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The prophet (pbuh) only preached to a close group of friends and family. The ones who accepted Islam became dedicated to Islam and began to learn, worship and study. They would hold private meeting where they would learn the verses of the Qu'ran and the principles of Islam. They would learn to pray and would pray to Allah, just as the angel had taught the prophet (pbuh) to. This period of preaching lasted for three years.

However, during this period of preaching, the word got out about the prophet's message to the Makkans. Initially, the people were not too concerned about Muhammad (pbuh). Gradually they become concerned when they realised that the words of the prophet (pbuh) were having an effect on people. They would talk about this mission and the effects it would have on the Arabs and the religion of their fore fathers.

After three years of this preaching, the prophet (pbuh) was commanded by Allah to start preaching to his own clansmen. Muhammad (pbuh) collected together all his clansmen so that he could explain to them about Allah and about his mission. The invited audience was of about forty-five Makkans from his clansmen. This was the first encounter with Abu Lahab, who became the fiercest enemy of Islam.

The prophet (pbuh) collected the people and was about to speak to them but Abu Lahab spoke out first. He advised the Muhammad (pbuh) that he should immediately stop his mission. He said it was better for his people to follow the traditions of his forefathers than to face the rest of the Arabs. He said that the rest of the Arabs would destroy them. After Abu Lahab had finished attacking the prophet’s mission, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) kept silent and said nothing in that meeting.

The Prophet (pbuh) invited them to another meeting and this time stood up and delivered a short speech explaining his mission:

He said: "I celebrate Allah’s praise, I seek His help, I believe in Him, I put my trust in Him, I bear witness that there is no god to be worshipped but Allah with no associate. A guide can never lie to his people. I swear by Allah, there is no god but He, that I have been sent as a Messenger to you, in particular and to all the people, in general. I swear by Allah you will die just as you sleep, you will be resurrected just as you wake up. You will be called to account for your deeds. It is then either Hell forever or the Garden (Paradise) forever."

The Arabs at the time did not think that they would need to account for their actions; instead they would die and not be raised again. They believed in Allah but also believed that Allah had many partners. These partners were the idols who, they thought, shared power with Allah! They prayed to Allah but also prayed to these Idols. They were deeply misguided and away from the belief in one God.

It was during this meeting that Abu Talib said he would look after and defend the prophet (pbuh), even though Abu Talib himself did not accept the Muhammad's teachings or Islam. Abu Talib was sticking to the path of his fore fathers; he did not want to leave those traditions for something new.

Abu Lahab tried his best to dissuade Abu Talib from offering any support to Muhammad (pbuh). He was advising Abu Talib to do the opposite by stopping Muhammad (pbuh) and his mission rather than offering him protection. Abu Lahab threatened him by saying that it was Abu Talib’s responsibility to stop Muhammad (pbuh) before someone else did.

The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went to Safa and called the people together. This was a usual custom at the time when some major event or announcement was going to be made. The people gathered together and the prophet (pbuh) said:

‘O people of Quraysh, if I was to tell you that an army was advancing to attack you from the other side of this mount will you believe me?’

The people knew the character of Muhammad (pbuh), after all they had given him the title of Al-Amin (the truthful). They had seen this gentle child grow up in this world and had seen how well he dealt with people, his honest character and his trustworthiness. They had no reason to doubt him, so they replied:

‘Yes why not? We have always found you to be truthful’

The prophet (pbuh) looked at the people assembled before him and said “ O banu Abdul Muttalib, O banu Abd Manaf, O Banu Zuhra! I have come to you as a Warner and if you do not respond to my warning, punishment will fall upon you. I have been sent by Allah to warn you and I can not protect you in this world, nor can I promise you anything in the next world, unless you acknowledge and submit to the worship of the one Allah”

There was silence and then Abu Lahab, one of the more powerful individuals and the prophets uncle, again responded “May you perish, did you call us to this?” the crowd then dispersed.

This was one of many incidents which Abu Lahab used his influence to ridicule and mock Islam. He became an open enemy of the prophet (pbuh) and Islam. He continued to be a hindrance and had a strong opposition to the prophet during his sacred mission.

A major turning point was when the prophet (pbuh) was commanded to openly preach Islam to the people. The Arabs realised the effect this message could have on Arabia. They were concerned that the words and verses being taught were from a source beyond this world. These verses of the Qu'ran were luring some people to Islam away from the traditional Arab way of life. The Arabs believed in a multitude of gods and Idols but were getting taught to worship only Allah. They were getting taught that Idol worship was wrong and evil.

Indeed the truth did stand out clear and anyone who was exposed to this message was affected. They knew that the message could only be from Allah, the creator and sustainer and that Muhammad (pbuh) was indeed the messenger of Allah.

They turned to Abu Talib and asked him to stop Muhammad (pbuh). They said "O Abu Talib! Your nephew curses our gods; finds faults with our way of life, mocks at our religion and degrades our forefathers; either you must stop him, or you must let us get at him." They explained that since they all followed the religion of their forefather, Abu Talib should let them get rid of Muhammad (pbuh)! Abu Talib tried his best to calm them down and make peace between them. The Prophet (pbuh) continued his mission by teaching, inviting to and practicing Islam.

There were only a few months until an important time for the Arabs - the pilgrimage to Makkah. They were worried that Muhammad (pbuh) might influence the pilgrims who were coming to worship these idols. They needed to stop Muhammad (pbuh) and do something to stop the spread of Islam. They decided to get together and join forces to stop the prophet and his message.

This is for next lesson, inshallah.