Declaration of the Prophethood and the First Phase of the Call
A religion that would address all of humanity and embrace the entire world was not going to remain a secret for too long. Since this religion was being sent as the means through which humanity could attain both worldly and spiritual peace, it was necessary to openly convey this message to the people.
God has attributed everything in the universe to the law of gradualness. Those who do not submit to and abide by this law will undoubtedly become unsuccessful in due time.
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) complied with this law upon receiving a mandate from God. He did not openly inform the people of his prophethood and Islam for a period of three years. He was incredibly cautious and prudent in delivering his message and explained the situation only to those he fully trusted.
We see that his decision was the cause for Islam’s success. Within the three-year period of the Era of Secret Conversions, many people took their place within Islam and strengthened his cause.
After the three-year period ended, there was no further reason for this invitation to remain a secret. The polytheists of the Quraysh had more or less heard everything and the Islamic cause had garnered much strength through many people. By virtue of this, the time had come for the call to Islam and the realities of Tawhid (the doctrine in the belief of God’s oneness) to be openly announced to the entire world.
The Invitation to his Close Relatives
God informed our Holy Prophet (PBUH) through revelation on where he should begin to openly deliver the invitation:
“And admonish thy nearest kinsmen” (1)
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) knew that this undertaking would not be easy. For this reason, he did not leave his house for some period of time. During this period, he called Hazrat Ali and said to him: “Oh Ali, God orders me to warn my closest relatives of the punishment in the hereafter and this is very difficult for me. I know very well that I am going to see them attempt to make accusations against me in regards to something that I do not like once I mention this matter to them.”
We see that our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was worried that he would be subjected to accusations made by his relatives once he began to openly explain his cause to them. For that reason, he deemed it appropriate to stay in his home for some time and think everything through. When Hazrat Safiyya saw that he had been absent and had not left his home for a long period of time, she went to go visit him along with his other aunts to learn about his condition. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said to them, “I have no complaints about anything and I am not ill. However, God has commanded me to warn my closest relatives of the punishment in the hereafter. I want to gather the Sons of Abdulmuttalib and invite them to testify to God.”
His aunts answered, “Invite them, but never dare try to invite Abu Lahab because he will never accept.” Following this, they said, “After all, we are women” and left.
Organizing a Feast!
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) then said to Hazrat Ali, “Prepare a meat dish that is enough for only one person and fill a cup with milk. Then gather the Sons of Abdulmuttalib, I want to talk with them. I am going to notify them with what I have been commanded to say.”
Hazrat Ali immediately fulfilled his order.
When morning came, all of our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) uncles, including Abu Lahab, who had not been invited, and two women amounting to a total of 45 individuals, convened in Abu Talib’s home.
The meat in the pot was only enough to fill one person, and so was the cup filled with milk.
The Master of the Universe (PBUH) broke the meat into pieces and said to those who were attending the feast, “Bismillah (In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate), help yourselves!
Everyone at the feast ate from those pieces of meat until they were full. Lo and behold! What did they see? The meat remained in its place with very little missing from it.
They were amazed and began to drink from the cup filled with milk. They drank till they were satiated and they saw that the milk had not decreased. They were astonished!
After the meal was completed and just as our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was about to speak, Abu Lahab intervened and addressed the crowd: We have not seen such an instance of black magic until now. Your friend has cast a great spell upon you all.”
Afterwards, he went as far as to affront the Master of the Universe (PBUH) and bellowed loudly so as to disrupt the crowd.
The crowd dispersed before our Holy Prophet (PBUH) had the chance to speak.
The Second Visit and God’s Messenger’s Address to his Relatives
After that inconclusive feast, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) arranged another event and gathered his relatives through the means of Hazrat Ali.
He rose to his feet after the meal finished and said: “Praise should only be given to God and I praise Him. I only seek help from Him. I believe and trust on Him. Just as I am undoubtedly aware of this fact, I also make known to you that there is no god other than Allah. He is One and there is no being similar to Him.” Afterwards, he disclosed his purpose:
“Surely a person who is sent to go look for pasture would not lie to his family. By God, even if I were to have lied to the rest of humanity, I still would not have lied to you. Even if I were to have deceived everyone else, I still would not have deceived you. I invite you to testify to God who is the Only True God. I am His Messenger, who has been specifically sent to you, the community, and all humanity.”
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) continued to speak:
“By God, just as you fall asleep, you will also die, and just as you wake up from your sleep, you will also rise and be accounted for all of your actions. You will be rewarded for your good deeds and punished for your bad deeds. As a result, you will stay forever either in Paradise or Hell. You are the first from among the people that I have frightened with the fear of punishment in the hereafter.” (2)
When our Holy Prophet (PBUH) finished speaking, Abu Talib rose to his feet and said, “We will help you lovingly and sincerely. We have embraced and accepted your advice and have affirmed your words. Those who have gathered here are the sons of your grandfather. Consequently, I am one of them. I swear that the person to run the quickest among all those who run to fulfill your goals will be no other than me. Continue doing what you have been commanded to do. By God, I will not refrain from surrounding and protecting you for the slightest moment. However, my soul does not obey me to abandon the religion of Abdulmuttalib. I will die as a follower of his religion.”
His other uncles also affirmed his words and did not say anything to displease our Holy Prophet (PBUH). There was only one exception, and that was Abu Lahab, who had opposed to the Islamic cause from the very beginning. He leaped forward and said, “Oh Sons of Abdumuttalib, by God this is a misfortune. Dissuade him from this before others hinder him. If you are to obey him being, you will be subjected to mortification and defamation; if you try to defend him, you will be killed.”
The brave answer to the most savage enemy of Islam came from Hazrat Safiyya: “O, brother! Does it suit you to leave your brother’s son and his religion helpless? By God, the living scholars say that a prophet is to emerge from Abdulmuttalib’s progeny. He is that Prophet!”
Abu Lahab arrogantly replied to his sister’s noble words: I swear that this hope is in vain. Besides, a woman’s words are at the level of an obstacle and a chain that is attached to a man’s foot. When the families of Quraysh and the entire Arabs riot together, what power will we have to resist them? By God, we are like a morsel that can be easily swallowed for them.”
Abu Talib was immensely annoyed by Abu Lahab’s words. “O coward” he said, “By God we are going to help and protect him as long as we live.” Afterwards, he turned to our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and said, “Oh my brother’s son, let us know when you want to deliver the invitation so we can be armed and emerge together with you!” (3)
“Who will Help me?”
Our Holy Prophet (PBUH), who had only listened to all that was being said up until that point, rose to his feet and said: Oh Sons of Abdulmuttalib! By God, I do not know anyone else from among the Arabs who has brought something that is more auspicious and superior than that what is most beneficial for both your life here and in the hereafter, which I have brought to you. I invite you to testify to two words that are easy on the tongue and that weigh heavily on a scale: Ashhadu anlaa ilaaha illallaahu wa ashhadu anna muhammadar-rasulallah (There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.) Then, he asked, “In that case, which one of you accepts to become my helper and vizier by following me on this path?” (4)
Nobody uttered a sound. All heads were bowed towards him. They were unable to find the strength to look at God’s Apostle (PBUH). However, there was only one person who looked very carefully into our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) eyes. And that person was Hazrat Ali, who was only 12-13 years old at the time. He rose. However, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) told him to “sit down.”
The Master of the Universe (PBUH) asked his question thrice. And only Hazrat Ali replied each time: “O God’s Apostle, I will help you although I am much younger than them all.” (5)
Some pursed their lips upon hearing these words, some were amazed, and some jeeringly smiled. Afterwards, they left the meeting without taking the meeting seriously.
Hazrat Ali’s heroism and bravery at a young age made our Holy Prophet (PBUH) immensely happy. He was not sad or in despair since he could not get the result he had wished from the meeting. Only God could give guidance.
1.Surah ash-Shuara, 214
2. Tabari, Tarikh: 2/217; Ibn Kathir, Sirah: 1/457-459
3. Halabi, Insanu'l-Uyun: 1/285
4. Tabari, Tarikh: 2/217; Ibn Kathir, Sirah: 1/459
5. Tabari, Tarikh: 2/217; Ibn Kathir, Sirah: 1/459