The Prophet had been born into an environment where human beings engaged in empty boasting out of their shortsightedness and tribal mentality, where privileges were based on unjust social conditions and prejudices. Now he arose and swept aside all those false privileges. He established new values and concepts with respect to labor, life and social relations, in the framework of a series of rules and ordinances, and strove to concentrate all the goals and thoughts of the human being on a program for liberating peoples from slavery, and delivering the oppressed from the tyranny of emperors and kings. Even for those who do not regard these exalted aims as having a heavenly origin will admit that they are among the most exalted and previous values observable in human history. The preaching of the Prophet remained hidden for three years. He established Islam secretly. Throughout the thirteen years that he concentrated his mission in Mecca, the leaders of the polytheists, who understood well the gravity of their situation, resisted him with obstinate hostility, doing their utmost to preserve the beliefs and customs of the Age of Ignorance and to silence the liberating cry of Islam. They conducted themselves with extreme ferocity against all who had converted to Islam.
They fettered and chained those defenseless ones for their crime of having accepted Islam and left them lying hungry and thirsty on the ground beneath the burning sun of Mecca. They placed heavy stones on their bare breasts in an effort to make them foreswear the religion of Muhammad. Yasir and Sumayyah, those two heroes, were subjected to the most barbaric of torturers and every day endured the weight of the heavy stones the Quraysh used to place on their breast beneath the fiery rays of the sun. These were the first martyrs of Islam. The husband died under torture and the wife was martyred by Abu Jahl. By applying these methods, the idolaters wanted to stifle Islam while it was still in the cradle. For it was a life and death struggle. If the call of the Prophet were to advance, they would lose forever their sovereignty and the empty privileges they had enjoyed. Envy, too played an important role in intensifying their hostility to Islam. The continuation of this unpleasant situation turned the city of Mecca into a prison and a place of torture for defenseless Muslims. The polytheists made it forbidden even to listen to the verses of the Quran, and they appointed certain people to go out and meet incoming caravans and warn them not to make contact with the Muslims. Because of the pressure and cruelty of the Quraysh, a number of Muslims decided to leave Mecca and migrate to Ethiopia, in order to have there safe and tranquil environment in which to practice their religion, and worship the One God, free from harassment by the unbelievers. Even then the opponents of Islam did not abandon their persecution of them. The Quraysh sent two envoys to the ruler of Ethiopia in order to persuade him to send back the Muslims. But the ruler received the migrants hospitably and extended his protection to them, so that they were able to carry out their devotional duties in freedom in the land of Ethiopia. When the envoys of Quraysh presented gifts to the Emperor in an effort to have the refugees sent back to Mecca, he answered that since they had chosen him out of all rulers which whom to seek refuge, he could not expel them without first investigating them.
When ja’far b. Abi Talib, the spokesman of the migrants, spoke of the beliefs of the Muslims concerning Jesus, upon whom be peace, the Emperor was much impressed and said: “I swear by God that Jesus had no station beyond what these Muslims say.” Although the corrupt ministers of the Emperor were displeased by his words, he praised the beliefs of the Muslims and gave them complete freedom, turning over to them the gifts that the Qurayshi envoys had brought. He said that when God had given him power, He had not acquired any bribe of him, and that it was therefore inappropriate that he should now benefit from such gifts. Thus light triumphed over darkness, and the forces of polytheism and ignorance retreated in defeat and despair.
THE TACTICS OF THE ENEMY
When the enemies of Islam saw that their power was crumbling in the face of the new order of monotheism and realized that Islam was felling all their idols, both material and mental, just like an axe felling trees, they first resorted to threats. When they saw that threats were useless, they tried by means of promises and the award of privileges to turn the Prophet back from the path on which he had embarked. But these efforts, too proved fruitless as he rejected with disgust all their promises of power and wealth, with all the firmness demanded of the bearer of a heavenly mission. He proclaimed: “I swear by God that if you were to put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I would never abandon my mission until the religion of God spreads over the globe or I lose my life in propagating it.” Ya’qubi writes as follows in his history: “The Quraysh told Abu Talib that his nephew was vilifying their gods, accusing them of insanity and proclaiming that their ancestors were in error.They asked him to tell the Prophet that they would give him all of their wealth if he would abandon his preaching. Muhammad, upon whom be peace, answered: ‘God did not raise me up as a Prophet in order that I might accumulate the wealth of this world; rather, He raised me up to convey His message to mankind and to call men to Him.” Then the enemy changed its tactics once more, and employed every conceivable weapon against his movement in order to destroy the newly constructed edifice of Islam.
Old enemies made peace with each other in order to destroy the Prophet. By attempting to blacken the fair name of the Prophet and sully his reputation, they wished both to quench the fire of hatred they felt in their hearts and to neutralize his summons and call. Everywhere they proclaim that he was a magician, a sorcerer, a madman, a poet, and they stirred up the ignorance against him. This is the same satanic strategy that the enemies of truth always use in order to undermine and defeat great personalities. The Quran makes it plain that this strategy was not peculiar to the Age of the Prophet of Islam.
It proclaims: “Never was a Prophet raised up for earlier peoples without men saying that he was a sorcerer or mad. Is this legacy of denial they have transmitted from one age to the next? No, these people are themselves rebellious and transgressors.” (51:52-53)
To be continued