towards the prophet and his small party of followers. Ibn Ishak distinctly notices the change and its cause in these words: 'When Mohammed came openly forward with his religion among the people, as God had commanded him, they did not keep aloof from him or gainsay him, until he spoke of their gods and reviled them. Then they thought it worth their while to deny him, and they resolved to oppose and persecute him; except those whom God kept by Islam, but they were few in number and despised. Mohammed, however, was pitied by his uncle Abu Talib, who protected him and interfered on his behalf.' The change, as affecting the converts, is thus set forth: 'When the companions of Mohammed wanted to pray, they went to ravines and concealed their praying from the people. One day, when Saad, with other companions, was praying in one of the ravines of Mecca, there appeared several idol-worshippers, who censured them, and, by annoyances, provoked them to fight. Saad, on that occasion, struck one of the idol-worshippers with the jawbone of an ass, and wounded him. This was the first 1 blood spilt in Islam.'

From these records it appears that the earliest Moslems, for several years, hid their faith from their countrymen, to avoid being laughed at or annoyed, but that they did not scruple to have recourse to violence and bloodshed, as soon as they considered their number strong enough to warrant such a step. In like manner Mohammed himself, from fear of man, did not at once, after having laid claim to a prophetic mission, openly profess his faith or venture to speak publicly against idolatry, but only summoned courage enough to do so when he had gained a number of trusty adherents and made sure of his uncle Abu Talib's protection. Thus it becomes patent how very early Mohammed made 'flesh his arm,' by relying on his kinsman for protection and on the number of his followers for support.

1 In calling this the 'first' blood shed in Islam, Ibn Ishak evidently thinks of the profuse bloodshed by which it was followed, down to his own days. But how much more significative must the expression appear to us now, when we remember the countless streams of blood poured out in the cause of Islam, during all the subsequent centuries! What a contrast between Christ Who founded His religion by the shedding of His own blood, and Mohammed who established Islam by shedding the blood of others!

"Sa'd b. Abu Waqqas was with a number of the prophet's companions in one of the glens of Mecca, a band of polytheists came upon them while they were praying and rudely interrupted them. They blamed them for what they were doing until they came to blows, and it was on that occasion that Sa'd smote a polytheist with the jawbone of a camel and wounded him. This was the first blood to be shed in Islam." — Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, Translated by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, (Re-issued in Karachi, Pakistan, 1967, 13th impression, 1998) 1955, p. 118. [Emphasis added]


But this courage, based on such a foundation, and tardily as as it came, was yet sufficient to stir into activity the much dreaded hostility of his countrymen. They called him bad names, such as 'liar, sorcerer, poet, soothsayer, demoniac.' Ill-disposed neighbours, some of them near relatives, threw unclean things before his door, to annoy him. Even at the public sanctuary, which he continued to visit, he was assailed with cutting words, so that on one occasion he turned round in anger, and said to his persecutors sharply, 'Hear, ye congregation of the Koreish, I come to you with slaughter!' This was a threat which he could not carry into effect till many years later. But some of the Koreishites seem to have taken the hint seriously, so that, when he came to the Kaaba on the following day, they surrounded him, and one of them seized him by the front of his cloak. Abu Bekr had to come to his rescue, and, delivering him from their hands, said to them, weeping: 'Will you kill a man who says, "Allah is my Lord"?' Ibn Ishak, on the information 'of a scholar,' reports that 'The worst which happened to Mohammed from the Koreish was, that, one day when he went out, there was no man, either free or slave, who, on passing him, did not call him a liar and insult him.'

But besides these petty annoyances and private persecutions, more serious and formal steps were taken to get rid of the unwelcome prophet and his vexatious denunciations. Ibn Ishak specifies three distinct deputations from amongst the leading men of the city, for the purpose of inducing Abu Talib to withdraw his protection from the troublesome nephew, so that they might silence him by force, without thereby incurring the vengeance of his family. The charges they brought against him were, that he blasphemed their gods, reviled their faith, seduced their youths, and condemned their fathers. Abu Talib is represented as having, on each occasion, declined their demand with dignified firmness, and continued his protection as before. But after one of these deputations had departed, Abu Talib called Mohammed to communicate to him the charges which had been brought forward, and gravely added, 'Spare both me and thyself; and do not burden me with more than I can bear.' Mohammed believed that his uncle, not feeling strong enough to protect