Declare What You Have Been Commanded!
Warn Your Nearest Relations!
After the three year period of secrecy, in the fourth year of prophethood, the Almighty revealed:
فَاصْدَعْ بِمَا تُؤْمَرُ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ
“So declare openly what you are commanded and turn aside from the idolaters.
Surely, We will suffice you against the scoffers”. (al-Hijr, 94-95)
These ayah were commanding the open declaration of Islam. Another emphasizes the same point with greater clarity, with a tone of warning.
يَااَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا اُنْزِلَ اِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَاِنْ لَمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللّٰهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ لاَ يَهْدِى الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
“O Messenger! Deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message. Allah will protect you from people. Surely He will not guide the unbelieving.” (al-Maida, 67)
From then on, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), was ordered to:
قُلْ يآ اَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اِنِّى رَسُولُ اللّٰهِ اِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِى
لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَاْلاَرْضِ لآَ اِلٰهَ اِلاَّ هُوَ يُحْيىِ وَيُمِيتُ
فَاٰمِنُوا بِاللّٰهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِىِّ اْلاُمِّىِّ الَّذِى يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّٰهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ
وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
“Say: O people! Surely I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him to Whom belongs the kingdom of heavens and earth. There is no God but He, He gives life and death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the unlettered Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him so that you may walk in the right way.” (al-Araf, 158)
But while thinking how and where he was to begin, the Prophet (pbuh) was aided by another Revelation:
وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ
مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فَإِنْ عَصَوْكَ فَقُلْ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ الَّذِي يَرَاكَ حِينَ تَقُومُ
“And warn your nearest relations; and be kind to him of the believers who follows you. But if they disobey you, then say: Surely I am clear of what you do. And rely on the Mighty, the Merciful, who sees you when you stand.” (as-Shuara 214-218)
Once the Prophet (pbuh) began the calling to Islam openly, he first invited his close relatives, compliant with the Divine order. Treating them with honor and respect, he then addressed them in the following:
“I have been sent as Prophet first to you, sons of Abdulmuttalib, then to all of mankind. You have already borne witness to many miracles through me. Now, who among you will follow me as a brother and friend?”
Nobody took much notice. They remained silent. But Ali (r.a), who was still a child at the time but had the honor of being the first male to join faith, stood and said:
“I will be sure to help you, Messenger of Allah!”
As those who were present looked on belittlingly and mockingly, the Prophet (pbuh) turned his warm gaze towards Ali (r.a) and caressed his head with the gentle hand that so many would have given all to kiss just once.
The unwillingness of his relatives to accept Islam did little to break the perseverance of the Prophet (pbuh). After all, Allah the Almighty had revealed:
يٰس وَالْقُرْاَنِ الْحَكِيمِ اِنَّكَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
“Ya Seen. By the wise Qur’an. Most surely you are one of the messengers. On a straight path…” (Ya-Seen, 1-4)
وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولاً وَكَفَى بِاللّٰهِ شَهِيدًا
“…and We have sent you to mankind as a messenger; and Allah is sufficient as a witness!” (an-Nisa, 79)
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا
وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“And We have not sent you but to all of mankind as a bearer of good news and as a warner, but most men do not know.” (as-Saba, 28)
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّٰهِ إِلَيْكُمْ
جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ
“Say: O people! Surely I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth…” (al-Araf, 158)
As made clear by the Quran, different from those before him, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to all humankind. This is explicated by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) himself in the following hadith:
“I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me.
1. Allah made me victorious by awe, by His frightening my enemies from a distance of one month’s journey.
2. The earth has been made, for me and for my followers, a place for praying and purity through tayammum, hence anyone of my followers can perform salat wherever and whenever the time is due.
3. Spoils have been made permissible for me even though it was not lawful before for anyone else.
4. I have been given the right of intercession on the Day of Judgment.
5. While every prophet was sent to his nation only, I have been sent to all mankind.” (Bukhari, Tayammum, 1)
Except for Ali (r.a), who was only a child at the time, the Prophet’s (pbuh) first open calling of his relatives fell virtually on deaf ears.
Afterwards, the Prophet (pbuh) once again invited his relatives to his house. Treating them again with respect and honor, he then addressed them:
“Sons of Abdulmuttalib! By Allah, I know of no other man among the Arabs who has brought a thing of greater benefit, for your world and your hereafter, than I.
Sons of Abdulmuttalib! I have been sent as a prophet to you in particular, to all mankind in general. And you have indeed already seen some of the miracles in this regard. Now who is willing to lend me brotherly help in this duty in return for paradise? Who is willing to follow me in this path as a brother and friend?”
Again, not only did any of his relatives not accept the invitation of the Prophet (pbuh), they all mocked and laughed at the offer. Soon after they all disbanded. (Ahmed, I, 159; Ibn Saad, I, 187; Haythami, VIII, 302; Ibn Asir, el-Kâmil, II, 63; Balazurî, I, 119; Halabbi, I, 283)
Close relatives are more apt to accept what a person has to say in comparison to those who are more distant. Considering also the relatives of those who accept Islam, it is evident that the Religion through this way carries the potential of being carried to society at a greater speed. It is even more difficult for others to show acceptance if the relatives do not believe in and accept the words of the caller. It was for that reason that the Prophet (pbuh) followed the Divine command and initiated the process with his relatives.
On the other hand, for prophets to be successful in their duty of invitation, the support and assistance of close relatives has always been crucial. This has in fact been explained in the Quran with reference to past examples:
قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ مَا نَفْقَهُ كَثِيراً مِّمَّا تَقُولُ وَإِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِينَا ضَعِيفًا وَلَوْلاَ رَهْطُكَ لَرَجَمْنَاكَ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْنَا بِعَزِيزٍ
“They said: O Shu’aib! We do not understand much of what you say and most surely we see you to be weak among us, and were it not for your family we would surely stone you!” (Hud, 91)
When Lut (a.s) was left helpless in the face of his people’s deviance, he bemoaned in sorrow the lack of help at his side:
لَوْ أَنَّ لِي بِكُمْ قُوَّةً أَوْ آوِي إِلَى رُكْنٍ شَدِيدٍ
“He said: If only I had strength to resist you or had some strong support!” (Hud, 80)
Islam has placed particular emphasis on looking out for relatives. Therefore, if a person wishes for the guidance of others through Islam, he ought to first think of his own family and relatives. Allah the Almighty says in this respect:
وَأُوْلُو الْأَرْحَامِ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلَى بِبَعْضٍ فِي
كِتَابِ اللّٰهِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ
“Blood relations are more deserving of one another in the Decree of Allah.” (al-Ahzab, 6)
The Prophet’s Invitation of Quraysh to Islam on the Hill of Safa
Commanded to begin the invitation to Islam with his relatives, the Prophet (pbuh), the Light of Being, ascended the Hill of Safa to address the tribe of Quraysh, who had flocked to the Hill. Standing on a high rock, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said the following words aloud:
“If I were to tell you, Quraysh, of enemy horsemen hiding in the outskirts of this mountain, in that valley, ready to attack you and seize your properties, would you believe me?”
Without a second thought they replied:
“Yes, we would as until now we have always found you dependable and have never heard you say a lie!”
Hearing this confirmation from all those present without exception, the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) went ahead to inform them of the Divine Truth:
“Then be assured that I inform you of an approaching and severe torment that will befall those who disbelieve in Allah, against which I have been sent to warn you.
With respect to you, Quraysh, I am like a man who sees the enemy and fearing they may harm his family, rushes to warn them.
Quraysh! You shall die just the way you fall asleep, and you will be resurrected just the way you are awakened. There is no doubt that you will rise from your graves and be brought to the presence of Allah to give an account of all that you did in this world. You shall consequently reap the rewards of your good deeds and face a severe punishment for your bad deeds.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 26; Muslim, Iman, 348-355; Ahmed, I, 281-307; Ibn Saad, I, 74, 200; Balazuri, I, 119; Samira az-Zayid, I, 357-359)
There was no overall reaction to the words of the Prophet (pbuh), except for his uncle Abu Lahab who rudely interrupted:
“May your hands dry up! Is this what you called us here for?” He unashamedly continued making inappropriate remarks, breaking the heart of the Prophet (pbuh) with vile insults.
The behavior of Abu Lahab brought about the revelation of the chapter al-Masad:
تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ مَا أَغْنَى عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ
سَيَصْلَى نَارًا ذَاتَ لَهَبٍ وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ
فِي جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِّن مَّسَدٍ
“Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains! Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of Blazing Flame! His wife shall carry the crackling wood – As fuel! With a twisted rope of palm-leaf fiber round her neck!” (al-Masad, 1-5; Bukhari, Tafsir 26/2, 34/2, 111/1-2; Muslim, Iman 355)
The ayah also make mention of Abu Lahab’s wife because, like her husband, she caused much agony for the Prophet (pbuh), to the point of even laying thorns in his path. The chapter additionally implies that neither racial nor genealogical closeness hold absolute value. What is important is spiritual nearness. Spirit recognizes no race. Race is only a quality of the flesh and the flesh is set to perish in soil. A person’s value is determined by spiritual maturity; that is his noble attribute. The flesh, which is the material aspect of man, is like a mould which the spirit enters, a dress which it wears. Wearing clothes of different fabrics does not increase the value of man.
As a result of the endeavors of the Prophet (pbuh), his aunts Safiyya and Atiqa, the freed slave of his uncle Abbas Abu Rafi, as well as Abu Dharr and Amr ibn Abasa (r.a) all accepted Islam.
Abu Zarr (r.a) had never worshipped idols, even during the days of ignorance. He explains his own experience of entering the true path as follows:
“I was from the tribe of Ghifar. Just when I received the news that a person had emerged in Mecca claiming to be a prophet, Allah cast the love of Islam into my heart. I told my brother Unays:
“Go to Mecca and speak to the man who says he receives news from the heavens, and return with the information!”
Unays headed to Mecca. After meeting with the Prophet (pbuh) and listening to what he had to say, he came back.
‘What did you do? What news have you brought?’ I asked him.
‘I encountered a man in Mecca, of the same faith as you, who says he has been sent by the Almighty’, he replied.
‘What does the public say about him?’
‘Poet, sorcerer, magician and the like!’
A poet himself, my brother was well versed in poetry. He continued:
‘I am well aware of the words of sorcerers. His words do not sound like those of a poet in the least. I compared his words to poems of all kinds. But I swear, nobody in their right minds would call that poetry. He certainly speaks the truth. Those who slander him are liars! He only enjoins the good and acts of virtue and forbids the bad and acts of evil’.
I was still undecided. I grabbed my leather bottle and some food and quickly hit the road. I came to Mecca. Not only did I not know the Prophet (pbuh), I was also reluctant to speak to anyone else. I waited by the Kaabah, drinking some Zamzam to quench my thirst. In the meantime, Ali (r.a) came next to me:
‘It looks like you’re a foreigner’, he said.
‘Yes’, I replied.
‘Then be our guest!’ he offered.
I went with Ali (r.a). Because of the climate of terror caused by the Meccans, he did not even enquire of the purpose of my arrival. The next morning, I again went to the Kaabah in hope of finding the Prophet (pbuh). But again despite waiting until night, I could not find him. Once more Ali (r.a) came and asked:
‘Have you still not found out where you want to go?’
‘No’, I responded.
‘Then come, be our guest again’, he again said.
When we arrived at his house, he finally took the opportunity to ask me.
‘So what is your story? Why have you come?’
After making him promise to keep it a secret and to help me, I said:
‘According to what we have heard, there is supposed to be someone here who says he is a Prophet. I have come to talk to him.’
‘You have done very well to come. That man is the Messenger of Allah; he is truly a Prophet’, he asserted and gave me the following instructions: ‘Follow me in the morning, into a house which I will enter! But if I sense a danger for you, I will face the wall and look as if I am mending my shoes, and you will pass me by!’
We finally arrived at the presence of the Prophet (pbuh).
‘as-Salamu alayka ya Rasulallah,’ I said, greeting him for the first time in the manner of Islam.
‘To what do you invite people, Muhammad?’ I then asked.
‘To Allah, who is One and who has no partners, to shun idols and to bear witness that I am the Messenger of Allah’, he replied.
After he explained Islam to me, I immediately became a Muslim. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was overly happy, and smiled joyfully.
‘Now, Abu Dharr, keep this secret from the Meccans and return to your hometown’, he said.
‘But I wish to declare my faith, the Messenger of Allah!’ I stated.
‘I fear that the Meccans may harm you’, he said.
‘Even if it means they will kill me, I will surely do it’, I replied.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) remained silent.
Just as the men of Quraysh had assembled by the Kaabah, I said at the top of my voice:
‘Quraysh! I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his servant and messenger!’
‘The man must be mad! Let’s show this Sabiite a lesson,’ the idolaters shouted and they began beating me until I lay halfdead. At that point Abbas, the Prophet’s (pbuh) uncle, arrived and shielded me with his own body, and shouted:
‘Shame on you! Do you forget you are traders whose route lies on the way of the tribe of Ghifar? Do you want your route cut off?’
Only then did they leave me.
When I arrived at the Kaabah the next morning, the same thing happened all over again. They left me for dead. I got up and went next to the Prophet (pbuh). Seeing my state, he said:
‘Had I not forbidden you?’
‘This was my heart’s wish, Messenger of Allah, and I fulfilled it’, I replied.
I stayed awhile next to the Prophet (pbuh). Afterwards I asked:
‘What do you command I do?’
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘When you receive my order, preach Islam to your tribe. And when you receive the news of our coming out into the open, come to me!’ (Bukhari, Manaqibu’l-Ansar 33, Manaqib 10; Ahmad, V, 174; Hakim, III, 382-385; Ibn Saad, IV, 220-225)
Meanwhile, the Prophet (pbuh) continued inviting people to Islam. During the months of pilgrimage, he would always roam the fairs of Uqaz, Majanna and Zhul-Majaz, communicating Islam to whomever he came across, whether they were free or slave, weak or strong, rich or poor and he would invite them to belief in the unity of Allah (SWT).
Ayah revealed during this phase of prophethood generally warn of the Day of Judgment:
إِنَّ عَذَابَ رَبِّكَ لَوَاقِعٌ مَا لَهُ مِن دَافِعٍ يَوْمَ تَمُورُ السَّمَاءُ
مَوْرًا وَتَسِيرُ الْجِبَالُ سَيْرًا فَوَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ
الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي خَوْضٍ يَلْعَبُونَ يَوْمَ يُدَعُّونَ إِلَى نَارِ
جَهَنَّمَ دَعًّا هَذِهِ النَّارُ الَّتِي كُنتُم بِهَا تُكَذِّبُونَ
“Most surely the punishment of your Lord will come to pass. On the day when the heaven shall move from side to side and the mountains will fly hither and thither. So woe on that day to those who reject the truth; to those who play and paddle in vain discourses! The day on which they shall violently be driven away to the fire of hell, when it will be said ‘This is the fire which you used to deny!’” (at-Tur, 7-14)
Once the Noble Messenger (pbuh) proclaimed his prophethood and openly began inviting people to Islam, a condemnation of the idolaters and their idols followed:
إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّٰهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ أَنتُمْ لَهَا وَارِدُونَ
“Surely you and what you worship besides Allah are the firewood of hell; to it you shall come.” (al-Anbiya, 98)
قُلْ اِنَّمَا اَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ يُوحَى اِلَىَّ اَنَّمَا اِلَهُكُمْ اِلهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَاسْتَقِيمُوا اِلَيْهِ وَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ وَوَيْلٌ لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Say: I am only a mortal like you; it is revealed to me that your god is One God, therefore follow the right way to Him and ask His forgiveness; and woe to the idolaters.” (Fussilat, 6)
When the Messenger of Allah began denouncing the idols the Meccans were worshipping, and telling them that their ancestors who had died as idolaters were destined for hellfire, he was rejected by the idolaters of Quraysh, who then united in enmity and hatred towards him. But as Abu Talib had the Prophet (pbuh) under his protection, they could not do anything.
Ingrained idolaters like Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, Walid ibn Mughira, Umayya ibn Khalef, As ibn Wail, Nadr ibn Harith, Uqba ibn Abi Muayt and Utbah ibn Rabia were among the miserable who went too far in their hostilities against the Prophet (pbuh) and thus wrought with their own hands their eternal torment.
The Importance and Method of Invitation
Invitation in this sense, or tabligh, is the attempt to summon people to live by the principles of Islam, by virtue of explaining them. To use a more famous definition, it is to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. In the Quran, the Almighty imposes tabligh as a duty for all Muslims:
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
“And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong, and it is these that shall be successful.” (Al-i Imran, 104)
كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ
بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ
“You are the best of the nations raised up for the benefit of men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong…” (Al-i Imran, 110)
The importance of tabligh is also underlined by the Prophet (pbuh) in the following hadith:
“May Allah grace him who hears a word from us and communicates it exactly to others. Many a person, who receives a word, understands and applies it better than the actual speaker.” (Tirmidhi, Ilm, 7)
“By Allah, for a single person to receive guidance from Allah through you, is better for you than to own a valley full of red camels.” (i.e. the best of worldly goods) (Bukhari, Ashabu’n-Nabi, 9)
“The reward of an inviter is as much as that of those who follow him, without reducing theirs in any way.” (Muslim, Ilm, 16)
Anas (r.a), a companion of the Prophet (pbuh), narrates the following hadith about the high ranks awaiting the inviters to Islam in the Hereafter:
“One day, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) explained:
‘Should I inform you of certain people? They are neither prophets nor martyrs; yet prophets and martyrs will gaze at their ranks with envy on the Day of Judgment. They will be seated on pulpits of light, recognized by everyone.’
‘Who are they, the Messenger of Allah?’ the Companions asked.
The Prophet (pbuh) answered:
‘They are those who endear people to Allah and endear Allah to people. They roam the Earth as advisors and inviters.’
Then I asked:
‘We understand how Allah may be endeared to his servants, Messenger of Allah, but how are his slaves to be endeared to Allah?’
‘They enjoin the things Allah likes and caution against the things He dislikes. And once people obey, Allah likes them”, he explained. (Ali al-Muttaqi, III, 685-686; Bayhaqi, Shuabu’l-Iman, I, 367)
While the gain of a person who duly carries out the duty of invitation is greater than the world’s richest treasures, the neglect of this duty carries consequences so grave that they could steer society to destruction.
The Blessed Prophet’s (pbuh) related warning merits attention:
“I swear by Allah who has given me life that, either you will enjoin the good and forbid the wrong, or else Allah will send such a punishment upon you that your prayers for relief will no longer be of benefit.” (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 9)
Abza al-Huzai (r.a) narrates the following:
“One day, the Messenger of Allah ascended the pulpit to give a sermon. After speaking highly of certain groups of Muslims, he added, ‘What is the matter with some people that they do not explain matters to their neighbors, teach them what they do not know and increase understanding? Why is it that they do not enjoin the good and warn against the wrong? And what is wrong with others who do not seek to learn what they do not know from their neighbors and try to increase their understanding? ‘I swear it by Allah! Either the knowledgeable shall teach their neighbors and make them people of greater understanding, enjoin the good and forbid the wrong; and either those who do not know shall ask and learn from their neighbors and try to grasp matters of Religion, or I shall punish them both, here in this world.’
After the speech, the Prophet (pbuh) descended the pulpit and returned home. Some remarked:
‘It could be that the Prophet (pbuh) meant the Asharis of Yemen, as they possess understanding, while their neighbors are vulgar, hard-tempered nomads who live by oases.’
Once the Asharis were made aware of the situation, they went to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked:
‘It seems that you spoke highly of certain people, Messenger of Allah, and badly of us. What is it about us that you spoke that way?’
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) kept silent, only repeating what he had said before. The Asharis were still uncertain whether they were the people in question. To completely make sense of the matter, they repeated the same question a few more times. But each time the Prophet (pbuh) gave the same reply. Thereupon, the Asharis said:
‘Then give us one year, Messenger of Allah!’
So the Messenger of Allah allowed them a year to educate their neighbors and teach them matters of Religion, reciting the following ayah:
لُعِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ عَلَى لِسَانِ دَاوُودَ وَعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ ذلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوْا وَكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ. كَانُوا لاَ يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَنْ
مُنْكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ
‘Cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus, son of Mary, are those who disbelieved from among the children of Israel; this was because they disobeyed and used to exceed the limit. They used not to forbid each other the hateful things which they did; certainly evil was that which they did.’ (al-Maida, 78-79) (Haythami, I, 164; Ali al-Muttaqi, III, 684/8457)
With the spiritual strength and maturity he was graced with by the Almighty, the Light of Being (pbuh) continued preaching Islam with the desire to guide humanity entire, whereby the consciousness of fulfilling the Divine duty entrusted in him raised him to the highest level. He rejected all worldly offers that would stand in the way of carrying out his duty, valuing servanthood to the Creator above anything else.
The Prophet (pbuh) always explained Islam according to people’s level of comprehension, to the extent of their understanding. The guidance of even a single person would give him joy beyond description. Even during an event of great magnitude like the capture of Khaybar, he took delight from lengthily explaining Islam to a slave, which ultimately led to the slave’s guidance. (Ibn Hisham, III, 398)
Again, during the harsh ten-day mission in Ta’if, the Prophet (pbuh) led Addas, a Christian slave, to his guidance, which made him forget all the misfortunes at Ta’if.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) gave his all in the way of shedding the light of Islam upon the whole of humanity, and never felt tired or fed up with the duty of invitation. Abu Rifaa (r.a) gives detail of an account that shows the Prophet’s (pbuh) sensitivity regarding the duty of inviting:
“While the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was giving a sermon, I approached him and said, ‘There is a poor man, Messenger of Allah, who says he wants to learn this Religion.’
The Prophet (pbuh) turned and looked at me. Cutting the sermon short, he then came next to me. They immediately brought him a steel legged stool on which he sat and explained me a few things he had been taught by the Almighty. He then returned and completed his sermon.’” (Muslim, Juma, 60)
The Companions were also very sensitive in communicating the truth and fixing the errors they saw. The duty of alerting those who acted against the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) was not just reserved to a few selected persons among them. Given the right time and the right place they would do what they had to do. They would express the truth regardless of its consequences as they could not tolerate anything in opposition to the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). They would have nothing to do with those who had a habit of objecting to the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh), saying they could never live under the same roof. To those who forwarded their own opinions in opposition to the hadiths they would say they could no longer remain with them in the same environment, immediately after which they would leave.
Sufyan as-Sawri says the following on the importance of tabligh:
“It is better for you to go to Khorasan to preach Islam, than to live in Mecca.”
For a task as important as inviting people to Islam, the rearing of persons who can properly carry it out becomes equally important. The incident below clearly expresses the value of a spiritually well-trained inviter.
“Omar (r.a) was one day sitting with his friends. He asked them to make some wishes from Allah. Some wished:
‘…for a houseful of coins to spend in the cause of Allah!’
Another few wished:
‘…for a houseful of gold so to spend in the cause of Allah!’
Yet some other Companions wished:
‘…for a houseful of jewelry to use in the way of Allah!’
‘Ask for more, more!’ Omar insisted.
‘What more from Allah could we ask for?’ they inquired.
Thereupon Omar (r.a) said, ‘I would wish for this house to be filled with people of exceptional maturity of the likes of Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah, Muaz ibn Jabal, Huzayfa’tul-Yaman, so I can employ them in ensuring obedience to Allah, in the service of enjoining good and forbidding evil…” (Bukhari, Tarikh’us-Saghir, I, 54)
The Almighty, the absolute source of mercy and compassion, explains the most effective style to follow in calling His servants to the true path:
اُدْعُ اِلَى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ
وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِى هِىَ اَحْسَنُ
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and have disputations with them in the best manner…” (an-Nahl, 125)
وَلاَ تُجَادِلُوا اَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ اِلاَّ بِالَّتِى هِىَ اَحْسَنُ اِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا اَمَنَّا بِالَّذِى اُنْزِلَ اِلَيْنَا وَاُنْزِلَ اِلَيْكُمْ وَاِلَهُنَا وَاِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
“And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit.” (al-Ankabut, 46)
وَمَنْ اَحْسَنُ قَوْلاً مِمَّنْ دَعَا اِلَى اللّٰهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ اِنَّنِى مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَلاَ تَسْتَوِى الْحَسَنَةُ وَلاَ السَّيِّئَةُ اِدْفَعْ بِالَّتِى هِىَ اَحْسَنُ فَاِذَا الَّذِى بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَاَنَّهُ وَلِىٌّ حَمِيمٌ
“And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely one of those who submit? And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best; he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.” (Fussilat 33-34)
قُلْ هَـذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللّٰهِ عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَاْ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي وَسُبْحَانَ اللّٰهِ وَمَا أَنَاْ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Say: This is my way: I call to Allah, I and those who follow me being certain, and glory be to Allah, and I am not one of the idolaters.” (Yusuf, 108)
Throughout history, the appliance of the recommended Divine style of invitation has turned many thorny souls into roses, and the darkness of many hearts into light. Even when sending Musa and Harun (a.s) to a transgressor and deviant of the caliber of the Pharaoh, Allah (SWT), still advised them to be gentle:
فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى
“…Then speak to him a gently, that perhaps he may mind or fear.” (Ta-ha, 44)
We can see in the above verse the two fundamentals of the method of invitation:
1. When communicating the truth, one must use a gentle manner without provoking the person.
Even though the Pharaoh himself had in fact leaned towards believing on many occasions after having witnessed the numerous miracles of Musa (a.s), he was prevented by his vizier Haman and his circle. Losing to arrogance and conceit, he chose not to believe.
By advising Musa (a.s) to adopt a gentle approach, the Almighty also teaches us a method of invitation. Before the actual invitation takes place, hearts are to be softened. Quarrel has no place in the lives of prophets and saints; letting actions do the preaching is what is important.
As all prophets given by the Almighty the duty of invitation came to mend hearts, they always looked at others from the window of the heart and thus enabled the guidance of many by continuously spreading love and mercy in their surroundings. To do otherwise would have produced a gulf that would have completely severed ties with others and the chance of communicating the Truth to them would have been forever lost. And this would have been at odds with Divine Will, as Allah (SWT), wishes His servants be saved from the swamp they are in. For this reason, the Almighty has sent thousands of prophets throughout history, commanding them to purify hearts with the most beautiful of approaches. Again in line with the same aim, saints who have been blessed among mankind have continued this prophetic manner in the spiritual training of others.
No benefit can be expected from services offered with a harsh and offensive manner which can in no way be reconciled with good morals. This is all the more important in activities that directly address the person’s soul, such as education, invitation and offering guidance. In the Prophet’s (pbuh) person, the ayah below addresses the entire Muslims:
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللّٰهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you.” (Al-i Imran, 159)
2. To extend the invitation to all of humanity, regardless of their status.
A brutal and miserable man who could not lend himself to believe, the Pharaoh was at the same time a ruthless murderer who had slain thousands of innocent babies just to kill Musa, (pbuh). But he still became subject to Divine invitation.
Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) invited Abu Jahl to Islam on numerous occasions. While accepting in his conscience the clear truth of the words of the Prophet (pbuh), Abu Jahl could not admit to it, defeated by his ego and conceit. But the noble manner of the Messenger of Allah led to the guidance of many who were enemies of Islam to begin with, like Omar ibn Khattab, Abu Sufyan, Hind and Wahshi.
Both in Islamic activities and all social relations in general, this approach engenders elegance, kindness and sensitivity to people’s special circumstances and physical conditions. This is the exact approach seen in its most inspirational form in the behavior of sufis.
When we look into the Blessed Prophet’s (pbuh) twenty-three year period of invitation, we come across the following six factors that shed light on the path of an aspiring inviter.
1. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) began the invitation with his closest relatives. After all, the Almighty had revealed:
وَأَنْذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ
“…And warn your nearest relations.” (as-Shuara, 214)
يَآ اَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ اَمَنُۇا قُوا اَنْفُسَكُمْ وَاَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَئِكَةٌ غِلاَظٌ شِدَادٌ لاَ يَعْصُونَ اللّٰهَ مَآ اَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ
“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones; over it are angels stern and strong, they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them, and do as they are commanded.” (at-Tahrim, 6)
2. In inviting to Islam, the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) observed gradualness, following an ease path that gradually increased in difficulty.
The Almighty’s first command was: اِقْرَأْ “Read!” (al-Alaq, 1)
Then Muhammad (pbuh) was given the duty of rophethood, whereupon he was ordered to: قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ “Get up and warn!” (al-Muddaththir, 2)
After that came the Divine command:
وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ
“…And warn your nearest relations.” (as-Shuara, 214)
Afterward the borders of the duty were expanded as to include the entire town:
وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ مُهْلِكَ الْقُرَى حَتَّى يَبْعَثَ فِي أُمِّهَا رَسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِنَا وَمَا كُنَّا مُهْلِكِي الْقُرَى إِلَّا وَأَهْلُهَا ظَالِمُونَ
“And your Lord never destroyed the towns until He raised in their main town a messenger, reciting to them Our communications, and We never destroyed the towns except when their people were unjust.” (al-Qasas, 59)
The next step was the further extension of the invitation as to include neighboring regions:
وَهَـذَا كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مُبَارَكٌ مُّصَدِّقُ الَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَلِتُنذِرَ
أُمَّ الْقُرَى وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا
“And this is a Book We have revealed, blessed, verifying that which is before it, and that you may warn the Mother of Towns and those around her; and those who believe in the hereafter believe in it, and they attend to their prayers constantly.” (al-Anaam, 92)
Finally, it was proclaimed that the boundaries of the invitation were as vast as those of humanity:
وَمَا اَرْسَلْنَاكَ اِلاَّ رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.” (al-Anbiya, 107)
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا
وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“And We have not sent you but to all people as a bearer of good news and as a warner, but most do not know.” (Sab’a, 28)
We see that the Noble Prophet (pbuh) also followed the same principle of gradualness in passing on certain regulations. Many instances including the commanding of salat and fasting, and the prohibition of alcohol and usury provide fitting examples.
The Light of Being (pbuh) who brought his companions to a perfect level of servanthood, did not bring this about through a sudden change, but rather through a slow, gradual and subtle development. This can be clearly seen for instance in the Prophet’s (pbuh) advice to Muadh ibn Jabal (r.a) before sending him to Yemen:
“You are about to reach a community of the people of the Book. The very first thing to which you should call them is that there is no god but Allah, may His Glory be Magnificent, and that I am His messenger. If they accept, then instruct them that He has enjoined five salats on them during the day and the night. If they accept and obey, then instruct them that Allah has made alms obligatory for them, to be collected their wealthy and distributed to the needy. And if they accept that too, then avoid selecting the best items of their riches. Do not attract the ill wishes of the oppressed, as there stands no curtain between their prayers and Allah.” (Bukhari, Zakat 41-63; Muslim, Iman 29-31)
3. To invite or educate, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) always looked out for a suitable opportunity in terms of time, place and the person’s state of mind.
Ibn Masud (r.a), used to preach on Thursdays. A person once said to him, “If only you addressed us every day!”
“I do not preach everyday from the fear of boring you”, Ibn Masud (r.a) replied. “Even the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to watch out for the times we were eager to listen, so that we would not get bored.” (Bukhari, Ilm, 11, 12)
During the conquest of Mecca, Abbas (r.a) brought Abu Sufyan, who had agreed to become Muslim, and said to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), “Abu Sufyan is a person who loves to be complimented, Messenger of Allah. How about you do something that would make him feel honored?”
The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “You are right! As we enter the town, announce that ‘whoever enters the house of Abu Sufyan and whoever remains home and keeps their doors closed is safe.” (Abu Dawud, Kharaj, 24-25/3021)
To the questions that were asked to him from time to time, the Prophet (pbuh) would respond by considering the questioner’s circumstances, and would follow methods appropriate to the person.
To the various people who inquired ‘what the most virtuous deed’ is, the Prophet (pbuh) gave different answers depending on their circumstances.
“The most virtuous deeds are belief in Allah, struggling in His way and an accepted pilgrimage!” (Bukhari, Hajj, 4)
“It is salat performed on time!” (Bukhari, Mawaqit, 5)
“…the remembrance of Allah!” (Muwatta’, Quran, 24)
“…to love for the sake of Allah!” (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 2)
“…Emigration!” (Nesai, Bay’ah, 14)
“…to serve one’s parents!” (Ibn Athir, Usdu’l-Ghaba, IV, 330)
4. For the Noble Prophet (pbuh), providing ease and offering glad tidings were the basics of all affairs and he strictly abided by these principles in his calling.
It is said in a hadith:
“Provide ease, not difficulty; give glad tidings, do not drive people away.” (Bukhari, Ilm 11, Adab, 80)
Correspondingly, the Almighty states:
يُرِيدُ اللّٰهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ
“…Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire difficulty for you.” (al-Baqara, 185)
وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ
“…and My mercy encompasses all things…” (al-Araf, 156)
In what could be regarded as a commentary of the above ayah, the Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“When Allah the Almighty created all creation, he wrote in His Book, hanging above His Throne: ‘My mercy has vanquished my anger!’” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 15, 22, 28, 55; Muslim, Tawba, 14-16)
Abu Hurayra (r.a) narrates the following incident:
“An Arab from the desert had urinated in the Masjid of Medina. The Companions immediately began rebuking him, whereupon the Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘Leave the man alone. Just wash that place with a bucket of water after he is done. You have come to provide ease, not to cause difficulty.” (Bukhari, Wudu, 58; Adab, 80)
5. An important part of the Prophet’s (pbuh) invitation was to warn of Divine punishment and to encourage preparation for the Hereafter.
When the Gracious Prophet (pbuh) first began his call, he addressed his kin, the children of Hashim in the following words:
“I hereby call you to bear witness that there is no god but Allah, He is One and without a partner. And I am His servant and messenger. If you accept this as it is, then I shall guarantee Paradise for you.
But on the Day of Judgment, if you do not come with good deeds and instead arrive with a world of sin on your shoulders, then I shall turn away from you! Then, you will plead, ‘O Messenger of Allah’…And I will then do ‘such and such’”.
When the Messenger of Allah said ‘I will then do such and such’, he physically turned his face away from them, repeating the action twice.” (Ibn Ishaq, p. 128; Yakubi, II, 27)
6. Not only did the Prophet (pbuh) invite people verbally, he also brought his words to life through practice, and effectively invited them also through his overall behavior.
The most effective form of inviting to Islam is by living it. The Companions of the Prophet had devoted themselves to Islam to carry the voice of belief to the most remote corners of the world and to guide humanity. Today, exhibiting the beauties of Islam to the world with the same excitement and vigor still remains the best form of invitation.
It is a duty upon all Muslims to invite others to Islam through explanation and practice, to the best of their ability. Today, the rise of resources and ways of communication means that this responsibility has increased all the more. Those who live in the most distant places of the world and thus have not even heard of Islam, and many others whose guidance we have neglected even though they are very close to us, will grab us by the scruff of our necks and call us into account in the Hereafter.
Regarding the above, Abu Hurayra (r.a) states:
“We used to hear of a man, who, on the Day of Judgment, is going to grab another by the scruff of his neck and call him into account. The other man will ask:
‘What do you want from me? I do not even know you!’
‘You used to see me on Earth committing bad deeds,’ the man will reply, ‘without ever warning me.’” (Rudani, Jam’ul-Fawaid, V, 384)
Islam’s Invitation and Missionary Work
In Islam, the aim of invitation is to communicate the true religion to people. It is not to Islamicize people by resorting to all kinds of measures.
On the other hand, Christian missionary activity seeks to Christianize and baptize its subjects at all costs. Paul of Tarsus, taken as a model by missionaries, explains his approach in one of his letters as follows:
“I am free, I am nobody’s slave. But just to win over more people, I have become a slave of all. To win over the Jews, I acted like a Jew. Though I do not adhere to the Canon, I acted as if I did, to win over its adherents. And though I follow the laws of Jesus Christ, to win over the lawless I acted like a lawless myself. To win over the weak, I became weak with them. By fair means or foul, to save some, I had become everything with everyone.”
As seen, Paul justifies all the means that lead to the desired end, without recognizing any principles or borders. Islam, on the other, hand prohibits using unlawful means for lawful ends. This incorrect method adopted by Christianity ever since its beginning—that is, the attempt to Christianize masses by all means instead of simply delivering the message to them—has led to the decay of the essence of Christianity and the change of the message wherever
it went, resulting in divisions among its followers.
In such activities, it is not uncommon to see missionaries approach socially and politically deprived communities, as well as the poor, refugees, minorities, and victims of war and natural disasters, and exploit their physical and mental sufferings by virtually trying to buy their beliefs.
On an another note, it is a well known fact that missionary activities are closely linked to imperialism, and their motivation could therefore be seen as more political than religious. By taking residence in their targeted countries, missionaries aim to Christianize locals under the veil of schools, foreign language courses and similar activities of education.
Following the way of Paul, today’s missionaries take care to hide their true identities and appear in a guise acceptable to their environments. To endear themselves to Muslims, for instance, missionaries tend to recite verses from the Quran, dress in Muslim clothes, use Islamic terms like ‘hodja’ and ‘masjid’ instead of ‘priest’ or ‘church’. Again, to turn people away from their religions and warm others to themselves, they have made it a principle to give concessions from Christianity.
In the face of such frantic missionary activity, it is important for Muslims to pay attention to educating both themselves and their children, to learn and practice Islam in the best way and to communicate it to others. Muslims can at least take a great lesson from missionaries who go through a great effort to spread an altered religion, and must strive to live Islam through practice. The gift of Islam for which we can never be thankful enough requires that one never forgets the responsibility of invitation.
The late Mehmed Akif refers below to the overall Muslim weakness in this area:
While missionaries roam night and day,
Who knows, Revelation perhaps the ulama await!
The Attitudes of Abu Lahab
and his Wife against the Prophet (pbuh)
The Prophet’s (pbuh) home was situated between the houses of two wretched figures, Abu Lahab and Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt. They used to dump all kinds of filth in front of the Blessed Prophet’s (pbuh) door. Though this would break the Prophet’s (pbuh) gentle and pure heart, he would only say:
“What kind of neighbors are you, sons of Abd Manaf?” and remove the filth away from his doorstep. (Ibn Saad, I, 201)
While about to do the same vile act one day, Abu Lahab was seen by Hamza (r.a), who, grabbing the filth from Abu Lahab’s hands, emptied it on his head. All Abu Lahab could do was to clean his head of the dirt, while firing insults at Hamza (r.a).
Neither did Umm Jameel ever lag behind her husband Abu Lahab in inflicting torment on the Messenger of Allah. Every night she would prepare a bundle from the thorny branches of trees, and hanging them around her neck, she would throw them at night on the path of the Prophet (pbuh), so that he would step on the prickles. But the Prophet (pbuh) would walk over them, as if walking over silk.
Their wrongdoings brought about the revelation of the chapter al-Masad. When Umm Jameel heard it, grabbing a large stone in her hand, she went out searching for the Prophet (pbuh). Meanwhile, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had been sitting by the Kaabah with Abu Bakr (r.a).
Seeing her from a distance, Abu Bakr said:
“Umm Jameel is heading this way, Messenger of Allah. I am worried that she will see you and cause you distress. If only you had gotten up and left before she saw you.”
“She will not be able to see me”, the Gracious Prophet (pbuh) replied.
Indeed, even though Umm Jameel stood next to them, she could not see the Prophet (pbuh). After ranting awhile to Abu Bakr (r.a), she left.
Before Prophethood, the Prophet’s (pbuh) daughter Umm Kulthum had already been married to Abu Lahab’s son Utaybah, while his (pbuh) other daughter Ruqayya was engaged to Abu Lahab’s other son Utbah. Upon the revelation of al-Masad, Umm Jameel told her sons to:
“Separate from Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum. They have abandoned our religion!”
And so did Abu Lahab. “If you do not leave Muhammad’s daughters, stay out of my sight!” he bellowed.
Utaybah thereupon went to the Prophet (pbuh) and said, “Damn your religion! I hereby divorce your daughter. From now on do not ever come near me, and I will never come near you!” After these words, he insolently ripped the shirt of the Prophet (pbuh).
In the face of such rudeness, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) prayed,
“Allah…Unleash upon him one of your dogs!”
After a while, Utaybah joined a caravan on a trade journey. They stopped by at a place called Zarqa. When, that night, a lion began circling the caravan, Utaybah remarked:
“Oh my…! It is going to come and get me just as Muhammad had prayed. I can just feel it! He may be in Mecca, and I in Damascus, but if I die, Ibn Abi Kabshah is responsible!”
After roaming around them awhile that night the lion eventually left. Utaybah’s friends placed him in between them and went back to sleep. Then suddenly the lion returned. Slowly sniffing its way through the group, the lion came all the way up to Utaybah. So fiercely and swiftly did the lion lunge towards Utaybah’s head that the idolater, at that moment, began coming to terms with a horrendous death. He could only but scream, “Didn’t I tell you that Muhammad is a man of his word?”
Hearing of his son’s terrible death, Abu Lahab responded in a similar way:
“I knew Muhammad’s wrath would target my son one day…”
The Light of Being (pbuh) experienced the torment of many idolaters like Abu Lahab during this period. Responding with patience and endurance, he nevertheless continued his calling.
Meccan Attempts of Reconciliation
That the Prophet (pbuh) continued inviting people to Islam without taking heed of anything, drove the idolaters mad. They began voicing their anger to Muslims and to the new religion that stood in the way of their self-interests. They ran to Abu Talib and explained him of their concerns, begging him to prevent his nephew. Abu Talib politely warded them off. He said nothing about the incident to the Prophet (pbuh).
Seeing no change, the idolaters went to Abu Talib once again and said:
“We have run out of patience, Abu Talib! You know that your nephew speaks ill of our religion and idols. He accuses us of stupidity. If you do not stop your nephew from doing this then we will openly oppose both you and him. Either talk him out of it or lift your protection from him, so we can deal with him how we know best!”
Upon these threats, Abu Talib politely explained to the Prophet (pbuh) the idolaters’ attitudes. Though he refused to lift his protection from nephew, he also hinted at his unwillingness to defy the idolaters, telling him to, “Protect both yourself and me!”
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was greatly upset, since his uncle’s words virtually meant that if worse came to worse he would lift his protection. His graceful eyes welled up with tears. After all, the Muslims were still weak, without the power to withstand the Meccan transgressors who thrived on power and wealth.
In the meantime, to overcome the difficulty, the Almighty advised the Prophet:
وَاذْكُرِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ وَتَبَتَّلْ إِلَيْهِ تَبْتِيلًا
رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَاتَّخِذْهُ وَكِيلًا
“…And remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him exclusively; the Lord of the East and the West- there is no god but He- therefore take Him for a protector.” (al-Muzzammil, 8-9)
The Prophet’s (pbuh) sorrow had gone. With unshakable faith and courage, he uttered these famous words to his uncle:
“By Allah, uncle, if these men were to place the sun in one of my hands and the moon in the other, I would still not give up this calling!”
Not expecting to hear such an answer, Abu Talib was shaken. Although not a Muslim, he still loved the Prophet (pbuh) like a son. Besides he had made a promise, when his father Abdulmuttalib gathered all his sons around him just before his death to ask which one was to take the little Muhammad (pbuh) in his care:
“You know I am not rich, father, but I am a compassionate man with a kind heart. I would love to take care of my nephew. I promise you that. Entrust him to my care!”
His soft heart therefore could not bear to see the Noble Prophet (pbuh) leave brokenhearted, and he shouted from behind him:
“Come and say what you like. I swear I will not hand you over to them…ever!” (Ibn Hisham, I, 276-278; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 96-97)
Unable to get what they wanted, the idolaters took Umarah, son of Walid ibn Mughirah, to Abu Talib, to make another offer:
“Umarah is the strongest and most handsome youth of Quraysh”, they said. “Take him and make the most of his intelligence and strength. He can be your son. But surrender to us your nephew, who defies the religion of his ancestors and ignores their ways, so that we can get rid of him.”
“What is this?” Abu Talib responded. “You want give me your son so that I can look after him on your account and I am to give you my son so that you can kill him? That is unthinkable!” (Ibn Hisham, I, 279; Ibn Saad, I, 202)
Afterward, the idolaters told Abu Talib to “Send a message to Muhammad. Let him come here so we can make him reasonable offers.”
Receiving the message, the Prophet (pbuh) quickly went. Ahnas ibn Sharik said:
“Stop speaking ill of us and our idols, and will leave you and your God alone!”
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) turned his head to the sky and asked:
“Do you see the sun?”
“Yes, we do”, they answered. The Prophet (pbuh) then gave the following meaningful response, setting forth the greatness of Islam and its promising future:
“Could it be in my power to prevent its rays reaching you?”
“I swear, my nephew never speaks a lie!” Abu Talib commented, standing by.
The idolaters angrily left the scene. (Ibn Ishaq, p. 136; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 92; Ibn Saad, I, 202-203)
According to the account of Ibn Abbas (r.a), the notables of Quraysh gathered at the site of Hijr near the Kaabah and swore on the names of idols Lat, Manat, Uzza, Naile and Isaf to jointly attack and kill the Prophet (pbuh) the first instant they saw him. Each pledged to pay the blood money that was to fall to their share.
Hearing about this, the daughter of the Prophet (pbuh) Fatima (r.ha) rushed to her father in tears and informed him of the terrible plot.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked for some water for wudu. He then headed straight to the Kaabah.
“There he is!” the idolaters excitedly exclaimed when they saw him approach.
But the majestic appearance of the Gracious Prophet (pbuh) in front of them made them drop their heads and lower their gaze, despite their sworn pledge. None of them felt the courage to look back up. They lost all nerve to look the Prophet (pbuh) in the face. Grabbing a handful of soil from the ground, the Prophet (pbuh), said:
“May you lose face!” as he flung it their way.
Each idolater struck with a dust of soil that day was eventually slain as a nonbeliever at the Battle of Badr and thrown in one hell-like pit. (Ahmad, I, 303)
After this incident, the wary Abu Talib gathered the clans of Hashim and Muttalib and asked them to swear on their honor to protect the Prophet (pbuh) against the Meccans at all costs. All complied, except for Abu Lahab.
Realizing there was no point in going to Abu Talib again, this time the idolaters went straight to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) himself:
“You are of a noble lineage and much respected; yet you do and say what no Arab has ever done and said until now. You have thrown into disarray. We have jumped at each other’s throats. What is it that you want? If it is wealth, then we will give you all you could wish for. There will be no man in any tribe richer than you. If it is leadership you want, then we will make you the chieftain of Mecca! If you want women, just name the most beautiful girl in Mecca and you shall have her! Or if you have been put under a spell, we will take you to witch doctors. We will do everything to cure you.
We are ready to do what you want…as long as you give it up!”
The foolish idolaters thought they could turn the Prophet (pbuh) away from his mission by luring him with wealth, rank and women, thinking that the Prophet (pbuh) could never say no to the three baits always effectively used to trick men.
Wealth, fame and lust are three traps that wear down a person’s will. It is striking that the idolaters could not understand that these and other vices alike had never found a place in the untainted life of the Prophet (pbuh).
So the Noble Messenger (pbuh) responded, giving voice to this very truth in no uncertain terms:
“I want nothing from you, neither wealth, nor rank, nor chieftainship! The only thing I want is that you stop worshipping idols and worship the One Allah!” (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 99-100)
But because the idolaters were under the grip of their egos, they could not grasp the noble mission of the Prophet (pbuh), even going to the length of asking him to worship their idols. The reaction of the Prophet (pbuh) in such cases was compliant with the Quran’s advice:
قُلْ اِنِّى نُهِيتُ اَنْ اَعْبُدَ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللّٰهِ لَمَّا جَاءَ نِىَ الْبَيِّنَاتُ مِنْ رَبِّى وَاُمِرْتُ اَنْ اُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“Say: I am forbidden to serve those whom you call upon besides Allah when clear proofs have come to me from my Lord, and I am commanded that I should submit to the Lord of the worlds.” (al-Mumin, 66)
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ اللّٰهَ وَلا أُشْرِكَ بِهِ إِلَيْهِ أَدْعُو وَإِلَيْهِ مَآب
“Say: I am only commanded that I should serve Allah and not associate anything with Him, to Him do I invite and to Him is my return.” (ar-Rad, 36)
اِنَّمَا اُمِرْتُ اَنْ اَعْبُدَ رَبَّ هذِهِ الْبَلْدَةِ الَّذِى حَرَّمَهَا وَلَهُ كُلُّ شَىْءٍ وَاُمِرْتُ اَنْ اَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَاَنْ اَتْلُوَ الْقُرْاَنَ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَى فَاِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِى لِنَفْسِهِ وَمَنْ ضَلَّ فَقُلْ اِنَّمَا اَنَا مِنَ الْمُنْذِرِينَ
“I am commanded only that I should serve the Lord of this town, Who has made it sacred, and His are all things; and I am commanded that I should be one of those who submit; and that I should recite the Quran. Therefore whoever goes aright, he goes aright for his own soul, and whoever goes astray, then say: I am only one of the warners.” (an-Naml, 91-92)
قُلْ اِنَّنِى هَدينِى رَبِّى اِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ دِينًا قِيَمًا مِلَّةَ اِبْرَهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ قُلْ اِنَّ صَلاَتِى وَنُسُكِى وَمَحْيَاىَ وَمَمَاتِى لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ اُمِرْتُ وَاَنَا اَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ قُلْ اَغَيْرَ اللّٰهِ اَبْغِى رَبًّا وَهُوَ رَبُّ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ
“Say: Surely, (as for) me, my Lord has guided me to the right path; to a most right religion, the faith of Ibrahim the upright one, and he was not of the idolaters. Say. Surely my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. No associate has He; and this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who submit. Say: What! Shall I seek a Lord other than Allah? And He is the Lord of all things; and no soul earns (evil) but against itself, and no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, so He will inform you of that in which you differed.” (al-Anaam, 161-164)
قُلْ هَـذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُۇ إِلَى اللّٰهِ عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ
“Say: This is my way: I call to Allah, I and those who follow me with sure knowledge.” (Yusuf, 108)
قُلْ مَآ أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ وَمَآ أَنَا مِنَ الْمُتَكَلِّفِينَ
“Say: I do not ask you for any reward for it; nor am I a pretender.” (Saad, 86)
Facing the impervious attitude of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), the idolaters asked him to at least stop speaking ill of their idols. Thereupon, the Almighty commanded:
فَلَا تُطِعِ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ وَدُّوا لَوْ تُدْهِنُ فَيُدْهِنُونَ
“So do not yield to the rejecters. They wish that you would compromise so they too would compromise.” (al-Qalam, 8-9)
In other words, the idolaters who rejected the truth were claiming they could make peace with the Prophet (pbuh) if only he abandoned those ayah which conflicted with their interests. But the Quran’s warning against doing so was loud and clear:
اِذًا لاَذَقْنَاكَ ضِعْفَ الْحَيَوةِ وَضِعْفَ الْمَمَاتِ
ثُمَّ لاَ تَجِدُ لَكَ عَلَيْنَا نَصِيرًا
“In that case We would certainly have made you to taste a double punishment in this life and a double punishment after death, then you would not have found any helper against Us.” (al-Isra, 75)
That is to say, even in such times of difficulty, giving concessions at the expense of the principles is prohibited; in this case that would have meant the destruction of the Religion, which is what the idolaters so avidly desired in the first place. The more the idolaters returned empty-handed, the more they insisted with their foolish offers to save the faces of their idols. They even went to the extent of suggesting:
“Worship our idols every other day, and we will worship your God every other day; then our dispute will end!”
To this offer that totally clashed with the spirit and logic of Islam, the Almighty had the following to declare in the Holy Quran:
قُلْ يَااَيُّهَا الْكَافِرُونَ لاَ اَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ وَلاَ اَنْتُمْ
عَابِدُونَ مَا اَعْبُدُ وَلاَ اَنَا عَابِدٌ مَا عَبَدتُّمْ وَلاَ اَنْتُمْ
عَابِدُونَ مَا اَعْبُدُ لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِىَ دِينِ
“Say: O unbelievers! I do not worship that which you worship. Nor do you worship Him Whom I worship; nor am I going to worship that which you worship, nor are you going to worship Him Whom I worship. To you be your religion, and to me mine.” (al-Kafirun, 1-6)
In the beginning, it was mostly the poor, the weak and the slaves who submitted to the call of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). Though there were wealthy people like Abu Bakr who accepted Islam, they were still quite scarce in number.
That the Messenger of Allah rejected out of hand all sorts of settlement offers made by the idolaters like wealth and status, clearly proves the fact that he had no intention whatsoever of obtaining riches or titles, contrary to the claims of some. Indeed, even in times of greater opportunity, the life of the Gracious Prophet (pbuh) was no different from the poor. This was no doubt a manifestation of the prophetic morals of abstinence, humbleness and contentedness.
If he had wanted, the Prophet (pbuh) could have accepted the Meccan offer of leadership and used its powers and opportunities for the future service of Islam. But the Light of Being (pbuh) did not want to become mixed up in such politics and use it as an instrument for the cause, simply because Islam always observes the principle of loyalty to the honor of religion before making use of any given instrument. Muslims may therefore be forced to persevere and put up a struggle under various conditions but the path they must follow after all is the sirat’ul-mustaqim, the straight path devoid of deviation.
The Inimitability (I’jaz) of the Quran
and its Affect on Listeners
The word ijaz literally means to incapacitate someone or to exceedingly go beyond something. In the technical sense, however, it means the ineffectiveness of the whole of humanity in producing something similar to the Quran, in terms of its eloquence, legislative value and its news of the unseen, as it comes from the highest of sources.
As Allah (SWT), willed the last scripture revealed to humanity to be in the most perfect form and in the Arabic language, He gave those who spoke this language, from the earliest times, a zest for literary eloquence and articulation. By taking part in numerous literary activities and competitions, the Arabs were able to develop the language further and as a consequence, give it a richness and perfection that could enable it to express Divine words and meanings.
Such activities saw eloquence among Arabs become a profession. Poets and orators rose to publicly envied ranks. So it should be kept in mind that it was within this sort of an environment that the Holy Quran, the Divine words delivered by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), came to be regarded as the greatest of miracles, the most elegant of discourses.
Because the most important qualities that separate man from other beings are reason, understanding and expression, the miracle of the Quran, the last and most perfect Divine book, emerges in these very qualities. The Almighty says:
اَلرَّحْمنُ. عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ. خَلَقَ اْلاِنْسَانَ. عَلَّمَهُ الْبَيَانَ
“The Beneficent Allah, taught the Quran. He created man, taught him clear expression.” (ar-Rahman, 1-4)
Many books have been written by numerous scholars with precise observations regarding the unfathomable ijaz of the Quran, of which we shall now present a small summary.
When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) declared his prophethood, the idolaters objected, saying:
وَقَالُوا لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ
“And they say: Why are not signs sent down upon him from his Lord?”
The Almighty responded in the following:
قُلْ اِنَّمَا اْلاَيَاتُ عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ وَاِنَّمَا اَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ
اَوَلَمْ يَكْفِهِمْ اَنَّا اَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ يُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ
اِنَّ فِى ذَلِكَ لَرَحْمَةً وَذِكْرَى لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
“Say: The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain warner. Is it not enough for them that We have revealed to you the Book which is recited to them? Most surely there is mercy in this and a reminder for a people who believe.” (al-Ankabut, 50-51)
The ijaz of the Quran is explicit in many aspects like its eloquence and style, richness of content, the convincing power of its principles, its informing of the unknown, its ability to constantly preserve its validity and its legislative supremacy.
The most important aspect of the Quran’s miracle is provided by its eloquence and style. Entailed by eloquence is to say the most appropriate word in terms of content, aim or the subject in accordance with what the given situation demands. In the issues it deals with, the holy Quran puts eloquence into practice in the best of ways.
The Quran is also a masterpiece of clarity of speech. It is impossible to find the least of flaws in the words it chooses, in its sentences and the meanings they express.
Like the meaning, the wording of the Quran also belongs to Allah (SWT). This is the most fundamental difference that separates it from a sacred hadith. For that reason, changing a word from the text of the Quran with another from the Arabic language leads one to heresy if done intentionally; if not intentional, then the most it can do is annul a deed of worship owing to a change in meaning to a certain extent. Under the discussion zhallat’ul-qari, scholars have put forth numerous rulings in books of jurisdiction regarding the legal consequences of unintentional yet mistaken pronunciations or change of words during salat.
In spite of all this, the nonsense that it is permissible for one to worship with a translation of the Quran, which is at best produced only according to the understanding of the translator, betrays intellectual bankruptcy, to say the least.
The style of the Quran observes a balance between meaning and wording. For every meaning it wants to put forward, it uses a word most fitting for the purpose. It therefore establishes a balance between the meaning and the word, in a manner that befits the Absolute Possessor of Speech. This baffles even the most elegant canons of literature.
The famous Andalusian exegete Ibn Atiyya said:
“The Quran is such a book that if a word were to be removed from it, it would be impossible to find a better substitute even if the entire Arabic language was rummaged.”
Being a Divine word, the Quran expresses various parables, advices, debates, historical accounts, legal matters, and information regarding the Hereafter, paradise and hell, including verses of glad tidings as well as warnings, separately, according to the force of their meanings, yet within a unity of style, by preserving an equal level of harmony in their clarity and eloquence.
The Quran simultaneously addresses different people with distinct intellectual levels living in various times and places. When the ayah of the Quran are recited next to people of various levels, each present understands what he/she hears differently, according to his/her understanding. Again, this is a quality that surpasses human capability.
To sum up, the miracle of each prophet belongs to his time. But as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has been sent a prophet for the whole of humankind, his greatest miracle, the Quran, will remain strong until the Day of Judgment, incorporating within its realm all times and places.
To help illustrate the existence and power of the Almighty, the Quran also makes numerous references to scientific truths. The rapid development and discoveries in the scientific arena during the last 1400 years has not only been unable to refute any verdict of the Holy Quran, but has further strengthened them. Again, this only highlights its miraculous nature.
The nations of the world today have their most capable minds produce encyclopedias with which they vie against one another. One can think of the British Britannica or the French Larousse as examples. But they also have the frequent need to produce additional volumes for correcting or completing previous errors or deficiencies. New discoveries force them to make additions and correct previous claims. Even in our times marked by an incredible vigor of scientific discovery, encyclopedias produced by scientific commissions that consist of the most exceptional scholars, are continually outdated and need correction. Yet, the need to correct the scientific assertions of the Quran has not come about over the passage of centuries. This is one of the greatest proofs of its Divine origin, and of the fact that it is the Word of the Almighty.
In a hadith which emphasizes the fact that the miracle of the Holy Quran is destined to survive until eternity, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) says:
“The Quran is a Divine word that guides man to safety from all the tribulations to come, that gives news of past peoples, forewarnings of future peoples and verdicts of all controversies to take place between them. It separates between right and wrong. It is not vain. The transgressor who deserts it, Allah destroys; the person who seeks any other guidance Allah causes to go astray. It is Allah’s strong rope, His great remembrance and straight path. Those who live by it never deviate, the tongues that pronounce it are never mistaken, its scholars can never have enough of its insights. Its repetition never wears it out, and its miracles never cease to amaze. Upon hearing it the jinn could not help but say,
إِنَّا سَمِعْنَا قُرْآنًا عَجَبًا
‘Surely, we have heard a fabulous Quran!’ (al-Jinn, 1). Those who speak with it only speak the truth, and those who judge with it only judge with justice. Those who practice it reap rewards and those who call to it find in it the truest of paths.” (Tirmidhi, Fadail’ul-Quran, 14; Darimi, Fadail’ul-Quran, 1)
The Quran is a miracle in all its aspects. It is in this respect that the Quran has for centuries continued to challenge all men and jinn, as it did the Arabs of then, who had reached the heights of eloquence, to produce a similar text. This reminds one of the 34th ayah of at-Tur:
فَلْيَأْتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِّثْلِهِ إِن كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ
“Then let them bring a speech like it if they are truthful.”
The helplessness of the idolaters before this Divine challenge was further exposed by the Almighty:
أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ
مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّٰهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“Or, do they say: He has forged it. Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call upon anyone you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.” (Hud, 13)
وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّٰهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful.” (al-Baqara, 23)
قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ اْلاِنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى اَنْ يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هذَا الْقُرْاَنِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
“Say: If men and jinn should combine together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like of it, even if they helped one another.” (al-Isra, 88)
But the idolaters continued with their unfounded claims that only served to reveal their own inconsistencies and misgivings.
إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ يُؤْثَرُ
“…This is nothing but enchantment, narrated (from others).” (al-Muddaththir, 24)
“…Transient magic.” (al-Qamar, 2)
إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا إِفْكٌ افْتَرَاهُ
“…This is nothing but a lie which he has forged.” (al-Furqan, 4)
اِنْ هذَا اِلاَّ اَسَاطِيرُ اْلاَوَّلِينَ
“…This is nothing but the stories of the ancients.” (al-Anaam, 25)
Up until now, the Quran’s challenge to its enemies to bring forth a similar chapter has resulted in their utter defeat. And that is how it shall remain until the end of time.
Over the years, Christians have been able to raise priests eloquent enough to teach Arabic to Arabs. But none of them has ever had had the nerve to answer the particular challenge of the Quran. Shouldn’t the nonbelievers, who have endured all kinds of hardship just to extinguish the light of Islam, instead have simply tried to answer this challenge? Isn’t just this historical fact enough to prove the greatness of the Quranic challenge and the helplessness of its enemies, as well as the impossibility of refuting it?
Many figures famed for their eloquence have worked for months on end behind closed doors without being able to even produce a verse at the end of their painstaking efforts. Musaylama and many others who tried producing alternatives to the Quran in fact only brought ridicule upon themselves, as what they wrote only served to highlight their own ineptness. This is because the Quran is not only a miracle of eloquence, but also a book that encompasses within itself all ages with all their truths. Therefore, it is certainly impossible for a vulnerable human being, who does not even know where and when he is to die, to produce a miraculous verse of truths beyond compare. The current fate of the Torah and the Bible are clear. Having been subjected to human intervention, both books are several removes from their origins and are now virtually a web of contradictions.
A look at past experiences provides the greatest and unchallengeable proof of the fact that the Holy Quran is a book of miraculous eloquence. From the first day of its revelation through to the 15 centuries that have passed as we speak, there has not been a single person to challenge the Divine Book with success. Those who have tried have only humiliated themselves before all humankind and have incurred shame that will never leave them until the Final Hour.
The Quran is neither poetry nor prose. It has a style that combines the characteristics of both poetry and prose with an unsurpassable inner harmony that presides over its style. One can feel the affects of this inner harmony in the depths of the soul whenever one recites the Quran. It only takes a slight alteration of the order of the wording to do away with both the harmony and the meaning.
With this characteristic, the Quran has had an enormous impact on people. Hearing its recital with the pure tongue of the Noble Prophet (pbuh), has had many an Arab hasten to profess faith. As they could not produce a word of similar greatness, all idolaters accepted in their hearts the eloquence of the Quran. Their only reason for denying the Quran was that it stood in the way of their self-interests and that they found unbearable the idea of following an orphan in the Prophet (pbuh).
Ibn Abbas (r.a) narrates that one day Walid ibn Mughira came to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked him to recite the Quran. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) read him the following:
إِنَّ اللّٰهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاء ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; He admonishes you that you may be mindful.” (an-Nahl, 90)
Walid asked the Prophet (pbuh) to recite it again, after which he could not help but say:
“I swear, there is such sweetness, such beauty and brightness in these words that they resemble a lusciously green tree, with a moist root and fruits overhanging from its branches. It is impossible for any man to make these up. Nothing shall defeat them and they most certainly will overcome whoever resists them.”
Leaving in amazement, Walid got up and headed to the house of Abu Bakr (r.a) and asked him a few questions about the Quran. Then, he turned up went next to the leaders of Quraysh.
“The things the son of Abu Kabshah says are amazing indeed! I swear they are neither poetry, nor sorcery nor mad nonsense! What he says is without a doubt the word of Allah!” he said.
When Abu Jahl heard him, he grumbled:
“I swear that if Walid turns away from his religion then so will the rest of Quraysh!” He then immediately went next to Walid and mockingly said:
“Uncle, your tribesmen are collecting riches to give to you, because apparently you went to Muhammad to beg!”
“The Quraysh should know better. I am the richest man among them!” Walid replied.
“Then say such a thing about Muhammad that will make him know your denial and dislike of him”, Abu Jahl suggested.
“What should I say? I swear there isn’t anyone among you who knows poetry, qasida and rajaz better than I. What he says doesn’t resemble any of that. I assure you that what I heard from Muhammad sounded nothing like the words of man or jinn. It had a magnificent sweetness and elegance to it”, Walid responded.
Abu Jahl was adamant.
“Your tribesmen will not approve of you until you say something against him!”
“Give me some time to think then”, Walid then said.
After he had his moment of thought, he came out to claim, “It is but the magic of old!” (Hakim, II, 550/3872; Tabari, Tafsir, XXIX, 195-196; Wahidi, s. 468)
His story is vividly retold in the Holy Quran:
إِنَّهُ فَكَّرَ وَقَدَّرَ فَقُتِلَ كَيْفَ قَدَّرَ ثُمَّ قُتِلَ كَيْفَ قَدَّرَ ثُمَّ نَظَرَ
ثُمَّ عَبَسَ وَبَسَرَ ثُمَّ أَدْبَرَ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ
فَقَالَ إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ يُؤْثَرُ إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا قَوْلُ الْبَشَرِ
“Truly he reflected and plotted. May he be cursed—how he plotted! Again, may he be cursed how he plotted! Then he looked, Then he frowned and scowled, Then he turned back and was puffed up with pride, Then he said: This is naught but enchantment that was passed down; this is naught but the speech of men.” (al-Mudaththir, 18-25)
Idolaters like Abu Sufyan, Abu Jahl and Ahnath ibn Shariq, who were preventing the public from listening to the Quran, once came to the Kaabah three nights in a row, without any knowledge of each other’s presence, to secretly listen to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) recite the Quran. However, they were left red faced when they accidentally bumped into each other. After a moments shock, they reproached themselves.
“Whatever happens, nobody must know of this! We’ll be disgraced if the others find out…Our words will no longer have any effect when we try to prevent them from listening to the Quran!” Then pledging not to repeat this ever, they separated. (Ibn Hisham, I, 337-338)
Many people accepted Islam due to this inner beauty of the Quran. Celebrated is the case of Omar (r.a), notorious for his temper, whose world was turned upside down in the house of his brother-in-law, when his heart melted, as well as his anger, at the pleasant sound of the Quran.
Another person who accepted Islam after becoming captivated by the Quran was Jubayr ibn Mutim (r.a). Hearing the recital of chapter at-Tur from the Prophet (pbuh), his heart quivered, after which he said:
“I thought my heart would crack!” (Ahmad, IV, 83, 85)
His own account of the event is as follows:
“I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) recite chapter Tur during the salat of maghrib.
أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ
أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بَل لَّا يُوقِنُونَ
أَمْ عِندَهُمْ خَزَائِنُ رَبِّكَ أَمْ هُمُ الْمُصَيْطِرُونَ
‘Or were they created without there being anything, or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay! They have no certainty. Or have they the treasures of your Lord with them?’ (at-Tur, 35-37) At that point my heart was about to fly out of its cage from sheer excitement.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 52)
During the first years of Prophethood, the sister of Imr’ul-Qays, the famous poet whose poems were hung on the wall of the Kaabah for their triumph in poetry contests, was still alive. They read a few ayah of the Quran to her. The woman, an expert in eloquence and clarity of speech, exclaimed:
“This cannot be the word of any human! With such words around on Earth, my brother’s poems no longer deserve to be displayed on the wall of the Kaabah! They must be brought down to make way for these!” She then removed her brother’s award winning poem from the Kaabah with her own hands. And naturally, the other lesser poems among the Muallaqat were also removed.
Just listening to the Quran is enough for any person with the right mind to realize it is the word of Truth. It is for this reason that the Prophet (pbuh) was entrusted with the duty of presenting the Quran to the hearing of others.
The Quran in fact says:
وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ
حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلاَمَ اللّٰهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ
“And if one of the idolaters seeks protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make sure he reaches his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.” (at-Tawba, 6)
It is therefore clear that the delivery of the Divine word to people allows for the light of faith to take root in their hearts.
The melody of the Quran that captivates the soul springs from the harmony of its sound, from the impeccable arrangement of its words, long and short syllables and vowel points. Passing from one sound to another with exceptional harmony, it seduces hearts. Even those who do not understand its meaning can take much delight from its unique sound when the Quran is properly recited according to its rules.
Idolater Attitudes towards the Quran
Islam spoke of truth, justice, the Hereafter, resurrection and reckoning in the presence of Allah, promising that no wrong committed will be left unpunished. That Islam was therefore aiming to put an end to their egoistic lives was a disturbing thought for idolaters to entertain. Islam was moreover throwing their idols into disrepute, declaring them as false. With the additional “great news” delivered by the Prophet (pbuh), Mecca began shaking. The opening of chapter Naba describes this terrifying scene thus:
عَمَّ يَتَسَاءلُونَ عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ اَلَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ
“Of what do they ask one another? About the great news; about which they differ…” (an-Naba, 1-3)
Because human beings are naturally predisposed towards the truth, hearts are never satisfied with the unknown. They always run to what is known. What they do not know and what they may never know therefore causes them severe anguish. Despite having been given insight by prophets, humanity has always been occupied with the problem of death. The mystery of death eats away at the mind like a venomous snake and causes terrible anguish. Some try to dismiss it from time to time with various views and push its inevitability out of the realm of consciousness. But since death captures all with more tremendous force than even life itself, and because it is a reality that awaits all, to provide it with a clear explanation heads the list of the objectives of humanity.
This timeless riddle, impossible to grasp through human thinking, can only be undone with the power of Revelation. Though this news of the future brought by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and all prophets before him should have been welcomed with appreciation, it has only been met with ridicule and indifference by certain groups lacking even a modicum of human dignity. Idolaters and disbelievers leading a life opposite to the aim of creation, met the news of the Hereafter brought by the Prophet (pbuh) with perplexity, and with a stubbornness and selfishness, turned their backs on the invite to eternal salvation, simply because it clashed with their selfish lifestyles.
The Quran speaks of the Hereafter as ‘the great news’. The reason for this is clear. Regardless of their particular conditions, human beings feel collective anguish at the face of death. That all the paths of life ultimately converge in death leaves all hearts, especially those of disbelief, in pain. One would expect at least the severity of any news regarding death to be understood, to the degree that for a living being there is no greater concern. In fact those who have come to a proper understanding have abandoned passing desires for the true, eternal life. A life without taking a lesson from death is no different from a life of darkness and disaster. The star of happiness is only born with death, at the end of a life lived beautifully, which is the very reason why Islam has advised the constant remembrance of and preparation for death.
Troubled with the Quran’s expressions regarding the Hereafter and death which, furthermore, clashed with their self-interests, the idolaters asked the Prophet (pbuh) to change those news to their liking:
“Bring us a Quran that does not command us to stop worshipping Lat and Uzza. If Allah does not reveal a Quran as such, then you devise it, or change the one you have. Place mercy instead of punishment, permissible instead of unlawful, and vice versa!”
وَاِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ اَيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ
لِقَاءَ ناَ ائْتِ بِقُرْاَنٍ غَيْرِ هذَا اَوْ بَدِّلْهُ قُلْ مَا يَكُونُ لِى
اَنْ اُبَدِّلَهُ مِنْ تِلْقَاءِ نَفْسِى اِنْ اَتَّبِعُ اِلاَّ مَا يُوحَى اِلَىَّ
اِنِّى اَخَافُ اِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَبِّى عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And when Our clear communications are recited to them, those who hope not for Our meeting say: Bring a Quran other than this or change it. Say: It is not up to me that I should change it of myself; I follow only what is revealed to me. If I disobey my Lord, I surely fear the punishment of a mighty day.” (Yunus, 15) (Wahidi, p.270; Alusi, XI, 85)
The idolaters did not know what to do. So they turned to oppressing, persecuting and torturing Muslims, which increased by the day and made life in Mecca unbearable. Like many other Muslims, Abu Bakr (r.a) also asked the Prophet (pbuh) permission to migrate. Once he was given permission, he made his way towards Abyssinia.
One or two days into the journey, he came across Ibn Daghinah, the chief of the tribe of Qara. He said:
“A man like you, Abu Bakr, can neither leave his home nor be driven out. I swear you are the gem of your tribe! You do what’s good and look after your relatives. You labor for those who cannot! Turn back! You are under my protection!”
With Ibn Daghinah next to him, Abu Bakr (r.a) returned to Mecca. When they entered the town, Ibn Daghinah openly declared his protection. The Qurayshis laid down some conditions.
“Tell Abu Bakr to worship his God at home! Let him perform his salat and recite the Quran as much as he wants there. But he must not disturb us by performing the salat or reciting the Quran anywhere else! We fear he will enchant our women and children!”
Ibn Daghinah delivered the Meccan requests to Abu Bakr (r.a) who gave his agreement. He made a small place for salat in front of his home. There he began praying and reciting the Quran. As he was a gentle man with a tender heart, he would become emotional when reciting the Quran, unable to hold back his tears. The wives and children of the idolaters began to gather around him, and listen admiringly. This again worried the idolaters. They appealed to Ibn Daghinah to either prevent Abu Bakr (r.a) from doing this or lift his protection from him.
He sent Abu Bakr (r.a) the message:
“Either stay home and keep quiet or declare that you have left my protection!”
Fully resigned to the will of the Almighty, Abu Bakr (r.a) gave the following response:
“I return your protection to you. The protection of Allah is enough for me!” (Bukhari, Manaqib’ul-Ansar, 45; Ibn Hisham, I, 395-396)
Because the Arabs were very keen on literature, they admired and were greatly affected by eloquent words; so much so that sometimes even a rhyme was enough to praise one to the skies while humiliating another. Considering the enormous influence of the Quran which from time to time even had them under its grip, the idolaters took certain self-styled measures. In addition to having banned the recital of and listening to the Quran, the idolaters would also make noises to suppress the sound of the Quran they heard in one way or another, to prevent the warming of hearts towards it. Such is how the Almighty mentions them:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَا تَسْمَعُوا لِهَذَا الْقُرْآنِ
وَالْغَوْا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَغْلِبُونَ
“And those who disbelieve say: Do not listen to this Quran and make noise therein, perhaps you may overcome.” (Fussilat, 26)
Despite the ceaseless oppression and harassment of his tribe, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) continued delivering the message of Islam and inviting them to eternal salvation. The idolaters, on the other hand, would greet the neighboring Arabs who visited Mecca for pilgrimage or other reasons outside of the town, to warn and even threaten them against approaching the Prophet (pbuh) and taking notice of his words. Claiming the Prophet (pbuh) to be a madman, a magician and so forth, they would seek to keep people away from him, with allegations they themselves did not even believe.
When Tufayl ibn Amr came to Mecca, he was met by a few Meccan notables who suggested, “You are a poet much respected among your tribe, Tufayl. Though you have come to our town, beware of that man among us! His condition has us worried. He has completely disrupted our community. His words have the effect of magic and separate a man from his father, wife and siblings. We fear that what has happened to us will also happen to you and your tribe. So never should you speak to him nor listen to anything he has to say!”
Under the influence of these words, Tufayl decided not to speak and listen to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) at all. When he went by the Kaabah, he even stuffed his ears with cotton in order not to hear, even by accident, any of the words of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). A while later, he felt ashamed of his actions and he thought, “What am I thinking? I am a poet with sound reason. I can tell a good word from a bad one. Then what could be wrong with listening to what the man has to say? If it is good I will accept it, otherwise not.” He waited. After the Prophet (pbuh) left for home, he caught up with him and said:
“Muhammad! Your tribesmen said so and so about you to me. They scared me so much that I even stuffed my ears with cotton not to hear your words. Now something has come over me and I want to listen. Could you explain to me your cause?”
Tufayl describes what happened next:
“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) explained Islam to me and recited the Quran. By Allah, I had never heard words more beautiful than the Quran, nor of a religion more beautiful than Islam. Right away I became a Muslim and bore witness that there is no god but Allah.”
After remaining with the Prophet (pbuh) for a few days, Tufayl (r.a) asked permission to return to his tribe with the intention of spreading Islam. He asked the Noble Messenger (pbuh) to pray to Allah the Almighty to give him a sign with which to call others to the path. With the blessing of the Prophet’s prayer, he was granted a light right between his eyes, on his forehead. Then with his request, the light moved from there to the edge of his stick. In this state, Tufayl (r.a) returned to his tribe, busying himself with struggling in the cause until ultimately becoming a martyr.
The first person to heed to Tufayl’s (r.a) call to Islam was Abu Hurayrah (r.a), the prominent Companion who narrated the greatest number of hadiths.
Although they adopted such negative attitudes towards the Quran, when left alone with their consciences, the idolaters accepted the truth in their hearts, unable to keep themselves from listening to the Quran in secret. But then they found another excuse:
وَقَالُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ هَذَا الْقُرْآنُ عَلَى رَجُلٍ مِّنَ الْقَرْيَتَيْنِ عَظِيمٍ
“And they say: If only this Qur’an had been revealed to some great man of the two towns?” (az-Zukhruf, 31)
Even though they recognized in their conscience the truth of the Noble Prophet (pbuh) and the Quran, their egos prevented them from accepting. They agreed that the Quran was a revelation from Allah (SWT), but they ascribed error to His will. Their thinking, veiled from the truth by their own selfishness, told them that the Quran should not have been revealed to an orphan of barely any wealth, but instead to either one of the rich men of Mecca and Ta’if, in Walid ibn Mughirah or Amr ibn Umayr.
Walid ibn Mughirah is in fact known to have said:
“Why should the Quran be revealed to Muhammad, when there is me, the elder and lord of Quraysh, or Amr ibn Umayr, the notable of Ta’if?” (Ibn Hisham, I, 385)
But the value of human beings in the sight of the Almighty comes neither from wealth or nobility, but from piety. Having said that, lineage wise, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was indeed the noblest among them.
Allegations against the Prophet (pbuh) and the Quran
The idolaters, left helpless against the Prophet (pbuh) despite all that they had tried to muster, showed they could be stupid enough to claim he had learned the Quran from a Christian slave, despite being well aware of him being unlettered. Could they not think that a slave capable of laying the foundations of a great religion would never leave the honor to another? Besides, after an effort of the kind, could he still remain a Christian?
The Quran responded to this unfounded claim:
وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ لِّسَانُ الَّذِي
يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَـذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُّبِينٌ
“We know indeed that they say, “It is a man that teaches him.” The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear.” (an-Nahl, 103)
وَمَا كُنتَ تَتْلُو مِن قَبْلِهِ مِن كِتَابٍ وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ
بِيَمِينِكَ إِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ
“And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand; for then could the naysayers have doubted.” (al-Ankabut, 48)
Moreover, the Almighty advised His Messenger (pbuh) not to become upset over the claims of the idolaters:
فَذَكِّرْ فَمَا اَنْتَ بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ بِكَاهِنٍ وَلاَ مَجْنُونٍ اَمْ يَقُولُونَ شَاعِرٌ نَتَرَبَّصُ بِهِ رَيْبَ الْمَنُونِ قُلْ تَرَبَّصُوا فَاِنِّى مَعَكُمْ مِنَ الْمُتَرَبِّصِينَ
“Therefore continue to remind, for by the grace of your Lord, you are not a soothsayer, or a madman. Or do they say: A poet, we wait for him the evil accidents of time? Say: Wait! For surely I too with you am of those who wait.” (at-Tur, 29-31)
قَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَ هُمْ هذَا سِحْرٌ مُبِينٌ اَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَيهُ قُلْ اِنِ افْتَرَيْتُهُ فَلاَ تَمْلِكُونَ لِى مِنَ اللّٰهِِ شَيْئًا هُوَ اَعْلَمُ بِمَا تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ كَفَى بِهِ شَهِيدًا بَيْنِى وَبَيْنَكُمْوَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّح۪يمُ
“And when Our clear revelations are recited to them, those who disbelieve say with regard to the truth when it comes to them: This is clear magic. Nay! They say: He has forged it. Say: If I have forged it, you do not control anything for me from Allah; He knows best what you utter concerning it; He is enough as a witness between me and you, and He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (al-Ahqaf, 7-8)
Without the slightest intention of entering the right path, the idolaters went to great lengths to make up claims against the Prophet (pbuh) and the Quran. But they knew the truth. Fearing the spread of Islam outside the borders of Mecca, the notables of Quraysh gathered next to Walid ibn Mughirah, where they asked one another:
“What should we tell the visiting people about Muhammad?”
Walid had spoken to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and had listened to the Quran personally from him. He suggested:
“I know all kinds of poetry. What I heard from him was not a poem. It was superior. Neither was it prose. I have never heard such an elegant harmony pervaded by an exceptional eloquence from anyone before. They did not sound like words of sorcerers either. They were certainly not the ravings of madmen; I saw not one sign of madness in him. We can hardly call him a witch, because he does not engage in their activities!”
After these words, Walid forced himself to provide a solution, as if to assist the ill intentions of the idolaters:
“But he separates a man from his brother. He sows the seeds of conflict between relatives. Thus his word can only be magic!” (Ibn Jawzi, VII, 403-404; Hakim, II, 550; Wahidi, p. 468)
Unsuccessful in their allegations against the Quran, the idolaters this time turned their insults against the Prophet (pbuh) himself. Taking advantage of the passing away of the Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) two-year-old son Qasim, As ibn Wail began spreading the rumor that the Prophet (pbuh) had become abtar, that is, his lineage had been cut off and become extinct. By doing this, they wanted the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to fall into disfavor among the public and cancel his influence on people’s hearts.
But they found no success. Chapter Kawthar came like a slap in their faces:
إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ
“Surely We have given you the Kawthar! Therefore pray to your Lord and make a sacrifice. Surely your enemy is the one who shall be cut off!” (al-Kawthar, 1-3)
As understood from the ayah, in whatever time and place, the common feature of those with malice towards the Noble Prophet (pbuh) is that they are abtar, or cut off. This applies equally to the vulgar people with the nerve to claim the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) was backward, to the idiots who try to project their own meanness onto the Best of Creation, and to the fools who see the religion of truth he brought as a “law of the desert.” It is these and their ideas that are cut off, without prospect.
As expressed beautifully in a poem:
The sun of your face
Lights both worlds with grace.
The accursed, with no love for your children,
Are, on the Day, cut off more than Satan!
Just like those who rejected previous messengers, those who could not stand the Prophet (pbuh) were mainly arrogant leaders and a crew of spoiled rich individuals.
The Almighty states:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِي قَرْيَةٍ مِّن نَّذِيرٍ إِلَّا قَالَ مُتْرَفُوهَا إِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُم بِهِ كَافِرُونَ وَقَالُوا نَحْنُ أَكْثَرُ أَمْوَالًا وَأَوْلَادًا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُعَذَّبِينَ
“Never did We send a warner to a population, but the wealthy ones among them said: “We believe not in the (Message) with which ye have been sent.” Say: “Verily my Lord enlarges and restricts the Provision to whom He pleases, but most men understand not.”” (Saba, 34-35)
وَلاَ تُطِعْ كُلَّ حَلاَّفٍ مَهِينٍ هَمَّازٍ مَشَّاءٍ بِنَمِيمٍ مَنَّاعٍ
لِلْخَيْرِ مُعْتَدٍ اَثِيمٍ عُتُلٍّ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ زَنِيمٍ اَنْ كَانَ ذَا مَالٍ وَبَنِينَ اِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِ اَيَاتُنَا قَالَ اَسَاطِيرُ اْلاَوَّلِينَ
“And yield not to any mean swearer, defamer, going about with slander, forbidder of good, outstepping the limits, sinful; ignoble, besides all that, base-born; just because he possesses wealth and sons. When Our revelations are recited to him, he says: Stories of old.” (al-Qalam, 10-15)
In fact Abu Lahab, concerning whom chapter al-Masad had been revealed, was complaining:
“Down with a religion which treats me on a par with others!”
On the other hand, Abu Jahl, the fiercest enemy of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) and Islam, would say, “We know what Muhammad says is true! But until now, whatever his clan did, we did the same. And now they boast of having a Prophet! Now how could we produce a Prophet like him from among us? Impossible! There is no way I can ever accept Muhammad’s prophethood!” (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 113)
Embittered, Abu Jahl had once also remarked during a fit of rage, “If I see him offer salat, I swill stomp on his head!”
He later saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) offer salat by the Kaabah. Though he made a move to fulfill his promise, he suddenly grew pale and was overcome with fear. He could not even hold on to the rock that he had picked up in his hand. He turned his back and fled. Those around him asked what had gone wrong. Trembling, Abu Jahl replied:
“As I drew closer to him, I was met with a wild camel. I swear I have never seen a terrifying beast like that before! It was about to devour me!” (Ibn Hisham, I, 318; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 92-93)
They knew little that the Almighty had the Noble Messenger (pbuh)and His religion under protection and He was constantly holding them superior.
Yet the idolaters still could not stomach the Prophet (pbuh) and were distancing themselves from the truth of the Quran. They were simply running away from Divine reality:
فَماَ لَهُمْ عَنِ التَّذْكِرَةِ مُعْرِضِينَ كَاَنَّهُمْ حُمُرٌ مُسْتَنْفِرَةٌ
فَرَّتْ مِنْ قَسْوَرَةٍ
“What is then the matter with them that they turn away from the admonition, like frightened mules fleeing from a lion?” (al-Muddaththir, 49-51)
That the idolaters kept distance from the Truth even though they knew, and that guidance is only in the hands of the Almighty is treated nicely by a poem:
Ability does not suffice, Lord, without guidance from You,
To Abu Jahl, though he knew Arabic, what could a verse do?
Time came when, as part of the Divine test, the stubborn turning away of the idolaters grew into an unbearable persecution of Muslims.
The Period of Torture
Unable to get what they wanted from Abu Talib and failing to receive a compromise from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), this time the idolaters turned to terror as their solution. At first they could not harm those who hailed from large families or clans; the oppression of the Muslims had not yet become widespread. The Muslims subjected to the torture of the idolaters then were mainly poor, without many relatives, and slaves, male and female alike. There was virtually no form of torture which they had not been subjected to.
Khabbab (r.a) was made to lie on fiery coal which was seared into his chest until the flame was put out by the melting fat of his own skin.
He was a blacksmith who had money owed to him by some idolaters. Each time he asked for it, they would say, “First reject Muhammad then we will repay our debts!”
But putting passing worldy riches aside, Khabbab (r.a) would reply, “I will never reject him! I am by his side!” and choose eternal happiness.
He gives an account of one these painful episodes below:
“One day I went to As ibn Wail to ask for my money. He said ‘I will not pay until you deny Muhammad.’
‘I will never deny Muhammad until you die…No, not even after you’re resurrected!’ I replied.
‘What? I am to die and be resurrected?’ he remarked.
‘Yes’, I responded.
‘Then considering I will still be rich when I am resurrected, I will pay you then!’ he said.
This was when the following Revelation came:
اَفَرَاَيْتَ الَّذِى كَفَرَ بِاَيَاتِنَا وَقَالَ لاُوتَيَنَّ مَالاً وَوَلَدًا . اَطَّلَعَ الْغَيْبَ اَمِ اتَّخَذَ عِنْدَ الرَّحْمنِ عَهْدًا . كَلاَّ سَنَكْتُبُ مَا يَقُولُ وَنَمُدُّ لَهُ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ مَدًّا. وَنَرِثُهُ مَا يَقُولُ وَيَأْتِينَا فَرْدًا.
“Have you, then, seen him who disbelieves in Our communications and says: I shall certainly be given wealth and children? Has he gained knowledge of the unseen, or made a covenant with the All-Beneficent? By no means! We write down what he says, and We will lengthen to him the length of the chastisement. And We will inherit of him what he says, and he shall come to Us alone.” (Maryam, 77-80) (Bukhari, Tafsir, 19/3; Muslim, Munafiqeen, 35-36; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 19/3162)
Neither did his female master Umm Ammar lag behind others when it came to torturing Khabbab (r.a). With a heated iron, she would brand Khabbab’s (r.a) forehead. Khabbab (r.a) complained of Ummu Anmar to the Prophet (pbuh), who prayed:
“Help Khabbab, o Allah!” Soon afterwards, Umm Anmar caught a disease on her head, making her howl like a dog. They advised her to brand her head to soothe the pain. So upon her request, with a heated iron, Khabbab (r.a) in turn began branding her head on a regular basis.
Bilal (r.a) was subjected to the most ruthless forms of torture. His master Umayya ibn Khalef would inflict him with the severest of sufferings. He would make Bilal lie down on scorching sand and place huge rocks on his chest, sometimes dragging him through the streets of Mecca. After leaving Bilal (r.a) without food and water for a day and night, Umayya would make him wear an iron armor, placing him on scorching sand under the sun, where Bilal (r.a) would remain until his body fat would begin to melt.
Despite torturing him in unthinkable ways, the idolaters still could not get Bilal (r.a) to say what they wanted, and he would constantly utter:
“Allah is One, Allah is One, Allah is One!”
At times the idolaters took this even a step further. Yasir (r.a), the father of Ammar (r.a), did not say what the idolaters wanted to hear and so was martyred under heavy torture. After being subjected to a similarly brutal torture, Ammar’s mother Sumayyah (r.ha) was savagely martyred by having both her feet tied to different camels steered to opposite directions. Hence Yasir’s family (r.a) became the first martyrs of Islam.
One day the Prophet (pbuh) came across this noble family as they were being tortured, and he said:
“Be patient! Be glad! For undoubtedly what awaits you is paradise!” (Hakim, III, 432, 438)
Undergoing tortures of horrendous kinds was also Ammar (r.a).
The idolaters one day got hold of Ammar (r.a), and forcefully holding his head under water, screamed, “We will not let you go until you insult Muhammad and praise Lat and Uzza!” And they did force him to say it.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was told:
“Ammar has renounced Islam!”
But the Prophet (pbuh) replied:
“No! Ammar is filled with faith from head to toe. Faith has mixed into his flesh and blood!”
In the meantime, a weeping Ammar (r.a) came next to the Noble Prophet (pbuh). Wiping the tears from of his eyes, the Prophet (pbuh) asked him what had happened.
“They would not let me go, Messenger of Allah” said the tearful Ammar, “until I insulted you and said that the idols are better than your Religion…”
“How was your heart when you said these?” the Prophet (pbuh) inquired.
“Content with belief in Allah and His Messenger…and my loyalty to the religion was stronger than iron!” Ammar replied determinedly.
Then still wiping the tears of Ammar’s eyes with his own hands, the Prophet (pbuh) advised him, “If they again force you to say what you said, then do it again!”
Upon this incident, the following ayah was revealed:
مَنْ كَفَرَ بِاللّٰهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ اِيمَانِهِ اِلاَّ مَنْ اُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِاْلاِيمَانِ وَلَكِنْ مَنْ شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِنَ اللّٰهِ
وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
“Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith – but such as open their breast to unbelief, on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful penalty.” (an-Nahl, 106) (Ibn Saad, III, 249; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, II, 67; Haythami, IX, 295; Wahidi, p. 288-289)
This incident provides legal proof that an expression contrary to Islamic creed can only be said in a life and death situation and is otherwise not permissible.
The enemies of Islam used to beat Suhayb (r.a) until he would fall unconscious.
Zinnira (r.a) was a female slave who suffered all kinds of torment at the hands of idolaters. She temporarily lost her vision from the effects of the torture exacted by Abu Jahl, on top of which he even mocked her, “See? Lat and Uzza have blinded you!”
“No! By Allah, they are not the ones who have blinded me. Lat and Uzza can neither harm nor benefit. Surely my Lord can give me my sight back!” she replied.
Come morning, they all saw that Allah had given Zinnira’s sight back. (Ibn Hisham, I, 340-341; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, II, 69; Usdu’l-Ghabah, VII, 123)
Many more Muslims had fallen victim to such pain and suffering. Among the exceptional companions of the Prophet (pbuh) Amir ibn Fuhayra, Abu Fuqayha, Miqdad ibn Amr, Ummu Ubays, Lubaynah, Nahdiyah and her daughter (r.a), are just to name a few. Tying chains around their feet, the idolaters would drag them out to the desert in the hottest hours of the day and placing rocks above them so they could not move, would ruthlessly torture them until they would faint and loose awareness of what they said. The idolaters would choke them and would not let go until they thought they were dead.
All Muslims and most of all the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) were deeply saddened by this, but unfortunately they could do little. But the pillar of faith Abu Bakr (r.a), who was well-to-do, bought seven slaves including Bilal (r.a) from their idolater masters and freed them, saving them from the claws of brutal torture.
Still, the torment was increasing by the day. After the weak and poor Muslims, even the more powerful and wealthier ones got their share of suffering, like the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) himself, Abu Bakr, Othman, Zubayr ibn Awwam and Musab ibn Umayr (r.a).
By provoking the louts of Mecca, the idolaters would set them against the Noble Prophet (pbuh). It had become common to verbally abuse him, calling him a poet, a sorcerer, a magician, a madman and so forth, without even believing their lies themselves.
Abdullah ibn Amr says he once saw the Prophet (pbuh) perform salat by the site of Hijr near the Kaabah, when Uqba ibn Abi Muayt came, and wrapping his shawl around the Noble Messenger’s neck, began tugging it to strangle the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Abu Bakr (r.a) made it in enough time to push Uqbah away, as he yelled:
“Will you murder a man who has come with clear proofs from your Lord, only because he says ‘my Lord is Allah?” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 40)
Ibn Masud (r.a) recounts a similar incident.
“One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was performing salat by the Kaabah. Already waiting there was Abu Jahl and his crew. Referring to a camel that had been slaughtered a day before, Abu Jahl said to the others:
‘Who dares to bring the entrails of the slaughtered camel and place them on Muhammad’s shoulder just as he goes down to prostrate?’
The most wretched among them quickly went and grabbed the entrails and placed them on the shoulder of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) as he was prostrating. They all laughed. I was looking on from a distance. If I had anyone to protect me, I would have quickly removed them from his shoulders. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) meanwhile was still prostrating. He had not lifted his head. Then someone went and told Fatima (r.a), who back then was still a young child. She came and threw the entrails off from her father’s shoulders. Then she turned around and shouted imprecations at the idolaters. They could not respond to Fatima (r.ha) in the least. After completing his salat, the Light of Being (pbuh) raised his voice and said:
‘O Allah! I resign Quraysh to You!’ He repeated this three times.
The laughter of the idolaters was cut short when they heard the Prophet’s (pbuh) imprecation. Fear seized their hearts, as they had actually witnessed the acceptance of his prayers on previous occasions before. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) then mentioned their names one by one:
‘O Allah! I resign Abu Jahl, Utbah, Shaybah, Walid, Umayya ibn Khalef and Uqba ibn Abi Muayt to You’ he prayed.
I swear by the One who has sent His Messenger with the Truth that I later saw each person mentioned by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) that day, sprawled out dead on the battlefield of Badr. They were later dragged and thrown into Badr’s pit.” (Bukhari, Salat 109, Jihad 98, Jizya 21; Muslim, Jihad 107)
Despite all the cruelties the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had to face, he still did not give in to the idolaters in any way, compromising not an inch of Islam. He once asked the Companions:
“Who will go to the Kaabah and recite the Quran to the idolaters?”
Wholeheartedly agreeing, Abdullah ibn Masud (r.a) ended up going and reciting the Quran to them only to be viciously beaten up. Abdullah’s friends said to him:
“This is what we had feared for you!”
“Right now, there is nobody weaker than them in my sight. If you like I can go again tomorrow and make them listen to the Quran!” Abdullah replied.
But his friends talked him out of it.
“You have already made them listen to something they dislike. That is enough for you!” (Ibn Hisham, I, 336-337)
Whenever Abu Jahl heard a rich and powerful person accept Islam, he would go and taunt him.
“So you left the religion of your father even though he was wiser than you? But look at you…all you can do is to dishonor his name! Just know that we will no longer have you among us. Your honor shall no longer be!” he would say in a threatening tone.
If the person was a trader, he would intimidate them:
“We will ruin your business and bleed you dry!”
If the new Muslim was poor and weak, he would have them beaten and would try to trick them with false hopes in hope of turning them away.
Ibn Abbas (r.a) was later asked whether the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and his companions were tortured to give up Islam.
“Indeed! By Allah, once the idolaters got their hands on a Muslim, they would beat him and leave him without food and water to the point where they could no longer sit straight, at which point he or she would say whatever they wanted him to. They would ask:
‘Are Lat and Uzza gods along with Allah?’ The reply would be ‘Yes’.
They would even show a bug crawling nearby and ask whether even that was a god. Just to get away from the unbearable torture the person would go along with them. But after regaining conscience, he or she would return to the belief.” (Ibn Hisham, I, 339-343; Ibn Saad, III, 233; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 108)
What we must do is to think about the scenes of cruelty we have touched upon, as well as those we have not, and appreciate that the blessing of Islam has reached us only through the suffering of numerous people, without any compromise.
If the Almighty had willed, the development and spread of Islam could have been much easier, without the suffering of any Muslims. But then the sincerity of Believers would never have been known, and their determination and sacrifice would never have come out, meaning that the difference between a Believer and a hypocrite, the truthful and the liar would have been blurred.
In the Quran, the Almighty states:
الم اَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ اَنْ يُتْرَكُوا اَنْ يَقُولُوا اَمَنَّا وَهُمْ لاَ يُفْتَنُونَ وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللّٰهُ الَّذِينَ
صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ
“Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘we believe’, and not be tried? Most certainly We tried those before them, so Allah will certainly know those who are true and He will certainly know the liars.Or do they who work evil think that they will escape Us? Evil is what they judge!” (al-Ankabut, 1-3)
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُواْ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللّٰهُ الَّذِينَ
جَاهَدُواْ مِنكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّابِرِينَ
“Do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet known those who strive hard among you, and (He has not) known the patient?” (Al-i Imran, 142)
اَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ اَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا
مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّى يَقُولَالرَّسُولُ
وَالَّذِينَ اَمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَى نَصْرُ اللّٰهِ اَلاَ اِنَّ نَصْرَ اللّٰهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Or do you think that you would enter Paradise while yet the state of those who have passed away before you has not come upon you; distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently, so that the Messenger and those who believed with him said: When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!”(al-Baqara, 214)
The path of Truth is paved with tough trials. Such is how the Almighty has willed it. All prophets and persons of virtue have suffered and some have even been martyred for the cause. It is therefore not right for a Muslim to fall into despair when faced with difficulties. On the contrary, Muslims ought to know that the more trouble they endure in the way of realizing the command of the Compassionate, the more quickly they will attain His mercy.
Advising Muslims with Perseverence and Patience
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was after all a human being, saddened by the negative attitude he was met with, and grieved by the ugly behavior of those he was striving to guide. He went through such difficult times that he needed to be comforted.
His comfort and support came from his Lord, who did not want His Messenger to be overcome with grief:
َ إِنَّ فَضْلَهُ كَانَ عَلَيْكَ كَبِيرًا
“…Surely His grace to you is abundant.”(al-Isra, 87)
وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَلاَ يَحْزُنْكَ كُفْرُهُ اِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُهُمْ فَنُنَبِّئُهُمْ
بِمَا عَمِلُوا اِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ نُمَتِّعُهُمْ قَلِيلاً
ثُمَّ نَضْطَرُّهُمْ اِلَى عَذَابٍ غَلِيظٍ
“And whoever disbelieves, let not his disbelief grieve you; to Us is their return, then will We inform them of what they did. Surely Allah is the Knower of what is in the breasts.We give them to enjoy a little, then will We drive them to a severe chastisement.”(Luqman, 23-24)
وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُن فِي ضَيْقٍ مِّمَّا يَمْكُرُونَ
“And grieve not for them and be not distressed because of what they plan.”(an-Naml, 70)
The Almighty was thus reassuring His Messenger, advising him to be patient:
فَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ
قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ
“Therefore be patient of what they say, and sing the praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before the setting.” (Qaf, 39)
His determination strengthened by these ayah, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was easing the pain of his companions and mending their broken hearts.
Khabbab (r.a) explains:
“One day while he was under the shade of the Kaabah, we went to the Prophet (pbuh), complaining to him of the torment of the idolaters.
‘Among the people before you’, he began to explain, ‘there were believers who were caught and placed in a ditch and were cut head down into two halves with saws; and there were those whose flesh was flayed with steel rakes, who still did not turn away from their religion. I assure you by Allah that He shall complete His religion and grant it supremacy. So much so that a person will be able to journey from Sana to Hadramut without fear, except of wolves for his sheep. But you are being impatient!’” (Bukhari, Manaqib’ul-Ansar, 29)
Then the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) recited the following verses:
لاَ يَغُرَّنَّكَ تَقَلُّبُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِى الْبِلاَدِ مَتَاعٌ قَلِيلٌ ثُمَّ
مَأْوَيهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَبِئْسَ الْمِهَادُ لَكِنِ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا رَبَّهُمْ لَهُمْ
جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِى مِنْ تَحْتِهَا اْلاَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا نُزُلاً
مِنْ عِنْدِ اللّٰهِ وَمَا عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ خَيْرٌ لِلاَبْرَارِ
“Let it not deceive you that those who disbelieve go to and fro in the towns fearlessly.A brief enjoyment, then their abode is hell, an evil resting-place.But as for those who are careful of (their duty to) their Lord, they shall have gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding in them; an entertainment from their Lord, and that which is with Allah is best for the righteous.” (Al-i Imran, 196-198)
As the idolaters’ persecution increased, ayah of the kind above served to console the hearts of Believers. In this sense, together with drawing the person closer to the Creator, severe tests and hardship served as Divine scales measuring the trust and submission of Believers in their Lord. The most fitting attitude for Muslims to display in times like these is mentioned in the Quran as such:
فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ وَلَا تُطِعْ مِنْهُمْ آثِمًا أَوْ كَفُورًا. وَاذْكُرِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا. وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَاسْجُدْ لَهُ وَسَبِّحْهُ لَيْلًا طَوِيلًا.
“Therefore wait patiently for the command of your Lord, and obey not from among them a sinner or an ungrateful one. And glorify the name of your Lord morning and evening. And during part of the night adore Him, and give glory to Him a long (part of the) night.” (al-Insan, 24-26)
It was certain for a Muslim who heard these instructions to become content at heart and acquire strength and patience to endure sufferings of all kinds. Especially the tahajjud salat performed at night served to bring the Believer closer to Allah and grant the soul with so much strength that the truth become fixed in the heart. The Almighty indeed says:
إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْءًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا
“Truly the rising by night is most potent for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (framing) the Word (of Prayer and Praise).”(al-Muzzammil, 6)
Although the command to perform tahajjud is directly exclusive to the Prophet (pbuh), nonetheless it is something the rest of his ummah can do if they wish, according to their capacities. The same goes for the rest of the other forms of supererogatory worship that have been advised for the pious to the extent it aids in spiritual progress.
Allah (SWT), who has blessed believers with paths of happiness moreover declares:
وَقُلْ جَاء الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا
“And say: “Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.”” (al-Isra, 81)
However, those responsible for advancing the Truth are required to do what they can. As man faces many difficulties due to the test of servanthood, he may never reach the desired end without putting up a struggle.
The Almighty states that this also holds true for prophets:
حَتَّى اِذَا اسْتَيْئَسَ الرُّسُلُ وَظَنُّوا اَنَّهُمْ قَدْ كُذِبُوا جَاءَ هُمْ نَصْرُنَا فَنُجِّىَ مَنْ نَشَاءُ وَلاَ يُرَدُّ بَأْسُنَا عَنِ الْقَوْمِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
“Until when the messengers despaired and the people thought they had been told a lie, Our help came to them and whom We pleased was delivered; and Our punishment is not averted from the guilty people.” (Yusuf, 110)
The more Muslim hearts were being relieved and their efforts increased by the revelation of these verses, the more enraged the idolaters were becoming. Far from stopping their torments of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) and the Companions, they were every day coming up with new methods of cruelty. The suffering Muslims were made to go through was seemingly never ending, becoming more unbearable by the day.
Things got so out of hand that even the horrendous thought of assassinating the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) began to cross the minds of the idolaters. Still, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), the exemplar of patience, was seeking the protection only from the Almighty.
Not wanting His Messenger to give in to grief and agony, the Almighty was warning him:
فَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ اللّٰهَ مُخْلِفَ وَعْدِهِ رُسُلَهُ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَزِيزٌ ذُو انْتِقَامٍ
“Never think that Allah would fail his messengers in His promise: for Allah is Exalted in power, – the Lord of Retribution.” (Ibrahim, 47)
فَاصْبِرْ كَمَا صَبَرَ اُولُوا الْعَزْمِ مِنَ الرُّسُلِ وَلاَ تَسْتَعْجِلْ لَهُمْ كَاَنَّهُمْ يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَ مَا يُوعَدُونَ لَمْ يَلْبَثُوا اِلاَّ سَاعَةً مِنْ نَهَارٍ
“Therefore bear up patiently, as did the messengers endowed with constancy bear up with patience. And do not seek to hasten for them (their doom). On the day that they shall see what they are promised, they shall be as if they had not tarried save an hour of the day. A sufficient exposition! Shall then any be destroyed save the transgressing people?”(al-Ahqaf, 35)
. See Ibn Asîr, Usdu’l-Ghaba, II, 115.
. Bilal ibn Rabah –radiayallahu anh- was more commonly known as Bilal Habashi in reference to his Habash, i.e. Abyssinian descent. He was among the first seven in Mecca to openly declare their faith. His mother Hamama was also a Muslim, owing to which both suffered much torment from the idolaters during the initial years of Islam. Celebrated for calling out the first ever adhan in Medina in the first year of Hegira, Bilal constantly served as the muaddhin of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), in both war and peace. He participated in all the battles by the side of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). On the day of the Conquest of Mecca, he ascended the roof of the Kaabah to call out the adhan of victory. Bilal used to prepare water for the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to make wudu, see to his personal needs, keep an eye over him at night during battles and provide assistance in matters of the state. He no longer could recite the adhan following the passing away of the Noble Messenger (pbuh). When Omar (r.a) was Caliph, Bilal left Medina to take part in battles across Syria. People there asked the Caliph to personally mediate so that he would again call out the adhan. Compliant with the request of Omar (r.a), Bilal called out the adhan one more time. (Dhahabi, Siyar, I, 357) Reminiscing the times of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), all listeners were reduced to tears. Bilal Habashi (r.a) narrated 44 hadiths from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). The great devotee of the Prophet (pbuh) eventually breathed his last in Damascus, having lived over sixty years. Right before his death, it is reported that he was jovially exclaiming, “Tomorrow, Allah willing, I shall reunite with my dear friends…the Messenger of Allah and his companions.” His wife mourning the looming death of her husband in the background, Bilal, in the meantime, was expressing joy, murmuring, “How wonderful…” (Dhahabi, Siyar, I, 359)
. See Ahmed, I, 404; Ibn Saad, III, 233; Balâzurî, I, 186.
. Originally from Yemen, Yasir ibn Amir (r.a) had taken residence in Mecca where he married Sumaya, the slave of Abu Hudayfa. Together they had two sons, Ammar and Abdullah (r.huma)(Ibn Saad, IV,136, VIII, 264). Yasir’s family collectively accepted Islam, for which they were forced to undergo torture.
. See Ibn Hajar, al-Isâba, III, 648; Zamakhsharî, III, 164.
. Ammar’s precious worth is verified by the following words of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): “Paradise itches to unite with three people: Ali, Ammar and Salman”; “Ammar always makes the best choice of what is offered to him”. (Tirmidhi, Menâkıb, 32, 34; Ibn Mâce, Mukaddime, 11)
. Suhayb ibn Sinan (r.a), or more famously known as Suhayb ar-Rumi, while still a child, was taken prisoner first by the Greeks and then by the Arabs. Staying in Mecca at the time as an ally of Ibn Jadan, Suhayb immediately accepted Islam upon hearing about it from Ammar. Relinquishing all his wealth to the idolaters, he made an illustrious migration to Medina. The following ayah was revealed in reference to him:
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْر۪ي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاۤءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللّٰهِ وَاللّٰهُ رَؤُۧفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ
“…And there are those who give away their belongings in order to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Compassionate to His servants.” (al-Baqara, 207)
Upon seeing him following the Revelation, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) exclaimed:
“You have made a profitable, a rewarding deal indeed Abu Yahya!” (Hâkim, III, 450-452) A skillful archer, Suhayb (r.a) played a part in all the battles by the side of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). Of medium height, he had fair skin. A man of enormous generosity who sacrificed his entire life in the service of Islam, Suhayb ar-Rumi (r.a) passed away on the 38th year of Hegira and was buried in the Baqi Cemetary in Medina. He was 73 at the time.
. See Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 11; Ahmed, I, 404.
. Mehmed Akif gives poetic voice to the grief felt by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) over the sufferings Muslims were being afflicted with:
From the Prophet, do not you feel any shame?
That, if a thorn was to spike a Muslim, far away,
His innocent heart would be speared with its pain,
So against you, surely, will His Spirit stake a claim…
Hence, one must always act with the awareness that making a Muslim suffer is tantamount to placing the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) under the same ordeal; and that requires one to refrain from infringing with others’ rights, backbiting, breaking hearts and misconducts of similar malicious nature.
. See Ibn Hisham, I, 309-310.
. See Ibn Hisham , I, 386.
. Denoted here are the Quran’s intonation, choice of words appropriate with the language utilized, pronunciation and clarity of expression; its eloquence, articulacy and fluency.
. Zarqânî, Manâhilü’l-İrfân, II, 325; Muhammad Abdullâh Dırâz, an-Nabau’l-Azîm, s. 112; Atâ, Azamatu’l-Kur’ân, p. 85.
. Also see, Yûnus, 38.
. Bûtî, Min Rawâii’l-Kur’ân, p. 126, 129, 130.
. Rajaz is one of the poetic meters in Arabic prosody. The rhythmic and accented meeting therein of a slow and fast tempo enables it to be performed by a host of different instruments, evoking thereby the rallying of a variety of feelings. Making possible the expression of both joy and sorrow, rajaz is moreover said to contain around fifteen subbranches. (Tahir’ul-Mevlevi, Edebiyat Lügati, p. 120, “recez” article.)
. See Ahmed Cevdet Paşa, I, 83.
. Even the recitation of the Quran alone has therefore developed as a separate branch of knowledge, which focuses on the ten different styles of recital, or qiraah, known as the ten canonical readings (qiraat’ul-ashara). Akin to the imams of madhabs, each manner of recital has its own initiators, known as an imam of qiraah. Prevalent in Turkey is the qiraah of Asim.
. Tufayl ibn Amr ad-Dawsi (r.a) was an honorable, wise and hospitable man with a flair for poetry. His door was open to all visitors. He would feed the hungry, protect those seeking shelter and aid those in need of help. Following his acceptance of Islam in the 10th year of Prophethood, up until the Hegira of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to Medina, he continued inviting his tribe Daws to Islam. He was eventually martyred in the Battle of Yamama after showing great courage.
. Ibn Hisham , I, 407-408; Ibn Saad, IV, 237-238.
. Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, II, 226.
. Khabbab ibn Arat (r.a) was the sixth Muslim, and among the victims of the vicious torment exacted by the idolaters. He carried the scars of his torture on his back until the day he died. Following his migration to Medina, he took active part in all battles from Badr onwards. He narrated a total of 32 ahadith from the Noble Messenger (pbuh). He was well past seventy years of age at the time of his demise in Kufa, in 657. (37 AH)
. See Şinâsi Gündüz, p. 5-28.
. See Ibn Asîr, al-Kâmil, II, 70.
. See Ibn Hisham , I, 376; Qurtubî, XX, 240.
. See Ibn Hisham , I, 378-379; Qurtubî, XX, 234.
. Previously, a man by the name of Abu Kabshah from the tribe of Hudaa had opposed his tribesmen over the worship of idols. Likening the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to Abu Kabshah, the Meccan idolaters would sometimes refer to him as Ibn Abi Kabshah, that is the son of Abu Kabshah. According to another account, Abu Kabshah could have been the label of one of either the maternal or paternal grandfathers of the Prophet (pbuh), or even his foster father, i.e. Halimah’s husband.
. See Ibn Saad, VIII, 36-37; Bayhakî, Dalâil, II, 338-339; Haythami , VI, 19.
. See Ibn Hisham, I, 281; Ibn Asîr, al-Kamil, II, 65.
. Ahmed, I, 111, 159; Haythami , VIII, 302-303.
. In another narration, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) further emphasizes three more points: “I have been made jawami’ul-kalim (i.e. endowed with the ability to express the greatest meanings through the least amount of words). Prophethood has come to an end with me, sealed, and there shall come no more prophets after me. And as I was lying asleep, the keys of the treasures of earth were brought and placed in front of me.” (Muslim, Masajid, 5, 6)
. Here, prior to communicating the Call, we see the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) demand a confirmation of his own character. Indeed, it is a person’s character that human beings are first attracted to, motivating them to obey. It is similarly imperative for those communicating Islam today to have the truthfulness of their characters confirmed, to be endowed trustworthiness and honesty, like the al-Amin and as-Sadiq the Noble Messenger (pbuh) was. Habib’un-Najjar, the running man mentioned in Chapter Yasin, uses the following words to confirm the dependability of the righteous persons inviting his people to the Truth: اِتَّبِعُوا مَنْ لَا يَسَْٔلُكُمْ اَجْرًا وَهُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ “Follow those who ask of you no fee and who are rightly guided!” (Yasin, 21). The ayah places equal weight on the need for the invitation to be carried out strictly for the pleasure of the Almighty alone and, first and foremost, for the inviters to be on the path of guidance themselves.
. Meccans would occasionally refer to Muslims as ‘Sabiites’, meaning those who have deserted their religion of old.
. See Ibn Saad, I, 216-217.
. Ibn Saad, I, 199.
. Indicated by the expression is the value of those occupied with inviting others to Truth. It does not imply they have a greater worth than prophets and martyrs, for both are persons who have sacrificed their lives on the way of Truth. Their fondness of the deeds of those engaged with tabligh and their related joy, stems from their insight into the sacredness of the duty itself.
. See Shafiî, Risâla, p. 193, İstanbul, 1985; Suyutî, Miftâh, p. 48, Beirut 1987.
. See Muwatta’, Buyu’, 33; Ibn Mâjah, Muqaddima, 2.
. A beautiful illustration of this ayah is provided by Yusuf (a.s), who, instead of holding the misdemeanors of his brothers against them, continued treating them with the same respect and honor as before. The brethren eventually identified him, and pronounced, تَاللّٰهِ لَقَدْ اٰثَرَكَ اللّٰهُ عَلَيْنَا“By Allah, He has certainly preferred you over us”, confessing Yusuf’s superiority over them, requesting to be pardoned. The incident is a clear case in point attesting to the effectiveness of calling to the right path foremost through conduct. For a detailed account see, Osman Nûri TOPBAŞ, Nebîler Silsilesi 2, p. 129-130, İstanbul, 2004.
. During the 7th year of Hegira, in the wake of the Capture of Khaybar, the Noble Prophet (pbuh) aided the depleted Meccans, who were battling fierce famine and scarcity, with supplies of gold, barley and date seeds. Accepting the aid, Abu Sufyan distributed it among the Meccan needy, exclaiming at the same time appreciatively, “May Allah reward our Cousin for looking out for his relatives…” (Yaqubi, II, 56) Their hearts growing tender through such acts of magnanimity, the Meccans soon found themselves wholeheartedly and unreservedly accepting Islam.
. See al-Mâida, 67.
. See al-Baqara, 256; Yâ-sîn, 17.
. See Matthew 28:19-20.
. See Corinthians I, 9:19-22.