2. Preaches at Makka
Still later, he repaired for days to a cave at the foot of Mount
Hira, and it was here that the Divine light shone on him in its
full resplendence. At first, he was in doubt whether he would be
able to perform the great task, but his anxiety soon gave place
to absolute faith that truth would ultimately triumph, and he set
to work with a strength of will and an inflexibility of purpose
which could not be shaken by the severest opposition of the whole
of Arabia. From the very first his message was for all, for the
Arab as well as the non-Arab, for the idolaters as well as the Jews,
the Christians and the Magi. Nor was it limited to the town of Makka,
for Makka was the centre to which men and women flocked in thousands
every year from all parts of Arabia, and through this assemblage
the Prophet's message reached the most distant corners of Arabia.
His wife, Khadija, was the first to believe in him, and she was
followed by others who were either his most intimate friends or
closely related to him. As Muir remarks:
"It is strongly corroborative of Muhammad's sincerity
that the earliest converts to Islam were not only of upright character,
but his own bosom friends and people of his household, who, intimately
acquainted with his Private life could not fail otherwise to have
detected those discrepancies which ever more or less exist between
the professions of the hypocritical deceiver abroad and his actions
His first revelations laid stress on the great power and majesty of
the Divine Being and on the inevitability of the judgment.
The Quraish mocked at first, treated him contemptuously and called
him a madman. In spite of this he went on gaining adherents by twos
and threes, until within four years - the number reached forty and
persecution grew bitter. At first the slaves were tortured. Bilal,
a Negro by birth, when made to lie on the burning sands under the
Arabian midday sun continued to cry, "One, One,"
to the bewilderment of his persecutors. But the fire of persecution
once kindled could not be confined. Converts of high birth were
made to suffer along with the poorer followers. The Prophet himself
did not escape the cruelties of the persecutors. The Muslims could
not gather together or say their prayers in a public place. Still
Muhammad went on gaining new adherents, and his opponents became
severer in their persecution, so much so that some of the humbler
converts were put to death in a most brutal manner.
The Prophet's tender heart melted at the sight of this brutal
treatment of innocent men and women, and in spite of the fact that
he would be left alone amongst exasperated opponents, he advised
the small band of his followers to betake themselves to a place
of safety. Eleven men and women left Makka in the fifth year of
the Hijra, and migrated to Abyssinia. Thither they were followed
by a deputation of their opponents that petitioned the ruler of
Abyssinia for their extradition. The Muslim case was put by their
leader before the king as follows:
O King ! We were an ignorant people, given to idolatry. We used
to eat corpses even of animals that died a natural death, and to
do all sorts of disgraceful things. We did not make good our obligations
to our relations, and we ill-treated our neighbours. The strong
among us would thrive at the expense of the weak, till at last Allah
raised a Prophet for our reformation. His descent, his righteousness,
his integrity and his virtue are well known to us. He called us
to the worship of Allah, and bade us give up idolatry and stone-worship.
He enjoined on us to tell the truth, to make good our trust, to
have regard for our kith and kin, and to do good to our neighbours.
He taught us to shun everything foul and to avoid bloodshed. He
forbade all sorts of indecent things, telling lies and misappropriating
orphans' belongings. So we believed in him, followed him and acted
up to his teachings. Thereupon our people began to do us wrong,
to subject us to tortures, thinking that we might abjure our faith
and revert to idolatry. When, however, their cruelties exceeded
all bounds, we came to seek an asylum in your country.
The Negus was deeply touched by this statement and by a recitation
from the Holy Quran, and refused to deliver the Muslims to their enemies.
More Muslims went to Abyssinia next year, until the total reached
101, excluding children. The Quraish tried their utmost to check this
tide of emigration, but in vain. Soon they became exasperated beyond
all measure at the Prophet and the little band of Muslims that remained
with him at Makka. Not being able to prevail upon Abu Talib, the head
of the Hashimites (the Prophet's family), to hand the Prophet over
to them to end his life, and failing to tempt the Prophet by offering
him kingship, wealth and beauty, they at last entered into a league
and shut up the Hashimites and the Muslims in a small quarter, where
they suffered the utmost privations for three long years, being allowed
liberty of action only during the time of pilgrimage. These three
years were the years of the hardest suffering for the Muslims, and
Islam itself made little progress during this time.
Released at last from this imprisonment, the Prophet, though facing
disappointment on all sides, had still as much faith in the triumph
of the truth as ever. If Makka was now quite deaf to his preaching,
he would turn elsewhere. He went to Ta'if, another great city of
Arabia. Here, however, he found the ground even harder than at Makka.
He was not allowed to stay in Ta'if after ten days, and as he walked
back he was pelted with stones. Dripping with blood and not even
allowed by his persecutors to take rest, he at last returned to
Makka, a sadder man than when he had left it. But if men did not
listen to him, yet would he open his heart to God who was always
ready to listen, and he prayed to Him thus when coming back from
O my God ! To Thee I complain of the feebleness of
my strength and of my lack of resourcefulness and of my insignificance
in the eyes of people. Thou art the most Merciful of the merciful,
Thou art the Lord of the weak. To whom wilt Thou entrust me, to
an unsympathetic foe who would sullenly frown at me, or to a close
friend to whom Thou hast given control over my affair? Not in the
least do I care for anything except that I may have Thy protection.
In the light of Thy face do I seek shelter, in the light which illumines
the heaven and dispels all sorts of darkness, and which controls
all affairs in this world as well as in the Hereafter. May it never
be that I should incur Thy wrath or that Thou shouldst be displeased
with me. There is no strength, nor power, but in Thee.
He feels that no man lends his ear to his message, yet his faith
in the goodness of God and in the ultimate triumph of his cause
is as unshaken as ever. To him God is all in all and the opposition
of the whole world is as nothing. With marvellous calmness he undergoes
the severest hardships which he has to suffer for working for the
good of the very people who take pleasure in inflicting on him the
cruellest tortures. All these, he says, are insignificant so long
as he enjoys the pleasure of God. What a firm faith in God, what
a cheerful resignation to His supreme will, what an unalloyed spiritual
Three years more passed away at Makka amidst the most trying circumstances.
In the meanwhile Islam took root in Madina and spread fast. As the
thirteenth year of the Call drew to a close, seventy-five Muslims
(including two women) from Madina came to perform a pilgrimage and
swore allegiance to the Prophet, affirming that if he chose to go
to Madina, they would defend him against his enemies just as they
defended their own children and wives. Then it was that the Muslim
exodus to Madina commenced.
The Prophet chose to remain alone amidst an enemy that was growing
more and more exasperated, and to see his followers safe at the
new centre. This shows the depth of his love and concern for his
followers. He was anxious more for their safety than for his own.
Within two months, about 150 Muslims left Makka and there remained
only the Prophet with two of his closest friends. The psychological
moment had now arrived for his enemies to deal the final blow. Individual
efforts had hitherto been made to do away with the Prophet, but
they had failed. If the final blow was not struck immediately, the
Prophet might escape to Madina and get beyond their reach. A big
conference of all the tribes was held and a final decision taken.
A youth from each clan was to be selected, and all these were to
fall upon the Prophet at one and the same time, so that no particular
clan should be held accountable for the murder.
The Prophet's house was besieged by these blood thirsty youths
as soon as it was dark, but, undaunted and having his faith in Divine
protection, the Prophet passed through them unnoticed. In the dark
of the night, with only one companion, he made his way through the
streets of Makka to the bare and rugged hills outside, and a hiding-place
was ultimately found in a cave known as Thaur. When morning appeared,
the enemy saw the failure of their plan and the whole countryside
was scoured. One party reached the very mouth of the cave. Through
a crevice, Abu Bakr saw the enemy at the mouth and grieved. "
Do not grieve, for Allah is with us," said the Prophet.
The more helpless he became, the stronger grew his faith in God.
And surely some invisible power saved him throughout his life every
time that the enemy's hand was on him. After three days the Prophet
and his companion started for Madina.
It was not the Prophet alone who bore all the hard trials so willingly
at Makka for thirteen years; those who accepted him bore persecutions
with the same willing heart. The new life to which the Prophet had
awakened them has drawn words of praise from Sir William Muir:
The believers bore persecutions with a patient and tolerant
spirit. One hundred men and women, rather than abjure their precious
faith, had abandoned home and sought refuge, till the storm should,
be overpast, in Abyssinian exile. And now again a still larger number,
with the Prophet himself, were emigrating from their fondly loved
city with its Sacred Temple, to them the holiest spot on earth,
and fleeing to Medina. There, the same marvellous charm had within
two or three years been preparing for them a brotherhood ready to
defend the Prophet and his followers with their blood. Jewish truth
had long sounded in the ears of the men of Medina; but it was not
until they heard the spirit-stirring strains of the Arabian Prophet
that they too awoke from their slumber and sprang suddenly into
a new and earnest life.