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Brief life-sketch of Holy Prophet Muhammad

2. Preaches at Makka
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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 at home."
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 Ta'if:

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 happiness !

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.

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