When the Holy Prophet PBUH declared his message in public and called upon people of Makkah to adopt it as a faith and way of life he moved into a new stage in the history of preaching Islam.
Until now, the Holy Prophet PBUH and his followers had confined themselves to preaching Islam to a limited number of people. The Holy Prophet’ s declaration of his message, however, changed the picture as the whole society was now called upon to accept a total change where they were not only asked to pay homage to Allah instead of their idols, but they were also asked to bring about a complete change in their social conduct, economic and commercial practices as well as their political thought and influence.
The response of the influential people of Makkah was hostile. They felt that unless they met the new call with stiff opposition, it was bound to be’ accepted by a large section of the population, especially the poor and the slaves.
Among (those who took the lead in the opposition were the most influential chiefs of the Quraish, namely Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, Abu Sufyan.Walid bin Mughaira and Atba bin Rabi. The poor and the weak converts to Islam, like Bilal, Ammar bin Yasir and others like them suffered torture and severe persecution at the hands of these chiefs.
They were thrown into prison, starved and then beaten with sticks, They were exposed to the scorching heat of the desert sand where they were offered the alternative of worshipping idols or death. Some of them died of the effects of the torture, but none renounced his religion Even rich and respected people like Talha, Zubair, Saeed bin Zaid, Usman, Abu Bakr and Abdullah bin Masud were not spared.
The opposition increased gradually. Rubbish and thorny bushes were thrown on the Holy Prophet phuh and abuses were hurled at him. Once, when he was praying in the Ka’abah, a Quraish rolled his sheet round his neck and tried to strangle him.
Another time when he was prostrating during prayers, Abu Jahl placed filth on his back. His daughter, Fatima, removed it from her father’s back.
The Quraish also launched a compaign against the Holy Prophethuh calling him a namad man, a poet and a magician. Poems were writen to ridicule the Holy Prophet PBUH, Abu Lahab forced his two sons to divorce their wives, Ruqayya and Umm-e-Kulsum, the Prophet PBUH daughters.
When the Prophet’s PBUH second son died in infancy Abu Lahab rejoiced and called the Prophet PBUH “abtar” a man cut off with no male offspringis wife used to put thorns on the path which the Prophet PBUH expected to take, in order to cause physical injury.) Inspite of all these disgusting measures, he continued his work with increasing vigour and determination.
When insults and persecution had no effect on the Holy Prophet PBUH, the pagans tried other methods. They offered to collect a large fortune for him, or make him the king. They even promised to marry him to the fairest girl in the land if he gave up preaching Islam. The Holy Prophet PBUH turned down all such offers. They then approached his uncle, Abu Talib and asked him to prevent against Muhammad PBUH.
These threats worried Abu Talib and he tried to stop Muhammad PBUH from Preaching because he did not have the strength to oppose his people. To this the Holy Prophet PBUH responded by saying, “If they place the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left hand, and ask me to stop preaching the word of God to the people, I will never accept what they say. I shall persist in it until Allah enables me to discharge it fully or I perish in the attempt.
When Abu Talib saw the determination of his nephew, he told him to continue With his mission. He also pledged to help and support him and asked the Banu Hashim to protect the Holy Prophet PBUH against the Quraish. All of them pledged to do So, except, Abu Lahab, who openly declared his enmity.
Reasons for opposition
The Quraish were the leading tribe in the Arabian Peninsula. They were used to idol worship of Islam that the Holy Prophet PBUH openly condemned. They took the teachings of Islam as an insult to their religion and the ways of their forefathers.
The location of the Ka’abah in Makkah gave them an important position as the custodians of the House. It was a source of income for them, particularly the priests, as the pilgrims to the Ka’abah would being rich gifts for their idols.
In the rise of Islam, they saw the danger to their dignity and prestige and the loss. of the important position which they had held for centuries. Apart from idol worship, adultery, drinking, gambling, murder and plunder were common among the Arabs, Islam condemned all these. Embracing Islam meant discarding these evil practices and adopting a new mode of life. The Quraish were not at all ready to do that.
The chiefs, particularly those belonging to the Banu Umayyah, could not bear that anybody from among the Banu Hashim, the tribe to which the Holy Prophet PBUH belonged, should have supremacy over them. They were also of the view that the Quran should have been sent down to some influential person. The Quran says: “Also, they say: why is not this Quran sent down to some leading man in either of the two (chief) cities.”(43: 31)
The Quraish were proud of their chiefs, against whom they were not ready to accept the supremacy of the Holy Prophet PBUH who neither had wealth nor sons nor any other sign of worldly power. The Quraish used to say: “Is this the one whom Allah has sent as a messenger?” (25:41)