions and long standing heritage. The Makkans had the deep conviction that denying godship to anyone save Allâh and that belief in the Divine Message and the Hereafter are interpreted in terms of complete compliance and absolute commitment, and this in turn leaves no area at all for them to claim authority over themselves and over their wealth, let alone their subordinates. In short, their arrogated religiously-based supremacy and highhandedness would no longer be in effect; their pleasures would be subordinated to the pleasures of Allâh and His Messenger and lastly they would have to abstain from incurring injustices on those whom they falsely deemed to be weak, and perpetrating dreadful sins in their everyday life. They had already been fully aware of these meanings, that is why their souls would not condescend to accept this ‘disgraceful’ position not out of motives based on dignity and honour but rather because:
“Nay! (Man denies Resurrection and Reckoning. So) he desires to continue committing sins.” [Al-Qur’an 75:5]
They had been aware of all these consequences but they could afford to do nothing before an honest truthful man who was the highest example of good manners and human values. They had never known such an example in the history of their folks or grandfathers. What would they do? They were baffled, and they had the right to be so.
Following careful deliberations, they hit upon the only target available, i.e. to contact the Messenger’s uncle, Abu Talib and request him to intervene and advise his nephew to stop his activities. In order to attach a serious and earnest stamp to their demand, they chose to touch the most sensitive area in Arabian life, viz., ancestral pride. They addressed Abu Talib in the following manner: “O Abu Talib! Your nephew curses our gods; finds faults with our way of life, mocks at our religion and degrades our forefathers; either you must stop him, or you must let us get at him. For you are in the same opposition as we are in opposition to him; and we will rid you of him.” Abu Talib tried to appease their wrath by giving them a polite reply. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) , however, continued on his way preaching Allâh’s religion and calling men hitherto, heedless of all their desperate attempts and malicious intentions. [Ibn Hisham 1/265]
An Advisory Council to debar Pilgrims from Muhammad’s Call
During those days, Quraish had another serious concern; the proclamation of the Call had only been a few months old when the season of pilgrimage was soon to come. Quraish knew that the Arab delegates were coming within a short time. They agreed that it was necessary to contemplate a device that was bound to alienate the Arab pilgrims from the new faith preached by Muhammad (Peace be upon him) . They went to see Al-Waleed bin Al-Mugheerah to deliberate on this issue. Al-Waleed invited them to agree on a unanimous resolution that could enjoy the approbation of them all. However, they were at variance. Some suggested that they describe him as Kahin, i.e., soothsayer; but this suggestion was turned down on grounds that his words were not so rhymed. Others proposed Majnun, i.e., possessed by jinn; this was also rejected because no insinuations peculiar to that state of mind ware detected, they claimed. “Why not say he is a poet?” Some said. Here again they could not reach a common consent, alleging that his words were totally outside the lexicon of poetry. “OK then; let us accuse him of practising witchcraft,” was a fourth suggestion. Here also Al-Waleed showed some reluctance saying that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was known to have never involved himself in the practice of blowing on the knots, and admitted that his speech was sweet tasting root and branch. He, however, found that the most plausible charge to be levelled against Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was witchcraft. 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 would successfully alienate son from father, man from his brother, wife from her husband and man from his clan. [Ibn Hisham 1/271; Fi Zilal Al-Qur’an 29/188]
It is noteworthy in this regard to say that Allâh revealed sixteen verses as regards Al-Waleed and the cunning method he contemplated to manipulate the people expected to arrive in Makkah for pilgrimage. Allâh 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!’ ” [Al-Qur’an 74:18-25]
The most wicked of them was the sworn enemy of Islam and Muhammad (Peace be upon him) , Abu Lahab, who would shadow the Prophet’s steps crying aloud, “O men, do not listen to him for he is a liar; he is an apostate.” Nevertheless, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) managed to create a stir in the whole area, and even to convince a few people to accept his Call. [At-Tirmidhi; Masud Ahmad, 3/492,4/341]
Attempts made to check the Onward March of Islam
Having fully perceived that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) could never be desisted from his Call, Quraish, in a desperate attempt to quell the tidal wave of the Call, resorted to other cheap means acting from base motives:
Scoffing, degrading, ridiculing, belying and laughter-instigating cheap manners, all of which levelled at the new converts in general, and the person of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in particular, with the aim of dragging the spirit of despair into their morale, and slackening their ardent zealotry. They used to denounce the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as a man possessed by a jinn, or an insane person:
“And they say: O you (Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) to whom the Dhikr (the Qur’ân) has been sent down! Verily, you are a mad man.” [Al-Qur’an 15:6]
or a liar practising witchcraft,
“And they (Arab pagans) wonder that a warner (Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) has come to them from among themselves! And the disbelievers say: “This (Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) is a sorcerer, a liar.” [Al-Qur’an 38:4].
Their eyes would also look at the good man as if they would ‘eat him up’, or trip him up, or disturb him from the position of stability 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 hatreds when they hear the Reminder (the Qur’ân), and they say: Verily, he (Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) is a madman!” [Al-Qur’an 68:51]
Amongst 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 jeered in season and out of season. Referring to such people, the highbrow Quraish aristocrats used repeatedly to ask the Prophet (Peace be upon him), with jest and scorn:
“Allâh has favoured from amongst us?” [Al-Qur’an 6:53]
And Allâh said:
“Does not Allâh know best those who are grateful?” [Al-Qur’an 6:53]
The wicked used to laugh at the righteous in many ways:
They would inwardly laugh at their Faith, because they felt themselves so superior.
In public places, when the righteous passed, they used to insult and wink at them,
In their own houses, they would run them down.
Whenever and wherever they saw them, they reproached and called them fools who had lost their way. In the Hereafter, all these tricks and falsehoods will be shown for what they are, and the tables will be reversed. Allâh had said:
“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 astry!’ But they (disbelievers, sinners) had not been sent as watchers over them (the believers).” [Al-Qur’an 83:29-33]
Distorting Muhammad’s teachings, evoking ambiguities, circulating false propaganda; forging groundless allegations concerning his doctrines, person and character, and going to excess in such a manner in order to screen off any scope of sound contemplation from the public. With respect to the Qur’ân, they used to allege that it was:
“Tales of the ancients, which he (Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.” [Al-Qur’an 25:5]
The iniquitous went on ceaselessly inculcating in people’s ears that the Qur’ân was not a true Revelation:
“This (the Qur’ân) is nothing but a lie that he (Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) has invented, and others have helped him at it.” [Al-Qur’an 25:4]
The wicked would also attribute to men of Allâh just such motives and springs of action as they themselves would be guilty of in such circumstances. The pagans and those who were hostile to the revelation of Allâh and Islam, could not understand how such wonderful verses could flow from the tongue of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) without having someone to teach, and claimed:
“It is only a human being who teaches him.” [Al-Qur’an 16:103]
They also raised another baseless and superficial objection:
“Why does this Messenger (Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) eat food and walk about in the markets (like ourselves)?” [Al-Qur’an 25:7]
They were sadly ignorant and painfully at fault for they could not perceive that a teacher for mankind is one who shares their nature, mingles in their life, is acquainted with their doings, and sympathises with their joys and sorrows.
The Noble Qur’ân has vehemently refuted their charges and allegations and has explained that the utterances of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) are the Revelations of the Lord and their nature and contents provide a bold challenge to those who attribute his Prophetic expressions to some base origin, at times to the mental throes of a dreaming reformer, at others to the effusion of a frenzied poet or the incoherent drivelling of an insane man.
Contrasting the Qur’ân with the mythology of the ancients in order to distract people’s interests from Allâh’s Words. Once An-Nadr bin Harith addressed the Quraishites in the following manner: “O Quraish! You have experienced an unprecedented phenomenon before which you have so far been desperately helpless. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) grew up here among you and always proved to be highly obliging, the most truthful and trustworthy young man. However, later on when he reached manhood, he began to preach a new faith alien to your society, and opposed to your liking so you began to denounce him at a time as a sorcerer, at another as a soothsayer, a poet, or even an insane man. I swear by Allâh he is not anyone of those. He is not interested in blowing on knots as magicians are, nor do his words belong to the world of soothsaying; he is not a poet either, for his mentality is not that of a rambler, nor is he insane because he has never been witnessed to develop any sort of hallucinations or insinuations peculiar to madmen. O people of Quraish, it is really a serious issue and I recommend that you reconsider your attitude.”
It is narrated that An-Nadr, at a later stage, headed for Heerah where he got conversant with the traditions of the kings of Persia and the accounts of people like Rustum and Asphandiar, and then returned to Makkah. Here he would always shadow the Messenger’s steps in whatever audiences the later held to preach the new faith and to caution people against Allâh’s wrath. An-Nadr would directly follow the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and narrate to the same audience long tales about those people of Persia. He would then always append his talk with a question cunningly inquiring if he did not outdo Muhammad (Peace be upon him).[Ibn Hisham 1/299,300,358; Tafheem-ul-Qur’an 4/8,9]. Ibn ‘Abbas [R] related that An-Nadr used to purchase songstresses who would through their bodily charms and songs entice away from Islam anyone developing the least attachment to the Prophet (Peace be upon him); in this regard, Allâh says:
“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the Path of Allâh.” [Al-Qur’an 31:6] [Tafheem-ul-Qur’an 4/9]
In a fresh attempt to dissuade Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from his principled stand, Quraish invited him to compromise on his teachings and come to terms with their pre-Islamic practices in such a way that he quits some of his religion and the polytheists do the same. Allâh, the All-High says:
“They wish that you should compromise (in religion out of courtesy) with them, so they (too) would compromise with you.” [Al-Qur’an 68:9].
On the authority of Ibn Jareer and At-Tabarani, the idolaters offered that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) worship their gods for a year, and they worship his Lord for a year. In another version, they said: “If you accept our gods, we would worship yours.” Ibn Ishaq related that Al-Aswad bin Al-Muttalib, Al-Waleed bin Al-Mugheerah, Omaiyah bin Khalaf and Al-‘As bin Wa’il As-Sahmy, a constellation of influential polytheists, intercepted the Prophet (Peace be upon him) while he was circumambulating in the Holy Sanctuary, and offered him to worship that they worshipped, and they worship that he worshipped so that, according to them, both parties would reach a common denominator. They added “Should the Lord you worship prove to be better than ours, then it will be so much better for us, but if our gods proved to be better than yours, then you would have benefit from it.” Allâh, the Exalted, was decisive on the spot and revealed the following Chapter:
“Say: “O Al-Kâfirûn (disbelievers in Allâh, in His Oneness, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messengers, in the Day of Resurrection, in Al-Qadar, etc.)! I worship not that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism). [Al-Qur’an 109] [Ibn Hisham 1/362]
At the beginning of the fourth year of the Call, and for a period of some months, the polytheists confined their harassment tactics to the above-mentioned ones. But on realizing the futility of these procedures, they decided to organize a full-scale opposition campaign. They called for a general meeting and elected a committee of twenty-five men of Quraish notables with Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle, as a chairman. Following some lengthy deliberations, they reached a decisive decision to take measures deemed to stop the tidal wave of Islam through different channels. They were determined to spare no effort, in combatting the new faith. They decided to malign the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) and put the new converts to different sorts of torture using all available resources. It was easy to put the resolutions relating to the new converts who were deemed weak into effect. As for the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , it was not easy to malign him because he had such gravity, magnanimity and matchless perfection of character that deterred even his enemies from committing any act of folly against him. He had, as well, Abu Talib, his uncle, who came from a noble descent and had an awe-inspiring 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 formidable power marching steadily to annul their religious office and temporal authority.
Abu Lahab himself took the initiative in the new series of persecutions, and started to mete out countless aspects of harmful deeds, hatred and spite against Muhammad (Peace be upon him) . Starting with flinging stones at him, forcing his two sons to divorce their wives Ruqaiya and Umm Kulthum, the Prophet’s daughters [Fi Zilal Al-Qur’an 30/282; Tafheem-ul-Qur’an 6/522], gloating over him on his second son’s death calling him ‘the man cut off with offspring’, and then shadowing his step during the pilgrimage and forums seasons to belie him and entice the bedouins against him and his Call [At-Tirmidhi]. His wife, Umm Jameel bint Harb, the sister of Abu Sufyan had also her share in this ruthless campaign. She proved that she was not less than her husband in the enmity and hatred she harboured for the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . She used to tie bundles of thorns with ropes of twisted palm-leaf fibre and strew them about in the paths which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was expected to take, in order to cause him bodily injury. She was a real shrew, bad-tempered with abusive language, highly skilled in the art of hatching intrigues, and enkindling the fire of discord and sedition. She was deservedly stained as ‘the carrier of firewood’ in the Noble Qur’ân. On receiving this news, she directly proceeded to the Mosque with a handful of pebbles to hurl at the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . Allâh, the Great, took away her sight and she saw only Abu Bakr who was sitting immediately next to the Prophet (Peace be upon him). She then addressed Abu Bakr most audaciously threatening to break his Companion’s mouth with her handful of pebbles, and recited a line of verse pregnant with impudent defiance: “We have disobeyed the dispraised one, rejected his Call, and alienated ourselves from his religion.” When she had left, Abu Bakr turned to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and inquired about the matter. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) assured him that she did not see him because Allâh had taken away her sight.[Ibn Hisham 1/335]
Abu Lahab and his household used to inflict those shameful examples of torture and harassment in spite of the blood relation that tied them for he was the Prophet’s uncle and both lived in two contiguous houses. Actually, few of the Prophet’s neighbours abstained from maligning him. They even threw the entrails of a goat on his back while he was performing his prayers. He always used to complain about that unbecoming neighbourliness but to no avail for they were deeply indulged in error.
Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ud, narrated that once when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was prostrating himself while praying in Al-Ka‘bah, Abu Jahl asked his companions to bring the dirty foetus of a she-camel and place it on his back. ‘Uqbah bin Abi Mu‘ait was the unfortunate man who hastened to do this ignoble act. A peal of laughter rose amongst the infidels. In the meanwhile, Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), happened to pass that way. She removed the filth from her father’s back. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) invoked the wrath of Allâh upon them, especially upon Abu Jahl, ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘a, Shaibah bin Rabi‘a, Al-Waleed bin ‘Utbah, Omaiyah bin Khalaf and ‘Uqbah bin Mu‘ait. It is recorded that all of them were killed in the battle of Badr. [Bukhari 1/37]
Scandal-mongering and backbiting were also amongst the means of oppression that the chiefs of Makkah, in general, and Omaiyah bin Khalaf, in particular, resorted to in their overall process of evil-doing. In this regard, Allâh says:
“Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.” [Al-Qur’an 104:1]
‘Uqbah bin Al-Mu‘ait once attended an audience of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and listened to him preaching Islam. A close friend of his, Ubai bin Khalaf, heard of this. He could not tolerate any act of this sort, so he reproached ‘Uqbah and ordered him to spit in the Prophet’s holy face, and he shamelessly did it. Ubai did not spare any thinkable way to malign the Prophet (Peace be upon him) ; he even ground old decomposed bones and blew the powder on him. Al-Akhnas bin Shuraique Ath-Thaqafi used to detract from the character of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in season and out of season. The Noble Qur’ân, in direct reference to this man’s ignominious deeds, attached to him nine abominable traits:
“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).” [Al-Qur’an 68:10-13] [Ibn Hisham 1/356]
Abu Jahl’s arrogance and haughtiness blocked all avenues that could produce the least light of belief in his heart:
“So he (the disbeliever) neither believed (in this Qur’ân, in the Message of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) nor prayed!” [Al-Qur’an 75:31]
He, moreover, wanted to debar the Prophet (Peace be upon him) from the Noble Sanctuary. It happened once that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was praying within the precinct of the Sacred House, when Abu Jahl proceeded threateningly and uttering abusive language. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) chided him severely to which Abu Jahl answered back defiantly claiming that he was the mightiest in Makkah; Allâh then revealed:
“Then, let him call upon his council (of helpers).” [Al-Qur’an 96:17]
In another version of the same incident, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) took Abu Jahl by his neck, rocked him severely saying:
“Woe to you [O man (disbeliever)]! And then (again) woe to you! Again, woe to you [O man (disbeliever)]! And then (again) woe to you!” [Al-Qur’an 75:34, 35].
Notwithstanding this reproach, Abu Jahl would never wake up to himself nor did he realize his foolish practices. On the contrary, he was determined to go to extremes, and swore he would dust the Messenger’s face and tread 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 in his pursuit). His companions asked him what the matter was. He said: “I perceived a ditch of burning fire and some wings flying.” Later on, the Messenger commented saying, “If he had proceeded further, the angels would have plucked off his limbs one after another.” [Fi Zilal Al-Qur’an 29/312; Muslim]
Such was the disgraceful treatment meted out to the Prophet (Peace be upon him), the great man, respected as he was by his compatriots, with an influential man, his uncle Abu Talib, at his back to support him. If the matters were so with the Prophet (Peace be upon him), what about those people deemed weak with no clan to support them? Let us consider their situation in some detail. Whenever Abu Jahl heard of the conversion of a man of high birth with powerful friends, he would degrade his prudence and intellect, undermine his judgement; and threaten him with dire consequences if he was a merchant. If the new convert was socially weak, he would beat him ruthlessly and put him to unspeakable tortures. [Ibn Hisham 1/320]
The uncle of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan 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 put him to starvation and then expelled him from her house. He used to enjoy full luxurious easy life, but in the aftermath of the tortures he sustained, his skin got wizened, and he assumed a horrible physical appearance. [Rahmat-ul-lil’alameen 1/57; Talqeeh Ahl-al-Athar p.60]
Bilal, the slave of Omaiyah 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 boys were made to drag him through the streets and even across the hillocks of Makkah. At times he was subjected to prolonged deprivation of food and drink; at others he was bound up, made to lie down on the burning sand and under the crushing burden of heavy stones. Similar other measures were resorted to in order to force him to recant. All this proved in vain. He persisted in his belief in the Oneness of Allâh. On one such occasion, Abu Bakr was passing by; moved by pity, he purchased and emancipated him from slavery. [Ibn Hisham 1/317-318; Rahmat-ul-lil’alameen 1/57]
Another victim of the highhandedness of Quraish was ‘Ammar bin Yasir, a freed slave of Bani Makhzoum. 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 tossed up on embers. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) was greatly moved by the atrocities which were being perpetrated upon ‘Ammar and his family. He always comforted them and raised his hand in prayer and said: “Be patient, you will verily find your abode in the Paradise.” Yasir, the father, died because of repeated tortures. 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 to sustain severe suffering unless he abused Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and recanted to Al-Lat and ‘Uzza. In a weak moment, he uttered a word construed as recantation though his heart never wavered and he came back once to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , who consoled him for his pain and confirmed his faith. Immediately afterwards the following verse was revealed:
“Whoever disbelieved in Allâh after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith -.” [Al-Qur’an 16:106]
Abu Fakeeh, Aflah, a freed slave of Bani ‘Abd Ad-Dar was the third of those helpless victims. The oppressors used to fasten his feet with a rope and drag him in the streets of Makkah. [Eijaz At-Tanzil p.53]
Khabbab bin Al-Aratt was also an easy victim to similar outrages on every possible occasion. He experienced exemplary torture and maltreatment. The Makkan polytheists used to pull his hair and twist his neck, and made him lie on burning coal with a big rock on his chest to prevent him from escaping. Some Muslims of rank and position were wrapped in the raw skins of camels and thrown away, and others were put in armours and cast on burning sand in the scorching sun of Arabia. [Talqeeh Fuhoom Ahl-al-Athar p.60; Rahmat-ul-lil’alameen 1/57]
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 included – of course before his conversion to Islam. [Ibn Hisham 1/319]
Abu Bakr, a wealthy believer, purchased and freed some of those she-slaves, just as he did with regard to Bilal and ‘Amir bin Fuheirah.
The House of Al-Arqam
In the light of these inhuman persecutions, the Prophet (Peace 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 Quraish should get to know of his designs, and so take measures that might foil his goals. He also had in mind to avoid any sort of open confrontation with the polytheists because such a thing at this early stage would not be in the interest of the newly-born Call, still vulnerable and not fully fledged. Once, in the fourth year of Prophethood, the Muslims were on their way to the hillocks of Makkah to hold a clandestine meeting with the Prophet (Peace be upon him), when a group of polytheists did observe 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. [Ibn Hisham 1/263]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him), on the other hand, used to proclaim the Islamic Faith and preach it openly with deep devotion and studious pursuit, but for the general welfare of the new converts and in consideration of the strategic interest of Islam, he took Dar Al-Arqam, in As-Safa mountain, in the fifth year of his mission, as a temporary centre to meet his followers secretly and instruct them in the Qur’ân and in the 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 until the situation got so extremely grave and no longer tolerable in the middle of the fifth year, that the Muslims began to seriously think of feasible ways liable to avert the painful tortures meted out to them. It was at that gloomy and desperate time that Sûrah Al-Kahf (Chapter 18 – The Cave) was revealed comprising definite answers to the questions with which the polytheists of Makkah constantly pestered the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . It comprises three stories that include highly suggestive parables for the true believers to assimilate. The story of the Companions of the Cave implies implicit guidance for the believers to evacuate the hot spots of disbelief and aggression pregnant with the peril of enticement away from the true religion:
“(The young men said to one another): “And when you withdraw from them, and that which they worship, except Allâh, then seek refuge in the Cave, your Lord will open a way for you from His Mercy and will make easy for you your affair (i.e. will give you what you will need of provision, dwelling, etc.)” [Al-Qur’an 18:16].
Next, there is the story of Al-Khidr (The Teacher of Arabia) and Moses (Peace be upon him) in a clear and delicate reference to the vicissitudes of life. Future circumstances of life are not necessarily the products of the prevalent conditions, they might be categorically the opposite. In other words, the war waged against the Muslims would in the future assume a different turn, and the tyrannous oppressors would one day come to suffer and be subjected to the same tortures to which the Muslims were then put. Furthermore, there is the story of Dhul-Qarnain (The Two Horned One), the powerful ruler of west and east. This story says explicitly that Allâh takes His righteous servants to inherit the earth and whatever in it. It also speaks that Allâh raises a righteous man every now and then to protect the weak against the strong.
Sûrah Az-Zumar (Chapter 39 – The Crowds) was then revealed pointing directly to migration and stating that the earth is spacious enough and the believers must not consider themselves constrained by the forces of tyranny and evil:
“Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world, and Allâh’s earth is spacious (so if you cannot worship Allâh at a place, then go to another)! Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full without reckoning.” [Al-Qur’an 39:10].
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) had already known that Ashamah Negus, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), was a fair ruler who would not wrong any of his subordinates, so he permitted some of his followers to seek asylum there 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 and his wife Ruqaiyah (the daughter of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)). With respect to these two emigrants, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“They are the first people to migrate in the cause of Allâh after Abraham and Lot (Peace be upon him).”
They sneaked 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), their destination. News of their intended departure reached the ears of Quraish, so some men were despatched in their pursuit, but the believers had already left Shuaibah Port towards their secure haven where they were received warmly and accorded due hospitality.
In Ramadan of the same year, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) went into the Holy Sanctuary where there was a large host of Quraish polytheists, including some notables and celebrities. Suddenly he began reciting Sûrah An-Najm (Chapter 41 – The Star). The awe-inspiring Words of Allâh descended unawares upon them and they immediately got stunned by them. It was the first time for them to be shocked by the truthful Revelation. It had formerly been the favourite trick of those people who wished to dishonour Revelation, not only not to listen to it themselves but also to talk loudly and insolently when it was being read, so that even the true listeners may not be able to hear. They used to think that they were drowning the Voice of Allâh; in fact, they were piling up misery for themselves, for Allâh’s Voice can never be silenced, “And those who disbelieve say:
“Listen not to this Qur’ân, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation) that you may overcome.” [Al-Qur’an 41:26].
When the unspeakably fascinating Words of Allâh came into direct contact with their hearts, they were entranced and got oblivious of the materialistic world around them and were caught in a state of full attentiveness to the Divine Words to such an extent that when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) reached the stormy heart-beating ending:
“So fall you down in prostration to Allâh and worship Him (Alone).” [Al-Qur’an 53:62]
The idolaters, unconsciously and with full compliance, prostrated themselves in absolute god-fearing and stainless devotion. It was in fact the wonderful moment of the Truth that cleaved through the obdurate souls of the haughty and the attitude of the scoffers. They stood aghast when they perceived that Allâh’s Words had conquered their hearts and done the same thing that they had been trying hard to annihilate and exterminate. Their co-polytheists who had not been present on the scene reproached and blamed them severely; consequently they began to fabricate lies and calumniate the Prophet (Peace be upon him) alleging that he had attached to their idols great veneration and ascribed to them the power of desirable intercession. All of these were desperate attempts made to establish an excusable justification for their prostrating themselves with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) on that day. Of course, this foolish and iniquitous slanderous behaviour was in line with their life-consecrated practice of telling lies and plot hatching.
News of this incident was misreported to the Muslim emigrants in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). They were informed that the whole of 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 an hour’s travel from Makkah, the reality of the situation was discovered. Some of them returned to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), others sneaked secretly into the city or went in publicly but under the tutelage of a local notable. However, due to the news that transpired to the Makkans about the good hospitality and warm welcome that the Muslims were accorded in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), the polytheists got terribly indignant and started to mete out severer and more horrible maltreatment and tortures to the Muslims. Thereupon the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) deemed it imperative to permit the helpless creatures to seek asylum in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for the second time. Migration this time was not as easy as it was the previous time, for Quraish was on the alert to the least suspicious moves of the Muslims. In due course, however, the Muslims managed their affairs too fast for the Quraishites to thwart their attempt of escape. 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. [Tafheem-ul-Qur’an 5/188; Za’d Al-Ma’ad 1/24; Ibn Hisham 1/364; Rahmat-ul-lil’alameen 1/61]
Quraish’s Machination against the Emigrants
Quraish could not tolerate the prospect of a secure haven available for the Muslims in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), so they despatched two staunch envoys to demand their extradition. They were ‘Amr bin Al-‘As and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Rabi‘a – before embracing Islam. They had taken with them valuable gifts to the king and his clergy, and had been able to win some of the courtiers over to their side. The pagan envoys claimed that the Muslim refugees should be expelled from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and made 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. The Muslim emigrants had decided to tell the whole truth whatever the consequences were. Ja‘far bin Abi Talib stood up and addressed the king in the following words: “O king! we were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we adored idols, we lived in unchastity, we ate the dead bodies, and we spoke abominations, we disregarded every feeling of humanity, and the duties of hospitality and neighbourhood were neglected; we knew no law but that of the strong, when Allâh raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware; and he called to the Oneness of Allâh, and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbours and kith and kin; he forbade us to speak evil of women, or to eat the substance of orphans; he ordered us to fly from the vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fast. We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allâh, and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and prohibited what He has prohibited. For this reason, our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of Allâh and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and injured us, until finding no safety among them, we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression.”
The king was very much impressed by these words and asked the Muslims to recite some of Allâh’s Revelation. Ja‘far recited the opening verses of Sûrah 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 realm, was moved to tears that rolled down his cheeks and even wet his beard. Here, the Negus exclaimed: “It seems as if these words and those which were revealed to Jesus are the rays of the light which have radiated from the same source.” Turning to the crest-fallen envoys of Quraish, he said, “I am afraid, I cannot give you back these refugees. They are free to live and worship in my realm as they please.”
On the morrow, the two envoys again went to the king and said that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his followers blasphemed Jesus Christ. Again the Muslims were summoned 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 (Peace be upon him) , that is, he is the servant of Allâh, His Messenger, His spirit and His Word breathed into Virgin Mary.” The king at once remarked, “Even so do we believe. Blessed be you, and blessed be your master.” Then turning to the frowning envoys and to his bishops who got angry, he said: “You may fret and fume as you like but Jesus is nothing more than what Ja‘far has said about him.” He then assured the Muslims of full protection. He returned to the envoys of Quraish, the gifts they had brought with them and sent them away. The Muslims lived in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) unmolested for a number of years till they returned to Madinah. [Ibn Hisham 1/334-338]
In this way Quraish’s malicious intentions recoiled on them and their machination met with utter failure. They came to fully realize that the grudge they nursed against he Muslims would not operate but within their realm of Makkah. They consequently began to entertain a horrible idea of silencing the advocate of the new Call once and for all, through various channels of brutality, or else killing him. An obstinate difficulty, however, used to curtail any move in this direction embodied by the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib and the powerful social standing he used to enjoy as well as the full protection and support he used to lend to his nephew. The pagans of Makkah therefore decided to approach Abu Talib for the second time and insisted that he put a stop to his nephew’s activities, which if allowed unchecked, they said, would involve him into severe hostility. Abu Talib was deeply distressed at this open threat and the breach with his people and their enmity, but he could not afford to desert the Messenger too. He sent for his nephew and told him what the people had said, “Spare me and yourself and put not burden on me that I can’t bear.” Upon this the Prophet (Peace be upon him) thought that his uncle would let him down and would no longer support him, so he replied:
“O my uncle! by Allâh if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, until Allâh has made me victorious, or I perish therein, I would not abandon it.” The Prophet (Peace 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 Allâh I will never forsake you.”
He then recited two lines of verse pregnant with meanings of full support to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and absolute gratification by the course that his nephew had chalked out in Arabia. [Ibn Hisham 1/265]
Once more Quraish approaches Abu Talib
Quraish, seeing that the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) was still intent on his Call, 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 ‘Amarah bin Al-Waleed bin Al-Mugheerah, 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 discord, found fault with your way of life, so that we kill him and rid you of his endless troubles; just man for man.” Abu Talib’s reply was, “It is really an unfair bargain. You give me your son to bring him up and I give you my son to kill him! By Allâh, it is something incredible!!” Al-Mut‘im bin ‘Adi, a member of the delegation, interrupted saying that Quraish had been fair in that bargain because “they meant only to rid you of that source of hateful trouble, but as I see you are determined to refuse their favours.” Abu Talib, of course, turned down all their offers and challenged them to do whatever they pleased.[Ibn Hisham 1/266] Historical resources do not give the exact date of these two meetings with Abu Talib. They, however, seem more likely to have taken place in the sixth year of Prophethood with a brief lapse of time in between.
The Tyrants’ Decision to kill the Prophet (Peace be upon him)
Now that all the schemes and conspiracies of Quraish had failed, they resorted to their old practices of persecution and inflicting tortures on the Muslims in a more serious and brutal manner than ever before. They also began to nurse the idea of killing the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . In fact, contrary to their expectations, this new method and this very idea served indirectly to consolidate the Call to Islam and support it with the conversion of two staunch and mighty heroes of Makkah, i.e. Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib and ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab[R] .
‘Utaibah bin Abi Lahab once approached the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and most defiantly and brazenly shouted at him, “I disbelieve in: “By the star when it goes down.” [53:1] and in “Then he (Gabriel) approached and came closer.” [53:8] In other words: “I do not believe in any of the Qur’ân.” He then started to deal highhandedly with Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and laid violent hand on him, tore his shirt and spat into his face but his saliva missed the Holy face of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . Thereupon, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) invoked Allâh’s wrath on ‘Utaibah and supplicated:
“O Allâh! Set one of Your dogs on him.”
Allâh responded positively to Muhammad’s supplication, and it happened in the following manner: Once ‘Utaibah with some of his compatriots from Quraish set out for Syria and took accommodation in Az-Zarqa’. There a lion approached the group to the great fear of ‘Utbah, who at once recalled Muhammad’s words in supplication, and said: “Woe to my brother! This lion will surely devour me just as Muhammad (Peace be upon him) supplicated. He has really killed me in Syria while he is in Makkah.” The lion did really rush like lightning, snatched ‘Utbah from amongst his people and crushed his head. [Tafheem-ul-Qur’an 6/522; Quoted from Al-Isti’ab, Al-Isaba, Dala’il An-Nubuwwah, etc]
It is also reported that a wretched idolater from Quraish, named ‘Uqbah bin ‘Abi Mu‘ait once trod on the Prophet’s neck while he was prostrating himself in prayer until his eyes protruded. [Mukhtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool p.113]
More details reported by Ibn Ishaq testify to the tyrants’ deeply-established intentions of killing the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . Abu Jahl, the archenemy of Islam, once addressed some of his accomplices: “O people of Quraish! It seems that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) 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 too 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 sept, Banu ‘Abd Munaf, might do.” The terrible unfortunate audience endorsed his plan and encouraged him to translate it into a decisive deed.
In the morning of the following day, Abu Jahl lay waiting for the arrival of the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) to offer prayer. The people of Quraish were in their assembly rooms waiting for news. When the Prophet (Peace be upon him) prostrated himself, Abu Jahl proceeded carrying the big rock to fulfill his wicked intention. No sooner had he approached closer to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) than he withdraw pale-faced, shuddering with his hands strained the rock falling off. Thereupon, the people watching hurried forward asking him what the matter was. 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 (Peace be upon him), in the context of his comment on the incident, said “It was Gabriel(Peace be upon him) , if Abu Jahl had approached closer, he would have killed him.[Ibn Hisham 1/298]” Even so the tyrants of Quraish would not be admonished, contrariwise, the idea of killing the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was still being nourished in their iniquitous hearts. On the authority of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As, some people of Quraish were in a place called Al-Hijr complaining that they had been too patient with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , who suddenly appeared and began his usual circumambulation. They started to wink at him and utter sarcastic remarks but he remained silent for two times, then on the third, he stopped and addressed the infidels saying:
“O people of Quraish! Hearken, I swear by Allâh in Whose Hand is my soul, that you will one day be slaughtered to pieces.” As soon as the Prophet (Peace be upon him) uttered his word of slaughter, they all stood aghast and switched off to a new style of language smacking of fear and even horror trying to soothe his anger and comfort him saying: “You can leave Abul Qasim, for you have never been foolish.” [Ibn Hisham 1/289]
‘Urwa 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 (Peace be upon him) . He said: “While the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was praying in Al-Hijr of Al-Ka‘bah, ‘Uqbah bin Al-Mu‘ait came and put his garment around the Prophet’s neck and throttled him violently. Abu Bakr came and caught him by his shoulder and pushed him away from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said: “Do you want to kill a man just because he says, My Lord is Allâh?” [Bukhari 1/544]
The Conversion of Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib
In a gloomy atmosphere infested with dark clouds of iniquity and tyranny, there shone on the horizon a promising light for the oppressed, i.e. the conversion of Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib in Dhul Hijjah, the sixth year of Prophethood. It is recorded that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was one day seated on the hillock of Safa when Abu Jahl happened to pass by and accused the religion preached by him. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) , 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 Quraishites in their assembly place. 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 Jada‘an, who had noted the impertinence of Abu Jahl, told him the whole story of the attack on the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . On hearing that, 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 upon him and struck his bow upon his head violently and said: “Ah! You have been abusing Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ; I too follow his religion and profess what he preaches.” The men of Bani Makhzum came to his help, and men of Bani Hashim wanted to render help, but Abu Jahl sent them away saying: “Let Abu ‘Ummarah alone, by Allâh I did revile his nephew shamelessly.[Ibn Hisham 1/291; Rahmat-ul-lil’alameen 1/68; Mukhtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool p.66]” In fact, Hamzah’s conversion derived initially from the pride of a man who would not accept the notion of others humiliating his relative. Later on, however, Allâh purified his nature and he managed to grasp the most trustworthy hand-hold (Faith in Allâh). He proved to be a source of great strength to the Islamic Faith and its followers. [Mushtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool p.101]
The Conversion of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab
Another significant addition to the strength of Islam was the conversion of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab in Dhul-Hijjah, the sixth year of Prophethood, three days following the conversion of Hamzah.[Tareekh ’Umar bin Al-Kattab, p.11] He was a man of dauntless courage and resolution, feared and respected in Makkah, and hitherto a bitter opponent of the new religion. The traditional account reveals that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) once raised his hands in prayer and said:
“O Allâh! Give strength to Islam especially through either of two men you love more: ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab or Abu Jahl bin Hisham.”
‘Umar, obviously, was the one who merited that privilege. [At-Tirmidhi 2/209]
When we scrutinize the several versions that speak of ‘Umar’s conversion, we can safely conclude that various contradictory emotions used to conflict with one another within his soul. On the one hand, he used to highly regard the traditions of his people, and was habituated to the practice of indulgence in wine orgies; on the other hand, he greatly admired the stamina of the Muslims and their relentless dedication to their faith. These two extreme views created a sort of skepticism 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, that is why he would always experience fits of outrage directly followed by unexpected enervation.[Fiqh As-Seerah, p92,93] 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 set out from his house, and headed for the Holy Sanctuary where he saw the Prophet (Peace be upon him) offering prayer and overheard him reciting the Sûrah Al-Hâqqah (Chapter 69 – The Reality) of the Noble Qur’ân. The Words of Allâh appealed to him and touched the innermost cells of his heart. He felt that they derived from unusual composition, and he began to question his people’s allegations as regards the man-composed poetry or words of a soothsayer that they used to attach to the Noble Qur’ân. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) went on to recite:
“That this is verily the word of an honoured Messenger (i.e. Gabriel or Muhammad (Peace be upon him) which he has brought from Allâh). It is not the word of a poet, little is that you believe! 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).” [Al-Qur’an 69:40-43]
At that very moment, Islam permeated his heart.[Tareekh ’Umar bin Al-Khattab p.6] However, the dark layer of pre-Islamic tendencies, the deep-seated traditional bigotry as well as the blind pride in his forefathers overshadowed the essence of the great Truth that began to feel its way reluctantly into his heart. He, therefore, persisted in his atrocities against Islam and its adherents unmindful of the pure and true-to-man’s nature feeling that lay behind that fragile cover of pre-Islamic ignorance and mentality. His sharp temper and excessive enmity towards the Prophet (Peace be upon him) led him one day to leave his house, sword in hand, with the intention of killing the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . He was in a fit of anger and was fretting and fuming. Nu‘aim bin ‘Abdullah, a friend of ‘Umar’s, met him accidentally half way. What had caused so much excitement in him and on whom was the fury to burst, he inquired casually. ‘Umar said furiously: “To destroy the man Muhammad ((Peace be upon him)) this apostate, who has shattered the unity of Quraish, picked holes in their religion, found folly with their wise men and blasphemed their gods.” “‘Umar, I am sure, your soul has deceived you, do you think that Banu ‘Abd Munaf would let you walk on earth if you slain Muhammad (Peace be upon him)? Why don’t you take care of your own family first and set them right?”
“Which of the folk of my house?” asked ‘Umar angrily. “Your brother-in-law and your sister have apostatized (meaning to say: They have become followers of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) and abandoned your religion.”
‘Umar directed his footsteps to his sister’s house. As he drew near, he heard the voice of Khabbab bin Aratt, who was reading the Qur’ânic Chapter Tâ-Hâ (mystic letters, T. H.) to both of them. Khabbab, perceiving the noise of his footsteps retired to a closet. Fatimah, ‘Umar’s sister, took hold of the leaf and hid it. But ‘Umar had already heard the voice. “What sound was that I have heard just now?” shouted the son of Khattab, entering angrily. Both his sister and her husband replied, “You heard nothing.” “Nay,” said he swearing fiercely, “I have heard that you have apostatized.” He plunged forward towards his brother-in-law and beat him severely, but Fatimah rushed to the rescue of her husband. Thereupon, ‘Umar fell upon his sister and struck upon her head. The husband and wife could not contain themselves and cried aloud: “Yes, we are Muslims, we believe in Allâh and His Messenger Muhammad (Peace be upon him) so do what you will.” When ‘Umar saw the face of his dear sister besmeared with blood, he was softened and said: “Let me see what you were reading, so that I may see what Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has brought.” Fatimah 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 Tâ-Hâ until he reached:
“Verily! I am Allâh! Lâ ilâha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me and offer prayers perfectly (Iqâmat-as-Salât), for My Remembrance.” [Al-Qur’an 20:14].
‘Umar read the verses with great interest and was much entranced with them. “How excellent it is, and how graceful! Please guide me to Muhammad (Peace be upon him) .” said he. And when he heard that, Khabbab came out of concealment and said, “O ‘Umar, I hope that Allâh has answered the prayer of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , for I heard him say: ‘O Allâh! Strengthen Islam through either ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab or Abu Jahl bin Hisham.’” ‘Umar then left for a house in Safa where Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had been holding secret meetings along with his Companions. ‘Umar reached that place with the sword swinging by his arm. He knocked at the door. The Companions of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) turned to see who the intruder was. One of them peeped through a chink in the door and reeled back exclaiming: “It is ‘Umar 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 (Peace be upon him) asked his Companions to open the door. In came the son of Khattab. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) advanced to receive the dreadful visitor, caught him by his garment and scabbard, and asked him the reason of his visit. At that ‘Umar replied: “O Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) , I come to you in order to believe in Allâh and his Messenger and that which he has brought from his Lord.” Filled with delight, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) together with his Companions, cried aloud: ‘Allâhu Akbar’ (Allâh is Great). [Tareekh ’Umar bin Al-Khattab, p7-11; Ibn Hisham 1/343]
The conversion of ‘Umar 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 hitherto worshipped Allâh within their four walls in secret now assembled and performed their rites of worship openly in the Holy Sanctuary itself. This raised their spirits, and dread and uneasiness began to seize Quraish.
Ibn Ishaq narrated on the authority of ‘Umar [R], “When I embraced Islam, I remembered the archenemy of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) , 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 denouncing my move as infamous and my face as ugly.” In fact, ‘Umar’s conversion created a great deal of stir in Makkah that some people denounced him as an apostate, yet he would never waver in Faith, on the contrary, he persisted in his stance even at the peril of his life. The polytheists of Quraish marched towards his house with the intention of killing him. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar [R] narrated: While ‘Umar was at home in a state of fear, there came Al-‘As bin Wa’il As-Sahmy Abu ‘Amr, wearing an embroidered cloak and a shirt having silk hems. He was from the tribe of Bani Sahm who were our allies during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance. Al-‘As said to ‘Umar: 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 streaming in the whole valley. He said: Where are you going? They replied: We want son of Al-Khattab who has embraced Islam. Al-‘As said: There is no way for anybody to touch him. So the people retreated. [Bukhari 1/545; Ibn Hisham 1/349]
With respect to the Muslims in Makkah, ‘Umar’s conversion had a different tremendous impact. Mujahid, on the authority of Ibn Al-‘Abbas [R], related that he had asked ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab why he had been given the epithet of Al-Farouque (he who distinguishes truth from falsehood), he replied: After I had embraced Islam, I asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him): ‘Aren’t we on the right path here and Hereafter?’ The Prophet (Peace be upon him) answered: ‘Of course you are! I swear by Allâh in Whose Hand my soul is, that you are right in this world and in the hereafter.’ I, therefore, asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) ‘Why we then had to conduct clandestine activism. I swear by Allâh 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 Mosque in broad daylight when the polytheists of Quraish saw us, their faces went pale and got incredibly depressed and resentful. On that very occasion, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) attached to me the epithet of Al-Farouque. Ibn Mas‘ud [R] related that they (the Muslims) had never been able to observe their religious rites inside the Holy Sanctuary except when ‘Umar embraced Islam. [Ibn Hisham; Tareekh ’Umar bin Al-Khattab, p.13; Mukhtasar As-Seerah p.103]
Suhaib bin Sinan [R], in the same context, said that it was only after ‘Umar’s conversion, that we started to proclaim our Call, assemble around and circumambulate the Sacred House freely. We even dared retaliate against some of the injustices done to harm us. In the same context, Ibn Mas‘ud said: We have been strengthened a lot since ‘Umar embraced Islam.
Quraish’s Representative negotiates with the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him)
Shortly after the conversion of these two powerful heroes, Hamzah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib and ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab[R] , the clouds of tyranny and oppression started to clear away and the polytheists realized that it was no use meting out torture to the Muslims. They consequently began to direct their campaign to a different course. The authentic records of the biography of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) show that it had occurred to the Makkan leaders to credit Muhammad (Peace be upon him) with ambition. They, therefore, time and again plied him with temptation. One day some of the important men of Makkah gathered in the enclosure of Al-Ka‘bah, and ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘a, a chief among them, offered to approach the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and contract a bargain with him whereby they give him whatever worldly wealth he asks for, on condition that he keep silent and no longer proclaim his new faith. The people of Quraish endorsed his proposal and requested him to undertake that task. ‘Utbah came closer to Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and addressed him in the following words:
We have seen no other man of Arabia, who has brought so great a calamity to a nation, as you have done. You have outraged our gods and religion and taxed our forefathers and wise men with impiety and error and created strife amongst us. You have left no stone unturned to estrange the relations with us. If you are doing all this with a view to getting wealth, we will join together to give you greater riches than any Quraishite has possessed. 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 skilful physicians to cure you.
“Have you said all?” asked Muhammad (Peace be upon him); and then hearing that all had been said, he spoke forth, and said:
“In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Hâ-Mîm. [These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’ân, and none but Allâh (Alone) knows their meanings]. A revelation from Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. A Book whereof the verses are explained in detail; – a Qur’ân in Arabic for people who know. Giving glad tidings [of Paradise to the one who believes in the Oneness of Allâh (i.e. Islamic Monotheism) and fears Allâh much (abstains from all kinds of sins and evil deeds.) and loves Allâh much (performing all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)], and warning (of punishment in the Hell-fire to the one who disbelieves in the Oneness of Allâh), 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 …” [Al-Qur’an 41: 1-5]
The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) went on reciting the Chapter while ‘Utbah sitting and listening attentively with his hand behind his back to support him. When the Messenger reached the verse that required prostration, he immediately prostrated himself. After that, he turned to ‘Utbah saying: “Well Abu Al-Waleed! You have heard my reply, you are now free to do whatever you please.” ‘Utbah then retired to his company to apprise them of the Prophet’s attitude. When his compatriots saw him, they swore that he had returned to them with a countenance unlike the one he had before meeting the Prophet (Peace be upon him) . He immediately communicated to them the details of the talk he gave and the reply he received, and appended saying: “I have never heard words similar to those ones he recited. They definitely relate neither to poetry nor to witchcraft nor do they derive from soothsaying. O people of Quraish! I request you to heed 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 accedes to power over the Arabs, then you will bask in his kingship and share him his might.” These words of course fell on deaf ears, and did not appeal to the infidels, who jeered at ‘Utbah and claimed that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had bewitched him. [Ibn Hisham 1/293,294]
In another version of the same event, it is related that ‘Utbah went on attentively listening to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) until the latter began to recite Allâh’s Words:
“But if they turn away, they say (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ): “I have warned you of a Sa‘iqa (a destructive awful cry, torment, hit, a thunder-bolt) like the Sa‘iqa which overtook ‘Ad and Thamûd (people).” [Al-Qur’an 41:13]
Here ‘Utbah stood up panicked and stunned putting his hand on the Prophet’s mouth beseeching him: “I beg you in the Name of Allâh and uterine ties to stop lest the calamity should befall the people of Quraish.” He then hurriedly returned to his compatriots and informed them of what he had heard. [Tafseer Ibn Kathir 6/159-161]
Abu Talib assembles Bani Hashim and Bani Al-Muttalib
The new and welcome changes notwithstanding, Abu Talib still had a deep sensation of fear over his nephew. He deliberated on the previous series of incidents including the barter affair of ‘Amarah bin Al-Waleed, Abu Jahl’s rock, ‘Uqbah’s attempt to choke the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , and finally ‘Umar’s (before conversion) intention to kill Muhammad (Peace be upon him) . The wise man understood that all of these unequivocally smacked of a serious plot being hatched to disregard his status as a custodian of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , and kill the latter publicly. In the event of such a thing, Abu Talib deeply believed, neither ‘Umar nor Hamzah would be of any avail, socially powerful though they were. [Ibn Hisham 1/269; Mukhtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool p.106]
Abu Talib was right. The polytheists had laid a carefully-studied plan to kill the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , and banded together to put their plan into effect. He, therefore, assembled his kinsfolk of Bani Hashim and Bani Al-Muttalib, sons of ‘Abd Munaf and exhorted them to immunize and defend his nephew. All of them, whether believers or disbelievers, responded positively except his brother Abu Lahab, who sided with the idolaters.
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