[Excerpts, with occasional modest edits, from The Real Muḥammad: In the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq, copyright 2013, TEI Publishing House. All quotations from the Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (“Life of the Messenger of Allāh”) are from the translation by Alfred Guillaume (Oxford University Press), copyright 1955. These stories are faithfully passed along from the most ancient, extant and authoritative biography of Muḥammad. All Muslims are called to imitate Muḥammad in their daily lives, and Muslim scholars know that Ibn Isḥāq is the best source for the historical Muḥammad, despite concern for various hon-historical material. The question is this: Can Muḥammad satisfy the Muslim thirst for freedom? How many people, of their own volition, would follow Muḥammad if they were free to choose otherwise? The same question is freely received by Muslims who would question Christians who follow Jesus as the Son of God]

Life of Muḥammad: Insult, Initial Violence, and the First Bloodshed

John C. Rankin

Muḥammad does meet great resistance: “When the apostle’s companions prayed they went to the glens so that the people could not see them praying, and while Sa‘d b. Abū Waqqāṣ was with a number of the prophet’s companions in one of the glens of Mecca, a band of polytheists came upon them while they were praying[,] and rudely interrupted them. They blamed them for what they were doing until it came to blows, and it was on that occasion that Sa‘d smote a polytheist with the jawbone of a camel and wounded him. This was the first blood to be shed in Islam.”

The prostrations of the Muslims are so unique, as well as their out-loud declarations, that it draws attention, so here they seek a non-public place. Also, intrinsic to the message of Islām is how at the outset Muḥammad “spoke disparagingly of their gods.” And the conflict grows:

“They [the Quraysh] said, ‘O Abū Ṭālib, your nephew has cursed our gods, insulted our religion, mocked our way of life and accused our forefathers of error; either you must stop him or you must let us get at him, for you yourself are in the same position as we are, in opposition to him[,] and we will rid you of him.’ He gave them a conciliatory reply and a soft answer and they went away.”

Abū Ṭālib loves his nephew while not embracing his religion, is thus in a difficult position being Muḥammad’s boyhood guardian, and even years later, he remains his “protector.” Thus, the Quraysh are seeking for Abū Ṭālib – because he does not embrace Muḥammad’s religion – to remove his protection of Muḥammad so they can kill him. He refuses for his whole life, protecting his late brother’s son, even while remaining a non-Muslim.

In the face of this, “The apostle continued on his way, publishing God’s [Allāh’s] religion and calling men thereto. In consequence his relations with Quraysh deteriorated and men withdrew from him in enmity. They were always talking about him and inciting one another against him.” So Abū Ṭālib is approached again, but he will not desert Muḥammad.

“So the situation worsened, the quarrel became heated and people were sharply divided, and openly showed their animosity to their opponents … Then the Quraysh incited people against the companions of the apostle who had become Muslims. Every tribe fell upon the Muslims among them, beating them and seducing them from their religion.”

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