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Mounting Opposition

For about three years after the first revelation, Muhammad's message reached only a small group of family, friends, and acquaintances. These people were very discreet in their practice of Islam and tried to avoid confrontations with the idol-worshippers. But the situation began to change as the Prophet received commands to proclaim the glories of Allah, first to his clan, and then to all of the Quraish.

The Quraish, in general, had been tolerant of the new religion. However, as the Prophet's rejection of their gods became more public, the Quraish began to worry. Their high status among the Arab tribes depended on their guardianship of the Ka'bah and their hospitality to the pilgrims who traveled to Makkah from all over Arabia. They welcomed every man and his gods. It would not do to have those gods insulted. They also worried about the status of the tribe if too many people turned to Islam. The Quraish might be considered unsuitable as guardians of the idols in the Ka'bah and be replaced by another Arab tribe.

The Quraish wanted to do something to distance themselves from Muhammad . They wanted the pilgrims who would soon be flocking into the city of Makkah to know that he did not represent the thinking of the majority of the Quraish. They were concerned about the persuasiveness of the man. They themselves had been impressed by his sincerity and truthfulness in the days before he had started talking about Allah. Yet they dared not do any bodily harm to him, for the clan to which he belonged was among the strongest in the tribe, and would certainly retaliate if he were killed or injured.
The first plan of attack by the Quraish elders was to approach Muhammad's uncle, Abu Talib. They wanted Abu Talib to speak to his nephew, to ask him to cease his preaching. They were even willing to offer wealth or power in exchange for his silence. Abu Talib, who had remained neutral in the matter, agreed to have a talk with his nephew. However, although Muhammad did not wish to cause any trouble for his uncle and other members of his family, he declared to his uncle that even if the Quraish placed the sun in his right hand and the moon in his left, he could not abandon his preaching. Abu Talib respected the sincerity of his nephew and promised that he would do nothing to stand in his way.

The next line of attack was to set up roadblocks on every road leading into the city. Visitors would be warned in advance about Muhammad , and would be advised that he was a powerful sorcerer, capable of splitting families apart. They would be cautioned to avoid contact with him and his followers. However, some people who had heard of him from other sources still sought out the Prophet , some heard different stories about him from his followers and decided to see for themselves what he was like, and some were won over in spite of their efforts to avoid him. One man plugged his ears before he went to pray at the Ka'bah, where Muhammad was also praying. But enough of the Prophet's words filtered through the earplugs to make him want to hear more. Before returning to his distant home, he learned about Islam and took the shahada. Many of these pilgrims who came in contact with the Muslims made the profession of faith and returned to their people, carrying with them the message of Islam. In this way the word was spread to some of the far-flung tribes of Arabia.

Insha-Allah, in the next issue of Iqra, we shall tell of the Quraishi leaders' attempts to enter into direct negotiations with the prophet , in their continuing struggle to neutralize his influence.


Published: September 2002

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Last modified 08/12/05 09:25 AM - Iqra - ISSN #1062-2756