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Who antagonised who? Did the Muslims begin the hostility with the pagans?



Missionary Sam Shamoun has written an article where he seeks to show that it was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who started the hostilities and fighting with the pagans of Makkah, and not the other way round. His article can be found here:

The obvious aim of Shamoun’s article is to try and downplay the oppression the Muslims suffered at the hands of the pagans before Muslims began to fight back and lift the sword. Shamoun’s goal is to show that the Muslims were always the bad guys, and so the oppression against them wasn’t really an oppression or a persecution.

The missionary writes:

Oftentimes, when Christians and other individuals mention atrocities committed by Muhammad, such as the raiding of caravans and the brutal murdering of people, Muslims seek to justify these heinous crimes by claiming that Muhammad was only attacking those who first persecuted him and his followers. For instance, Muslims attempt to justify Muhammad's raids on Meccan caravans on the basis that the Meccans were the ones who first attacked Muhammad and the Muslims, and had driven them away from their homes and properties. Thus, Muhammad's attacks on the caravans were intended to regain some of the property which had been wrongfully stolen from the Muslims by the pagans.


It was indeed the pagans who began the hostilities by persecuting and abusing the Muslims; on top of this the pagans even boycotted the Muslims that almost led Muslims to the brink of starvation. The Muslims as a result of the pagan oppression were forced to leave Makkah because of the Pagan violence towards them, leaving all their property and business.

The Muslims were also justified in doing open battle with the pagans because it was also the pagans who firstly began open physical violence towards the Muslims; hence the Muslims had every right to eventually fight back when they could do so.

Every community when under oppression because of their beliefs, race, or ethnicity, has a right to eventually defend themselves against the oppression. This is a natural human right that all civilized people recognize and respect.

Now Shamoun knows this is the case with the early Muslims, that they were defending themselves against oppression, so he now tries to twist it around, he does this by saying:

It is our intention to show in this paper that the claim that the pagans were the ones who first persecuted Muhammad is not supported by the Islamic data. We will see that the Islamic evidence actually shows that it was Muhammad who first attacked and antagonized the pagan Meccans by assaulting their religion and family values, thereby igniting the anger of the Meccans and instigating their subsequent retaliation against Muhammad and his followers.


Shamoun tries to pull a fast one over the readers, to the un-suspecting reader one will not notice how Shamoun deceives them, but to one who is examining and refuting Shamoun one will not be fooled by his twist.

Here is how Shamoun tried to pull a fast one, notice he first writes:

It is our intention to show in this paper that the claim that the pagans were the ones who first persecuted Muhammad is not supported by the Islamic data

So notice he says that he wants to show that it was not the pagans who began the persecution of the Muslims, but it was the Muslims. However so notice how he then pulls a fast one and twists what he says when he writes:

We will see that the Islamic evidence actually shows that it was Muhammad who first attacked and antagonized the pagan Meccans by assaulting their religion and family values

You caught it? First Shamoun says he wants to show that the Muslims began the PERSACUTION against the pagans, then a sentence later he changes the wording and says he will show that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began the problems by attacking the pagan religion and values. We all know that PERSACUTING somebody is 100% different than opposing someone through verbal speech, for instance a scholar who speaks out against a certain institution is not persecuting that institution, he is simply challenging it and speaking against it. However so when you persecute someone this means you physically harm them and hurt them in some way, either by beating them, arresting them etc.

So you see how Shamoun deceives his readers? Nice try Sam, but you really must do better next time.

But now Shamoun begins his fallacious claims when he writes:

When Muhammad preached Islam and invited people to his god, the Meccans showed no hostility towards him, and were even listening to him. The Meccans only began showing hostility towards Muhammad after he had started attacking their gods, their religion and their traditional values. Being fed up with the insults to their religion, the pagans threatened to ridicule Muhammad's god in return. Only then does Allah intervene by "sending down" a verse telling the Muslims to refrain from insulting the idols so as to prevent the pagans from abusing him.


Before exposing his blatant distortion, let us issue some challenges to Shamoun, because it seems he thinks that we will let him make claims without proving it, so let us see if Shamoun can actually back up what he says. Mr. Sam Shamoun, bring one Islamic source that shows the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) insulting and mocking the gods of the pagans.

Shamoun also continues to play the deception game; he keeps saying the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ‘attacked' the pagan religion and life. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was doing God's duty of preaching the truth and exposing the falsehood, so let us ask Shamoun a question. Should we condemn all the other prophets for attacking un-godly religions?

Secondly there is a difference between attacking a doctrine and physically attacking and insulting someone! The prophet exposed the false ideology of paganism; he did not physically attack and beat the pagans in Makkah. In fact what makes this interesting is that Jesus beat people when he began his ministry! Here is the episode from the Bible where Jesus attacked people:

John 2:15

13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

Not only did Jesus physically attack people, he also insulted and cursed none-believers:

Matthew 23:33

33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?


Luke 11:40

40You foolish people!Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?

So Jesus physically attacked people, as well as cursing and insulting them! So using Shamoun's logic the Jews had every right to feel angry at Jesus and even going as far as wanting him dead and thinking they killed him!

Also in today's world many Christians verbally attack Islam, including Shamoun himself, so does Shamoun accept that Muslims may react violently towards him and other Christians who always criticize Islam? Shamoun is trying to excuse the pagans for becoming angry and hostile towards the Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because the Prophet Muhammad (pubh) preached against them! Now Shamoun will say no it is not right to react violently to criticism, so therefore why does he seek to justify it for the pagans?

Why cant there be a bit of honesty and consistency?

But now let us expose Shamoun's distortions, he says the pagans didn't react with hostility until the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began to speak against their gods and way of life, well that is a lie, it would have done good for Shamoun if he quoted this Islamic source:

According to Sahih Muslim, [the Prophet said:]

«æóÇáøóÐöí äóÝúÓöí ÈöíóÏöåö¡ áóÇ íóÓúãóÚõ Èöí ÃóÍóÏñ ãöäú åóÐöåö ÇáúÃõãøóÉö íóåõæÏöíøñ æóáóÇ äóÕúÑóÇäöíøñ¡ Ëõãøó áóÇ íõÄúãöäõ Èöí ÅöáøóÇ ÏóÎóáó ÇáäøóÇÑ»

(By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, no one from these nations -- Jewish or Christian -- hears of me then does not believe in me, but he will enter Hell.) Many Hadiths have been narrated concerning the revelation of this Ayah, some of which we will quote below: Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, recorded that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "When Allah revealed the Ayah,

[æóÃóäÐöÑú ÚóÔöíÑóÊóßó ÇáÇøñÞúÑóÈöíäó ]

(And warn your tribe of near kindred.), the Prophet went to As-Safa', climbed up and called out,

«íóÇ ÕóÈóÇÍóÇå»

(O people!) The people gathered around him, some coming of their own accord and others sending people on their behalf to find out what was happening. The Messenger of Allah said:

«íóÇ Èóäöí ÚóÈúÏöÇáúãõØøóáöÈö¡ íóÇ Èóäöí ÝöåúÑò¡ íóÇÇóÈäöí áõÄóíó¡ ÃóÑóÃóíúÊõãú áóæú ÃóÎúÈóÑúÊõßõãú Ãóäøó ÎóíúáðÇ ÈöÓóÝúÍö åóÐóÇ ÇáúÌóÈóáö ÊõÑíÏõ Ãóäú ÊõÛöíÑó Úóáóíúßõãú ÕóÏøóÞúÊõãõæäöí¿»

(O Bani `Abd Al-Muttalib, O Bani Fihr, O Bani Lu'ayy! What do you think, if I told you that there was a cavalry at the foot of this mountain coming to attack you -- would you believe me) They said, "Yes.'' He said:

«ÝóÅöäøöí äóÐöíÑñ áóßõãú Èóíúäó íóÏóí ÚóÐóÇÈò ÔóÏöíÏ»

(Then I warn you of a great punishment that is close at hand.) Abu Lahab said, "May you perish for the rest of the day! You only called us to tell us this'' Then Allah revealed:

[ÊóÈøóÊú íóÏóÂ ÃóÈöì áóåóÈò æóÊóÈøó ]

(Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he!) [111:1] This was also recorded by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i.

Shamoun claimed the pagans began being bad and hostile to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) only after he began preaching against their gods, yet here we see the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) simply warning his people of a punishment that awaits them, he does not speak against their religion, their gods, or their culture, yet Abu Lahab, a pagan with a lot of influence and support, insults the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and shows clear hostility.

Now according to Shamoun the one who started the problems and violence is the one who first speaks out against the other party, hence we see here the first ever verbal attack was from a pagan against the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), not the other way.

However so this all doesn't really matter, because the fact is the pagans were the first ones to become physical and hostile towards the Muslims, not the other way round. Shamoun knows this and tried to use desperation and tried to justify the pagan's behavior by saying the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) started the problems because he spoke against their religion!

But now let us assume Shamoun is correct, let us assume that the pagans began being hostile and violent towards the Muslims only after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began speaking against their religion, does this mean that the prophet was wrong for fighting back? Not at all, off course Shamoun this is what Shamoun’s trying to prove, but now let us quote what he himself has said concerning violence in the Bible:

The foregoing shows that the nations such as Egypt had been privy to the supernatural signs and wonders that God was performing. Yet instead of heeding these signs and repenting, many of them such as the Canaanites decided to remain obstinate in their unbelief and defy God by fighting against his covenant people. Thus, God was completely justified in demanding their complete annihilation in light of their willful disobedience and defiance. (

So according to Shamoun the God of the Bible was justified by using the Prophet Moses to wipe out and kill several towns including women and children because they didn't repent to the true religion and remained unbelievers! So therefore the logic that he has been using against the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not even followed by him. Shamoun believes that it’s okay for prophets and God to preach to pagans and unbelievers, speaking against their beliefs and life, and then later killing them if they don't follow it.

Shamoun’s article then goes on to quote other narrations which doesn't prove his point, all they show is fighting and battles between the pagans and Muslims as a result of the pagans beginning the oppression towards the Muslims.

I think it’s good to end this article by mentioning the persecuation and the emigration Muslims made from Makkah as a result of the oppression and persecution they were suffering at the hands of the pagans, this alone will be enough to refute and silence Shamoun’s shameful distortion of history, and his attempt at downplaying a genuine persecution a community went through.

From the Sealed Nectar, by Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri:


At the beginning of the fourth year of the Call, and for a period of some months, the polytheists confined their harassment tactics to the above-mentioned ones. But on realizing the futility of these procedures, they decided to organize a full-scale opposition campaign. They called for a general meeting and elected a committee of twenty-five men of Quraish notables with Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle, as a chairman. Following some lengthy deliberations, they reached a decisive decision to take measures deemed to stop the tidal wave of Islam through different channels. They were determined to spare no effort, in combatting the new faith. They decided to malign the Messenger of Allâh [pbuh] and put the new converts to different sorts of torture using all available resources. It was easy to put the resolutions relating to the new converts who were deemed weak into effect. As for the Prophet [pbuh] , it was not easy to malign him because he had such gravity, magnanimity and matchless perfection of character that deterred even his enemies from committing any act of folly against him. He had, as well, Abu Talib, his uncle, who came from a noble descent and had an awe-inspiring clan to support him. This situation was a source of great worry to the infidels, but they felt that they could no longer exercise patience or show any tolerance before a formidable power marching steadily to annul their religious office and temporal authority.

Abu Lahab himself took the initiative in the new series of persecutions, and started to mete out countless aspects of harmful deeds, hatred and spite against Muhammad [pbuh] . Starting with flinging stones at him, forcing his two sons to divorce their wives Ruqaiya and Umm Kulthum, the Prophet’s daughters [Fi Zilal Al-Qur'an 30/282; Tafheem-ul-Qur'an 6/522], gloating over him on his second son’s death calling him ‘the man cut off with offspring’, and then shadowing his step during the pilgrimage and forums seasons to belie him and entice the bedouins against him and his Call [At-Tirmidhi]. His wife, Umm Jameel bint Harb, the sister of Abu Sufyan had also her share in this ruthless campaign. She proved that she was not less than her husband in the enmity and hatred she harboured for the Prophet [pbuh] . She used to tie bundles of thorns with ropes of twisted palm-leaf fibre and strew them about in the paths which the Prophet [pbuh] was expected to take, in order to cause him bodily injury. She was a real shrew, bad-tempered with abusive language, highly skilled in the art of hatching intrigues, and enkindling the fire of discord and sedition. She was deservedly stained as ‘the carrier of firewood’ in the Noble Qur’ân. On receiving this news, she directly proceeded to the Mosque with a handful of pebbles to hurl at the Prophet [pbuh] . Allâh, the Great, took away her sight and she saw only Abu Bakr who was sitting immediately next to the Prophet [pbuh]. She then addressed Abu Bakr most audaciously threatening to break his Companion’s mouth with her handful of pebbles, and recited a line of verse pregnant with impudent defiance: "We have disobeyed the dispraised one, rejected his Call, and alienated ourselves from his religion." When she had left, Abu Bakr turned to the Prophet [pbuh] and inquired about the matter. The Prophet [pbuh] assured him that she did not see him because Allâh had taken away her sight.[Ibn Hisham 1/335]

Abu Lahab and his household used to inflict those shameful examples of torture and harassment in spite of the blood relation that tied them for he was the Prophet’s uncle and both lived in two contiguous houses. Actually, few of the Prophet’s neighbours abstained from maligning him. They even threw the entrails of a goat on his back while he was performing his prayers. He always used to complain about that unbecoming neighbourliness but to no avail for they were deeply indulged in error.

Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ud, narrated that once when the Prophet [pbuh] was prostrating himself while praying in Al-Ka‘bah, Abu Jahl asked his companions to bring the dirty foetus of a she-camel and place it on his back. ‘Uqbah bin Abi Mu‘ait was the unfortunate man who hastened to do this ignoble act. A peal of laughter rose amongst the infidels. In the meanwhile, Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet [pbuh], happened to pass that way. She removed the filth from her father’s back. The Prophet [pbuh] invoked the wrath of Allâh upon them, especially upon Abu Jahl, ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘a, Shaibah bin Rabi‘a, Al-Waleed bin ‘Utbah, Omaiyah bin Khalaf and ‘Uqbah bin Mu‘ait. It is recorded that all of them were killed in the battle of Badr. [Bukhari 1/37]

Scandal-mongering and backbiting were also amongst the means of oppression that the chiefs of Makkah, in general, and Omaiyah bin Khalaf, in particular, resorted to in their overall process of evil-doing. In this regard, Allâh says:

"Woe to every slanderer and backbiter."[Al-Qur'an 104:1]

‘Uqbah bin Al-Mu‘ait once attended an audience of the Prophet [pbuh] and listened to him preaching Islam. A close friend of his, Ubai bin Khalaf, heard of this. He could not tolerate any act of this sort, so he reproached ‘Uqbah and ordered him to spit in the Prophet’s holy face, and he shamelessly did it. Ubai did not spare any thinkable way to malign the Prophet [pbuh] ; he even ground old decomposed bones and blew the powder on him. Al-Akhnas bin Shuraique Ath-Thaqafi used to detract from the character of the Prophet [pbuh] in season and out of season. The Noble Qur’ân, in direct reference to this man’s ignominious deeds, attached to him nine abominable traits:

"And obey not everyone who swears much, — and is considered worthless, a slanderer, going about with calumnies, hinderer of the good, transgressor, sinful, cruel — after all that base-born (of illegitimate birth)."[Al-Qur'an 68:10-13] [Ibn Hisham 1/356]

Abu Jahl’s arrogance and haughtiness blocked all avenues that could produce the least light of belief in his heart:

"So he (the disbeliever) neither believed (in this Qur’ân, in the Message of Muhammad [pbuh]) nor prayed!"[Al-Qur'an 75:31]

He, moreover, wanted to debar the Prophet [pbuh] from the Noble Sanctuary. It happened once that the Prophet [pbuh] was praying within the precinct of the Sacred House, when Abu Jahl proceeded threateningly and uttering abusive language. The Prophet [pbuh] chided him severely to which Abu Jahl answered back defiantly claiming that he was the mightiest in Makkah; Allâh then revealed:

"Then, let him call upon his council (of helpers)."[Al-Qur'an 96:17]

In another version of the same incident, the Prophet [pbuh] took Abu Jahl by his neck, rocked him severely saying:

"Woe to you [O man (disbeliever)]! And then (again) woe to you! Again, woe to you [O man (disbeliever)]! And then (again) woe to you!"[Al-Qur'an 75:34, 35].

Notwithstanding this reproach, Abu Jahl would never wake up to himself nor did he realize his foolish practices. On the contrary, he was determined to go to extremes, and swore he would dust the Messenger’s face and tread on his neck. No sooner had he proceeded to fulfill his wicked intention than he was seen turning back shielding himself with his hands (as if something horrible in his pursuit). His companions asked him what the matter was. He said: "I perceived a ditch of burning fire and some wings flying." Later on, the Messenger commented saying, "If he had proceeded further, the angels would have plucked off his limbs one after another." [Fi Zilal Al-Qur'an 29/312; Muslim]

Such was the disgraceful treatment meted out to the Prophet [pbuh], the great man, respected as he was by his compatriots, with an influential man, his uncle Abu Talib, at his back to support him. If the matters were so with the Prophet [pbuh], what about those people deemed weak with no clan to support them? Let us consider their situation in some detail. Whenever Abu Jahl heard of the conversion of a man of high birth with powerful friends, he would degrade his prudence and intellect, undermine his judgement; and threaten him with dire consequences if he was a merchant. If the new convert was socially weak, he would beat him ruthlessly and put him to unspeakable tortures. [Ibn Hisham 1/320]

The uncle of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan used to wrap ‘Uthman in a mat of palm leaves, and set fire under him. When Umm Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair heard of her son’s conversion, she put him to starvation and then expelled him from her house. He used to enjoy full luxurious easy life, but in the aftermath of the tortures he sustained, his skin got wizened, and he assumed a horrible physical appearance. [Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/57; Talqeeh Ahl-al-Athar p.60]

Bilal, the slave of Omaiyah bin Khalaf, was severely beaten by his master when the latter came to know of his conversion to Islam. Sometimes a rope was put around his neck and street boys were made to drag him through the streets and even across the hillocks of Makkah. At times he was subjected to prolonged deprivation of food and drink; at others he was bound up, made to lie down on the burning sand and under the crushing burden of heavy stones. Similar other measures were resorted to in order to force him to recant. All this proved in vain. He persisted in his belief in the Oneness of Allâh. On one such occasion, Abu Bakr was passing by; moved by pity, he purchased and emancipated him from slavery. [Ibn Hisham 1/317-318; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/57]

Another victim of the highhandedness of Quraish was ‘Ammar bin Yasir, a freed slave of Bani Makhzoum. He, along with his mother and father, embraced Islam in its early phase. They were repeatedly made to lie on the burning sand and were beaten severely. ‘Ammar was at times tossed up on embers. The Prophet [pbuh] was greatly moved by the atrocities which were being perpetrated upon ‘Ammar and his family. He always comforted them and raised his hand in prayer and said: "Be patient, you will verily find your abode in the Paradise." Yasir, the father, died because of repeated tortures. Sumaiyah, ‘Ammar’s mother was bayoneted to death by Abu Jahl himself, and thus merited the title of the first woman martyr in Islam. ‘Ammar himself was subjected to various modes of torture and was always threatened to sustain severe suffering unless he abused Muhammad [pbuh] and recanted to Al-Lat and ‘Uzza. In a weak moment, he uttered a word construed as recantation though his heart never wavered and he came back once to the Prophet [pbuh] , who consoled him for his pain and confirmed his faith. Immediately afterwards the following verse was revealed:

"Whoever disbelieved in Allâh after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith —."[Al-Qur'an 16:106]

Abu Fakeeh, Aflah, a freed slave of Bani ‘Abd Ad-Dar was the third of those helpless victims. The oppressors used to fasten his feet with a rope and drag him in the streets of Makkah. [Eijaz At-Tanzil p.53]

Khabbab bin Al-Aratt was also an easy victim to similar outrages on every possible occasion. He experienced exemplary torture and maltreatment. The Makkan polytheists used to pull his hair and twist his neck, and made him lie on burning coal with a big rock on his chest to prevent him from escaping. Some Muslims of rank and position were wrapped in the raw skins of camels and thrown away, and others were put in armours and cast on burning sand in the scorching sun of Arabia. [Talqeeh Fuhoom Ahl-al-Athar p.60; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/57]

Even the women converts were not spared, and the list is too long to include all of them. Zanirah, An-Nahdiyah and her daughter, Umm ‘Ubais and many others had their full share of persecution at the hand of the oppressors — ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab included — of course before his conversion to Islam. [Ibn Hisham 1/319]

Abu Bakr, a wealthy believer, purchased and freed some of those she-slaves, just as he did with regard to Bilal and ‘Amir bin Fuheirah.



The House of Al-Arqam

In the light of these inhuman persecutions, the Prophet [pbuh] deemed it wise to advise his followers to conceal their conversion, in both word and deed. He took the decision to meet them secretly lest Quraish should get to know of his designs, and so take measures that might foil his goals. He also had in mind to avoid any sort of open confrontation with the polytheists because such a thing at this early stage would not be in the interest of the newly-born Call, still vulnerable and not fully fledged. Once, in the fourth year of Prophethood, the Muslims were on their way to the hillocks of Makkah to hold a clandestine meeting with the Prophet [pbuh], when a group of polytheists did observe their suspicious movement and began to abuse and fight them. Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqas beat a polytheist and shed his blood and thus recorded the first instance of bloodshed in the history of Islam. [Ibn Hisham 1/263]

The Prophet [pbuh], on the other hand, used to proclaim the Islamic Faith and preach it openly with deep devotion and studious pursuit, but for the general welfare of the new converts and in consideration of the strategic interest of Islam, he took Dar Al-Arqam, in As-Safa mountain, in the fifth year of his mission, as a temporary centre to meet his followers secretly and instruct them in the Qur’ân and in the Islamic wisdom.



The First Migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia)

The series of persecutions started late in the fourth year of Prophethood, slowly at first, but steadily accelerated and worsened day by day and month by month until the situation got so extremely grave and no longer tolerable in the middle of the fifth year, that the Muslims began to seriously think of feasible ways liable to avert the painful tortures meted out to them. It was at that gloomy and desperate time that Sûrah Al-Kahf (Chapter 18 — The Cave) was revealed comprising definite answers to the questions with which the polytheists of Makkah constantly pestered the Prophet [pbuh] . It comprises three stories that include highly suggestive parables for the true believers to assimilate. The story of the Companions of the Cave implies implicit guidance for the believers to evacuate the hot spots of disbelief and aggression pregnant with the peril of enticement away from the true religion:

"(The young men said to one another): "And when you withdraw from them, and that which they worship, except Allâh, then seek refuge in the Cave, your Lord will open a way for you from His Mercy and will make easy for you your affair (i.e. will give you what you will need of provision, dwelling, etc.)"[Al-Qur'an 18:16].

Next, there is the story of Al-Khidr (The Teacher of Arabia) and Moses [AWS] in a clear and delicate reference to the vicissitudes of life. Future circumstances of life are not necessarily the products of the prevalent conditions, they might be categorically the opposite. In other words, the war waged against the Muslims would in the future assume a different turn, and the tyrannous oppressors would one day come to suffer and be subjected to the same tortures to which the Muslims were then put. Furthermore, there is the story of Dhul-Qarnain (The Two Horned One), the powerful ruler of west and east. This story says explicitly that Allâh takes His righteous servants to inherit the earth and whatever in it. It also speaks that Allâh raises a righteous man every now and then to protect the weak against the strong.

Sûrah Az-Zumar(Chapter 39 — The Crowds) was then revealed pointing directly to migration and stating that the earth is spacious enough and the believers must not consider themselves constrained by the forces of tyranny and evil:

"Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world, and Allâh’s earth is spacious (so if you cannot worship Allâh at a place, then go to another)! Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full without reckoning."[Al-Qur'an 39:10].

The Prophet [pbuh] had already known that Ashamah Negus, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), was a fair ruler who would not wrong any of his subordinates, so he permitted some of his followers to seek asylum there in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

In Rajab of the fifth year of Prophethood, a group of twelve men and four women left for Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Among the emigrants were ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan and his wife Ruqaiyah (the daughter of the Prophet [pbuh]). With respect to these two emigrants, the Prophet [pbuh] said:

"They are the first people to migrate in the cause of Allâh after Abraham and Lot [AWS]."

They sneaked out of Makkah under the heavy curtain of a dark night and headed for the sea where two boats happened to be sailing for Abyssinia (Ethiopia), their destination. News of their intended departure reached the ears of Quraish, so some men were despatched in their pursuit, but the believers had already left Shuaibah Port towards their secure haven where they were received warmly and accorded due hospitality.

In Ramadan of the same year, the Prophet [pbuh] went into the Holy Sanctuary where there was a large host of Quraish polytheists, including some notables and celebrities. Suddenly he began reciting Sûrah An-Najm (Chapter 41 — The Star). The awe-inspiring Words of Allâh descended unawares upon them and they immediately got stunned by them. It was the first time for them to be shocked by the truthful Revelation. It had formerly been the favourite trick of those people who wished to dishonour Revelation, not only not to listen to it themselves but also to talk loudly and insolently when it was being read, so that even the true listeners may not be able to hear. They used to think that they were drowning the Voice of Allâh; in fact, they were piling up misery for themselves, for Allâh’s Voice can never be silenced, "And those who disbelieve say:

"Listen not to this Qur’ân, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation) that you may overcome."[Al-Qur'an 41:26].

When the unspeakably fascinating Words of Allâh came into direct contact with their hearts, they were entranced and got oblivious of the materialistic world around them and were caught in a state of full attentiveness to the Divine Words to such an extent that when the Prophet [pbuh] reached the stormy heart-beating ending:

"So fall you down in prostration to Allâh and worship Him (Alone)."[Al-Qur'an 53:62]

The idolaters, unconsciously and with full compliance, prostrated themselves in absolute god-fearing and stainless devotion. It was in fact the wonderful moment of the Truth that cleaved through the obdurate souls of the haughty and the attitude of the scoffers. They stood aghast when they perceived that Allâh’s Words had conquered their hearts and done the same thing that they had been trying hard to annihilate and exterminate. Their co-polytheists who had not been present on the scene reproached and blamed them severely; consequently they began to fabricate lies and calumniate the Prophet [pbuh] alleging that he had attached to their idols great veneration and ascribed to them the power of desirable intercession. All of these were desperate attempts made to establish an excusable justification for their prostrating themselves with the Prophet [pbuh] on that day. Of course, this foolish and iniquitous slanderous behaviour was in line with their life-consecrated practice of telling lies and plot hatching.

News of this incident was misreported to the Muslim emigrants in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). They were informed that the whole of Quraish had embraced Islam so they made their way back home. They arrived in Makkah in Shawwal of the same year. When they were only an hour’s travel from Makkah, the reality of the situation was discovered. Some of them returned to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), others sneaked secretly into the city or went in publicly but under the tutelage of a local notable. However, due to the news that transpired to the Makkans about the good hospitality and warm welcome that the Muslims were accorded in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), the polytheists got terribly indignant and started to mete out severer and more horrible maltreatment and tortures to the Muslims. Thereupon the Messenger of Allâh [pbuh] deemed it imperative to permit the helpless creatures to seek asylum in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for the second time. Migration this time was not as easy as it was the previous time, for Quraish was on the alert to the least suspicious moves of the Muslims. In due course, however, the Muslims managed their affairs too fast for the Quraishites to thwart their attempt of escape. The group of emigrants this time comprised eighty three men and nineteen or, in some versions, eighteen women. Whether or not ‘Ammar was included is still a matter of doubt. [Tafheem-ul-Qur'an 5/188; Za'd Al-Ma'ad 1/24; Ibn Hisham 1/364; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/61]



Quraish’s Machination against the Emigrants

Quraish could not tolerate the prospect of a secure haven available for the Muslims in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), so they despatched two staunch envoys to demand their extradition. They were ‘Amr bin Al-‘As and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Rabi‘a — before embracing Islam. They had taken with them valuable gifts to the king and his clergy, and had been able to win some of the courtiers over to their side. The pagan envoys claimed that the Muslim refugees should be expelled from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and made over to them, on the ground that they had abandoned the religion of their forefathers, and their leader was preaching a religion different from theirs and from that of the king.

The king summoned the Muslims to the court and asked them to explain the teachings of their religion. The Muslim emigrants had decided to tell the whole truth whatever the consequences were. Ja‘far bin Abi Talib stood up and addressed the king in the following words: "O king! we were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we adored idols, we lived in unchastity, we ate the dead bodies, and we spoke abominations, we disregarded every feeling of humanity, and the duties of hospitality and neighbourhood were neglected; we knew no law but that of the strong, when Allâh raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware; and he called to the Oneness of Allâh, and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbours and kith and kin; he forbade us to speak evil of women, or to eat the substance of orphans; he ordered us to fly from the vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fast. We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allâh, and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and prohibited what He has prohibited. For this reason, our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of Allâh and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and injured us, until finding no safety among them, we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression."

The king was very much impressed by these words and asked the Muslims to recite some of Allâh’s Revelation. Ja‘far recited the opening verses of Sûrah Maryam (Chapter 19 — Mary) wherein is told the story of the birth of both John and Jesus Christ, down to the account of Mary having been fed with the food miraculously. Thereupon the king, along with the bishops of his realm, was moved to tears that rolled down his cheeks and even wet his beard. Here, the Negus exclaimed: "It seems as if these words and those which were revealed to Jesus are the rays of the light which have radiated from the same source." Turning to the crest-fallen envoys of Quraish, he said, "I am afraid, I cannot give you back these refugees. They are free to live and worship in my realm as they please."

On the morrow, the two envoys again went to the king and said that Muhammad [pbuh] and his followers blasphemed Jesus Christ. Again the Muslims were summoned and asked what they thought of Jesus. Ja‘far again stood up and replied: "We speak about Jesus as we have been taught by our Prophet [pbuh] , that is, he is the servant of Allâh, His Messenger, His spirit and His Word breathed into Virgin Mary." The king at once remarked, "Even so do we believe. Blessed be you, and blessed be your master." Then turning to the frowning envoys and to his bishops who got angry, he said: "You may fret and fume as you like but Jesus is nothing more than what Ja‘far has said about him." He then assured the Muslims of full protection. He returned to the envoys of Quraish, the gifts they had brought with them and sent them away. The Muslims lived in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) unmolested for a number of years till they returned to Madinah. [Ibn Hisham 1/334-338]

In this way Quraish’s malicious intentions recoiled on them and their machination met with utter failure. They came to fully realize that the grudge they nursed against he Muslims would not operate but within their realm of Makkah. They consequently began to entertain a horrible idea of silencing the advocate of the new Call once and for all, through various channels of brutality, or else killing him. An obstinate difficulty, however, used to curtail any move in this direction embodied by the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib and the powerful social standing he used to enjoy as well as the full protection and support he used to lend to his nephew. The pagans of Makkah therefore decided to approach Abu Talib for the second time and insisted that he put a stop to his nephew’s activities, which if allowed unchecked, they said, would involve him into severe hostility. Abu Talib was deeply distressed at this open threat and the breach with his people and their enmity, but he could not afford to desert the Messenger too. He sent for his nephew and told him what the people had said, "Spare me and yourself and put not burden on me that I can’t bear." Upon this the Prophet [pbuh] thought that his uncle would let him down and would no longer support him, so he replied:

"O my uncle! by Allâh if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, until Allâh has made me victorious, or I perish therein, I would not abandon it." The Prophet [pbuh] got up, and as he turned away, his uncle called him and said, "Come back, my nephew," and when he came back, he said, "Go and preach what you please, for by Allâh I will never forsake you."

He then recited two lines of verse pregnant with meanings of full support to the Prophet [pbuh] and absolute gratification by the course that his nephew had chalked out in Arabia. [Ibn Hisham 1/265]









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