The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 2: The New Faith

 Part I: In the Time of the Prophet (SAWS)


Page: 4

Now seeing no hope of persuading Abu Talib to stop the Prophet and despairing of persuading him themselves, the Quraish decided to make the life of Muhammad and his followers so wretched that they would be forced to submit to the wishes of the Quraish. They set the vagabonds of Makkah against him. These hooligans would shout and jeer at the Prophet wherever he passed, would throw dust into his face and spread thorns in his path. They would fling filth into his house, and in this activity they were joined by Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl. This ill treatment was soon to enter a more violent phase.

As the persecution of the Muslims gathered momentum, it also increased in variety of method. One man got the bright idea that he would hurt Muhammad's cause by challenging him to a wrestling match, and thus belittle and humiliate him in a public contest. This man was an unbelieving uncle of the Prophet by the name of Rukkana bin Abd Yazid, a champion wrestler who was proud of his strength and skill. No one in Makkah had ever thrown him. "O son of my brother!" he accosted the Prophet. "I believe that you are a man. And I believe that you are not a liar. Come and wrestle with me. If you throw me I shall acknowledge you as a true prophet." The man was delighted with himself at having thought up this unusual way of lowering the stock of Muhammad in the eyes of the Makkans. Muhammad would either decline, and thus look small, or accept and get the thrashing of a lifetime. But that is what he thought. His challenge was accepted, and in the wrestling match that ensued the Prophet threw him three times! But the scoundrel went back on his word.1

The Prophet himself was reasonably safe from physical harm, partly because of the protection of his clan and partly because he could give better than he took in a fight. But there were other Muslims who were in a vulnerable position-those who were not connected with powerful families or were physically weak. They included slaves and slave girls. There was one slave girl the news of whose conversion so infuriated Umar that he beat her. He continued to beat the poor girl until he was too tired to beat her any more. And Umar was a very strong man!

Many of the men and women were tortured by the Quraish, The most famous of these sufferers, of whom history speaks in glowing terms, was Bilal bin Hamamah-a tall, gaunt Abyssinian slave who was tortured by his own master, Umayyah bin Khalf. In the afternoon, during the intense heat of the Arabian summer, when the sun would dry up and bake everything exposed to it, Bilal would be stretched out on the burning sand with a large rock on his chest and left to the tender mercies of the sun. Every now and then his master would come to him, would look at his suffering, tormented face, his dry lips and his swollen tongue, and would say, "Renounce Muhammad and return to the worship of Lat and Uzza." But the faith of Bilal remained unshaken. Little did Umayyah bin Khalf know, while he was torturing Bilal, that he and his son would one day face his erstwhile slave in the Battle of Badr, and that Bilal would be his executioner and the executioner of his son.

Bilal and several other slaves, all victims of torture, were purchased by Abu Bakr, who was a wealthy man. Whenever Abu Bakr came to know of a Muslim slave being tortured, he would buy and free him.

In spite of all this persecution, the Prophet remained gentle and merciful towards his enemies; He would pray: "O Lord! Strengthen me with Umar and Abul Hakam." His prayer was answered in so far as it concerned Umar, who became the fortieth person to embrace Islam 2; but Abu Jahl remained an unbeliever and died in his unbelief.

In 619, ten years after the first revelation, Abu Talib died 3. The Prophet's position now became more delicate. The hostility of the Quraish increased, and so did the danger to the life of Muslims. The Prophet remained surrounded by a few faithful companions to whom he continued to preach, and among these companions were 10 who were especially close to him. These men became known as The Blessed Ten, and were held in especial esteem and affection by the Muslims as long as they lived.4

1. According to Ibn Hisham (Vol. 1, p. 390) the Prophet himself challenged Rukkana, but I have narrated Ibn-ul-Asir's version (Vol. 2, pp. 27-28), as the event is more likely to have happened this way.
2. This is Ibn Qutaibah's placing (p. 180). Tabari, however, places Umar as the 67th Muslim (Vol. 3, p. 270).
3. Ten years reckoning by the lunar year, which is, at an average, 11 days shorter that the solar year.
4. For the names of these 10 men, see the Companions page or Note 1 in Appendix B.