Persecutions of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) in Makkan Life
By: Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi*
Muhammad (SAWS) After Being Blessed with Prophethood:
Allah the Almighty blessed his last and final Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) with the prophet-hood when he was 40 years old. Following being blessed with the prophethood, he (SAWS) remained in Makkah for 13 years. This period is called the Makkan Life. In the Makkan Life, the Prophet (SAWS) called secretly only his close relatives towards Islam for three years. Then he (SAWS) proclaimed the Message of Deen openly for ten years. After ten years of Open Call, he migrated to Madinah which was called then Yathrib. The disbelievers of Makkah became his nasty enemies due to preaching Islam. As the people continued embracing Islam and the light of Islam continued spreading, the anger of the disbelievers also continued increasing. They couldn’t express their anger and oppression against the Muslims who had any tribal status or any supporter in Makkah. The Makkan pagans started an endless series of oppression against the Muslims who were poor, underprivileged, had no supporter and weren’t related to a high status tribe. The disbelievers harassed and persecuted them in various ways; but it couldn’t weaken their faith, instead it made their faith even stronger day by day. The Prophet’s grandfather, then uncle Abu Talib, were considered the men of great honour and dignity in the eyes of the Quraish. The family affiliation of the Prophet (SAWS) was important in the eyes of the one and all; therefore, to attack him (SAWS) was to wage war. But despite this fact, a few unfortunate people used to trouble and persecute him in various ways. He (SAWS) had to suffer various persecutions, hardships and pains. In this article, the light is being shed on some of the persecutions, troubles and hardships of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) in the Makkan life.
Enmity of Abu Lahab Abdul Uzza:
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) started calling first his family members towards Islam. Those people who were at the forefront in opposing and hating his mission and tried their level best to stop the preaching of Islam, amongst them were also his family members such as Abu Lahab. He was one of the uncles of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). His name was Abdul Uzza bin Abdul Muttalib. His surname was Abu Utaibah and he was called Abu Lahab; because of the brightness of his face. He used to often cause harm to the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). He hated and scorned him and his religion. (Tafseer Ibn Kathir: 8/514) This enemy of Islam always used to think to finish Islam.
Abu Lahab’s Pelting Stone at the Prophet (SAWS) in Zul-Majaz Bazaar:
Tariq bin Abdullah Muharibi (RA) said: I saw the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) in the bazaar of Zul-Majaz; while I was busy in trading. He (SAWS) had worn a red Jubba and used to say it loudly: “O people! Say there is none worthy of worship, besides Allah, you will be successful”. A man was following and throwing stones at him from behind, which caused his shins and heels to bleed. The man used to say at the same time: “O people! Do not listen to him. He is a liar. Muharibi says that he asked who this person (Muhammad SAWS) was. The people replied that the boy (Muhammad SAWS) is from the Banu Abdul Muttalib. (Then) I asked: Who is the person who follows him and pelts stone at him? The people replied: He is his uncle Abdul Uzza, i.e. Abu Lahab.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Hadith: 36565)
Placing Thorny Branches in the Path of the Prophet (SAWS):
Wife of Abu Lahab was among the leading women of the Quraish. Her surname was Umm Jamil. Her name was Arwah bint Harb bin Umayyah. She was supportive of her husband in his disbelief, rejection and obstinacy. Therefore, she will be helping to administer his punishment in the fire of Hell on the Day of Judgement. This unfortunate lady used to collect thorny branches from the jungle and place them in the path of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) in order to harm him. She also used to taunt him (SAWS) for poverty. (Tafseer Ibn Kathir: 8/515)
Divorcing Daughters of the Prophet (SAWS):
Two daughters of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS): Ruqiya (RA) and Umm Kulthum (RA) were married to the enemy of Islam Abu Lahab’s two sons: Utaiba and Utbah. It was just Nikaah and the matrimonial relation had not taken place as they were not sent then to their husbands’ home. Following the revelation of Surah Lahab, with the intention of defaming and disgracing the Prophet (SAWS), Abu Lahab and his wife ordered their sons to divorce the daughters of the Prophet (SAWS).
Imam Tabarani narrates on the authority of Qatadah (RA) that the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS): Umm Kulthum (RA) was married to Utaiba bin Abi Lahab. Raqiyah (RA) was married to Utaibah’s brother Utbah bin Abi Lahab. When Allah Almighty revealed Surah Lahab, Abu Lahab said to his two sons: Utaibah and Utbah, “If you don’t divorce the daughters of Muhammad (SAWS), my head will be Haraam for the head of you both.” Their mother, daughter of Harb ibn Umayyah and she is the carrier of the firewood, said: “You both divorce them; because they have become apostate of their religion.” So, they both divorced them. (Tafsir Durre Manthoor: 8/667)
As the practice of divorce is considered a disgrace in some of the noble families of today, in the same way, it was regarded as a disgrace in the noble families of Arab society at that time. Then for a father who has the high example of nobility and his two daughters get divorced at the same time and that too at the time when that father is facing all kinds of troubles and hardships; so how much pain it can cause is difficult to describe.
Spatting at the Blessed Face of the Prophet (SAWS):
Not to speak of Abu Lahab and Umm Jamil ordering their sons to divorce the daughters of the Prophet (SAWS); even Umme Jamil forced her sons to use foul language to him (SAWS) along with divorcing his two daughters. So, the wretched Utbah spat at the face of the Prophet (SAWS) and divorced (his daughter) using the inappropriate words. (Tafseer Haqqani: 8/ 247)
Soothsayer and Magician:
As long as the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) had not proclaimed his prophet-hood, he (SAWS) was known as a good human being, intellectual and wise man in Makkah. The Makkan people gave him the titles: Al-Sadiq (the Truthful) and Al-Amin (the Trustworthy). When he (SAWS) proclaimed his prophet-hood; they tried their level best to paint him with bad titles like soothsayer, magician etc.; so that the people shouldn’t come near to him and shouldn’t listen to his talk. But for those whose hearts Allah had decided to be enlightened with the light of faith, it had no effect on them. On the contrary, despite of facing the troubles and hardships, they used to come to the Prophet (SAWS) and enlightened their hearts with the light of the Islamic messages.
Whenever the disbelievers witnessed a miracle of the Prophet (SAWS), they would say that it is a magic that will end soon. Allah the Almighty says: “When these people see a sign, they turn away and say, “(This is) a transient magic.” (Al-Qamar: 2) “Thus the verse means that the Quraish alleged that the sign of moon-splitting they saw was an illusion and false; its effect will soon diminish and fade away.” (Ma’arif Al-Qura’an: 8/242)
At another place, the Almighty Allah says: “They (the pagans) wonder that a warner has come to them from among themselves. And the disbelievers say, “This is a magician, a sheer liar.” (Saad: 04)
Abu Dharr Ghifari (RA) quoting the story of his brother Unais, who visited Makkah and met Allah’s Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), says that he asked him what he did in Makkah: He said: ‘I met a man in Makkah who follows your religion. He says that Allah has sent him.’ I said: ‘What do the people say?’ He said: ‘They say that he is a poet, or a soothsayer, or a magician.’ And Unais was one of the poets. Unais said: ‘I have heard the words of the soothsayers, and he is not a soothsayer. I compared his words to the words of poetry, and no one after me can say that he is a poet. By Allah, he (Muhammad SAWS) is telling the truth and they are lying.’ (Sahih Muslim: 2473)
Crazy and Insane:
The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was a great human being. He never committed any inappropriate action. He never talked nonsense. He never misbehaved with any old or young person. But just after the proclamation of Prophet-hood, the infidels of Makkah started calling him crazy and insane. The Glorious Quran speaks: “How will they take lesson, while there has already come to them a messenger making things clear? Then they turned away from him, and said, “(He is) tutored, crazy.” (Al-Dukhan: 13-14)
The glorious Qura’an speaks at another place: “They (the disbelievers of Makah) say (to Allah’s Messenger SAWS), ‘O you to whom the Dhikr (the Qur’an) has been revealed, you are surely insane (falsely claim about the Prophet-hood).” (Al-Hijr: 06) The fact is that those who called crazy and insane to this great teacher of humanity and the leader of guidance were themselves crazy, senseless, insane, stubborn, obstinate, disobedient and rebellious.
There is a narration which speaks that Dimaad (RA) came to Makkah. He was from the tribe of Azd Shanu’ah. He used to treat people with Ruqyâ’ (in the case of Jinn possession). He heard the fools among the people of Makkah saying that Muhammad (SAWS) was possessed. He said: “If I see this man, perhaps Allah will heal him at my hands.” He says that he met him and said: “O Muhammad (SAWS), I treat people with Ruqyâ’ in the case of Jinn possession, and Allah heals at my hands whomsoever He wills. Do you want that (you be treated with Ruqya)?” Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said: “Praise be to Allah, We praise Him and seek His help. Whomsoever Allah guides, none can lead astray, and whomsoever He sends astray, none can guide. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah alone with no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.” Dimaad said: “Say these words of yours to me again.” The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) repeated them three times and (Dimaad) said: “I have heard the words of the soothsayers, the words of the magicians and the words of the poets; but I have never heard anything like these words of yours. You have scaled the heights of eloquence.” He said: “Give me your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to Islam.” So he gave him his pledge of allegiance. Then the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: “And on behalf of your people (too).” He said: “(Yes) And on behalf of my people (too).” (Sahih Muslim: 868)
Abu Jahl’s Throwing Soil at the Prophet (SAWS):
A man of the Banu Malik ibn Kanana says that he saw the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) in the bazaar of Dhul-Majaz saying: “O people! Say there is none worthy of worship, except Allah, you will be successful”. The narrator says that Abu Jahl used to throw soil at him and say: ‘O people! Be careful! This person may deceive you about your religion; because he wants you to give up Laat and Uzzaa (two idols); while the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) didn’t pay any attention to him. (Musnad Ahmad: 16603)
Abu Jahl Cracks the Head of the Prophet (SAWS):
Abu Jahl was an aggressive person. He was always behind our Prophet (SAWS). He used to insult and trouble him a lot. One day, first he insulted the Prophet (SAWS) and then he injured his head. When the uncle of the Prophet (SAWS), Hamzah (RA) came to know it, he couldn’t control himself and attacked Abu Jahl with his bow and announced embracing Islam.
“It is recorded that the Prophet (SAWS) was one day seated on the hillock of Safa when Abu Jahl happened to pass by and accused the religion preached by him. Muhammad (SAWS), however, kept silent and didn’t utter a single word. Abu Jahl went on unchecked, took a stone and cracked the Prophet’s head which began to bleed. The aggressor then went to join the Quraishites in their assembly place. It so happened that shortly after that, Hamzah (RA) while returning from a hunting expedition, passed by the same way, his bow hanging by his shoulder. A slave-girl belonging to Abdullah bin Jada’an, who had noted the impertinence of Abu Jahl, told him the whole story of the attack on the Prophet (SAWS). On hearing that, Hamzah (RA) was deeply offended and hurried to Ka’abah and there, in the courtyard of the Holy sanctuary, found Abu Jahl sitting with a company of Quraishites. Hamzah (RA) rushed upon him and struck his bow upon his head violently and said: “Ah! You have been abusing Muhammad (SAWS); I too follow his religion and profess what he preaches.” (Sealed Nectar, P.: 108)
Abu Jahl’s Intention to Assassinate the Prophet (SAWS):
One day, Abu Jahl said addressing the Quraish that Muhammad (SAWS) finds fault in our religion. He (SAWS) insults our ancestors and gods, therefore, I promise Allah that tomorrow I will sit down with a heavy stone and when he prostrates, I will crush his head with the same stone….. When it was next morning, he took a stone as he had described and sat down to wait (for the Prophet SAWS). The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) came as he used to come….. Then the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) was engaged in Salaah….. As soon as he (SAWS) prostrated, Abu Jahl picked up a stone and walked towards him. When Abu Jahl came close to him (SAWS), he returned back in a shocking state. His face complexion was pale and he was so terrified and in the awe that both of his hands were stuck to the same stone in his hands and he could hardly managed to throw the stone from his hand.
Some people of the Quraish tribe came to him and asked: “O Abu Jahl! What happened to you?” Abu Jahl replied: “I stood up to do what I had promised to do the last night.” When I reached him, a camel came across between him and me. I swear by God! I never saw a camel whose skull, neck and teeth are like that camel. He wanted to eat me.” (Seerate Ibn Hisham: 1/298-299)
Camel’s Intestines on the Back of Prophet (SAWS):
Once upon a time, the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was offering Salaah near the Ka’bah. Abu Jahl was sitting with some of his friends. Some of them said to others, “Who amongst you will bring the abdominal contents (intestines etc.) of a camel of Bani so-and-so and put it on the back of Muhammad (SAWS), when he prostrates?” The most wretched of them (Uqba bin Abi Mu’aeet) got up and brought it. He waited till the Prophet (SAWS) prostrated and then placed it on his back between his shoulders. He (SAWS) was unable to stand due its burden. Abdullah bin Masood (RA) was watching it, but due to his weakness and the tyranny of the oppressors couldn’t assist the Prophet (SAWS). He wished he had some people with him to hold out against them. They started laughing and falling on one another. Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) was in prostration and he couldn’t lift his head up till (the daughter of the Prophet SAWS) Fatima (RA) came and threw that camel’s abdominal contents away from his back. (Sahih Bukhari: 240/3185/3854)
Offer of Man for Man:
To kill the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), the disbelievers of the Quraish made an offer of “man for man”. They wanted to give Umarah bin Walid to Abu Talib and get the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) for his exchange so that they would kill him (SAWS). So, the disbelievers of Quraish talked to Abu Talib:
“O Abu Talib! We have brought you a smart boy still in the bloom of his youth, to make use of his mind and strength and take him as your son in exchange for your nephew, who has run counter to your religion, brought about social discord, found fault with your way of life, so that we kill him and rid you of his endless troubles; just man for man.” Abu Talib’s reply was, “It is really an unfair bargain. You give me your son to bring him up and I give you my son to kill him! By Allah, it is something incredible!” Al-Mut’im bin Adi, a member of the delegation, interrupted saying that the Quraish had been fair in that bargain “They meant only to rid you of that source of hateful trouble, but as I see you are determined to refuse their favours.” Abu Talib, of course, turned down all their offers and challenged them to do whatever they pleased. (The Sealed Nectar: 105)
Putting the Garment around the Neck and Throttling:
The disbelievers of Makkah didn’t let the Prophet (SAWS) even to offer Salaah peacefully. When the Prophet (SAWS) used to be in Salaah, sometimes they would place the intestines of the camel on his blessed back and sometime they would put the garment around the blessed neck and would start throttling. There is a tradition in Sahih Bukhari which speaks about it.
Urwa bin Zubair asked (Abdullah) Ibn Amr bin Aas (RA): “Tell me of the worst thing which the pagans did to the Prophet (SAWS).” He said: “While the Prophet (SAWS) was offering Salaah in the Hateem of the Ka’bah, suddenly Uqba bin Abi Mu’aeet came and put his garment around the neck of the Prophet (SAWS). Then he throttled him violently. Abu Bakr (RA) came and caught him by his shoulder and pushed him away from the Prophet (SAWS) and said: “Would you kill a man just because he says, ‘My Lord is Allah?’” [al-Ghafir: 28] (Sahih Bukhari: 3856)
Stretching the Hair of the Head and Beard:
Sometimes the polytheists would grab the hair of head and beard of the Prophet (SAWS) and would pull it so hard that his hair would fall out. (Sirat-e-Halabiyah Urdu, vol. 1, P. 276)
Three-Year Social Boycott:
The disbelievers of Quraish together decided to kill the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) saying that “He has turned our children and even our women away from us.” Then they said to the family of the Prophet (SAWS): “Take double blood money from us and allow a Quraish man to kill him, so that we can have peace and you can get benefit.” When this proposal was not granted, then getting anger by this, they decided to socially boycott the Banu Hashim and the Banu Abdul Muttalib, who were the helpers of the Prophet (SAWS). The Quraish decided to expel them from Makkah and besiege and confine them in the valley called Sha’b Abu Talib.
According to a narration, it was also decided: “Do not marry with the daughters of the Bani Hashim and don’t get your daughters married to them, don’t sell and buy anything from them and don’t accept any reconciliation from them.” So, whenever a caravan of traders came to Makkah from outside and these helpless people would come to them immediately to buy some food stuffs from them; Abu Lahab used to follow them immediately and say, “Increase the price so much that they cannot afford to buy something.” The traders used to do the same. Then they would come back without buying anything in despair to their children. The children who were suffering from starvation, would sob and cry when they saw them returning back empty-handed.
The Muslims faced tough time in that valley. Due to the social boycott from the Quraish, they didn’t get anything to eat and drink. The Muslims were in the worst situation due to hunger. They used to live and pass their time by eating grass, the leaves of the tree and the skins. This difficult and hard time continued for three consecutive years. (Extracted from: Sirat-e-Halabiyah Urdu, vol. 1, last-half, p. 393-394)
Oppression from the People of Taif:
Following the death of Abu Talib, the Prophet (SAWS) travelled to Taif walking in Shawwal, 10th year of the Prophethood, accompanied by his freed slave: Zaid bin Haritha to seek help from the Thaqif. It was hoped that the people of Taif would accept the message of Allah with which he (SAWS) had gone to them. After reaching Taif, he (SAWS) wanted to meet the three chieftains of the Thaqif: Abd Yaleel, Masood and Habib. They were brothers. He (SAWS) sat with them and talked about helping Islam and helping himself against any of his people who oppose him.
After hearing the talk of the Prophet (SAWS), the chieftains of Thaqif responded very frivolously. One said: “He is tearing the cloths of Ka’bah, is it true that Allah has sent you as a Messenger?” Actually he meant by his statement that if Muhammad (SAWS) is a Prophet, then may Allah destroy him. Another one said: “Has not Allah found someone else to entrust him with His Message?” The third brother said: “I swear by Allah that I will never have any contact with you. If you are really the Messenger of Allah, then you are too serious to report back, and if you are belying Allah then I feel it is imperative not to speak to.” The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) was disappointed with their behaviours and answers. Then he (SAWS) stood up and left asking them to keep as secret whatever happened there.
When the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) intended to come back from there, those chieftains incited their slaves and thugs to attack him. They insulted him, clapped and shouted at him, until a crowd of the people gathered. There was a line of people on both sides of the road. At the time of passing by there, as soon as the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) took a step, they would throw stones at his shins so much so that his shins were injured and his shoes were filled with blood. When he (SAWS) was hurt with the stone, he would sit on the ground. Those unfortunate people used to hold his arms and when he (SAWS) would start walking, they would throw stones at him (SAWS) again and laugh. Zayd ibn Harithah used to protect him as a shield, until his head also was injured. (Uyoon al-Athar: 1/155-156)
The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) somehow managed to reach the garden of the sons of Rabiah. After a while, he (SAWS) left that garden. Then what happened next, let’s read the exact words which came out of the blessed mouth: “So, I departed, overwhelmed with excessive sorrow, and proceeded on and couldn’t relax till I found myself at Qarn Tha’alib, where I lifted my head towards the sky to see a cloud shading me unexpectedly. I looked up and saw Jibril (AS) in it. He called me saying, ‘Allah has heard your people’s saying to you and what they replied back to you. Allah has sent the angel of the mountains to you so that you may order him to do whatever you wish to these people.’ The angel of the mountains called upon me and greeted me, and then said, ‘O Muhammad (SAWS)! Order what you wish. If you like, I will let A1-Akhshabain (two mountains) fall on them.” The Prophet (SAWS) said, “No, but I hope that Allah will let them beget children who will worship Allah Alone and will worship none besides Him.” (Sahih Bukhari: 3231)
Assassination Plot in Dar al-Nadwa and Migration Order:
Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) found his companions being tortured harshly in Makkah. They were stoned and dragged across stony ground. They were made to lie on burning sand and the rocks were placed on their chests. He (SAWS), therefore, advised them to migrate to Madinah, except for Abu Bakr (RA). This is the time that the supporters like Abu Talib had passed away. Then the Quraish were very furious and they didn’t want to tolerate the Prophet (SAWS) for any more; because according to them, he (SAWS) was insulting their ancestors and gods. So they wanted to imprison or send him in exile or kill him; so that they can get rid of him. Then the chiefs of the Quraish secretly gathered at their meeting place called Dar al-Nadwa to take a decision against the Prophet (SAWS). Some members suggested to tie him in an iron chain, put in a room and close the door. Someone said send him in exile.
A person appearing in the form of an old man and pretending to be from Najd, sitting in Dar al-Nadwa, pointed out the flaw of these opinions. This old man was actually Iblis. Abu Jahl bin Hisham was of the opinion: “Let us choose a strong young man from each tribe. We should give each one of them a sharp sword. They should attack him at the same time and kill him. When they kill him like this, his blood will be divided into different tribes. Then I don’t think that the Banu Hashim will dare to fight all of them. When the people of the Banu Hashim observe this situation, they will agree to take blood money. Then we will pay it to them.” Iblis, sitting in the gathering and pretending to be a person from Najd, said that what this man (Abu Jahl) opined carries a weight and there is no opinion after this opinion, therefore, all the members became ready for it.
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) and any Muslim didn’t come to know this heinous assassination plot. Jibreel (AS) came to him (SAWS) and said: “Do not sleep tonight on the bed on which you sleep in the night. When the night darkened, everyone (with killing plot) was waiting for him to sleep, so that they would attack him at a time to kill. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) advised Ali (RA) to sleep on his bed and don the green Hadhrami sheet, which he (SAWS) used to don while sleeping. You will not face an undesirable action from them. Then he (SAWS) came out facing them with a fistful of dust taking in his hand. Then he (SAWS) threw that dust at their heads, while he (SAWS) was reciting the 1-5 verses of Surah Yasin. Then Allah the Almighty took away their eye-sight and they couldn’t see him (SAWS). When the Prophet (SAWS) had completed reciting those verses, none of them was left who had not found that dust on his head. Then he (SAWS) left that place for a place where he (SAWS) was ordered to migrate. (Seerate Ibn Hisham: 1/482-483)
In short, during the thirteen-year of Makkan period, Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) had to suffer from various persecutions, tortures, troubles and hardships. Several times the people of the Quraish plotted to kill him. They threw stones at him (SAWS). They threw dust at him (SAWS). They spread thorns in his way. They made attempt to spit at his blessed face. He (SAWS) endured every hardship and didn’t run away from his mission. He (SAWS) remained fully engaged in conveying the message of Deen as it was his mission. He (SAWS) provided the best example of noble character and good model for his Ummah. Allah the Almighty says: “There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah -for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah profusely.” (Al-Ahzab: 21) ****
*Moon Rays Trust School, Zambia