The Incident of Ta’if
After Abu Lahab retracted his protection from Muhammad ﷺ, life in Mecca became almost impossible for the prophet. And so in the month after Khadijah (RA) passed away, he decided to try his hand in another city – the city of Ta’if.
But why Ta’if? The main reason was because of the proximity and similarity to Mecca. Ta’if and Mecca were the two major sister cities of Arabia, and despite all of the rivalry between the them, there was so much closeness that the people knew each other family by family. And so it was not completely unfamiliar to Muhammad ﷺ.
And so the prophet, accompanied by Zayd ibn Haritha (RA), went on foot to Ta’if. And this was about a 2 day journey – of course they could have taken a donkey, however to maintain the secrecy of this excursion the prophet in his wisdom decided against it. And he went and presented himself to the 3 leaders of Ta’if, who were all brothers: Abd Yaleel, Mas'ud and Habib ibn Amr. And he presented his dawah and asked them to covert, however the brothers rejected his message in the utmost insulting and sarcastic manner. The first declared, ‘If Allah has sent you, I might as well tear down the curtains of the Kahbah,’ the second asked, ‘Has Allah not found anyone better than you?’ and the third responded, ‘I cannot speak to you, because if you really are a prophet then you are too holy for me. And if you're a liar then you are too beneath my dignity that I respond to you.’
Now in response the prophet simply asked for them not to tell the Quraish of his visit, which they accepted. And so the prophet took to the streets, and he stayed in Ta’if for a few days preaching to the masses in the souk. However almost everyone rejected his message, until one day finally it seemed as if someone was going to convert. And it was then that the three leaders panicked, and so they called the people together and told them to throw Muhammad ﷺ out of Ta’if, and thus a mob formed. And they chased the prophet and Zayd (RA), and pelted them with stones until finally they managed to escape the city. But this stoning had left them so injured that their sandals stuck to their feet with blood. And this was the most difficult incident for the prophet Muhammad ﷺ, even more so than the battle of Uhud – not because it was more physically traumatic, but rather more psychologically traumatic. So much so, in fact, that it left the prophet in a state of shock, and he did not even know where he was until he reached a garden outside of Ta’if where he sat down to take shelter.
And then the prophet made a beautiful du’a:
‘O Allah, to You I complain of my weakness and my lowliness before men. You are the most merciful of all those who have mercy, and the Lord of those who are humble, and You are my Lord. To whom do You leave me with? To somebody who is a stranger that will treat me harshly? Or to a close relative who You have given power over me? As long as you are not angry with me, I do not care, except for the fact that Your protection from tribulation, Your ease and comfort is more easy for me. O Allah, I seek refuge in Your face that is the source of the light that gets rid of the darkness, and because of which all of the affairs of this world and the next are guided. And I seek refuge in Your face from Your anger enveloping me. It is your right to criticise until you are content. And there is no power or change except with You and through You.’
Let’s analyse this: Even though the prophet is hurt, and covered in his own blood, his first course of action is to turn to Allah through du’a. And this underlines a key principle in Islam, that du’a is the weapon of the believer, and that no matter the situation a Muslim is never stuck, because he always has du’a. And so the prophet turned to Allah, and to Him complained about his weakness, and from Him asked for ease, and in Him sought refuge from Him and His wrath and punishment. Now this is not the haraam type of complaint, as Iblees did when he blamed Allah for what happened to him, when he took no responsibility and demanded to know why he was expunged. Instead, what the prophet did was seek Allah’s sympathy, and presented his weakness and lowliness to Allah and accepted the qadr decreed for him. However, the perfection of this du’a is that although the prophet accepted any and all of Allah’s tests for him, he still mentioned that Allah’s relief was easier for him to bear. So he accepted anything that Allah gave him, however he still asked for His ease, and this shows us that although you may be tested, it is still perfectly permissible and in fact the essence of tawheed to turn to Allah for His relief. As well as this, the prophet also sought Allah’s protection from His anger, showing that he believed that perhaps he had fallen short and that this incident was not a test but rather a punishment from Allah. His sandals were still soaked in his own blood, and yet this was his greatest fear. And he sought refuge from this, but also accepted that it is Allah’s right to criticise until He is content, and that only Allah has the power to change his situation.
Now, the prophet made this du’a under a tree by the wall of a garden. Note: the Quraish had many gardens outside of Ta’if, because it was a beautiful mountain city and the climate allowed for much luscious greenery that was not found anywhere else in Arabia. And little did the prophet know that this garden belonged to Utbah and Shaybah ibn Rabiah, who were distant cousins of his father. And they had seen the stoning and the expulsion of the prophet from a distance, and so they took pity upon him. And they sent their Christian slave – Adaas – to give him some grapes from their orchard, and as it was a gift the prophet accepted it. And before he ate he said ‘Bismillah,’ which shocked Adaas. And he asked, ‘What is this phrase?’
And so the prophet replied, ‘This is something my Lord has taught me. And where are you from, O Adaas?’
‘I am from Nineveh (north modern-day Iraq).’
The prophet smiled, ‘The city of Younus ibn Mattah (i.e. Jonas the son of Matthew).’
Adaas was shocked, ‘And how did you know Younus ibn Mattah?’ Nobody in this whole land has ever heard of Younus ibn Mattah!’
And Muhammad ﷺ said, ‘How do I not know Younus? He is my brother, and I am his brother; we are both prophets of Allah.’ Instantly, Adaas began kissing the feet of the prophet, and he believed in him right then and there. Adaas was the only practicing Christian for hundreds of miles around, and no Arab had ever even heard of Younus (RA). And now, in this foreign jahili land, he meets a man who knows what Nineveh is, and even more so he knows who Younus (RA) was and what his story was? And so Adaas became a Muslim, and accepted the prophet immediately.
Now subhanallah, look at this series of events. It as if as soon as Muhammad ﷺ makes his du’a that Allah provides him with one of the most luxurious fruits known in Arabia – grapes. And then through Muhammad ﷺ He guides Adaas, a Christian from Iraq, to Islam, and there is a great symbolism to this. When all of the people near to the prophet abandoned him, and all those he knew rejected him, a man from Nineveh – one of the furthest places known to the Arabs at that time – accepted his message, showing that whatever it seemed the prophet was not alone, and that his message was to be spread further and wider than any two cities in Arabia.
After this, the prophet and Zayd (RA) continued on their journey back. And it was not soon after that Jibrael appeared to Muhammad ﷺ on the back of a cloud, and with him was the Angel of the Mountains. And Jibrael said, ‘O Muhammad, your Lord has heard what your people have said to you and their rejection of you, and he has sent me with the Malak Al-Jibaal to put at your disposal and to do with as you please.’
And then the prophet heard another voice: ‘I am the Malak Al-Jibaal,’ and he gave salaam to him, ‘say what you want, I am at your disposal. If you want I can crush this city between the two mountains (Ta’if is in a valley between two large mountains).’
However the prophet replied, ‘No don’t, rather I hope that Allah will extract from their progeny those who will eventually worship him without associating partners with him.’ And this shows the extent of the mercy and the foresight of the prophet, that even after he had been wronged so badly that his sandals stuck to his feet with blood, he was still willing to allow the city of Ta’if to remain standing so that their future generations could become Muslims. And in fact, if you look at it now, Ta’if is completely full of masjids where Allah is worshipped night and day, and it is one of the most visited tourist resorts by Muslims. And indeed, this incident proves unequivocally why Muhammad ﷺ is known as the “Rahmatul-lil-Alameen” (Mercy upon the Worlds).
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 020