It is natural for sensible and mild-tempered people to meditate deeply on the factors that inspired those early Muslims that miraculous constancy and perseverance. It is normal to wonder how those people managed to tolerate unspeakable persecutions, and stand fast in the face of tyrannical tortures.With respect to these questions, we deem it wise just to touch on those underlying reasons:
- Unshakable Belief in Allaah. The first and foremost factor is no doubt, unshakable Belief in Allaah Alone coupled with a wonderful degree of perception of His Attributes. A man with this Belief deeply averred in his heart will look at those foreseen difficulties as triflings and can under no circumstance compare with the sweetness of Belief:
“Then, as for the foam, it passes away as scum upon the banks, while that which is for the good of mankind remains in the earth.” [13:17]
Other sub-factors that branch out from that Belief and assist in strengthening it and promoting long amity are:
- Wholeheartedly-loved leadership. Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم) the great leader of the Muslim community, and mankind at large, was an exemplary man in his perfect manners and noble attributes; no one could measure up to his endowments of nobility, honesty, trustworthiness and abstinence; unanimously and uncontestedly acknowledged even by his enemies. Abu Jahl himself, the great enemy of Islaam, used repeatedly to say: “O Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم), we are in no position to belie you, we rather disbelieve what you have brought us (Islaam).” It is narrated that three people of Quraysh each separately and secretly listened to some verses of the Noble Qur’aan. Later, this secret was uncovered and one of them asked Abu Jahl (one of the three) what he thought of what he heard from Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم). He answered: We contested the honour of leadership and generosity with Banu ‘Abd Munaf and shared equal privileges competitively. They then began to boast saying that a Prophet rose among them whom Revelation came down upon from heavens. I swear we will never believe in him.
So Allaah said:
“... It is not you that they deny, but it is the Verses (the Qur’aan) of Allaah that the Zaalimoon (polytheists and wrong-doers) deny.” [6:33]
One day, the disbelievers of Quraysh leveled to him a cynical remark three times. He remained silent but for the third one he remarked, “O Quraysh! Slaughter is in store for you.” They were taken aback and ulterior fear filled their hearts to such an extent that the most hostile among them began to make up for their insult by the best friendly terms they could afford. When they slung the entrails of a camel on him while prostrating himself in prayer, he invoked Allaah’s wrath on them, and they immediately were caught in an inexpressible state of worry and were almost convinced that they would be destroyed. Ubai bin Khalaf used always to threaten he would kill Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم). One day the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) retorted that he would kill him by Allaah’s Will. When Ubai received a scratch in his neck, on the day of Uhud, he, under the sense of horror, remembered the Prophet’s words and remarked, “I am convinced he would be able to kill me even if he spat on me. Sa’d bin Mu’adh said to Omaiyah bin Khalaf in Makkah, “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) one day say that the Muslims would surely kill you.” Omaiyah was extremely panicked and swore he would never step out of Makkah. Even when Abu Jahl obliged him to march with them to fight the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) on the day of Badr, he bought the best and swift camels in Makkah in order that they hasten his escape. Even his wife warned him against going out reminding him of Sa’d’s words, his reply was “By Allaah, I have no intention of going out with Quraysh, I will disengage from them after a short distance.”
That was the clear sense of horror and terror haunting his enemies wherever they were. His friends and companions, on the other hand, held him dearest to them, and he occupied the innermost cells of their hearts. They were always ready to defend him and secure his well-being even at the risk of their lives. One day, Abu Bakr bin Abee Quhafa was severely beaten by ‘Utbah bin Rabi’a, a terrible polytheist. His whole body was almost bleeding and he was on the verge of death, yet when his people took him back home extremely indignant at his misfortune, he swore he would never eat or drink anything until they had told him about the well-being of his noble Companion, Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم). That was the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice that characterized the behaviour of those early Companions.
- The sense of responsibility. The early Companions were fully aware of the daunting responsibility they were expected to shoulder. They were also convinced that those charges were inescapable even though they were being persecuted for fear of the far-reaching ramifications, and the horrible impact that humanity would suffer in case they shirked their obligations.
- Unwavering Belief in the truth of the Hereafter. This was the corner-stone that strengthened their sense of responsibility. There was a deep certainty established through the light of their religion that one day they would have to rise on the Day of Resurrection and account for all worldly deeds, small or big. They were sure that their future in the other world would depend wholly on their acts in their provisional life on earth, either to everlasting Garden (Paradise) or perpetual chastisement in Hell. Their whole life was divided between hope for Allaah’s mercy and fear of His punishment.
“... Who give that (their charity) which they give (and also do other good deeds) with their hearts full of fear (whether their alms and charities, etc., have been accepted or not), because they are sure to return to their Lord.” [23:60]
They had already known that life with all its amenities and pains was worthless when compared with the Hereafter. Such deep convictions brought about in them a sense of indifference to all troubles and hardships that attended their life.
- The Qur’aan. The verses and chapters of the Noble Qur’aan were attractively, forcefully and successively revealed at that gloomy and critical stage, supporting and advancing arguments on the truth and soundness of the principles of Islaam, round whose axis the whole Call of Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم) was revolving. They constituted the immune basis upon which the best and most wonderful Divinely decreed society was to be established. The Qur’aanic verses served also to excite the feelings of the believers, strengthen their selves on their course of patience and endurance and introduce them to the most purposeful examples and suggestive instructions:
“Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, ‘When (will come) the Help of Allaah?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allaah is near!” [2:214]
“Alif-Lam-Mim. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe’, and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allaah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allaah knows all that before putting them to test).” [29: 1-3]
Mere lip profession of Faith is not enough. It must be tried and tested in the real turmoil of life. The test will be applied in all kinds of circumstances, in individual life and in relation to the environment around us to see whether we can strive constantly and put the Lord above self. Much pain, sorrow and self-sacrifice may be necessary, not because they are good in themselves, but because they will purify us, like fire applied to a goldsmith’s crucible to burn out the dross.
These verses also constituted an irrefutable answer to the false allegations of the disbelievers, and a clear ultimatum that smacked of the horrible consequences that would ensue in case they persisted in their disbelief. On the other hand, the Noble Qur’aan was leading the Muslims to a new world and enlightening them as to its features, the beauty of Lordship, the perfection of Godship, the impact of kindness and mercy and the manifestations of the yearned for Allaah’s pleasure. They implicitly connoted meaningful messages carrying glad tidings of definitely approaching Divine Mercy leading to eternal bliss in a blissful Garden (Paradise). They, at the same time, envisaged the end of the tyrants and disbelievers who would be brought to Divine Justice and then dragged through the Fire where they would taste the touch of Hell.
- Glad tidings of success. Ever since the time they experienced the adversities of life, the Muslims had been certain that entrance into the fold of Islaam did not entail involvement into hardships or digging one’s own grave. They had been aware that the Islaamic Call had one goal, viz extermination of pre-Islaamic tradition and destroying its iniquitous system, to go on parallel lines with extending its influence allover the earth and holding in firm control the political situation worldwide to lead humanity along a course conducive to Allaah’s Pleasure, and perfect enough to rid people of worshipping Allaah’s servant to worshipping Allaah, Himself. Glad tidings of this sort were being revealed sometimes explicitly and at other times implicitly, in a manner relevant to the situation. When the Muslims were forced to undergo constraints, or when their life was kept under continual restraint, there would be revealed verses telling identical stories of past Prophets with their people and the sufferings and pains they had experienced. The verses would also include suggestive clues to the final tragic end of the Makkan disbelievers envisaging their final perdition, yet and at the same time, bearing glad tidings to the believers and promising the true servants of vicegerency on earth to go with absolute success, and victory to attend the Islaamic Call and its proponents.
Here we could adduce some of the verses of this category pregnant with glad tidings referring to the final victory that would crown the perseverance and patience of the Muslims:
“And, verily, Our Word has gone forth of old for Our slaves, the Messengers, that they verily would be made triumphant. And that Our hosts, they verily would be the victors. So turn away (O Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم)) from them for a while, and watch them and they shall see (the punishment)! Do they seek to hasten on Our torment? Then, when it descends into their courtyard (i.e. near to them), evil will be the morning for those who had been warned.” [37:171-177]
In the same context, Allaah told His Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم):
“Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs.” [54:45]
He also said:
“They will be a defeated host like the confederates of the old times.” [38:11]
The Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) had the following:
“And as for those who emigrated for the cause of Allaah, after suffering oppression, We will certainly give them goodly residence in this world, but indeed the reward of the Hereafter will be greater, if they but knew.” [16:41]
In the context of the story of Joseph, there was:
“Verily, in Joseph and his brethren there were Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) for those who ask.” [12:7]
i.e., the Makkans will receive the same fate that befell Joseph’s brothers, viz, failure and surrender. In another instance, Allaah speaks about the Messengers:
“And those who disbelieved, said to their Messengers: ‘Surely, we shall drive you out of our land, or you shall return to our religion!’ So their Lord inspired them: ‘Truly, We shall destroy the Dhaalimoon (polytheists, disbelievers and wrong-doers). And indeed, We shall make you dwell in the land after them. This is for him who fears standing before Me (on the Day of Resurrection or fears My punishment) and also fears My threat.” [14:13,14]
During the war between the Persians and the Romans, the disbelievers had a sincere wish that victory be the former’s lot, because both parties professed polytheism, whereas the Muslims prayed for a Roman victory because both groups believed in Allaah, His Messengers, Books, the Revelation and the Hereafter.
The war resulted in the overthrow of Rome by Persia. They were pro-Persian, as we have said, and in their hearts they hoped that the nascent movement of Islaam, which at that time was, from a worldly point of view, very weak and helpless, would collapse under their persecution. But they misread the true signs of the times. They were told that they would soon be disillusioned in both their calculations, and it actually so happened when Heraclius carried his campaign into the heart of Persia and the Makkan Quraysh were beaten off at Badr:
“And on that Day, the believers (i.e. Muslims) will rejoice (at the victory given by Allaah to the Romans against the Persians) with the help of Allaah.” [30:4,5]
During the season of ‘Ukaz forum, and other such occasions, the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) himself would communicate not only glad tidings pertinent to the Garden (Paradise) but also news of promising prospects for the true believers in the Call of Islaam. He would openly tell them that they would surely prosper, rule the whole of Arabia and subdue Persia if they professed the most serious pillar of Islaam, i.e. the Oneness of Allaah.
Khabbab bin Al-Aratt once urged the Messenger to call upon Allaah to shield him against the adversities he was suffering at the hand of the polytheists. The Prophet’s face reddened and he remarked that the true believer must not precipitate things, it was incumbent upon a believer to undergo all the odds of life as much as he could, fearing nobody except Allaah until the religion was established, which would surely happen. The Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) in this regard, referred to the perseverance that the Muslims had to show and the hardships they had to undergo in order to establish the land of Islaam where peace and security would prevail all over it.
Glad tidings of better prospects for Islaam and the Muslims were not confined to Muhammad’s followers, in fact they were being disclosed time and again to both believers and disbelievers. Whenever the two parties met, the latter would jeer at the former and mockingly say “Here are the sovereigns of earth who will defeat Chosroes and Caesar.” But the believers, in anticipation of that shining and Godly-orientated future, would always persevere and tolerate all sorts of persecution and humiliation regarding them as summer clouds that would soon clear away.
The Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم), on his part, would always maintain and sustain his followers’ souls with the light of belief, sanctify them through inculcating the Qur’aanic wisdom in their hearts and cultivate their minds deeply with the spirit of Islaam that would elevate them to a state of noble spirituality, pure heartedness and an absolute degree of freedom from the yoke of materialism, a high morale powerful enough to resist worldly lusts and consequently lead them from darkness to light. He would constantly teach them to be tolerant, forgiving and overpowering over their selves in order to get well established in their religion, disdain lust, and devote themselves to attaining the Pleasure of Allaah, yearning for the Garden (Paradise), enthusiasm in sciences relating to their faith, calling themselves to account, subordinating fleeing whims, holding under firm control all rage-provoking incidents and finally observing sobriety, patience and gravity.