Seerah episode 37: The Torture & Suffering of the Early Muslims in Makkah

— At this point in time, there are 40-some odd Believers, & they congregate in Arqam bin Abil-Arqam’s house. Muslims have a presence in the community now. A majority of these Muslims were young & from the elite families in Quraysh

  • The presence of Islam was troubling to the Quraysh. The Quraysh decided that torture & persecution was the best course of action to take against the Muslims. They hoped that this would deter people from following the Prophet (saw)

— Abu Jahl (birth name: Amr ibn Hisham) belonged to tribe of Makhzum from the clan Banu Abem

  • He was mainly known by the title Abul Hakam
  • He was a strategic political leader of Quraysh
  • Because of his opposition to the Prophet & denial of the Prophet’s message, he became known by the Muslims as Abu Jahl, the Father of Ignorance
    • The plan of persecuting & torturing Muslims was the brainchild of Abu Jahl

— One of the first subjects of Abu Jahl’s torture was Bilal (ra)

  • Bilal was a Habesha slave who was born into slavery (his father was a slave) His mother’s name was Hamama.
  • Bilal was owned by Umayyah bin Khalaf, who was Abu Jahl’s best friend. They grew up together
    • After the Hijra, Umayyah bin Khalaf considered for some time to accept Islam. When he confided his thoughts about Islam to Abu Jahl, the latter said, “No, you can’t. You’re a leader of Quraysh. If you accept his message, you’re gonna open the floodgates for everyone else.”
    • Quran talks about him and the sorry that he will feel, in the verse: “And the Day, the wrongdoer will bite on his hand [in regret] he will say, Oh, I wish I had taken with the path of the Messenger. Oh, woe to me! I wish I had not taken that one [Abu Jahl) as a friend. [Abu Jahl] led me away from the remembrance after it had come to me. And ever is Satan to man, a deserter.” [Surat Al-Furqan, 25:27-29]

— When Bilal accepted Islam & Umayyah bin Khalaf came to know of this, he told Abu Jahl

  • Abu Jahl said, “Since you own this slave, why don’t you let me try out this new theory I have?”
  • Umayyah replied, “Yeah, go ahead. Do whatever you want.” They considered slave as sub-human, like a material that they can do with them whatever they want to do.

— Bilal went through severe torture under the hands of Abu Jahl

  • Abu Jahl would whip Bilal all night long until he became exhausted
  • During the day, when the heat would reach its peak & it was the hottest part of the day, Abu Jahl would lay down Bilal on the scorching sand without his clothes on, so that Bilal’s back would get badly burned. Then he’d place a big rock on Bilal’s chest so he couldn’t move
  • Abu Jahl would tie Bilal to horses & make Bilal run, dragged by horses
  • In these situations, Bilal would scream at the top of his lungs, “Ahadun Ahad!” (Allah, the One, One). His faith & devotion to Allah was never shaken

— Abu Bakr was a fairly successful businessman, honest man. He never earned dishonest money

  • Abu Bakr asked Umayyah bin Khalaf if he will sell his slave to him (Abu Bakr)
  • Umayyah initially refuses. Abu Bakr increased his offer until Umayyah eventually agrees to sell Bilal
  • Abu Bakr then secures the sale of Bilal, and immediately sets him free
    • Bilal became known as Bilal mawla Abu Bakr – they were very good friends
    • Umar bin Al-Khattab would say about Bilal & Abu Bakr, “There is our master (Bilal) who was freed by our other master (Abu Bakr).”
  • Bilal was later given the honor of being the first muezzin

— There were many female slaves & other young people who were persecuted & tortured mercilessly for being Muslims

  • Abu Bakr took it upon himself to help those who were persecuted for being Muslims
  • The following people are some of the early Muslims, the downtrodden & low-status people of Makkah, that Abu Bakr helped free:

— Amir bin Fuhairah (ra) was one of the early Believers who was also a slave of Tufail bin Abdullah Asdi

  • Amir was also a relative of Abu Bakr’s wife, Umm Uman
  • He was also tortured. Abu Bakr bought him & Amir continued to work as a shepherd
  • One of his best skills was that he was good at tracking. Amir bin Fuhairah played a vital role in migration of the Prophet & Abu Bakr from Makkah to Medina

— A slave woman named Zannirah or Zunairah belonged to someone of Banu Makhzum (same family as Abu Jahl)

  • Abu Jahl asked her owner to hand her over to him; he deprived Zannirah of sleep, food, & water. He also tortured her mercilessly, to the point that she lost her eyesight
  • Once she went blind, Abu Jahl taunted Zunairah, “Woman, do you know why you can’t see anymore? You lost your eyesight because Al-lat and Al-Uzza (the idols that Quraysh worshiped) have taken them, because you have disbelieved in them and abandoned the religion of our forefathers.”
    • Zannirah, devastated that she didn’t have the ability to counter him, simply said, “This is what my Lord has decided for me, this is why I have lost my eyesight. My Raab can return my eyesight to me. Who do you think you are?”
    • The following day, when Abu Jahl came back to torture her some more, Zannirah was looking directly at him – her eyesight was restored to her
  • Abu Bark spoke to her owner, purchased Zannirah & set her free

— An-Nahdiyah & her daughter were of tribe of Abd-dar. They were owned by a woman who tortured & abused the mother/daughter pair for accepting Islam

  • One day, mistress came by with a lot of flour.  She told them, “Knead all this flour together & bake it into bread.” She used her slaves for her bakery business. This owner would use her slaves for work, & during their off-hours, she would torture them. She swore by the idols, “I will never free the both of you.”
    • Abu Bakr came by & told her, “Free them, let them go.”
    • The owner said, “You ask me to free them? You’re the one who ruined them. You turned them into these Believers. You want them to be free, you free them.”
    • Abu Bakr asked, “How much do they cost?”
    • She set a high price. Abu Bakr said, “Fine, I’ll buy them both.” He didn’t even negotiate the price
  • After Abu Bakr bought & freed the slaves, they were surrounded by bags & bags of flour that they had to bake into bread. Abu Bakr told them, “Go and return this flour to the former owner.”
    • Instead of returning the flour, the mother & daughter asked Abu Bakr, “Is it okay if we finish the job that we had taken? We appreciate that you purchased us our freedom, but we were in the middle of a task. We want to finish the job we had started & then we’ll go on our way.”
    • Abu Bakr said, “You’re free now, you can do whatever you like. You don’t need my permission.”
    • Both An-Nahdiyah & her daughter stayed there until they finished baking the bread & gave it their former owner. See how big hearted they were.

— Ummu Ubais was a slave woman who belonged to al Aswad bin Abdi Yahud of tribe of Zuhra

  • Abu Bakr one day witnessed her being tortured, so he bought her & set her free

— A slave woman from the tribe of Adi used to be tortured by Umar ibn al-Khattab (this was before he became Muslim)

  • One day, Umar ibn al-Khattab was torturing this woman & he stopped after getting very tired. He was a young strong man, but he got extremely fatigued. He said, “I’m only stopping because I’m tired, not because I’m done torturing you.”
  • The woman smiled & said, “This is Allah who makes you exhausted. That’s why you can’t find the strength to continue.”
  • Abu Bakr came in & purchased her freedom

— Abu Bakr kept freeing people left & right, so much so that Abu Kufaha (father of Abu Bakr) became frustrated & approached his son

  • Abu Kuhafa, who accepted Islam years later, said, “I see that you keep purchasing these very weak & feeble slaves & setting them free. That’s fine, but they’re weak people. I guess I can kind of understand what you’re doing here. You feel obligated to do a good deed. But have you thought about – if you’re going to invest all this money to setting them free, why don’t you purchase physically strong slaves & set them free? That way you can have a crew, a bunch of bouncers to surround you & protect you. But you only purchase women & scrawny slaves.”
    • Abu Bakr replied, “I know what I want & I’m doing exactly what I need to do. I’m not looking for a posse or a crew. I’m looking to invest in my akhira. I’m not looking for security detail. I’m looking for ajar with Allah. I’m looking to purchase & free people who are held in high esteem in the sight of Allah.”
  • The following ayat from Surat Al-Layl were revealed in praise of Abu Bakr:
    • “As for he who gives and fears Allah and believes in the best [reward], We will ease him toward ease.” [92:5-7]
    • “Those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification and have in their minds no favor from any one, for which a reward is expected in return, but only the desire to seek the countenance of their Lord, Most High and soon will they attain complete satisfaction” [92:18-21]
  • Abu Bakr bankrupted himself twice by purchasing the freedom of hundreds of slaves

— Khabbab bin al-Aratt (ra) was kidnapped & sold into slavery when he was a young boy. He was sold to a man from the tribe of Khuza’a

  • He accepted Islam & was subsequently also tortured. He was put on his back on heated stones to the point where his back was burned
  • He eventually gained freedom.
  • He was an Inspiration to the Sahaba, especially to Umar bin al-Khattab, when he was a khalifah. Whenever Umar felt down, he would ask to see the back of Khabbab and that reminded him the torture that someone else had to endure.

— Abu Fuqaiha was slave of Umayyah bin Khalaf. When Bilal was freed, Umayyah tortured Abu Fuqaiha nearly to his death

  • There was an incident where they were torturing Abu Fuqaiha & beating him, when a bug walked by his body
    • The son points at the bug & said to Abu Fuqaihah, “That’s your lord isn’t it?”
    • Abu Fuqaiha replied, “No, my Raab is your Raab, and the Raab of everything else.”
  • His torturer was so infuriated that this slave would dare to talk back to him like this, that he fell upon Abu Fuqaiha & started to strangle him until Abu Fuqaiha fell unconscious
    • When Abu Fuqaiha became unconscious, Safwan & Umayyah got up & walked away, because they thought that Abu Fuqaiha was dead
  • Abu Bakr later came in & purchased Abu Fuqaiha’s freedom

— Ammar bin Yasir (ra) was very close to his parents, Yasir & Sumayyah

  • He was the only child & he was one of the early people who accepted Islam
  • His father Yasir was from Yemen; he came to Makkah to establish a new life because Yemen was in a very bad economic situation while Makkah was thriving. When Yasir arrives in Makkah, the only way to gain citizenship in Makkah was to broker a deal with a citizen of Makkah. He brokered a deal with someone from the Makhzum tribe, & part of that deal was that he was now an ally of the Makhzum tribe
    • Yasir worked mostly menial jobs, but he was happy to have an income & he got married to a slave woman named Sumayyah. They lived very humbly with their son
  • When he accepted Islam, Ammar bin Yasir would sneak out at night to sit with the Prophet & worship with the Prophet at Darul Arqam
  • His parents start to notice his sneaking habits, & they asked Ammar what’s going on. When Ammar comes clean, his parents become devastated because they are worried about the repercussions from the opposition
    • Ammar used this opportunity to give his parents da’wah. He gives them the Prophet’s message & the Qur’an. Yasir & Sumayyah become so deeply affected that they both say that they want to meet the Prophet & accept Islam

— When Abu Jahl finds out that this little family of 3, who his tribe had given protection to, had the audacity to accept this new religion, that he sets out to torture them

  • He tied up the family to poles, & left them standing there for days. He would also torture the family members in front of each other. This went on for a very long time
    • The Prophet would walk by with tears in his eyes, & he would say, “Patience, O family of Yasir! Congratulations, O family of Yasir, you will all be reunited in Jannah.”
    • Abu Bakr also sees the family in their situation, & he goes to Abu Jahl, offering to purchase their freedom
    • Abu Jahl refuses. “No, not this time. Go away.”
  • One day, the mother, Sumayyah tells off Abu Jahl, “No matter what you do Abu Jahl, you can’t deter us from our faith. We will not disbelieve. You can’t do anything to us.”
    • Abu Jahl became so infuriated from this display of courage from Sumayyah, that he throws her down & kills her with his spear right in front of her husband & son
    • The first martyr from our Ummah was a woman, Sumayyah
  • Some narration says that Yasir eventually died from prolonged torture, while other narrations say that he was so beside himself at the sight of his wife being murdered in front of him, that he started to scream, fight, & squirm to free himself. Abu Jahl was fed up with that, so he threw Yasir to the ground & began to kick him; Abu Jahl literally kicked Yasir to death

— Ammar just saw both of his parents murdered in front of him. He’s tied to a pole, he can’t do anything

  • Abu Jahl then intensified his torture upon Ammar. He & others kept torturing Ammar until they realized that the sight of his parents dying in front of him was the worst part of all the torture
  • Ammar’s torturers finally said to him, “Say that you believe in the idols Al-lat and Al-Uzza, & say that you don’t believe in Muhammad. Say it. SAY IT. SAY IT!”
    • They just murdered Ammar’s parents in front his eyes, then beat & kicked him intensely, then screamed at him to abandon his faith
    • Ammar finally says, “Fine, fine! I don’t believe in Muhammad.”
  • Finally, Ammar’s torturers cut the ropes off him & walked off, feeling that they had achieved some sort of victory

— Ammar bin Yasir (ra) literally crawls to the Prophet, bloodied & an emotional & spiritual wreck, feeling immensely guilty because of what he just said about the Prophet to his torturers. He cries to the Prophet, “Oh Rasulullah, I messed up. This is what I said.”

  • The Prophet asked Ammar, “Ya Ammar, what was in your heart?”
  • Ammar replies, “I swear by Allah, I have never believed in Allah or you any more. My iman was stronger than it has ever been before. I just felt overwhelmed.”

— In that situation, Allah revealed an ayat validating the iman of Ammar (ra)

  • When you are overwhelmed or tortured or torn to shreds, and at that time, if something comes out of your tongue that is not in your heart, then Allah understands. He understands & He forgives you. Your iman is not invalidated
    • “Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief…except for one who is forced [to renounce his religion] while his heart is secure in faith. But those who [willingly] open their breast to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah, and for them is a great punishment” [Surat An-Nahl; 16:106]
  • Following the revelation of that ayah, the Prophet told his Sahaba, “If anyone of you end up in this situation, say what these wild dogs want to hear so that you’ll be able to escape their grip & torture.”
  • Later on, Ammar migrated with about a dozen other Muslims to Abyssinia (Habesha). He would then meet the Prophet in Medina years later

— Eventually, the persecution of Muslims wasn’t just limited to the women & slaves (the 2 groups of the lowest status), but it grew to include the men & the elite

  • Uthman bin Affan (ra) was tied up by his own uncle Al-Hakam bin Abdil A’as, who said to his nephew, “We will not let you go until you renounce your new religion.”
    • Uthman refused until he was finally able to escape
  • Musa’ab bin Umair (ra) was a celebrity of his time. He was young, handsome, wealthy, well-dressed. If he was at a party, you knew it was the place to be
    • When he accepted Islam, his mother tied him up & tortured him so that he renounce Islam. Mus’ab wouldn’t relent, so his mother stripped him off his clothing & threw him out in the street. Mus’ab went to the Prophet in his humble condition & the Prophet took care of him
    • Musa’ab later on went to become the first ambassador of Islam, when he went to represent Islam to the city of Yathrib. He was the representative of the Prophet, teaching & preaching Islam to the citizens of Yathrib. Over the course of a year, Mus’ab converted half the city to Islam
  • Sa’ad bin Mu’adh (ra), the chief of Banu Aus tribe in Yathrib, went to Musa’ab bin Umair & talked with him. Mus’ab gave da’wah to Sa’ad, & Sa’ad accepted Islam.
    • Sa’ad later stands in front of his entire tribe, & asks them, “What do you think of me?”
    • Sa’ad’s tribe responds, “You’re noble. We love you. We’re loyal to you.”
    • Sa’ad tells his tribe, “I’ve taken an oath that I will not speak to any of you until you accept this religion of Islam.”
    • By evening time, the whole tribe of Banu Aus had converted to Islam
  • Abu Bakr (ra) was beaten nearly to death by Utbah bin Rabi’ah

— During all of these persecutions of Muslims, Abu Talib (the Prophet’s uncle), became very concerned. First the slaves, then the women, then prominent members of elite families are being tortured through the strategy of Abu Jahl – and not a single one of these people left Islam no matter how severely they were tortured

  • Abu Talib is concerned, because he wondered just how long it will be until the torturers & enemies of Islam feel that it’s okay to lay their hands on the grandson of Abdul Mutallib, Muhammad. Abu Talib was extremely worried that his nephew, whom he raised since Muhammad was 8 years old, will come to physical harm from the likes of Abu Jahl
  • Abu Talib gathered together the elders of the family of the Prophet, & he said to them, “I need a promise from all of you that you will protect Muhammad.”
    • Abu Talib recited a poem before them, “When Quraysh gathers together to protect their dignity & their honor, then Abdu Munaf (one of the families of Quraysh, who were the descendants of Munaf) protect their core & their outer arms (meaning that they protect both the people that are the core part of their family & also the people that are remotely connected to the family). If we are willing to protect the family of Munaf, then we need to think of one thing. Within the family of Munaf is Banu Hashim, & the most honorable & dignified men belong to Banu Hashim (the Prophet’s grandfather, Abdul Mutallib, was an extremely respected member of Banu Hashim). Whether you like what Muhammad has to say or not, if you are proud of who you are & if you are proud of your tribe, then you must remember that Muhammad is a proud member of our proud family (because he’s the grandson of Abdul Mutallib). Quraysh is being called to action, to protect their dignity & honor. We have never tolerated disrespect & dishonor to our forefathers & our tribe. How will we tolerate it now? We will be strong & fierce in defending our honor, no matter how difficult the situation becomes. We will attack anyone who dares to lay a finger on our honor.”
  • Abu Talib was a smart man. His primary goal was to protect his nephew Muhammad, so he made his case to his family & tribe that “If someone hurts one of us, he hurts us all. If they spit on one of us, they spit on us all.”
    • He emphasized the legacy & honor of Abdul Mutallib. “Look, Muhammad is the grandson of Abdul Mutallib. Are you really going to let the honor & legacy of your forefather get attacked? What if someone harms Muhammad? What are you going to do? Think of Abdul Mutallib. Think of Hashim. Think of Munaf.”
  • That strategy worked. All the leaders of Quraysh & Banu Hashim stood united & claimed that they will not tolerate anyone disrespecting/attacking one of their own. At that moment, they all gave their oath to Abu Talib, that even though they don’t care for Muhammad’s preaching, they will protect & defend Muhammad in the name of their family’s honor
    • Only one person at that gathering did not agree, & he stormed out very angrily. Abu Lahab was that person. He was very upset & angry, & he continued to torture Muslims & harass his nephew Muhammad

— Now that Abu Talib had taken this oath of his nephew’s protection from his family, the Quraysh put together a convoy. They gathered every respectable leader they could find in & around Makkah

  • The Quraysh bring to Abu Talib a young man named Imarah bin al-Walid, whose father was a well-respected man in Makkah. Imarah was very intelligent & had a lot of potential
    • The Quraysh tell Abu Talib, “Look, we understand. Muhammad is your boy. He always showed a lot of potential, & he showed a lot of character. Here’s what we got to offer to you. Let’s make a trade. You see Imarah right here? He’s smart, loyal, got a lot of potential. Why don’t you take Imarah as your successor, your follower? You can groom & train him, whatever it is that you have planned for Muhammad. Then you can move out of the way very quietly, so we can take care of Muhammad & do what we gotta do.”
  • Even though the Quraysh made an oath to protect Muhammad, they’re now having second thoughts & are basically trying to convince Abu Talib that Muhammad is best “taken care of”. They had the audacity to not even take seriously the amount of pure love Abu Talib had for Muhammad. It was insane that Quraysh had stooped so low. They had lost complete rationality & logic to even make such an offer to Abu Talib
  • Understandably, Abu Talib was beside himself. He said to the Quraysh, “You people have completely lost it. This is the worst thing that anyone has ever said to me in my entire life. You people are insulting me. This is the worst way to insult someone. Muhammad is like my child. He’s my son. You think I’m going to give up my son like this?! This is the worst way anyone has ever cursed me in my life. You give me someone else’s son in exchange for me giving you my son? Are you insane?”
    • Abu Talib tells the Quraysh to beat it. “I don’t accept this deal.”
  • Muta’im bin Adi, who was a good friend of Abu Talib & later on one of the Prophet’s supporters, was there with the Quraysh
    • Abu Talib looked at him & said, “Muta’im, I’m disappointed in you. I thought you would have more sense than this.”
  • Abu Talib rejected that offer from the Quraysh & told the Prophet, “You keep doing whatever it is that you have to do.”

— 2 things to take away from today’s episode

  • In the face of all the torture & sacrifices, the early Muslims stuck to their imaan & convictions. They could not be shaken. It’s important for us to realize this & internalize it, & then reflect on it
    • How easily do we complain? How much do we cry about our situation (Shaykh Abdul is not belittling anyone else’s suffering, he’s talking about HIM). When I complain how difficult practicing Islam may be, I need to read these stories
    • Whenever Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) felt overwhelmed with his duties as a khalifah, he would talk with Khabbab (ra) & look at his scarred back. Then Umar would remember that people went through a lot in the early days of Islam, so I need to keep it together
    • So, we, the modern-day Muslims, should not only learn about the Prophet, but also about the Sahabah, & understand the difficulties that they went through to put us into perspective
  • The same Sahaba who were sacrificing a lot for their faith went to the Prophet & said, “O Rasulullah, this is too much to bear. When will the help of Allah come?”
    • The Prophet replied to them, “You people are hasty. You people are rushing things. There were people before you who went through much sacrifice & torture. A ditch would be dug. A person would be put in that ditch & an axe would be taken, & that person would literally be chopped into half. A person would be strapped, & an iron comb would be taken, & the person would be skinned alive. They did not leave their faith. They stayed strong.”
    • The Prophet motivated his Sahaba like this. “Hang in there. Keep working. The help of Allah will come when the time is right.”

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