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Did Muhammad reject Meccan efforts to establish peace?

Prophet Muhammad(sa) relentlessly strove for peace while Meccans attempted to thwart every such effort. The Meccans were hell bent on murdering Prophet Muhammad(sa) due to his preaching the unity of God, despite Abu Talib’s intense efforts to encourage the Meccans to avoid violence. At a meeting at Abu Talib’s home between Prophet Muhammad(sa) and the Meccans, history records that it was in fact the Meccans who left with the intent to kill Prophet Muhammad(sa):

“The chiefs got up without achieving any result, and ‘Uqbah bin Abi Mu‘it began saying loudly: ‘Leave him alone. Advice is of no use. He [Muhammad] should be assassinated; he should be finished off.’ [1]

Abu Talib was naturally disturbed at the thought of his nephew’s assassination. When he heard of a secret meeting to execute this plan, he attended and proclaimed:

‘Yesterday Muhammad disappeared from us for some time. I thought that you had acted upon what ‘Uqbah had said and had killed him. Hence, I decided to come to Masjid al-Haram along with these men. I had also instructed them that each one of them should sit by the side of each one of you and as soon as they heard me speak aloud they should get up and attack you with their concealed weapons. However, luckily I found Muhammad alive and safe from any harm from you.’ Then he asked his men to take out their concealed weapons and ended his speech with these words: ‘By Allah! If you had killed him I would not have spared even one of you and would have fought with you to the last…’ [2]

Thus, Abu Talib— a highly respected clan leader—saw the Meccans’ violent tendencies for what they were, and worked proactively to ensure his nephew remained safe; as Sir William Muir also admits:

The sacrifices to which Abu Talib exposed himself and his family for the sake of his nephew, while yet incredulous of his mission, stamp his character as singularly noble and unselfish.  They afford at the same time strong proof of the sincerity of Mohammad. Abu Talib would not have acted thus for an interested deceiver; and he had ample means of scrutiny. [3]

Finally, Abu Talib’s dying words were as follows, demonstrating that it was the Meccans, not Prophet Muhammad(sa), who refused to reconcile:

‘I recommend Muhammad to you, because he is the trusted one of Quraysh and the truthful one of Arabia and possesses all the virtues. He has brought a religion, which has been accepted by the hearts, but the tongues have chosen to deny it on account of fear of taunts. I can see that the weak and the helpless of Arabia have got up to support Muhammad and believe in him, and he has also risen to help them breaking the ranks of Quraysh. He has humiliated the chiefs of Quraysh and devastated their homes and has made the helpless strong and given them status.’ He concluded his remarks with these words: ‘O my kinsmen! Become the friends and supporters of his faith (Islam). Whoever follows him becomes prosperous. If death had given me some more time, I would have warded off all the dangers that came to him.’ [4]

In another record, Abu Talib said:

O Party of the Quraish!  Among the creation of Allāh, you are a chosen people. God has given you great reverence. I advise that you treat Muhammad well, because amongst you, he is a man of the highest morals. He possesses distinction among the Arabs on account of his truthfulness and straightforwardness. If you ask the truth, he has brought a message to us which the tongue rejects but the heart accepts. I have stood by Muhammad a lifetime and have stepped forward to protect him in all times of difficulty, and if I receive more time, I shall continue to do so in the future as well. And O Quraish! I also advise you not to insist upon causing him grief, but help him and support him, for your betterment lies in this. [5]

Thus, if anyone’s statement could be construed as requiring “unconditional submission,” it was that of Abu Talib—and even that would take a word-twisting artist to misconstrue. The facts demonstrate that Abu Talib admired Prophet Muhammad’s virtuous example immensely, and wanted nothing more than to protect him so that Prophet Muhammad(sa) could continue to raise the status of the weak and helpless.

Likewise, Ibn Ishaq well records the danger that Prophet Muhammad(sa) and the Muslims faced at Meccan hands:

 The Polytheists Persecute the Muslims of The Lower Classes: Then the Quraysh showed their enmity to all those who follwed the apostle; every clan which contained Muslims, attacked them, imprisoning them, and beating them, allowing them no food or drink, and exposing them to the burning heat of Mecca, so as to seduce them from their religion. Some gave way under pressure of persecution, and others resisted them, being protected by God… Umayya b. Khalaf b. Wahb b. Hudhafa b. Jumah used to bring him [Bilal, a slave who had accepted Islam] out at the hottest part of the day and throw him on his back in the open valley and have a great rock put on his chest; then he would say to him, ‘You will stay here till you die or deny Muhammad and worship Al-Lat and al-Uzza.’ He [Bilal] used to say while he was enduring this, ‘One, one!’ [6]

Abu Talib’s dying words described his desire to, “ward of all dangers that came to [Muhammad].” He describes Prophet Muhammad as a champion for the poor, a truthful and just person, and a person destined to prosper. Abu Talib furthermore warns the Meccans that he is ready to fight them should they dare attempt to harm his nephew.

Any logical person can see, therefore, that Prophet Muhammad(sa) relentlessly strove for peace, while Meccans attempted to thwart every such effort. Abu Talib’s testimony is clear: in Mecca, the danger did not emanate from Prophet Muhammad(sa), but was directed at him in the most vicious manners imaginable. The scars on Bilal’s back long served as the reminder. Contrary to allegation, the Meccans—not Prophet Muhammad(sa)—rejected efforts to establish peace.

References:

[1] Tara’if (Jauzi), pg. 85 and al-Hujjah, pg. 59-61.

[2] Tara’if, pg. 85 and al-Hujjah, pg. 61.

[3] Sir William Muir, The Life of Mahomet 105 (Reprint of the 1894 Ed., Published by Voice of India New Delhi).

[4] Sirah Halabi, Vol. I, pg. 390.

[5] Sharḥ Zurqānī Mawāhib al-Ladunniyyah, Vol. 2, pg. 46-48, Bāb Wafāt Khadījah wa Abī Ṭālib, Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, First Edition (1996).

[6] Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah 143-44 (Oxford University Press, 1955).