The Mushrikin1 of Makkh considered it beneath them to
declare belief in the Prophet r and submit like the rest
of the people. They placed themselves in the position of gods, gave their
followers laws to follow, and ordered that they be obeyed. Pride and dominion
inhibited them from accepting Islam for fear of becoming servants of Allah like
the rest of the people.
They wanted special personal prerogatives that would secure the
continuity of their spiritual and authoritative leadership. They stipulated for
themselves a share of the Divine Revelations as a condition for accepting to be
worshippers of Allah Alone2: (And
when a sign comes to them (proving the prophethood of Muhammad), they say,
“Never will we believe until we receive the like of that which the Messengers
of Allah have received.” Allah knows best with whom to place His Message.)3
Ibn Ishaq reported on the authority of Az-Zuhri that Abu Sufyan
bin Harb, Abu Jahl bin Hisham, and Al-Akhnas bin Shurayq went out one night to
listen to the Messenger of Allah r when he r
was praying in his house. Each one of them took up a position for listening,
and none of them knew that the others were also there.
They stayed listening to him all night until dawn. When they
left, on their way home, they saw each other on the road and reprimanded each
other, saying to one another, “Do not come back again, lest some of their
fools see you and you give the wrong impression (i.e. that you like what you
They went away until the second night came, and each of them
returned to his place and again spent the night listening to the Messenger of
When dawn came they left, but the road brought them face to face with one
another again, so each of them reprimanded the others, saying the same as they
had said the previous night.
Then they went away until the third night came, and each of
them returned to his place and again spent the night listening to the Messenger
of Allah r.
When dawn came they left, but the road brought them together, so they said to
one another, “Let us not leave until we vow not to come back.” They
swore a vow to that effect and went their separate ways.
In the morning, Al-Akhnas bin Shurayq took his staff and went
to the house of Abu Sufyan bin Harb. He said, “Tell me, O Abu Hanzalah (i.e.
Abu Sufyan), what do you think of what you have heard from Muhammad?” Abu
Sufyan said, “O Abu Tha‘labah (i.e. Al-Akhnas), by Allah, I have heard
things I understand and know what is meant by them, and I have heard things I
do not understand and do not know what is meant by them.” Al-Akhnas said, “Me
too, by the One by Whom you swore.”
He left him and went to Abu Jahl. He entered his house and
said, “O Abu Al-Hakam (i.e. Abu Jahl), what do you think of what you have
heard from Muhammad?” He said, “What you have heard. We and Banu ‘Abd
Manaf competed for honor and position. They fed people, so we fed people; they
engaged in battle, so we engaged in battle; they gave away (charity), so we
gave away, until we were neck and neck with them like two race horses. Then
they said, ‘We have a prophet among us who receives revelations from heaven.’
How could we compete with this? By Allah we will never believe in him.”4 According to the report on the authority
of Muqatil, he said, “By Allah we will never believe in him and shall never
follow him until we receive revelations as he receives.”5
They did not doubt the truthfulness of Muhammad r,
whom they had never heard tell a lie in his long life among them, or the
truthfulness of the Message, or the fact that the Qur’an is not the words of a
human. But in spite of all this, they preferred Shirk, knowingly denied
the truth, and hid their belief to protect their authority and standing.6 (We
indeed know that it grieves you (O Muhammad) what they say. It is not you that
they belie, but it is the Ayat (the Qur’an) of Allah that the wrongdoers deny.)7
Ibn Jarir reported that
on the day of the Battle of Badr, Al-Akhnas met Abu Jahl and withdrew to talk
privately with him. Al-Akhnas said, “O Abu Al-Hakam, tell me about Muhammad.
Is he truthful or a liar? There is no one here of the Quraish other than the
two of us listening to our conversation.”
Abu Jahl said, “Woe to you! By Allah, Muhammad is
truthful. Muhammad has never told a lie in his life. But if the Family of Qusai
enjoyed alone the privileges of leadership, guardianship of the Sacred House,
the honor of providing pilgrims with water and the honor of prophethood, what
would be left for the rest of the Quraish?”8
1 Plural of Mushrik: One who associates others with Allah
in His Divinity or worship.
2 Adapted from Sayyid Qutb,
In the Shade of the Qur’an, interpretation of Surat Al-An‘am [6: 124], thirty-sixth
edition, Dar Al-Shorouk.
Translated meanings of Al-An‘am 6: 124.
4 Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawiyyah: The
Quraish Stealthily Hearing the Recitation of the Prophet r, vol. 1;
reported also in Tafsir Ibn Kathir, interpretation of Surat Al-An‘am [6: 33], vol. 2.
5 Tafsir Al-Baghawy, Ma‘alim At-Tanzil, interpretation of Surat Al-An‘am [6: 124].
6 Adapted from Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the
Qur’an, interpretation of Surat
Al-An‘am [6: 33], thirty-sixth
edition, Dar Al-Shorouk.
Translated meanings of Al-An‘am 6: 33.
8 Tafsir Ibn
Kathir and Tafsir Al-Baghawy, interpretation of Surat
Al-An‘am [6: 33].