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Life of the Prophet - Part 3 - Eshaam Palmer

In the second part Muhammad's young life was discussed as well as his   marriage to Khadija and early married life. It concluded with Muhammad receiving the message of prophethood. In this part, the early days of Islam will be examined, especially the early converts to Islam. The trials and tribulations Muhammad had to endure during this period had an important impact on the growth of conversion to Islam.

Implications of prophethood

Khadija strongly believed, even more strongly than Muhammad himself, that Muhammad was the prophet chosen to lead the people out of their disbelief. She helped him through his periods of doubt and uncertainty and comforted Muhammad so that he did not despair and lose his direction in life. During this difficult period for Muhammad she was his conscience and his guiding light, she com¬forted and advised him as to the meaning of his experiences in the cave of Hira. However, these experiences also confused Khadija and she had her own doubts about the recent events. In order to set her mind at ease she sought the advice of someone she held in high esteem — her cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal, who had recently converted to Christianity. It was clear that she would prefer to receive advice from someone other than an idol-worshipper. After Khadija related Muhammad's experiences in the cave to him, he stated that he was of the view that the spirit that spoke to Muhammad was the same one that spoke to Moses. He advised her to tell Muhammad that he should remain committed and not deviate from the path he was following. Muhammad personally met Waraqah a few days later and Waraqah expressed the same views to him. At this meeting Waraqah swore an oath that Muhammad was the prophet of their nation and that the great spirit who visited Moses was the same one who visited Muhammad.


Early revelations
When Khadija returned home, Muhammad was still sound asleep, but she noticed that at some point in his slumber he started to shiv¬er and perspire heavily. As he awoke from his deep slumber Muhammad heard the angel Gibreel say: "0 you who lie wrapped in your mantle. Arise and warn. Glorify your Lord. Purify yourself. Shun uncleanliness. Give not in order to have more in return. for the sake of your Lord endure patiently." (Quran, 73:1 —7). This verse indicates that emphasis was placed on cleanliness (both in body and in soul), praise of God, kindness and charity and patience and perseverance. The principles enunciated in the above verse are amongst the founding principles on which Islam is based. In order to further comfort Muhammad, Khadija told him of her discussion with Waraqah. She spoke further to Muhammad in order to cast his doubts aside and convince him that he truly was a prophet of God. Muhammad had mixed feelings about the authenticity of the revelations - he thought that it could either be evil spirits causing mis¬chief or that he was possibly losing his mind. Khadija was convinced that Muhammad was a prophet of God and that he had to propagate the true message to the people. In this way Khadija became the first Muslim. On reflection of the last message (it Gibreel, Muhammad was of the mind that he had to call on the people of Makka to reject their idol worshipping to come close to God by doing good deeds like helping those less fortunate; and by desisting from usury, immorality and stealing the property of orphans. In essence, it meant asking them to alter their beliefs from the seen to the unseen.

Muhammad's state of confusion
After Muhammad received the first revelations he thought that he would be guided on a day-to-day basis as to how he should deliver the message. However, this was not to be. for a long period he had no revelations from Gibreel. This absence of revelations further spurred his doubts that the revelations were authentic. A thought that lingered in his mind was that his Lord was displeased with him so Muhammad went to the cave of Hira to pray and seek solace. Khadija shared these fears but did not reveal them to Muhammad for fear of driving him further to despair. Muhammad was so depressed at the turn of events that he contemplated throwing him¬self from Mount Abu Qubays or from the top of Mount Hira. He was torn between fear and despair and when he was at his lowest point of depression the following verse was revealed to him by Gibreel: "By the forenoon, and by the night as it spreads its wings over the world in peace, your Lord has not forsaken you; nor is he displeased with you. Surely, the end shall be better for you than the beginning. Your Lord will soon give you of His bounty and you will be well pleased. Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? Did he not find you erring and guide you to the truth? Did He not find you in want and provide for you? Do not, therefore., oppress the orphan nor turn away whosoever seeks your help. And the bounty of your Lord, always proclaim." (Quran, 93. 1 -11).
With this revelation Muhammad became more confident and was prepared to deliver the. message. - but the question remained, how was he to do that? However, he was con¬vinced that God had taken him under his guidance and would not forsake him. After this revelation Muhammad realised that despite the sad happenings in his life there were many things he had to be thankful for. He was now also clear that the basic tenets of the message he had to deliver was one of piety, kindness, cleanliness and grate¬fulness of the bounty of God.

First acts of worship
In further revelations to Muhammad, Gibreel taught him how to pray, and in turn Muhammad taught Khadija. At that stage Muhammad, Khadija, their daughters and Ali, the son of Abu Talib, formed Muhammad's household. The reason why Ali stayed with Muhammad was the financial burden on his guardian because his father was poor and had many children. In this way Muhammad eased When Ali, as a young boy saw Muhammad and Khadija prostrating themselves in prayer he became curious and asked to whom they Were worshipping. Muhammad explained his revelations to Ali and invited him to embrace Islam. Ali hesitated and said he first wished to consult his father - he was however great¬ly impressed with what Muhammad had told him about Islam. Shortly thereafter the boy returned with the following words: "If God created me without first consulting Abu Talib, why should I consult my father in order to worship God." In this way Ali became the third adherent of Islam, and the youngest.
Shortly thereafter Muhammad's adopted son, Zayd also embraced Islam. At this stage they were the only followers of Muhammad and the big task of converting outsiders lay ahead.

First outside converts

Muhammad had at that stage a very close friend and confidant  called Abu Bakr. One day Muhammad spoke to him about his revelations and due to the closeness of their relationship and his absolute trust in Muhammad, he imme-diately converted to Islam - thus he became the first person outside the household of Muhammad to embrace Islam. Abu Bakr was an asset as he was very influential in the Quraysh tribe, he had extensive knowledge of its different clans and the line of its ancestors. Slowly Abu Bakr started to convert members of the Quraysh tribe to Islam. Amongst the first to be converted were Uthman ibn Affan, Talhah ibn Ubaydah Allah and al Zubayr ibn al Awwam.The tide of conversion picked up once many noble and influential tribesmen converted to Islam. The manner of conversion was that each new convert would declare his conversion to Islam before. Muhammad. However, with the spate of conversions came a distinct danger from those still worshipping idols. The danger had its source in that other non-Muslim Makkans feared that Makka would lose its sta¬tus as a holy place thus also losing its status as a prime place of trade. The ultimate conse¬quence would be economic ruin for the area. A further source of irritation to the Makkans was that the growth of Islam would put an end to their life of drinking and debauchery. Thus the conversion to Islam and the practice of wor¬shipping had to be done in secret. However, the greater the threat to their reli¬gion the greater the followers adhered to the principles of Islam.

Taking the message to the masses
It had now been three years since the first rev¬elation and only a handful of converts prac¬tised in secret. The revelations had not been revealed to the general public in Makka and the surrounding areas. At this stage   the following verse was revealed:
"Warn, 0 Muhammad, your nearest  relatives. Extend your gentle protection to all those believers who follow in your footsteps and obey you. As for those who disobey, proclaim your repudiation of their doings ... Proclaim what you  are commanded and turn away from the associationists." (Quran, 26. 214-216 and 15-94).
According to this revelation the time had come for Muhammad to proclaim the message, to the people of Makka. In order to kick-start the conversion process Muhammad invited all the members of the Quraysh to a banquet. During a speech to the tribesmen Muhammad was interrupted by his uncle, Abu Lahab who contradicted him and asked the guests to leave. Upon Abu Lahab's prompting the guests all left. The following day Muhammad invited them again. After lis¬tening to his message the tribesmen became uncomfortable and wanted to leave. There were also veiled threats of harm against Muhammad. Ali, still but a boy, stood up and said that he would kill anyone who opposed Muhammad. At this Muhammad and Ali were ridiculed and the guests all left.

Animosity from the Quraysh
His next strategy was to address the whole tribe from the top of Mount al Safa. When all the people of Makka were present Muhammad presented his message, but was soon interrupted by his uncle, Abu Lahab who severely criticised Muhammad. Muhammad was indeed taken aback by his uncle's vitriolic response. Thereafter the crowd of people left the assembly. It was shortly after this incident that the following verse was revealed: "Accursed be the hands of Abu Lahab and accursed may he be.. Neither his property nor his wealth will save him. He shall burn in the flames of hell." (Quran, 111:1—.3). This verse indicates the response to those who stood in the way of progress of the growth of Islam. However, despite the antagonism of people like Abu Lahab, Islam grew steadily. The fight against Islam and Muhammad was led by Abu Lahab and Abu Sufyan, both noblemen of the Quraysh. They used all means at their disposal to discredit Muhammad, even poets were used to recite poetry to harm the progress of Muhammad. In opposition many Muslim poets responded to counteract the attack against Islam. One of the famous taunts used by the Makkans was to ask Muhammad to perform miracles like prophets Moses and Jesus. It was strange that they did not ask the same questions of their idols! At this stage the following verse was revealed: "Say: I have no power whatever to bring advantage or avoid disadvantage. What God wills, that will hap pen. If it were given to me to tell the future I would have used such knowledge to my own advantage. But I am only a man sent to warn you, and a messenger to convey a divine message sage that you believe."

The fight against Muhammad intensifies
Muhammad once again changed his strategy to meet the onslaught against him individually and Islam generally. Muhammad launched a scathing attack against the idols and their inability to change any prevalent or future condition. He asked for proof of the powers and abilities of the idols stationed in the Ka'baa At this stage the Makkans were merely ridiculing him, but now Muhammad was actively engaging them in debate on their beliefs.However, despite all the animosity, the number of Muslims grew by the day. Although Ali's father, Abu Talib did not embrace Islam, he still remained intensely pro¬tective over Muhammad. The Makkans set about to break that mould of protection and thus expose Muhammad to their attacks. Abu Lahab demanded that his brother, Abu Talib either stop Muhammad from propagating Islam or to stop protecting him. They went as far as to bring the handsomest youth in Quraysh, Umarah ibn al Walid, for Abu Talib to adopt as a counter for his affection to Muhammad, but Abu Talib declined.

Abu Talib's protection
As a last resort the opposing forces accosted Abu Talib and told him that they would fight him and Muhammad if he did not stop his protection of Muhammad. Abu Talib was now faced with a very difficult decision. He approached Muhammad and asked him to stop his propagation of Islam, as he could not bear the strain any more. The Muslims were too few and weak in prepared¬ness to fight a powerful tribe like Quraysh. The most potent weapon of the Muslims was their strong faith in their beliefs. Abu Talib tried at length to convince Muhammad to abandon his mission and thereby to save all their lives. At a final approach to Muhammad, Abu Talib was con¬fronted by the now famous words of Muhammad: "0 uncle! By God almighty I swear, even if they should put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand that I abjure this cause, I shall not do so until God has vindicated it or caused me to perish in the process." With these words Muhammad rest¬ed his case. Taken aback by this response, but nevertheless admiring the strength of charac¬ter in Muhammad, Abu Talib swore to Muhammad that he would never betray Muhammad to his enemies.

Clan protection
This pledge of protection of Muhammad was relayed by Abu Talib to two clans of the Quraysh, namely, Banu Hashim and Banu al Muttalib. Abu Talib asked those tribesmen to lend their protection to Muhammad as a matter of honour. It  should be remembered that there was a strong tribal bond between Muhammad and these clans. A further factor that influenced their decision was that there was enmity between these two clans and the clan of the enemies of Islam, namely, Banu Umayya. These two clans were also more tolerant to people of other religions like Christianity and Judaism. Banu Hashim and Banu al Muttalib decided to protect Muhammad against his enemies.In deciding to protect Muhammad the basis of their logic was as follows. If Muhammad was telling the truth, they would share in his success, but if he were not telling the truth, Muhammad would not be success¬ful and would soon be forgotten.

In this way Islam took root in Makka, but not without its tensions and strife. It is clear from what is said above that his wife Khadija and close friends and family members played a cru¬cial role in supporting Muhammad in his prop¬agation of Islam. In the next part the further development of Islam will be discussed. *

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