Muhammad's visit to Ta'if
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Initially the preaching of Islam by Muhammad had been confined to Mecca, and his success was rather modest, limited to 170 men and women in the city during a ten-year period. Nevertheless, in 619 during the Year of Sorrow his main source of support, his uncle Abu Talib ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and his loving wife Hazrat Khadija died.
Now, not just the elite of Mecca attacked Muhammad, but even young children hurled dust and insults at him. Muhammad soon realized that there was no hope left for the Meccans to accept his religion, and he thus looked to the south, to the sister city of Ta’if, for the preaching of Islam, so Muhammad and his adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah went to Ta’if to invite the people there to Islam.
Leaders of Ta’if
Muhammad was received by the three (Abd Yalail, Mas'ud and Habib, their father was Amr Bin Umair Ath Thaqafi) chiefs of the local tribes of Ta’if and they let him freely have his say, however, they paid little heed to his message. After a while they even showed signs of apprehension lest his welcome in Ta’if might embroil them with the Meccans, so they left him to be dealt with by street urchins and the riff raff of the town.
By rejecting Muhammad's religion, the people of Ta'if ordered their children to throw rocks and stones at Muhammad and Zayd ibn Harithah to make them leave the city and never come back. Muhammad and Zayd ibn Harithah were finally turned out by mocking and jeering crowds. The rocks that were thrown at Muhammad and Zayd by the Ta'if children caused them to bleed. Both were wounded and bleeding as they left Ta’if behind them. Muhammad bled so profusely from the stoning that his feet became clotted to his shoes.
Once Muhammad and Zayd ibn Harithah were outside the city walls, Muhammad almost collapsed. They went a short distance outside of the town and stopped in an orchard that belonged to two Meccans (Utbah and Shaybah-sons of Rabi'ah) who were there at the time.
The owners of the orchard had seen Muhammad been persecuted in Mecca and on this occasion they felt some sympathy toward their fellow townsman. They sent a slave (named Addas) who took Muhammad into his hut, dressed his wounds, and let him rest and recuperate until he felt strong enough to resume his journey across the rough terrain between Ta’if and Mecca. It was there that the angel Gabriel came to him with the Angel of the Mountains and said that if Muhammad wanted, he would blow the mountains over the people of Ta’if (or crush the people of Ta'if in between the mountains).
O Allah, To Thee I complain of my weakness, my lack of resources and my lowliness before men.
O most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou relinquish my fate! To one who will misuse me? Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art angry with me then I care not what happens to me. Thy favor is all that counts for me.
I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is illuminated. And the things of this world and next are rightly ordered. I wish to please Thee until Thou art pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee
Muhammad took the grape and before putting it into his mouth he recited what has become the Muslim grace: "In the name of God, Ever Gracious, Most Merciful." (Arabic Bismillah ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem). Addas became curious and inquired about the identity of Muhammad who presented himself. The conversation that ensued led Addas to declare his acceptance of Islam, so that Muhammad's journey to Ta’if did not prove entirely fruitless.
He stayed preaching to the common people for 10 days.
Muhammad sent Zayd to seek asylum (Arabic: Istijarah) for him among  4 nobles in the city. Three of them, ‘Abd Yalil ibn ‘Abd Kalal and then Akhnas ibn Shariq and Suhayl ibn Amr, refused but the fourth one, Mut‘im ibn ‘Adi, responded.
Mut‘im ordered his sons, nephews and other young men of his clan to put on their battle-dress and then marched, in full panoply of war, at their head, out of the city. He brought Muhammad with him, first into the precincts of the Kaaba where the latter made the customary seven circuits (Arabic: Tawaf), and then escorted him to his home.
Muhammad's return to Mecca from Ta’if was impossible without the renewal of tribal protection. Muhammad asked and received protection from a non-Muslim man named Mut'im bin 'Adi. This surely must have been one of the grimmest periods of Muhammad's mission, as nothing seemed to be going right. Two of the most important people in his life had passed away. The hostility of the tribes appeared to be reaching new crescendos all the time. Attempts to invite outside tribes appeared to be fruitless as well. The difficult period when Muhammad's mission seemed to run into a series of dead ends had reached its lowest point. He didn't know that the long tunnel of despair was about to end and his mission would enter the next phase. This phase culminated in the migration to Madina.
The patience and stoicism Muhammad displayed during this phase has been a source of strength to many a Muslim who has found himself beleaguered by apparently hopeless circumstances.
The application of Muhammad Mustafa, the Apostle of God, upon his return from Ta’if, to Mutim ibn Adiy, a non-Muslim, seeking his protection, raises once again, a most uncomfortable question, in a most pointed manner, on the attitude and conduct of the Muslims. Why didn’t the Apostle ask any of them to take him under his protection even though some of them were said to have been rich and influential, and some others were touted to have been the terror of the pagans? Why is it that the Apostle sought the protection of a non-Muslim but didn’t condescend even to inform the Muslims that he wanted to reenter Makkah and was in need of protection?
Or another question! Why didn’t the Muslims themselves go to the city gate and escort their Prophet to his home? Here they had a splendid opportunity to demonstrate to him that they were worthy of his trust even if he had considered them unworthy. But they missed the opportunity. They did not do anything that would show that they had any anxiety for his personal safety.
Pagan Arabia, however, was not devoid of its share of chivalry and heroism. These qualities were personified in Mutim ibn Adiy, Abul Bukhtari and a few others. They were the knights of Arabia, and it was their chivalry that was to make their country famous in later centuries. Pagan Arabia never produced nobler figures than these. Even Muslims ought to acknowledge their debt of gratitude to them. After all it were they who dared the Quraysh in some of the most critical moments of the life of the Prophet of Islam. In doing so, they were inspired only by their own ideals of chivalry. They considered it their duty to defend the defenseless.
The failure at Ta’if was utterly heart-breaking for the Prophet, and he knew that but for the heroic intervention of Mutim ibn Adiy, he might not have been able to enter Makkah at all. To a casual observer it might appear that the Prophet had reached the limits of human endurance and patience. The progress of Islam had come to a standstill, and the outlook for the future could not look bleaker.
But did Muhammad give way to despair in the face of persistent failures and in the face of violent confrontations with the polytheists? It would only be natural if he did. But he did not. He never despaired of God’s boundless mercy. He knew that he was doing God’s work, and he had no doubt at all that He would lead him out of the wilderness of hopelessness and helplessness to the destination of success and felicity.
It was in one of the darkest and most dismal moments in his life that Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, was elevated by God to the highest heavens, perhaps in recognition of his refusal to accept defeat and failure in the line of duty. God honored His Messenger with Isra’ and Me’raj.
- A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims chapter "Muhammad's Visit to Ta’if" on al-islam.org
- The Excellent Exemplar - Muhammad
- The Seven Phases of Prophet Muhammad's Life
- The American Muslim (TAM)
- The Seven Phases of Prophet Muhammad's Life
- The author is with "rich and influential" alluding to the description typically given to Abu Bakr and Uthman ibn Affan, and with "terror of the pagans" he is alluding to the typical portrayal of Umar