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The Pioneer Groups in Acceptance of Islam

The Pioneer Groups in Acceptance of Islam

Among the social groups of those days, two groups pioneered in accepting Islam:

A) The youth

A cursory look at the list of the early Muslims indicates that most of them were youth. Elderly people were conservative; idolatry was deeply rooted in them. Due to their bright minds, the youth were more ready to accept the new faith—a fact applying to religious revelations.

On the basis of a historical report, during the early days of the secret invitation to Islam, there were groups of youth and destitute people who joined Islam.[1] When the Holy Prophet started his public invitation and when his followers increased in number, people of Quraysh complained to Ab£-±¡lib about Mu¦ammad, saying, “We have come to you several times to ask you to ask your nephew to stop cursing our ancestors and idols and seducing our children, men, women, and servants into the new faith...”[2]

On the Holy Prophet's journey to ±¡’if for the propagation of Islam, the noblemen refused to accept Islam for fear that their youth might follow Mu¦ammad.[3] After the migration to Abyssinia, representatives of Quraysh went to the royal court of the Abyssinian king, al-Naj¡sh¢, to force these Muslims to return home. In that court, there were some complaints regarding the spread of Islam among the youth of Mecca.[4]

A man from the Hudhayl tribe entered Mecca and the Holy Prophet invited him to Islam. Ab£-Jahl warned him, saying, “Never listen to Mu¦ammad; this man considers us stupid and says that our dead parents would go to hell. Besides, he utters nonsense.” The man asked, “How come you don’t expel him from your city?” Ab£-Jahl replied, “If he is expelled, our youth will go after him and listen to his flowery speech and then they will attack us.”[5]

`Utbah, a dignitary of Quraysh, complained to Asad ibn Zur¡rah, a nobleman from the Khazraj tribe in Yathrib, about the inclinations of the youth towards the Holy Prophet.[6]

An investigation of the list of the early Muslims shows that most of them were under thirty years of age. For instance, Sa`d ibn Ab¢-Waqq¡¥ was either seventeen[7] or nineteen[8] years old; al-Zubayr ibn al-`Aww¡m was fifteen[9] or sixteen;[10] `Abd al-Ra¦m¡n ibn `Awf was thirty; he was born ten years after the Elephant Year.[11] Mu¥`ab ibn `Umayr was nearly twenty-five years old; at the time of his martyrdom at the Battle of U¦ud that took place at the third year after Hegira, he was nearly forty years old.[12] Arqam, who submitted his house to the Prophet, was between twenty and thirty years old; when he died in 55 AH, he was eighty years old.[13]

B) The Deprived and the Oppressed

By these two expressions, so prevalent in the Islamic sources, is meant the freed slaved who, despite superficial freedom, had some relationships with their previous owners. They were called mawl¡ meaning made free. Another group of these oppressed ones was the strangers who had come to Mecca from other places to live. Since they lacked tribal associations, they had to be under the protection of a certain tribe in order for them to be secured. They did not enjoy the same rights that members of Quraysh had. They were socially disadvantaged.

This group, who had no tribe in Mecca to be affiliated with and who lacked power, represented the pioneers in the acceptance of Islam.[14] Their conversion to Islam was not tolerated by the infidels, according to a narration; whenever the Holy Prophet (s) sat in the Holy Precinct with his oppressed followers—such as `Amm¡r ibn Y¡sir, Khabb¡b ibn al-Aratt, ¯uhayb ibn Sin¡n, Bil¡l, Ab£-Fukayhah and Am¢r ibn Fuhayrah—they were ridiculed by people of Quraysh who sarcastically remarked, “Look at his companions! God has chosen from among us these bare-footed individuals who have adopted Islam!”[15]

The chiefs of Quraysh, once, passed by a gathering which the Holy Prophet had held with ¯uhayb, Khabb¡b, Bil¡l, `Amm¡r and some others. Observing this, they addressed the Holy Prophet, saying, “Mu¦ammad! Have you selected only this few from among your nation and you are happy with them? Should we follow this group? Has God only guided this group? If you dismiss this group, we might then be your followers.” At this time, the following Qur'¡nic verses were revealed:

And do not drive away those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, they desire only His favor; neither are you answerable for any reckoning of theirs, nor are they answerable for any reckoning of yours, so that you should drive them away and thus be of the unjust.

And thus, so We try some of them by others so that they say: Are these they upon whom Allah has conferred benefit from among us? Does not Allah best know the grateful? (6:52-53)

During the first years of his mission, people of Quraysh dispatched some representatives to ask about the Holy Prophet. They went to the Jews: “We have come here to seek your advice regarding the event that is taking place in our town. A young orphan thinks that he has been sent by Ra¦m¡n (the All-beneficent God); and we do not know any person by this name except for one living in Yam¡mah.” The Jew asked for the characteristics of the Holy Prophet: “Who are his followers?” They replied, “The lowliest persons!” The great Jewish scholar replied smilingly, “This is the same Prophet whose signs are predicted in our Holy Book. His nation will be his worst enemies.”[16]

Of course, the rapid inclinations of the oppressed towards Islam did not mean securing the interests or benefits of special social classes; rather, they implied the negation of the worldly domination of man over man; they implied the adoption of Allah's government and domination—an immediate threat to the power of the aggressors and oppressors that excited their severe opposition. This matter had happened with the previous prophets as well:

But the chiefs of those who disbelieved from among his people said:  We consider you but a mortal like ourselves, and we do not see who have followed you but those who are the meanest of us at first thought and we do not see in you any excellence over us; nay, we deem you liars. (11:27)

The chief of those who behaved proudly among his people said to those considered weak to those who believed from among them: Do you know that ¯¡li¦ is sent by his Lord? They said: Surely, we are believers in what he has been sent with. (7:75-76)

Inviting His Relatives to the New Religion

After three years of his mission, the Holy Prophet received an order from Allah to invite his relatives to his faith:

And warn your nearest relations, and be kind to him who follows you of the believers. But if they disobey you, then say: Surely, I am clear of what you do. (26:214-216)

Having received this revelation, the Holy Prophet ordered Imam `Al¢ to prepare some food and invite the sons of `Abd al-Mu§§alib to hear God's revelation. Imam `Al¢ (s) carried out the order. Nearly forty people showed up. Among them were Ab£-±¡lib, °amzah and Ab£-Lahab. The food seemed insufficiently little; however, every body was able to eat their fill. Ab£-Lahab declared, “This man has hypnotized you.” This statement caused the Holy Prophet to abandon his propagation of the faith on that day and the meeting came to an end with no result. Next day, `Al¢ (s) once again prepared some food and invited the same group. This time, the Holy Prophet, after dinner remarked,

I do not know of anybody among Arabs who has brought to his people anything better than what I am bringing to you. I am bringing to you the good of this world and the Other World. God has ordered me to guide you all to Him. Now, who is ready among you to help me and he will be my brother and successor?”[17]

Nobody answered. `Al¢ (s), who was the youngest among them, said, “O Messenger of God; I will help you.” Then, the Holy Prophet replied,

“This is my brother, my representative and my successor. Listen to obey him.”

p This event leads us to the basic fact that the issues of prophethood and Imamate are inseparable; during the first years of his prophethood and on the first day of his mission, the Holy Prophet brought up the topic of Imamate and the future leadership of Muslims.

On the other hand, it should not be assumed that the Holy Prophet, up to his death and during the event of Ghad¢r Khumm, brought up `Al¢'s Imamate. Later on, he brought up the same issue on other occasions, such as in the famous ¦ad¢th al-manzilah (Narration of Position).[18] However, the event of Ghad¢r Khumm was the most significant for the announcement of `Al¢'s successorship due to the fact that there were so many witnesses present.

With regards to the sequence of the s£rahs (chapters of the Holy Qur'¡n), it could be understood that the invitation of the relatives could have happened prior to the public invitation to the new faith.[19]

[1] Ibn Sa`d, Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 1:199.

[2] al-Bul¡dhar¢, Ans¡b al-Ashr¡f 1:299; Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 18:185.

[3] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, pp. 212.

[4] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 1:358; ±abars¢, I`l¡m al-War¡, pp. 44; Sib§ ibn al-Jawz¢, Tadhkirat al-Khaw¡¥¥, pp. 186.

[5] al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, pp. 128.

[6] ±abars¢, op cit, pp. 56.

[7] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:139.

[8] °alab¢, al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:446.

[9] °alab¢, op cit, 1:434.

[10] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:102.

[11] op cit, pp. 124.

[12] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:222.

[13] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:244. `Abd al-Muta`¡l al-¯a`¢d¢ al-Mi¥r¢ has written a book entitled Youth of Quraysh in the Beginning of Islam (pp. 33-34) in which he has introduced forty young men from Quraysh who had pioneered in accepting Islam. In his list, Imam `Al¢ is the first.

[14] al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, 1:156, pp. 181, see Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 3:248.

[15] Op cit.

[16] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 1:164; °alab¢, op cit, 1:499.

[17] Muslim scholars name this issue as bid' al-da`wah (The Beginning of the Promulgation), yawm al-d¡r (The Day of the House), and yawm al-indh¡r (The Day of Warning). It is reported in the following reference books with some difference: T¡r¢kh al-±abar¢ 2:217; Ibn Ath¢r, al-K¡mil f¢’l-T¡r¢kh 2:63; Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, Shar¦ Nahj al-Bal¡ghah 13:211; al-Bayhaq¢, Dal¡'il al-Nubuwwah 1:278; ±abars¢, Majma` al-Bay¡n 7:206; Shaykh Muf¢d, al-Irsh¡d, pp. 29; ±¡w£s, al-±ar¡’if 1:20; °alab¢, al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:461; al-Majlis¢, Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 18:78, 181, 191, 214; `All¡mah Am¢n¢, al-Ghad¢r 2:278-279; Murta¤¡ `Askar¢, the role of the Imams in the revival of the Religion 2:86, 6:17-18; Musnad A¦mad 1:159. It is worthy noting that among historians, ±abar¢ has distorted the Holy Prophet's statement drastically in his interpretation: he has changed representative and successor into so and so. Ibn Kath¢r, too, has distorted the truth in his three books in his three books (Tafs¢r 3:351, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 3:40, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:459). Considering the attitude of these two, it is not difficult to recognize their motive for this dramatic distortion.

[18] °ad¢th al-Manzilah reads: “O `Al¢, your position to me is the same as Prophet Aaron’s position to Prophet Moses except that there shall be no prophet after me.”

[19] S£rah al-Shu`ar¡' was revealed to the Holy Prophet after S£rah al-W¡qi`ah. The following are the S£rahs that were revealed after that: al-Naml, al-Qa¥a¥, al-Isr¡', Y£nus, H£d, Y£suf and then al-°ijr in which the order for the public invitation was given. See Mu¦ammad H¡d¢ Ma`rifat, al-Tamh¢d f¢ `Ul£m al-Qur'¡n 1:105.

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