Previously we asked the question: What was the True Message of Islam and what was the purpose of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)—on this earth—regarding that Message?
We also asked: What was the need for a religion like Islam, and was there, or can anyone offer, a clear-cut answer to any of these questions?
We looked at how the Prophet (pbuh) sent some of his followers(about 80 of them, women and children included) to a place called Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia) to escape the hideous torture meted out to them by those hostile to the "Message of Islam."
We discussed how Qureish (the leading tribe in Mecca) tried to get the Muslims expelled from Abyssinia by dispatching a delegation to that country and telling the Negus (Christian King of Abyssinia) how Islam recognized no other religion except Islam and that Muslims did not accept the Prophet Jesus as the "Son of God."
We spoke about how the Negus, after listening to both sides, i.e. the delegation of Qureish, and a spokesperson for the Muslims explaining what Islam really stood for and what the Quran said about the Prophet Jesus as well as all the other Prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Moses (to name but a few), offered his deliberation by letting the Muslims stay under his protection! And the delegation of Qureish had to return to Arabia, empty-handed, smarting profusely from the telling-off the Negus had given them.
Thus, we explored a vital part of the "Message of Islam."
But one can only imagine what suffering the Muslims (those who stayed behind in Mecca) must have endured at the hands of Qureish after the incident in Abyssinia.
History tells us that not only were Qureish satisfied with torturing the ordinary citizens of Mecca—in the streets—but they were now seriously conspiring on how to get rid of the Prophet (pbuh) once and for all in a last-ditch effort to eradicate Islam.
To crown it all, conversions to Islam was now taking place on a regular basis despite the hostilities and torture. People like Hamza (nicknamed Hamza the lion hunter) came into the fold of Islam without any coercion; Umar, the son of Hattab, was on his way to kill the Prophet (pbuh) when he embraced Islam.
The clansmen of Qureish were beside themselves with such turnabouts—not only was Hamza a well-known and well-respected member of the Qureish tribe, but he was as his name suggested: a genuine hunter and killer of mountain lions, and someone who took pride in his prowess of doing it alone, with only a hunting knife and unbelievable courage. Some called it foolishness, but no one argued with Hamza. Nobody was that foolish!
Umar, on the other hand, was something else. He was known more for his temper than his character. It is said that he was such a violent person that once, in an argument with someone, he cut off the man's arm with his sword, and unceremoniously beat the hapless soul to death with his own arm!
Be that as it may, Umar was on his way to kill Muhammed (pbuh) when he met an acquaintance who enquired about his doings.
Umar replied that he was on his way to kill the madman who was causing so much dissent in Mecca, the man who had the audacity to proclaim himself the Messenger of God, and cause so many families to split up. He, Umar, was going to make sure that Muhammed (pbuh) never repeated any more of his stupid rantings to anyone ever again!
The man looked at him strangely and said that he would be well-advised to first consult with his own sister and her husband before he went over to such drastic action. Apparently both of them had accepted Islam.
Umar immediately altered his course and proceeded to his sister's house, working himself up at what he had heard and how preposterous it sounded to him.
His own sister! How could she? he fumed. How dared she! He was suddenly possessed by an ice-cold rage as he barged into the house, intent on having this out with her and her husband. He would do whatever was necessary!
It so happened that his sister was busy teaching a youngster about the verses of Al-Quran, and she was reading it out loud.
"What gibberish is this?" Umar enquired, lunging forward to grab the parchment that it was written on. His sister hastily hid it away.
"Give it to me!" Umar demanded and when she refused, he hit her with brutal force on her mouth.
The force of the blow flung her to the floor and blood spurted from her lips. She stared at him wordless.
What went through Umar's mind at that moment was anybody's guess, but looking at his sister and seeing the damage he had done to her brought something else out of him. "Can I please see what it is you are reading?" he enquired in a completely different voice, and his sister once more refused.
"I cannot let you touch the verses of the Holy Quran," she remonstrated, keeping the parchment behind her back. "You are unclean! Go and purify yourself first and then I shall let you see it." And, strangely enough, Umar, the short-tempered and violent man, complied by washing himself and returning without any argument. He accepted Islam at the house of the Prophet (pbuh) and Qureish suffered a severe blow.
It is said that after the conversion of Hamza and Umar, the Muslims in Mecca grew bold in the practice and proclamation of their faith. Even those Muslims who had migrated to Abyssinia returned and joined their families.
Umar, in particular, was very vociferous in proclaiming his conversion to Islam. He was always ready to decapitate anyone who challenged him and the clansmen of Qureish watched him with caution.
However, Qureish were not going to be deterred by one man or a few for that matter. Muhammed (pbuh) was proving to be way beyond their control, and if left unchecked he was sure to bring their culture (idol-worshipping and what went with that) to its knees. Something drastic had to be done. Muhammed (pbuh) had to be taken out!
And so we find that during the 12th year of prophet-hood the clansmen decided on a plan to get rid of Muhammed (pbuh) and fortify themselves against any attacks or retribution from the Banu Hashim (the tribe Muhammed (pbuh) belonged to) or anyone else sympathetic to his course.
There were seven tribes that Qureish could rely on and from each tribe a young man was selected to help kill the Prophet (pbuh).
The plan was simple. Every youngster had to thrust his spear into Muhammed (pbuh), while he was sleeping, and in so doing the blame would not only fall on one person, or more importantly, one tribe, but practically all the tribes of Arabia. Nobody would dare take on the might of the seven tribes, Qureish felt sure. Muhammed (pbuh) was as good as dead!
But on the night of the planned murder, Muhammed (pbuh) was anything but asleep in his bed.
It is said that long before that night the revelation came about what was afoot, and the Prophet (pbuh) planned accordingly. He was told to let his cousin Ali sleep in his bed, and not to worry about his safety. Ali would not be harmed!
It is also said that on that night, while the young men waited in the shadows to commit their dastardly deed, Muhammed (pbuh) slipped past them unnoticed.
Historians and biographers are at pains to explain how not one of the youngsters spotted Muhammed (pbuh) leaving the house. Suffice to say it is well recorded that when they went in and found Ali in the bed, all hell broke loose!
Qureish then mounted a manhunt that was unequaled in those times or any other times for that matter. They sent a force of young and old, soldiers and civilians—every able-bodied person was gathered to hunt Muhammed (pbuh) down. A huge reward was offered to anyone who captured Muhammed, dead or alive—they simply couldn't let Muhammed (pbuh) and whoever was with him get away. They had to get him before it was too late!