Phases and Stages of the Call
The Muhammadan Call could be divided into two phases distinctively demarcated:
- The Makkan phase: nearly thirteen years.
- The Madinese phase: fully ten years.
Each of the two phases included distinctive features easily discernible through accurate scrutiny into the circumstances that characterized each of them.
The Makkan phase can be divided into three stages:
- The stage of the secret Call: three years.
- The stage of the proclamation of the Call in Makkah: from the beginning of the fourth year of Prophethood to almost the end of the tenth year.
- The stage of the call to Islam and propagating it beyond Makkah: it lasted from the end of tenth year of the Prophethood until Muhammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) emigration to Madinah.
The Madinese phase will be considered later in its due course.
It is well-known that Makkah was the centre for the Arabs, and housed the custodians of Al-Ka‘bah. Protection and guardianship of the idols and stone graven images that received veneration on the part of all the Arabs lay in the hands of the Makkans. Hence the difficulty of hitting the target of reform and rectitude in a place considered the den of idolatry. Working in such an atmosphere no doubt requires unshakable will and determination, that is why the call unto Islam assumed a clandestine form so that the Makkans should not be enraged by the unexpected surprise.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) naturally initiated his sacred mission right from home and then moved to the people closely associated with him. He called unto Islam whomsoever he thought would attest the truth which had come from his Lord. In fact, a host of people who nursed not the least seed of doubt as regards the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), immediately responded and quite readily embraced the true faith. They are known in the Islamic literature as the early converts.
Khadijah, the Prophet’s spouse, the mother of believers, was the first to enter the fold of Islam followed by his freed slave Zaid bin Harithah, his cousin, ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, who had been living with him since his early childhood, and next came his intimate friend Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (Abu Bakr the truth verifier). All of those professed Islam on the very first day of the call. [Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/50] Abu Bakr, and from the first day he embraced Islam, proved to be an energetic and most zealous activist. He was wealthy, obliging, mild and upright. People used to frequent his house and draw nigh to him for his knowledge, amity, pleasant company and business. He invited whomever he had confidence in to Islam and through his personal efforts a good number of people converted to Islam, such as ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan Al-Umawi, Az-Zubair bin ‘Awwam Al-Asadi, ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Awf, Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqas, Az-Zuhri and Talhah bin ‘Ubaidullah At-Tamimy. Those eight men constituted the forerunners and more specifically the vanguard of the new faith in Arabia. Among the early Muslim were Bilal bin Rabah (the Abyssinian), Abu ‘Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah from Bani Harith bin Fahr (the most trustworthy of the Muslim Nation), Abu Salamah bin ‘Abd Al-Asad, Al-Arqam bin Abi Al-Arqam from the tribe of Makhzum, ‘Uthman bin Maz‘oun and his two brothers Qudama and ‘Abdullah, ‘Ubaidah bin Al-Harith bin Al-Muttalib bin ‘Abd Munaf, Sa‘id bin Zaid Al-‘Adawi and his wife Fatimah - daughter of Al-Khattab (the sister of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab), Khabbab bin Al-Aratt, ‘Abdullâh bin Mas‘ud Al-Hadhali and many others. These were the Muslim predecessors. They belonged to various septs of Quraish. Ibn Hisham, a biographer, counted them to be more than forty. [Ibn Hisham 1/245-262]
Ibn Ishaq said: "Then people entered the fold of Islam in hosts, men or women and the new faith could no longer be kept secret." [Ibn Hisham 1/262]
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to meet and teach, the new converts, the religion in privacy because the call to Islam was still running on an individual and secret basis. Revelation accelerated and continued after the first verses of "O you wrapped in garments." The verses and pieces of Sûrah (chapters) revealed at this time were short ones with wonderful strong pauses and quite fascinating rhythms in full harmony with that delicate whispering setting. The central topic running through them focused on sanctifying the soul, and deterring the Muslims from falling prey to the deceptive glamour of life. The early verses used as well to give a highly accurate account of the Hell and the Garden (Paradise), leading the believers down a new course diametrically opposed to the ill practices rampant amongst their compatriots.
Muqatil bin Sulaiman said: "Salât (prayer) was established as an obligatory ritual at an early stage of the Islamic Call, a two rak‘ ah (unit of prayer) Salât in the morning and the same in the evening:
"And glorify the praises of your Lord in the ‘Ashi (i.e. the time period after the mid-noon till sunset) and in the Ibkar (i.e. the time period from early morning or sunrise till before mid-noon)." [Al-Qur'an 40:55]
Ibn Hijr said: "Definitely the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to pray before ‘The Night Journey’ but it still remains a matter of controversy whether or not the prayer was established as an obligatory ritual before imposing the rules of the usual five prayers a day. It is related that obligatory prayer was established twice a day, in the morning before sunrise and after sunset. It is reported through a chain of narrators that when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) received the first Revelation, Gabriel - the angel, proceeded and taught him how to observe Wudu (ablution). When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had finished, he took a handful of water and sprinkled it on his loins. [Mukhtasar Seerat-ur-Rasool p.88]
Ibn Hisham reported that when it was time for prayers, the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions went into a mountain valley to pray secretly. Abu Talib once saw the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) and Ali praying, he asked them what they were up to. When he got to know that it was obligatory prayer, he told them to stay constant in their practice. [Ibn Hisham 1/247]
This stage of the Call, even though conducted in a clandestine manner and on an individual basis, its news leaked out and assumed a public interest all over Makkah. In the beginning, the Makkan leaders did not care much about Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)and took no heed of his teachings. At first, they thought that Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was merely a religious philosophist like Omaiyah bin Abi As-Salt, Quss bin Sa‘idah, ‘Amr bin Nufail and their ilk who used to philosophize on godship and religious obligations. But this attitude of indifference soon changed into real apprehension. The polytheists of Quraish began to watch Muhammad’s movements closely and anxiously for fear of spreading his Call and producing a change in the prevalent mentality. [Fiqh As-Seerah p.76]
For three underground years of activism, a group of believers emerged stamped by a spirit of fraternity and cooperation with one definite objective in their mind: propagating and deeply establishing the call unto Islam. For full three years Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) had been content to teach within a rather narrow circle. The time had, however, come to preach the faith of the Lord openly. The angel Gabriel had brought him down a further Revelation of Allâh’s Will to confront his people, invalidate their falsehood and crush down their idolatrous practices.