“Ismael, the son of Abraham had a son, Kaidar whose progeny spread over the Arabian province of Hijaz. Adnan, to whom the Prophet traced his descent, was also a scion of Ismael in about the fortieth generations. Further down, in the ninth descent from Adnan, there followed Nadar bin Kinana. Another descent in the genealogical scale and then comes in the ninth place, one, Qassi by name. The supreme charge of the Kaba fell into the hands of Qassi (d. 480 A.D.). He collected the scattered tribe, which gave him the title of Qoraish, and from him the charge of the Kaba descended to his eldest son, Abdul Dar, from whom the chief offices were transferred to his brother, Abd Munaf, and after his death, his son Hashim was consigned the charge of Sicaya and Rifada (the exclusive privilege of supply water and food to the pilgrims). Hashim married a girl from his own family and she gave birth to his son, Asad, who in due course became the maternal grandfather of Ali bin Abu Talib, as Asad’s daughter, Fatima bint Asad was Ali’s mother. Hashim’s second marriage actualized with a girl of Banu Najjar, and she gave birth to a son, called Abdul Muttalib. Hashim died in 510 A.D., who left his dignities to his elder brother, Almutallib, after whom his nephew, Abdul Muttalib, the son of Hashim, succeeded to his paternal offices.
It was also in the time of Abdul Muttalib that the Yamenite king, Abraha invaded Mecca, but was discomfited in his attempt and made a disgraceful retreat. Abdul Muttalib died in the height of his glory and left indelible marks of greatness. Abdullah, the son of Abdul Muttalib, married to Amina bint Wahab. To this noble couple was born Muhammad (peace be upon him), but before he was born his father, leaving the young pregnant wife. On the morning of Monday, April 22, 571 A.D., a grandson was born to Abdul Muttalib, who named him Muhammad (the extolled one).
Mecca, about forty miles from the Red Sea embosomed with torrid rocks, where the air was heavy and the children there grew up pale, weak and sickly. All about and around Mecca was desert, whose air was limpid. For this reason, it was a custom of the Arab nobility that the mother did not nurse their children. They would give their infants into the charge of Bedouin women to suckle and nourish them. Abdul Muttalib assigned his grandson into the care of Halima al-Sadiyyah, near Mount Taif. Having nurtured for five years, the wet nurse Halima gave him back to his mother, Amina, who also died after one year. Henceforward, Abdul Muttalib was both mother and father to the orphaned child. But this was not to be for long either. The old man died when the Prophet was eight. The dying Abdul Muttalib consigned the guardianship of the Prophet to his son, Abu Talib, whose fondness for his charge equalled that of Abdul Muttalib. At this early age, the Prophet’s integrity had already won household fame in the town. He was commonly known as al-Amin (the trustworthy). The epithet does not imply honesty alone, but is all-comprehensive, denoting righteousness in every form.
A high-placed widow, Khadija, who had acquired by her virtue the titles of Tahira (the virtuous) and Saiyyadah-i Qoraish (the princess of the Qoraish), hearing of the righteousness of the Prophet, entrusted to him the charge of her business. He accepted an office in the service of Khadija and was placed at the head of a caravan and sent to Syria. Before long much profit accrued to her through his honest dealings. The personal attributes and moral grace in Prophet attracted the attention and won the admiration of Khadija. So honestly the Prophet did transact the widow’s trade that she caused a proposal of marriage, which met the approval of Abu Talib. Thus was he married, at the age of twenty-five, to a widow, fifteen years older than himself.
Four years after his marriage, the Prophet would frequently take a provision and retire for days into a cave at the top of a cone-shaped mountain, called Hira, some three miles from Mecca. He used to spend night after night in that solitary cave far away from all the worldly turmoil. Here he eagerly pondered and contemplated in long and lonely vigils to search after One and Only God. He prayed ardently, opening his whole heart to his Creator Whom his soul longed to meet. He became so fully absorbed in the ecstasy of his devotions that he would remain for days in the mountain cavern. This went on for a considerable length of time, till at last, in his fortieth year, a great unseen was revealed to him. The light of God was fully reflected in the Prophet. He had reached the stage of self-elevation when duality becomes non-existent and only One remains.
Khadija was sorely worried at first, but soon regained her composure and comforted him. “Fear not, my noble one”, she said, “but rejoice. God will not forsake you in this affair nor expose you to shame. For you are good and kind and truthful. You are hospitable to the passing stranger, you aid and comfort the poor and the lowly, and support the virtuous in righteous deeds.” Waraqa bin Naufal was Khadija’s cousin, and she took him to her cousin. No sooner did Waraqa hear what inspiration the Prophet had received and how, than he spontaneously exclaimed: “This is the very angel Jibrail that God sent down to Moses.” Hence, the foremost to profess faith in the truth of the Prophet’s mission was his wife Khadija.
For the first three years, the Prophet kept his missionary activities underground. Neither the rancor of Arab chiefs nor the antagonism of other opponents in Qoraish prevented the secret mission of Islam. To those who did harm him, the Prophet prayed for guidance, for liberation from the yoke of vile paganism. The more they persecuted, the more patience and resolve the Prophet showed in his mission.
The Prophet received a divine command in the fourth year to operate his mission in the public. In compliance, he invited his kinsmen to a feast exclusively arranged for them. Tabari (d. 310/922) in Tarikh al-Rusul wa’l Muluk (Leiden, 1879-1901, 2:63) and Ibn Sa’d (d. 230/845) in Kitab at-Tabaqat (Leiden, 1905, 1:171) write that after the feast was over, the Prophet addressed the participants, “Friends and Kinsmen! I hereby declare that I have brought unto you a blessing in this world and in the world to come. I do not think there could be anyone else throughout the whole of Arabia, to come out with a better and more precious offer towards this nation than that of mine. I am commanded by my Lord to invite you all towards Him. Tell me! who amongst you will come forward to help me and to be my vicegerent? The spell of hush prevailing over the audience, was broken by impatient courage of Ali, the son of Abu Talib, who responded with enthusiasm and said, “O Prophet of God! I am the youngest of all here, yet I beg to offer myself to stand by you and to share all your burdens and earn the great privilege of being your vicegerent.” The Prophet caused Ali to sit down. Again he put the question to the assemblage. All remained silent but Ali rose for a second time to repeat his fidelity, and was again ordered to sit down. When the Prophet repeated the same question to the congregation third time, he got no response. Ali again stood up and repeated his fidelity on which the Prophet remarked, “You are my brother, my collateral and vicegerent.” This evoked the hostility of the Qoraish tribe towards the Prophet and his followers. They leapt angrily to their feet and walked out, and their murmurings and protests echoed back into the house as they passed through the courtyard into the street. On the following day, when the Prophet went to the Kaba, he was greeted with scornful gestures. “This is the man who claims to bring us messages from the heaven,” they shouted and began to joke at him.
When the sufferings of the Muslims at the hands of the Meccans reached to its extreme in 615 A.D., the Prophet directed that those of them who could afford it should migrate to Abyssinia across the Red Sea, whose kings were known as the Negus (Najashi). As-Hama, the then Negus was a Christian. Under the direction of the Prophet, eleven men and four women from among the Muslims migrated to Abyssinia. The Abyssinian emigration gave the Meccans a conclusive proof that the Muslims were ready to run all risks, and undergo every form of hardship in the cause of Islam. The Meccans did their utmost to check the tide of emigration, but all in vain. It was not until seven years after the Prophet’s flight from Mecca that they rejoined their Muslim brethren at Medina.
Having failed in all their attempts to impede the progress of Islamic mission, the Qoraish of Mecca called a summit conference and pledged themselves to a policy of social boycott of the Hashimites on a large scale. This implied the severance of all social, matrimonial and commercial ties of Meccans with Hashimites. The decree was written by Mansur bin Akrama and the scroll hung up on the wall of Kaba. On hearing of this, Abu Talib was thereby obliged to shift along with the entire family of Hashimites to a secluded valley fastness, known as Shib (quarter) of Abu Talib, on the eastern skirts of Mecca, cut off by rocks from the city except for one narrow gateway. The provisions, which they had carried with them, were soon exhausted. For days they went without food; water was scare; infants and children almost died of hunger. The sick and the infirm breathed their last painful breath without succour or sustenance. There was much weeping and wailing in the Muslim camp but there were no betrayers.
The pitiable condition of the Hashimites continued for a period of three years, till the Qoraish were awakened to a sense of remorse on their dealings with the Hashimites. All at once it was discovered that the parchment in the Kaba, on which the decree was written, was eaten up by termites and only the words, “In the name of the Lord” (with which the Qoraish commenced their writings) had survived. The decree was, therefore, declared to be annulled, and was torn off, and approaching Abu Talib, the Meccan leaders requested him to come back to his original abode. Abu Talib accepted to resume his civic life along with all members of Hashimites. During the period the Prophet was shut up in the Shib of Abu Talib, Islam virtually made no progress outside.
In the year 619 A.D., not long after annulment of the social boycott, the Prophet suffered a great loss of Abu Talib and Khadija, who followed each other to meet their deaths within a short interval, which was a severe blow. One protected him with the influence that derived from his noble rank, while the other guarded him with her material and wealth. It was during this period that the miraj (ascension) had taken place.
Weighed down by the loss of his venerable protector and of his cherished wife, the Prophet turned to some other field for the exercise of his ministry, because the Meccans had rejected the words of God. Taif was about 75 miles south-east of Mecca, and a famous home of Banu Thaqif. Accompanied by Zaid, he arrived in Taif, and invited at first the three brothers of Umayr family to adore One God. His words caused a storm of indignation and his voice was drowned by clamours. He was wounded by stones, and Zaid endeavoured in vain to ward off. They incited to ruffians of the town to ridicule him. The ruffians drove him from the town, and the rabble and the slaves too followed, hooting, reviling and pelting him with stones for a distance of three miles, until they quitted the Prophet to pursue his way alone. Blood flowed from his both legs. He, wearied and mortified, took refuge in one of the numerous orchards, and rested under a vine.
On his return to Mecca during the night, the Prophet arrived at Nakhlah, and thence he moved to Hira. According to Ibn Sa’d (1:212), the Prophet sent words to Mutim bin Adi that he desired to return to Mecca, if he was assured protection. Mutim, although a non-believer, was a gentleman. He not only assured the Prophet of his protection according to Arabian custom, but called all of his sons who went to Kaba and remained on guard till he finished his religious obligations. Mutim also declared in Mecca that the Prophet was under his protection. He was sorely stricken in heart and lived in Mecca for some time, retired from his people, preaching occasionally, but confining his mission mainly to the strangers who congregated in Mecca and its vicinity during the season of the annual pilgrimage.
A ray of hope beamed in the interim in the north. At a distance of about 250 miles from Mecca was a town then known as Yathirab, and later as Medina. Its population was divided into two groups, the Jews and pagans. The pagans had two clans, Aws and Khazraj, who were generally at loggerheads with each other. Every year in the month of Rajab, the Arabs swarmed like locusts into Mecca. One day in Mecca, whilst sadly but yet hopefully working among the half-traders and half-pilgrims, the Prophet came upon a group of six men who were of Khazraj. Meeting them perchance, the Prophet led them to a declivity and recited to them the verses from Koran, enumerated the blessings of a good and pious life and beckoned them to the fold. Struck by his earnestness and the truth of his words, they embraced Islam. When they returned to their native Yathirab, they spread the news, with lightning rapidity that a Prophet had arisen among the Arabs in Mecca. The town was soon agog with stories of the new faith and its wonderful leader. So in the ensuing year another twelve pilgrims came to Mecca and made their vows at the same spot, which had witnessed the conversion of the former six. This is called the first pledge of Aqaba, from the name of the hill on which the conference was held. The following year, 622 A.D., the Yathirabites who had adopted the new religion repaired to Mecca. In the stillness of night, when all inimical elements appeared slumbering, these seventy-two pioneers of the new faith met under the same hill. The Prophet appeared among them, and vividly described to them the risk they incurred by adopting Islam. They replied with one voice that they adopted the religion fully conscious of the dangers that surrounding them. Thus was concluded the second pledge of Aqaba.
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