THE PAGAN ARABS SACRED IDOLS
ِِAs to the idols, so much honoured and esteemed by the pagan Arabs, the Prophet openly declared that “they are naught but empty names which you (the idolaters) and your fathers have invented.”
From beginning to end the Prophet in all his recitations of the Koran never spoke respectfully of the invented gods or goddesses adopted by the heathen Arabs. There is nothing in all the trustworthy sources of Islam to confirm the allegations made by Western biographers to the contrary.
When the Prophet thus spoke reproachfully of the sacred gods of the Koreishites, the latter redoubled their persecution. But the Prophet nevertheless, continued his preaching, undaunted by the hostility of his enemies, or by their bitter persecution of him. And despite all opposition and increased persecution the new faith gained ground. The national fair at Okaz near Mecca attracted many a wild Arab of the desert and many a trading citizen of distant towns. These listened to the teachings of the Prophet, to his admonitions and to his denunciations of their sacred idols and of their superstitions. They carried back all that they had heard to their distant homes and thus the advent of the Arabian Prophet was made known to almost all parts of the Peninsula.
The Meccans, however, were more than ever furious at the Prophet’s increasing preaching against their religion. They asked his uncle Abu Talib, to stop him. But Abu Talib could not do anything, except that he re-assured them. At length, as the Prophet persisted in his ardent denunciations against their ungodliness and impiety they turned him from the Kaaba where he latterly used to sit to preach and subsequently went in a body to Abu Talib. They urged the old venerable chief to prevent his nephew from abusing their gods any longer or uttering any ill words against their ancestors. They warned Abu Talib that if he would not do that he would be excluded from the communication of his people and driven to side with Mohammed, and the matter would be settled by fight, until one of the two parties were exterminated. Abu Talib neither wished to separate himself from his people, nor forsake his nephew, for the idolaters to revenge themselves upon. He spoke to the Prophet very softly and begged of him to abandon his affair. To this suggestion the Prophet firmly replied: “O my uncle, if they placed the sun in my right had and the moon in my left had to cause me to renounce my task, verily I would not desist there from, until God made manifest His cause, or I perished in the attempt. The Prophet overcome by the thought that his uncle and protector was willing to desert him, turned to depart. But Abu Talib called him loudly to come back, and he came. “Say whatever thee pleasest; for the Lord I shall not desert thee, nay, never.” The Koreishites again attempted in vain to cause Abu Talib to abandon his nephew. The venerable chief declared his intention to protect his nephew against any menace or violence. He appealed to the sense of honour of the two families of the sons of Hashim and the sons of Muttalib, both families being kinsmen of the Prophet, to protect their member from falling a victim to the hatred of rival parties. All the members of the two families nobly responded to the appeal of Abu Talib, except Abu Lahab one of the Prophet’s uncles, who took part with the persecutors.
At this period, Omar, son of Khattab adopted Islam. In him the new faith gained a valuable adherent and an important factor in the future development and propagation of Islam.
Hitherto Omar had been a violent opposer of the Prophet and a bitter enemy of Islam. His conversion is said to have been worked by the magic effect on his mind of a chapter of the Koran which his sister was reading in her house, where he had gone with the intention of killing her on account of her adoption of Islam. The party of the Prophet had been strengthened by the conversion of his uncle, Hamza a man of great valour and merit, and of Abu Bakr and Omar, both men of great energy and reputation. The Moslems now ventured to perform their devotions in public.
Alarmed at the bold part which the Prophet and his followers were now able to assume, and roused by the return of the deputies from Abyssinia and the announcement of their unsuccessful mission, the Koreishites determined to check by a decisive blow any further progress of Islam. Towards this end, in the seventh year of mission, they made a solemn league or covenant against the descendants of Hashim and Muttalib, engaging themselves to contract no marriage with any of them, and to have no communication with them. Upon this, the Koreishites became divided into two factions, and the two families of Hashim and Muttalib all repaired to Abu Talib as their chief; except only Abu Lahab the Prophet’s uncle, who, out of his inveterate hatred against his nephew and his doctrine, went over to the opposite party whose chief was Abu Sofian Ibn Harb, of the family of Omayia. The persecuted party, Moslems as well as idolaters betook themselves to a defile on the eastern skirts of Mecca. They lived in this defensive position for three years the provisions which they had carried with them, were soon exhausted. Probably they would have entirely perished, but for the sympathy and occasional help they received from less bigoted compatriots.
Towards the beginning of the tenth year of the mission a reconciliation was concluded between the Koreishites and the two families of Hashim and Abdul Muttalib through the intermediation of Hashim, son of Amr, and Zobeir, son of Abu Omayia. Thus, the alliance against the two families was abolished, and they were able to return to Mecca.
During the period the Prophet and his kins–people in their defensive position, Islam made no progress outside; but in the sacred months, when violence was considered sacrilege, the Prophet used to come out of his temporary prison to preach Islam to the pilgrims. In the following year, both Abu Talib and Khadija died. Thus, the Prophet lost in Abu Talib the kind guardian of his youth who had hitherto protected him against his enemies; and in Khadija his most encouraging companion. She was ever his angel of hope and consolation. The Prophet weighed down by the loss of his amiable protector and his beloved wife without hope of turning the Koreishites from idolatry, with a saddened heart, yet full of trust, resolved to exercise his ministry in some other field, and he chose Tayef, a town about sixty miles east of Mecca whither he went accompanied by his faithful servant Zaid. The tribe of Thakif, who were the inhabitants of Tayef, received Mohammed very coldly. However, he stayed therefore one month. Though the more considerate and better sort of men treated him with a little respect, the slaves and common people refused to listen to his teachings; they were outrageously indignant at his invitation to abandon the gods they worshipped with such freedom of morals and lightness of heart; at length they rose against him, and bringing him to the wall of the city, obliged him to depart and return to Mecca.
This repulse greatly discouraged his followers; however, the Prophet was not wanting to himself, but boldly continued to preach to the public assemblies at the pilgrimage, and gained several new proselytes, among whom where six of the city of Yathrib of the Jewish tribe of Khazraj. When these Yathribnites returned home, they spread the news among their people that a prophet had arisen among the Arabs who was to call them to God, and put an end to their iniquities.
It was in the twelfth year of his mission, that the prophet gave out that he had made his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and thence to Heaven. all that Moslems must believe respecting this journey is that the Prophet saw himself, in a vision, transported from Mecca to Jerusalem, and that in such vision he really beheld some of the greatest signs of his Lord. However, several trustworthy traditions maintain that this journey, known in history as Miraj (ascension), was a miraculously real bodily one and not only a vision.
(An eminent writer, commenting on the ascension remarks; “It may, I think, be fairly asked, why Christians who believe in the boldly resurrection and bodily ascension of Jesus and of Elijah should look upon those Moslems who believe in the bodily ascension of Mohammed as less rational than themselves?”)
In this year twelve men of Yathrib, of whom ten were of the Jewish tribe of Khazraj and the other two of Aws, came to Mecca, and took an oath of fidelity of the Prophet at Akaba, a hill on the north of that city. This oath was called the women’s oath; not that any women were present at this time, but because a man was not thereby obliged to take up arms in defence of the Prophet or his religion; it being the same oath that was afterwards exacted of the women. This oath was as follows: “We will not associate anything with God; will not steal nor commit adultery or fornication, nor kill our children (as the pagan Arabs used to do when they apprehended that they would not be able to maintain them), nor forge calumnies; we will obey the Prophet in everything that is reasonable, and we will be faithful to him in weal and sorrow.” When they had solemnly engaged to do all this, the Prophet sent one of his disciples, Massaab Ibn Omair, home with them, to teach them the fundamental doctrines and ceremonies of the religion. Massaab, having arrived at Yathrib, by the assistance of those who had been formerly converted, gained several proselytes, particularly Osaid Ibn Hodeira, a chief man of the city, and Saad Ibn Moaz, prince of the tribe of Aws, Islam has now spread so fast, that there was scarcely a house wherein there not some who had embraced it.
The next year, being the thirteenth of the mission (622 A.D.), Massaab returned from Yathrib, accompanied by seventy three men and two women of that city, who had adopted Islam besides other who were as yet unbelievers. On their arrival these Yatheribites immediately sent to the Prophet and invited him to their city. The Prophet was now in great need of such an assistance, for his opponents had by this time grown so powerful in Mecca, that he could not stay there much longer without imminent danger. He, therefore accepted their proposal, and met them one night by appointment at Al-Akaba, mentioned before, attended by his uncle Al-Abbas, who though he was not then a convert, wished his nephew well. Al-Abbas made a speech to those of Yathrib wherein he told them that, as the Prophet Mohammed was obliged to quit his native city and seek shelter elsewhere, and they had offered him their protection, they would do well not to deceive, him; and that if they were not firmly resolved to defend and not to betray him, they had better declare their minds, and let him provide for his safety in some other manner. Upon their professing their sincerity, the Prophet swore to be faithful to them, on condition that they should worship none but God, observe the precepts of Islam, obey the Prophet in all that was right and protect him against all insults as heartily as they would their wives and families. They then asked him what would be their return, if they should happen to be killed in the cause of God; he answered: “Paradise.” Whereupon they pledged their faith to him and to his cause. The Prophet then selected twelve men out of their number to act as his delegates. Thus was concluded the second covenant of Al-Akaba. The Yatheribites returned home, leaving the Prophet to arrange for his journey to their city. The Prophet directed his followers to seek immediate safety at Yathrib; which they accordingly did. About one hundred families silently disappeared from Mecca and proceeded to Yathrib, where they were received with enthusiasm and much hospitality. All the disciples had gone to Yathrib. The Prophet alone remained at Mecca, keeping with him only his young cousin Ali, and his devoted friend, old Abu Bakr.
The Meccans, fearing the consequence of this new alliance, began to think seriously of preventing Mohammed from escaping to Yathrib. They met in all haste at the town- hall. After several milder expedients had been rejected, they decided, that he should be killed. They agreed that one man should be chosen out of every tribe for the execution of this design, and that each man should strike a blow at him with his sword, so that the responsibility of the guilt might rest equally on all tribes, to whose united power the Hashimites, Mohammed’s own tribe were much inferior, and therefore would not be able to revenge their kinsman’s death. A number of noble youths were selected for the sanguinary deed. As the night advanced, the assassins posted themselves round the Prophet’s dwelling. They watched all night long, waiting to murder “Mohammed” when he should leave his house at the early down. By some meansthe Prophet had been warned of the danger. In order to keep the attention of the assassins fixed upon the bed which they had been watching through a hole in the door, the Prophet directed Ali to lie down in his place and wrap himself up in his green cloak; which he did whereas the Prophet miraculously escaped through the window. He repaired to the house of Abu Bakr, unperceived by the conspirators who had already assembled at the Prophet’s door. These, in the meantime looking through the crevice and seeing Aly whom they mistook for ‘Mohammed’ himself asleep, continued watching there till morning, when Aly arose, and they found themselves deceived. The fury of the Koreishites was now unbounded. The news that they would be assassins had returned unsuccessful, and that “Mohammed” had escaped aroused their whole energy. A price of a hundred camels was set upon Mohammed’s head.
From Abu Bakr’s house the Prophet and he went to a cave in Mount Thor, to the south east of Mecca, accompanied only by Abu Bakr’s servant, and an idolater whom they had hired for a guide. In this cave they lay hidden for three days to avoid the search of their enemies whom they very narrowly escaped. It is related than after the Prophet and his companions entered, two pigeons laid their eggs at the entrance, and a spider covered the mouth of the cave with its web which made the enemies look no farther. Abu Bakr, seeing the Prophet in such imminent danger, became very sorrowful, whereupon the Prophet comforted him with these words, recorded in the Koran: “ Be not grieved, for God is with us.” Their persecutor having retired, they left the cave and set out for Yathrib by a bye–road. Having miraculously escaped some horsemen who were sent to pursue them, the fugitives continued their journey, without molestation. After three day’s journey they reached the territories of Yathrib. Here they were joined by Ali who had been severely maltreated by the idolaters after their disappointment at Mohammed’s escape. The prophet and his companions then proceeded to Yathrib, attended by a great number of his disciples who met them at Koba. They entered the city on the morning of a Friday, the 16th Rabi 1 (corresponding to the 2nd day of July 622). Thus was accomplished the Hijrah, or the flight of Mohammed as called in European annals, from which the Islamic calendar dates.