Chapter Three : the Consequences and Reactions of Opposition To the Qur'an

Torturing Muslims

With the daily increase in the number of Muslims,[^74] Quraysh who had not reached any conclusion with Abu-talib, who were observing Banu-Hashim’s support for the Holy Prophet and who had earned nothing from threatening his life, started torturing Muslims in the hope of stopping them from following Islam. The problem for Quraysh was that the newly-converted Muslims did not belong to one tribe so that they could have been discouraged somehow; rather, a few of these new Muslims belonged to different tribes.

A look at the immigrants to Abyssinia, who due to the tortures by the infidels had to leave Mecca, reveal that these escapees were from the following tribes: Banu-`Abd Shams, Banu-Asad, Banu-`Abd al-Dar, Banu-Zuhrah, Banu-Makhzum, Banu-Jumah, Banu-`Adi, Banu-Hurayth, Banu-Amir and Banu-Umayyah.

For this reason, the infidels decided to torture Muslims inside their own tribes so that through the interference of other tribes their prejudice might not be excited and not to show any harsh reaction.

Most of torture was leveled against the young who had converted to Islam. These young people, as we have already mentioned, were mostly slaves or strangers who had no tribal protection of any sort.

[^75] Yasir and his son `Ammar, Bilal ibn Rabah, Khabbab ibn al-Aratt, Abu-Fukayhah, Amir ibn Fuhayrah, suhayb ibn Sinan, and, among women and female slaves, Sumayyah, Umm-`Ubays, Zinnirah, Labibah (or Lubaynah) and finally Nahdiyyah[^76] were tortured by various means such like keeping them hungry or thirsty, imprisonment, striking and hitting, being forced to lie on the hot sands of the desert of Mecca at noon or to wear iron coats, or being tied up with rope and ridiculed by children.

Emigration to Abyssinia

Having been protected by Abu-talib and Banu-Hashim, the Holy Prophet was safe from the aggressions of Quraysh. However, since Muslims were unprotected and vulnerable, the Holy Prophet recommended that they might migrate to Abyssinia and told them, “It is a land of truth and there lives a just king.”[^77] In those days, the only safe place for Muslims was Abyssinia. Neither Iran nor Rome or the dominated areas by these super-powers, such as Damascus or Yemen, would accept the Muslims.

Besides, Abyssinia was a well-known land to Muslims because Meccans used to make trade journeys to that land.[^78] Furthermore, people of Abyssinia were Christians; they had a lot in common with Muslims, such as belief in God. It is said that the Abyssinian people were Ya`qubian Christians who considered God as one entity and not part of a Trinity. For this reason, they were close to the Islamic monotheism.[^79]

On the Prophet's recommendation, a group of fifteen[^80] defenseless Muslims in the fifth year after the Divine Mission secretly headed for Abyssinia and arrived there through Shu`aybah port or the Red Sea. This group stayed there for two or three months. Upon the spread of the rumor that people of Quraysh embraced Islam and ceased torturing Muslims, they returned to Mecca.[^81]

However, since the torture of Muslims continued, a group of them headed for Abyssinia. This time, there were one hundred and one Muslims (both men and women).[^82] They were sponsored by Ja`far ibn Abi-talib. With the passage of time, Muslims' migration brought about worry to the people of Quraysh who, then, dispatched an envoy to the royal court of al-Najashi, asking for the Muslims' deportation. Realizing the conspiracy, Abu-talib wrote a letter to al-Najashi asking him to protect the Muslims.[^83]

After Quraysh had set forth their claim for the return of the Muslims to Mecca, Ja`far ibn Abu-talib vehemently defended the Muslims. The king of Abyssinia was greatly moved; he consequently refused to let the Muslims go and decided to protect them.[^84]

Of course, the emigrants included both the tortured ones and others from the strongest tribes whom nobody dared to punish. However, Mecca remained an area of pressure, torture and suppression of beliefs. By sending them to Abyssinia, the Holy Prophet had in mind to build up a center for struggle against idolatry.

At the same time, he planned to keep Muslims out of danger. As we know, the Muslims’ stay in Abyssinia was accompanied by Islamic propagation, because al-Najashi accepted Islam and established some relations with the Holy Prophet.[^85] Quraysh, most probably, were worried of this issue; they therefore dispatched their representatives to that area to stop such relationships.

In accordance with some documents, the Holy Prophet followed the news of the emigrants; he received the news of the apostasy and later death of `Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh.[^86]

This time, the Muslim emigrants stayed there even longer. Eleven of them passed away there. Thirty-nine of them returned to Mecca prior to the Holy Prophet's emigration. Twenty-six men and some women returned to Mecca after the Battle of Badr. The last group, supervised by Ja`far Ibn Abi-talib, returned home on the 7th year of Hegira and met the Holy Prophet after the Conquest Khaybar.[^87]

The Birth of Fatimah

Shi`ite historians unanimously contend that Lady Fatimah was born in Mecca in the fifth year after Hegira.[^88] The youngest child of the Holy Prophet and Khadijah, Fatimah (s) married Imam `Ali (a.s) in Medina after the Holy Prophet's Hegira. During her early age, she witnessed her father's severest struggles against the unbelievers; she could vividly remember all the troubles of that period. The Night Ascension (Mi`raj)

The Holy Prophet's nocturnal journey from Mecca to Jerusalem (isra' [Qur'an 17:1]) in a supernatural way and his journey from Jerusalem to the Heavens (mi`raj [Qur'an: 70]) through God's power are both significant events of Mecca, because these two events are recorded in the Meccan surahs; however, there are disagreements related to the exact date of their occurrence.

The Holy Prophet's objectives of these two journeys was to closely observe God's Grandeur across the heavens and skies, to meet the angels and the souls of the previous prophets, to watch Paradise and Hell and to observe the differing ranks of the dwellers of Paradise and the residents of Hell. God refers to this journey as follows:

Glory be to Him who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our Signs; Surely, He is the Hearing, the Seeing. (17:1)

Concerning mi`raj, God remarks:

Certainly, he saw of the greatest signs of his Lord. (53:18)

Imam al-Riza (s) was asked, “Why did God take the Prophet to the skies when He has no definite place?” Imam al-Riza (s) replied, “God would not need any place or time. By taking the Holy Prophet to the skies, God intended to glorify the angels and the sky-dwellers. God also wanted Muhammad (s) to observe the extension of the creation so that upon his descent he could inform people of God's Grandeur. God does not need time or place as the skeptics erroneously assume.”[^89]

The Evaluation of the Narrations on mi`raj

Concerning the Holy Prophet's Divine journey, there are several narrations available. However, tabirsi, a well-known exegete of the Holy Qur'an, has divided these narrations into four headings:

(1) Uninterruptedly reported narrations (mutawatir); they are definite and certain; one of these is the principle of mi`raj.

(2) Narrations reporting issues that are logically and rationally accepted and are not in opposition with any known principle; such as those reporting the Holy Prophet's travel in the skies for the purpose of visiting Paradise and Hell.

(3) Narrations that are superficially in conflict with the absolute principles derived from the verses of the Holy Qur'an and Islamic traditions, but are interpretable anyway. Such narrations should be interpreted in such a way that they could be in harmony with correct beliefs. An example is the content of the traditions reporting the Holy Prophet’s meeting with a group of people in Paradise and another group in Hell. These scenes are a kind of allegory for us to visualize Paradise and Hell.

(4) Materials that are superficially unacceptable and not interpretable, such as the report that the Holy Prophet saw God with his own eyes, talked to Him and sat on His Throne next to Him. Such issues are null and void.[^90]

In the opinion of the Twelvers Imamiyyah, the Holy Prophet's heavenly journey was material; i.e. he made this ascension in body and soul.[^91] According to Islamic narrations, during the mi`raj, the daily and nightly prayers were set at five.[^92] If, prior to mi`raj, some prayers are observed being performed by either the Holy Prophet or Imam `Ali, it has been either a non-compulsory prayer or a kind of prayer based on the specific situations which was not a regular daily prayer with which we are familiar.[^93]

Economic and Social Boycott Imposed on Banu-Hashim

The chiefs of Quraysh failed to contact with Abu-talib and to force Muslims in Abyssinia to come back to Mecca. Some socially significant personalities were absorbed by Islam. In view of these two facts, they had no alternative but to impose an economic and social boycott on Banu-Hashim in the hope that they would cease their protection of the Holy Prophet and submit him to Quraysh. To this end, they reached an agreement that none would marry a woman from Banu-Hashim or have any transactions with them.[^94]

The life of the people of Mecca was based on trade; economic activities were in the hands of Quraysh; therefore, they were able to deprive anybody or any group of this asset. They had an effective weapon at their disposal and it was expected that Banu-Hashim would be made destitute within a short time. Hence, the chiefs of Quraysh imposed such sanctions on Banu-Hashim so as to make them socially deprived.[^95]

On Abu-talib's recommendation,[^96] all the members of Banu-Hashim, both Muslims and non-Muslims,[^97] except for Abu-Lahab, gathered at Abi-talib Col and for three years after the boycott, they lived there. Although Quraysh’s sanctions were both social and economic in nature, Abu-talib asked the Holy Prophet and Banu-Hashim to reside in that col because people of Quraysh had become outrageous;

and the only thing which could satisfy them was to kill Muhammad (s). Abu-talib appointed forty men[^98] of Banu-Hashim to guard the col and each night he asked the Holy Prophet to change his bed so that he might be secure. Abu-talib’s son, `Ali, then used to replace the Holy Prophet in his bed so as to save him from any anticipated danger.[^99]

During this harsh time, Quraysh stopped any food from entering the col. The residents of this col could only buy their sustenance during the sacred months.[^100] Even at that time, Quraysh warned the caravans that entered Mecca not to sell anything to Banu-Hashim, lest their wealth would be plundered.[^101] If Banu-Hashim desired to buy anything, the prices would rise dramatically so that they could not have any buying power.[^102]

At times, Abu’l-`as ibn Rabi`[^103] or Hakim ibn Hizam[^104] secretly took some foodstuff for Banu-Hashim. Among Banu-Hashim, Imam `Ali (a.s) used to leave the col to bring some foodstuff.[^105] During this period, the Holy Prophet, Abu-talib and Khadijah lost all their wealth.[^106] Khadijah, in particular, spent all her money for the Holy Prophet in that col.[^107]

Three years later, the Holy Prophet informed[^108] people of Quraysh, through Abu-talib, that the treaty was rotted by termites and some of the signing parties had become sorry[^109] for having signed on such a shameful treaty. Only then, they volunteered to annul this treaty.[^110] In this way, Banu-Hashim returned home.[^111] In one of his letters to Mu`awiyah, Imam `Ali (a.s) remembers those harsh days:

Our own tribe (i.e. Quraysh) decided to murder our Prophet and destroy us completely; they added to our disasters and worries and they did strange things to us. They made our lives bitter, causing us to live in worry and pain. They forced us to live in difficult conditions. They kindled the fire of war and hatred against us. However, God willed that we would be the supporter of His religion. The believers among us hoped that God would bless them and give them rewards. However, the unbelievers continued protecting the interests of their own households. None of Quraysh who had converted to Islam received any torture that we received, because each one of them had somebody among their relatives to take care of him. So, they were secure.[^112]

The Death of Khadijah and Abu-talib

Ten years after prophethood of Muhammad (s) and a little time leaving the col, Khadijah passed away. A short time after that, Abu-talib also passed away.[^113] The passing away of these two persons was a great blow to the Holy Prophet.[^114]

With the death of these two loyal friends, mishaps and disasters fell over the shoulders of the Holy Prophet one by one and he was put in a terribly difficult situation.[^115]

The Role of Khadijah

Naturally, the loss of these two personalities brought about a great sorrow; although Khadijah could not protect the Holy Prophet in the same way that Abu-talib did, she was so kind and caring wife; she was a staunch supporter of Islam and its Prophet. She was the source of hope for the Holy Prophet against hardships.[^116] The Holy Prophet kept Khadijah's memories to the last of his life. He would never forget her pioneering in accepting Islam.[^117] Once, he told `a’ishah,

“God has never given me a better wife than Khadijah. She accepted my faith when everyone else rejected; she praised and confirmed me when everyone else denounced; she spent her wealth for me when everyone else deprived me of everything. Finally, God gave me as gifts children from her.”[^118]

The Role of Abu-talib

Not only was Abu-talib the Holy Prophet’s sponsor in his childhood and adolescence, but he was also a staunch supporter during his prophethood. He stood firm against the aggressions of the unbelievers. As long as he was alive, Quraysh rarely dared to harm Muhammad (s). Once, they incited a man to throw a camel's tripe over the Holy Prophet's body at the sacred Mosque. His body became dirty. When Abu-talib knew of the event, he drew his sword and, along with Hamzah, went to meet the offenders. He ordered Hamzah to put the tripe over the face of each one those offenders.[^119]

With the demise of Abu-talib, Quraysh became more aggressive and tyrannical toward the Holy Prophet; they even threw dirt on him.[^120] He once said, “Quraysh had not dared to hurt me until Abu-talib passed away.”[^121]

Abu-talib's Faith Shi`ite scholars unanimously agree that Abu-talib was Muslim;[^122] but he had not declared his faith so that he would protect the Holy Prophet. Because familial prejudices prevailed at that time, he pretended that he was protecting Muhammad (s) out of tribal zeal.[^123] In this regard, Imam al-sadiq (s) has said,

Abu-talib acted like the Companions of the Cave (Seven Sleepers of Ephesus) who concealed their faith and pretended to be unbelievers; so, they received double rewards from God.[^124]

However, some historians claim that Abu-talib had not embraced the new faith and passed away an unbeliever. There are pieces of evidence which lead us to believe that he was a believer of Muhammad's faith and ideology. We will present two of them hereinafter:

(1) His Poems and Statements

We have several statements and poems in which Abu-talib explicitly refers to Muhammad's truthfulness.[^125] This clearly shows his commitment to Islam. Here are some examples of his poems:

O king of Abyssinia, be aware that Muhammad, like Moses and Jesus, is a prophet. He has brought the same light of guidance that those two brought to man. All prophets are commissioned by God to lead people away from sins.[^126]

You should have known that we have believed that Muhammad, just like Moses, is a Messenger whose name is mentioned in the previous bibles.[^127]

I am certain that Muhammad's faith is the best faith in the world.[^128]

(2) His Protection of the Holy Prophet

Abu-talib's excessive protections of the Holy Prophet against the aggressions of Quraysh, which continued for seven years, are clear indications of his faith. Those who deny his faith ascribe his protections to tribal affiliations with the Holy Prophet. However, familial bonds could not have been so strong as to force him to sacrifice his life for the Holy Prophet. These kinds of sacrifices definitely have their roots in religious fervor. If Abu-talib's motives were tribal, why did the other uncles of the Holy Prophet, such as `Abbas and Abu-Lahab, not make the same sacrifices?[^129]

In the opinion of some historians, some of those who have tried to prove Abu-talib's atheism do so out of political motives and tribal jealousies, because the Holy Prophet's followers (who later turned into his political rivals) were mostly idol-worshippers. Only `Ali (a.s) lacked such idol-worshipping background since he was nurtured in the Holy Prophet’s school. Those who wish to belittle Imam `Ali claim that his father was not a believer. In this way, they claim that he had idolatry in his blood. In fact, the only guilt Abu-talib had was his fatherhood of `Ali (a.s). He would not receive such an accusation if he had not been `Ali's father.

The Umayyad and `Abbasid rulers were at the center of these cruelties, because their ancestors could never reach the rank of Imam `Ali (a.s); they never had such a prestige; therefore, they tried in vain to humiliate him in any way they could.

The charges and accusations which they had leveled at Abu-talib were more becoming of `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib (the Holy Prophet's uncle and the ancestor of the `Abbasid rulers), because `Abbas used to be in Mecca up to the siege in the 8th year of Hegira. Moreover, he was taken as a prisoner in the army of the unbelievers and was then freed by paying tribute.

When the siege of Mecca was underway, he reached the Islamic army and asked the Holy Prophet to release Abu-Sufyan, the head of the unbelievers. Considering all these, nobody has ever claimed that he was an unbeliever! Is this a just evaluation of these two figures? For this reason, scholars look at the accusation of being an atheist on the part of Abu-talib as suspect.[^130]