|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'an) has been sent down! Verily, you are a mad man. [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. [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'an), and they say: Verily, he [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] is a madman! [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:
Allah has favoured from amongst us? [6:53]
And Allah said:
Does not Allah know best those who are grateful? [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). [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'an, 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. [25:5]
The iniquitous went on ceaselessly inculcating in people's ears that the Qur'an was not a true Revelation:
This (the Qur'an) is nothing but a lie that he [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] has invented, and others have helped him at it. [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. [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)? [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 intheir life, is acquainted with their doings, and sympathises with their joys and sorrows.
The Noble Qur'an 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'an 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 Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) 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. [31:6]
- 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. [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). 
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, 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. 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'an. 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.
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 neighbabstained 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 Masud, narrated that once when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was prostrating himself while praying in Al-Kabah, Abu Jahl asked his companions to bring the dirty foetus of a she-camel and place it on his back. Uqbah bin Abi Muait 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 Rabia, Shaibah bin Rabia, Al-Waleed bin Utbah, Omaiyah bin Khalaf and Uqbah bin Muait. It is recorded that all of them were killed in the battle of Badr.
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. [104:1]
Uqbah bin Al-Muait 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'an, 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). [68:10-13]
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'an, in the Message of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] nor prayed! [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). [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! [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.
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.
The uncle of Uthman bin Affan used to wrap Uthman in a mat of palm leaves, and set fire under him. When Umm Musab 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.
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.
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 —. [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.
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.
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.
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 thlight 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. Sad bin Abi Waqqas beat a polytheist and shed his blood and thus recorded the first instance of bloodshed in the history of Islam.
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'an and in the Islamic wisdom.