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Persecution of Muslims by Quraysh

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
In the early days of the prophetic mission the advancement of Islam was the result of a number of factors, one of which, was the steadfastness of the Prophet and his companions and supporters. Examples of the patience and fortitude of the leader of the Muslims have already been stated, whereas the forbearance and perseverance of the Muslims who lived in Makkah (the centre of polytheism and idolatry) deserves attention. An account of their sacrifices and steadfastness will be given in the chapters relating to events after Hijrah (migration to Madina). For the present we mention the tragic events connected with the lives of some old devotees of the Prophet who lived in the shelterless environments of Makkah.

The parents of Bilal were amongst those persons who had been brought from Ethiopia to Arabia as captives. He himself (who later became the mu'azzin of the Prophet) was the slave of Umayyah bin Khalaf. Umayyah was one of the sworn enemies of the great leader of the Muslims. As the kinsmen of the Prophet had undertaken his own defence, Umayyah, with a view to take revenge, used to torture openly his slave who had been newly converted to Islam. He made him lie naked on hot sand during the hottest days, placed a big red-hot stone on his chest and addressed him in these words: "I will not release you until you die in this condition or abjure the faith of Muhammad, and worship 'Lat' and 'Uzza'.
In spite of all this torture, however, Bilal replied him with only two words which are a clear proof of his firm faith. He said, 'Ahad! Ahad!' (viz. Allah is One and I will never revert to the religion of polytheism and idolatry). Others wondered at the steadfastness of this black slave who was a captive in the hands of a hard-hearted person. So much so that Waraqah bin Nawfal, the Christian Arab scholar, wept on the condition of Bilal and said to Umayyah: "By Allah! If you kill him in this manner I will make his grave a sacred place to be visited by pilgrims ". [157]
At times Ummayah acted with still greater severity. He put a rope round the neck of Bilal and handed it over to the children so that they might drag him in the streets.[158]
Ummayah and his son were captured in the Battle of Badr, the first battle of Islam. Some Muslims were not in favour of killing Umayyah, but Bilal said: "He is the leader of infidelity and must be killed". On his insistence the father and the son were recompensed for their crimes and were put to death.

Arnmar and his parents were amongst the early Muslims. They embraced Islam when the Prophet had selected the house of Arqam bin Abil Arqam as the rendezvous for the propagation of Islam. When the idolaters became aware of their having adopted the Divine religion they did not neglect torturing and persecuting them. Ibn Athir [159] says: "The idolaters compelled these three persons to quit their house in the hottest season and to spend their time in the heat and the scorching wind of the desert. This torture was repeated so many times that Yasir succumbed to his troubles. One day his widow Sumayyah quarrelled with Abu Jahl on this account. That hard-hearted and cruel person thrust a spear in her heart and killed her also. The Holy Prophet was very much moved on account of the persecution to which they were subjected. One day he saw them being tortured. He turned his face to them with tears in his eyes and said "O family of Yasir! Be patient, for your place is in Paradise ".
After the death of Yasir and his wife the idolaters tormented and tortured Ammar as well, as they had tormented Bilal. To save his life he had no alternative left but to abjure Islam, but he repented soon and ran to the Prophet with a palpitating heart. He related the incident to the Prophet, who enquired of him: "Has any instability taken place in your inner faith?" He replied: "My heart is abounding with faith". The Prophet then said: "Do not entertain the least fear in your mind and keep your faith hidden to save yourself from their mischief".
The following verse was revealed with regard to the faith of Ammar: [160] (There shall be a grievous punishment for him) who disbelieves in Allah after believing in Him, other than him who is compelled while his heart is firm in his faith. (Surah Nahl, 16:106)
It is said that Abu Jahl decided to take to task the family of Yasir who belonged to the class of the most unprotected persons in Makkah. He, therefore, ordered that fire end scourage might be made ready. Yasir, Sumayyah and Ammar were then dragged to the appointed place and tormented with the point of the sword and with the flames of fire and whipping. This persecution was repeated so many times that Yasir and Sumayyah consequently breathed their last, but they did not forsake the praise of the Prophet till their last moments.
The men of Quraysh who had witnessed this calamitous and tragic scene, notwithstanding the fact that they had unity of interest in defeating Islam, got the wounded and grief stricken Ammar released from the clutches of Abu Jahl so that he might bury his parents.

The Muslims who had embraced Islam secretly were telling among themselves that Quraysh had not heard the Holy Qur'an and it would be quite appropriate if one of them went into Masjid ul-Haram and recited some verses of the Holy Book with a loud voice. Abdullah, son of Mas'ud expressed his willingness to do so. He came into the Masjid when Quraysh had assembled by the side of the Holy Ka'bah and recited the following verses with a loud and melodious voice: In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. It is the Merciful who has taught the Qur'an. .....(Surah al-Rahman, 55:1-2)
The eloquent verses of this surah struck Quraysh with a strange awe. And in order to forestall the effect of the heavenly call which was reaching their ears through a defenceless person they all stood up and beat him so much that blood began to flow from his entire body and he returned to the companions of the Holy Prophet in a pitiable condition. They were, however happy that the invigorating voice had eventually reached the ears of the enemies.[161]
Whatever has been said above was by way of example, for otherwise the number of self-sacrificing devotees of Islam who endured the gravest hardships during the early days of the Prophet's mission, and showed steadfastness in the path of achievement of their aim, is much larger However, we refrain from mentioning their names and the events of their lives for the sake of brevity.
[146] Instead of ringing a bell of danger the Arabs use these words and generally begin alarming reports with them.
[147] Ibn Hisham has mentioned the names and particulars of these person in his 'Seerah'.
[148] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. X, page 265.
[149] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, pp. 265-266.
[150] Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. II, pp. 66,67; Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I. pp. 295,296
[151] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, p. 313 and Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. II, p. 72.
[152] Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 59.
[153] al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, vol. III, page 26.
[154] Seerah, page 311. Tabari has quoted the entire incident in his history vol. II page 72, except that the head of the Caliph was injured.
[155] Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 47.
[156] Biharul Anwar, vol. XVIII, page 204.
[157] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, page 318.
[158] Tabaqat-i Ibn S'ad, vol. III, page 233.
[159] Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 45.
[160] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, page 320.
[161] Seerah Ibn Hisham, vol. I, page 314.

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