On the night of 27th Rajab, 13 years before migration, Hazrat Jibrael (a.s.) came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the cave of Hera and revealed the following five verses of Surah Alaq: Read in the name of Your Lord who created man from a clot. Read and Your Lord is the Most Honorable. He taught (to write) with the pen. Taught man what he knew not.
After this revelation, the gigantic task of propagation of religion by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was launched.
The tone of the first revelation shows that the teachings of Islam are based on knowledge and education rather than rituals that have no basis whatsoever.
The first persons who apparently accepted the claim of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were none other than his paternal cousin Imam Ali (a.s.) (since he too was an Imam by birth) and his exceptional wife, Janab-e-Khadija (s.a.) (who followed the religion of Prophet Ibraheem (a.s.) and was not an idol-worshipper as some Sunnis suggest)1. She testified to her husband’s Prophethood without any doubt as she was aware of his nobility and unblemished personality in the society as well as in the house. She had already seen signs of Prophethood in him.
For the next three years, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) invited his near ones secretly towards his mission. At this juncture, people like Janabe Ammar and his parents Janabe Yaasir and Janabe Somayya, accepted Islam.
Finally, Allah ordered Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to warn and call his relatives towards his (s.a.w.a.) mission. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) duly followed the divine order: And warn your nearest relatives.
He (s.a.w.a.) invited his near relatives (nearly forty-five elders) from amongst the Bani Hashim for dinner to call them to Islam. This feast became famous in history as ‘Feast of Clan’ (also known as Daawat-e-Zul Asheera or al-Yaum al-Daar)
In this feast, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) invited his near relatives towards Allah and declared that whoever helps him in his great mission, will be his brother and his vicegerent. His brother Imam Ali (a.s.), who at that time was around 13 years of age, stood up in the crowd to declare his support to the call of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and promised to help the religion of Islam. Thus, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) embarked on the mission to propagate the belief, ‘There is no god except Allah’.
To undertake any activity or programme, whether big or small, it is necessary that a strong foundation may be laid before going ahead with the activity. This foundation will assure that future turbulence and turmoil do not destroy the goal of the activity.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) expanded his mission by once declaring from the hills of Abu Qubais: “I call you towards the worship of Allah and to shun the idols and (man-made) gods.”
This call of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) placed the people in a dilemma. On one hand they had endowed him (s.a.w.a.) with the titles of ‘trustworthy’ and ‘truthful’ due to which they could not reject his message and on the other hand was the worship of idols inherited from their forefathers.
One segment of the society viz. the powerful and the wealthy considered this call as a challenge to their authority. Thus, they opposed the movement of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from the very first day. Among the people in the forefront to oppose was Abu Lahab.
The other stratum of the society comprising of the poor and the slaves readily accepted the message of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Initially, the Quraish tried to bribe the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) through his uncle, Abu Talib (a.s.) by offering him power, wealth, kingdom etc. to stop him (s.a.w.a.) from carrying out his activities. But the steadfastness of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ruined their game plan. Once Janab-e-Abu Talib (a.s.) conveyed the message of the Quraish regarding the wealth and power which the Quraish were offering him to leave his mission. He (s.a.w.a.) replied in the following words, which illustrates his steadfastness: “Dear Uncle! I swear by Allah that even if they place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand, I shall not desist from propagating my religion and pursuing my objective and shall continue my efforts until I overcome the difficulties and achieve my final goal even if I have to lay down my life for its sake.”
Janab Abu Talib (a.s.) was just conveying their message; otherwise, he was steadfast with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) always and not ready to leave the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) even for a moment. He believed in his prophethood even before its public declaration.
When the Quraish saw their efforts going down the drain, they resorted to cheap tactics of disgracing and defaming the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a). They aimed to deter the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) from his mission by calling him a mad person. They even inflicted physical harm on the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) by throwing stones, hot ashes and rubbish things on him.
These tortures were not limited to the esteemed personality of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) but it spread to his followers like Janabe Yasir (r.a.), Janabe Somaiyya (r.a.), etc who were tortured to such an extent that they got the distinction of being the first martyrs in the way of Islam. Janabe Abdullah Ibn Masood and Janabe Khabat Ibn Arat also suffered a variety of tortures.
Janab-e-Bilal did not stop uttering ‘Ahad, Ahad’ even when he was laid on the hot sand of Arabia with boulders pressed on him.
However, these tortures and oppression did not diminish the determination of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). On the contrary, it strengthened his resolve. He (s.a.w.a.) used the forbidden months1 (in which fighting was forbidden) to call the people towards Islam. When visitors came to Makkah, the Quraish employed another tactic to stop the people from venturing close to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). As it is mentioned in the Holy Quran: “And those who disbelieved said: Do not listen to this Quran and make noise therein, perhaps you may overcome.”
When the oppression became unbearable, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) advised Muslims to migrate to Ethiopia as the tortures were increasing by the day. Two groups left Makkah and took shelter in Ethiopia under the leadership of Janabe Jafar Ibn Abu Talib (a.s.). When the Quraish came to know about the new shelter of Muslims in Ethiopia, they sent their representatives with gifts and presents for Negus, the Ethiopian King, to bring back the Muslims. Janab-e- Jafar (a.s.) had a discussion with the King – who was a Christian by faith –wherein he (a.s.) recited the verses concerning Hazrat Esa (a.s.) and Janab-e-Maryam (a.s.). Later, he explained him the mission of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This discussion in the court of Negus exposed the Quraish and quashed their plans. Ultimately, they had to return empty-handed.
The Quraish did not sit quietly for long. They devised another plan to squash Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) mission by imposing economic sanctions on the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), his relatives and his followers. They hung the agreement, which they had forged among themselves, imposing an economic blockade on the Muslims in the Holy Kaaba. The understanding specified total prohibition on any trade, business and matrimonial alliance with the Muslims. It disallowed any form of help or assistance to the supporters and relatives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.), who was the lone supporter of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), collected the followers of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and sent them to a valley outside Makkah (famous as ‘Sheb-e-Abi Talib’). The economic blockade lasted for three years and these were the most difficult years for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his followers. However, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used even this period by propagating his message in the forbidden months. Finally, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed the Quraish of the agreement hung in the Kaaba being eaten by the termite except the words ‘In Your name, O Allah’. The Muslims were finally allowed to return to their homes.
After the death of Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.), the atmosphere in Makkah worsened. Therefore, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) decided to go to Taif (a hill station near Makkah) where he had to face untold troubles and difficulties. The only solace was the conversion of an African Christian slave by the name of Adas due to which he (s.a.w.a.) called this journey as successful. He (s.a.w.a.) explained to Hazrat Ali (a.s.): “By Allah, If Allah guides even one person through you, it is better for you than (what you gain from) all those things on which the sun rises and sets”
This incident informs us that however small may be the work of guidance but it has great value in front of Allah.
In the 10th year of the proclamation, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Islam had to bear the loss of Janab-e-Khadijah (a.s.) and the great benefactor of Islam Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.). The Quraish intensified their persecution and oppression but Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) continued his mission during Hajj and the forbidden months.
He (s.a.w.a.) came in contact with the people of Yathrib (i.e. Madinah) and invited them to Islam. This invitation proved very fruitful as in the twelfth year of the proclamation, a group consisting of twelve persons came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), met him at Aqabah and concluded the first Islamic agreement. This became famous as Bai’at Aqabah-e-Oola (the first allegiance at Aqabah). Thereafter, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) sent Musab bin Umayr to Yathrib to teach and train them. In the following year, a group of seventy-three persons including two women paid allegiance to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) near the valley of Aqabah which became famous as ‘Bai’at Aqabah-e-Thania’ (the second allegiance at Aqabah).
The news of ‘Bai’at Aqabah-e-Thania’ spread like wildfire among the Quraish increasing their anger. As a result, their repression and subjugation went on the rise. With all their pressure tactics proving futile, they plotted to kill the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The oppression in Makkah had made life difficult for the Muslims. On the other hand, the people of Madinah were enthusiastically inviting the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) thus decided to migrate to Madinah, an event that finally took place in the 13th year of proclamation.