The Makkan period of Islam was inscribed in the memories of the Muslims as a period of unbearable persecutions and tortures. Not only the poor and unprotected, like 'Ammar, Bilal and Suhayb, but also those Muslims like Abu Bakr and 'Umar, who were from the elite and powerful members of the Quraysh, were severely persecuted. (1) In order to save his followers from this maltreatment, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, permitted the poor and unprotected among them to emigrate to Abyssinia, but chose to keep back the powerful ones such as 'Ali, Zubayr , Abu Bakr, 'Umar and Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas in Makka, for Islam needed their support to spread and implant itself in Makka. These powerful Muslims were to occupy the highest positions in the administration of the Muslim state in later decades.
Abu Dharr was a poor, blunt and upright man from the desert. When he heard Muhammad's declaration of Prophethood, he came to Makka and became a Muslim. God's Messenger used to preach Islam secretly in the earliest stage of his Prophethood. Abu Dharr was a blunt man, never restraining his feelings and always revealing the truth wherever he was. Also, he was very pious and lived an austere life. However, since public administration requires special skills, God's Messenger did not accept Abu Dharr's request to be appointed to an administrative post, saying: You are not able to manage the affairs of people. Do not apply for such jobs, for we do not assign such jobs to those who apply for them. (2)
God's Messenger refused Abu Dharr, but he implied the caliphate of Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman. Holding once the hands of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, he said: I have four viziers, two in the heavens and two in the world. Those in the heavens are Gabriel and Michael; as for those in the world, they are Abu Bakr and 'Umar. (3) Concerning the future caliphate of 'Uthman, he declared: It will be a trial for him. (4)
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, recognized his men much more than they knew themselves. Like Abu Dharr, 'Amr ibn 'Abatha was a man from the desert. He came to Makka and, entering the presence of God's Messenger, asked rudely: 'What are you?' To this rudeness, the Messenger replied very gently: I am a Prophet of God. The gentleness of God's Messenger was enough for the conversion of 'Amr ibn 'Abatha, who knelt down and declared: 'I am to follow you from now on, O God's Messenger'.
The Messenger did not desire 'Amr ibn 'Abatha to stay in Makka, because he was not able to endure the torments inflicted upon the believers. So, he told him, as he had once told Abu Dharr: Now, return to your tribe, and preach Islam among them. When, however, you hear that I am victorious, come and join us.
Years later, 'Amr ibn 'Abatha came to Madina, and asked God's Messenger, who was in the mosque: 'Do you recognize me, O God's Messenger?' The Messenger, who had an extraordinarily strong and keen memory (another dimension of his Prophethood) answered promptly: Aren't you the one who came to me in Makka? I sent you back to your tribe and told you to join us when you heard that I was victorious. (5)
I mentioned the case of Julaybib in another book of mine (See, The Infinite Light 1, pp.135–6). After the moral lesson of God's Messenger, Julaybib became an honest, chaste young man. Upon the request of God's Messenger, upon him be peace, a noble family gave their daughter in marriage to Julaybib, may God be pleased with him. Shortly afterwards, Julaybib took part in a battle and, after killing seven soldiers of the enemy, was martyred. When his corpse was brought to God's Messenger, he put his head on Julaybib's knees and said: O God, this one is of me, and I am of him. (6) He had discovered the essential virtue in Julaybib and foreseen his future service for Islam.
2. Muslim, 'Imarah, 16–7.
3. Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-'Ummal, 11.563, 13.15.
4. Bukhari, Fada'il al-Ashab, 5,7; Muslim, Fada'il al-Sahabah, 29.
5. Muslim, Musafirin, 294; I. Hanbal, Musnad, 4.112.
6. Muslim, Fada'il al-Sahabah, 131.
The conquest of Khaybar proved to be one of the occasions on which God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, demonstrated his uniqueness in recognizing the potentials, skills and shortcomings of each of his followers. When the siege was prolonged, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: Tomorrow I will hand the standard to one who loves God and His Messenger and is loved by them. (7) This was indeed a great honour, and all of the Companions desired earnestly to deserve it. The next day came and God's Messenger asked for 'Ali. 'He has sore eyes', he was told. The Messenger then sent for 'Ali and applied his saliva to 'Ali's eyes, which, as he swore by God, never again troubled him. (8)
Despite 'Ali's youth, God's Messenger preferred him on account of his great skills in combat and in taking command. He took the standard and succeeded in conquering the stronghold of Khaybar, which was very formidable.
Whoever God's Messenger gave a job to, that person became successful in doing it. For example, he described Khalid ibn Walid as 'a sword among the swords of God', (9) and Khalid never tasted defeat during his whole lifetime. Likewise, besides such great soldiers and invincible commanders as Qa'qa'a, Hamza and Sa'd, he also made 'Usama ibn Zayd a commander over a great army in which were leading Muslims such as Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, Talha and Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas. 'Usama was the son of Zayd, a black Muslim, and emancipated slave of God's Messenger, and was only seventeen years old or so when he was made the commander. His father, Zayd, had also commanded the Muslim army in the Battle of Mu'ta against the Byzantines and was martyred.
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was twenty-five years old when he married Khadija, the daughter of Huwaylid, a widow fifteen years his senior. He did not marry another woman until Khadija's death in the tenth year of his Prophethood. All his subsequent marriages, after the age of fifty, were directly related to his mission. One of the important reasons for them was that his wives had different characters and temperaments and could therefore convey to other Muslim women the rules of Islam related to women. Each of them proved a guide and teacher for womanhood, and, besides, even the leading figures in the generations following the Companions such as Masruq, Tawus ibn Kaysan and Ata' ibn Rabah benefited considerably from them. The science of Hadith is especially indebted to 'A'isha, who related from God's Messenger more than five thousand Traditions. 'A'isha was also a great jurist.
Subsequent events proved how wise and apt were all the choices of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, not least in the matter of marriage.
8. Bukhari, 5.77.
9. Bukhari, Fada'il al-Ashab, 25.