Meet the Messenger of God

Part 2

A Man of Unwavering Resolution

“Verily, in the Messenger of God is the best of patterns for you.” (The Qur´ àn, 33:21)

By Muhammad Yakub Khan


Let us now turn to another facet of the Prophet`s personality which is the hallmark of all greatness and without which nothing great or of abiding value can be achieved. This was his firmness of resolution, which stood unshaken by any vicissitudes of fortune. The gathering storm of opposition assumed greater and greater proportions day by day, involving ridicule, insults, threats and tortures to himself and his comrades, but he stood like a rock in the face of wave after wave of persecution. His undying faith in the righteousness of his mission and his conviction in the ultimate triumph of truth steeled his determination against all odds. Temptations which so often prove the pitfalls of great men equally fell flat on him. Scorning all opposition and spurning every temptation, he marched ahead towards the one great goal of his life, thereby blazing for mankind the only path that leads to the temple of greatness. Let us watch him in this role as a man of steel frame whom nothing could unnerve or distract in the pursuit of his life mission.

The earliest form that opposition to his mission took was public ridicule. It is recorded that whenever he started his preaching in public, the riff-raff of society would cluster around him, and tease him in a variety of ways, pouring all sorts of fun at him. He faced all this with a smiling face, and kept up his activity unabated. Never was there a public gathering, a fair, a nuptial or funeral but the Prophet invariably reached there to deliver his message. Physical violence was the second phase of the persecution. One day, when the Prophet was preaching in a public place, a few bad characters fell upon him, winding a sheet of cloth around his neck to strangle him. By chance Abu Bakr happened to pass that way and he rescued him from the hands of his oppressors.

On another occasion the Prophet was praying in the Ka àba. When he went into prostration posture, placing his forehead on the ground, some men, at the promptings of the Quraysh elders, dumped a camel´s entrails, full of dirt, on his neck. Not content with this, the elders unsheathed their swords, threatening dire consequences to anyone who should dare come to remove this. The Arabs in those days were a blood thirsty people. But they were not without a code of chivalry of their own, according to which it was considered dishonourable to raise a hand against woman. A friend of the Prophet who was watching all this, but was helpless in the face of the drawn swords to intervene, thought of invoking a woman´s help in the matter. He rushed to Fatima and told her of her father´s plight. It was only when she appeared on the scene that the Prophet´s torture came to an end.

               But all this was only a prelude to a long travail of suffering that was yet to come. When all these petty pin-pricks failed to dampen the Prophet´s spirit, and only added to his zeal to go ahead with his preaching, and the number of converts swelled day by day, the Quraysh felt seriously alarmed at the growing strength of the new faith, and decided upon applying a more drastic remedy. They launched a regular torture drive against the converts. Those who happened to belong to the slave class (slavery still being very common there) came in for especially inhuman tortures. Some of them were made to lie flat on the burning sand under the scorching Arabian sunshine, with heavy slabs of stone placed on their chests. Some were brutally flogged, some were even put to death. None of these devoted men, however, was in the least shaken in his devotion to the new faith by these barbarities. One such slave-Muslim subjected to this method of torture was Bilal, who subsequently became a great figure in the history of Islam, being the official Mu`azzin and closest friend of the Prophet. It is related of him that when he was made to lie flat in the burning mid-day sun, with a heavy slab of stone on his chest, and pressed to recant the faith, he would respond by shouting at the top of his voice the Kalima, La ilaha illallah: “There is no god but God”.

               Now this steadfast devotion of the Prophet and the zeal he inspired among his followers made things all the more disquieting for the Quraysh. They did not know what to do with the man who was growing into a challenge in their whole social order. They would have fain made an attempt on his life. But that was no easy job. Under the clannish loyalties of the day, that would be launching a feud with the Banu Hashim, to which clan the Prophet belonged. So, they thought of depriving him of the patronage and protection of his uncle, Abu Talib. The leading men of the Quraysh formed themselves into a deputation and in a body called on Abu Talib. This is how they addressed him:

               “Your nephew offers insult to our idols. He calls us and our ancestors as misguided. You should therefore withdraw your protection from him and let us deal with him. Otherwise you must be prepared to settle scores with us at the arbitrament of the sword.”

               This made the situation very embarrassing for Abu Talib. The whole tribe of the Quraysh had thrown a challenge to him to give up his nephew to their tender mercies or be ready for a trial of strength with them. He sent for the Prophet and apprised him of the ultimatum of the Quraysh. “Have pity on me,” he pleaded with the Prophet. “Do not burden me with a responsibility too heavy for me to carry.”

               What a trying situation! Abu Talib`s protection had been the Prophet`s mainstay so far against his opponents. Its withdrawal would mean letting loose the worst of their fury against him. They had all along been thirsting for his blood. Abu Talib´s guardianship alone stood in their way. What was he to do now that Abu Talib also wanted to give him up? Such was the situation the Prophet found himself placed in. The loss of Abu Talib`s protection amounted to possible death and the end of his mission. A man of humble clay would have thought twice before rejecting Abu Talib`s demand. But the Prophet was made of sterner stuff. The gravity of the situation only served to bring out the innermost mettle in him to yet greater lustre. His choice was instantly made. He knew his life was at stake, but his mission to carry God´s message to mankind was to him more than his life. No sooner did Abu Talib express his anxiety and ask the Prophet to give up his mission than, in flash, came the prophet´s reply:

                             “O Uncle! Should you place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, so that I may give up this cause, I will not do it, until God should make it triumph or I perish in the attempt.”

               This firm faith in his cause and unwavering devotion to it could not but fill Abu Talib´s heart with admiration for his nephew.  It put new life into his own drooping spirits. Setting aside all the apprehensions, he told the Prophet that come what might, he would stand by him. And he told the Quraysh point-blank that on no account would he withdraw his protection from his nephew.

               Their policy of repression having failed to create the least impression on the Prophet or his Companions, and their last attempt to overawe Abu Talib having proved futile, the Quraysh tried another device. Themselves given to sordid earthly boons, they thought of placing similar temptations before the Prophet. Wealth, women and power are said to sum up the whole of man`s earthly ambition. They did not doubt that the Prophet, who had withstood threats, would succumb to the pleasures of the flesh. Accordingly, a deputation was formed, consisting of the leading men of the Quraysh, which called on the Prophet. This is how Ùtba the spokesman of the deputation, addressed him;

               “O my dear brother, in respect of personal virtues as well as of lineal greatness, you occupy the most prominent position among us. But you have been the cause of great disturbance. You have caused a wide gulf to come between the members of our families, some following you, some keeping to their ancestral faith. You speak in unbecoming terms of our gods and goddesses. Now we have an offer to make to you. Be pleased to ponder over it and accept it, should you find it in your heart. If you stand in need of wealth, we undertake to raise for you a sum not possessed by the riches of us. Should you aspire to be a ruler, we are ready to accept you as our king. If you care for a feminine beauty, the fairest woman in the land will be yours for the asking. All that we would ask you in return it just this, that you should give up denouncing our gods and goddesses.”

               The Quraysh leaders had miscalculated. Little did they dream that what constituted the highest of one´s ambition with them the Prophet would not touch with a pair of tongs. The Prophet´s concept of power and pelf lay in a different direction. To do God´s will was the greatest pleasure for him, to seek light and strength in Him was to him more than a kingly crown. The Prophet in reply to their offer recited the following passage from the Qur`an:

               “Say, I am a mortal like you. I have received the Divine revelation that your God is but one. So you should turn straight to Him, and ask His forgiveness. Say, do you disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two periods and set up equals to Him? He is the Lord of creation.”

               Útba was so deeply impressed with the majesty of these Divine words that he advised the Quraysh to let the Prophet alone. But the Quraysh did not agree to the suggestion. They                   would not rest content until they had seen the end of the Prophet, and done away with the growing “menace” of Islam.

(The Islamic Review, March 1959)