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Life of the Prophet - Part 4 - Eshaam Palmer

This episode covers the role of the Prophet /PBUH] in the early years of Islam until the death of his  uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadija. During this period the Quraish intensified their opposition to and torment of Muhammad /PBUH], especially after the death of his protector, Abu Talib. It was during this period that members of the Quraish approached the Prophet (PBUH] to tolerate their practice of idol worshipping in exchange for monetary rewards and status.

 

Intensification of opposition from the Quraish

Muhammad [PBUH] and Khadija contin¬ued to have a mutually satisfying marriage relationship – he offering her love and pro¬tection and she being his companion and source of comfort.The. Quraish intensified their opposition to the establishment of Islam as a religion by instigating all the other tribes to arbitrarily attack any Muslim they encountered. They were encouraged to try to convince the Muslims to revert to idol worshipping and abandon Muhammad [PBUH]. Bilal, a Muslim Abyssinian slave received particularly harsh treatment from his owner due to his insistence on remain¬ing a Muslim. His owner placed a large and heavy rock on his chest whilst Bilal was lay¬ing on the ground in the hot desert sun. However, despite the pain and suffering he had to endure, Bilal did not renounce Islam. After enduring many hours of this torture Abu Bakr approached Bilal's owner and paid for his freedom. Immediately thereafter Bilal was set free. Bilal was but one of the many Muslim slaves who had  to endure bouts of torture as a result of their faith that Abu Bakr purchased and set free. There were also reports that certain individ¬uals were put to death as a result of their refusal to denounce Islam. Despite the protection of the tribes of Banu Hashim and Banu al Muttalib, Muhammad [PBUH] did not escape the wrath of the Quraish and other tribesmen. He was also tortured and beaten by his detractors. On one occasion his uncle Abu Lahab threw the entrails of a goat onto Muhammad [PBUI 1] whilst he was praying at the Ka'bah. It was his daughter Fatima who came to his aid by cleaning the dirt from him. However, never did  he falter in his faith and remained an example of strength and commitment to his followers who drew sustenance from his endurance and fortitude.

 

Endurance by Muslims
Muhammad [PBUH] and his followers endured the abuse and vilification with honour and dignity — they even prayed that those who did them harm would see the light and join them. Muhammad [PBUH] was regularly insulted by the poets, threat¬ened with physical harm by tribesmen and had his house damaged by stones being thrown at it. On numerous occasions he was close to being killed. At times the assaults became so severe that Muhammad [PBUH] thought that death would be a welcome relief. However, the more the abuse increased, the stronger his resolve to carry out the instructions of Allah. It was during this trying period that the following verse was revealed: "And whoso¬ever does an atom's weight in good shall be rewarded therefore, and whosoever does an atom's weight of evil shall be punished therefore." [Surah 99, verses 7-8]. Because of the firm resolve of Muhammad [PBUH], the tribes of Banu Hashim and Banu al Muttalib reconfirmed their protection of the Prophet [PBUH] and other Muslims.

Hamza converts to Islam
Whilst in the vicinity of the Ka'bah, Abu Jahl insulted Muhammad [PBUH] and the followers of Islam. When Hamza, an uncle of Muhammad [PBUH] came to hear of the insults, he became very angry and struck Abu Jahl a heavy blow with his bow. Immediately after this event, Hamza con¬verted to Islam. Hamza became one of the most ardent supporters of the Prophet [PBUH] and was always at hand to protect Muhammad [PBUH]. Despite the hard¬ships endured by Muslims, their numbers grew by the day Attempt to bribe Muhammad [PBUH].  A group of leaders of the Quraish sent Utbah to Muhammad [PBUH] with an offer of wealth enough to make him the richest man in the tribe and if he so desired they would appoint him as their king. In return Muhammad [PBUH) had to turn his back on Islam. Muhammad [PBUH] responded by reciting surah al Sajdah. After listening to the recital Utbah was convinced that nothing would move Muhammad [PBUH] from his devotion to Islam. No doubt this act further infuriated the Quraish.
Muslims emigrate to Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia). As the persecution and hardship of the Muslims increased, the Prophet [PBUH] advised them to emigrate to the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia where they would be safe. The first group of Muslims to arrive in Abyssinia consisted of about fifteen men and women. When the Quraish heard of this event they immediately dispatched a delegation to meet with the King of Abyssinia. After listening to the delegation, the King asked of the Muslims why they practised a religion that was both different from their people and that of Christianity. When Jafar ibn Abu Talib gave an expla¬nation on behalf of the Muslims he was asked to recite a verse of the Quran. Jafar recited surah Mariam and the King said that what he had recited had been revealed to Moses and must therefore have come from the same source. The King offered his protection to them and stated that he would not expel them from his country.

Umar ibn al Khattab
At the age of thirty-five years, Umar ibn al Khattab was in the prime of his life. He was a passionate and physically strong man, and was also very influential within the Quraish. At the same time he was one of the strongest opponents of the Prophet [PBUH]. He became extremely angry when he heard that Muhammad [PBUH] had allowed a group of Muslims to emigrate to Abyssinia. On hearing that Muhammad [PBUH] was at a meeting, he set off to the location in order to kill Muhammad [PBUH]. On his way to the meeting he was informed that his sister Fatima and her husband Said ibn Zayd had converted to Islam. He changed direction and headed for his sister's home. When he arrived at her house he assaulted both his sister and her husband  because of their conversion to Islam. Although both were bleeding they had  no fear of Umar and without hesitation admit¬ted that they were followers of Islam. They dared him to do his worst. Umar was taken aback at their commitment. After regaining his composure he asked for the document that they were reading when he entered their home. After reading it for a while, a distinct change came about him. Umar left the house and walked straight to the meet¬ing where Muhammad (PBUH 1) was, walked up to him and declared his conversion to Islam.Many believe that it was his conversion to Islam that helped the Muslims in their plight, more than any other event at that time. This act caused further divisions in the Quraish and their loss of a champion fighter against Muhammad [PBUH) was sorely felt. Umar was a fearless fighter for Islam and was responsible for large numbers of conversions. He was also not in favour of Muslims practising their religion in secret, he preferred that they worship in the open. Such acts of course constituted dangers to their safety of Muslims

Quraish adopt new strategies against Muhammad [PBUH]
In order to prevent the spread of Islam, the Quraish entered into a pact in terms of which members of their tribe would not transact business or inter-marry with mem¬bers of the tribes of Banu Hashim and Banu al Muttalib. In terms of the pact they would also not supply food to Muslims. However, Islam was now spreading outside the borders of Makka, in other parts of the world where the Quraish had no influence. The Quraish also started to make death threats against the family of the Prophet [PBUH] and made fun of him in public. When Muhammad started  to convert many of the pilgrims coming to worship the idols at the Ka'bah, the Quraish realised they had to adopt new strategies to prevent the spread of Islam. The Quraish started to accuse the Prophet [PBUH] of practising witchcraft in order to win converts to Islam. They sent Al Tufayl  to confront Muhammad [PBUH] regarding his practise of magic. However, after Muhammad [PBUH] recited verses of the Quran to him, he converted to Islam and became a fervent missionary in the cause of Islam. Abu Sufyan and Abu .Jahl went on excur¬sions to places where Muhammad [PBUH] was giving lectures in order for them to develop ways of overcoming the influence of Muhammad [PBUH 11. As the nights went by they felt an irresistible urge to continue to listen to Muhammad [PBUH] speak. However, they continued with the pro-gramme of harassing the Prophet [PBUH] and his family.

Effect of the pact of the Quraish
At this stage the pact of the Quraish in terms of which they would not transact business with the Prophet [PBUH) and his protectors was in existence for about three years. It meant that they could only trade amongst themselves and this resulted in shortages of food and other products. It was only during the holy months that the pact's provisions were relaxed and Muhammad [PBUH) could interact with outsiders. He used the holy months to win fresh converts to Islam. There were certain of the Quraish who broke the terms of the pact by trading with the Muslims and delivering food to them in  secret. Although many of the Quraish did not embrace Islam, they did not all agree With the harsh treatment that was being meted out to the Muslims. This was espe¬cially so when they saw the hardship the Muslims had to endure as a result of the enforcement of the pact. Two members of the Quraish, Hisham ibn Amr and Zubayr ibn Abu Umayya, incensed at the suffering of the Muslims decided to break the pact of not trading and supplying the Muslims. Initially they did so in secret, but later they traded with and supplied Muslims openly and encouraged other members of the Quraish to follow suit. Their action reached  its peak when a member of the Quraysh, called AL Mut'am took the pact document from the wall of the Ka'bah and tore it to shreds, or what was left of it as insects had already devoured most of the document. In this way the boycott ended and the Muslims came out of isolation.

More deaths sadden the Prophet [PBUH]
As soon as the isolation ended Muhammad [PBUH] started to approach members of the Quraish to convert to Islam. However, despite the ending of the boycott, he was still in danger of being harmed by the Quraish. Within a few months of the ending of the boycott Muhammad [PBUH] suffered one of worst tragedies. His unlce and protector died at the age of eighty. This was a  heavy blow to the Prophet [PBUH] for even though Abu Talib never converted to Islam  he remained loyal and protective toward Prophet [PBUH]. He never faltered to defend the Prophet [PBUH] when he saw, danger and always spoke well UH]of  Muhammad [PBUH]. For many years Talib was the father Muhammad [PB never had. And if the tragedy of the death of Abu. Talib was not enough, his best friend companion, Khadija died soon after Talib. It was a double blow for the Prophet [PBUH], and clearly Allah was testing his resolve to the limit. But Muhammad [PBUH ] never faltered and accepted, albeit with great sadness, the loss of these two loved ones. Muhammad [PBUH] knew that he was but a part of the grand plan of Allah, and thus he accepted that there would be heavy burdens he would have to bear.  The Quraish realised that with the death of Abu Talib, who was one of their leaders, they would now have to deal with the likes of Umar and Hamza, whom they held in fear. Before he died, the Quraish leaders went to Abu Talib and asked him to give the assurance that they would convince Muhammad [PBUH] to leave the Quraish alone and to stop converting them. Abu Talib died a few days later without giving them any such assurance. Although the Quraish still hounded Muhammad [PBUH], he was heard to say to his daughter Fatima, who was very attached to him, that the Quraish did not harm him as much after the death of Abu Talib.

Visit to Ta'if
It was at this time that the Prophet [PBUH] went to Ta'if to preach the teachings of the Quran. However, his  reception was very hostile and the inhabitants sent their ser¬vants and slaves to assault the Prophet [PBUH]. He left Ta'if severely injured and bleeding. After leaving the village he sat under a tree and spoke the following words to Allah: "0 God, please consider my weak¬ness, my shortage of means, and the little esteem people have of me. Oh, most mer¬ciful God, You are the Lord of the oppressed, and  You are my Lord. To whom would You leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy who dominates me? Would I have that You have no wrath against me! Your pleasure. alone is my objective. Under the light of Your faith which illuminates all darkness and on which this world and the other depend, I take my refuge. I pray that I may not become the object of Your wrath and anger. To You alone belongs the rights to blame and to chastise until Your pleasure is met. There is neither power nor strength except in You." Even the severe injuries he received at Ta'if did not deter Muhammad [PBUH] from propagating the religion of Islam. One of the main tormentors of the Prophet [PBUH] was his uncle Abu Lahab. Despite the familial relationship Abu Lahab became one the cruelest tormentors of the Prophet [PBUH].

Engagement to Aisha
With the death of his wife Khadija, the Prophet [PBUH] decided to marry someone who would strengthen the bonds of broth¬erhood amongst the Muslims. He decided to marry Aisha, the daughter of one of his closest companions, Abu Bakr. However, as she was still young he married her when she reached the age of eleven. In the inter¬vening period of their engagement, which lasted three years, Muhammad married Sawdah, a widow of one of his companions who had emigrated to Abyssinia.

Conclusion
The period in question saw the first emi¬gration of Muslims from Makka and the spreading of Islam around the world. It also saw the death of two of the closest family members of the Prophet [PBUH], his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadija. With the increase in the number of Muslims the life of the Prophet [PBUH] took on a number of further challenges.

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