4 The Reaction of the Quraysh
THE QURAYSH TORTURE THE MUSLIMS:
The Messenger of Allah continued to call people to Allah and the Quraysh despaired of both him and Abu Talib. Their anger descended on those of their fellow tribesmen who had become Muslims and were defenceless.
Every clan targeted those who had become Muslims. They began to imprison them and torture them with beatings, hunger and thirst, even leaving them exposed on the sun-baked ground of Makkah when the heat was most intense.
Bilal, an Abyssinian, who had become a Muslim, was taken out on to the plain of Makkah by his master Umayyah ibn Khalaf and left flat on his back in the midday heat. His master ordered that a huge stone be placed on his chest and declared, ‘By Allah, this stone will not be removed until you die or reject Muhammad and worship al-Lat and al-Uzza.’
While he was suffering, Bilal would only say, ‘God is One! God is One!’
Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) passed by when he was lying there. He gave Umayyah a black slave who was stronger and sturdier in exchange for Bilal and he set Bilal free.
The Banu Makhzum took out Ammar ibn Yasir and his mother and father, who were all Muslims, into the midday heat. They tortured them by leaving them exposed to the midday sun of Makkah. The Messenger of Allah passed by them and said reassuringly, ‘Fortitude, family of Yasir! You have the promise of Paradise.’
They endured their persecution until Ammar’s mother was killed because she refused to reject Islam.
Mus’ab ibn Umayr was a handsome young man of Makkah whose mother was very wealthy and dressed him well. He heard that the Messenger of Allah was preaching in the house of Arqam ibn Abi’l-Arqam. After hearing about Islam, he became a Muslim. He concealed his religious beliefs because he feared the reaction of his mother and his family and he kept secret his visits to the Messenger of Allah.
However, Uthman ibn Talhah saw him praying and reported it to Mus’ab’s family. He was seized and imprisoned. He was denied freedom until he was able to leave for Abyssinia in the first hijrah. When he returned with the other Muslim refugees, he was a changed man. His mother refrained from censuring him, once she saw his piety and destitution.
Some of the Muslims were under the protection of the Quraysh noblemen who were idol-worshippers. Uthman ibn Maz’un was protected by al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah until he felt ashamed of what he was accepting. He dismissed al-Walid’s offer of patronage, saying that he wanted the protection of none but Allah.
A heated conversation between him and one of the idol-worshippers ended up with Uthman getting a black eye. Al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah, who was nearby, saw what had happened. He exclaimed, ‘By Allah, nephew, your eye would not have suffered like that if you had been well-protected.
‘No, by Allah,’ Uthman said, ‘my good eye needs to suffer the same as happened to its fellow for the sake of Allah. I am under a protection which is stronger and more powerful than any you could give me, O Abu Abd Shams!’
THE QURAYSH ATTACK THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH:
The Quraysh were unable to divert these young Muslims from their religion and the Messenger of Allah remained defiant. The Quraysh became so irritated by their helplessness that the more foolish among them started to attack the Messenger of Allah. They even accused him of sorcery, divining and madness. They left no stone unturned in their efforts to harm him.
One day when the Quraysh nobles had met in the Hijr, the Messenger of Allah appeared and passed by them doing tawaf of the Ka’bah. They called out disparagingly to him three times. He stopped and spoke to them, ‘Company of Quraysh, are you listening? By the One who has my soul in His hand, I have brought you slaughter.
Shocked by these words, the people fell silent. Realising that they had been rude, they began to speak to him more pleasantly.
The next day the Messenger of Allah appeared again but quickly they surrounded him and attacked him all together. One of them took hold of his cloak. Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) stood up weeping and cried, ‘Would you kill a man just for saying: My Lord is Allah?’
When Abu Bakr returned later that day however, they attacked him and tore out some of his hair and dragged him along by his beard.
On another occasion when the Messenger of Allah went out everyone he met, both free men and slaves, ignored him or tried to hurt him. He returned home and wrapped himself up warmly because he was so distressed by what had happened to him. Allah revealed to him, ‘O you enshrouded, rise up and warn!’ (74: 1)
THE QURAYSH ATTACK ABU BAKR:
One day Abu Bakr boldly invited the idol-worshippers to turn towards Allah and His Messenger. Furious, they fell upon him, beating him and trampling on him. Utbah ibn Rabi’ah beat him on the face with a pair of sandals until his face was so swollen that his cheeks could not be distinguished from his nose.
The Banu Taym carried the unconscious Abu Bakr home. They were certain that he was going to die. In the late afternoon he woke up and asked, ‘How is the Messenger of Allah?’
His relations rebuked him as he had shown concern for the man on whose account he had been beaten up. They left him alone with his mother Umm Khayr who had not as yet become a Muslim. Then Umm Jamil, who had become a Muslim, approached him and he asked her about the Messenger of Allah. She reported, ‘He is well and safe.’ ‘By Allah,’ he said, ‘I will not taste food or drink until I see the Messenger of Allah!’
When it was dark and everything had calmed down, Umm Jamil and Umm Khayr took him to the Messenger of Allah who showed great tenderness towards him. He made supplication for Abu Bakr’s mother and called her to Allah. She became a Muslim too.
THE QURAYSH ARE CONFUSED:
The Quraysh were confused about the Messenger of Allah. They did not know how to cope with the problem of visitors from afar listening to him in Makkah. They asked the advice of al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah, an old man of some experience. It was at the time of the pilgrimage. Al-Walid said, ‘Men of the Quraysh! It is the time of the festival and the delegations of the Arabs will be coming to you. They have already heard about this companion of yours. Therefore agree on one opinion about him and do not disagree so that you contradict and refute each other.’
They had a long discussion with much give and take but Al-Walid was not pleased with their conclusion and criticised it. They came back to him to ask, ‘What then do you say, Abu Abd Shams?’
‘The nearest thing to the truth is your saying that he is a magician who has brought a kind of magic that separates; man from his father, a man from his brother, a man from his wife, and a man from his tribe.’
The gathering then broke up and the Quraysh began to sit by the paths used by the people coming to the festival They warned everyone who passed to keep clear of the Messenger of Allah and gave their reasons.
THE QURAYSH STEP UP THEIR HOSTILITIES:
The Quraysh treated the Messenger of Allah harshly ignoring the fact that he was a relative and deserved their respect.
One day while the Prophet was prostrating in the mosque surrounded by some of the Quraysh, ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt threw the innards of a slaughtered animal on the Prophet’s back but he did not even lift his head. His daughter Fatimah came and removed them, cursing those who had committed the evil deed and the Prophet cursed them as well.
Another time, while the Prophet was praying in the Hijr of the Ka’bah, ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt tried to throttle him with his own clothes. Abu Bakr grabbed ‘Uqbah’s shoulder and pulled him from the Prophet, saying, ‘Would you kill a man just for saying, “My Lord is Allah”?’
HAMZAH IBN ABDUL-MUTTALIB ACCEPTS ISLAM:
One day Abu Jahl passed by the Messenger of Allah at Safa hurling insults and cursing him, but when the Messenger of Allah ignored him, he left him alone.
Soon afterwards Hamzah ibn Abdul-Muttalib arrived on the scene, returning from the hunt, carrying his bow. He was the strongest of the Quraysh and the most courageous. A slavewoman of Abdullah ibn Jud’an told him what had happened to the Messenger of Allah. Hamzah was filled with rage. He entered the mosque and saw Abu Jahl sitting with his friends. He went towards him until he was standing over him, raised his bow and hit him with it, giving him a nasty head wound. Then he said, ‘Do you insult him when I follow his religion? I say what he says.’
Abu Jahl was silent and Hamzah became a Muslim. That was a great blow to the Quraysh because Hamzah was widely respected and his courage was legendary:
UTBAH AND THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH:
When the Quraysh saw that the Companions of the Messenger of Allah were increasing in number, Utbah ibn Rabi’ah suggested that he go to the Messenger of Allah and try to patch up their differences. If the Quraysh made some concessions, he might agree to leave off his mission. Utbah was given permission to negotiate on their behalf. He went to the Messenger of Allah and sat down beside him. ‘Nephew,’ he said, ‘you know your standing among us, but you have brought a matter of grave concern to your people. You have divided their community, made fun of their customs, criticised their gods and their religion and declared some of their ancestors to be unbelievers. Now, listen to me. I will make some proposals for you to examine and perhaps you will accept some of them.’
The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Speak, Abul-Walid. I am listening.’
‘Nephew, ‘Utbah continued, ‘if you want money by this business, we will collect some of our property and make you the wealthiest among us. If you want honour, we will make you our chief so that every decision is yours. If you want a kingdom, we will make you our king. If you are possessed by a ghost of a jinn that you cannot drive away from yourself, we will find skilful doctors to help you. We will spend our wealth on it till you are cured.’
When Utbah had finished, the Messenger of Allah asked, ‘Have you finished, Abul-Walid’
‘Then listen to me.’
‘I will,’ said Utbah.
Then the Messenger of Allah recited some verses from Surah Fussilat. Utbah listened intently, putting his hands behind his back and leaning on them. When the Messenger of Allah reached the place mentioning prostration, he prostrated and then said, ‘You have heard what you have heard, Abul-Walid. It is now up to you.’
Utbah returned to his companions who commented, ‘Abul-Walid has come back with a different expression on his face to the one he went with.’
When he sat down beside them, they asked him what had happened.
‘By Allah!’ he said, ‘I have heard words the like of which I have never heard before. By Allah, it is neither poetry nor magic nor soothe-saying. O men of Quraysh! Obey me! Leave this man alone with what he has. Be considerate towards him and don’t interfere.’
‘By Allah,’ they said, ‘He has bewitched you with his tongue, Abul-Walid!’
‘This is my opinion about him,’ he replied. ‘You do as you see fit.’
THE MUSLIMS’ HIJRAH TO ABYSSINIA:
When the Messenger of Allah saw the persecution to which his Companions were subjected and from which he could not protect them, he suggested to them, ‘If you were to go to Abyssinia, you would find a king there who does not wrong anyone. It is a friendly land and you could stay there until Allah grants us relief.’
A group of Muslims left for Abyssinia and it was the first hijrah in Islam. Ten men, over whom Uthman ibn Maz’un was in charge (may Allah be pleased with him), went first. Then Ja’far ibn Abi Talib departed and other Muslims followed them. Some took their families and some went alone. In all eighty-three made the hijrah to Abyssinia.
THE QURAYSH PURSUE THE MUSLIMS:
‘The Quraysh were even more annoyed when they saw that the Muslims were safe and secure in Abyssinia. They sent Abdullah ibn Abi Rabi’ah and Amr ibn al-As ibn Wa’il there bearing gifts collected for the Negus and his generals. The choicest goods of Makkah were used to try to influence the Abyssinians in their favour. The delegation won over the generals who were pleased with their gifts and they were able to speak to the king. They told him, ‘Some of our foolish fellows have taken refuge in your majesty’s dominions. They have abandoned the religion of their people, but have not entered your religion. They have brought an invented religion which neither we nor you know. The nobles of our people – their fathers, uncles and clans – have sent us to ask you to return them to us. They are closest to them and know them best.’
The generals added, ‘They are speaking the truth, O King. Hand them over to them.’
However, the Negus became angry and refused to accept what they said. He would not surrender anyone who had taken refuge with him in his realm. He swore by Allah and summoned the Muslims. He also summoned his bishops. He said to the Muslims, ‘What is it that you have abandoned the religion of your people for, yet not entered into my religion nor any other religion?’
JA’FAR IBN ABI TALIB DEFINES ISLAM:
Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Messenger of Allah, rose to explain:
O King! we were a people of ignorance who worshipped idols, ate dead animals, committed abominations, broke off ties of kinship, treated our neighbours badly, and the strong among us abused the weak. We were like that until Allah sent a Messenger to us. We knew his noble birth, his honesty, trustworthiness and decency. He called us to proclaim the oneness of Allah and to worship Him and to renounce the stones and idols which we and our fathers were worshipping. He commanded us to speak the truth, to be faithful, to maintain ties of kinship, to be good to neighbours and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He has forbidden us abominations, lies, taking property from orphans and slandering chaste women. He has commanded us to worship Allah alone and not to associate anything with Him and to pray, give zakat and fast.
He enumerated the other commands of Islam. Then he continued:
So we have affirmed him and believed in him and have followed him in whatever he brought from Allah. We worship Allah alone and do not associate anything with Him. We consider unlawful what he has told us is unlawful and lawful what he has told us is lawful. For this reason alone our people have attacked us, tortured us and forced us from our religion. They intend to make us revert to the worship of idols instead of praising Allah Almighty. They want us to consider lawful the evil actions which we used to consider lawful.
When they tortured us and hemmed us in, and came between us and our religion, we left for your kingdom, choosing you because we needed your protection. We hoped that we would be treated fairly while we were with you, O King!
The Negus listened to all of this patiently. Then he Asked, ‘Do you have with you anything your companion brought from Allah’
‘Yes,’ said Ja’far
‘Then recite it to me.’
Ja’far recited the beginning of Surah Maryam. The Negus wept until his beard was wet and the bishops wept until their books were damp with their tears.
THE QURAYSHI MISSION FAILS
Then the Negus said, ‘This and what Isa brought have come from the same source.’
He turned to the deputation of Quraysh, saying, ‘Go! By Allah, I will never hand them over to you.’
The next morning Amr ibn al-As went to the Negus with a shrewd plan. ‘O King, they say terrible things about Isa son of Maryam!’
The King turned to the Muslims and said, ‘What do you say about Isa ibn Maryam?’
‘We say about him what our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) brought,’ Ja’far ibn Abi Talib replied. ‘That he was the servant of Allah, His Messenger, His Spirit and His word which He cast to the blessed Virgin Maryam .
The Negus took a stick from the ground and said, ‘By Allah, Isa ibn Maryam did not add to what you have said by so much as the length of this stick!’
He treated the Muslims with honour and gave them security. The two Qurayshi messengers had to leave in disgrace.
UMAR IBN AL-KHATTAB ACCEPTS ISLAM:
Allah then supported the Muslims by the acceptance of Islam by Umar ibn al-Khattab al-‘Adawi al-Qurashi. He was an imposing man, broad-shouldered, tall and brave. The Messenger of Allah wanted him to become a Muslim and prayed for him to be guided that way.
His sister, Fatimah bint al-Khattab had become a Muslim together with her husband, Sa’id ibn Zayd. They were concealing their Islam from Umar because of his violent nature. They knew he was against Islam and the Muslims. Khabbab ibn al-Aratt used to come to Fatimah to read the Qur’an to her.
One day Umar went out angrily swinging his sword to find the Messenger of Allah who was with his Companions. He had heard that they were in a house at Safa. On his way he met Nu’aym ibn Abdullah, who belonged to Umar’s people the Banu Adi, and who was already a Muslim.
‘Where are you going, Umar?’ he asked.
‘I am going to find Muhammad,’ he replied, ‘He has divided the Quraysh, mocked their traditions, criticised their religion and abused their gods. I am going to kill him.’
‘You deceive yourself, Umar,’ Nu’aym retorted. ‘Shouldn’t you go back to your own family and put their affairs in order first!’
‘What do you mean, my family!’
‘By Allah, your brother-in-law and cousin Sa’id ibn Zayd and your sister Fatimah bint al-Khattab have become Muslims and are following Muhammad in his religion. You had better deal with them first.’
Umar returned to his sister and brother-in-law. Khabbab ibn al-Aratt was with them, holding a page from Surah Ta Ha which he was reading to them. When they heard Umar’s footsteps, Khabbab hid in a small room in the house while Fatimah took the page and concealed it beneath her clothing. While he was approaching the house, Umar had heard Khabbab reciting, so he demanded, ‘What is this gibberish!’
‘Nothing,’ they answered. ‘What did you hear!’
‘By Allah! He shouted angrily, ‘I have heard that you are following Muhammad in his religion!’
Umar then started to attack his brother-in-law Sa’id ibn Zayd. His sister Fatimah rose to hold him back from her husband but he hit her and wounded her.
When he did that, his sister and brother-in-law told him, ‘Yes, we have become Muslims and we believe in Allah and His Messenger, so do what you think best.’
When Umar saw blood on his sister, he regretted what he had done. He even admired her courage. ‘Show me that page I heard Khabbab reading,’ he said. ‘Let me see what Muhammad has brought.’
Umar was one among a few Quraysh who could read and write, but when she heard what he wanted, his sister answered, ‘We are afraid to give it to you.’
‘Do not be afraid, he said and he promised not to destroy it.
When she heard that, she longed for Umar to become a Muslim. She said to him, ‘Brother, you are unclean from your idol worship and only the purified may touch it.’
Umar got up and washed and then she gave him the page bearing the passage from Surah Ta Ha. After reading only a few lines, he exclaimed, ‘How noble and sublime are these words!’
When Khabbab heard that, he came out from hiding to say, Umar! By Allah, I hope that Allah has singled you out by the prayer of His Prophet. I heard him say last night, “O Allah, strengthen Islam with Abul-Hakam ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl) or Umar ibn al-Khattab!” Come to God! Come to God, O Umar!’
At that Umar said, ‘Khabbab, guide me to Muhammad so that I can go to him and become a Muslim.’
‘He is in a house at Safa,’ Khabbab said, ‘with some of his Companions.’
Umar put on his sword and went to find the Messenger of Allah. He knocked on the door. When they heard his voice, one of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah got up and looked through a crack in the door. He saw Umar wearing his sword. In alarm, he returned to report, ‘Messenger of Allah, it is Umar ibn al-Khattab with his sword on!’
Hamzah ibn Abdul-Muttalib said, ‘Let him in. If his intentions are peaceful, we will treat him well. If not, we will kill him with his own sword.’
The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Let him in,’ and rose to meet Umar as he reached the middle of the room. He seized his cloak and dragged him along violently, saying, ‘What has brought you here, Ibn al-Khattab! By Allah, I do not think that you will stop until Allah sends down a calamity upon you.’
‘Messenger of Allah,’ Umar replied, ‘I have come to you to tell you that I believe in Allah and His Messenger and what has come from Allah.’
The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Allahu Akbar’ so loudly that the Companions in the house knew that Umar had become a Muslim.
The Muslims’ confidence increased when Umar became a Muslim as it had when Hamzah before him had become a Muslim.
News that Umar was a Muslim quickly spread among the Quraysh. They were very annoyed. They took up their swords against him but Umar fought back. The Quraysh valued their lives too much to pick quarrels with him so they decided to leave him alone.
THE QURAYSH BOYCOTT THE BANU HASHIM:
Islam began to spread among the tribes. The Quraysh were so concerned that they decided to write a document containing a ban on the Banu Hashim and Banu al-Muttalib. They declared that they would not marry the women of these clans or give any in marriage to them, or sell them any goods or buy anything from them. The Quraysh displayed the parchment announcing the ban inside the Ka’bah in order to give it authority.
IN THE SHE’B ABI TALIB:
When the Quraysh did that, the Banu Hashim and Banu al-Muttalib gathered round Abu Talib and joined him in his quarters in a narrow valley of Makkah. It was the seventh year of prophethood. However, Abu Lahab ibn Abdul-Muttalib left the Banu Hashim and aligned himself with the Quraysh.
For many months the Banu Hashim lived in misery. The boycott was so rigorously applied and food was so scarce that they had to eat the leaves of trees. Their hungry children’s cries could be heard all over the valley. The Quraysh told the merchants not to sell any goods to them. Prices were increased to prevent them from buying even essentials.
They remained in that state for three years. Apart from some kind Qurayshi people who secretly sent food to them they were totally abandoned. The Messenger of Allah was in the same predicament but he continued to call his People to Allah night and day, secretly and openly and the Banu Hashim remained patient.
THE BOYCOTT ENDS:
A group of fair-minded Quraysh, led by Hisham ibn Amr ibn Rabi’ah, hated this unfair boycott. Hisham was highly respected among his people. He contacted some men of the Quraysh whom he knew to be kind-hearted and considerate. He told them it was shameful to allow such tyranny to continue. He asked them to abandon the unjust contract. When he had persuaded five men to agree, they met together to work towards this end. When the Quraysh were assembled the next day, Zuhayr ibn Abi Umayyah, whose mother was ‘Atikah bint Abdul-Muttalib, faced the people and demanded, ‘People of Makkah! Do we eat and clothe ourselves while the Banu Hashim are perishing, unable to buy or sell! By Allah, I will not sit down until this unjust document is torn up!’
Abu Jahl entered the discussion to disagree but no one supported him. Al-Mut’im ibn Adi went to the Ka’bah to tear the document down. He found that insects had eaten it all except for the words, ‘In Your name, O Allah.’ The Prophet had already told Abu Talib that Allah had given white ants power over the document. Now it was declared invalid.