Islam’s Message vs Makkan Tribal Politics

The Arab world was a tribal world where tribal customs and affiliations held sway. Most behavior was governed by tribal conflicts and competition between tribes for dominance and leadership.

When Allah chose His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to carry His Message, he was one of the most distinguished and noble men in his society. His father came from the house of `Abd al-Manaf and his mother from the noble house of Zuhrah. He was from the most noble lineages of the most noble clan – Banu Hashim – of the tribe of Quraysh. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was also known for his noble manners and exemplary character. He remained aloof from the shortcomings of character that the Arabs used to boast about in that time of ignorance. He was free of any reproachable behavior, since Allah protected him from the time he was born and kept him away from any dubious behavior and from anything that could harm his reputation.

All the same, he never held a leadership position in any tribe. There were many reasons for this. Some of these reasons related to his environment and his age. From another angle, there was also the divine intervention that protected the Message from being mixed up with any worldly motivations that the insincere always yield to and that people of integrity always shy away from. One of the objections levied against him by the idolaters was that they questioned the reason why Allah would choose Muhammad (peace be upon him) for His Message. They did not take note of his virtues and personal qualities and failed to see how he was any better than they were. Quite the contrary, they suggested many people who they claimed were more suited to carry the Message, people of prominence who held power in their tribes.

“They said: ‘Why was the Quran not sent down to a man of prominence in either of the two chief cities’.” [Surah al-Zukhruf: 31]

They did not necessarily mean any person in particular from the cities of Makkah and Ta’if, though some narrations suggest certain individuals. Among the people of Makkah mentioned were: al-Walid b. al-Mughirah al-Makhzumi and `Utbah b. Rabi`ah. Al-Walid was known as “the Rayhanah of Quraysh” rayhan being a plant valued for its exquisite fragrance. Among the people of al-Ta’if, there was the possibility of Habib b. `Amr al-Thaqafi, Ibn `Abd Yalil, `Urwah b. Mas`ud, or Kinanah b. `Abd.

Although they did not necessarily intend any specific person by their statement, they clearly meant that the Message should have been revealed to a prominent person from Makkah or al-Ta’if, a person of nobility, leadership, or tribal chieftaincy, like those people mentioned above.

What presumption must have possessed them to think they could involve themselves in the divine choice of selecting a prophet? They actually went so far as to demand that each one of them be afforded the status of the Messenger and be visited by an angel and receive revelation, so that no one of them would have to follow another.

Allah says,

“When a sign comes to them, they say: ‘We shall not believe until we receive something like what was given to Allah’s Messengers.’ Allah knows best where to place His Message. Soon will the wicked be overtaken by humiliation and a severe punishment from Allah for all their plots.” [Surah al-An`am: 124]

They exalted in themselves and refused to follow another human being like them, even if he be a prophet supported by revelation from Heaven. They demanded that angels descend upon them or that they gaze upon Allah with their own eyes. For this, their fate was to meet a disgraceful punishment both in this world and in the Hereafter and enter the Hellfire in humiliation.

Allah says;

“Soon will the wicked be overtaken by humiliation before Allah.” [Surah al-An`am: 124]

In another verse, Allah says;

“Those who do not hope to meet with Us say: ‘Why are not angels sent down to us, or why do we not see our Lord’ Verily they are conceited about themselves and mighty is their insolence.” [Surah al-Furqan: 21]

These arrogant people refuse from the start to obey a man like themselves. It was the same for other proud and haughty nations who rejected the truth saying: “If you obey a man like yourselves, you will certainly be lost.” [Surah al-Mu’minun: 34]

They argued that if this Messenger had to come from the human race, then why could he not come from the highest ranking members of society,  the leaders and the chiefs of the tribes who, as far as they were concerned, were more suitable to be followed? This was nothing more than an excuse used to justify the actions of those who denied the truth that the Messenger came with and turned away from it.

This is why you find that those who rejected the Message who came from the same clan as Allah’s Messenger used to argue that Allah’s Messenger was not a chief and had no authority or position of prominence among them. Those who came from other clans in the tribe rejected his call in order to protect their own clan’s power and prestige in their competition with the other clans. Those who came from other tribes rejected him to preserve the status of their tribe and out of disdain for following a member of another tribe.

Al-Mughîrah b. Shu`bah relates:

The first day I met Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), I was walking with Abu Jahl b. Hisham in some of the alleyways of Makkah. We met with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and he said to Abu Jahl: “Come forward to Allah and his Messenger. I call you to Allah.”

Abu Jahl replied: “O Muhammad, will you stop blaspheming our gods? Do you want nothing but for us to bear witness to the fact that you conveyed the message? For, by Allah, even if I knew that what you say is the truth, I would not follow you.”

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) departed and Abu Jahl turned to me and said: “By Allah, I know that what he says is true, but the tribe of Banu Qusayy says that they have custodianship over the gates and we agree. They say that they have the council and we agree. They say that they carry the banner and we agree. They say that they provide water for the pilgrims and we say that we agree. They feed the people and we feed the people. Then, while we are neck to neck, they come and say that they have a prophet among them. What can we say to this? No, I will never accept it!” [Ibn Ishaq, al-Maghazi (p. 210). Al-Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nubuwwah (2/207)]

From this confession, the matter becomes perfectly clear. The issue with Abu Jahl and his ilk was the tribal struggles for leadership and prestige. Banu Qusayy monopolized the custodianship of the gates, the distribution of water, and the council. It was not possible to let them to have the exclusive claim of a prophet among them, because if this were to happen, the whole tribe of Quraysh – and all other Arabs as well – would yield to that clan’s authority.

A similar story is that of Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan and al-Akhnas b. Shurayq when they listened to the Quran night after night.

One morning, al-Akhnas went to Abu Jahl and said: “O Abû al-Hakam, what is your opinion about what I heard from Muhammad?”

Abu Jahl replied: “What did you hear? We compete with Banu `Abd Manâf in nobility. They provide food and we provide food. They carry the burdens and we carry them, they give and we give… until we are neck in neck like two racehorses, then they say: ‘We have a prophet among us who receives revelation from Heaven’ When will we be able to say the same thing? By Allah, we should never listen to him and never believe him.”  [Sîrah Ibn Hisham (1/337). Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi (189). Al-Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nubuwwah (2/206)]

It was very difficult for Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to carry out his duty in the midst of such a tribal environment that centered exclusively around the clan and was plagued by bitter tribal competition. Hs closest relatives failed to follow him because he was not one of his clan’s chiefs. Others refused to follow him because he did not come from their clan or tribe.

Ibn `Abbas relates that when verse 214 of Surah al-Shu`ara’ was revealed (“And admonish your nearest kin.”), the Prophet (peace be upon him) climbed Mount Safa and called out the names of the clans of Quraysh: “O Banu Fahr, O Banu `Udayy… until they all assembled. Those who could not go out themselves sent out messengers to find out what was going on. Abu Lahab and the tribe of Quraysh came out. Then he said: “What would you think if I were to inform you that a great army was gathered in the valley that wants to attack you? Would you believe me?”

They replied: “Yes we would, because we have never known anything but honesty from you.”

He said: “Then I warn you of a great punishment that awaits you.”

Abu Lahab spoke up and said: “May you perish for the rest of the day! You brought us out here for this?” Thereafter, Allah revealed the verse: “Perish the hands of Abu Lahab! May he perish. His wealth and all of his gains will not suffice him.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (4/161) and Sahih Muslim (1/193)]

From the moment the Prophet (peace be upon him) made that announcement, Makkah became divided into two camps. There is the camp of disbelief and paganism that includes both Arabs and non-Arabs, rulers and subjects, close relatives of the Prophet and those unrelated to him. Then there was the camp of faith that at first comprised of Muhammad b. `Abd Allah (peace be upon him) and one other free man, one slave, one boy, and one woman. These were the people who sacrificed for the religion everything that was dear and precious to them.

Friday Khutbah (Sermons) : The Hijrah

Friday Khutbah (Sermons) : The Hijrah
- by Imam Al-Madinah al-Munawarrah ‘Ali Abd-ur-Rahman al-Hudhaifi
from the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Muharram 12, 1422 (April 6, 2001)

The Transcript:


All praise is due to Allah, the Subduer. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and I testify that Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is His slave and Messenger.

Fellow Muslims! Fear Allah as He should be feared that you may prosper in this world and the hereafter.

Fellow Muslims! The fulfillment of one’s religious obligations and aspiration for lofty goals takes a great personal effort, and the sacrifice of one’s time and wealth. Even one’s life may be at stake in the course of fulfilling this great obligation, in addition to losing one’s friends, gaining more enemies, exposing oneself to ridicule, and having few helpers and protectors. This, in fact, was the Prophet’s very situation during his propagation of Islam.

Allah sent Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) to Mankind at a time when they were most in need of His message and religion. The People of the Book had then altered their books and the whole world was in total darkness of shirk and ignorance. It was then that Allah sent His slave Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) to all people. The Almighty says,

“Say (O Muhammad) to mankind: ‘Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. None has the right to be worshiped but He, Who gives life and causes death.'” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:158)

The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) found people worshiping different deities like trees, stones, the moon, angels, jinns, ‘Isa (alaihis salaam), etc. He found them calling unto these deities, seeking their assistance, taking refuge with them, beseeching them for benefits, slaughtering for them, vowing to them, and taking them as intermediaries thinking that they could bring them closer to Allah. He found them consulting fortune-tellers and sorcerers, spreading immoralities, maltreating neighbours, severing bonds of kinship, earning money from both lawful and unlawful means, practicing usury and usurping other people’s properties. Their religion, customs and traditions were based on personal interests and material considerations. Then the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) came, calling people to the testimony that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allah. He called to all that this statement entailed such as devoting all acts of worship like du’aa, slaughtering, vowing, seeking help and refuge, making tawaf, etc, to Allah alone. Allah says,

“Say (O Muhammad) : ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from. Join not anything in worship with Him…'” (Surah Al-An’am 6:151)

He also called them to follow him alone. Allah says,

“Whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad saws) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it).” (Surah Al-Hashr 59:7)

The Prophet of mercy (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) came to enjoin on people chaste life, noble characters, firmness in faith, doing good to the kith and kin, good neighbourliness and abstention from injustice and forbidden things. He enjoined them to consult the Book of Allah in their affairs, forbade them from visiting soothsayers, he enjoined earning from lawful means and spending in lawful causes, and made all people equal in the eyes of Allah’s law. Allah says,

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are al-fawaish (great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds) unrighteous oppression, joining partners (in worship) with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:33)

He also says,

“Verily, Allah enjoins al-‘adl (i.e. justice, and worshipping none but Allah alone – Islamic Monotheism) and al-ihsaan (i.e. to be patient in performing your duties to Allah, totally for Allah’s sake and in accordance with the sunnah (legal ways) of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in perfect manner) and giving (help) to kith and kin.” (Surah Al-Nahl 16:90)

Ibn Jareer related from Ibn ‘Abaas that he said,

“When Abu Talib fell sick, Quraysh elders – including Abu Jahl – visited him and they told him: ‘Your nephew insults our gods and does so-and-so. Do justice to us and stop him from insulting our gods and we also will leave him and his God!’ Abu Talib then addressed the Prophet: ‘O nephew! Why do your people complain and claim that you insult their gods?’ The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) replied, ‘O uncle! I only want them to utter a word through which the Arabs will feel indebted to them and on which account the non-Arabs will have to pay them jizyah (tribute).’ Abu Jahl said, ‘We will say it even ten times.’ Then the Prophet said, ‘Say, Laa ilaaha illa Allaah.’ [i.e. there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah]. The Quraysh elders were dismayed when they heard that and turned their backs dusting their garments and saying, ‘Will he turn all the gods into one god? This is really an amazing thing.’

These elders knew the meaning of this word; that it transformed man totally in his worship, interactions and his whole life as Allah says,

“Say (O Muhammad), ‘Verily, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Aalameen. He has no partners, and of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.'” (Surah Al-An’am 6:162-163)

This is actually the meaning of the kalimah from which the Quraysh idolaters fled. The Prophet called all people to this concept; a religion that elevates man to highest ranks and which can make him have eternal happiness. Only a few weak people responded to his call and they were severely persecuted by the unbelievers. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) himself was faced by three sets of people: the envious ones, arrogant people who knew the truth, and yet denied it; and the misled ignorant ones. These people exerted all their effort to stop the spread of Islam.

“They intend to put out the light of Allah with their mouths. But Allah will complete His light even though the disbelievers hate (it).” (Surah Al-Saff 61:8)

When the torment became severe in Makkah, and the idolaters wanted to assassinate the Messenger of Allah, angel Jibreel came to him and said,

“Allah has given you permission to migrate to al-Madinah, do not therefore pass this night in your house so that they may not get you.”

While the idolaters were lying in wait for him to come out so that they might strike him all at the same time, he came out reciting the opening verses of Surah Ya-Sin and throwing sand on their heads. Allah prevented them from seeing him and made slumber overtake them. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and his companion hid in the cave of Thawr for three days until the search for them subsided.

The Quraysh searched for him in every nook and cranny and followed his tracks until they were at the entrance of the cave. Abu Bakr then said,

“If one of them looks at the place of his feet, he will see us.” The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) replied, “What do you think about two companions, of whom Allah is the third?”

They got a guide after three days and proceeded to Al-Madinah. Thus did Hijrah take place and it was really a victory for Islam and Muslims in that Allah rendered the disbelievers’ plot fruitless. Allah says,

“If you help him ( i.e. Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)) not (it does not matter) for Allah did indeed help him when the disbelievers drove him out, the second of two, when they (Muhammad and Abu Bakr) were in the cave and he (Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)) said to his companion (Abu Bakr), ‘Be not sad (or afraid), surely Allah is with us.’ Then Allah sent down His sakeenah (calmness, tranquility, peace) upon him and strengthened him with forces (angels) which you saw not and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while it was the word of Allah that became the uppermost, and Allah is the Almighty, All-Wise.” (Surah Al-Tawbah 9:40)

The Messenger of Allah saws was exposed to assassination attempts many times before and after his migration. In Makkah, Abu Jahl had attempted to kill him before Allah sent angel Jibreel to prevent him from carrying out his devilish act. At the battle of Tabook, an attempt was made on his life by some hypocrites. Even in his mosque in Al-Madinah, an attempt was made to kill him by poisoning, but Allah saved him from all these attempts for his perfection in actualizing Tawheed, and his sincere dependence on Allah. Allah says,

“And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him.” (Surah Al-Talaq 65:3)

On his way to Al-Madinah during migration, Suraqah bin Malik pursued him in order to get at him and win the Quraysh prize (money that had been put on the Prophet’s head), but Allah made Suraqah embrace Islam and abandon his pursuit. The Messenger of Allah informed him that he would wear the bracelets of Chosros – King of Persia. This prophecy later came to pass when Muslims conquered Persia and ‘Umar – then the Khalifah – dressed him with Chosros’s bracelets.

The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and his companion Abu Bakr entered Al-Madinah gloriously and honourably, bought a house there, built his mosque and quarters of his wives and started a new era full of blessings, victory and divine support. Afterwards, Hijrah became compulsory from Makkah to Madinah during the time of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and from all places where a Muslim is unable to practice his religion. The Messenger of Allah said,

“Islam erases whatever was done before it, and Hijrah erases whatever was done before it.”

After the conquest of Makkah, emigration from there was abrogated. As for other places where one cannot perfectly practice his religion, emigration from there is valid until the Last Day. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said,

“Hijrah will not cease until there is no more repentance and repentance will not cease until the sun rises from the West.”

The issue of Hijrah to Madinah in itself was a kind of miracle, for the city was very meager in terms of it’s commerce, infrastructure and agricultural resources before Hijrah, and the place was even tight for its inhabitants. In human estimation, emigration to a city with all these deficiencies would cause a lot of economic and social problems but as Allah would have it, the reverse was the case in the Hijrah to Madinah, for the emigration to Madinah brought all good things to the town. People had the opportunity of meeting the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), learning their religion from him, emulating his noble character, preserving his sunnah, knowing much of his public and private life and loving him.

Hijrah had a great impact on Islam and Muslims, for Allah bestowed a lot of His blessings on Muslims through Hijrah. Although the Muslims faced some difficulties in the first days of their emigration to Madinah, they were able to overcome these difficulties through their Imaan and perseverance. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) used to feel compassion for them and was full of love for their children. Then Allah brought good things to Al-Madinah from all walks of life.

Dear Muslim brother! As you have missed the reward of making Hijrah to Allah and His Messenger during the prophetic era, there is another type of Hijrah in which you can earn great reward: Emigrate from disobedience to obedience; shun negligence in religious matters and migrate to uprightness; emigrate from sins to submission to Allah; emigrate from laziness and false hopes to seriousness and striving in what pleases Allah and emigrate with your heart from affinity to the mundane life to the love of the hereafter. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said,

“The Muslim is one who does not harm other Muslims with his hand or tongue and the Muhajir is the one who shuns all that Allah has forbidden.”

He also said,

“An act of worship during the time of fitnah (trials) is like an act of emigration to me in reward.”

Allah says,

“Verily, those who have believed and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s religion) and have striven hard in the Way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s mercy. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:218)

Brothers in faith! Fear Allah as he should be feared, and die not except in the state of Islam.

Fellow Muslims! The All-Mighty says,

“And He (Allah) it is who has put the night and day in succession for such who desires to remember or desires to show his gratitude.” (Surah Al-Furqan 25:62)

Succession of night and day is one of the great signs of Allah. It enables him who misses a righteous deed in the night to make it up during the day and vice versa. Further, there are in the Prophet’s Hijrah lessons and admonitions for Muslims and a good example of patience and perseverance.

One of its lessons is that, it was the will of Allah to make His Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) perform the Hijrah with means that human beings were accustomed to, like riding on a camel and hiring a guide. If He had wished, He could have let him do the Hijrah on al-Buraaq but He wanted Muslims to emulate him and help their religion with whatever means Allah facilitated for them.

The greatest duty upon you then, dear brother, is to help the religion of Allah in yourself by practicing it and calling to it in your community and being patient with that.

Indeed, the situation of the Muslims today throughout the world necessitates that we benefit from the lessons to be learned from the Hijrah. We should know that the condition of Muslims of this generation cannot improve except by what improved the condition of our righteous predecessors, namely; Sincere ‘Imaan, honest actualization of Tawheed, noble characters, putting trust in Allah, patience and perfection of acts of worship in accordance with the sunnah. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said,

“Fear Allah wherever you are, follow an evil deed with a good one; it will erase it, and be well mannered in your dealings with people.”

The kuffars attempt to put off the light of Islam

The kuffars attempt to put off the light of Islam in the early years of the Prophet

- Taken from the book Ar-Raheeq-ul-Makhtoom (The Sealed Nectar)

Having fully perceived that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) could never be desisted from his Call, Quraish, in a desperate attempt to quell the tidal wave of the Call, resorted to other cheap means acting from base motives:

1. Scoffing, degrading, ridiculing, belying and laughter-instigating cheap manners, all of which levelled at the new converts in general, and the person of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in particular, with the aim of dragging the spirit of despair into their morale, and slackening their ardent zealotry. They used to denounce the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as a man possessed by a jinn, or an insane person:

“And they say: O you [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] to whom the Dhikr (the Quran) has been sent down! Verily, you are a mad man.” [Surah Al Hijr 15:6]

or a liar practising witchcraft,

“And they (Arab pagans) wonder that a warner [Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] has come to them from among themselves! And the disbelievers say: This [Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] is a sorcerer, a liar.” [Surah Sad 38:4]

Their eyes would also look at the good man as if they would eat him up’, or trip him up, or disturb him from the position of stability or firmness. They used all sorts of terms of abuse madman’ or one possessed by an evil spirit’, and so on:

“And verily, those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes through hatreds when they hear the Reminder (the Quran), and they say: Verily, he [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] is a madman!” [Surah Al Qalam 68:51]

Amongst the early converts, there was a group who had unfortunately no strong clan at their back to support them. These innocent souls were ridiculed and jeered in season and out of season. Referring to such people, the highbrow Quraish aristocrats used repeatedly to ask the Prophet (Peace be upon him), with jest and scorn:

“Allah has favoured from amongst us?” [Surah Al An’am 6:53]

And Allah said:

“Does not Allah know best those who are grateful?” [Surah Al An’am 6:53]

The wicked used to laugh at the righteous in many ways:

i. They would inwardly laugh at their Faith, because they felt themselves so superior.

ii. In public places, when the righteous passed, they used to insult and wink at them,

iii. In their own houses, they would run them down.

iv. Whenever and wherever they saw them, they reproached and called them fools who had lost their way. In the Hereafter, all these tricks and falsehoods will be shown for what they are, and the tables will be reversed. Allah had said:

“Verily! (During the worldly life) those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed; and whenever they passed by them, used to wink one to another (in mockery); and when they returned to their own people, they would return jesting; and when they saw them, they said: Verily! These have indeed gone astry!’ But they (disbelievers, sinners) had not been sent as watchers over them (the believers).” [Surah Al Mutaffifin 83:29-33]

2. Distorting Muhammad’s teachings, evoking ambiguities, circulating false propaganda; forging groundless allegations concerning his doctrines, person and character, and going to excess in such a manner in order to screen off any scope of sound contemplation from the public. With respect to the Quran, they used to allege that it was:

“Tales of the ancients, which he [Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.” [Surah Al Furqan 25:5]

The iniquitous went on ceaselessly inculcating in people’s ears that the Quran was not a true Revelation:

“This (the Quran) is nothing but a lie that he [Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] has invented, and others have helped him at it.” [Surah Al Furqan 25:4]

The wicked would also attribute to men of Allah just such motives and springs of action as they themselves would be guilty of in such circumstances. The pagans and those who were hostile to the revelation of Allah and Islam, could not understand how such wonderful verses could flow from the tongue of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) without having someone to teach, and claimed:

“It is only a human being who teaches him.” [Surah Al Nahl 16:103]

They also raised another baseless and superficial objection:

“Why does this Messenger [Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] eat food and walk about in the markets (like ourselves)?” [Surah Al Furqan 25:7]

They were sadly ignorant and painfully at fault for they could not perceive that a teacher for mankind is one who shares their nature, mingles in their life, is acquainted with their doings, and sympathises with their joys and sorrows.

The Noble Quran has vehemently refuted their charges and allegations and has explained that the utterances of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) are the Revelations of the Lord and their nature and contents provide a bold challenge to those who attribute his Prophetic expressions to some base origin, at times to the mental throes of a dreaming reformer, at others to the effusion of a frenzied poet or the incoherent drivelling of an insane man.

3. Contrasting the Quran with the mythology of the ancients in order to distract people’s interests from Allah’s Words.

Once An-Nadr bin Harith addressed the Quraishites in the following manner:

“O Quraish! You have experienced an unprecedented phenomenon before which you have so far been desperately helpless. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) grew up here among you and always proved to be highly obliging, the most truthful and trustworthy young man. However, later on when he reached manhood, he began to preach a new faith alien to your society, and opposed to your liking so you began to denounce him at a time as a sorcerer, at another as a soothsayer, a poet, or even an insane man. I swear by Allah he is not anyone of those. He is not interested in blowing on knots as magicians are, nor do his words belong to the world of soothsaying; he is not a poet either, for his mentality is not that of a rambler, nor is he insane because he has never been witnessed to develop any sort of hallucinations or insinuations peculiar to madmen. O people of Quraish, it is really a serious issue and I recommend that you reconsider your attitude.”

It is narrated that An-Nadr, at a later stage, headed for Heerah where he got conversant with the traditions of the kings of Persia and the accounts of people like Rustum and Asphandiar, and then returned to Makkah. Here he would always shadow the Messenger’s steps in whatever audiences the later held to preach the new faith and to caution people against Allah’s wrath. An-Nadr would directly follow the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and narrate to the same audience long tales about those people of Persia. He would then always append his talk with a question cunningly inquiring if he did not outdo Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) related that An-Nadr used to purchase songstresses who would through their bodily charms and songs entice away from Islam anyone developing the least attachment to the Prophet (Peace be upon him); in this regard, Allah says:

“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the Path of Allah.” [Surah Luqman 31:6]

4. In a fresh attempt to dissuade Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from his principled stand, Quraish invited him to compromise on his teachings and come to terms with their preIslamic practices in such a way that he quits some of his religion and the polytheists do the same. Allah, the All-High says:

“They wish that you should compromise (in religion out of courtesy) with them, so they (too) would compromise with you. [Surah Al Qalam 68:9]

On the authority of Ibn Jareer and At-Tabarani, the idolaters offered that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) worship their gods for a year, and they worship his Lord for a year. In another version, they said: “If you accept our gods, we would worship yours.”

Ibn Ishaq related that Al-Aswad bin Al-Muttalib, Al-Waleed bin Al-Mugheerah, Omaiyah bin Khalaf and Al-As bin Wa’il As-Sahmy, a constellation of influential polytheists, intercepted the Prophet (Peace be upon him) while he was circumambulating in the Holy Sanctuary, and offered him to worship that they worshipped, and they worship that he worshipped so that, according to them, both parties would reach a common denominator. They added Should the Lord you worship prove to be better than ours, then it will be so much better for us, but if our gods proved to be better than yours, then you would have benefit from it. Allah, the Exalted, was decisive on the spot and revealed the following Chapter:

“Say: O Al-Kafirun (disbelievers in Allah, in His Oneness, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messengers, in the Day of Resurrection, in Al-Qadar, etc.)! I worship not that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism).” [Surah Al Kafirun 109:1-6]

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 Allah (Peace be upon him) 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 (Peace be upon him), 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 (Peace be upon him). Starting with flinging stones at him, forcing his two sons to divorce their wives Ruqaiya and Umm Kulthum, the Prophet’s daughters, 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. 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 (Peace be upon him). She used to tie bundles of thorns with ropes of twisted palm-leaf fibre and strew them about in the paths which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) 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 Quran. On receiving this news, she directly proceeded to the Mosque with a handful of pebbles to hurl at the Prophet (Peace be upon him). Allah, the Great, took away her sight and she saw only Abu Bakr who was sitting immediately next to the Prophet (Peace be upon him). 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 (Peace be upon him) and inquired about the matter. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) assured him that she did not see him because Allah 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 neighbabstained 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 Masud, narrated that once when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was prostrating himself while praying in Al-Kabah, Abu Jahl asked his companions to bring the dirty foetus of a she-camel and place it on his back. Uqbah bin Abi Muait 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 (Peace be upon him), happened to pass that way. She removed the filth from her father’s back. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) invoked the wrath of Allah upon them, especially upon Abu Jahl, Utbah bin Rabia, Shaibah bin Rabia, Al-Waleed bin Utbah, Omaiyah bin Khalaf and Uqbah bin Muait. 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, Allah says:

“Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.” [Surah Al Humazah 104:1]

Uqbah bin Al-Muait once attended an audience of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) 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 (Peace be upon him); 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 (Peace be upon him) in season and out of season. The Noble Quran, 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).” [Surah Al Qalam 68:10-13]

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 Quran, in the Message of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] nor prayed!” [Surah Al Qiyamah 75:31]

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

“Then, let him call upon his council (of helpers).” [Surah Al ‘Alaq 96:17]

In another version of the same incident, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) 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!” [Surah Al Qiyamah 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.

Such was the disgraceful treatment meted out to the Prophet (Peace be upon him), 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 (Peace be upon him), 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.

The uncle of Uthman bin Affan used to wrap Uthman in a mat of palm leaves, and set fire under him. When Umm Musab 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.

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 Allah. On one such occasion, Abu Bakr was passing by; moved by pity, he purchased and emancipated him from slavery.

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 (Peace be upon him) 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 (Peace be upon him) 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 (Peace be upon him), who consoled him for his pain and confirmed his faith. Immediately afterwards the following verse was revealed:

“Whoever disbelieved in Allah after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith —.” [Surah Al Nahl 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. 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.

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.

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.

“Each verse is like a date; the more you chew it…”

1 – The Messenger of Allah said:

“Whoever wants to to love Allah and His Messenger, then let him read the Mushaf.” [‘Sahih al-Jami”; # 6289]

2 – Ibn ‘Abbas narrated:

“al-Walid bin al-Mughirah (a polytheist) came to the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger of Allah recited the Qur’an to him, and al-Walid seemed to become affected and softened by it. Abu Jahl came to know of this, so, he came to al-Walid and said: “Don’t you see that your people are collecting charity for you?”

He said: “And why is that?”

Abu Jahl replied: “So that they can give it to you, as they see that you went to Muhammad to get some of his food.”

al-Walid said: “Quraysh knows that I am of the wealthiest of its sons.”

Abu Jahl said: “So, say to Muhammad something that would convince your people that you oppose him.”

al-Walid replied: “And what can I possibly say? There is not a single man who is more knowledgable of poetry or prose than I, or even that of the Jinn, and by Allah, what he says bears no resemblance to these things. By Allah, what he says has a sweetness to it, and a charm upon it; the highest part of it is fruitful and the lowest part of it is gushing forth with bounty; it dominates and cannot be dominated, and it crushes all that is under it.””

[Reported by al-Hakim in ‘al-Mustadrak’ (2/506-507) and at-Tabari in ‘Jami’ al-Bayan’ (29/156), and it is authentic]

3 – Jubayr bin Mut’im said:

“I heard the Messeger of Allah recite ‘Surah Al Tur’ in the Maghrib prayer, and when he got to the verses {“Were they created by nothing, or were they themselves the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? No, but they have no firm Belief. Or are with them the treasures of your Lord? Or are they the tyrants with the authority to do as they like?” [Surah Al Tur 52:35-37], my heart wanted to fly from my body out of awe.” [‘Tafsir Ibn Kathir'; 4/309]

4 – ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan said:

“If our hearts were truly pure, we would never get enough of the Words of our Lord, and I hate that one day passes with me not looking in the Mushaf.” [‘al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah'; 7/215]

5 – Ibn Abi Mulaykah narrated:

“‘Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl used to press the Mushaf to his face and cry, saying: “The Book of my Lord! The Words of my Lord!”” [Reported by ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak in ‘al-Jihad'; # 56]

6 – Bishr bin as-Sirri said:

“Verily, each verse is like a date: the more you chew it, the more of its sweetness is released.” Abu Sulayman heard this and commented: “True. It is the case with one of you that if he begins one chapter of it, he wants to read it to the end.” [‘al-Hadith fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an'; p. 70]

Hamzah : The Lion of Allah, the Martyr of Martyrs

Hamzah : The Lion of Allah, the Martyr of Martyrs

In Muslim history there are some extraordinary stories of how people have embraced Islam over the years. As Muslims, these stories encourage and inspire us to learn more and more about the history of Islam, especially in the early days when our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was struggling to make its message known and heard.

Learning about how others came to Islam allows us to pause and reflect on our own spirituality and to thank Almighty Allah for His great gift to us of being Muslims. Such stories of heroism and of spiritual searching help us to put into context our own poor efforts as servants of Allah.

One of the most human of these stories is that of Hamzah ibn Abd Al-Muttalib, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad.

The story of his call to Islam is all the more amazing because it was not brought about by the reading of books, nor after hearing a beautiful sermon, nor after searching and pondering over the meaning of life. His return to Islam was a direct result of his very strong sense of family honor.

First of all, though, we need to remind ourselves why we use the term ‘return’ to Islam, rather than saying his conversion. As Muslims we believe that Islam is the natural religion of mankind and that it has existed since the beginning of time.

We also believe that right at the start of human history, Almighty Allah gathered before Him all the souls of everyone who would ever live on this earth. He then explained to them that there was no other god but He. As the natural religion of mankind, we believe that if individuals were left on their own in a pure state they would naturally believe in One God.

We believe, therefore, that everyone is born into this world a Muslim, but that it is the action of others that makes him or her Christian or Jew or whatever. So, when someone changes his religion to become Muslim, he is not really converting to a new religion, but rather returning to the natural state into which he was born. This is why we say that Hamzah “embraced” Islam, rather than converted to it.

Embracing Islam

The story is very simple. It happened like this. For three years Prophet Muhammad had spoken to only a few people about the revelations he had so far received from Angel Jibreel (Gabriel), and for a further three years he struggled against great odds to make the message known to the wider community in Makkah.

Muhammad (SAW) was not yet a serious problem to the Quraysh. But he had started to draw their attention, for his call was spreading secretly. Although the number of his followers was still very small, there were people among the non-believers who loved and respected him. They yearned to declare their belief in him and become one of his followers, but their fear of the prevailing atmosphere and the inhibitions of inherited traditions prevented them. Among them was Hamzah lbn `Abdul Muttalib (RA), the Prophet’s paternal uncle who was at the same time his brother through fosterage (i.e. they had been breast-fed by the same woman).

Hamzah (RA) was fully aware of the greatness of his nephew and the truth of the message he conveyed. To him Muhammad (SAW) was not only a nephew, but also as a brother and a friend because they both belonged to the same generation. They always played together, walked together and grew up together. But in their youth they departed, each taking after his own inclination: Hamzah (RA) preferred the life of leisure, trying to take his place among the prominent men of the Quraysh and Makkah, while Muhammad (SAW) chose the life of seclusion from the crowd, immersed in the deep spiritual meditation that prepared him to receive the revelation.

Despite the fact that each of them had a different way of life during their youth, Hamzah (RA) was always attracted to the virtues of his friend and nephew. Such virtues helped Muhammad (SAW) to win a special place in the hearts of the people.

One morning, Hamzah (RA) went out as usual. At the Kaaba he found a number of Qurayshi elders. He sat with them, listening to what they had to say: they were talking about Muhammad (SAW). For the first time Hamzah (RA) saw them worried about the call his nephew was propagating. The tone of their voice was full of bitterness and rage. Before that, they had pretended not to pay attention to his message, but on that day their faces looked perplexed, upset, and aggressive.

Hamzah (RA) laughed at their talks and accused them of exaggeration. To this, Abu Jahl responded that Hamzah (RA) was in the best position to know the danger of his nephew’s call and that he pretended to underestimate this danger till the Quraysh would relax so much that by the time they get awakened, his nephew would have had complete control over them. They went on expressing their worries, while Hamzah (RA) sat smiling at some points and frowning at others.

Days passed and the Quraysh’s whispering about the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) intensified. Later, the whispering turned into provocation that Hamzah (RA) watched from a distance. His nephew’s composed, steadfast attitude towards their provocations puzzled him. Such an attitude was quite unfamiliar to the Quraysh, who were known to be strong and challenging.

Hamzah’s (RA) love for his nephew was so deep that no one could erase it from his heart. For he knew Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as he knew himself and maybe even more. They had come into life together, grew up together, and attained full strength together. Muhammad’s (SAW) life had been as pure and clear as the sunlight. He had never commited any wrong or any doubtful act in his life. Hamzah (RA) had never seen Muhammad (SAW) angry, hopeless, greedy, careless, or unstable.

One day, Hamzah (RA) went out of to the desert carrying his bow to practice his favourite sport of hunting, in which he was very skilled. He spent most of his day there. On his way home he passed by the Kaaba for cicumambulation as was his usual practice.

Near the Kaaba, a female servant of Abdullah Ibn Jud’an  saw him and said, “O Abu `Umarah! You have not seen what happened to your nephew at the hands of Abu Al-Hakam lbn Hisham. When he saw Muhammad (SAW) sitting there, he hurt him and called him bad names and treated him in a way that he hated.” She went on to explain what Abu Al-Hakm – or Abu Jahl, ‘father of ignorance’ – had done to the Prophet of Allah (SAW).

Hamzah (RA) listened to her carefully and paused for a while, then with his right hand he picked up his bow and put it on his shoulder. He hastened to the Kaaba, hoping to meet Abu Jahl there. He had resolved that if he did not find him, he would search for him everywhere till he got him.

As soon as he reached the Kaaba he glanced at Abu Jahl sitting in the yard in the middle of the Qurayshi noblemen. Hamzah (RA) advanced very calmly towards Abu Jahl, hit him with his bow on the head till it bled. To everybody’s surprise, Hamzah (RA) shouted, “How dare you insult Muhammad while I follow his religion and I believe in what he says? Come and retaliate upon me. Hit me if you can.” In a moment they all forgot how their leader Abu Jahl had been insulted and they were all thunderstruck by the news that Hamzah (RA) had converted to Muhammad’s (SAW) religion and that he saw what Muhammad (SAW) saw and believed what he said. Could Hamzah (RA) really have converted (returned) to Islam when he was the strongest and most dignified man of the Quraysh?

This overwhelming disaster made the Quraysh helpless. Hamzah’s (RA) converting (returning) to Islam would attract other elite and youth to do the same. Thus Muhammad’s (SAW) call would be supported, and he would find enough solidarity that the Quraysh might wake up one day to find their idols being pulled down.

After that, Hamzah (RA) picked up his bow, put it on his shoulder, and with steady steps and full strength left the place, leaving everyone looking disappointed and Abu Jahl licking the blood flowing from his wounded head.

At home, after he had relaxed from the day’s exhaustion, he sat down to think over what had happened. He had announced his conversion (return) to Islam in a moment of indignation and rage. He hated to see his nephew getting insulted and suffering injustice with no one to help him. Such a tribal zeal for the honour of Bani Hashim had made him hit Abu Jahl on the head and declare his Islam. But was that the ideal way for anyone to change the religion of his parents and ancestors and to embrace a new religion whose teachings he had not yet become familiar with and whose true reality he had not acquired sufficient knowledge of?

Hamzah (RA) possessed a sharp insight and a clear conscience. He never had any doubts about Muhammad’s (SAW) integrity and had always in his heart a great respect for his nephew’s mission, but what should be the right time to embrace this religion if he was destined to embrace it? Should it be a moment of indignation and anger or as a result of deep reflection? Thus he was inspired by a clear consciousness to reconsider the whole situation in light of strict and rational thinking.

Thus Hamzah (RA) spent many restless days and sleepless nights. When one tries to attain the truth by the power of mind, uncertainty will become a means of knowledge, and this is what happened to Hamzah (RA). Once he used his mind to weigh between the old religion and the new one, he started to have doubts raised by his innate inherited nostalgia for his father’s religion and by the natural fear of anything new. All his memories of the Kaaba, the idols, and the high religious status these idols bestowed on the Quraysh and Makkah crowded in his mind.

It appeared to him that denying all this history and the ancient religion was like a big chasm which had to be crossed. Hamzah (RA) was amazed at how a man could depart from the religion of his father that early and that fast. He regretted what he had done but he went on with the journey of rational thinking. But at that moment, he realized that his mind was not enough and that he should resort sincerely to the unseen power. At the Kaaba he prayed and supplicated to heaven, seeking help from every light that existed in the universe to be guided to the right path.

Allah answered his prayer and filled his heart with faith and certainty. The next morning Hamzah (RA) went to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) informing him about himself, and the Prophet prayed to Allah to keep Hamzah’s heart stable in this religion.

This way Hamzah (RA) embraced Islam, the religion of certainty.

Allah strengthened Islam with Hamzah’s (RA) conversion. He was strong in defending the Prophet of Allah (SAW) and the helpless amongst his Companions. When Abu Jahl saw him among the Muslims, he realized that war was inevitably coming. Therefore he began to urge the Quraysh to torture the Prophet (SAW) and his Companions. He wanted to prepare for a civil war to relieve his heart of anger and bitter feelings.

Although Hamzah (RA) alone was, of course, unable to prevent all the harm, his conversion was a shield that protected the Muslims. He was indeed the first source of encouragement to many tribes to embrace Islam. The second source was `Umar bin Al-Khattab’s (RA) conversion, after which people entered Allah’s religion in multitude. Since his conversion, Hamzah (RA) devoted all his life and energy to Allah and His religion till the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) honoured him with the noble title, “The Lion of Allah and of His Messenger”.

The first military raid launched by the Muslims against their enemies was under the command of Hamzah (RA). He was, therefore, the first banner bearer in Islam. In the battle of Badr, when the two armies met, the Lion of Allah was there performing great wonders.

The defeated remnants of the Quraysh army returned to Makkah stumbling in disappointment. Abu Sufyan was broken hearted with a bowed head as he left on the battlefield the dead bodies of the Quraysh fighters such as Abu Jahl, Utbah Ibn Rabi’ah, Shaybah lbn Rabi’ah, Umayyah lbn Khalaf, Uqbah Ibn Abi Mu’ayt, Al Aswad Ibn `Abd-al-Asad Al-Makhzumi, Al-Walid lbn `Utbah, Al-Nafr lbn Harith, Al-’Aas lbn Sa’id, Ta’mah lbn `Addi and tens of other Quraysh elites.

But the Quraysh would not accept the defeat easily. They started preparing an army, by pulling together all the powers to avenge their honour and their dead. They insisted to continue with the war and, once again, went to war together with their allies from the Arabs, under the leadership of Abu Sufyan.  This led to the Battle of Uhud. In this battle the Qurayshi leaders had targeted two persons, namely, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Hamzah (RA).

Before they went to war, they had already chosen someone for the task of assassinating Hamzah (RA). An Abyssinian slave with extraordinary skill in spear throwing was the one chosen to kill Hamzah (RA). His only role was to hit him with a deadly spear. He was starkly to focus his attention on his target regardless of the situation on the battlefield. Upon successful execution of the task, he was promised the excellent reward of his freedom. Jubayr Ibn Mut’am owned this slave whose name was Wahshi, “Go out with the army, if you kill Hamzah (RA) you will be free.” Afterwards, the Quraysh sent Wahshi to Hind Bint `Utbah, Abu Sufyan’s wife, to receive more encouragement to kill Hamzah (RA), because she had lost her father, uncle, brother and son, and it was said that Hamzah (RA) was responsible for their deaths.

This was the reason why Hind was among the most enthusiastic Quraysh in beating the drums of war. All she wanted was Hamzah’s (RA) head, whatever the cost might be. She spent days before the battle pouring all her rage into Wahshi’s heart and making the plans for him. She promised him if he killed Hamzah (RA) she would give him her most precious trinkets. With her hateful fingers she held her precious pearl earrings and a number of golden necklaces around her neck and gazed at him saying, “All these are yours if you kill Hamzah (RA).”

Wahshi’s salivated at the offer, and his soul was eager for the battle after which he would win his freedom and cease to be a slave, in addition to all the jewellery decorating the neck of the leading woman of the Quraysh, the wife of its leader, and the daughter of its master. It was clear then that the whole war and the whole conspiracy were decisively targeting Hamzah (RA).

Soon the two armies met and the Battle of Uhud began. Hamzah (RA) was in the middle of the battlefield in battle dress and on his bosom he put an ostrich feather that he used to wear while fighting. He was swiftly moving everywhere on the battlefield as though death was at his command; whenever he ordered it for any Qurayshi polytheist, it reached him.

As the Muslims were about to gain victory, the nearly defeated Quraysh army started to withdraw from the battle. Seeing this, the Muslim archers left their places on the hills to collect the spoils of the war that the Quraysh were abandoning. If they had not left their positions, giving the Quraysh cavalry the chance to find a way, the battlefield would have been transformed as a mass graveyard for all the Quraysh, including men, women, horses, and even cattle.

The Quraysh attacked the Muslims by surprise from the rear and started striking them with thirsty swords. The Muslims tried to pull themselves together, picking up the weapons, which they had put down upon seeing the Quraysh’s withdrawal, but the attack was too swift to be repulsed. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Hamzah (RA) doubled his efforts and intensified his attack. As he slashed his way through the enemy lines, Wahshi patiently followed him, waiting for the right moment.

Let us hear Wahshi himself describe the scene:

“I was an Abyssinian. I used to throw the spear, Abyssinian style, that hardly missed its target. When the armies met I looked for Hamzah till I found him in the middle of the crowd like a huge camel. He was killing every one around him with his sword. Nothing could stop him. By Allah, I prepared for him. I wanted him. I hid behind a tree so that I might attack him from a distance. At that moment Saba’ Ibn `Abd Al-’Uzza approached him before me. When Hamzah glanced at him he shouted, “Come to me, you son of the one who circumcises!” and he hit him directly in the head. Then I shook my spear till I was in full control over it and threw it. The spear penetrated him from the back and came out from between his legs. He rose to reach me but could not and soon died. I came to his body and took my spear and went back to sit in the camp. I did not want anything else. All I wanted was to be a free man.”

“When I returned to Makkah, I was set free. I stayed there till the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) entered Makkah on the Day of the Conquest. I fled to Ta’if. When the delegation of Ta’if went to declare their conversion to Islam, I heard various people say that I should go to Syria or Yemen or any other place. While I was in such distress, a man said to me, “Woe to you! The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) never kills anyone entering his religion.” I went to Allah’s Prophet (SAW) in Madinah, and the moment he saw me I was already giving my true testimony. When he saw me he said, “Is it you, Wahshi?” I answered, “Yes, Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Tell me, how did you kill Hamzah?” I narrated to him, and when I was done, he told me, “Woe to you! Get out of my sight and never show your face to me.” From that time, I always avoided wherever the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) went lest he should see me, till he died.

Afterwards, when the Muslims fought Musaylamah the Liar in the Battle of Al-Yamamah, I went with them. I took with me the same spear I had killed Hamzah with. When the armies met, I saw Musaylamah standing with his sword in his hand. I prepared for him, shook my spear till I had full control over it, threw it, and it went into his body. If I killed with this spear the best of men, Hamzah, I wish that Allah might forgive me, as I killed with it the worst of men, Musaylamah.”

Thus the Lion of Allah died a great martyr. His death was as unusual as his life, because it was not enough for his enemies to kill him. They sacrificed all the men and money of the Quraysh to a battle that sought only the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his uncle Hamzah (RA).

Hind Bint `Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan, ordered Wahshi to bring her Hamzah’s (RA) liver, and he responded to her savage desire. When he returned to her, he delivered the liver to her with his right hand, while taking the necklaces with the left as a reward for the accomplished task. Hind, whose father had been killed in the Battle of Badr and whose husband was the leader of the polytheist army, chewed Hamzah’s (RA) liver hoping to relieve her heart, but the liver was too tough for her teeth so she spat it out.

The battle ended and the polytheists mounted their camels and led their horses back to Makkah. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his Companions examined the battlefield to see the martyrs. There, in the heart of the valley, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was examining the faces of his Companions who had offered their souls to their Lord and had given their lives as a precious sacrifice to Him.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) suddenly stood up and gazed deeply upset and sorrowful, he ground his teeth and closed his eyes. He had never imagined that the Arabs could be so savage that they cut and mutilate a dead body the way they had done to his uncle, the Lion of Allah, Hamzah Ibn `Abd Al Muttalib (RA). On opening his eyes, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once again looked at the body of his uncle saying, “Losing you is the worst calamity in my life. I have never been more outraged than I am now.”

Allah honoured Hamzah (RA) by making his death a great lesson for the Muslims to learn justice and mercy, even in situations when penalties and retaliation were justified. A revelation came down to Prophet Muhammad while he was still standing in his place with the following verse:

“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out: But if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient. And do thou be patient, for thy patience is but from Allah; nor grieve over them: and distress not thyself because of their plots.” (Surah Al Nahl 16:125-127)

The revelation of these verses in this situation was the best honour for Hamzah (RA). As stated before, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) loved him dearly because he was not only an uncle, but also his brother by fosterage, his playmate in childhood, and the best friend in all his life.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did not find any better farewell for Hamzah (RA) than praying for him among the numerous martyrs. Hamzah’s (RA) body was carried to the place of prayer on the battlefield, the same place which had witnessed his bravery and embraced his blood. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his Companions prayed for him. Another martyr was then brought, and put beside Hamzah (RA), and prayed for. Then they took the martyr away and left Hamzah (RA) and brought the next martyr and placed him beside Hamzah (RA) and prayed for him and so on. They brought all the martyrs, one after the other and prayed for them beside Hamzah (RA), who on that day was prayed for seventy times (the number of martyrs).

On his way from the battlefield, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) heard the women of Bani `Abd Al-Ashhal lamenting their martyrs and he said, “But Hamzah (RA) has no one to lament him.” Sa’id lbn Mu`adh heard this sentence and thought that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would be satisfied if the women would lament his uncle. He hurried to the women of Bani Abd Al-Ashhal and ordered them to lament Hamzah (RA). When the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) heard them doing this he said, “I did not mean this. Go back, may Allah have mercy on you. There will be no crying anymore.” The Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) Companions began to say their eulogies for Hamzah (RA) in praise of his virtues.

But the best words said about him were those of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he first saw him among the martyrs: “May Allah have mercy on you. You were, as far as I knew, always uniting kith and kin and doing all good.”

The loss of Hamzah (RA) was great and nothing could console the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) for it. But to his surprise, Allah offered him the best consolation. When he walked home from Uhud, he saw a woman from the Bani Dinar whose husband, father, and brother had been killed in the battle. She asked the returning Muslim soldiers about the battle. When they told her of the death of her father, husband, and brother, she soon asked them anxiously, “What about the Prophet of Allah?” They said, “He is very well as you wish him to be.” She said, “Let me look at him.” They stayed beside her till the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) came and when she saw him she said, “if you are safe, other calamities are nothing!”

Yes, this was the best condolence for the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He smiled at this unusual encounter, which was unequalled in loyalty and devotion. In an instant a poor, helpless woman had lost her father, brother, and husband. But her reaction to that news – which if it had fallen on a mountain would have made it collapse – was, “What about the Prophet of Allah?” It was such a well-timed that it is eveident that Allah planned to console His Prophet for the death of Allah’s Lion and Martyr of all Martyrs.

Lessons to Learn

So what, then, can this story teach us today? What does the return of Hamzah to Islam have to say to us now? Well, first of all it teaches us that we don’t know what is going on in a person’s heart and mind.

Who knows what Hamzah had been thinking in those weeks and months before he came out in defense of his nephew and proclaimed his own belief in Islam?

Had he all along been quietly thinking about becoming Muslim? Had a special word or phrase convinced him of the truth of Islam? Had it been the message and the personality of the Prophet that had drawn him to Allah?

We really don’t know, and nor do we know what is going on in the hearts and minds of our non-Muslim colleagues and friends when we talk to them about Islam.

The news of the assault on his nephew came not from a very great person or through some great speech, but by the words of a freed slave woman. In the same way, it need not be a sheikh or someone with vast knowledge of Islam and the Quran whose words draw someone else closer to Islam. It could be our own very simple words or actions which begin others thinking.

We never know, then, the effects our words and our example will have on others. The greatest dawah of all is giving good example to others about how sweet and gentle Islam really is.

We must educate ourselves, of course, to the highest degree in being able to explain its teachings and its message, but all we are asked to do is to play our part in letting others know about Islam. It is not we who call them to Islam, it is Allah alone.

Another striking thing about the story of Hamzah’s return is that he showed himself to be very human. Almost out of rage, in defense of a family member, he came out with the words that he believed Islam to be true.

A strong sense of family honor and a very hot temper were the catalysts that brought him to submit and to bow down to Allah. See how Allah uses all things to draw people to Himself? He even uses our weaknesses to speak to us.

In our modern world, too, the name and the character of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) is both vilified and ridiculed.

Just remember those cartoons in Denmark. In the Quran, Almighty Allah says to Muhammad in those very dark days when his message seemed not to be succeeding and when personal insults on the prophet were at their height:

“We do indeed know how thy heart is distressed at what they say.” (Surah Al Hijr 15:97)

But Almighty Allah also told him in the next verse:

“But celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and be of those who prostrate themselves in adoration.” (Surah Al Hijr 15:98)

As Muslims today, we are called to defend our beloved Prophet, even to the shedding of our blood or to the giving up of our last breath. We may not be the brave and valiant heroes that Hamzah showed himself to be, but we are called, in our own small way, to be ambassadors of Islam in everything that we do.

If we were to truly live as good Muslims, how the world would look on Islam. Instead of taking distorted ideas about Islam from the television and the newspapers, they would see from us that it is a beautiful and sweet message, which speaks to the hearts of all mankind today.

In celebrating the life of Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib and being inspired by the story of his call to Islam, let us all resolve to be lions of Allah, afraid of no one in proclaiming His message, and showing by the sweetness and the gentleness of our own lives the happiness which that message brings.


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