Visit to Taif
After the death of Abu Talib and Khadijah , finding that the Meccans had turned a deaf ear to his preaching, the Prophet decided to go to Taif, perhaps its people would be more responsive. But a big disappointment was in store for him. Muhammad spent a month at Taif only to be scoffed and laughed at. When he persisted in his preaching, the people of Taif drove him out of their city pelting stones at him. In this desperate situation he prayed to God thus:
"O Allah! I make my complaint unto You regarding the feebleness of my strength, the insignificance of my devices, and my humiliation in the sight of people. O You, the Most Merciful One! You are the Lord of the oppressed, You are my Lord. To whom would You entrust my affairs? To a stranger who would scowl at me? Or to an enemy who would control me? If you are not displeased with me, then I do not care (about any hardship), but an ease bestowed by You will be more accommodating to me. I seek refuge in the light of Your countenance (by which all darkness is dispersed and all affairs of this world and the hereafter are kept straight) from pouncing of Your anger or the coming of Your wrath. I seek your pardon in order that you may be pleased with me. There is no power nor strength except in You"
Grief-stricken, the Prophet returned to Mecca.
Islam Gradually Reaches Beyond Mecca
All these disappointments and persecutions notwithstanding, Islam was spreading in other tribes too, although very slowly and not on a grand scale. Its simplicity and rationality were such that it only needed to reach the ears of the people to stir their souls. For thirteen years, the Quraish did their very best to stifle the new religion, but their opposition itself provided the necessary publicity. Tribes from all corners of Arabia flocked to Mecca at the time of the annual pilgrimage. Lest they should be influenced by the message of Mohammed, the Quraish used to post themselves outside the city and warn the pilgrims: "An infidel has been born in our city who dishonors our idols; he even speaks ill of Lat and Uzza; do not listen to him." People naturally got curious and wanted to know more about this man. A disciple of the Prophet, recalling his earlier days, stated: "When I was young, I used to hear from the people going to Mecca that a person claiming Prophethood had been born there." When the news spread, most people laughed and jeered at Mohammed, yet there were a few seekers of the truth who listened to his message and who were influenced by it. Hafiz ibn Hajar, in his book al-Isabah, mentions the names of several companions who had come from Yemen and other distant places and, after secretly accepting Islam, had gone back to work among their tribes. The clan of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari in Yemen accepted Islam in this manner.
Tufail ibn 'Amr, of the tribe of Daws, was a poet of repute who could by his poetic fervor sway the feelings and attitudes of the Arabs. He had come into contact with the Prophet and was so enthralled by the marvelous diction of the Qur'an recited to him that he accepted Islam instantly. He was able to win some converts in his tribe, but in general the tribe did not listen to him. He came back to the Prophet and requested him to curse the Daws but the Prophet prayed thus: "O God! Guide the Daws and send them to me (as Muslims)." Soon after, the entire tribe accepted Islam.
Dhamad ibn Tha'labah was a chief of Azd and a friend of the Prophet in his early years. He came to Mecca and was told that Mohammed had gone mad. He approached the Prophet and said that he could cure him. The Prophet replied,
"All praise be to God; I praise Him and seek His forgiveness. If God were to guide anyone, he cannot go astray, and if He leaves anyone to stray, nothing can guide him. I declare that there is no god but Allah. He is one and has no partner, and further (I declare) that Mohammed is His Servant and Messenger."
It is almost impossible to reproduce the vibrating force and captivating charm of the Arabic text which so much impressed Dhamad that he accepted Islam immediately and through him his whole tribe submitted to it.
Abu Dharr of the tribe of Ghifar was one of those who were disgusted with idol-worship. When:be heard about the Prophet, he went to Mecca and incidentally met 'Ali with whom he stayed for three days. 'Ali introduced him to the Prophet and Abu Dharr accepted Islam. The Prophet advised him to go back home, but in his zeal he publicly announced in the Ka'bah: "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet." He was given a sound thrashing by the Quraish and was rescued by 'Abbas. Returning to his tribe, he invited it to accept Islam. About half of his tribesmen, accepted Islam and the rest followed suit when the Prophet migrated to Medina.
As the Ghifars were on very friendly terms with the tribe of Aslam, the latter were influenced by the former and also accepted Islam.
Quite a number of persons had incidentally heard the Qur'an being recited and were captivated by it. Jubayr ibn Mut'im had come to Medina to pay ransom for the prisoners of war of Badr. He happened to hear the Prophet reciting the following verses:
Or were they created out of naught? Or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the Earth? Nay, but they have no certainty. (Qur'an, 52:35-36)
Jubayr stated that when he heard these verses, he felt that his heart was about to soar.
First Pledge of 'Aqabah
As the Meccans refused to listen to him, the Prophet used to preach to strangers and pilgrims visiting the Ka'bah. As described above, the news that a Prophet had arisen was spreading. A deputation of about twenty Christians from Nazareth came to meet him and embraced Islam. Similarly, another group of six persons from Yathrib accepted Islam. The next year, at the time of the annual pilgrimage, twelve Yathribites came and undertook a pledge known as the First Pledge of 'Aqabah (Mountain-pass), so named because it was done in an out of the way mountain-pass outside Mecca. The pledge was:
The period between the First and the Second Pledges was one of anxious waiting. The Meccans were sternly adamant, the people of Taif had rejected Muhammad, and the mission was making a slow progress. Yet hope had been engendered by its diffusion to the distant city of Yathrib. The conviction was very much there that the truth would ultimately prevail. Describing this period, Muir says:
"Mahomet, thus holding his people at bay, waiting, in
the still expectation of victory, to outward appearance defenseless, and with
his little band, as it were, in the lion's mouth, yet trusting in his
Almighty's power whose messenger he believed himself to be, resolute and
unmoved, presents a spectacle of sublimity paralleled only in the sacred
records by such scenes as that of the prophet of Israel, when he complained to
his Master, 'I, even I only, am left."