The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) answer to the question put by Aishah, his wife: “Have you ever gone through a day harder than that of Battle of Uhud?”
The Prophet’s answer took Aishah back to the days when the Prophet was in Makkah. For ten years he had struggled hard to persuade its people to accept Islam, but they put up stiff resistance, and were determined to stick to their pagan faith. When the Prophet suffered a double personal tragedy in the death of his wife Khadeejah and his uncle Abu Talib, both of whom gave him valuable support, he felt that he had to explore new avenues in his search for support.
After long deliberation, he set out on foot for Taif, a mountainous town about 110 km from Makkah. His only companion on this trip was his faithful servant, Zayd ibn Harithah.
Taif was populated by the Thaqif, the second largest tribe in Arabia. As he began his journey, Muhammad was full of hope. If the Thaqif would respond favorably to the call of Islam, that would signify a new, happier phase in the history of the divine message.
Once at Taif, the Prophet approached its leading personalities, explaining his message and calling on them to believe in God and to support him in his efforts to establish the Islamic code of living. The Thaqif were fully aware of what the Prophet advocated. Its leaders had similar considerations to those of the Quraysh in determining their attitude to the Prophet. For ten days the Prophet spoke to one of their chiefs after another.
None gave him a word of encouragement. The worst response came from three brothers, the sons of Amr ibn Umayr. These three brothers, Abd Yalil, Masud and Habib, were the recognized leaders of Taif. One of them was married to a Qurayshi woman and the Prophet hoped that this relationship would work in his favor. In the event the three men were extremely rude in their rejection of the Prophet’s approach.
The first one said: “I would tear the robes of the Kaaba if it was true that God has chosen you as His Messenger.” The second said: “Has God found no one other than you to be His Messenger?” The third said: “By God, I will never speak to you. If it is true that you are God’s Messenger, you are too great for me to speak to you. If, on the other hand, you are lying, you are not worth answering.”
Fearing that the news of their rejection would serve to intensify the Quraysh’s hostility to Islam, the Prophet requested the Thaqif notables not to publicize his mission. They refused him even that. Instead they set on him a crowd of their teenagers and servants, who chased and stoned him.
His feet were soon bleeding and he was in a very sorry state. Zayd tried hard to defend him and protect him from the stones. The Prophet then sought refuge in an orchard that belonged to two brothers from Makkah. They were in their orchard, and they saw Muhammad when he entered. At first they watched him quietly, but he did not see them.
As the Prophet sat down, he said this highly emotional and touching prayer: “To You, My Lord, I complain of my weakness, lack of support and the humiliation I am made to receive. Most Compassionate and Merciful! You are the Lord of the weak, and You are my Lord. To whom do You leave me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy to whom You have given power over me?
If You are not displeased with me, I do not care what I face. I would, however, be much happier with Your mercy. I seek refuge in the light of Your face by which all darkness is dispelled and both this life and the life to come are put on their right courses against incurring Your wrath or being the subject of Your anger.
To You I submit, until I earn Your pleasure. Everything is powerless without Your support.”
The owners of the orchard were none other than Utbah and Shaybah, the two sons of Rabi’ah, who commanded positions of high esteem in the Quraysh. Although the two brothers were opposed to Islam and to Muhammad, they felt sorry for him in his unenviable plight. Therefore, they called a servant of theirs, named Addas, and told him to take a bunch of grapes on a plate to Muhammad. Addas, who was a Christian from the Iraqi town of Nineveh, complied.
As the Prophet took the grapes he said, as Muslims do before eating: “In the name of God.” Surprised, Addas said: “This is something no one in these areas says.” When Addas answered the Prophet’s question about his religion and place of origin, the Prophet commented: “Then you came from the same place as the noble divine, Jonah.” Even more surprised, Addas asked: “How did you know about Jonah? When I left Nineveh, not even ten people knew anything about him.” The Prophet said: “He was my brother. Like me, he was a prophet.” Addas then kissed the Prophet’s head, hands and feet in a gesture of genuine love and respect. As they watched, one of the two owners of the orchard said to his brother: “That man has certainly spoilt your slave.”
When Addas joined them they asked him the reason for his very respectful attitude to Muhammad. He said: “There can be no one on earth better than him. He has indeed told me something which no one but a prophet would know.” They said: “You should be careful, Addas. He may try to convert you while your religion is better than his.”
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It is clear from their attitude that although they might be kind to the Prophet in a situation that aroused their nobler feelings of pity and compassion, they begrudged him even the slightest gain from his unsuccessful trip. Addas did not follow his masters’ religion. Their opinion of Christianity was not at all flattering. Yet they would rather have their slave sticking to it than following Muhammad, so that the Islamic camp might remain weak. In this, the two Makkan chiefs were no different from others who have taken a stand of opposition to Islam throughout history. Even the slightest gain Islam achieves pains them.
The Prophet then set out on his journey back to Makkah. He stopped at Nakhlah, not very far from Makkah. Considering the situation he was in from all angles, he realized that the Quraysh might prevent him from entering Makkah again. Worse, they might kill him or have him locked up. There was only one way out: To seek the protection of one of their notables.
The nature of Arabian tribal society was such that any individual coming into a town or a tribe needed to have an alliance with, or protection from, a man of good standing in that town or tribe. Normally people of such standing would extend their protection to anyone who sought it, because by doing so they enhanced their own standing and reputation. In the case of the Prophet, however, the first two people his messenger approached, Al-Akhnas ibn Shariq and Suhayl ibn Amr, declined. The third, Al-Mut’im ibn Adiy, responded favorably. He and his children and nephews took up their arms and went to the mosque. He then sent word to the Prophet to enter. The Prophet came up to the mosque and walked round it seven times, guarded by his protectors.
Abu JahI, dismayed at the loss of this chance of putting an end to Muhammad, asked Al-Mut’im: “Are you a follower or a protector?” Al-Mut’im confirmed that he was only protecting Muhammad. Abu Jahl then declared that there would be no intervention to threaten such protection.
The Prophet then went home safely. He had learned, however, a very important lesson: That he must not venture outside Makkah before first completing the necessary groundwork which ensured a good reception for his message and his own safety.
Senior Special Assistant on Religious Matters to Kosofe Local Government Chairman
Chairmanship Aspirant Kosofe Local Government