in shawwal [tareekh-e-islam 1/122] (in the last of may or in the beginning of june 619 a.d.), ten years after receiving his mission from his lord, the prophet [pbuh] set out towards at-ta’if, about 60 kilometres from makkah, in the company of his freed slave zaid bin haritha inviting people to islam. but contrary to his expectations, the general atmosphere was terribly hostile. he approached the family of ‘umair, who were reckoned amongst the nobility of the town. but, to his disappointment, all of them turned deaf ear to his message and used abusive language as regards the noble cause he had been striving for. three brothers from the chieftains of thaqeef —‘abd yaleel, mas‘ud and habeeb — sons of ‘amr bin ‘umair ath-thaqafy met the prophet [pbuh], who invited them to embrace islam and worship allâh, but they impudently jeered at him and refused his invitation. "he is tearing the cloths of al-ka‘bah; is it true that allâh has sent you as a messenger?" said one of them. "has not allâh found someone else to entrust him with his message?" said the second. "i swear by allâh that i will never have any contact with you. if you are really the messenger of allâh, then you are too serious to retort back; and if you are belying allâh, then i feel it is imperative not to speak to." said the third. the messenger of allâh [pbuh], finding that they were hopeless cases, stood up and left them saying: "should you indulge in these practices of yours, never divulge them to me."
for ten days he stayed there delivering his message to several people, one after another, but all to no purpose. stirred up to hasten the departure of the unwelcome visitor, the people hooted him through the alley-ways, pelted him with stones and obliged him to flee from the city pursued by a relentless rabble. blood flowed down both his legs; and zaid, endeavouring to shield him, was wounded in the head. the mob did not desist until they had chased him two or three miles across the sandy plains to the foot of the surrounding hills. there, wearied and exhausted, he took refuge in one of the numerous orchards, and rested against the wall of a vineyard. at a time when the whole world seemed to have turned against him, muhammad [pbuh] turned to his lord and betook himself to prayer and the following touching words are still preserved as those through which his oppressed soul gave vent to its distress. he was weary and wounded but confident of the help of his lord:
"o allâh! to you alone i make complaint of my helplessness, the paucity of my resources and my insignificance before mankind. you are the most merciful of the mercifuls. you are the lord of the helpless and the weak, o lord of mine! into whose hands would you abandon me: into the hands of an unsympathetic distant relative who would sullenly frown at me, or to the enemy who has been given control over my affairs? but if your wrath does not fall on me, there is nothing for me to worry about."
"i seek protection in the light of your countenance, which illuminates the heavens and dispels darkness, and which controls all affairs in this world as well as in the hereafter. may it never be that i should incur your wrath, or that you should be wrathful to me. and there is no power nor resource, but yours alone."
seeing him in this helpless situation, rabi‘a’s two sons, wealthy makkans, were moved on grounds of kinship and compassion, and sent to him one of their christian servants with a tray of grapes. the prophet [pbuh] accepted the fruit with pious invocation: "in the name of the allâh." the christian servant ‘addas was greatly impressed by these words and said: "these are words which people in this land do not generally use." the prophet [pbuh] inquired of him whence he came and what religion he professed. ‘addas replied: "i am a christian by faith and come from nineveh." the prophet [pbuh] then said: "you belong to the city of the righteous jonah, son of matta." ‘addas asked him anxiously if he knew anything about jonah. the prophet [pbuh] significantly remarked: "he is my brother. he was a prophet and so am i." thereupon ‘addas paid homage to muhammad [pbuh] and kissed his hands. his masters admonished him at this act but he replied: "none on the earth is better than he is. he has revealed to me a truth which only a prophet can do." they again reprimanded him and said: "we forewarn you against the consequences of abandoning the faith of your forefathers. the religion which you profess is far better than the one you feel inclined to."
heart-broken and depressed, muhammad [pbuh] set out on the way back to makkah. when he reached qarn al-manazil, allâh, the almighty sent him gabriel together with the angel of mountains. the latter asked the prophet [pbuh] for permission to bury makkah between al–akhshabain —abu qubais and qu‘ayqa‘an mountains. full narration of this event was given by ‘aishah [r] (the prophet’s spouse). she said: "i asked the prophet [pbuh] if he had ever experienced a worse day than uhud. he answered that he had suffered a lot from those people (the idolaters) but the most painful was on the day of ‘aqabah. i went seeking support from ibn ‘abd yalil bin ‘abd kalal, but he spurned me. i set out wearied and grieved heedless of anything around me until i suddenly realized i was in qarn ath-tha‘alib, called qarn al-manazil. there, i looked up and saw a cloud casting its shade on me, and gabriel addressing me: allâh has heard your people’s words and sent you the angel of mountains to your aid. the latter called and gave me his greetings and asked for my permission to bury makkah between al-akhshabain, the two mountains flanking makkah. i said in reply that i would rather have someone from their loins who will worship allâh, the all–mighty with no associate." a concise meaningful answer fully indicative of the prophet’s matchless character and the fathomless magnanimous manners. [bukhari 1/458; muslim 2/109]
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] then came back to wakefulness and his heart was set at rest in the light of that invisible divinely provided aid. he proceeded to wadi nakhlah where he stayed for a few days.
during his stay there, allâh sent him a company of jinns who listened to him reciting the noble qur’ân:
"and (remember) when we sent towards you (muhammad [pbuh]) nafran (three to ten persons) of the jinns, (quietly) listening to the qur’ân, when they stood in the presence thereof, they said: ‘listen in silence!’ and when it was finished, they returned to their people, as warners. they said: ‘o our people! verily! we have heard a book (this qur’ân) sent down after moses, confirming what came before it, it guides to the truth and to a straight path (i.e. islam). o our people! respond (with obedience) to allâh’s caller (i.e. allâh’s messenger muhammad [pbuh]), and believe in him (i.e. believe in that which muhammad [pbuh] has brought from allâh and follow him). he (allâh) will forgive you of your sins, and will save you from a painful torment (i.e. hell-fire).’" [al-qur'an 46:29-31]
the same incident is referred to in sûrah al-jinn:
"say (o muhammad [pbuh]): "it has been revealed to me that a group (from three to ten in number) of jinns listened (to this qur’ân). they said: ‘verily! we have heard a wonderful recital (this qur’ân)! it guides to the right path, and we have believed therein, and we shall never join (in worship) anything with our lord (allâh).’" [al-qur'an 72:1,2] … till the end of the 15th verse.
from the context of these verses and their relevant interpretation, we can safely establish it that the prophet [pbuh] was not aware of the presence of that group of jinns. it was only when allâh revealed those verses that he came to know of it. the verses also confirm that it was the first time they came. however, the context of the different versions suggests that the jinns repeated their visits later on. the presence of that company of jinns comes in the context of the divine support given to his messenger, and constitutes a propitious sign of ultimate victory and success for the call of islam. it provides an unshakable proof that no power however mighty could alter what is wrought by allâh:
"and whosoever does not respond to allâh’s caller, he cannot escape on earth, and there will be no auliyâ (protectors) from him besides allâh (from allâh’s punishment). those are in manifest error." [al-qur'an 46:32]
"and we think that we cannot escape (from the punishment of) allâ h in the earth, nor can we escape (from the punishment) by flight." [al-qur'an 72:12]
given this support and auspicious start, depression, dismay and sadness that used to beset him since he was driven out of at-ta’if, he turned his face towards makkah with fresh determination to resume his earlier plan to expose people to islam and communicate his message in a great spirit of zeal and matchless enthusiasm.
zaid bin harithah, his companion, addressing the prophet [pbuh] said, "how dare you step into makkah after they (quraish) have expatriated you?" the prophet [pbuh] answered: "hearken zaid, allâh will surely provide relief and he will verily support his religion and prophet."
when he was a short distance from makkah, he retired to hira’ cave. whence he despatched a man from khuza‘ah tribe to al-akhnas bin shuraiq seeking his protection. the latter answered that he was quraish’s ally and in no position to offer protection. he despatched the messenger to suhail bin ‘amr, but to no avail, either. al-mut‘im bin ‘adi, a notable in makkah, however, volunteered to respond to the prophet’s appeal for shelter. he asked his people to prepare themselves fully armed and then asked muhammad [pbuh] to enter into the town and directly into the holy sanctuary. the prophet [pbuh] observed a two-rak‘a prayer and left for his house guarded by the heavily-armed vigilant ‘adi’s.
it has been reported that later abu jahl, the archenemy of islam, asked mut‘im if his behaviour suggested protection or conversion, the latter replied it was merely protection. abu jahl was relieved and said that he would give muhammad protection for his sake.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] never forgot mut‘im’s favour. at the conclusion of the battle of badr, he declared publicly that if mut‘im had been still alive and asked for the release of the quraishite captives, he would not deny him his request. [ibn hisham 1/419-422; za'd al-ma'ad 2/46; mukhtasar seerat ar-rasool p.14; rahmat-al-lil'alameen 1/71-74; tareekh-e-islam 1/123]