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The Beginning of the Call to Islām and the Conditions of the First Believers and Disbelievers

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

A brief introduction to the early days of the spread of Islām, as well as how it was perceived by the Arabs of the time.

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn (d. 1421 AH) said:

The Beginning of the Call to Islām and the Earliest Companions

When Allāh, the Most High, revealed unto His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) His saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ ‎﴿١﴾‏ قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَالرُّجْزَ فَاهْجُرْ

“O you (Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) enveloped (in garments)! Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allāh) magnify! And your garments purify! And keep away from Al-Rujz (the idols)!”
(Al-Muddathir, 74:1-5)

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) arose to enact the command of his Lord, whilst putting his trust and reliance in Him. He began calling to the worship of Allāh. The beginning of his call was in secret. Men from the tribe of Quraysh began believing in his message.

The first among them to enter Islām was Abū Bakr al-Siddīq (رضي الله عنه). Then, five from among the ones who were given glad tidings of Jannah entered into Islām upon his hands. They were:

  1. ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān,
  2. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf,
  3. al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām,
  4. Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, and
  5. Ṭalḥah ibn ʿUbayd Allāh (رضي الله عنهم).

These five along with Abū Bakr (رضي الله عنه), ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (رضي الله عنه), and Zayd ibn Ḥārithah (رضي الله عنه) were the eight attributed to early acceptance of Islām.

Others also accepted his call. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to hold secret gatherings with them in which he would guide them to what Allāh had shown him from the path of righteousness; the path of Islām. They used to hold these gatherings in the home of al-Arqam ibn al-Arqam for a period of three years until Allāh revealed upon him His saying

فَاصْدَعْ بِمَا تُؤْمَرُ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

“Therefore proclaim openly (Allāh’s message of Islamic monotheism) that which you are commanded, and turn away from Al-Mushrikūn (polytheists, idolaters, and disbelievers, etc.)”
(Al-Ḥijr, 15:94)

Publicising the Call to Islām and the Response of the Arabs

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) then ascended the mount of al-Ṣafá. He began calling: “O Banī Fahr! O Banī ʿIdī! O tribes of Quraysh!” The people began to gather before him. Their eagerness to hear him was to the extent that if a person could not attend, he would send another in his stead to bear witness to the news being disseminated. When they had all gathered before him, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Indeed, I am a messenger of Allāh sent to you specifically, and to all of mankind in their entirety.” His uncle, Abū Lahab, said to him: “May you perish! Is that why you have gathered us?” He then began mocking him and his speech. Thus did Allāh reveal the sūrah:

تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ

“Perish the two hands of Abū Lahab (an uncle of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)), and perish he!”
(Al-Masad, 111:1)

Then, Allāh revealed unto His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم):

وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ ‎

“And warn your tribe (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) of near kindred.”
(Al-Shuʿarāʾ, 26:214)

So he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) gathered his people and said: “By Allāh! Even if I was to lie to all of mankind, I would never lie to you. By Allāh! I am, verily, a Messenger sent to you specifically and to all of mankind in their entirety. And by Allāh! You will surely die. You will surely be resurrected. Your account will surely be taken. You shall surely be recompensed. For it is only eternal life in Paradise or in the Fire.”

His people spoke a calm, endearing speech in response except for Abū Lahab who said: “Take hold of his two hands lest the Arabs gather in support of him. If you concede to him, then he will humiliate you. If you attempt to prevent him, you will succeed in assassinating him.”

He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) called to his Lord with determination and resolute action, knowing that he would be opposed by those near and far. Knowing that opposition and hardship would present itself from his own people and from others but Allāh supported him; strengthening his resolve and aiding him with al-Rūh al-Qudus [the angel Jibrīl (عليه السلام)] and the religion brought by him. Sūrah al-Ḍuḥá was revealed during a period of revelation in answer to the saying of the disbelievers: Indeed, his Lord has forsaken him. He said:

وَالضُّحَىٰ ‎﴿١﴾‏ وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا سَجَىٰ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ مَا وَدَّعَكَ رَبُّكَ وَمَا قَلَىٰ

“By the forenoon (after sunrise); And by the night when it is still (or darkens); Your Lord (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) has neither forsaken you nor hated you.”
(Al-Ḍuḥá, 93:1-3)

This exemplifies the great care and attention paid to the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) by Allāh. A proof of the negation of him being deficient. A means of glad tiding to him that all of his subsequent conditions will be better, wrought with more goodness than what precedes it. It also denotes that Allāh will grant him victory, followers, great authority, and that this religion shall spread in a way that is most pleasing to him.

The Greatest Aspect of the Prophet’s Call ()

The greatest and most magnanimous part of his message was his call to tawḥīd and forbidding that which is in opposition to it. He called his people to this; as was corroborated and confirmed in the Book of Allāh in several clear ways, all of which make abundantly evident the stipulation of tawḥīd and its goodness. For it is the only specified path to Allāh and His home of generosity (i.e., paradise).

Just as the falsehood of shirk and the various harmful misguided ideologies were clarified. The Qurʾān made this evident using a plethora of methods found primarily in the Makkan chapters. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) enacted this, calling his people to tawḥid one-by-one despite the extreme scrutiny and hardship he was subject to by the people. For his people and others vehemently opposed his call, perpetrating abuse against those who answered it, aspiring to extinguish his call and struggling to that end with their speech and actions. All the while he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would debate them, challenging them to produce the likeness of the Qurʾān. While they knew fully that he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was the truthful, the trustworthy [as they themselves named him]. They only opposed the verses of Allāh out of haughtiness and arrogance as the Most High said:

فَإِنَّهُمْ لَا يُكَذِّبُونَكَ وَلَٰكِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ يَجْحَدُونَ

“It is not you that they deny, but it is the Verses (the Qurʾān) of Allāh that the Ẓalimūn (polytheists and wrong-doers) deny.”
(Al-Anʿām, 6:33)

The Wisdom of Allāh Personified Through the Guidance of the Believers and the Misguidance of the Disbelievers

For they used to listen to the Qurʾān in a state of disbelief, denial, and obstinate rejection—until their state of opposition settled within the fibre of their very beings. Thus did Allāh, the Most High, relate that He put veils over their hearts that occlude their understanding of His verses, and a deafness in their ears. He informs us that they will never be guided due to this fundamental corrupt principle they have established for themselves which prevents them from every aspect of guidance and righteousness presented to them. It is through this that we can recognise the wisdom of the Inventor of All Things in the misguidance attributable to those who have gone astray. For they chose for themselves misguidance, seeking it out. Thus did Allāh leave them to the path they have chosen for themselves; left them in their wrong doings to wander blindly. They have, indeed, rejected the blessing of Allāh that came to them so He transformed their hearts, deafened their ears, blinded their eyes and heart as well.

This description of them which we have alluded to has been related by Allāh in His Book. Recognition of this will aid you in the understanding of a multitude of verses in which Allāh has related their misguidance, sealing off the paths to true guidance before them, and the fact that their very conditions and hearts are in a state that is unaccepting of true guidance. The sin in theirs and they are the perpetrators of their own demise. The Most High said:

فَرِيقًا هَدَىٰ وَفَرِيقًا حَقَّ عَلَيْهِمُ الضَّلَالَةُ ۗ إِنَّهُمُ اتَّخَذُوا الشَّيَاطِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ

“A group He has guided, and a group deserved to be in error; (because) surely they took the Shayāṭīn (devils) as Awliyāʾ (protectors and helpers) instead of Allāh.”
(Al-Aʿrāf, 7:30)

It is by observing the state of the opposers that we can fully grasp His guidance for the believers attributable only to their fairness, equity, righteousness, and justice. They only intend to reach the truth and the pleasure of their Lord. Thus does Allāh guide them by the Qurʾān. For them, it represents a means through which they are increased in knowledge and recognition of the truth. Just as it acts to increase their īmān and their guidance in several forms. The Most High said:

يَهْدِي بِهِ اللَّهُ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ رِضْوَانَهُ سُبُلَ السَّلَامِ وَيُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَيَهْدِيهِمْ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

“Wherewith Allāh guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to a Straight Way (Islamic Monotheism).”
(Al-Māʾidah, 5:16)

This exalted description of the believers forms the very foundation for their subsequent guidance, a means by which their īmān and submissiveness to Allāh is increased. Fully acknowledging this will open a door to the understanding of many verses that relate the characteristics of the believers, and the quickness with which they accept and embrace the truth whether it be foundational [issues relating to creed] or its branches [relating to jurisprudence].

Endnotes:

Source: Al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah: 19-24
Translated by: Riyād al-Kanadī

Published: June 15, 2023
Edited: June 15, 2023

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