In discussing the trials of Islam one has to keep in mind the conditions of Arabia: its hot and dusty climate; its people (the Arabs, who lived a somewhat senseless life at that time); its business center, which was Mecca, and which not only invited traders to is bosom but offered 360 idols to the Arabs as well as worshippers of other denominations; the Kaabah (black-clothed building) which till today still serves as a centre for Muslim pilgrims all over the world. These, plus the fact that Muhammed (pbuh) was an Arab himself, all played a vital role in the spread of Islam.
We have mentioned previously that the Arabs were not a very sociable kind of people. We spoke of the way they believed that woman had no standing in the community and as such could be used and abused at will by their husbands. We learnt from history that these Arabs also believed that a female baby brought bad luck to the family and as such had to be buried alive to reverse the evil that had befallen them!
One can then imagine the mammoth task that awaited Muhammed (pbuh) in his quest to bring the Message of the One God to these people. One can but feel sympathy for him as he wrestled with his own inner turmoil in trying to understand what was happening to him (i.e. encountering the Archangel Gabriel in the cave on the ‘Mountain of Light’ and being told to read) and not to yield to the jeers and ridicule that was being heaped upon him regularly by not only the inhabitants of Mecca, but his own family!
In the beginning we find that the first converts to Islam were the Prophet’s wife, Khadija; his cousin Ali, son of Abu Talib, his uncle; Zaid bin Thabit, a freed slave, who stayed with the Prophet (pbuh); and Abu Bakr, Muhammed’s (pbuh) close friend.
Initially, the Qureish tribe, being the Prophet’s (pbuh) fiercest criticisers, were not overly concerned about the Prophet’s (pbuh) ministries. In fact, they found it rather amusing that the early converts were people of not very high standing in the community. Apart from Muhammed’s (pbuh) wife Khadija and Abu Bakr, his close friend, who also happened to be quite wealthy, the other converts who followed were either slaves or beggars, not to mention Ali, his cousin, who was only ten years of age at that time!
We think of Bilal, a black, Abbyssinian slave, who became Muslim and preached Islam to all that he came in contact with. We think of the beggar woman who stopped begging and devoted her life in prayer to Allah. The Qureishites, being the masters of many a slave, would find great merriment in taunting these converts to Islam. They would demand that these slaves bring proof of the god that they believed in; proof tantamount to that of the idols, whom they called the ‘Sons and Daughters of Allah’.
However, Islam did not stop there. Muhammed (pbuh) began to preach the religion openly in Mecca then! No more were there the secret gatherings at his or one of his followers’ houses. No more were there the hidden or veiled meanings to his ministries. Islam was out! Islam was on the move!
Qureish was not taking this for a joke anymore. They began by seriously addressing those under their command and those in their employ. They even ferreted out those from amongst their own families who had converted to Islam and laid down their law: either you stopped your foolishness of believing in the One God of Muhammed (pbuh) and come back to us or bear the brunt of our wrath!
History tells us that Bilal was placed in the hot desert sun with a huge rock on his chest for refusing to denounce Allah, the One God. A woman, one of the members of the Qureish tribes’ mother, was speared to death by her own son for declining to forsake her belief in Allah! And strangely enough, through all these trials, Islam marched on!
Then there was Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s (pbuh) uncle, whose favorite pastime it was to proclaim Muhammed (pbuh) a madman to everyone he met on the streets and even brought his wife along to place thorn bushes in the path of Muhammed (pbuh).
Islam now stood at a count of 40 men and women altogether. Qureish then decided that to nip this madness in the bud once and for all, they would banish Muhammed and his followers to a valley where no one would be allowed to have any contact with them, nor to trade or have any kind of dealings with them—ike the modern-day sanctions, only worse, because the Muslims couldn’t come into the city to buy foodstuffs or emergency supplies.
For two years this trial continued, until it was discovered that the parchment the injunction had been written on had been destroyed by white ants, even though it had been closely guarded, and the ban was lifted.