Utba’s Plan

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There was a new development every moment in Mecca; on the one hand the verses Truthful Gabriel was bringing were seeping through the town like ripples, on the other hand the Quraysh were confronting the believers with new traps. They had tried all the tricks in the book but had not been able to succeed, and now they were experiencing the defeat of having lost someone like Hamza to the believers. They could see that while the Muslims were getting stronger by way of numbers and by the ways in which they were putting Islam into practice; on the deniers kept losing blood.

Utba, who acted as their chief and ideologue, stood up one day and made a suggestion to his friends. At the time the Messenger of Allah was sitting in the Ka’ba, worshipping his Lord. Utba pointed to our noble Prophet and said: “O Quraysh, what do you say? Shall I go over and speak to Muhammad? Let me make some offers to him, who knows, maybe he’ll accept some of them.”

“Of course, O father of Walid! Go and speak to him!” his friends supported.

Utba had thus consulted with his tribe and then stood up and went straight to the Messenger of Allah. He approached our noble Prophet with great calm and peace; he seemed to be a different man from the Utba who had previously been foaming at the mouth with rage! He said to Allah’s Messenger: “O son of my brother!”

There was no trace on him of a man who was going to enter faith, so why was it that he was approaching the Messenger so softly? He continued: “You know that your station among us and your tribe is very distinguished. But you have come with such suggestions to your tribe that you have made them go against each other, you have accused your elders of being in error, and you have been censuring their understanding of religion and their gods. In short, you have gone against everything that has been left by your forefathers. Now listen to me, I will have some propositions for you! Maybe you will accept them and then we can meet halfway.”

The Messenger of Allah was listening to him very carefully; he was curious to see what kind of a proposition Utba would put forward—what could it be that it would end the enmity between them, making way for peace?

“Speak, O father of Walid,” he said, “I am listening to you.”

“O son of my brother, if you mean to make financial gains with the belief system you have been offering us, let us gather as much wealth among us as we can, and make you the richest among us. If with what you bring you mean to raise your honor and status in the society, let us make you our leader, and let us not take any steps without asking you. If what you are hoping to get is the throne, let us make you our king. But if all this is the working of the jinn or some kind of a dream you do not seem to be able to do away with, let us put our resources together and save you from it, for if not treated, a man will stay under the influence of the jinn.”

The new plan of the Quraysh was clear. Our noble Prophet was at peace, but what were these men after! Utba took another step towards him and said: “Tell me O Muhammad, are you or your father Abdullah the better man?”

Our noble Prophet did not answer this question; he gave the best possible answer by staying silent. Utba, who had not received the answer he had wanted, continued to say the diabolical words: “If you should say that he was a better man than you, well, he worshipped the gods you so denigrate today. If you consider yourself to be the better man, then speak so that I can hear what you have to say.”

Now it was the Prophet’s turn to speak. The Messenger of Allah who had stayed silent till that point, asked: “Have you said your piece, O father of Walid?”

What else could he say?

“Yes,” he said quietly, and then the Sultan of Speech took the word: “Then you listen to me now.”

“Alright,” Utba said.

With great respect he went down on his knees and said:

Ha. Mim. (This is) the Book being sent down in parts from the All-Merciful (Who embraces all beings with His Mercy), the All-Compassionate (Who has special mercy for the believers). A Book whose communications have been spelled out distinctly and made clear, and whose verses are in ordered sequence, a Qur’an (Recitation) in Arabic for a people who have knowledge (and so can appreciate excellence in the use of the language); (Being sent) as a bearer of glad tidings (of the recompense for faith and righteousness), and a warner (against the consequences of misguidance). Yet most of them (the Meccan people) turn away, and they do not give ear to it (being inwardly averse, and deaf to its excellence). They say: “Our hearts are wrapped in coverings against what you call us to, and in our ears is heaviness, and between us and you is a veil. So take action (such as is in your power), as we are taking action (such as we wish to take). (Fussilat 41:1–6)

The Messenger of Allah was reading and Utba was listening. When he came to the thirteenth verse, Utba could not take it anymore. He was shaking as if he had got the shingles. He brought his fingers to the munificent lips of the Messenger of Allah and said: “Stop, O Muhammad. Please stop for the love of Allah you believe in.”

Our noble Prophet said: “So here it is Utba! You have heard what you have heard; it is now up to you to do as you like.”

Utba was experiencing a great shock, what he had just heard had touched him to the bone. He was now embarrassed to have gone to the Prophet with petty propositions in the face of such a sturdy stance. Having received a great blow, he stood up and slowly walked to where his friends were.

Those who watched him coming defeated started to speak among themselves. Abu Jahl could not contain himself and said: “I swear that the father of Walid is coming with a face much different than the one he went away with!” pointing to the change in him.

Utba had reached them by then and they said: “Tell us, O father of Walid, what happened?” Upon him was still the shock he had just experienced. His eyes were fixed to a point and he managed to say: “I swear I have heard such words that I had never heard the like before. I swear it is neither poetry, nor magic nor soothsaying! O people of Quraysh! Come listen to what I say, let us lift the barriers between this man and what he wants to do! Leave him to his work! I swear by Allah that in the words I heard from him there is great news! If the Arabs win over him, people other than you will have decided the matter, but if the day comes when he wins over the Arabs, then his wealth will be your wealth, his honor will be your honor and then you will be the happiest of men.”

The faces of those listening had turned sour, it was clear that they had not liked what they had heard. They could hardly contain themselves listening to such nonsense: “By truth father of Walid! He has bewitched you too with his tongue,” they said interpreting the matter. As they turned to leave, Utba called out: “This is my view of him; you can do as you please.”

Then Utba went straight home. It was clear that he wanted to be left alone; for the verses that he listened to had struck him like lightening.

Later, Abu Jahl, the man who taught tricks even to the devil, came to his door. He feared that Utba may start to believe and so he meant to pursue the matter. He knew very well Utba’s weakness, he would use his pride as a weapon. He said: “O Utba! I heard that Muhammad was very nice and welcoming to you. I have heard that he has given you much to eat and drink, and that you were won over by this treatment. This is what people are talking about!”

Utba was angry. It seemed that Abu Jahl had hit the target once again. He stood up and said: “You all know that I do not need his food. I am the richest among you. But I have to say that what Muhammad has said had shaken me, for what he said was not poetry. Neither was it like soothsayers’ words. I do not know what to say. He is a man who only speaks the truth. When I was listening to him I feared that what had befallen the tribes of Ad and Thamud would befall us as well.”

Utba’s plan had not worked. Before long the leading men of Mecca came together at the Ka’ba for a consultation regarding the new developments to devise new strategies, for the followers of Muhammad were increasing in number. The flood of faith had surged out of control, and it threatened to take hold of them as well, such that they would not be able to find a branch to hold onto.

The evil masterminds were all there—Utba, Shayba, Abu Sufyan, Nadr ibn Harith, Abu’l-Bakhtari, Aswad ibnu’l-Muttalib, Zam’a ibnu’l-Asad, Walid ibn Mughira, Abu Jahl, Abdullah ibn Abi Umayya, As ibn Wail, and Umayya ibn Khalaf. They had come together with the setting of the sun and were assessing the situation at the Ka’ba. One of them said: “Send word to Muhammad and speak to him! Speak all that is on your mind so that he may not have an excuse afterwards.” Upon that they sent word: “The leading men of your tribe have got together and they are calling you, come at once,” they said.

The Messenger of Allah hoped that this may be a sign that they wanted to accept the faith, so he came to the Ka’ba at once. He wanted them to believe so much! He was tired of their stubbornness. He was hoping that with this invitation he may open a new door. He came and sat next to them. They said: “O Muhammad! We have called you to sit down so we could have a good talk. Verily we have never seen a man who caused such strife and difference of opinion among the Arabs, someone who speaks so ill of his ancestors, who disparages the religious beliefs and gods of his forefathers. All these negative developments have happened after you appeared.”

The attitude they assumed even when they started the conversation showed that his hopes were left to yet another spring. On top of these words, they repeated their usual slanders. They had accused the Messenger of Allah with their very own ills and then had left it at that—as if they were innocent! Then they brought the word to Utba’s proposition and said similar things. They said: “If with this word you want to gain wealth among us, let us come together and collect wealth for you! If you want to be a man of high standing among us, let us appoint you our leader! If what you want is your own rule, then let us make you our King. If it is the jinn that are harassing you, and what you experience is some sort of bad dream you can’t get rid of, then let us have you treated, you may or may not be saved from it, but we will have done our duty.”

This was just too much! This was a scene that showed the difference between the two worlds. Those who ran after the world and worldly goods thought that they could stop the opening towards the afterlife; but they had failed once again. The Messenger of Allah who had listened to what was said with patience, said: “I suffer from none of the things you describe! My intention is neither to take your possessions, nor to rule over you! Allah sent me as Prophet to you and gave me a book from Him and then He told me to warn you of the future. I am fulfilling my duty of communicating this message to you and I advise you. If you accept what I offer you, this will be your greatest gain in this world and the next. If you do not accept it and close your ears to it, then I will do what Allah has told me to do and wait for him with patience to judge what has been between you and me.”

There could not be a clearer statement than this. This basically meant “I leave your world to you; I am trying to save your afterlife.” They tried to divert the subject to another dimension. One of them came to the fore and said: “O Muhammad! If you’ll just allow us to speak to you about something, you know there is no one here that is poorer than us, more in need and less in possession. I mean to say no one that is more deserving of financial help. Supplicate with your Lord who sends you these revelations that He may flatten these mountains and that water may spring like the rivers of Damascus and Iraq! Also, pray that he may resurrect our ancestors that have gone before us like Qusayy ibn Kilab so that we may ask him whether what you say is true, for we know that he is a man who speaks the truth. If he approves and does what you say, we will accept you as well; we will have understood your standing with Allah, then we will accept that He has sent you as a Prophet.”

The men were clearly making fun of the Messenger of Allah. This was nothing but arrogance and disrespect towards the Pride of Humankind. With the manner in which they were making fun of, they were not only making fun of the Messenger of Allah but Allah as well. Which of these statements could one possibly respond to? Even if he had, who was there to understand the response that our noble Prophet would give? These men did not even possess a single ounce of intellect! The best answer was surely silence.

The atmosphere froze. Despite everything, the noble Prophet was hoping that they may believe and so he wasn’t closing the door entirely, for in such situations one had to show patience in the face of the madness of the times, to the severity of the addressees and the oppression of the environment. At least people could thus see the attitudes of both sides and judge for themselves and then one day could take the side of those who were with the Truth. Even if they should not come and submit themselves, there could be people in the families of these people who may one day come and become Muslims. The great had to show their stature. The Messenger of Allah spoke once again: “Allah did not send me to you to do these,” and then added: “I have brought you what I am meant to bring to you and I have fulfilled the duty of communicating Allah’s message. If you accept it, this will mean happiness for you in this world and the next. If you do not accept but reject, then I will wait with patience till Allah the Almighty judges among us.”

It was clear that the pure soul of the Messenger of Allah had been thoroughly discomfited. How could he hide his discomfort at such a scene! He was trying to be brief in order to escape the feeling of suffocation that these people were giving him.

But the men wanted to hold him longer in conversation; they were having fun in their own way. One of them came to the fore again and started to say the following in the same manner: “If you are not going to do these for us; then ask your Lord to give you these things! He can send down an angel that verifies these things that you have been talking about, and that angel can give us information about you! Ask of Him to give you gardens and orchards like Paradise, palaces and mansions of gold and silver and put you in the class of the rich! You walk in the market like us, and you try to earn a living just like we do! If you were to become rich we would understand your worth for Allah, and if you are His Prophet like you claim to be, then we will have seen your standing with Him.”

It was clear that the men had no shame any more. They were just having fun. The atmosphere was like that of a village green. People were thrusting themselves forward and saying whatever that came to their mouths. The Prophet of Mercy was keeping silent in patience. Even if he had an emotional response, his reason had the upper hand and he had to show patience. That is why he said: “Subhanallah! Allah is above and removed from all you say! I am only a Prophet! It would not be fitting for someone like me to ask something like that from his Lord! I was not sent to you for this! I was sent as a warner and a Messenger of good news. If you accept, you will gain both this world and the next. If you do not accept, then I will be patient till Allah the Almighty judges among you.”

This time, like little children, everyone started asking something: “Put the skies under our feet so that we may believe you.”

“O Muhammad! Does your Lord know that we are now sitting with you and that we are asking these from you? Come, let Him tell you of all these and teach us the truth of the matter.”

“We have heard that a man called Rahman in Yamamah is teaching you all these. You also know that we will never believe Rahman.”

“O Muhammad! You will have to bear with us because we will no let you be till you finish us, or we become victorious over you!”

“We worship the angels and they are the daughters of Allah.”

“We will not believe you till you have brought Allah and the angels in front of our very eyes and show them to us.”

A great commotion had ensued and everyone was speaking in disharmony on top of each other. This was no longer a meeting where people conversed; it was just a rowdy gathering. The Messenger of Allah stood up to leave. With him, Abdullah ibn Abi Umayya also stood up and said the following to the most beloved of Allah’s servants: “O Muhammad! Your tribe has suggested certain things to you, but you did not accept any of them. They then requested things from you so that they may learn your standing with Allah and then follow you and accept you, but you did not answer their call either. They had propositions that could help you consolidate your standing but you didn’t say yes to those either! They even told you to bring about the torment that you have been warning them about, but you didn’t do it either! I swear that unless you climb a ladder up to the skies, and then bring things from there so that I may see them with my eyes, and then bring four angels to bear witness, I will never believe you. In fact I think I will not believe you even if you manage to do all this!”

The person saying these was our noble Prophet’s cousin, the son of his aunt Atiqa. From his closest, he was hearing things that he wouldn’t expect to hear even from those who were distant to him. The beloved Messenger stood up and then left for his peaceful home. He had come with such high hopes and with what sadness was he returning! He was left all alone. There was no one to defend him except for his Lord. The Truthful Gabriel came to his aid at last. Allah the All-Mighty was saying the following in the verses that came:

They say: “We will not believe in you (O Messenger), until you cause a spring to gush forth for us from this land (which is short of water); or you have a garden of date-palms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst abundantly; or you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have claimed (could happen), or bring Allah and the angels as a warrant (before our eyes proving the truth of your message); or you have a house of gold, or you ascend to the heaven. But we will even then not believe in your ascension until you bring down upon us (from heaven) a book that we can read.” Say, (O Messenger): “All-Glorified is my Lord (in that He is absolutely above what you conceive of Him)! Am I anything but a mortal sent as a Messenger?” (al-Isra 17:90–93)

Thus as the Qur’an constructed a new society, it was right in the middle of all that was happening and at the aid of the Illustrious Beloved of Allah with Divine Will. The Messenger of Allah had experienced much discomfort, but now Gabriel had come and was declaring the sturdy ground on which he was standing, and teaching him the attitude he should adopt towards people.

In fact, even his enemies who tried to kill him knew that the Prophet was the Messenger of the time close to the Judgment Day; they knew that he was the awaited Messenger. But above and beyond this knowledge was their pharaoh-like pride, pitch-dark prejudice and stubbornness which prevented them from going and submitting themselves to Islam.

At a time when he was feeling somewhat conscientious, Mughira ibn Shuba recounted the following: “We were sitting with Abu Jahl. Muhammad the Trustworthy came where we were and communicated the message of Allah. Abu Jahl said arrogantly: ‘O Muhammad! If you are doing all this to get witnesses for the afterlife to say that you have communicated these messages, do not tire yourself out, I will bear witness, now don’t disturb me anymore.’

Saddened, Muhammad left our side once again. I asked Abu Jahl: ‘Do you really believe him?’

He replied: ‘I know that he is a Prophet. But there has always been a rivalry between us and the Hashimis. They keep bragging about their duty of serving the pilgrims, taking care of the Ka’ba’s cover, offering Zamzam to the visitors. If now they also say ‘The Prophet has come from among us’ I don’t think I can take it.’”

Kesmez, Umit. “The Luminous Life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)” Tughra Books Press. December 2014.