The Quraysh's Opposition to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam)
By Abu Rukaayah
This article examines the main reasons and results of the Quraysh opposition to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) and Islam.
After the revelation of: â€œO you enveloped. Arise and warnâ€ (74:1-2), the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) began to call his close family and friends to Islam. The Prophetâ€™s preaching, and the worship of the Muslims, for the next three years was done secretly. At this stage, the opposition to those who embraced the faith was mainly on a family and individual level.
However after Allah revealed: â€œAnd warn your tribe of near kindredâ€ (26:214), the Prophetâ€™s call became public. He stood on Mount Safa, called the various tribes, and warned them of a severe torment if they did not accept his message of tawheed. Following this public proclamation, a number of verses were revealed refuting idol worship, describing the idolaters as misguided, and threatening them with Hellfire if they did not abstain from idolatry. This open rejection of idolatry deeply offended the Makkans, galvanising them to start a concerted campaign against the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) and his followers.
There were three main factors behind the Qurayshâ€™s opposition to Islam; religious, social and economic. We will take each factor in turn.
The primary division between the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) and his opponents was a religious one; or more specifically, the issue of tawheed and shirk. The Makkans believed that Allah was their Creator, and He was all-Powerful: â€œAnd if you asked them: Who created the heavens and the earth, and subjected the sun and the moon, they would surely say Allah.â€ (29:61). In times of difficulty they would direct all of their worship to Allah alone. However they would also worship other then Allah. Believing that they were too sinful to approach Allah directly, they invented intermediaries between themselves and Allah, whom they would call upon, and ask them to carry their request to Allah. Their goal was to worship Allah, but the way to reach Allah was through these intermediaries. The Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) declared that every act of worship, including supplication, vows, sacrifice, should be directed to Allah alone.
The Kaâ€™ba had hundreds of idols situated inside it the most famous being Hubal al-Uzza, an idol situated near Makkah, which was visited by pilgrims from all over Arabia. This veneration of idols, as well as certain trees (Dhat Anwat) and buildings (the tomb of al-Lat) was deeply engrained in the psyche of the Makkans and they deeply resented anyone challenging this practice which they had inherited from their forefathers.
The idea of Prophethood being granted to someone who was poor, and an orphan was antithetical to the Quraysh. Al-Walid in al-Mughirah complained that he was more deserving of Prophethood due to his high status. â€œAnd they said: why is not this Qurâ€™aan sent down to a leading man in either of the two towns.â€ (43:31) They also contended that Allah should send an angel as a Prophet, and not a mere mortal.
Finally, the Makkans rejected the concept of Resurrection believing that it was impossible for decayed bones to brought back to life. â€œThey say, what! When we die and become dust and bones, can we really be raised up again.â€ (52:82)
Islam was also a threat to the social customs of the Makkans. It meant that century old traditions; fornication, robbery, deception, oppression of the women, slaves and the poor and the burying alive of female children, would have to come to an end. This is why the Makkans were willing to accept the personal leadership of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) if he abandoned his mission, as this did not mean an end to their traditional way of life. However, the acceptance of Islam as a religion meant an end to any tradition or belief that conflicted with the Qurâ€™aan.
Tribal differences also played a part in the opposition particularly from Banu Ummayah and Banu Makhzum. Acceptance of Islam meant that the powerful tribal leaders would have to submit to a previously un-influential man from a rival tribe. There were further consequences. Tribes from all over Arabia made their annual pilgrimage to the Kaâ€™ba to worship their idols in and around Makka. An important spin off from this was that Makka become an important commercial centre. Abandoning idol worship would have three main consequences; the Quraysh would lose their position of priestly class, this in turn would threaten their financial gains from the pilgrimage, and finally they feared that a coalition of tribes might oust them as guardians of the Kaâ€™ba. â€œAnd they say, if we followed the guidance with you, we would be ousted from our land.â€ (28:57)
Finally the memory of Abrahahâ€™s fateful attempt to destroy the Kaâ€™ba was still fresh in the minds of the Makkans. The latter saw some similarity between the Prophetâ€™s message and Christianity, and hence rejected it.
There were three main results of the Qurayshâ€™s opposition to Islam.
A number of converts were excommunicated from their tribes rendering them extremely vulnerable to persecution and even death. Sixteen Muslims emigrated to Abyssinia to seek refuge with a Christian king who was known for his justice. A second migration to Abyssinia, involving 98 Muslims, also took place. The effect of this migration showed that the intense persecution by the Makkans had not met its desired objective. Islam was introduced to a new continent, an upshot of this was that a delegation of 20 Christians came to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) and embraced Islam. The Negus also embraced Islam.
Secondly â€˜Umarâ€™s determined resolve to kill the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) led him on journey that culminated with his acceptance of Islam. Likewise, Hamza, the Prophetâ€™s uncle, out of tribal loyalty, was outraged that Abu Jahl assaulted his nephew. After, retaliating on behalf of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam), Hamza declared his conversion to Islam.
Thirdly, the intense persecution meant that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) had to look elsewhere (outside Makka) to deliver the message and ask for support. Most of the tribes refused him, but a number of prominent Medinians from the Aws and Khazraj tribes, on a visit for pilgrimage, accepted his message, and pledged allegiance to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam) in what was known as the first and second pledges of Aqabah. Islam spread in Medina, opening the way for the Muslims to migrate to Medina, to practice Islam openly without fear of persecution, and establish a city state that was to convey Islam far beyond its borders.
â€˜Alī, Muhammad Mohar. (1997). Sirat Al-Nabi and the Orientalists. With Special Reference to the Writings of William Muir, DS Margoliouth and W. Montgomery Watt. Madinah, Saudi Arabia: King Fahd Complex for the printing of the Holy Qurâ€™ān and Centre for the Service of Sunnah and the Sīrah.
Mubarakpuri, al-, Safi-ur-Rahman. (1985). Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar). Biography of the Noble Prophet. Madinah: Maktba Dar-us-Salam.
May this article be of benefit to you inshaa'Allaah!
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