The Holy Prophet’s (S) Be’that: The Beginning of a new Historical Era
His rule did not last any longer than ten years. Notice those thirteen years and the following ten years are nothing compared to a nation's lifespan. It is like a moment which passes very quickly. During such a short time, a great movement was started which could be said to have divided human history into two eras: the pre-Islamic era and the post-Islamic era. The Holy Prophet (S) pushed humanity forward, strengthened the bases of morality and taught unforgettable lessons to all human beings. You should consider the greatness of Be’that from such a perspective.
The Factors that ensured the Holy Prophet’s (S) success in the difficult conditions of the era of Jahiliyya
There were of course a number of interrelated factors which guaranteed this success. But this success was mainly due to the Holy Prophet’s (S) spirituality, purity and knowledge and his reliance on God. This was a major and decisive factor in his success. Prior to his prophethood, the Holy Prophet (S) was the most knowledgeable and the wisest person among the people of Mecca. He was the most generous, respectable and decent person in the area where he lived.
Among those people, this outstanding person attracted divine attentions and the responsibility was put on his shoulders. This was because God had put him to the test before. God knew His servant and knew who He was assigning this responsibility to. The Holy Prophet (S) stood firm. His resistance and his perseverance that was accompanied by a deep knowledge of the goal he was pursuing and of the path he was following supported all the achievements of the Holy Prophet (S) and led to the success of this great movement.
Truth always prevails, but there are certain prerequisites. In order for truth to prevail, one must defend it. In order for truth to prevail, one must persevere on the path of righteousness.
After the passage of three years or more, in the first phase of Be’that, the Holy Prophet (S) had managed to convert thirty or forty people to Islam through his covert invitation to Islam. Then a divine order was issued:
"Therefore, declare openly what you are commanded and turn away from the polytheists." 1
The Holy Prophet (S) was commanded to raise the flag of Islam and to openly call people to Islam. The Holy Prophet (S) did so and then the events that you have heard about took place. This struck terror into the hearts of the chiefs of Quraysh and its wealthy and powerful people. The first thing that they did was to try and bribe the Holy Prophet (S). They went to Abi Talib and told him that if his nephew wanted leadership, they were prepared to grant the Holy Prophet (S) absolute authority over their community. "If he wants wealth, we will give him so much wealth that he becomes wealthier than all of us.
If he wants to be a king, we will appoint him as our king. Just ask him to stop saying these things." Being concerned about the safety of the Holy Prophet (S) and his enemies' plots, Abi Talib went to him and told him the message of the chiefs of Mecca. He probably gave the Holy Prophet (S) some advice and recommended that he tone down his remarks to some extent.
Maybe he told the Prophet (S) that his dogged persistence was unnecessary. "Dear uncle, even if they place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left to prevent me from achieving this goal, I swear by Allah that I will not do as they say until God grants us victory over them or until we all get killed," 2 the Holy Prophet (S) replied.
Then the Holy Prophet's (S) eyes were filled with tears and he stood up to leave. Having observed this faith and steadfastness, Abi Talib was impressed and said, "Dear nephew, go and say whatever you like." He told him to pursue his goal. "I swear by God that I will not give you away, no matter what I receive in return." This steadfastness bred more steadfastness. This steadfastness on the part of the Holy Prophet (S) strengthened the roots of steadfastness in the heart of Abi Talib.
Pursuing the goals, not fearing the enemy, not being tempted by what the enemy has to offer and not being dependent on the privileges that the enemy offers to prevent one from following the path one believes in, give rise to resistance, peace of mind and trust in one’s divine path and goal and in Allah the Exalted. There were not more than thirty or forty of them. These thirty or forty people tolerated all those hardships and increased in number on a daily basis. Each day they were witness to what they did to Ammar and Bilal.
They were witness to the torturing and martyrdom of Sumayyah and Yasir. They were witness to these things, but they still converted to Islam. That is the way truth is promoted. The mere raising of the flag of truth in peace and security will not help promote truth. Truth will be promoted only when there is steadfastness and perseverance on the part of those who believe in truth.
There is a verse in the Holy Quran that says
"Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are firm against the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves." 3
The phrase "firm against the disbelievers" does not mean that Muslims are involved in a constant war with the disbelievers. Rather, it means strength and solidity. Firm means solid here. This solidity may be manifested in a particular manner on the battlefield. It may also be manifested in a different way when negotiating with the enemy. Notice how the Holy Prophet (S) spoke to his enemies when it was necessary to do so.
His plans were the embodiment of solidity, without any flaws. In the Battle of Ahzab, the Holy Prophet (S) entered into negations with the enemy. But it was not ordinary negotiations. The details of those negotiations are recorded in history. Battles and negotiations were both carried out in a solid manner. Cooperation was also carried out in a firm way. That is the meaning of the phrase "firm against the disbelievers".
The phrase "compassionate among themselves" means that Muslims are lenient with one another. Muslims do not treat each other in a firm way. It is time for expressing affections when Muslims are together.
The resistance at the beginning of Be’that resulted in three years of unbelievable resistance in She'b-e Abi Talib. They lived in the sizzling sun in a valley near Mecca for three years. There were no plants and no water and this is no joke. The Holy Prophet (S), Abi Talib, Khadijah and all Muslims and their families lived in this valley in the holes of the mountains.
They had blocked all the ways so that they had no access to foodstuff. Sometimes when it was time for Hajj - in which, according to the rules of the Jahiliyya era, no one was allowed to start a war - they were allowed to enter the town. But Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab and other chiefs of Mecca had told their servants and children to pay twice the price and buy whatever the Muslims needed to buy. They had been told to prevent the Muslims from buying what they needed. Living in such difficult conditions for three years is no joke.
It is such resistance and the heart that relies on Allah the Exalted that give rise to such steadfastness and make people patient. Children cried through the night out of hunger. The sound of their crying could be heard in Mecca and some of the kind-hearted disbelievers of Quraysh felt sympathetic towards them. But nobody dared to help them due to their fear of the powerful people of Mecca.
That was while the faith of the early Muslims whose children wasted away before their eyes there were many people who died there, many became ill and many suffered from starvation was not shaken. The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) told his dear son, Muhammad ibn al- Hanafiyyah, "... the mountains may be shaken, they may be removed, but your faith must not be shaken." 4
That was the same piece of advice that the Holy Prophet (S) gave in his testament. That is the way the Islamic Ummah must rise up. That is what Be’that of the Islamic Ummah means. That is the lesson that the Holy Prophet (S) taught us. That is what Be’that teaches us.
It is no use sitting around and saying that Quranic verses were revealed or that Gabriel came and appointed Mohammad as prophet. It is no use rejoicing that a particular person converted to Islam and that another did not. The point is that we must learn lessons from this event - which gave rise to all the other events of the life of the Holy Prophet (S). All the years of his prophethood, which lasted for 23 years, are full of lessons for us.
Once I said that the life of the Holy Prophet (S) must be studied "millimeter by millimeter". Every moment of his life embodied an event, a lesson and a great manifestation of humanity.
That is true of those twenty three years of his prophethood. Our youth must read the biography of the Holy Prophet (S) from authoritative sources and familiarize themselves with the events. This Ummah with such grandeur which still keeps presenting humanity with the best advice, the best solutions, the greatest lessons and the best cure - started out, spread and set its roots in this way. Otherwise, the mere fact that we are followers of truth will not push us forward. Truth must be accompanied by steadfastness.
I have said on many occasions that in the Battle of Siffin the Commander of the Faithful said, "One cannot bear this flag unless one is patient and has insight." 5 Only those who have insight and know the goal and who are patient can carry this flag. Patience is the same as steadfastness and solidity. That is the lesson that Be’that holds for us. 6
The birth of the Holy Prophet (S) is not just a historical reality. It was an event that determined the path of humanity. The phenomena that took place at the time of his birth and were recorded in history are a clear sign pointing to the significance and reality of this event. According to some traditions, the birth of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S) was a setback for all manifestations of atheism and polytheism throughout the world.
The Zoroastrian Temple of Fars, which had kept its fire alight for a thousand years, went out when the Holy Prophet (S) was born. Idols collapsed in temples, leaving the servants of the temples wondering what was happening. That was the symbolic blow that the Prophet's (S) birth dealt to atheism, polytheism, and materialism. In addition, the castles of the oppressive kings of the polytheistic Persian Empire were shaken. The battlements - fourteen battlements - of the Castle of Madaen collapsed.
That was another clear sign pointing to the fact that the Holy Prophet's (S) birth was a preface to fighting evil in the world. This birth had a spiritual as well as a practical aspect to it - that is, moral, intellectual, and social guidance of humanity. Fighting oppression, uncontrolled passions, and unlawful rule of oppressors over people were all the symbolic meanings of the Prophet's (S) birth.
The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) has described in many parts of Nahj al-Balaghah the time before the Holy Prophet (S) was born. Specifically, he said, "The world lost its light and pride appeared." 7 There was no light for humanity. People lived in a dark era. Ignorance, rebellion, and misguided beliefs - whose manifestations were most obvious where the Prophet (S) was born and subsequently chosen as the Prophet of Islam - pervaded the lives of the people in the Arabian Peninsula. All the manifestations of darkness and misguided beliefs were represented in one form or another in Mecca and Jaziratul Arab.
Misguided beliefs, polytheism that brings humiliation on mankind, savage social behavior, and brutal actions were examples of the norms at the time the Prophet (S) was born and chosen as the Prophet of Islam.
"And when the birth of a daughter is announced to one of them, his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of what is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge!" 8
That is an example of human morality at the time the Prophet (S) was born and chosen as prophet. "And then there was guidance from misguided beliefs and light from darkness." 9 Mankind was blind, but the Holy Prophet (S) made them see. Darkness pervaded the world until the Holy Prophet (S) enlightened it. That is the significance of the Holy Prophet's (S) birth and being chosen as the Prophet of Islam (S). Not only Muslims, but all humanity has benefited from this divine blessing.
Although the Holy Prophet's (S) message has not been conveyed to the entire humanity yet, this radiant beacon of guidance is still alight and will gradually lead humanity towards the ultimate source of light throughout years and centuries. You can see this trend if you take a look at the events that took place after the time Prophet Mohammad (S) was born and chosen as the Prophet. Humanity has moved towards moral values since then. Humanity has become acquainted with moral values. This trend will become more widespread and stronger on a daily basis until it engulfs the entire world by Allah's favor.
"That He may make it prevail over all religions, though the polytheists are averse." 10
This will continue until mankind starts its true journey on the divine path of righteousness, which will mark the beginning of the life of humanity. That day will mark the end of divine proof for humanity and mankind will keep moving on the broad path of righteousness.
As the members of the Muslim Ummah, we have been presented with this great blessing and we must make use of it. We must enlighten our hearts, faith, thoughts, and lives through the blessing of this holy religion. We must enlighten our world. Islam is a source of light and insight. We can get close to it and benefit from it. That is the responsibility of all Muslims.
- 1. Sura al-Hijr, Ayahs 94-95
- 2. Tafsir Qomi, Vol. 2, P. 228
- 3. Sura al-Fath, Ayah 29
- 4. Mustadrak, Vol. 11, P. 86
- 5. Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 173
- 6. Supreme Leader’s speech delivered on July 30, 2008 in a meeting with government officials of the Islamic Republic on the occasion of the Holy Prophet’s (S) Be’that
- 7. Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 88
- 8. Sura an-Nahl, Ayahs 58-59
- 9. Iqbal al-A’mal, Vol. 1, P. 295
- 10. Sura at-Taubah, Ayah 33