In the year 613 AD Muhammad ibn Abdullah begins preaching a message of mercy publicly to the people of Mecca. He has been receiving revelations for 3 years, sharing the message with just a small circle of companions, but now he has been instructed by God to take the message to the wider community and to call all the people to a new way of life.
This instruction is simple: to return to God, as the prophets before had also called people to do. Yet it is a revolutionary message since it is one based on honesty and equality, where all people hold the same value, only differing in importance through piety and good action. People are called to put their man made idols aside and to worship neither man nor man's creations but only Allah, who is neither seen nor created and is above us all, yet closer than our jugular vein. Every human being, whether man, woman, child, servant or slave, is to hold equal worth and be treated with dignity.
"I bear witness to this city, and to those who are permitted in this city, and to the parents and their children: certainly we have created man in hardship. Does he think that no one has power over him? He will say 'I have squandered wealth in abundance.' Does he think that no one sees him? Did we not make two eyes for him, and a tongue and two lips? And show him the two ways? But he has not attempted the steep path. And what can make you know the steep path? Freeing a slave, or feeding on a day of severe hunger, an orphan of close relations or a needy person in the dust. Then he is of those who are faithful and urges each other to patience and urges each other to compassion. Those are the companions of the right. But those who conceal our signs are the companions of the left, over them the fire closes in." HQ 90:1-20This beautiful message transmitted by Prophet Muhammad, that mankind is one, because we all share the same creator, and therefore are all of equal value, is a difficult pill to swallow for many of the people of Mecca. They have built up a society based on tribal loyalties and social hierarchies, with some people claiming superiority over others because of heredity and wealth, gender or ethnicity. At the top of the power hierarchy are the rich businessmen with a lighter brown skin colour from tribes who have shrines to the most revered Gods, and at the very bottom of the pile are the black female slaves of unknown parentage. Yet here is Muhammad preaching that their man made deities are worth nothing, since we are all created by 'Al-Ahad' (The One), that baby girls should not be buried at birth, that even women and children have rights, that tribal preferences are wrong, that orphans and their property are to be protected, and that to free a slave is the most noble thing to do.
In "The Life of Muhammad", Tahia Al-Ismail (ch 6:4) writes:
"Many of the eminent people of Quraysh began to feel it was a threat to their privileges and their way of life. They were not willing to sacrifice their privileges for the sake of the wronged; they were not ready to give up the customs of generations, customs that had secured their honorary titles and high status, for the sake of the truth. And they saw no reason why they should jeopardise their economic interests for the good, even if it was the good of all humanity."The message of human equality in the early days of Islam is shocking enough to upset the rich and powerful elite who live a comfortable life waited on by their slaves. It may also threaten the livelihood of Mecca since pilgrims from all over the land visit this city where they pay homage to the keepers of the shrine of Meccca so that they may worship their different deities, bringing valuable business with them when they do. As Muhammad starts to be noticed and the Muslims (submitters) start to grow in number, those who deny this message attempt to destroy his credibility by spreading lies about him and by persecuting him and his followers. Later these people who denied the message, from amongst whom Muhammad and his companions were raised, grew up with and played together as children, even many of their own family members, will try to eliminate the Muslims from the land altogether.