Beginning of Persecution

Beginning of Persecution

The Prophet of God (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) preached Islam openly in the streets of Mecca, yet the Quraysh remained cool and indifferent to him; neither did they turn against him nor did they ever feel that their Religion was at stake. They did not even care to refute the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) but when he started talking critically of their gods, they felt offended and decided to rebuke him. Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would have been at the mercy from the radicals of the merchant’s republic of Mecca, but Abu Talib, the Prophet’s uncle, continued to treat him kindly and stood up in his defense. And, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), equally determined to actively propagate his new faith, continued to call the people to Islam. Nothing could stop the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) from preaching the commands of his God, in the same way that nothing could also dissuade Abu Talib to waive his protection from the nephew he so loved more than his sons.

ABU TALIB’S ANXIETY
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was now the much-talked about problem among the Quraysh. They conferred and consulted one another how to face the danger that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with his sweet tongue portended before them. At last, the leading men of the Quraysh approached Abu Talib and said to him, “O Abu Talib, you are old and we hold you in high esteem. We had asked you to restrain your nephew but you did nothing. By God, we cannot tolerate any longer that our fathers should be denounced, that we should be labeled ignoramuses and frivolous and our gods insulted. Either you must stop him or we will fight both of you, until one of us perishes.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 256-66)

The old leader of Mecca remained deep in thought, distressed at the rift with his people and their hostility but he was nither willing to desert his nephew surrender give him to his enemies. He went for the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and said, “Son of my brother, your people came to me and threatened me with dire consequences if you continue to preach your religion. Spare my life and yours and do not impose on me a burden greater than I can bear.” The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) thought that his uncle was no longer willing to shield him, that he intended to give him up. He answered, “O my uncle, by God, if they were to place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, and ask me to abandon this course, I would not turn from it until God makes it victorious or I perish therein.”

Tears flowed from the eyes of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). With a heavy heart, he got up to depart. But, Abu Talib could not bear to look at his nephew’s sorrow. Before he had reached the threshold, Abu Talib cried out, “Come back, my nephew.” And when he returned, Abu Talib said, “Go where you please and say what you will. By God, I will never deliver you to your enemies.” (Ibn Hisham Vol. I. pp. 265-66)

PERSECUTION BEGINS
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) continued to preach the message of God as vigorously as before. The Meccans were now desperate of forcing Abu Talib to give up Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and there was nothing that they could do to stop him. Their anger swelled to such an extent that they started inciting the tribes against those who had accepted Islam but had nobody to protect them. Every tribe asserted itself on the Muslims amongst it; beating and putting them under chains, denying them food and water and forcing them to lie on the burning sand and under the scorching heat of Arabia’s sun.

Bilal Ibn Rabah (radhiallahu ‘anhu) was a slave who had embraced Islam. Umaya Ibn Khalaf, his master, used to bring him out at noontime and throw him on his back into the hot sand. He ordered to place a great rock on the chest of Bilal (radhiallahu ‘anhu) and then he would say to him, “No, by God, you will lie here till you die or deny Muhammad and worship Al-Lat and Al-Uzza.” Bilal (radhiallahu ‘anhu) endured the affliction, crying, “One, One.”

Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) once saw Bilal (radhiallahu ‘anhu) being tortured by his master. Sensing the servant’s conviction, he brought a tougher and stronger black slave in lieu of Bilal’s freedom. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 317-18)

Ammar Ibn Yasir and his parents had accepted Islam (radhiallahu ‘anhum). Bani Makhzum used to take them out in the full glare of the sun at the hottest part of the day and then take them to task for their faith. If the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) passed by them, he used to advise them: “Patience, O family of Yasir, patience. Your destination is Paradise.” They endured all persecutions until ‘Bani Makhzum killed Ammar’s mother for she refused to renounce Islam. (Ibn Hisham Vol. Pp. 317-18)

Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umayr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) was the most well dressed young man of Mecca. Mus’ab’s mother, who possessed a handsome fortune, had brought him up in the life of luxury. He used to put on the costliest clothes perfumed with the best scent and always had his shoes imported from Hadramaut, then famous for manufacturing leather goods. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is reported to have once remarked about him: “I had not seen any young man in Mecca more handsome and far well-dressed or who had been brought up with more grandeur and comfort than Mus’ab Ibn Umayr.” He came to know that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) preached a new religion in the house of Arqam. His curiosity took him there but he came back as a true believer in Islam. He did not, however, declare his faith open and kept on meeting the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) secretly. ‘Uthman Ibn Talha once saw him performing the prayer and disclosed his secret to his mother and other tribesmen. The result was that he was seized and imprisoned, and remained in fetters until the Muslims first migrated to Abyssinia. When he returned from Abyssinia along with the other refugees, he was completely a changed man. His daintiness and elegance was relinquished in favor of such a rugged simplicity that his mother had to leave him alone instead of confronting him (Tabaqat Ibn S’ad, Vol. III, pp. 82; Isti’ab, Vol. I, pp. 288)

Scared of the hostile atmosphere then prevailing against the Muslims in Mecca, others had sought the protection of their friends who were still polytheists. One of them was ‘Uthman Ibn Mazun (radhiallahu ‘anhu) who was under the protection of Walid Ibn Al-Mughira, but as he felt ashamed of being shielded by anyone other than God, he renounced the protection of the former. Shortly thereafter, he had a heated argument with a polytheist who slapped him so hard on his face that he lost an eye. Walid Ibn Al-Mughira was present during the incident afterwhich he told him. ‘Uthman, “By God, O son of my brother, your eye was secured against this injury and you were well-protected.” “Nay, by God,” replied ‘Uthman Ibn Maz’un (radhiallahu ‘anhu), “The eye that is still unhurt longs for what happened to the other for God’s sake. O ‘Abdu Shams, I am here in the vicinity and shelter of one who is exceedingly superior to you in honor and glory.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 370-71)

When ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan (radhiallahu ‘anhu) accepted Islam, his uncle Hakam Ibn Abi al-As Ibn Umayya tied him securely with a rope and said, “Have you renounced the faith of your fathers for a new religion? By God, I will not release you until you abandon this belief.” ‘Uthman (radhiallahu ‘anhu) firmly replied, “By God, I will never give it up.” The firmness of ‘Uthman (radhiallahu ‘anhu) in his conviction ultimately led Hakam to unshackle him.” (Tabaqat Ibn S’ad, Vol. III, P. 37)

Kahbbab Ibn Al-Aratt (radhiallahu ‘anhu), a companion of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), related his own story: “Some louts of the-Quraysh came one day and seized me. Then they kindled a fire and dragged me into it, while a man kept me down by stomping on my chest.” Khabbab then bared his back which had white leprous spots. (Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, Vol. III, 117)

ILL TREATMENT OF THE PROPHET (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) BY HIS PEOPLE
The efforts of the Quraysh to seduce the Prophet’s companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) from their religion failed miserably, nor did they succeed in stopping the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) from preaching his religion fearlessly. The Qurayshites were first annoyed and agitated, and then dismayed by the expanding community of Muslims, they stirred up against him, calling him a liar, a sorcerer, a segregator and a poet; they insulted and abused him and started harassing him in every respect.

The notables of Mecca had assembled one day in Hijhr(15) when the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was suddenly seen coming in the Holy Sanctuary. As he passed by them walking around the Ka’ba, they sneered at him and made sarcastic remarks. They offended him similarly for the second and then for third time that he passed by them. Now, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stopped and said: “Will you listen to me, O Quraysh? By Him who holds my life in His hand I bring you great slaughter.” All of them were thunderstruck by these words to the point that it compelled others to address him graciously and thereafter made amends for their rudeness.

The next day when they had assembled in the Hijhr, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) appeared once again. The Qurayshites, who were humiliated because of the incident the day before, drove to him in unison. While they mobbed him thus, one of them pulled the sheet of cloth hanging round his neck, which nearly choked his throat. Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu), who was present at that moment, severed them from the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) by thrusting himself in between them. And with tears in his eyes he cried, “Would you kill a man simply because he acknowledges that Allah is his Lord?” Hearing this, they shunned the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) but fell upon Abu Bakr dragging him by his hair and beard.

At another time, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) even had to face a worse ordeal throughout the whole day. Whomsoever he met, whether freeman or slave, cursed or vilified, or tried to hurt him in any way. He returned to his house and wrapped himself up because of the torments he had to endure that day. Then it was that God revealed to him the opening verse of the Chapter “The Enshrouded One” – ‘O thou wrapped up in thy cloak, Arise and warn.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 289-91 and Al-Bukhaari)

SUFFERINGS OF ABU BAKR (radhiallahu ‘anhu)
One morning Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) made a bold move to invite a gathering of the heathens to the true faith in God and His Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) but they fell upon him furiously and beat him mercilessly. ‘Utba Ibn Rabia inflicted such severe injuries to his face with a pair of shoes that one could no longer distinguish the eyes from the nose of his swollen face.

Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) fell unconscious and was brought to his house by Banu Taym, his kinsmen, in a precarious condition, his life hanging by a thread. He regained consciousness late in the afternoon, but even then, the first thing he asked was whether the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was well and safe! His relations with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) endangered him for his concern for the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), on whose account he had to suffer so grievously. Then, hardly raising his voice, he repeated his question to Umm Jamil, who had also accepted Islam. Umm Jamil motioned towards his mother who was standing near her, but Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) insisted on knowing about the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), saying that there was no harm on telling him in her presence. At last, Umm Jamil told him that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was fine, but Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) would not be satisfied until he had himself seen the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). He said, “I have taken a vow that I would not take anything until I have seen the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) myself.” The two women waited until everybody had departed and then they brought Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) to the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who was moved to see his pitiable condition. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prayed for his mother and invited her to accept Islam. It is reported that she readily pledged her trust in the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) of God. (Ibn Kathir, Vol. I, pp. 439-41)

Footnotes
[15] Hijr, also known as Hijr Ismail, is the open space between the Ka’ba and semicircular wall to its west, the two extremities of which are in line with the northern and southern sides of the K’abah. The wall bearing the name of Hatim was raised to mark the original length of the Ka’bah because the Quraysh had, while reconstructing it before the advent of Islam, reduced the length owing to paucity of funds.

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