Episode 7: The Beginning of Persecution
Prophet of God peace and blessings be upon him preached Islam openly in the
streets of Makkah, yet the Quraysh remained cool and indifferent to him; neither
did they turn against him nor did they ever feel that their Religion was at
stake. They did not even care to refute the Prophet peace and blessings be upon
him but when he started talking critically of their gods, they felt offended and
decided to rebuke him. Muhammed peace and blessings be upon him would have been
at the mercy from the radicals of the merchant’s republic of Makkah, but Abu
Talib, the Prophetʹs (peace and blessings be upon him) uncle, continued to treat
him kindly and stood up in his defense. And, the Prophet peace and blessings be
upon him, equally determined to actively propagate his new faith, continued to
call the people to Islam. Nothing could stop the Prophet peace and blessings be
upon him from preaching the commands of his God, in the same way that nothing
could also dissuade Abu Talib to waive his protection from the nephew he so
loved more than his sons.
ABU TALIB’S ANXIETY
The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him was now the much‐talked about problem among the Quraysh. They conferred and consulted one another how to face the danger that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him with his sweet tongue portended before them. At last, the leading men of the Quraysh approached Abu Talib and said to him, “O Abu Talib, you are old and we hold you in high esteem. We had asked you to restrain your nephew but you did nothing. By God, we cannot tolerate any longer that our fathers should be denounced, that we should be labeled ignoramuses and frivolous and our gods insulted. Either you must stop him or we will fight both of you, until one of us perishes.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 256‐66)
The old leader of Makkah remained deep in thought, distressed at the rift with his people and their hostility but he was not willing to desert his nephew surrender give him to his enemies. He went for the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and said, “Son of my brother, your people came to me and threatened me with dire consequences if you continue to preach your religion. Spare my life and yours and do not impose on me a burden greater than I can bear.” The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him thought that his uncle was no longer willing to shield him, that he intended to give him up. He answered, “O my uncle, by God, if they were to place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, and ask me to abandon this course, I would not turn from it until God makes it victorious or I perish therein.”
Tears flowed from the eyes of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him. With a heavy heart, he got up to depart. But, Abu Talib could not bear to look at his nephew’s sorrow. Before he had reached the threshold, Abu Talib cried out, “Come back, my nephew.” And when he returned, Abu Talib said, “Go where you please and say what you will. By God, I will never deliver you to your enemies.” (Ibn Hisham Vol. I. pp. 265‐66)
The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him continued to preach the message of God as vigorously as before. The Makkans were now desperate of forcing Abu Talib to give up Muhammed peace and blessings be upon him and there was nothing that they could do to stop him. Their anger swelled to such an extent that they started inciting the tribes against those who had accepted Islam but had nobody to protect them. Every tribe asserted itself on the Muslims amongst it; beating and putting them under chains, denying them food and water and forcing them to lie on the burning sand and under the scorching heat of Arabiaʹs sun. Bilal Ibn Rabah was a slave who had embraced Islam. Umaya Ibn Khalaf, his master, used to bring him out at noontime and throw him on his back into the hot sand. He ordered to place a great rock on the chest of Bilal and then he would say to him, “No, by God, you will lie here till you die or deny Muhammed and worship Al‐Lat and Al‐Uzza.” Bilal endured the affliction, crying, “One, One”. Abu Bakr once saw Bilal (May Allah be pleased with him) being tortured by his master. Sensing the servant’s conviction, he bought Bilal’s freedom. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 317‐18).
Ammar Ibn Yasir and his parents had accepted Islam. Bani Makhzum used to take them out in the full glare of the sun at the hottest part of the day and then take them to task for their faith. If the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him passed by them, he used to advise them: “Patience, O family of Yasir, patience. Your destination is Paradise.” They endured all persecutions until ‘Bani Makhzum killed Ammar’s mother for she refused to renounce Islam. (Ibn Hisham Vol. Pp. 317‐18)
Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umyr was the most well dressed young man of Makkah. Mus’ab’s mother, who possessed a handsome fortune, had brought him up in the life of luxury. He used to put on the costliest clothes perfumed with the best scent and always had his shoes imported from Hadramaut, then famous for manufacturing leather goods. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him is reported to have once remarked about him: “I had not seen any young man in Makkah more handsome and far well‐dressed or who had been brought up with more grandeur and comfort than Mus’ab Ibn Umayr.” He came to know that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him preached a new religion in the house of Arqam. ‘Umayr’s curiosity took him there but he came back as a true believer in Islam. He did not, however, declare his faith open and kept on meeting the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him secretly. ‘Uthman Ibn Talha once saw him performing the prayer and disclosed his secret to his mother and other tribesmen. The result was that he was seized and imprisoned, and remained in fetters until the Muslims first migrated to Abyssinia. When he returned from Abyssinia along with the other refugees, he was completely a changed man. His daintiness and elegance was relinquished in favor of such a rugged simplicity that his mother had to leave him alone instead of confronting him (Tabaqat Ibn S’ad, Vol. III, pp. 82; Isti’ab, Vol. I, pp. 288)
Scared of the hostile atmosphere then prevailing against the Muslims in Makkah, others had sought the protection of their friends who were still polytheists. One of them was ‘Uthman Ibn Mazun who was under the protection of Walid Ibn Al‐Mughira, but as he felt ashamed of being shielded by anyone other than God, he renounced the protection of the former. Shortly thereafter, he had a heated argument with a polytheist who slapped him so hard on his face that he lost an eye. Walid Ibn Al‐Mughira was present during the incident after which he told him:‘Uthman, “By God, O son of my brother, your eye was secured against this injury and you were well protected.” “Nay, by God,” replied ‘Uthman Ibn Maz’un (may Allah be pleased with him), “The eye that is still unhurt longs for what happened to the other for God’s sake. O ‘Abdu Shams, I am here in the vicinity and shelter of one who is exceedingly superior to you in honor and glory.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 370‐71)
When ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan accepted Islam, his uncle Hakam Ibn Abi al‐As Ibn Umayya tied him securely with a rope and said, “Have you renounced the faith of your fathers for a new religion? By God, I will not release you until you abandon this belief.” ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) firmly replied, “By God, I will never give it up.” The firmness of ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) in his conviction ultimately led Hakam to unshackle him.” (Tabaqat Ibn S’ad, Vol. III, P. 37).
Kahbbab Ibn Al‐Aratt, a companion of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, related his own story: “Some louts of the‐Quraysh came one day and seized me. Then they kindled a fire and dragged me into it, while a man kept me down by stomping on my chest.ʺ Khabbab then bared his back which had white leprous‐looking spots. (Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, Vol. III, 117).