The Biography of

Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam

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Lesson 6
Torture and persecution

The Quraish tried different tactics to stop the mission of Islam from spreading. These can be summarised as follows :

1. They mocked, ridiculed and degraded the early Muslims, especially the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. They called him names - a diviner, a poet, a sorcerer and a madman.
2. They discouraged others from listening to his words by saying that he had caused rifts between father and son, brother and brother and husband and wife.
3. They discouraged people from listening to the words of the Quran.
4. They tried to divert the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam from his principled stand by asking him to compromise on his teachings and accept some of their idolatrous ways. This was the context for the revelation of Surah Kaafiroon. Click here for a detailed commentary of Surah Kaafiroon.
5. They used the strong Arab family ties and forced Abu Talib to persuade his nephew to stop.
6. They tried to bribe the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam with wealth, women and power.

When the Quraish realised the futility of all their efforts they began persecuting him and the Muslims in every possible way. They could have killed the handful of Muslims quite easily but this would not appease their desire for revenge. The early converts had to be tortured and tormented.

Bilal Radhi Allahu Anhu was a slave who had embraced Islam. Umayyah Ibn Khalaf, his master, used to bring him out at noon and throw him on his back on the burning desert sand. He ordered that a great rock be placed on the chest of Bilal Radhi Allahu Anhu and then he would say : "Now, by Allah, you will lie here till you die or deny Muhammad and worship Al-Lat and Al-Uzza." Bilal Radhi Allahu Anhu would endure this torture crying out, "One, One", meaning that only Allah is the one and true god. (1)

Khabbab Ibn al-Aratt Radhi Allahu Anhu was made to lie with his back on burning coal which made his back turn white. Ammaar Radhi Allahu Anhu was also made to lie on the burning sand and beaten till he became unconscious. His mother, Sumayya, and his father, Yasir Radhi Allahu Anhuma, were both killed by the Quraish. Zinnira Radhi Allahu Anha was beaten by Abu Jahl to such an extent that she lost her eyesight. Zubair Radhi Allahu Anhu was wrapped in a mat and forced to inhale smoke. Even Abu Bakr Radhi Allahu Anhu was violently beaten when he tried to defend the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam from the Quraish.

Once Abu Mu'it brought the foetus of a camel and when the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam prostrated in prayer, he placed it on his shoulders. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam remained in prostration until his daughter Fatima Radhi Allahu Anha came running and threw it off him. (2)

The early Muslims bore these difficulties with amazing fortitude and faith. These horrible and barbarous types of torture could not force a single Muslim away from the path of Islam. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam himself continued with his preaching. The efforts of the Quraish came to nothing. They could not persuade people to stop following the Prophet Sallallahu Alaiahi Wasallam.


Lessons to learn

  • Disbelievers in every age will use every means in their power to oppose Islam. Their attacks are by verbal slander, deception, bribery, threats, physical torture and murder.
  • The fortitude and strength of the early Muslims in their Islamic beliefs after the worst of tortures and harassment from their enemies proves the sincerity of their faith and their bravery in upholding a just cause. They sacrificed their family and pleasures for the pleasure of Allah. These difficulties were, in fact, a comfort for their hearts and souls. The pleasure and driving force behind a sincere individual is his soul not his body. He follows the dictates of his soul and in the process sacrifices the pleasures and comforts of his body. This strategy strengthens his spirit and defeats the enemies resolve.
  • From amongst the reasons for the strength of their belief the following could be listed :
  1. They had unshakeable faith that Allah would protect them or reward them for their sacrifices.
  2. They loved their leader and were prepared to give their lives in the defence of his person and his message.
  3. They knew of the reality and accountability of the Hereafter. They believed in paradise and hell.
  4. The Quran and words of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam strengthened their resolve and endurance.



Umar Embraces Islam

It was during this period that Islam was strengthened by the conversion of Umar Radhi Allahu Anhu. He was one of the nobles of the Quraish, a man of dauntless courage, feared and respected by all. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam wanted him to accept Islam and often prayed to Allah to guide him.

Initially, he was a bitter opponent of the new religion. He tortured the early Muslims mercilessly. He, however, failed to convince a single Muslim to forsake his faith. In anger and desperation he decided to murder the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. He set out with a sword hanging from his neck in search of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. Nu'aym Ibn Abdullah happened to see Umar armed and excited.

He asked: " Umar, where are you going?"

"I seek Muhammad," was Umar's reply, "and I will slay him. He has forsaken our religion, shattered the unity of the Quraish, ridiculed them and vilified their gods. Today I will settle the affair once and for all."

"Anger has blinded you," replied Nu'aym. "Would it not be better for you to set your own family in order first?" Umar was taken aback. He asked: "And who are they in my family?"

Nu'aym replied: "Your brother-in-law and your sister Fatima. They have brought faith on the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. It would be better to deal with them first."

Umar immediately hurried on to the house of his sister. Khabbaab Radhi Allahu Anhu, a companion of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam, was at the time teaching Surah Taaha to the couple from a manuscript he had with him. When they heard Umar approaching, Khabbaab Radhi Allahu Anhu hid himself in a small room and Fatima concealed the manuscript hurriedly. But, as Umar had already heard Khabbaab Radhi Allahu Anhu reciting the scripture, he demanded to enter the house and hear what was being recited.

In anger Umar screamed: "I have heard that both of you have joined Muhammad." Umar attacked his brother in law. Fatima rushed in to save her husband but Umar struck her hard and wounded her. Now, both husband and wife boldly asserted, "Yes, we are Muslims. Do as you please."

Umar saw the blood flowing from the wound inflicted on his sister. His anger gave place to shame coupled with admiration for her courage. Having cooled down he asked for the manuscript which he had heard Khabbaab reciting. He said : "Show me the manuscript. I want to know what Muhammad has brought." Fatima, however, replied: "I fear what you might do with it."

Umar promised not to destroy it. She said to him politely : "Brother, you are unclean because of your polytheism and only the pure can touch it."

Umar rose and took a bath and she then gave him the pages on which Surah Taaha were written. He had read only a few lines when he exclaimed in amazement : "How noble and sublime is this speech!"

Thereupon, Khabbaab Radhi Allahu Anhu came out of his hiding place and said 'O Umar, by Allah, I hope that Allah would bless you with His Prophet's call for I heard him but last night supplicating : "0 Allah, strengthen Islam by Abul Hakam or Umar Ibn al-Khattaab."

Umar asked Khabbaab Radhi Allahu Anhu to lead him to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. On being told by Khabbaab that the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam was in a home at Mount Safa with his Sahabah, Umar immediately took his sword and headed that way. When he knocked at the door one of the Sahabah got up and saw Umar at the door with sword in hand. He hurried back to report : "0 Prophet of Allah, Umar Ibn al-Khattaab is here with his sword."

Hamza Radhi Allahu Anhu intervened to say: "Let him in. If he comes with peaceful intent, it is all right. If not, we will kill him with his own sword." The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam gave the word to let Umar in and the companion opened the door.

As Umar entered the door, the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam went forth to meet him. He said to Umar: "Why have you come, 0 son of Khattaab?"

But Umar replied submissively, "0 Prophet of Allah, I have come to attest my faith in Allah and His Prophet and what he has brought from Allah."

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam raised the cry of Allahu Akbar so loudly that the Sahabah present in the house knew that Umar Radhi Allahu Anhu had accepted Islam.

Umar's Radhi Allahu Anhu conversion was a turning point in Islam. It made the Muslims feel confident and strengthened. Now they proceeded to the Ka'bah openly and worshipped without fear of persecution. Hamza Radhi Allahu Anhu had already accepted Islam. Umar's Radhi Allahu Anhu conversion would, now, anger the Quraish even more. Unlike the other Muslims, Umar Radhi Allahu Anhu proclaimed his faith publicly. As soon as the Quraish came to know about it they drew the sword against him but found him prepared to defend himself. (3)



Lessons to learn

If a Muslim is firm is his belief he will not be afraid to practice or profess his Islam openly. The action of Umar Radhi Allahu Anhu also proves that a strong stance creates fear in the enemy.



(1) Ibn Hisham

(2) Muslim

(3) Ibn Hisham



Dua at the time of thunder

Meaning : O Allah do not kill us with your anger, do not destroy

us with your punishment and grant us safety before this.


A person should make dua when it is raining as this is the time when duas are accepted.