Persecution of Early Muslims

The Truth Message – Part – 3.7:

Persecution of Early Muslims

The great spiritual Holy Prophet of Islam started his Mission against immense difficulties and conditions were toughest when compared to the other prophets. This clarion call to true Islam took the slumbering men by surprise.

True to historic scenario, all stood up against him in an unwitting testimony to a rising divine voice, for these are the ways of the material world that unless the Messenger of God faces a volley of abuse, vile and scandalous attacks, the scenario is not complete.

He and his followers met strong persecution and opposition. He was forced to migrate and hunted to be killed innumerable times, but he was protected and helped by God in miraculous ways every time. Before his death his mission completed and the religion he bought was firmly established all over Arabia and was rapidly spreading to other countries.


Coming back to our story…

Now as Islam had begun to be propagated openly in Mecca, at which Quraish were much perturbed and began to consider measures which should arrest its further progress. The opposition of Quraish to Islam was nothing surprising. As the Holy Quran has said:

Alas for My creatures! Whenever a Messenger comes to them, they deride him and make fun of him’ (36:31).

The more exalted is the mission of a prophet, the greater is the opposition to him; as the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was raised at a time when the world was sunk in the deepest spiritual darkness, he was bound to encounter greater opposition than any other prophet.

The following were the principal causes of the opposition of Quraish to the Holy Prophet.

1. Quraish were devoted idol-worshippers and they held their idols in such honour that they could not endure to hear a single derogatory word about them.

Unity of God Almighty – the basic doctrine of Islam. So their idols and their gods and their goddesses were described in the Holy Quran as the fuel of hell: ‘Surely, you and that which you worship beside Allah are destined to be the fuel of hell’ (21:99). Such severe condemnation had greatly provoked Quraish who were united in their determination to wipe out Islam.

2. The customs and habits of the Arabs were sunk low. Adultery, liquor, gambling, plunder, murder and all sorts of illicit practices were rife among them.

These were all condemned by Islam, and embracing Islam meant discarding all of them and adopting a new mode of life. Quraish were not at all ready to do that.

3. The Arabs were very sensitive with regard to the good name of their fathers and took pride in following in their footsteps, right or wrong. As is said in the Holy Quran: ‘When it is said to them: Follow that which Allah has sent down; their response is: Indeed not. We shall follow in the way of our fathers. But what if their fathers had no sense and were not rightly guided?’ (2:171)

So they couldn’t follow this new clean teaching.

4. The Quraish were proud, arrogant people and did not consider anyone else his or her equal. Slaves were particularly looked down upon and were harshly treated. On the other hand, Islam sought to iron out all distinctions and to establish a universal brotherhood. It placed the master and the slave at the same level vis-a-vis God. This was anathema to the chieftains of Quraish.

5. There were a large number of wealthy and influential people among Quraish. The Holy Prophet, though he belonged to Quraish, was neither wealthy nor was he counted among the leading personalities. The chiefs of Mecca were not prepared to follow someone who was not of equal status with them. That is why they said: ‘Why has not this Quran been sent down to some great man of the two cities, Mecca or Taif?’ (43:32)

Once the hostility of Quraish was aroused, the Muslims were subjected to all manner of indignities, molestations and persecutions. Quraish were determined that the new doctrine must be crushed, and its followers forced to abandon it.

In their opposition to the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, Quraish were hampered by the fact that he enjoyed the protection of his uncle Abu Talib, and so long as that continued they could not raise their hands against him without the risk of arousing inter-tribal conflict. Therefore, they sent a delegation to Abu Talib to persuade him. But when Abu Talib said the same to Muhammad (saw), He said:  If these people were to place the sun on my right, and the moon on my left, I would not desist from doing my duty. I shall persist in it till God enables me to discharge it fully, or till I perish in the attempt.’

Then The Quraish  brought Ammarah bin Waleed – one of the best young men of Quraish to Abu Talib in exchange for Prophet.. His uncle denied this too.


Muslims were laid out in the blazing sun. Burning stones were put on their chests; they were dragged through the streets of Makkah like dead animals. They were shunned, and kept hungry and thirsty. They were thrown into dungeons and their belongings were seized. Pregnant women were thrown off camels – their inevitable deaths funding the cause of merriment.

Their cruelty reached such heights that the believers whipped; their limbs were tied to camels which were then driven in opposite directions, rendering their bodies apart. The believers were cut into pieces with swords and were pierced by arrows! Even the body of the Holy Prophet’s (saw) uncle was cut and his liver was eaten raw in cannibal fashion.

The Prophet (saw) himself was stoned by ruffians and vagabonds and was chased and pelted by urchins till the cobblestones of Taif ran red with his blood. And at the battle-ground of Uhud the Prophet (saw) was seriously wounded. This bloodshed took place in the name of religion, because Muslims said Rabbunallaha: Our Lord is Allah.

Few examples:

Uthman bin Affan of Banu Umayya was tied up with ropes and administered a severe beating to him, which he bore with equanimity, without the least protest.

Zubair bin Awam of Banu Asad was rolled inside a length of matting and was tortured with smoke. He endured the torture cheerfully and continued to affirm that having recognized the truth, he would not denounce it.

Abdullah bin Masood of Hudhail was beaten up severely in the courtyard of the Ka’aba.

Abu Dhar Ghaffari was beaten up mercilessly too.

The weak and those held in bondage were persecuted brutally and savagely.

Labeenah was a female slave of Banu Adi.  She would be beaten up mercilessly.

Another female slave was Zunairah of Banu Makhzoom. Abu Jahl beat her so cruelly that she lost her eyesight.

Khabbab bin Arat was a freedman who practised as a blacksmith. On one occasion he was seized and was forcibly held down on his back upon the burning charcoal of his own forge till the fire went out.

Ammar, his father Yassar and his mother Samayyah, were most mercilessly and savagely tortured by Banu Makhzoom. Samayya died of wounds but Yassar survived.

The Holy Prophet himself, peace be on him, was molested in every possible way. They followed him about and gave free rein to their tongues in uttering derisive and provocative slogans and phrases. His neighbours threw stones into his house, scattered thorns outside his door and put foul and evil-smelling substances inside the walls of his dwelling.

On one occasion, someone threw the entrails of a goat into his house.

On another occasion, when the Holy Prophet was engaged in Prayer and was in prostration in the courtyard of the Ka’aba, someone, at the instigation of Abu Jahl, placed the entrails of a camel over his shoulders. On hearing of this, one of his daughters came and removed them so that he should be able to get up.

Once when he was engaged in Prayer near the Ka’aba, Utba bin Abi Mueet stepped up to him and, winding a piece of cloth round his neck, began to squeeze it, whereby it became difficult for him to breathe. Abu Bakr rescued him

When Abu Bakr proclaimed the Unity of God in the courtyard of the Ka’aba openly. The Quraish set upon him fiercely, and maltreated him so mercilessly that when his fellow tribesmen intervened and carried him to his house he was quite unconscious and his face was swollen.

The Holy Prophet was, however, assured of the ultimate triumph of Islam, and the revelations vouchsafed to him during this period contained strong indications of the approach of such triumph. He was, therefore, anxious that his striving in the cause of Allah and the propagation of Islam must not slacken. Consequently, he now turned his attention more and more towards the Arab tribes. The best way of conveying his message to them was to make an approach to them when they resorted to Mecca and Mina on the occasion of the pilgrimage, or when they gathered together on the occasion of certain festivals at Okaz, Majannah and Zul Majaz. In order to take full advantage of these opportunities, he started visiting them repeatedly. He was sometimes accompanied by Abu Bakr, or Ali, or Zaid bin Haritha. About nobody accepted him.

In the meantime the revelation that was vouchsafed to him presented a wider and wider horizon to him and to his followers. They were invited to lift their eyes from the citizens to tribes and from the tribes to the nation, and from the nation to the international situation.

Having met with disappointment and frustration in every direction at Makkah, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, made up his mind to proceed to Taif and invite its people to Islam.

In his journey to Taif, the Holy Prophet was accompanied by Zaid bin Harith. He called on the leading men of the city, one after the other, but all of them rejected him and made fun of him. He stayed in Taif for about ten days. In the end, he called on the most prominent chief of the city, Abd Yaleel, and invited him to embrace Islam. He also rejected him.

Thereafter, he incited the rabble of the city to chase him out of the town. They started pelting him and Zaid with stones and went on reviling them for a distance of three miles beyond the city. Blood flowed from both legs of the Holy Prophet; and Zaid, endeavouring to shield him, was wounded in the head.  He then returned to Mecca.

During the last three years of the Holy Prophet’s stay in Mecca, the prospect of the spread of Islam in Mecca was bleak and most discouraging.

When the sufferings and tribulations of the Muslims at the hands of Quraish reached their limit, the Holy Prophet directed that those of them who could afford it should migrate to Abyssinia across the Red Sea who ruler was Najashi, a Christian.

HIJRA: Having received the divine direction to depart from Mecca, The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, directed the Muslims that those of them who could afford it should migrate to Yathrab. Accordingly, within a very short period, despite the opposition of Quraish, most of the Muslims in Mecca managed to migrate to Yathrab and many houses in Mecca were vacated. In the end only the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, Ali and the members of their families, and such weak and helpless people who could not afford to undertake the journey, or who were effectively prevented by Quraish from moving, were left in Mecca.

But at last the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, left Mecca for Madina with Abu Bakr, the siddiq. After journeying for eight days the party approached Yathrab.

Why was the message rejected? Why were the Muslims persecuted? What is Islam?

Please read: The Religion of Prophet Muhammad (saw) – Islam

Suggested Reading:

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Message to Mankind from God, the Almighty — Read the Holy Qur’an in your language

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