At the age of 32 or 33 years of age, Prophet Muhammad’s love of solitude and privacy developed further. He often saw a strange light, which led him to feel a unique joy, although he never saw any figure nor heard any voice. During the hours of privacy and solitude he would ponder over the divine powers and kept praising and glorifying his Lord.
Drawing closer to the age of forty, very often he would go to cave of Hira, now known as Jabal Nur (the mountain of light), taking with him parched barley meal and water to pray and spend time in peace and privacy returning only when his supplies will run out. The mount of Hira is three miles from Makkah towards North on the way to Mina. The cave is about 12 feet long and about 2.5 feet wide. Prophet Muhammad stayed there for about seven years and frequently had dreams showing events of next day.
It was when Prophet Muhammad was forty years of age when the rose the sun of prophet hood. An angel appeared before him and said addressing him:
Prophet Muhammad: I cannot read.
Angel: (took and pressed him and let go and said) Read
Prophet Muhammad: I cannot read.
Angel: (pressed him tightly and after letting him go said) Read
Prophet Muhammad: I cannot read.
Angel: (pressed him tightly and then let him go again and said) Read
Prophet Muhammad: (this time was able to say)
|Recite thou in the name of thy Lord Who hath created||
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
|Hath created man from a clot!||
خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
|Recite thou: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,||
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
|Who hath taught mankind by the pen –||
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
|Hath taught man that which he knew not.||
عَلَّمَ الْإِنْسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
As soon as the words were repeated the angel disappeared. Prophet Muhammad immediately came back home and went to Khadijah and said:
“Wrap me up, wrap me up”
Khadijah wrapped him up in a blanket. Once Prophet Muhammad regained calm he informed Khadija of the details of the whole event. After comforting and encouraging her husband, she took him to her cousin Waraqah bin Naufal. He was also told of all the details of the event. Waraqah after listing to the details said, “There has come unto you the same Namus which had come unto Prophet Moses earlier. Had I been young and living by the time when your people will cast you out.” To another questions he replied “for whenever a Messenger of God came and preached Tauhid, he was maltreated and put to untold miseries.”.
After this Prophet Muhammad kept on visiting Hira, but no new revelation came to him for sometime. After a while when he was walking back from the cave of Hira, he sighted the same Angel and got frightened. He hurried back home and lied down. He heard a majestic voice saying:
|O thou enveloped?||
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ
|Arise, and warn.||
|And thine Lord magnify!||
|And thine raiment purify.||
|And pollution shun.||
From this time onward the revelations kept coming after short intervals. One day Jibrail (Gabriel) took Prophet Muhammad to the foot of a hill and performed Wudu (ablution), which Prophet Muhammad repeated. Afterwards Jibrail led the prayer.
Prophet Muhammad embarked upon preaching Tauhid (Oneness of Allah) as he received the command of Allah to do so. He started the task of keeping people away from polytheism and inviting them to Tauhid starting from his own household. Khadija was the first to embrace Islam. Ali bin Abu Talib and Zaid bin Haritah were also converted to Islam the very first day. Abu Bakr bin Abu Quhafah who was Prophet’s frined also accepted Islam the same day.
At the start, he kept his teachings and preaching quiet, limiting them to his relatives and close friends. Abu Bakr extended his services to his large circle of influence which helped bring Usman bin Affan, Talhah bin Ubaidullah, Saad bin Abu Waqqas, Abdur Rahman bin Auf and Zubair bin Awwam to the fold of Islam.
Slowly Islam began to spread, starting with a small group of (now) Muslim men, women and children. These believing men would go beyond Makkah in the mountain passes to pray to Allah because of fear to their lives. Almost three years passed during this silent spread of Islam.
Quraish at the outset attached no importance to the movement of Islam nor did they feel threatened by it during this early stage. Therefore they did not go beyond poking fun and making silly jokes towards these new believers. Slowly though this began to change. A group of pagans tried to hold Muslims back from practicing Islam by using force. Saad bin Abu Waqqas rose against them and a disbeliever received an injury from his sword. This was the first fight in the cause of Allah the Almighty.
Once Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali were performing prayers in a mountain pass, by chance Abu Talib who was passing by stopped and silently watched them. Once their prayer was over he asked about what they were doing. He was informed that this is Islam, the religion of Prophet Ibrahim. Abutalib responded, “I shall not renounce the religion of my ancestors”, and turning back to Ali said, “My son, never part company with Muhammad. I am sure he will lead you to nothing but good.”
After the revelation (Surah 15, Verse 94): “Promulgate thou that which thou art commanded, and turn away from the associaters”, Prophet Muhammad started to spread Islam more openly. After this order Prophet Muhammad ascended the Mount of Safa and gave a call to each and every tribe by name in a raised voice. A large number of people gathered in front of him. Addressing them Prophet Muhammad said, “O Quraish, If I tell you that your enemy is about to attack you, would you believe me?” They replied “Yes“. Prophet Muhammad continued by saying, “I am warning you before a severe chastisement overtakes you.”
Hearing this everyone laughed and Abu Lahab said: “May you perish. Is it for this you have brought us here?” Following this, people started to disperse. Following was revealed:
|And warn thou thy clan, the nearest ones.||
وَأَنْذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ
Following this Prophet Muhammad asked Ali bin Abu Talib to setup an event and invite his relatives. This first event where forty people attended was not product because of nonsensensical utterances of Abu Lahab. At the next gathering, Prophet Muhammad said, “I have come to you with something that no one else brought to this tribe. Tell me who will lend his support to me?” No one except Abu Talib assured him of his support.
Prophet Muhammad, started to now more open give the call of Tauhid and Islam. In Islam’s message there was equality among all people. Quraish who were proud people were very particular about the distinction between slaves and their masters. The Quraish and Makkans were held in high esteem by all the tribes in Arabia due to the yearly pilgrimages to Makkah. , where others will join to worship the idols. Islam on the other hand believed in existence of one and only god, Allah.
Thus open preaching ignited the fire of hostility and antagonism all over Arabia which turned into a blaze during the fourth year of Islam.
Among the new entrants to Islam some were slaves and had no powerful tribes or relatives defending them. Such people became easy victims of the disbelievers and suffered physical tortures. Bilal, slave of Umayyah bin Khalaf was put to great torture. He was thrown in the hot burning sand at noon time with hot rock placed on his chest. Abu Jahal stuck his spear in Sumaiyah, mother of Ahad bin Yasir. She was honored with martyrdom. But no one went astray and became an apostate, such a powerful force is Islam.
Once Prophet Muhammad was saying his prayers at the Kaaba when Uqbah bin Abu Muait tried to strangle him with a piece of cloth. Abu Bakr rushed to save the Prophet (PBUH). Another time the Quraish surrounded Prophet Muhammad on all sides and began to treat him disrespectfully. Harith bin Abu Halah hurried to save him but he was martyred. Thorns were spread on the way he had to pass in the night so that his feet were wounded.
They used to throw stones, filth and refuse at Prophet (PBUH) house. Disbelievers sometimes called him a poet and branded him a sorcerer. These people left nothing to cause Prophet Muhammad and his companions severe mental and physical torture.
When all plans of the Quraish failed they took a more reconciliatory approach. Through Utbah bin Rabiah offers of wealth were sent to Prophet Muhammad. They also sent a message that they will make him the highest leader among them if they gave up Islam. At the end of the presentation Prophet Muhammad recited Surat Al-Sajdah. When he got to Ayat 13, “Then if they Still turn away, say thou; I warn you of a calamity like the calamity of the ´Aad and Thamud.”, Utbah turned pale and requested not to say such things.
Qutbah got his reply and went back suggesting to Quraish, “take my advice and leave this man alone.”
Quraish approached Abu Talib to influence Prophet Muhammad but he refused. After they left Abu Talib said to Prophet Muhammad:
“My nephew, I am now an old man and it is not within my power to face the onslaught of the Quraish. Do not put me such situation which is beyond my power. It is fitting for you to hold back from reviling the idols.”
Prophet Muhammad’s reply:
“Dear uncle, even if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in the left, I shall not forsake it.”
As Prophet Muhammad got up and walked away saying, “Unclue, I shall not give up my mission till it is fulfilled or I am undone accomplishing it.” In response Abu Talib said, “do keep engaged in your mission. I shall neither withdraw my support nor consign you to your enemies while it is within my power.”