Nearly four thousand years ago, in the Sumerian town of Ur in the valley of the river Euphrates lived a young man named Abraham. The people of Ur had once worshipped Allah but as time passed they forgot the true religion and started praying to idols, statues made of wood or clay and sometimes even of precious stones.
Even as a small child Abraham could not understand how his people, and especially his father, could make these images with their own hands, call them gods, and then worship them. He had always refused to join his people when they paid respect to these statues. Instead he would leave the town and sit alone, thinking about the heavens and the world about him. He was sure his people were doing wrong and so alone he searched for the right way.
One clear night as he sat staring at the sky he saw a beautiful shining star, so beautiful that he cried out: "This must be Allah!" He looked at it in awe for some time, until suddenly it began to fade and then it disappeared. He turned away in disappointment saying:
I love not things that set. (Koran vi.77)
On another night Abraham was again looking at the sky and he saw the rising moon, so big and bright that he felt he could almost touch it. He thought to himself:
This is my Lord. (Koran vi.78)
But it was not long before the moon set as well. Then he said,
Unless my Lord guide me, I surely shall become one of the folk who are astray. (Koran vi.78)
Abraham then saw the beauty and splendor of the sunrise and decided that the sun must be the biggest and most powerful thing in the universe. But for the third time he was wrong, for the sun set at the end of the day. It was then that he realized that Allah is the Most Powerful, the Creator of the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth and of all living things. Suddenly he felt himself totally at peace, because he knew that he had found the Truth. When he said unto his father and his folk:
What do you worship? They said: We worship idols, and are ever devoted to them. He said: Do they hear you when you cry? Or do they benefit or harm you? They said: Nay, but we found our fathers acting in this manner. He said: See now that which you worship, you and your forefathers! Lo! They are (all) an enemy to me, except the Lord of the Worlds. Who created me, and He guides me, And Who feeds me and waters me. And when I sicken, then He heals me. And who causes me to die, then gives me life (again) And Who, I ardently hope, will forgive me my sin on the Day of Judgment. (Koran xxvi.70-82)
One day, while all the townspeople were out, Abraham angrily smashed all the idols with his right hand except for one, which was very large. When the people returned they were furious. They remembered the things Abraham had said about the idols. They had him brought forth before everyone and demanded, ‘Is it you who did this to our gods, O Abraham?" Abraham replied, ‘But this, their chief did it. Ask them, if they are able to speak " The people exclaimed, ‘You know they do not speak." ‘Do you worship what you yourselves have carved when Allah created you and what you make?" Abraham continued, ‘Do you worship instead of Allah that which cannot profit you at all, nor harm you?" (Koran xxxvii.9S--6) (Koran xxi.66)
Finally, Abraham warned them,
Serve Allah, and keep your duty unto Him; that is better for you if you did but know. You serve instead of Allah only idols, and you only invent a lie. Lo! Those whom you serve instead of Allah own no provision for you. So seek your provision from Allah, and serve Him, and give thanks unto Him, (for) unto Him you will be brought back. (Koran xxix. 16-17)
The people ofUr decided to give Abraham the worst punishment they could find: he was to be burnt to death. On the chosen day all the people gathered in" the centre of the city and even the King of Ur was there. Abraham was then placed inside a special building filled with wood. The wood was lit. Soon the fire became so strong that the people were pushed back by the flames. But Allah said:
O fire, be coolness and peace for Abraham. (Koran xxi.69)
The people waited until the fire had completely died down, and it was then that they saw Abraham still sitting there as though nothing had happened! At that moment they were utterly confused. They were not, however, moved by the miracle that had just happened before their very eyes. Still Abraham tried to persuade his own dear father, who was named Azar, not to worship powerless, un-seeing, un-hearing statues. Abraham explained that special knowledge had come to him and implored his father, ‘So follow me and I will lead you on the right path. O my father! Don"t serve the Devil." But Azar would not listen. He threatened his son with stoning if he continued to reject the gods ofUr. He ordered Abraham to leave the city with these words: "Depart from me a long while." Abraham said, "Peace be upon you! I shall ask my Lord"s forgiveness for you. Surely He was ever gracious to me.’ (Koran xix.43-7)
Imagine how terrible it must have been for him to leave his home, his family and all that he knew, and set out across the wilderness into the unknown. But at the same time, how could he have remained among people who did not believe in Allah and who worshipped statues? Abraham always had a sense that Allah cared for him and he felt Allah near him as he traveled.
At last, after a long hard journey, he arrived at a place by the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Egypt. There he married a noble woman by the name of Sarah and settled in the land of Palestine.
Many years passed but Abraham and his wife were not blessed with any children. In the hope that there would be a child, and in keeping with tradition, Sarah suggested that Abraham should marry Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid. Soon after this took place, Hagar had a little boy named Ishmael.
Some time later Allah promised Abraham another son, but this time the mother of the child would be his first wife, Sarah. This second son would be called lsaac. Allah also told Abraham that from his two sons –lsma"il and lsaac-two nations and three religions would be founded and because of this he must take Hagar and lsma"il away from Palestine to a new land. These events were an important part of Allah"s plan, for the descendants of lsma"il would form a nation from which would come a great Prophet, who would guide the people in the way of Allah. This was to be Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah,( p.b.u.h.) From the descendants of Sarah"s child, lsaac, would come Moses and Jesus.
So it was that Abraham, Hagar, and lsma"il left Palestine. They traveled for many days until finally they reached the arid valley of Bacca (later to be called Mecca), which was on one of the great caravan routes. There was no water in the valley and although Hagar and lsma"il only had a small supply of water left, Abraham left them there knowing Allah would take care of them.
Soon all the water was gone. The child began to grow weak from thirst. There were two hills nearby, one called Safa and the other Marwah. Hagar went up one hill and looked into the distance to see if she could find any water, but found none. So she went to the other hill and did the same. She did this seven times. Then sadly she returned to her son, and to her great surprise and joy she found a spring of water bubbling out of the earth near him. This spring, near which the mother and child settled, was later called Zamzam. The area around it became a place of rest for the caravans traveling across the desert and in time grew into the famous trading city of Mecca.
From time to time Abraham traveled from Palestine to visit his family and he saw Ishmael grow into a strong young man. It was during one of these visits that Allah commanded them to rebuild the Ka"bah-the very first place where people had worshipped Allah.
They were told exactly where and how to build it. It was to be erected by the well of Zamzam and built in the shape of a cube. In its eastern corner was to be placed a black stone that had fallen to earth from heaven. An angel brought the stone to them from the nearby hill of Abu Qubays.
Abraham and Ishmael worked hard to rebuild the Ka"bah and as they did so they prayed to Allah to send a Prophet from among their descendants.
And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): "Our Lord! Receive this from us; Thou, only Thou, art the All-hearing, the All-knowing; Our Lord! And make us submissive unto Thee and of our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and turn toward us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful. Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise.
(Koran ii. 127-9)
When the Ka"bah was completed, Allah commanded Abraham to call mankind to pilgrimage to His Holy House. Abraham wondered how anyone could hear his call. Allah said, "You call and I will bring them." This was how the pilgrimage to the Ka "bah inMecca was established and when Muslims make the pilgrimage today they continue to answer the age-old call of Abraham.
OVER the years Ishmael"s children themselves had children. His descendants increased and formed tribes which spread out all over Arabia. One of these tribes was called Quraysh. Its people never moved away from Mecca and always lived near the Ka"bah.
One of the duties of the leader of Quraysh was to look after those who came on pilgrimage to the Ka"bah. The pilgrims would come from all over Arabia and it was a great honor to provide them with food and water.
As time passed, however, the Arabs stopped worshipping Allah directly and started bringing idols back with them from the different countries they visited. These idols were placed at the Ka "bah, which was no longer regarded as the Sanctuary of Allah, as Abraham had intended it. It was, however, still respected by the Arabs. Around this time the well of Zamzam disappeared beneath the sand.
Also at this time, Qusayy, one of the leaders of Quraysh, became ruler overMecca. He held the keys of the temple and had the right to give water to the pilgrims, to feed them, to take charge of meetings, and to hand out war banners before battle. It was also in his house that Quraysh settled their affairs.
After Qusayy"s death, his son ‘Abdu Manaf, who had become famous during his father"s lifetime, took over the leadership of Quraysh. After him came his son Hashim. It is said that Hashim was the first to begin the two great caravan journeys of Quraysh, one in the summer to Syria and the north, and one in the winter toYemen and the south. As a result,Mecca grew rich and became a large and important centre of trade.
One summer Hashim went north to buy goods to sell in Yemen. On his way he stopped in Yathrib to trade in the market and there he saw a beautiful woman. She was Salma, the daughter of "Amr ibn Zeid, who was from a much respected family. Hashim proposed marriage to her and was accepted because he was an honorable and distinguished man. In time, Salma gave birth to a beautiful son and as some of his hair was white they called him Shaybah, which in Arabic means "grey-haired". Mother and son stayed in the cooler, healthier climate of Yathrib, while Hashim returned to Mecca, but he would visit them each time he took his caravan to the north. During one of these journeys, however, Hashim became ill and died.
Shaybah, a handsome, intelligent boy, grew up in his uncle"s house in Yathrib. He was proud of being the son of Hashim ibn "Abdi Manaf, the head of Quraysh, guardian of the Ka"bah and protector of the pilgrims, even though he had not known his father, who had died while Shaybah was very young.
At Hashim"s death his brother al-Muttalib took over his duties and responsibilities. He traveled to Yathrib to see his nephew, Shaybah, and decided that as the boy would one day inherit his father"s place, the time had come for him to live inMecca.
It was hard for Salma, Shaybah"s mother, to let her son go with his uncle but she finally realized that it was for the best. Al-Muttalib returned to Mecca, entering the city atnoon on his camel with Shaybah behind him. When the people of Mecca saw the boy they thought he was a slave and, pointing at him, called out" "Abd al-Muttalib", "Abd" being the Arabic for "slave". Al-Muttalib told them that Shaybah was not a slave but his nephew who had come to live with them. From that day on, however, Shaybah was always affectionately called "Abd al-Muttalib.
On the death of al-Muttalib, who died inYemen where he had gone to trade, "Abd al-Muttalib took his place. He became the most respected member of his family, loved and admired by all. He was, however, unlike those Arabs who had given up the teachings of Abraham.
The well of Zamzam, which disappeared when the Arabs placed idols at the Ka"bah, remained buried under the sand. Thus, for many years the people of Quraysh had to fetch their water from far away. One day "Abd al-Muttalib was very tired from doing this and fell asleep next to the Ka "bah. He had a dream in which he was told to dig up Zamzam. When he woke up he was puzzled because he did not know what Zamzam was, the well having disappeared many years before he was born. The next day he had the same dream, but this time he was told where to find the well.
"Abd al-Muttalib had one son at that time, and together they began to dig. The work was so difficult that "Abd al-Muttalib made an oath to Allah that if one day he were to have ten sons to help him and stand by him; in return he would sacrifice one of them in Allah’s honor. After working for three days they finally found the well of Zamzam. Pilgrims have been drinking from it ever since.
The years passed by and "Abd al-Muttalib did have ten sons. They grew into fine, strong men and the time came for him to keep his promise to Allah. He told his sons about the promise and they agreed that he had to sacrifice one of them. To see which one it would be, they decided to draw lots, which was the custom of Quraysh when deciding important matters. "Abd al-Muttalib told each son to get an arrow and write his own name upon it and then to bring it to him. This they did, after which he took them to the Ka "bah where there was a man whose special task it was to cast arrows and pick one from among them. This man solemnly proceeded to do this. On the arrow he chose was written the name of "Abd Allah, the youngest and favorite son of "Abd al-Muttalib. Even so, the father took his son near the Ka"bah and prepared to sacrifice him.
Many of the Quraysh leaders were present and they became very angry because "Abd Allah was very young and much loved by everyone. They tried to think of a way to save his life. Someone suggested that the advice of a wise old woman who lived in Yathrib should be sought, and so "Abd al-Muttalib took his son and went to see if she could decide what to do. Some of the Meccans went with them and when they got there the woman asked, "What is the price of a man"s life?"
They told her, "Ten camels", for at that time if one man killed another, his family would have to give ten camels to the dead man"s family in order to keep the peace among them. So the woman told them to go back to the Ka"bah and draw lots between "Abd Allah and ten camels. If the camels were chosen, they were to be killed and the meat given to the poor. If "Abd Allah was picked, then ten more camels were to be added and the lots drawn again and again until they finally fell on the camels.
"Abd al-Muttalib returned to the Ka"bah with his son and the people of Mecca. There they started to draw lots between "Abd Allah and the camels, starting with ten camels. "Abd al-Muttalib prayed to Allah to spare his son and everyone waited in silence for the result. The choice fell on "Abd Allah, so his father added ten more camels. Again the choice fell on "Abd Allah, so they did the same thing again and again, adding ten camels each time. Finally they reached one hundred camels, and only then did the lot fall on the camels.
"Abd Allah was saved and everyone was very happy. "Abd al-Muttalib, however, wanted to make sure that this was the true result so he repeated the draw three times and each time it fell on the camels. He then gave thanks to Allah that He had spared "Abd Allah"s life. The camels were sacrificed and there was enough food for the entire city, even the animals and birds.
"Abd Allah grew up to be a handsome young man and his father eventually chose Aminah, the daughter of Wahb, as a wife for him. It was a good match, for she was the finest of Quraysh women and "Abd Allah the best of the men. He spent several months with his wife but then he had to leave her and travel with one of the caravans to trade with Syria. On his way back to Mecca from Syria "Abd Allah became ill and had to stop off in Yathrib to recover. The caravan, however, continued on its way and arrived back inMecca without him. On hearing of "Abd Allah’s illness, "Abd al-Muttalib sent another son, al-Harith, to bring "Abd Allah back toMecca, but he was too late. When he arrived in Yathrib "Abd Allah was dead.
Aminah was heart-broken to lose her husband and the father of the child she would soon give birth to. Only Allah knew that this orphan child would one day be a great Prophet.
ABRAHAH, who came from Abyssinia - a country inAfrica - conquered Yemen and was made vice-regent there. Later, he noticed that at a certain time of the year large numbers of people would travel from all over Yemen and the rest of Arabia to Mecca. He asked the reason for this and was told that they were going on pilgrimage to the Ka" bah.
Abrahah hated the idea ofMecca being more important than his own country, so he decided to build a church of colored marble, with doors of gold and ornaments of silver, and ordered the people to visit it instead of the Ka"bah. But no one obeyed him.
Abrahah became angry and decided to destroy the Ka"bah. He prepared a large army led by an elephant and set off towards Mecca. When the Meccans heard that he was coming they became very frightened. Abrahah"s army was huge and they could not fight it. But how could they let him destroy the Holy Ka"bah? They went to ask the advice of their leader, "Abd al-Muttalib.
When Abrahah arrived outside Mecca, "Abd al-Muttalib went to meet him. Abrahah said, "What do you want?"
Abrahah had taken "Abd al-Muttalib"s camels, which he had found grazing as he enteredMecca, so "Abd al-Muttalib replied, "I want my camels back." Abrahah was very surprised and said, "I have come to destroy your Holy Ka"bah, the holy place of your fathers, and you ask me about some camels?"
"Abd al-Muttalib replied calmly, "The camels belong to me; the Ka"bah belongs to Allah and He will protect it. ‘Then he left Abrahah and went back to Quraysh and ordered them to leaveMecca and wait for their enemies in the mountains.
In the morning Abrahah prepared to enter the town. He put armor on his elephant and drew up his troops for battle. He intended to destroy the Ka"bah and then return toYemen. At that moment, however, the elephant knelt down and refused to get up, mo matter how much the soldiers tried to get it to move by beating it. But when they turned its face in the direction of Yemen it immediately got up and started off. In fact, it did the same in any other direction, but as soon as they pointed it towards Mecca it knelt down again.
Suddenly, flocks of birds appeared from over the sea. Each bird carried three stones as small as peas and they dropped them on Abrahah’s army. The soldiers suddenly fell ill. Even Abrahah was hit by the stones and fled in fear with the rest of his army back to Yemen, where he later died. On seeing their enemy flee, the Arabs came down from the mountains to the Ka"bah and gave thanks to Allah.
After this, Quraysh gained great respect and became known as "the people of Allah’, and the year in which these events took place, 570 A.D., was named the ‘Year of the Elephant". In that year Allah had saved the Ka’bah and He would soon bring forth a Prophet from among Quraysh.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant?
Did He not bring their stratagem to naught, And. send against them swarms of flying creatures, Which pelted them with stones of baked clay, And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle)? (Koran CV. 1-5)
ONE day, while traveling north, one of the Arab tribes from Mecca met a hermit in the desert. Some of the men stopped to speak with him. Hermits were known to be wise and the Arabs often asked their advice.
The hermit asked where they had come from. When they replied that they were fromMecca, he told them that Allah would soon send a prophet, who would come from their people. They asked the name of this prophet and the hermit answered that his name would be Muhammad and that he would guide them to a new way of life.
Meanwhile inMecca, Aminah, although saddened by the loss of her husband, felt especially well and strong as she awaited the birth of her baby. During this time she dreamt of many things. On one occasion it was as if a great light were shining out of her, and on another she heard a voice telling her that she would have a boy and that his name would be Muhammad. She never forgot that voice but she told no one about it.
On Monday, the twelfth day of Rabi al-Awwal in the Year of the Elephant, Aminah gave birth to a son. Allah sends man many signs when one of His chosen Prophets is born. And on that twelfth day of Rabi al-Awwal in the year 570 A.D., many such signs were seen. Some were seen by Jewish scholars who had read in their scriptures of a coming Prophet. One of these learned men in Yathrib, for instance, saw a brilliant new star he had never seen before as he studied the heavens that night. He called the people around him and, pointing the star out to them, told them a Prophet must have been born.
That same night another Jew was passing by the meeting place of the leaders of Quraysh inMecca. He asked them if a baby boy had just been born and told them that if it were true, this would be the Prophet of the Arab nation.
Aminah sent news of the birth to her father-in-law, "Abd al-Muttalib, who was sitting near the Ka"bah at the time. He was very happy and began at once to think of a name for the boy. An ordinary name would not do. Six days came and went and still he had not decided. But on the seventh day, as he lay asleep near the Ka"bah, "Abd al-Muttalib dreamt that he should give the baby the unusual name of Muhammad, just as Aminah herself had dreamt. And so the child was called Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), which means "the Praised One".
When "Abd al-Muttalib told the leaders of Quraysh what he had named his grandson, many of them asked, "Why did you not choose the sort of name that is used by our people?"
At once he replied, "I want him to be praised by Allah in the heavens and praised by men on earth."
LIKE many other women inMecca, Aminah decided to send her son away from the city for his early years to the desert where it was healthier. Women from the desert used to come to Mecca to collect the new babies and they would then keep them until they developed into strong children, for which they were well paid by the parents.
Among the women who traveled to Mecca to fetch a new baby at the time Aminah"s son was born, was a Bedouin woman called HaIimah. With her was her husband and baby son. They had always been very poor, but this year things were harder than ever because there had been famine. The donkey that carried Halimah on the journey was so weak from hunger that he often stumbled. Halimah"s own baby son cried all the time because his mother could not feed him properly. Even their she-camel did not give them one drop of milk. Halimah did not know what to do. She thought to herself, "How can I possibly feed another baby when I haven"t got enough milk even for my own son?"
At last they reachedMecca. All the other women of the tribe to which Halimah belonged, the Bani Sa"d, found a child to take back with them, but not Halimah. The only baby left was Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). Usually the father paid the wet-nurse, but Muhammad"s father was dead. So no one wanted to take him, even though he was from one of the noblest families of Quraysh. Halimah did not want to take him either, but she did not want to be the only woman to go back to her tribe without a baby to bring up. She asked her husband whether she should take Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) or not. He advised her to do so, adding, "Perhaps Allah will bless us because of him."
They started on the return journey and as soon as Halimah began to feed Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) her milk suddenly increased and she had enough for him as well as her baby son. When they were back home, everything began to change. The land became green, and the date trees, one of their main sources of food, gave lots of fruit. Even the sheep and their old she-camel began to give plenty of milk. Halimah and her husband knew that this good fortune had come because they had the new baby, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), whom they had come to love as if he were their own son.
When Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was two years old, Halimah took him back to his mother. She pleaded with Aminah, however, to let her keep him for a little longer and to her great joy the mother agreed.
During his time with Halimah’s family in the desert, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) played with her children and together they would take the sheep out to graze. At other times, however, Halimah would often find him sitting alone.
It is said that on one occasion, two angels came to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and washed his heart with snow. In this way Allah made his heart pure for He intended Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) to be greater than any man ever born and to become the Seal of the Prophets.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Did We not expand thy breast for thee And eased thee of thy burden which weighed down thy back; and exalted thy fame? So truly with hardship comes ease, truly with hardship comes ease. So when thou art relieved, still toil and strive to please thy Lord. (Koran xciv. 1-8)
When Halimah finally took Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) back to Aminah, he was a healthy, strong boy. Later he would look back with joy on the time he had spent with Halimah, and he always thought of himself as one of the Bani Sa"d.
MUHAMMAD (p.b.u.h.) returned to live with his mother inMecca when he was about three years old. Three years later Aminah decided to take her son to visit his uncles in Yathrib. She told her maid, Barakah, to prepare everything they would need for the long journey, and then they joined one of the caravans going there.
They stayed in Yathrib a month and Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) enjoyed the visit with his cousins. The climate there was very pleasant and he learned to swim and to fly a kite. On their way back toMecca, however, Aminah became ill and died. She was buried in the village at al-Abwa not far from Yathrib. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) returned sadly to Mecca with his mother"s maid. He was now six years old and had lost both his father and mother. He was then adopted by his grandfather, "Abd al-Muttalib, who loved him dearly and kept him by his side at all times.
It was the custom of "Abd al-Muttalib to sit on a blanket near the Ka"bah. There he was always surrounded by people who had come to speak to him. No one was allowed to sit on the blanket with him, however, except his grandson Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), which shows how close they were to each other. Many times "Abd al-Muttalib was heard to say: "This boy will be very important one day."
Two years later "Abd al-Muttalib became ill and Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) stayed by him constantly. "Abd al-Muttalib told his son, Abu Talib, to adopt Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) after his death, which he did. Abu Talib had many children of his own, but Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) immediately became part of his family and the favorite child.
The time came for Quraysh to prepare a caravan to go to Syria. Abu Talib was going with them and he took Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) along. It was Muhammad"s first journey to the north. After days of travel, the caravan arrived at a place nearSyria where the Romans used to come to trade with the Arabs. Near this marketplace lived a monk called Bahira. His cell had been used by generations of monks before him and contained ancient manuscripts.
Bahira saw the caravan in the distance and was amazed to see that over it was a large white cloud. It was the only cloud in a clear blue sky and it appeared to be shading one of the travelers. The monk was even more surprised to see that the cloud seemed to follow the caravan but disappeared when the person it was shading sat down under a tree. Bahira knew from the scriptures that a prophet was expected to come after Jesus and it had been his wish to see this prophet before he died. Realizing that what he had just seen was a miracle, he began to think that his wish might, after all, come true.
The monk sent an invitation to the Meccans to come and eat with him. The Arabs were surprised because they often passed by and Bahira had never invited them before. When the group was all together for the meal, the monk said, "Is this everyone?"
"No", someone said, "a boy was left watching the camels."
Bahira insisted that the boy should join them. The boy was Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). When he arrived Bahira said nothing, but watched him all through the meal. He noticed many things about his appearance which fitted the description in the old manuscripts. Later on he took him aside and asked Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) many questions. He soon found out how he felt about the idols in the Ka"bah. When Bahira tried to make him swear by them, as the Arabs used to do, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said, "There is nothing in this world that I hate more". They talked together about Allah, and about Muhammad"s life and family. What was said made Bahira certain that this was indeed the Prophet who would follow Jesus.
Then the monk went to Abu Talib and asked him how he was related to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). Abu Talib told him that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was his son. Bahira replied that this could not be so because the boy was destined to grow up an orphan, and he ordered Abu Talib to watch over Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) with great care.
There are many stories told about Muhammad"s youth. Some tell of how he used to take the family"s sheep to graze and was always kind to them. While they grazed he would sit thinking about the mysteries of nature. Unlike those around him, he never worshipped the idols and never swore by them. He also wondered why people were always struggling for power and money, and this saddened him and made him feel lonely, but he kept his feelings to himself. He was a quiet, thoughtful boy, and rarely played with other boys of his age.
On one occasion, however, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) went with some of the boys to a wedding in Mecca. When he reached the house he heard the sounds of music and dancing but just as he was about to enter he suddenly felt tired and, sitting down, fell asleep. He didn"t wake up until late the next morning and thus missed the celebrations. In this way Allah prevented him from doing anything foolish for He was keeping Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) for something much more important.
By the time Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was twenty-five he was famous for his honesty. He was respected by everyone, even the elders of Mecca. The purity of his nature increased with the years. It seemed he had an inner knowledge that other people did not have. He believed in one God-Creator of the world and he worshipped Him with all his heart and with all his soul. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was the finest of his people, the most kind, truthful and reliable person in Mecca. He was known among Quraysh as "the trustworthy" (al-Amin) because of the good qualities Allah had given him. He spent many quiet hours in a cave in Mount Hira, not far from Mecca, thinking about Allah.
Among Quraysh was a respected and wealthy woman named Khadijah. She was involved in trade and on hearing of Muhammad"s reputation, sent for him and asked him to take her goods and trade with them in Syria. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) agreed and left for Syria with one of Khadijah"s caravans. With him went her slave, Maysarah, and they spent a great deal of time talking together. Maysarah soon came to admire Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). He thought he was quite different from all the other men of Quraysh.
Two unusual events took place during this journey which puzzled Maysarah very much. The first happened when they stopped to rest near the lonely home of a monk. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) sat under a tree while Maysarah was busy with some work. The monk came up to Maysarah and asked, "Who is the man resting under the tree?"
"One of Quraysh, the people who guard the Ka’bah", said Maysarah.
"No one but a Prophet is sitting beneath this tree", replied the monk.
The second event occurred on the journey back toMecca. It happened atnoon, when the sun is at its hottest. Maysarah was riding behind Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and as the sun grew hotter he saw two angels appear above Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and shield him from the sun"s harmful rays.
The trading was very successful and Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) made more profit for Khadijah than she had ever received before. When they arrived back in Mecca Maysarah told Khadijah everything about the trip and what he had noticed about Muhammad"s character and behavior.
Khadijah was a widow in her forties and as well as being rich and highly respected she was also very beautiful. Many men wanted to marry her but none of them suited her. When she met Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), however, she thought he was very special. She sent a friend to ask Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) why he was not married. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said that it was because he had no money, to which the friend replied: "Supposing a rich, beautiful and noble lady agreed to marry you?" Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) wanted to know who that could be. The friend told him it was Khadijah. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was very happy, because he greatly respected Khadijah. He went with his uncles, Abu Talib and Hamzah, to Khadijah’s uncle, and asked his permission to marry her. The uncle gave his permission and soon after, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and Khadijah were married.
Their marriage was a joyful one and Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and Khadijah were well suited. Their life together, however, was not without some sadness. They were blessed with six children, two sons and four daughters. Sadly their first born, a son called Qasim, died shortly before his second birthday, and their last child, also a son, only lived for a short time. Happily, their four daughters - Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthiim, and Fatimah - all survived.
For a few years Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) lived a calm and quiet life as a merchant in Mecca. His wisdom benefited many people. One such time was when Quraysh decided to rebuild the Ka’bah. It was a difficult decision for them because they had to knock it down before rebuilding it and the people were afraid that Allah might be angry with them for knocking down His sanctuary. At last one of the wise old men of Quraysh decided to begin, then everybody followed him.
They worked until they reached down to the first foundation that Abraham had built. As soon as they began to remove the stones of this foundation, however, the whole ofMecca began to shake. They were so afraid that they decided to leave these stones where they were and build on top of them. Each tribe brought stones and they built the Ka"bah up until they reached the place where the black stone was to be set. They then began to argue about who should have the honor of carrying the black stone and lifting it to its place in one of the corners of the Ka’bah. They almost came to blows but fortunately one of the men offered a solution. He suggested that they should be guided by the first person to enter the place of worship. They all agreed and as Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was the first to enter everyone was pleased, because they all trusted him.
They told him the cause of the argument and he asked them to bring a large cloak. They did as he asked, and after spreading the cloak on the ground. he placed the black stone in the centre of it. Then he asked a man from each tribe to hold one edge of the cloak and together to raise it to the height where the stone should be set. When this was done, he took the stone off the cloak and put it into place himself.
This story shows how all Quraysh respected and trusted Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and how, by his wisdom and good sense, he was able to keep the peace.
MUHAMMAD (p.b.u.h.) believed that there was only one Allah, Creator of the sun, the moon, the earth, the sky, and of all living things, and that all people should worship only Him. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) would often leave the crowded city and go to the cave inMount Hira). He liked to be alone there, away from all thoughts of the world and daily life, eating and drinking little.
In his fortieth year, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) left Mecca to spend Ramadan, the traditional month of retreat, in the cave. In the second half of Ramadan, Allah began to reveal His message for mankind through Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). This first Revelation occurred as follows. The Archangel Gabriel came to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) in the cave and commanded him to "Read".
Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) replied "I cannot read."
At this the Archangel took Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) in his arms and pressed him to him until it was almost too much to bear. He then released him and said again "Read."
I cannot", replied Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), at which the Archangel embraced him again. For the third time the Archangel commanded Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) to read, but still he said he could not and was again embraced. On releasing him this time, however, the Archangel Gabriel said:
Read: In the Name of thy Lord who createth, Createth man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the Most Generous Who teacheth by the pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not. (Koran XCVi.I-5)
Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) repeated these verses, just as the Archangel had said them. When the Archangel was sure Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) knew them by heart, he went away.
Now that he was alone Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) could not understand what had happened to him. He was terribly afraid and rushed out of the cave. Perhaps the cave was haunted? Perhaps the devil had taken a hold of his mind?
But he was stopped by a voice from heaven which said: "0 Muhammad, you are the Messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel. "He looked up at the sky and wherever he turned he saw the Archangel Gabriel.
In a state of confusion he returned home to Khadijah. When his wife saw him she became very worried as he began to shiver, as though in a fever. He asked her to wrap him in blankets, which she did. After awhile he recovered sufficiently to tell her what had happened at Hira. Khadijah believed all that he told her and with great respect said: "Be happy, 0 son of my uncle and be confident. Truly I swear by Allah who has my soul in His hands, that you will be our people"s Prophet." Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), the Messenger of Allah, was eased by her faith in him, but after all that had happened he was exhausted and fell fast asleep.
Khadijah left the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) sleeping and went to see her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, to ask him what he thought about all that had happened. Waraqah was a very wise man who had read many books and had become a Christian after studying the Bible. He told Khadijah that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) had been chosen by Allah to be His Messenger. Just as the Archangel Gabriel had come to Moses before and had ordered him to guide his people, so, too, would Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) be the Prophet of his people. But Waraqah warned that all the people would not listen to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and some would mistreat his followers. He must, however, be patient because he had a great message for the entire world.
From that day on, the Archangel Gabriel came often to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the verses he taught him, the message from Allah to man, were later written down, and are known to us as the Holy Koran.
AFTER that momentous day in the month of Ramadan, Revelation came again and again to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). He understood now what he had to do and prepared himself for what was to come. Only a strong and brave man, helped by Allah, can be a true prophet because people often refuse to listen to Allah"s message.
Khadijah was the first to believe the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and accept as true what he brought from Allah. Through her, Allah made things easier for the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Khadijah strengthened him, helped him spread his message, and stood up to the people who were against him.
Then Revelation ceased for a time. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was upset and unhappy, thinking that Allah had left him, or that he might have angered Allah in some way so that Allah no longer thought him worthy of His message. However, the Archangel Gabriel came back to him and brought this surah, or chapter, of the Koran:
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful By the morning hours And by the night when it is stillest, Thy Lord hath neither forsaken thee nor doth He hate thee, And verily the Last will be better for thee than the First. And verily thy Lord will give unto thee so that thou wilt be content. Did He not find thee an orphan and protect thee? Did He not find thee wandering and guide thee? Did He not find thee destitute and enrich thee? Therefore the orphan oppress not, Therefore the beggar drive not away, And as for thy Lord"s blessing, declare it. (Koran xciii.I-II)
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) began to speak secretly of Allah"s message to those who were close to him and whom he could trust. At that timeMecca was going through hard times. There was very little food to be had. Abu Talib, the Prophet"s uncle, who had taken care of him after his grandfather"s death, was finding it very difficult to feed his large family. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said that he and another uncle, al-"Abbas, who was a rich man, would each bring up one of Abu Talib"s children in order to help him. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) took "Ali and his uncle took Ja"far.
One day, when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was outside the city, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him. The Archangel kicked the side of a hill and a spring of water began to flow out. He then began to wash himself in the running water to show the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) the ritual ablution to be made before prayer. Then the Archangel showed him all the positions, of Muslim prayer - the various movements and things to be said with each movement. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) returned home and taught all these things first to Khadijah and then to his followers. Since then Muslims have continued to purify themselves before prayer by performing the ritual ablution and have followed the same movements and prayers first performed by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
To begin with, though, only the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his wife knew of these things. Then one day "Ali entered the room and found the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and Khadijah praying. He was puzzled and asked what they were doing. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) explained to him that they were praising Allah and giving thanks to Him. That night "Ali stayed up thinking about all that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) had said; he had great admiration and respect for his cousin. Finally he came to a decision and the next day he went to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and told him that he wanted to follow him. Thus Khadijah was the first woman to embrace Islam, the teachings which the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) brought from Allah, and "Ali was the first young man. Shortly after they were joined by Zayd ibn Harithah, a slave freed and adopted by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) began to leave Mecca with ‘Ali in order to pray. One day Abu Talib happened to pass by and when he saw them he stopped and asked them what they were doing. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) told him that they were praying and following the same religion as Abraham. He explained that, like Abraham, he had been ordered to guide the people to Allah"s truth. Abu Talib looked at his son, ‘Ali, and said: "Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) would never make you do anything that was wrong. Go with him. But I cannot leave the religion I now follow and which was followed by my father." Then he turned to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), saying, "Even so, I promise you, Muhammad, that no one will hurt you as long as I am alive." And with that Abu Talib went on his way.
At about this time the news of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) being the Prophet reached an honest, wise, and respected merchant of Mecca called Abu Bakr. He knew Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) well and believed he could never lie, so he went to find out for himself if the story were true. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) told him that he had indeed been sent by Allah to teach everyone to worship the one true Allah. On hearing this from the Prophet"s own lips Abu Bakr knew it to be the truth and became a believer instantly. Later the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was reported to have said that everyone he ever invited to accept Islam showed signs of disbelief and doubt, except Abu Bakr; when he was told of it he did not hold back or hesitate.
Because of his wisdom, honesty, and kindness people had always turned to Abu Bakr for advice. He was, therefore, a man of some influence and through him many people came to Islam. Among these was Sa"d ibn Abi Waqqas, the uncle of Aminah, the Prophet"s mother. The night before Abu Bakr came to visit him and tell him about Islam, Sa"d ibn Abi Waqqas dreamt that he was walking in darkness. As he walked he saw the moon and when he looked at it he saw ‘Ali, Abu Bakr, and Zayd, the Prophet"s freed slave, beckoning to him to come and join them. When Abu Bakr told him about the Prophet"s religion, he understood the meaning of his dream and went at once to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and declared himself a Muslim. He understood that to be a Muslim means to submit oneself to Allah"s Will and to serve only Him.
Another person brought to Islam by Abu Bakr was Bilal. One night Abu Bakr went to the house of Umayyah ibn Khalaf, one of the most important men of Quraysh. Umayyah was out and Abu Bakr found only Umayyah"s slave, Bilal, at home. Abu Bakr talked to the slave about Islam and before he left, Bilal, too, had become a Muslim.
The number of people following the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) began to grow. Sometimes they would all go out of the city to the mountains around Mecca to hear him recite the Koran and to be taught by him. This was all done very secretly and only a very few people knew about Islam in those early days.
THREE years passed and one day the Archangel Gabriel came to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and ordered him to start preaching openly to everyone. So the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) told the people ofMecca that he had something very important to tell them. He stood on a hillside in Mecca, called Safa, and they gathered around to hear what he had to say.
He started by asking them if they would believe him were he to say that an army was about to attack them. They answered that indeed they would, because he never lied. He then told them that he was the Messenger of Allah, sent to show them the right way, and to warn them of terrible punishments if they did not follow him in worshipping only Allah and none other. Abu Lahab, one of the Prophet"s uncles who was among the listeners, suddenly stood up and said, "May you perish! Did you call us here just to tell us this?" At this, Allah sent to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) the following surah:
In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful the Power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not save him. He shall roast at a flaming fire, And his wife, the carrier of firewood Will have upon her neck a rope of palm-fiber.
(Koran cxi. I-5)
Then the crowd dispersed and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was left alone. A few days later the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) tried again. A feast was prepared in his house for all of his uncles. After the meal he spoke to them and said, "0 sons of "Abd al-Muttalib! I know of no Arab who has come to his people with a better message than mine. I have brought you the best news for this life and the next. Allah has ordered me (p.b.u.h.) to call you to Him. So which of you will help me?"
All the men kept silent. Then ‘Ali, his cousin, jumped up and said: "0 Prophet of Allah! I will help you." Then the men all got up and left, laughing as they went because only one young boy had agreed to help the Prophet (p.b.u.h.)
His message ignored by most of the people and his uncles, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) continued to meet his friends secretly in a house near the hill of Safa. There they prayed together and he taught them about the religion of Islam.
But even though they kept to themselves, they were sometimes abused by those who would not believe. From one such incident, however, an unexpected conversion to Islam took place. One day, when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was returning home, speaking with his followers, he met Abu Jahl, a leader of Quraysh, who hated the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his teachings. Abu Jahl started to insult him and to speak spitefully of lslam, but the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) made no reply and went on his way.
Later, Hamzah, one of the Prophet"s uncles, who was a strong and brave warrior of whom people were quite afraid, heard how his nephew had been insulted. Filled with rage, he ran straight to the Ka’bah where Abu Jahl was sitting among the people and struck him a violent blow in the face with his bow. Hamzah then shouted, "Will you insult him when I follow his religion, and I say what he says? Hit me back if you can!" Some people got up to help Abu Jahl but he stopped them saying, "Leave Hamzah alone, for by Allah, I have insulted his nephew badly."
From that moment on Hamzah followed the teachings of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and with his conversion to Islam Quraysh realized that the Prophet. had a strong supporter and so for a while they stopped persecuting him.
Soon, however, the leaders of Quraysh became angry again, when they saw that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was going ahead with his teaching. A group of them went to his uncle, Abu Talib, who had promised to protect him. They told him to ask the Prophet. to stop attacking their gods and their way of life, and in return they would let him do as he wished with his religion.
After a time they saw that there was no change, so they went back to Abu Talib and this time they told him that if he did not stop his nephew, they would fight them both. Abu Talib was very upset by this quarrel among his people, but he could not break his word to his nephew. He sent for the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and told him what had happened, saying, "Spare me and spare yourself; do not put a greater burden on me than I can bear."
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) thought that his uncle might abandon him and that he would no longer have his support, but nevertheless he answered, "0 my uncle, by Allah, if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in return for my giving up this cause, I would not give it up until Allah makes Truth victorious, or I die in His service."
Abu Talib was deeply moved by this answer. He told the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) that he would support him for as long as he lived and encouraged him to go on spreading Allah"s message. From that time on, however hard the leaders of Quraysh tried to convince Abu Talib to stop protecting his nephew, he always refused to listen to them.
In order to get rid of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his followers, his enemies started persecuting those Muslims who were poor or weak, or had no powerful friends. One such person was Bilal, the slave of Umayyah ibn Khalaf. His master would take him out into the desert, tie him up, and leave him in the sun with a large stone on his chest. Fortunately Abu Bakr was passing by one day and saw Umayyah torturing Bilal, so he bought him from his master for a large sum of money and then set him free.
But not all persecuted Muslims were as fortunate as Bilal. Many suffered, but all of them endured it patiently, knowing that they were doing the right thing and that their reward in the life to come would be greater than any happiness they could find on earth.
As the number of the Prophet"s followers increased so the enemies of the Muslims grew more and more angry. At last some of the Muslims decided to go to another country in order to live in peace. It was only five years since the Archangel Gabriel had first come to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and two years since the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) had spoken out in public. The Muslims asked the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to allow them to leaveMecca. He agreed, saying "It would be better for you to go to Abyssinia. The king there is a just man and it is a friendly country. Stay there until Allah makes it possible for you to return."
The Muslims prepared for the journey. They decided to wait until night so that they could leave without being seen. The first sixteen left Mecca and, after reaching the shore of theRed Sea, crossed over to Abyssinia. Another eighty-three men and nineteen women followed, all hoping to be welcomed by the king and people of that country. This was the first hijrah, or migration, in Islam.
The Meccans were furious when they discovered that these Muslims had secretly left the city for among them were the sons and daughters of many of the leading families ofMecca. The anger of the Meccans was even greater when they found out that the Muslims had been warmly welcomed in Abyssinia.
The leaders of Quraysh decided to send two men to the Abyssinian king in hopes of persuading him to send the Muslims back. These were "Amr ibn al-"As, a very clever speaker, and "Abd Allah ibn abi Rabi"ah. Before they met this king, they gave each of his advisers a gift, saying: "Some foolish men from our people have come to hide in your country. Our leaders have sent us to your ruler to persuade him to send them back, so when we speak to the king about them, do advise him to give them up to us." The advisers agreed to do what the Meccans wished.
"Amr ibn al-"As and "Abd Allah ibn abi Rabi’ah then went to the king and presented him also with a gift, saying: "Your Highness, these people have abandoned the religion we have always followed inMecca, but they have not even become Christians like you."
The royal advisers, who were also present, told the king that the Meccans had spoken the truth and that he should send the Muslims back to their own people. At this, the king became angry and said, "No, by God, I will not give them up. Those who have come to ask for my protection, settled in my country, and chosen me rather than others, shall not be betrayed. I will summon them and ask them about what these two men have said. If the Muslims are as the Meccans say, I will give them up and send them back to their own people, but if the Meccans have lied I will protect the Muslims.
"Amr was very upset by this for the last thing he wanted was for the king to hear what the Muslims had to say. The king then sent for the Muslims. When they entered, they did not kneel before him as was the custom of the Abyssinians.
"Why do you not kneel before our king?" they were asked by one of the advisors.
"We kneel only to Allah", they replied. So the king asked them to tell him about their religion.
Ja’far ibn abi Talib, ‘Ali"s brother and a cousin of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), was chosen to speak for the Muslims. He replied, "0 King, at first we were among the ignorant. We and our ancestors had turned from the faith of Abraham, who, with Ishmael, rebuilt the Ka’bah and worshipped only Allah. We used idols in our worship of Allah; we ate meat that had not been killed in the right way; we did not respect the rights of our neighbors; the strong took advantage of the weak. We did terrible things of which I dare not speak. This was our life until Allah sent a Messenger from among us, one of our relatives, whom we have always known to be honest, innocent, and faithful. He asked us to worship only Allah, and to give up the bad customs of our forefathers. He asked us to be truthful and trustworthy, to respect and help our neighbors, to honor our families, and to put a stop to our bad deeds and endless fighting. He asked us to look after orphans. He ordered us not to slander or speak evil of women or men. He ordered us to worship Allah alone and not to worship anyone or anything else alongside Him. He ordered us to pray, to give alms, and to fast. We believe he is right and therefore we follow him and do as he has commanded us. The Meccans began to attack us and come between us and our religion. So we had to leave our homes and we have come to you, hoping to find justice."
The king, who was a Christian, was moved by these words. "Amr had to think quickly of a way to win the argument. Cunningly he said to the king, "These people do not believe in Jesus in the same way as you". The king then wanted to know what the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) had said about Jesus. Ja"far replied by reciting a surah from the Koran which tells the story of Jesus and his mother Mary. These are a few of the lines he recited:
In "the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to an eastern place, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou fearest God. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: " Even so thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to afar place. Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an monstrous thing. Oh sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot.
Then Mary pointed to the child (Jesus); But they said, , How can we speak to one who is still in the cradle, a young child?" He said, "Lo, I am Allah"s servant; He has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet.
He has made me blessed, wheresoever I may be; and He has enjoined me to pray, and to give alms, so long as I live, and likewise to cherish my mother; He has not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up alive!" (Koran xix: 16--33)
When the king heard this, his eyes filled with tears. Turning to his advisers, he said, "These words have surely come from God; there is very little to separate the Muslims from the Christians. What both Jesus and Muhammad, the Messengers of Allah, have brought comes from the same source." So the Muslims were given the king"s permission to live peacefully in his country. ‘Amr was given back the gift he had presented to the king and the two Meccans returned home, bitterly disappointed.
THE leaders of Quraysh became increasingly worried about the way the people of Mecca were being divided by the Prophet"s teachings. Finally, "Umar ibn al-Khattab, one of the nobles of Mecca, decided that the only way to silence the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was to kill him. Having made up his mind, he set out at once to look for him.
On his way he met a man who saw at once what "Umar was going to do and said: "Why don "t you look a little closer to home before going to kill Muhammad? Don "t you know your own sister Fatimah is a Muslim?"
"Umar was shocked. He could not believe this was true. He went at once to his sister"s house. When he arrived outside the house he heard Fatimah and her husband SaId reading aloud surah Ta Ha, a chapter from the Koran. Hearing her brother"s voice at the door, Fatimah quickly hid the scroll with the surah written on it among the folds of her dress. ‘Umar stormed into the room and demanded, "What is this nonsense I heard?" Fatimah denied everything. "Umar then lost his temper and attacked Fatimah"s husband shouting, "They tell me that you have joined Muhammad in his religion!" Fatimah tried to defend her husband and "Umar hit her too.
Then she admitted, "Yes, we are Muslims and we believe in Allah and His Messenger and you can do what you like!"
Seeing her faith and courage, "Umar suddenly felt sorry for what he had done and said to his sister, "Let me see what I heard you reading just now so that I may understand just what it is that your Prophet has brought."
Fatimah gave the scroll to him after he had washed to make himself clean and pure before touching it, and had promised to give it back to her afterwards.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Ta Ha We have not revealed unto thee (Muhammad) this Koran For thee to be distressed, but only as a reminder Unto him who fears, a Revelation from Him who created the earth and the high heavens; the Beneficent One Who is established on the Throne; To Him belongs Whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth And all that is between them, and All that is underneath the soil. If Thou speakest aloud Be thou loud in thy speech, yet Surely He knows the secret (thought) And that yet more hidden. Allah There is no god but He To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. (Koran xx: 1-8)
As he read, "Umar suddenly knew that these were the most beautiful words he had ever heard and that this religion must be the true one. With his sword still in hand, he went straight to the Prophet"s house and knocked loudly at the door. One of the Prophet"s closest followers looked out. There stood "Umar who was known for his courage and strength. When he saw "Umar so excited and with his sword in hand, he was afraid for the Prophet"s life. But the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) asked him to allow ‘Umar to come in and to leave them alone together.
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) asked ‘Umar why he had come, to which he replied: "I have come to swear that there is no god but Allah and that you, Muhammad, are the Messenger of Allah. "As he spoke these words, his hand still held the sword with which he had intended to kill the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). This same sword would now be used to defend the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the faith of Islam.
At that time, whenever Muslims wanted to perform the ritual encircling of the Ka"bah, known as tawaf, they had to do it secretly and in fear. "Umar, however, was very courageous. As soon as he had declared his faith, he went directly to the Ka"bah and in broad daylight made the circling of the Sacred House before the astonished people ofMecca. No one dared to say anything. But now the leaders of Quraysh became even more alarmed and began to see Islam as a threat to the whole life of the city of Mecca. They grew more and more furious as the numbers of Muslims increased until finally they, too, decided as ‘Umar once had, that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) would have to be killed.
On hearing of these plans, Abu Talib, the Prophet"s uncle, immediately sent a message to all the sons of" Abd al-Muttalib, asking them to protect their nephew, and this they agreed to do. When Quraysh realized that they could not kill the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) because of this protection, they decided instead to avoid him and his followers completely. A declaration to this effect was hung at the Ka"bah. It stated that no one in the city was allowed to have anything to do with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his people, or even to sell them any food or drink whatsoever.
At first the Muslims found some support among the Bani Hashim, the branch of Quraysh to which the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) belonged. Some of these people were not Muslims but showed loyalty to their kinsmen by suffering along with them. However, life grew more and more difficult and food was scarce. The hatred of the rest of Quraysh for the followers of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) grew so great that when his companions tried to buy supplies from a caravan passing near to Mecca, Abu Lahab, one of the Muslims" worst enemies, offered ten times the price of the goods to the merchant. By doing this he managed to stop the Muslims from buying what they desperately needed.
During the years of this terrible treatment, a wonderful thing happened. Instead of Islam becoming weaker, it grew stronger. Allah sent more and more Revelations. It was as though the Muslims were being strengthened and cleansed by the hardships they suffered and were being tested in their faith.
Each year, at the time of the pilgrimage toMecca, people came from all overArabia. These pilgrims saw the terrible cruelty and injustice of Quraysh towards the Muslims, and many of them were sorry for the Prophet"s followers. Quraysh began to feel ashamed of their harsh treatment, especially as many of the Muslims were their cousins and close relatives.
Finally, at the end of three years, they were convinced that the time had come to put an end to the persecution of the Muslims, and they decided to take down the notice hanging at the Ka"bah. To their astonishment, the sheet of paper had been completely eaten up by worms, all except the words, "In Your Name, O Allah", which had been written at the top of the paper.
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his followers went back to a normal way of life but the years of hardship had made Khadijah very weak. She became ill and soon afterwards she died. Thus, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) lost his beloved wife and friend, the first person to accept Islam and support him. She had been a refuge from all his troubles and, through her good-heartedness, the best company in his suffering. He had loved her very much. This happened in 619 A.D., the year which became known as the "Year of Sorrow".
Soon after this, the Prophet Muhammad"s uncle and protector, Abu Talib, also died. Abu Talib had been one of the most respected men in Mecca-one of the elders of Quraysh. Even though he had never been a follower of Islam, he had protected the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) against his enemies. Not only was this a sad occasion for the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) but also a dangerous one. According to Arab custom anyone who is under the protection of another is safe so long as his protector lives. Now, with the death of his uncle, the Prophet"s protection was gone.
The Prophet"s enemies rejoiced to see him so sad, without a wife to console and comfort him, and without his uncle to protect him. They began to treat him worse than ever before. Even small children insulted him. One young man actually threw some filth on the Prophet"s head, but the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) went home without making anything of it. When one of his daughters rushed, weeping, to wash it away, he comforted her saying, "Do not weep my little girl, for Allah will protect your father."
Abu Talib had been the Prophet"s last tie with Quraysh and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) now felt that Islam could make no further progress inMecca because the hearts of Quraysh were closed against him. He decided, therefore, to travel to Taif where he hoped to find support. He walked all the way to the town, which was seventy kilometres away. There he spoke in all the places where people gathered, but no one listened to him. He met the leaders of the three most important tribes but they would not listen either. Not only did they take no notice of what he said, but they laughed at him and ordered their slaves to insult him and pelt him with stones.
Sadly, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) left the city and found a quiet place near a wall on the edge of town where he could be alone. There he prayed to Allah in these words:
O Allah, to Thee I complain of my weakness, helplessness and lowliness before men. O Most Merciful, Thou art the Lord of the weak, and Thou art my Lord. To whom wouldst Thou leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art not angry with me, I care not what happens to me. Thy favor alone is my objective. I take refuge in the Light of Thy countenance by which the darkness is illumined and on which this world and the other depend, lest Thy anger descend upon me or Thy wrath light upon me. It is for Thee to be satisfied until Thou art well pleased. There is no power and no might save through Thee.
The wall near which the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was sitting belonged to a garden owned by two brothers. When they heard his prayer, they were very sorry for him and sent one of their slaves to him with a dish filled with grapes. Before he began to eat, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said "Bismillah" -- "In the Name of Allah. "The servant, whose name was Addas, was very surprised at these words, which he had never heard before.
"By Allah " said ‘Addas, "this is not the way the people of this country speak. ‘
"Then from what country do you come, ’Addas, and what is your religion?" asked the Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
"I am a Christian from the Assyrian town of Nineveh", he replied.
"From the town of that good man Jonah, son of Matta", added the Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
"How do you know about him?" asked "Addas.
"He is my brother -- he was a Prophet and I am a Prophet", answered the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.). ‘Addas bent down and kissed the Prophet"s head, his hands and his feet, because now he saw that he was truly a Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) then walked back to Mecca. He was now able to put up with everything patiently for he knew that Allah would never leave him. His journey to Taif had not been in vain for ‘Addas, the Christian, had become a Muslim, and this was to be the beginning of great changes.
ONE night as the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) lay sleeping in the same spot where" Abd al-Muttalib used to sleep, next to the Ka"bah, he was woken by the Archangel Gabriel. Later the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) described what happened: "I sat up and he took hold of my arm. I stood beside him and he brought me to the door of the mosque where there was a white animal for me to ride.’
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) told of how he mounted the animal and, with the Archangel Gabriel at his side, was transported fromMecca to the mosque called al-Aqsa, in far away Jerusalem. There the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) found Abraham, Moses, and Jesus among a group of Prophets. The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) acted as their leader, or imam, in prayer. Then he was brought two jugs, one containing wine and the other milk. He chose the milk and refused the wine. At this, the Archangel Gabriel said, "You have been rightly guided to the fitrah, the true nature of man, and so will your people be, Muhammad. Wine is forbidden to you.’
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) also related how they passed through Heaven"s gates and saw countless angels. Among them was Malik, the Keeper of Hell, who never smiles. Malik stepped forward and showed the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) a view of Hell and the terrible plight of those who suffer in that place.
Then the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was taken up by the angels, through the seven Heavens, one by one. Along the way he again saw Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said that he had never seen a man more like himself than Abraham. He also saw John, called Yahya in Arabic, Joseph or Yusef, Enoch that is Idris, and Aaron.
At last he reached the Lote Tree of the Uttermost, the sidrat al-muntaha, where no Prophet had been before. Here the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) received a Revelation of what Muslims believe.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The Messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah and His Angels and His Books and His Messengers- We make no distinction between any of His messengers - and they say: We hear, and we obey. Grant us Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the homecoming. (Koran ii.285)
Then he was taken into the Light of the Divine Presence of Allah, and was instructed that Muslims should pray fifty times a day. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) recalled:
On my way back I passed by Moses and what a good friend to you he was! He asked me how many prayers had I been ordained to perform. When I told him fifty, he said, "Prayer is a serious matter and your people are weak, so go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce the number for you and your community." I did so and He took away ten. Again I passed by Moses and he said the same again; and so it went on until only five prayers for the whole day and night were left. Moses again gave me the same advice. I replied that I had been back to my Lord and asked him to reduce the number until I was ashamed, and I would not do it again. He of you, who performs the five prayers faithfully, will have the reward of fifty prayers.
On the morning following these events and the Prophet"s return toMecca, he told Quraysh what had happened. Most of them said, "By God! This is ridiculous! A caravan takes a month to go toSyria and a month to return! Can you do that long journey in a single night?"
Even many Muslims were amazed by this and wanted the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to explain. Some ran with the news to Abu Bakr who said, "By Allah, if Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) himself has said so, then it is true. Remember, the Prophet tells us that the word of Allah comes to him directly from heaven to earth at any hour by day or night, and we believe him. Isn"t that a greater miracle than what you now doubt?"
Then Abu Bakr went to the mosque and listened to the Prophet"s detailed description of Jerusalem. He commented, "You tell the truth, O Prophet of Allah!" From then on, Abu Bakr was honored with the title "al-Siddiq", which means "he who gives his word to support the truth".
Others also began to believe the Prophet"s story when he went on to describe two caravans he had seen on his way back to Mecca. He told the doubters where he had seen the caravans, what they were carrying and when they would arrive inMecca. All that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) had said was borne out when the caravans arrived at the time he said they would, carrying all that he had described.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Far distant place of worship, the Neighborhood which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs, He, only He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing. (Koran xvii: 1)
By the Star when it setteth, Your comrade is not astray, neither deceived, Nor does he speak of his (own) desire. This is naught but a revelation revealed, Taught him by one mighty in power, very strong; he stood poised, being on the uppermost horizon, Then drew near and came down, two bows"-length away, or nearer, Then revealed to His servant that which He revealed. His heart lies not of what he saw; What, will you then dispute with him what he sees? Indeed, he saw him yet another time By the Lote- Tree of the utmost Boundary Near which is the Garden of Abode When there covered the Lote- Tree that which covered; his eye turned not aside, nor yet was overbold. Verily, he saw one of the greatest signs of his Lord. (Koran liii:1-18)
IN Yathrib there were two main tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj. Both were very powerful, they were always at war with one another, and both worshipped idols. Also in Yathrib were many Jews who, unlike the Arabs at that time, knew that there was only One God, and worshipped Him. They had told the Arabs many times that a Prophet would be coming to them.
The time came for the pilgrimage to the Ka"bah, and several people from Yathrib were going, among them six men from the tribe of Khazraj. They had heard about the Prophet Muhammad"s preaching and thought that this must be the Prophet the Jews had told them about. So they decided to go and speak to him during their stay inMecca.
They met the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) at a spot known as "Aqabah, near Mecca, and he invited them to sit with him. He explained to them what Islam meant and recited to them from the Koran. When they heard the Koran recited it touched their hearts so deeply that they became Muslims and on leaving Mecca they promised to return the following year. When they reached Yathrib carrying Islam in their hearts, they told their relatives and friends what they had heard from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and many more people became Muslims.
A year passed and the pilgrimage season came around again. Twelve important men from Yathrib went toMecca to meet the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and promised faithfully to serve him and Islam. In return, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) sent one of his friends, Mus"ab ibn "Umayr, with them to teach the Koran and instruct them in their new religion.
Another year passed and still more Muslims came from Yathrib toMecca for the pilgrimage. On this occasion a secret meeting with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was arranged to be held at night. Seventy-three men and one woman from Yathrib came, and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.); arrived with his uncle, al-"Abbas. During this meeting the men from Yathrib offered to protect and defend the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his followers if they would come to live in Yathrib. This promise of protection came to be known as the Treaty of "Aqabah.
The treaty was most fortunate for even though Islam was growing in Yathrib, the Muslims inMecca were still suffering. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) therefore told his friends and followers to go to Yathrib where they would be safe, and most of them took this opportunity to leave.
Despite all this suffering the Prophet (p.b.u.h. was not allowed to fight his enemies, for Allah had told him to forgive those who insulted him or would not listen to his message. But the Quraysh had closed their minds so utterly to the word of Allah, and grew so hard-hearted towards the Prophet (p.b.u.h. and his followers, that Allah gave permission to the Prophet (p.b.u.h. to fight those who tried to harm him or his companions.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful Permission is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; And Allah is surely able to give them victory; Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: Our Lord is Allah. (Koran xxii:39-40)
Quraysh began to fear the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) for they realized that he was now strong enough to fight them and had been given leave to do so by Allah. They also knew that he now had the people of Yathrib to help and protect him. Seeing that the Muslims were leaving the city, they decided to kill the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), before he, too, leftMecca to join his followers in Yathrib. In this way they hoped to put an end to Islam once and for all.
The Breaking of All Connections with One"s Home, for the Sake of Allah Alone
AFTER his companions had left for Yathrib, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) stayed in Mecca, waiting for permission from Allah to leave the city. Abu Bakr and ‘Ali stayed with him. There were also some Muslims whom Quraysh had not allowed to leave. Abu Bakr kept asking the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to allow him to go to Yathrib, but the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) kept saying, "Do not be in a hurry; it might be that Allah will give you a traveling companion."
The leaders of Quraysh assembled in the house of their ancestor, Qusayy, as was customary when they had an important decision to make. They had to find a way of getting rid of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), before he was able to join his friends in Yathrib.
As they were busy arguing, the Devil appeared at the door in the form of a noble and handsome old man. When they saw this elderly gentleman standing there, they asked him who he was. He said he was a sheikh from the mountains who had heard what they meant to do and thought he might be able to help or advise them. They thought he looked like a wise man, so they invited him in.
Each leader then started to put forward ideas about what should be done, but none of them could agree about which was best, until Abu Jahl told them his plan. This was that each clan should provide a strong, young warrior, each of whom would be given a sword. All the young warriors would then wait outside the Prophet"s house and together attack him as he came out. In this way they would be rid of him but as the blame for killing him would fall on all the clans, the Prophet"s family would not be able to seek revenge.
When he heard this, the Devil in the disguise of the old man, said, "That man is right; in my opinion it is the only thing to do!" The leaders of Quraysh then left to carry out their plan to murder the Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
And when the unbelievers plot against thee, to confine thee, or kill thee, or to drive thee out, they were plotting, But Allah was (also) plotting; and Allah is the best of plotters. (Koran viii. 30)
Before the night fell, on which Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was to be killed, the Archangel Gabriel came to him and said, "Do not sleep tonight in your own bed." The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) understood what was going to happen, so he told ’Ali to lie in his bed and wrap himself in the blanket that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) normally used, promising that no harm would befall him.
With the coming of darkness the young men of Quraysh had gathered outside the Prophet"s house, waiting for him to come out. After he had made sure that ’Ali was safe, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) left the house. At that very moment, Allah took away the sight of the warriors so that they could not see the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), who took a handful of dust, sprinkled it on their heads and recited these verses:
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Ya Sin By the Wise Koran, Thou art truly among those sent On the straight path; A Revelation of the All-mighty, the All-wise, That thou may warn a people whose fathers were never warned, so they are heedless. The Word has already proved true of most of them, yet they do not believe. Lo! We have put on their necks collars of iron up to the chin, so that they are made stiff-necked. And We have put before them a barrier; and We have covered them so they do not see. (Koran XXXVi.I-9)
The young men waited the whole night and were furious when, in the morning, they saw ’Ali instead of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) coming out of the house. They realized that their plan had failed completely.
In the meantime, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) went to Abu Bakr"s house and told him, ‘Allah has told me that now is the time for us to leaveMecca.’
"Together?" asked Abu Bakr.
"Together", the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) replied.
Abu Bakr wept for joy, because now he knew that the traveling companion he had been promised was the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) himself. Then he said, "0 Messenger of Allah, these are the two camels which I have kept ready for this." And so, the two of them left for a cave in Thawr, a mountain to the south ofMecca where they intended to hide.
When they were out of the city the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) looked back and said, "Of all Allah "s earth, you are the dearest place to Allah and to me and if my people had not driven me out I would never have left you."
When Quraysh found out that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his companion had gone, they set out after them, searching in every direction. Three days later they finally reached the cave where the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and Abu Bakr were hiding, but a strange and wonderful thing had happened. A spider had woven its web right across the entrance to the cave and a dove was nesting with her mate nearby. As the Meccans stood in front of the cave, with only the spider"s web separating them from the fugitives, Abu Bakr began to fear for their safety. He whispered to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), "they are very close. If one of them turns we will be seen.’
But he was comforted by the Prophet"s reply: "What do you think of two people, who have with them Allah as their third?"
Grieve not, for verily Allah is with us. (Koran ix.40)
After a few moments the search party decided that no one could have entered the cave recently, or the spider"s web would not have been complete and the dove would not have nested there, and so they left without searching inside.
Three days later the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and Abu Bakr thought it safe to leave the cave. Abu Bakr"s son, ‘Amir, had arranged for three camels and a guide to help them continue their journey to Yathrib. "Amir would ride behind his father.
The leaders of Quraysh, meanwhile, returned toMecca and offered a reward of one hundred camels to whoever captured the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Among those who went in search of him was a famous warrior. He was, in fact, the only one to catch up with him, but whenever he came close, his horse would suddenly sink up to its knees in the sand. When this had happened three times, he understood that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was protected by a power stronger than anything he had known, and so he went back to Mecca. On arriving there he warned everyone against continuing the search, relating what had happened to him.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
If you do not help him, still Allah has helped him already, When the unbelievers drove him forth, the second of two, When the two were in the Cave, when he said to his companion, "Grieve not; surely Allah is with us." Then Allah caused His peace and Reassurance to descend upon him, And helped him with hosts you cannot see, And He made the word of the unbelievers the lowest; While Allah"s word is the uppermost; Allah is All-mighty, All-wise. (Koran ix.40)
The Prophet"s journey fromMecca is called the hijrah, or migration. It was really the first step towards the spread of Islam throughout the entire world, and Muslims begin their calendar from the year of the hijrah.