The Life & Character of the Seal of the Prophets(saw) – Part 71 Comment | June 2011
Continued serialisation of the English rendering of Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra)’s outstanding biography, ‘Seerat Khatamun Nabiyyin’, on the life and character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). This section looks at how preaching in Islam was initially organised by the Holy Prophet(saw) and the fierce opposition he faced from the powerful Quraish.
Translated from the Urdu by Ayyaz Mahmood Khan
Dar Arqam – The First Centre for the Propagation of Islam
Perhaps during these days, the Holy Prophet(saw) thought that a centre for the propagation of Islam should be established in Makkah, where Muslims could gather without any hindrance to offer their prayers, etc., and where the propagation of Islam could formally yet quietly take place with peace and calm. For this purpose, a location was required that could serve as a headquarters.
Thus, the Holy Prophet(saw) selected the house of a new Muslim named Arqam bin Abi Arqam(ra), situated at the foot of Mount Safa. Thereafter, the Muslims would gather here, and it was here that they would offer their Salat [Prayer]. It is here that seekers of truth would come and where the Holy Prophet(saw) would preach the religion of Islam to them. It was for this reason that this house has found reverence in the history of Islam, and is renowned by the name, Dar-ul-Islam.
The Holy Prophet(saw) worked in the Dar Arqam for approximately three years. In other words, the Prophet(saw) made it his headquarters in the fourth year of his prophethood and worked in it until the end of his sixth year. Historians record that the last person to accept Islam in the Dar Arqam was Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra), the acceptance of whom strengthened the Muslims to the extent that they left the Dar Arqam and began to preach openly.1
Those who accepted Islam in Dar Arqam are counted amongst the pioneers. Among these, the most renowned are: Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair(ra), from the Banu ‘Abd al-Dar. He was very handsome and striking and held very dear by his family. This is the same young, noble man who was sent as a missionary to Yathrib [now Madinah] prior to the migration and through whom Islam spread in Madinah. Then there was Zaid bin Al-Khattab(ra), the elder brother of Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra). He was martyred in the Battle of Yamamah after the death of the Holy Prophet(saw). Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) was very grieved by his demise. Hence, during his reign as Caliph when some person recited an elegy before him in remembrance of his brother, he said, “If I could write such verses, I would also have written an elegy in remembrance of my brother.” That person responded, “O Amirul-Mu’minin! [i.e. commander of the faithful] The blessed death endowed to your brother is such that had my brother received the like of it, I would never lament or write an elegy for him”. The disposition of Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) was very sagacious. He responded, “By God, the way you have consoled me with this statement, none has done the like of it.” After that, he never again expressed grief for his brother’s demise in this way.2
Another individual to believe in this era was ‘Abdullah bin Umm Maktum(ra) who was blind and was among the relatives of Hadhrat Khadijah(ra). There is an interesting narration about him that once when the Holy Prophet(saw) was fervently preaching to an honoured chieftain named Walid bin Mughirah, ‘Abdullah bin Umm Maktum(ra) quickly came to the Holy Prophet(saw) and wanted to ask about a religious matter. But in his eagerness, he did not notice the gathering and the task in which the Holy Prophet(saw) was occupied, and ignored etiquettes of a gathering of the Holy Prophet(saw). Under the circumstances, the Holy Prophet(saw) disliked his interruption, and his face showed signs of displeasure. It was due to the nobility of his character that the Holy Prophet(saw) did not say anything to him; rather, he turned away from him and continued his discourse with Walid. ‘Abdullah bin Umm Maktum(ra) remained oblivious to his mistake, but he was saddened by this inattention and he thought that perhaps the Holy Prophet(saw) preferred Walid, on account of his highest status, over his modest self. This speculation, however, was completely false and unfounded, because at the time, the question was not of rich or poor, rather the Holy Prophet(saw) was engaged in preaching to someone who received little opportunity to listen to such words, and bin Umm Maktum(ra) on the other hand had the luxury of his company more often. For this reason, the Holy Prophet(saw) did not desire giving up such an opportunity and disliked bin Umm Maktum(ra)’s interruption, which in fact was against the etiquette of the gathering as well. Nonetheless, the level of the noble character of the Holy Prophet(saw) was such that when he was informed of bin Umm Maktum(ra)’s heartfelt sadness and a Qur’anic revelation was also revealed regarding it, the Holy Prophet(saw) greatly consoled him and spread his blessed mantle, and sat him upon it, as per the custom of the Arabs [Ch.80:Vs.2-10].
Then, among those who became Muslim in that era was Ja‘far bin Abi Talib(ra) who was the biological brother of Hadhrat ‘Ali(ra) and was a close relative of the Holy Prophet(saw). With regards to Hadhrat Ja‘far(ra), historians write that he greatly resembled the Holy Prophet(saw) in his physical attributes and character. Then there was ‘Ammar bin Yasir(ra) who was from the Muzhaj tribe and lived in Makkah with his father Yasir(ra) and mother Samiyyah(ra). Then there was Suhaib bin Sinan(ra) who was generally known as Suhaib the Roman(ra).
However, in actuality he was not Roman; rather, when his father was sent by the Sovereign of Iran as an employee, he was captured by the Byzantines and made a slave. For some time he remained among them as a slave after which he was finally purchased by ‘Abdullah bin Jad‘an al-Quraishi, a Makkan chieftain, and set free. When Suhaib(ra) became Muslim the Holy Prophet(saw) said as a positive presage, “This is our first Roman fruit”. Suhaib(ra) was such a devotee to the company of the Holy Prophet(saw) that after the Prophet(saw) had migrated to Madinah, he set out to migrate to Madinah; when the Quraish stopped him and said, “You came unto us as a poor slave, and now you have become rich in our midst; thus, we shall not permit you to go.” He responded, “Take the entirety of my wealth, but let me go.” The Quraish permitted him to leave on this condition. When the Holy Prophet(saw) was informed of this, with great happiness he remarked, “Suhaib has made a very beneficial trade indeed.” When Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) was fatally wounded during his caliphate, he appointed Suhaib(ra) in his place (who was present at the time) as the Imamus-Salat [leader of the Congregational Prayer].
Therefore, it was Suhaib who led the funeral prayer of Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra). Perhaps during or around the same era, Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari(ra) also became Muslim. Abu Musa(ra) lived in Yemen and was astonishingly melodious. So much so that in one instance the Holy Prophet(saw) said, “Abu Musa has received a portion of David’s melody.” This was the same Abu Musa who was appointed an arbitrator between Hadhrat ‘Ali(ra) and Amir Mu‘awiyah during the caliphate of Hadhrat ‘Ali(ra).
Opposition of the Quraish and its Causes
As mentioned above, prior to the era of entering the Dar Arqam, public preaching had begun and the name of Islam began to take on popularity in the streets of Makkah. Until now the Quraish were quiet to some extent, but now, even they began to worry that perhaps this ‘disease’ would spread further, and the plant of Islam might take firm root in Makkan soil. For this reason, they turned their attention to Islam and attempted to halt its propagation forcefully. What were the causes of this opposition? We need not write too much in this regard, for all divine religions established in the world face opposition, the reason being that such religions unquestionably possess attributes as are unknown to the people of that time. Actually, these attributes are taken by the existing society an inevitable death for their current habits, beliefs and ideologies. In actuality, the rise of prophets occurs in such eras when the people of the world have strayed from the path upon which Allah the Exalted wished that they tread, and they consider their current false path to be the correct one. As such, whenever a new prophet comes, and invites people to the right path, the world rejects his invitation, thinking it fictitious, and prepares to oppose it. Hence, Allah the Exalted states in the Holy Qur’an:
“Alas for mankind! There comes not a messenger to them but they mock at him” [Ch.36:V.31]
Then, the strange thing is that it is usually those who are considered of high status that tend to be the most fervent in opposition. Thus, Allah the Exalted says:
“The custom of Allah is that in every town it is the great ones who break ties with Allah, in opposition of the Messenger, and become the instigators of disorder and corruption.” [Ch.6:V.124]
Thus, when Abraham(as) was sent, the distinguished people of his nation took hold of him and cast him into a fire. When Moses(as) came, he was also made to confront violence and contention from the most powerful of his people. When the Messiah(as)’s turn came, the scholars of his nation and Pharisees put him on the cross. When Krishna(as) was sent to India, his nation stood up to annihilate him. Would then the chief of the prophets be exempt from this custom? Rather, his opposition was to be proportionally equivalent to the magnitude of his mission. Since the Holy Prophet(saw) was raised in an era when darkness was especially prevalent and it was inevitable that upon the advent of light, the armies of darkness would contend their utmost; so it happened as such – in comparison to all the prophets of the past, the Holy Prophet(saw) was faced with the most opposition. The primary causes as they appear for this opposition are as follows:
1. The people of the Quraish were idolaters of the highest degree. The honour and love of idols had become so impressed in their hearts that to hear even a word against them was unbearable. These wrongdoers had placed hundreds of idols in the Ka‘bah, which had been built for the worship of Allah the Exalted alone. They would turn to these idols for all their needs. When Islam came, its principle foundation was the unity of God; its clear commandment was not to bow one’s head before any human, tree, rock or star, etc., rather:
“Prostrate thyselves before that Being alone [Allah], who hath created them.” [Ch.41:V.38]
Furthermore, the words used to describe the idols of the Quraish in the Holy Qur’an appeared to the Quraish very insulting, for they were declared the fuel of hell. For example, it is mentioned:
“O Ye People! Surely you and your idols which you worship are the fuel of Hell.” [Ch.21:V.99]
These statements emblazoned a fire among the Quraish, and they stood up united to obliterate Islam.
With the exception of idolatry, the customs and morals of the Arabs have been mentioned in the beginning of this book. The arena of adultery, alcohol, gambling, pillaging, murder, and unlawful gains was ever rampant. Islam, on the other hand, condemned such things. As such, by accepting Islam, they were compelled to adopt a new way of life, and the Quraish were not prepared for this in the least. Similar was the case with ritualism, which had become part of the Arab religion. Islam, on the other hand, prohibited and crushed all vile, immoral, and irreligious rituals.
To honour the traditions of their ancestors and follow them, whether right or wrong, was a part of the Arab religion. For this reason, they insisted:
“Nay, we will follow that wherein we found our fathers.” [Ch.2:V.171]
However, Islam declared God-given intellect an arbitrator between truth and falsehood, and with regards to their idolatrous ancestors, it clearly said:
“Shall they then follow their fathers, even if they had no sense at all and no guidance?” [Ch.2:V.171]
The Quraish were a very arrogant people. These people thought of no one like unto themselves. As far as slaves were concerned, they especially desired to debase them and keep them downtrodden. In stark contrast, with respect to rights, Islam dispelled all such distinctions, developed a universal brotherhood, and brought both master and slave in the same row before God the Almighty. For the chieftains of the Quraish, this was no less than a cup of death.
Many people of influence and wealth existed among the Quraish. Despite the fact that the Holy Prophet(saw) belonged to a noble dynasty, he possessed neither. In other words, due to his reclusive disposition, he was not among the chieftains of the Quraish, nor was he distinct in terms of his money and wealth. In this case, to act in obedience to the Holy Prophet(saw), for the leaders of the Quraish, was a sacrifice of such magnitude as they were not at all ready to make. It is for this reason that they would say:
“Why has not this Qur’an been sent down to some great man of Makkah or Taif?” [Ch.43:V.32]
In addition to these causes, another reason was that between the various tribes of the Quraish, there existed extreme hostility and enmity. As such the remaining tribes were in no way prepared to accept the superiority of the tribe of the Holy Prophet(saw) over their own. The tribes of the Banu Umaiyyah and Banu Makhzum particularly harboured great enmity against the Banu Hashim. For this reason, these two tribes were most fervent in their opposition to Islam.
1. * Sharhul-‘Allamatiz-Zarqani ‘alal-Mawahibil-Ladunniyyah, by Muhammad bin ‘Abdul-Baqi Az-Zarqani, Volume 2, pp. 8-9, Babu Islamil-Faruq(ra), Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmayyah, Beirut, Lebanon, First Edition (1996) * Tarikhul-Khamis, by Husain bin Muhammad bin Hasan Dyar Bakri, Part 1, p. 296, Dhikru Islami ‘Umarra, Muwassasatu Sha‘ban, Beirut
2. Usdul-Ghabah, Vol.2, pp. 146-147, Babu Zaid bin Al-Khattab, Darul-Fikr, Beirut (2003)
3. * Al-Kamilu fit-Tarikh, by Imam ‘Izz-ud-Din ibnil-Athir, Vol.1, pp. 667-673, Babu Dhikril-Mustahzi’ina wa man kana Ashaddul-Adha lin-Nabisa, Darul-Kutubil-‘Arabi, Beirut, First Edition (1998)
* Sharhul-‘Allamatiz-Zarqani ‘alal-Mawahibil-Ladunniyyah, By Muhammad bin ‘Abdul-Baqi Az-Zarqani, Vol.1, pp. 462-473, Babu Dhikri Awwalu man Amana billahi wa Rasulihi, Vol.1, pp. 462-473, Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, First Edition (1996)