In after years, Muhammad said of His wife Khadijih, "When I was
poor, she enriched me; when all the world abandoned me, she
comforted me; when they treated me as a liar, she believed in me."
(Dermenghem, op. cit., 44). An account relates that in the early stage of
the Revelation, when Muhammad was still in anguish at the
phenomenon, He asked Khadijih to wrap Him in His robe, as a kind of
protection, whereupon Gabriel appeared before Him and said, "O Thou,
enwrapped in thy mantle! Arise and warn, and glorify Thy Lord!"
(Qur'an 74:1-3 ).
After the surih of The Brightness, which brought Him consolation and
told Him: "Thy Lord hath not forsaken Thee...." He felt confident of His
prophetic mission. The Faithful Spirit taught Him to pray, perform
ablutions, stand and kneel in worship. One day as He and Khadijih were
praying together young 'Ali entered the room. He saw them bowing
down before empty space. He said, "What are you doing? Before whom
are you bowing down?" Muhammad said, "Before God, Whose Prophet
I am." 'Ali accepted the Faith, and in future he was called "Him whose
face was never sullied," because he was so young when he became a
believer that he had never worshipped an idol.
When three years had passed, Muhammad was commanded to preach
in public, and withdraw from the idolaters; the Qur'an reads: "Profess
publicly then what Thou hast been bidden, and withdraw from those
who join gods to God." (15:94). He invited His kinsmen, the leaders of
Mecca, had a sheep cooked with milk, and after they had eaten He
freely told them what had happened, ending, "Never before has an Arab
bestowed on his people what I now bring you . . . Who will act as my
brother and helper ? " There was icy silence. Abu Lahab, one of the
uncles, shrugged his shoulders. Then young 'Ali cried out, "I will help
you, Prophet of God!" And they all laughed, and the meeting broke up.
(Cf. Dermenghem, op. cit., 73-74).
Muhammad preached, and the Meccans scoffed. They asked Him to
perform miracles: turn the hills to gold, make a book fall from heaven,
show them Gabriel, bring a well of pure water, prophesy the
approaching price of goods: "Cannot your God disclose which articles
will rise in price?" Muhammad would answer, "I am only a man like
you." (Qur'an 18:110). "It is revealed to me that your God is one God:
go straight then to Him, and implore His pardon. And woe to those who
join gods with God." (Qur'an 41:5). The Qur'an tells us: "But most of
them withdraw and hearken not: And they say, 'Our hearts are under
shelter from Thy teachings, and in our ears is a deafness, and between
us and Thee there is a veil." (Qur'an 41:3-4). They spoke much as the
materialists of our own day; the Qur'an states, "And they say, 'There is
only this our present life: we die and we live, and nought but time
destroyeth us.' " (Qur'an 45:23). An idolater who owed money to a
Muslim told him he would pay him back in the next world . . . And
Muhammad warned them: "The likeness for those who take to
themselves patrons other than God is the likeness of the spider who
buildeth her a house: But verily, frailest of all houses surely is the house
of the spider," (Qur'an 29:40).
Besides insisting that there was only one God, and telling them to
follow righteousness as they would be called to account in the next
world, Muhammad spoke to them repeatedly about the coming of "The
Hour" and the "Meeting with God." Once He held up two fingers and
said that He and The Hour were as close as the two fingers. The Qur'an
states: "Aye, they have treated the coming of 'the Hour' as a lie. But a
flaming fire have we got ready for those who treat the coming of the
Hour as a lie." (25:12). Sometimes He called it "The Inevitable": the
chapter of this name in the Qur'an begins: "When the day that must
come shall have come suddenly, None shall treat that sudden coming as
a lie: Day that shall abase! Day that shall exalt!" Sometimes He called
it "The Blow" or "The Striking": this chapter begins: "The striking What
is the striking? And what shall make Thee to understand how terrible
the striking will be ? On that day men shall be like moths scattered
abroad, and the mountains shall become like carded wool . . ." (Surihs
56 and 101). It was the great Day of God that He warned them of--our
day; to understand the Qur'an here it is essential to study the Iqan. In
the surih of The Daybreak, He told them: "and thy Lord shall come,
and the angels rank by rank . . ." (Surih 89).
In later life, as Muhammad was entering the mosque, a disciple said,
"Ah, Thou for Whom I would sacrifice father and mother, white hairs
are hastening upon Thee!" And the Prophet raised up His beard with
His hand and gazed at it; and the disciple's eyes filled with tears. "Yes,"
said Muhammad, "(the surih of) Hud and its sisters have hastened my
white hairs." They asked what He meant by its "sisters," and He
replied "'The Inevitable,' and 'The Blow.'" (Rodwell, Qur'an, 225-226 n.).
The Meccans did not know what to make of Him. For a time they
mocked Him: "Here cometh the son of 'Abdu'llah with his news from
heaven." (Dozy, op. cit., 15). Then, as He continued to warn them, and
to denounce their gods, and as He made some converts, they tried to
bribe Him: "If thou wishest to acquire riches . . . we will collect a fortune
larger than is possessed by any of us; if thou desirest honors . . . we shall
make thee our chief . . ." (Ameer-'Ali, The Spirit of Islam, 98). He
answered, "Do ye indeed disbelieve in Him . . . do ye assign Him peers?
The Lord of the worlds is He!." They appealed to His uncle and
protector, the head of His clan, and this uncle begged Him to desist
from teaching, as He was bringing ruin on Himself and His family. He
answered, "Were the sun to come down on my right hand and the moon
on my left, and the choice were offered me of abandoning my mission
until God himself should reveal it, or perishing in the achievement of it,
I would not abandon it." (T.W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, 13-14).
The Quraysh stopped Him from praying in the Ka'bih, they pursued
Him, they covered Him and His disciples with filth when they were
praying, they incited children and the rabble to follow and mock them,
a woman strewed thorns where He would walk. Baha'u'llah says: "How
abundant the thorns and briars which they have strewn over His path!
. . . Such sore accusations they brought against Him that in recounting
them God forbiddeth the ink to flow . . . or the page to bear them . . .
For this reason did Muhammad cry out: 'No Prophet of God hath
suffered such harm as I have suffered.'" (Iqan, 108-109).
He sent many of His disciples to safety in Abyssinia (615), where there
was a pious Christian king. The king asked why they had fled, and they
answered, "O King, we were plunged . . . in ignorance and barbarism; we
adored idols, we lived in unchastity; we ate dead bodies, and we spoke
abominations . . . when God raised among us a man . . . he called us to
the unity of God . . . to fly vices, and . . . abstain from evil . . . For this
reason our people have risen against us . . ."(Ameer-'Ali, op. cit., 100)
. To kill Muhammad would have meant a civil war, and so the Meccans
tortured His poor disciples instead. Balal, the Ethiopian, they exposed,
day after day, to the desert sun, stretched out with a rock on his breast.
They told him he must renounce Muhammad or die, and he answered,
"There is only one God, only one God." He lived to become the first
Baha'u'llah says of him, "Consider how Balal, the Ethiopian, unlettered
though he was, ascended into the heaven of faith and certitude . . ."
(Gleanings, 83). Muhammad called him "the first fruits of Abyssinia,"
just as He called another early disciple "the first fruits of Greece." It is
important to remember that Islam is a universal religion, meant for the
whole world--not in any sense a restricted or local faith.
The Meccans said, "Know this, O Muhammad, we shall never cease
to stop thee from preaching till either thou or we perish." (Ameer Ali,
op. cit., 107).
For three years (617-619) they blockaded Him and His kinsmen in a
remote quarter of the town and forbade the other towns-people to have
any dealings with them whatever. Then Khadijih died (December 619)
and five weeks later, Muhammad's uncle and protector. Since His own
people refused Him, He then went to another city--Ta'if, a beautiful
place about seventy miles distant, where fruit trees grew--but the people
stoned Him away. It was when He returned to Mecca that He had the
vision of the Night Journey (Mi'raj, i.e., Ascent), when He rose in spirit
through the seven heavens to the throne of God. Surih 17 of the Qur'an
is called the Night Journey; in the Iqan Baha'u'llah refers to Muhammad
as the ''Lord of the Mi'raj" and says that the mirror of the heart must be
purified to understand its mystery (187).
You would say this was the end of the story of Muhammad: He and a
tiny group, shut away in the sand, alone on the planet, encircled by men
so wild they buried children alive as a point of honor, who killed
casually, and who--because His teachings meant the destruction of the
national religion and the loss of their own wealth and power--had for
thirteen long years been waiting to shed His blood. An enemy of His has
written: "We search in vain through the pages of profane history for a
parallel to the struggle in which for thirteen years the Prophet of Arabia,
in face of discouragement and threats, rejection and persecution,
retained thus his faith unwavering, preached repentance . . . he met
insults, menace, and danger with a lofty and patient trust in the future."
(Muir, op. cit., 518).
It was now that the tide of history turned . . . The Guardian has said to
a pilgrim that our Cause "is impelled forward through crises. The spread
of the Cause precipitates crisis . . . and the solution of the crisis through
the operation of the Cause facilitates the spread of the Cause."
Baha'u'llah says, "I recognize, O Thou Who art my heart's desire, that
were fire to be touched by water it would instantly be extinguished,
whereas the Fire Thou didst kindle can never go out, though all the Seas
of the earth be poured upon it." (Prayers and Meditations, 150). We who
are believers are working with something unkillable .
What happened in Islam was this: Muhammad had often preached to
other tribes, people who would come to the Ka'bih or the great fairs. On
such occasions, His uncle, the squint-eyed Abu Lahab (he and Zayd,
Muhammad's adopted son, are the only two contemporaries named in
the Qur'an) would follow.
The Christians of the period used the clapper to call to prayer, the
Jews, trumpets, the Zoroastrians, bonfires, says Dermenghem, 267.
Baha'u'llah says, "The acts of his honor, Balal, the Ethiopian, were so
acceptable in the sight of God that the 'sin' of his stuttering tongue
excelled the 'shin' pronounced by all the world (Epistle to the Son of the
We should remember that, as R. L. Gulick points out in
his Muhammad The Educator (ms. p. 21), "Tribal opinion was of
supreme importance as a regulator of behavior. The worst punishment
was expulsion from the tribe..."
and cry: "He is an impostor who seeks to lead you away from the faith
of your fathers!" And the visitors would laugh, saying, "Thine own
kindred know thee best. Wherefore do they not believe?" But there were
some men of Medina (Yathrib) who listened to Him. They were weary
of the fighting between rival clans in their own city, and they asked Him
to come and be their Chief. Muhammad sent His disciples on to Medina.
It was the fateful year 622--the year of the Hijra (Emigration) from
which the Muslim calendar was afterward reckoned.
At this juncture the Meccans united to murder Muhammad. They
arranged for members of all the clans to attack Him at once, so that the
blood-guilt would not rest on any one of them. They waited outside His
house, watching as He lay in His cloak on the bed, but when the dawn
came, they saw it was not Muhammad there but 'Ali. Muhammad had
escaped to Medina, which from this time on was called the City of the
Muhammad entered Medina in triumph; a shaykh put his turban on
the end of a lance for a banner, and a parasol of palm branches was
held over the Prophet's head, while the Helpers (Ansar), the Medina
believers, surrounded--Him, brandishing swords and spears. He
dismounted on the outskirts, and turned toward the Point of Adoration,
Jerusalem (later Muhammad changed the Qiblih to Mecca; the Baha'i
Qiblih is the Shrine of Baha'u'llah); He prayed, with all the multitude;
then, the accounts say, He let His camel go free into the town, and
where it knelt, a mosque was later erected. As He entered, He greeted
all the people, even the children.
So the Meccans were cheated of their prey. The despised outcast, the
One they had called a crazed poet, a madman, a liar, was now the Head
of a State. And now all Arabia rose against Medina; the Meccans rallied
the tribes, including a "fifth column" within Medina itself. The battle was
on, between idolatry and true worship, between Hobal and the
Omnipotent Lord, between freedom and death.
'Abdu'l-Baha says in Some Answered Questions: "If Christ himself had
been placed in such circumstances . . . culminating in flight from his
native land--if in spite of this these lawless tribes continued to pursue
him, to slaughter the men, to pillage their property, and to capture their
women and children, what would have been Christ's conduct with regard
to them? If this oppression had fallen only upon himself he would have
forgiven them . . . but if he had seen that these cruel and bloodthirsty
murderers wished to kill, to pillage, and to injure all these oppressed
ones . . . it is certain that he would have protected them, and would have
resisted the tyrants . . . To free these tribes from their bloodthirstiness
was the greatest kindness, and to restrain them was a true mercy."
(24-25). "The military expeditions of Muhammad . . . were always
defensive actions . . ." (22).
The Prophet of God now had ten more years to live. They were years
of intense activity . . . At the Battle of Badr, the Meccans were put to
flight. They rose again, 3,000 strong, and attacked Muhammad with His
thousand men at the hill of Uhud, three miles from Medina. Muhammad
did not love war, but He had no choice. He was so gentle and mild that
His enemies called Him womanish. When He fell at Uhud, a disciple
asked Him to curse the enemy; He answered, "I have not been sent as
a curse to mankind, but as an inviter to good and as a mercy." (Maulana
Muhammad 'Ali, Muhammad the Prophet, Ahmadiyya Anjuman-i-Isha
`at-i-Islam, Lahore, India, 1924; 262). It was at Uhud that the idolatrous
women marched to battle, beating their timbrels and singing: "We are
the daughters of the morning star; soft are the carpets we
Cf. Luke 22:36: "Then he (Jesus) said unto them. But now, he that
hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no
sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."
tread . . . our necks are adorned with pearls, and our tresses are
perfumed with musk. The brave who confront the foe we will clasp to
our bosoms, but the dastards who flee we will spurn--not for them our
embraces!" It was here that these women mutilated the dead, and that
Hind, notorious wife of Muhammad's chief enemy, Abu Sufyan, ripped
out the liver of a Muslim hero and devoured it. It was this battle that the
Muslims lost, because the archers who were holding the Meccan cavalry
in check disobeyed Muhammad and left their positions to look for booty.
Muhammad was wounded in the mouth and on the temple, and reported
killed. 'Ali wept in despair when he saw Him, and brought water in his
shield, saying, "Wash the blood from Thy face, O Apostle of God, that
Thy men may know Thee . . ." (Chronique de Abou Djafar Mohammed-
ben-Jarir Ben Yazid Tabari, tr. by M.H. Zotenberg, Paris, 1871; III, 33).
Then `Ali raised up the Prophet's banner and rallied the defeated
Muslims. The idolaters' victory was costly; they dispersed for a time but
in 627 they came again, 10,000 strong, and besieged Medina. On the
advice of Salman the Persian, a stratagem previously unknown in Arabia
was now used: a trench was tug around the city. The Prophet Himself
worked with the others at digging the trench. An account Says He
"seized a pickaxe . . . and with it he struck a flint which had defied those
who were digging; a spark came out of it, and he--peace be with him --
said 'In this spark I saw the cities of Chosrau (King of Persia.)' Then he
struck another blow, and another spark came out; and he said 'In it I
saw the cities of Caesar. Verily God will give them to my nation after
me.'" ('Ali Tabari, The Book of Religion and Empire, tr. by A. Mingana,
Manchester, University Press, 1922; 44). There was a fifteen day siege,
but the trench saved Medina and a Storm put the enemy to flight. Islam
After the battle, Muhammad went to His daughter, Fatimih, "and she
began to weep and to kiss his mouth; and he said to her: 'O Fatimih,
why art thou weeping?' And she said 'O Apostle of God, I see thee
shabby, weary, and clothed in worn out garments.' And he said 'O
Fatimih, God has revealed to thy father that it is He who places dignity
or lowliness in every house, be it of clay or of hair; and He has revealed
to me that my lowliness will be (until it reaches where night has
reached).' " (i.e., soon over). (Idem). Baha'is will remember the agony
of the young 'Abdu'l-Baha on seeing His Father as He was brought out
of the Black Pit (Siyah- Chal).
The old blood-tie was now replaced throughout Arabia by a new, much
wider loyalty. For the first time, hundreds of hostile Arab tribes were
now united under one banner--Islam. Muhammad took Mecca (630),
making an entry so peaceful as to be unparalleled in history, and telling
the Meccans:--"I say to you what my brother Joseph said to his brothers:
'No blame be on you this day. God will forgive you, for He is the most
merciful of those who show mercy (Qur'an 12:92).' " And He struck
down the Ka'bih gods, saying: "Truth is come and falsehood is gone.
Verily, falsehood is a thing that perisheth." (Qur'an 17:83). The Arabs
now came into the religion of God by troops. As each tribe accepted,
Muhammad sent them a teacher of Islam, telling him: "Deal gently with
the people, and be not harsh; cheer them, and contemn them not . . . the
key to heaven is to testify to the truth of God and to do good works."
(Ameer-`Ali, op. cit., 208). Muhammad also sent out missives and
embassies declaring Islam to rulers of the day, the King of Persia, the
Negus of Abyssinia, Heraclius the Greek emperor, the ruler of Egypt,
the governor of Yaman, the chief of the Bani Hanifa. The King of
Persia, enraged at seeing Muhammad's name before his own on the
letter, tore it up. Muhammad said, "God will tear up his kingdom in the
Then Muhammad fell ill. He had an intense fever. A disciple laid his
hand on Muhammad's forehead and said, "How fierce is the fever upon
thee!" "Yea, verily," said Muhammad, "but I have been during the night
season repeating in praise. of the Lord seventy surihs, including the
seven long ones." The disciple said, "Why not rest and take thine ease,
for hath not the Lord forgiven thee?" "Nay," replied Muhammad,
"wherefore should I not yet be a faithful servant unto Him?" (Cf. Muir,
op. cit., 488). As He grew worse, He asked if there was any gold in the
house; on being told there was, He insisted that His wife 'Ayishih give
it away to the poor, and could not rest until she had done this. He said,
"It would not have become me to meet my Lord, and this gold still in my
hands." While He lay dying, He called for pen and ink to write His will,
but 'Umar said, "Pain is deluding God's Messenger; we have God's
Book, which is enough." They disputed at the bedside, whether to bring
the pen and ink, and He sent them away. He was praying in a whisper
when He ascended. (June 8, 632).