We have previously discussed the mysterious way in which Islam started and the Prophet Muhammed's(pbuh) role in its manifestation. We have also discussed Arabia with its diverse communities of Jews, Christians, Zoarastrians, Coptics, as well as Pagans, whose habit it was to perform the circumambulation around the Kaabah (black-clothed building in the center of Mecca) naked!
Then there was the Prophet's(pbuh) dilemma and distress at the way the Arabs were conducting their lives- abusing their women-folk, among other things, even burying their female babies alive for fear of bringing bad luck to the household! This was something he spoke out against fiercely! Something that brought him in serious disrepute with the clansmen of Mecca.
We discussed the Prophet's seclusion in the Cave of Hira on the Mountain of light- his pondering over his existence amongst all this senselessness and the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel- delivering the Divine Commands from Allah to him, and how this affected him personally.
All through our previous discourses one questioned had remained prevalent and poignant; the question of how he became so successful in bringing over the Message of Islam- the Message of the One God, not only to the Arabs, but to the whole world! How was it possible that he could manage to convince a people whose habit it was to believe in idols and base their lives upon appeasing these stone objects (even offering human sacrifices to them)! The Prophet(pbuh) was not schooled in any way. He couldn't even spell his own name!
Strange enough though, some of these Arabs, especially the affluent ones, knew that the idols could do nothing for them, but because Mecca was an important trading center, and people came from far and wide- not only to do business, but to worship their idols as well, it played an important part in the Meccans' aversion to Muhammed's(pbuh) preachings. There were 360 idols in and around the holy Kaabah!
History tells us (as we have mentioned before) that there were many individuals and intellectuals through the ages, who tried to get people to believe in them and their ideals by bribing the ordinary masses with promises of money, comforts, or whatever it was they had at their disposal. Some were so powerful that they even managed to get their followers to believe that they were God themselves! (Think of Pharoah and his arrogance for one). And when these things failed, they resorted to wars and persecutions that caused indescribable pain and suffering that to this day still lives on in the minds of those whose forefathers were subjected to this terrible inhumanity!
Muhammed(pbuh) was not learned in any way, as history tells us. There is no record whatsoever that he attended any formal institution where education was offered. In fact, Allah Almighty, Himself, alludes to this fact in the Holy Quran: Muhammed(pbuh) being the "Unlettered Prophet." So how did he manage to speak to his people and get them to listen to him, and (most importantly) get them to accept what he told them?
But let us look at how he started his mission; let us look at that particular day when he summoned his cousin, Ali, son of Abu Talib, (the Prophet's(pbuh) uncle) to deliver a message to the tribe of Qureish (one of the most influential tribes in Arabia). They were to meet the Prophet at the foot of a hill that was just outside Mecca.
On that day, not only the tribesman of Qureish came but many of the other tribes, such as the tribe of Banu Hashim, of which the Prophet(pbuh) himself was a member, and people from the Banu Qurayzah. Everybody was curious to know what Muhammed(pbuh) wanted to say.
The Prophet(pbuh) was already on top of the hill when the crowd came. It was hot and some were shuffling around, wiping sweat from their brows as a murmur arose from them. Some were wondering aloud what this was all about. Muhammed(pbuh) surveyed them silently.
"O People…" The Prophet began at length and let his eyes roam over the crowd. He saw Abu Lahab, his uncle, standing in the front and he said out loud. "If I were to tell you that an army is marching towards you behind this hill, would you believe me?"
They all stared at him confused and he repeated the question- louder! "If I were to tell you that an army is coming behind this hill to attack you, would you believe me?"
This time they didn't hesitate. "Yes!" They answered in unison, smiling at one another, even though they couldn't understand where this was all leading to.
Muhammed(pbuh) looked at them. "Why?" And there was a strange look on his face.
"Because you are Al-Ameen!" Someone shouted loudly.(Al-Ameen means 'The Trustworthy').
"You wouldn't dare lie to us!" Another one joked. They all laughed.
The Prophet(pbuh) held up his hands. "Then I tell you now that there is only One God, Allah. And I am the Messenger of God!
For a second time they stared at him confused, but this time there was no mistaking what he had said. An uneasy silence followed.
Abu Lahab, the Prophet's(pbuh) uncle, stepped forward. "Are we to believe this mad man?" He turned towards the others. "Are we to accept that this…this…" He lifted his hands in the air. "That this is the Messenger of Allah?" He gave a loud burst of laughter. The others all joined in, feeling somewhat relieved.
"Hey, Muhammed…" Someone called out from the crowd. "Who told you that you are the Messenger of Allah? Surely, Allah wouldn't choose someone like you? You cannot even read nor write!" There was great merriment now.
"And besides," another one guffawed, "If you are truly the Messenger of Allah, then a lowly person like myself would only bring great peril to myself and my household by speaking to a Messenger of God! But if you are not, then why should I speak to you?"
This seemed to make a lot of sense to the others and one by one they turned away.
Abu Lahab, on the other hand was not finished with his nephew yet. "Be off with you!" He shouted and pelted the Prophet(pbuh) with stones. "I've always thought that there was something seriously wrong with. Now I know I'm right!"
And so the trials of Islam began.