THE COMING OF THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL
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 in Mount 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 all the 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.
THE FIRST MUSLIMS
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 time Mecca 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
THE TROUBLES BEGIN
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 of Mecca 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-fibre.
(Koran c xi. 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.
THE KING WHO BELIEVED
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 leave Mecca. 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 the Red 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 of Mecca. 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 in Mecca, 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 CRUELTY OF QURAYSH
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 of Mecca. 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 to Mecca, people came from all over Arabia. 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 YEAR OF SORROW
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 in Mecca 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.
THE NIGHT JOURNEY AND THE ASCENT TO HEAVEN
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 from Mecca 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 to Mecca, he told Quraysh what had happened. Most of them said, 'By God! This is ridiculous! A caravan takes a month to go to Syria 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 are now doubting?'
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 in Mecca. 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)
THE TREATY OF ‘AQABAH
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 in Mecca.
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 to Mecca 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 to Mecca 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 in Mecca 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, left Mecca 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 leave Mecca.’
'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 of Mecca 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 to Mecca 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 from Mecca 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.
ARRIVAL IN YATHRIB
WHEN the people of Yathrib heard that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) had left Mecca and was on his way to their city, they anxiously awaited his arrival. Each morning they would go to the edge of the city to see if he were coming. Finally, on Monday, September 27, in the year 622 A.D., someone saw him in the distance and shouted to everyone, 'Here is Muhammad! (P.b.u.h.)The Messenger of Allah has arrived!’ All the Muslims went out to greet him, shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar! Allah is Great! Muhammad the Messenger of Allah has arrived!' The women and children sang songs to show how glad they were to see him.
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) entered the city with his friend Abu Bakr. Most of the people there had not seen him before and as they gathered around they did not know which of the two was the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), until Abu Bakr got up to shield him with his cloak from the burning sun. Yathrib would now be called al-Medina, which means, The City.
The Messenger of God (p.b.u.h.) stayed in Quba', which is a place at the entrance of Medina, for three days. On the first Friday after his arrival the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) led the congregation in prayer. After this many of the wealthiest men invited him to come and live with them and share their riches. But he refused and, pointing to his she-camel, Qaswa', said, 'Let her go her way', because he knew that his camel was under Allah 's command and would guide him to the spot where he should stay. They let the camel go until she finally knelt down beside a house belonging to the Bani an-Najjar, the tribe to whom the Prophet's mother was related. This house was used as a drying-place for dates and belonged to two young orphan boys named Sahl and Suhayl. They offered to give it to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) but he insisted on paying them for it, and so their guardian, As'ad the son of Zurarah, who was present, made the necessary arrangements.
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) ordered that a mosque and a place for him to live be built on the site. All the Muslims worked together to finish it quickly - even the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) joined in. It was here that the Muslims would pray and meet to make important decisions and plans. The building was quite plain and simple. The floor was beaten earth and the roof of palm leaves was held up by tree trunks. Two stones marked the direction of prayer. At first worshippers faced Jerusalem, but soon after the direction of prayer was changed towards the Ka 'bah in Mecca.
After the building of the mosque, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) wanted to strengthen the relationship between the people called the Muhajirah or Emigrants, who had left Mecca with him, and the people of Medina, who were known as the Ansar, or Helpers. Each man from Medina took as his brother a man from Mecca, sharing everything with him and treating him as a member of his own family. This was the beginning of the Islamic brotherhood.
In the early days of Islam, the times for prayer were not announced and so the Muslims would come to the mosque and wait for the prayer so as not to miss it. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) wondered how to tell the people that it was time for prayers. He discussed it with his friends, and at first two ideas were put forward; that of blowing a horn as the Jews did, and that of using a wooden clapper like the Christians. Then a man called' Abd Allah ibn Zayd came to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and told him he had had a dream in which he had seen a man dressed all in green, holding a wooden clapper. He had said to the man, 'Would you sell me your clapper in order to call the people to prayer?' The man had replied, ‘A better way to call the people to prayer is to say:
" Allahu Akbar, Allah is Most Great!" four times, followed by
"I bear witness that there is no divinity but Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Come to prayer, come to prayer, Come to salvation, come to salvation. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar! There is no divinity but Allah',
When the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) heard this, he said it was a true vision from Allah. He sent for Bilal, who had a beautiful, strong voice, and ordered him to call the people to prayer in just this way. Bilal did so and soon after 'Umar came out o fhis house and told the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) that he had seen exactly the same vision himself. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) replied, ‘Allah be praised for that.’
The adhan, or call to prayer, which came to 'Abd Allah ibn Zayd in his dream and was performed by Bilal on the instruction of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), is the one we still hear today being called from the minarets of mosques all over the world.