17 – “Warn Thy Family”

No summons to Islam had yet been made in public, but there was an ever-increasing group of devout believers and intense worshippers, both men and women, most of them young. Amongst the first to come, apart from those already mentioned, were the Prophet’s cousins Ja’far and Zubayr; then came other cousins, his and theirs, the sons of their aunt Umaymah, ‘Abd Allah ibn Jahsh and brother ‘Ubayd Allah, and the son of their aunt Barrah, Abu Salamah. There were also two cousins on his mother’s side, Sa’d the son of Abu Waqqas of Zuhrah and his younger brother ‘Umayr. But not one of the Prophet’s four uncles showed any inclination to follow him: Abu Talib made no objection to the Islam of his two sons Ja’far and ‘Ali, but for himself he said he was not prepared to forsake the religion of his forefathers; ‘Abbas was evasive and Hamzah uncomprehending, though both assured him of their unfailing affection for him personally; but Abu Lahab showed plainly his conviction that his nephew was self-deceived, if not a deceiver.

After the revelation of the verse Warn thy family who are thy nearest of kin[1] the Prophet called ‘Ali to him, and said: “God hath commanded me to warn my family, my nearest of kin, and the task is beyond my strength. But make ready food, with a leg of mutton, and fill a cup with milk, and assemble together the Bani ‘Abd al-Muttalib, that I may tell them that which I have been commanded to say.” ‘Ali did exactly as he had been told, neither more nor less, and most of the clan of Hashim came to the meal, about forty men. “When they were assembled,” said ‘Ali, “the Prophet told me to bring in the food which I had made ready. Then he took a piece of meat, bit upon it, and cast it again into the dish, saying: ‘Take it in the Name of God.’ The men ate in relays, several at at a time, until not one of them could eat any more. But,” said ‘Ali, “I could see no change in the food, except that it had been stirred by men’s hands; and by my life, if they had been but one man, he could have eaten all that I had put before them. Then the Prophet said: ‘Give them to drink’, so I brought the cup, and each drank his fill, though one man alone could have emptied that cup. But when Prophet was about to address them, Abu Lahab forestalled him and said: ‘Your host hath placed a spell upon you’ whereat they dispersed before he could speak.”

The next day the Prophet told ‘Ali to do exactly as he had done the previous day. So another similar meal was prepared and everything went as before, except that this time the Prophet was on his guard and made sure of addressing them. “O sons of ‘Abd al-Muttalib,” he said, “I know of no Arab who hath come to his people with a nobler message than mine. I bring you the best of this world and the next. God hath commanded me to call you unto Him. Which of you, then, will help me in this, and be my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you?” There was silence throughout the clan. Ja’far and Zayd could both have spoken, but they knew that their Islam was not in question and that the purpose of the gathering was to bring in others than themselves. But when the silence remained unbroken, the thirteen-year-old ‘Ali felt impelled to speak, and said: “O Prophet of God, I will be thy helper in this.” The Prophet laid his hand on the back of ‘Ali’s neck and said: “This is my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you. Hearken unto him, and obey him.” The men rose to their feet, laughing and saying to Abu Talib: “He hath ordered thee to hearken unto thy son and to obey him.”[2]

As to the Prophet’s aunts, Safiyyah had no hesitation in following him as her son Zubayr had done, but her five sisters could not bring themselves to make any decision. Arwa’s attitude was typical of them all: “I am waiting to see what my sisters will do,” she would say. On the other hand, his aunt by marriage, Umm al-Fadl, the wife of the hesitant ‘Abbas, was the first woman to enter Islam after Khadijah; and she was soon able to bring three of her sisters to the Prophet -Maymunah, her full sister, and two half-sisters, Salma and Asma’. It was in the household of Umm al-Fadl that Ja’far had been brought up, and it was there that he had come to know and to love Asma’, whom he had recently married; and Hamzah had married her sister Salma. Another of the first to respond was Umm Ayman The Prophet said od her: “He that would marry a woman of the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman”[3] and this remark was overheard by Zayd, who took it deeply to heart. She was much older than he was, but that did not deter him, and he spoke his mind to the Prophet, who had no difficulty in persuading Umm Ayman to agree to the marriage. She bore Zayd a son whom they named Usamah, and he was brought up as the grandson of the Prophet, who dearly loved him.


[1] Qur’an 26 : 214
[2] Tab. 1171
[3] I.S. VIII, 162

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