some of the prophet's neighbors were tempted to cause him whatever harm they could. when his family wanted to cook something for him, they put animal dirt in his cooking pan. the prophet took that off with a stick, stood on his own doorstep and called to his clan: "you children of "abd manaf! what sort of neighborly kindness is this?" he then threw the dirt away.
worse was still to come, for it appeared that the death of abu talib meant that the hashemites resolve to protect the prophet became considerably weaker. with memories still fresh in their minds of the hard times they had just gone through when they were boycotted by the quraysh, and with abu lahab, the prophet's own uncle, joining the rest of the quraysh in their stiff opposition, the hashimites were keenly aware of the high price they were paying for their protection of muhammad.
like the rest of the quraysh clans, the majority of the hashimites were still holding to their pagan beliefs. hence it was not surprising that many of them decided to cut their losses and withhold their support, which they had previously extended to muhammad on grounds of tribal loyalty.
the trip to taif
this new situation meant that the prophet had to explore new avenues in his search for support. after long deliberation, he set out on foot for taif, a mountainous town about 110 kilometers from makkah. his only companion on this trip was his faithful servant, zayd ibn harithah.
taif was populated by the thaqif, the second largest tribe in arabia. as he began his journey, muhammad was full of hope. if the thaqif would respond favorably to the call of islam, that would signify a new, happier phase in the history of the divine message.
once at taif, the prophet approached its leading personalities explaining his message and calling on them to believe in god and to support him in his efforts to establish the islamic code of living. taif was the town where the major idol, al-lat, had its temple. the thaqif had tried to give al-lat a special status and to make its temple one to be visited by other arabs, on a similar footing to the kabah.
the thaqif were fully aware of what the prophet advocated. its leaders had similar considerations to those of the quraysh in determining their attitude to the prophet. for then days the prophet spoke to one chief after another.
none gave him a word of encouragement. the worst response came from three brothers, the sons of amr ibn umayr. these three brothers, abd yalil, masud and habib, were the recognized leaders of taif.
one of them was married to a qurayshi woman and the prophet hoped that this relationship would work in his favor. in the event the three men were extremely rude in their rejection of the prophet's approach.
the first one said: "i would tear the robes of the kabah if it was true that god has chosen you as his messenger." the second said: "has god found no one other than you to be his messenger?" the third said: "by god, i won't speak to you. if it is true that you are god's messenger, you are too great for me to speak to you. if, on the other hand, you are lying, you are not worth answering."
fearing that the news of their rejection would serve to intensify the quryah's hostility to islam, the prophet requested the thaqif notables not to publicize his mission. they refused him even that. instead they set on him crowd of their teenagers and servants, who chased and stoned him. his feet were soon bleeding and he was in a very sorry state.
zayd tried hard to defend him and protect him from the stones. the prophet then sought refuge in an orchard which belonged to two brothers from makkah. they were in their orchard and they saw muhammad when he entered. at first they watched him quietly but he did not see them.
the heartfelt prayer
as the prophet sat down, he said this highly emotional and touching prayer:
to you, my lord, i complain of my weakness, lack of support and the humiliation i am made to receive.
most compassionate and merciful. you are the lord of the weak and you are my lord. to whom do you leave me? to a distant person who receives me with hostility? or to an enemy to whom you have given power over me?
if you are not displeased with me, i do not care what i face. i would, however, be much happier with your mercy.
i seek refuge in the light of your face by which all darkness is dispelled and both this life and the life to come are put on their right course against incurring your wrath or being the subject of your anger.
to you i submit, until i earn your pleasure. everything is powerless without your support.
the owners of the orchard were none other than utbah and shybah, the two sons of rabi'ah, who commanded positions of high esteem in the quraysh. although the two brothers were opposed to islam and to muhamamd, they felt sorry for him in his unenviable plight. therefore, they called a servant of theirs, named addas and told him to take a bunch of grapes on a plate to muhammad.
addas who was a christian from the iraqi town of nineveh, complied.
as the prophet took the grapes he said, as muslims do before eating: "in the name of god." surprised, addas said: "this is something no one in these area says." when addas answered the prophet's question about his religion and place of origin, the prophet commented: "then you come from the same place as the noble divine jonah."
even more surprised, addas asked: "how did you know about jonah? when i left nineveh, not even ten people knw anything about him. the prophet said: "he was my brother. like me, he was a prophet." addas then kissed the prophet's head, hands and feet in a gesture of genuine love and respect. as they watched, one of the two owners of the orchard said to his brother: "that man has certainly spoilt your slave."
when addas joined them they asked him the reason for his very respectful attitude to muhammad. he said: "there can be no one on earth better than him. he has indeed told me something which no one but a prophet would know." they said : "you should be careful, addas. he may try to convert you while your religion is better than his."
it is clear from their attitude that although they might be kind to the prophet in a situation which aroused their nobler feelings of pity and compassion, they begrudged even the slightest gain from his unsuccessful trip.
addas did not follow his masters' religion. their opinion of christianity was not at all flattering. yet they would rather have their slave sticking to it than following muhammad, so that the islamic camp remain weak. in this, the two makkan chiefs were no different from others who have taken a stand of opposition to islam throughout history. even the slightest gain islam achieves pains them.
the long journey back home
the prophet then set out on his journey back to makkah. he stopped at nakhlah, not very far from makkah. considering the situation he was in from all angles, he realized that quraysh might prevent him from entering makkah again. worse, they might kill him or have him locked up. there was only one way out: to seek the protection of one of their notables.
the nature of arabian tribal society was such that any individual coming into a town or a tribe needed to have an alliance with, or protection from, a man of good standing in that town or tribe.
normally people of such standing would extend their protection to anyone who sought it, because by doing so they enhanced their own standing and reputation. in the case of the prophet, however, the first two people his messenger approached, al–akhnas ibn shariq and suhayl ibn amr, declined.
the third al-mutim ibn adiy responded favorably. he and his children and nephews took up their arms and went to the mosque. he then sent word to the prophet to enter. the prophet came up to the mosque and walked around it seven times guarded by his protectors.
abu jahl dismayed at the loss of this chance of putting an end to muhammad, asked al-mutim: "are you a follower or a protector?" al-mutim confirmed that he was only protecting muhammad. abu jahl then declared that there would be no intervention to threaten such protection.
the prophet then went home safely. he had learnt, however, a very important lesson: that he must not venture outside makkah before first completing the necessary groundwork which ensured a good reception for his message and his own safety.
this disappointing trip to taif had a profound effect on the prophet. he was deeply hurt by the hostility of some of those thaqif leaders. several years later, aisha, his wife, asked the propet after the defeat suffered by the muslims in uhud, their second major battle against the quraysh: "have you ever gone through a day harder than that of uhud?"
he replied: "i have suffered a great deal from your people; but the worst i have been through was on the day of al-aqabah. i offered myself to "abd yalil ibn abd kallal, but he rejected my offer. i left him in a very depressed mood and i did not come to myself until i reached qarn al-thaalib.
i raised my head to find a cloud over me. i looked up and saw gabriel speaking to me: "god has heard what reply your people gave you, and he has sent you the angel in charge of the mountains to carry out your orders." the angel of the mountains greeted me: "god has heard what your people said in reply to you, and he has sent me to you to be at your service.
if you wish, i will bring the mountains over their heads, and if you wish, i will cause the earth to swallow them." i said to him: "no, ihope that god will bring out from their offspring people who worship him alone and associate no partners with him."
when the prophet reentered makkah after his disappointing journey to taif, he must have felt that he was in a very dire situation. within the same year he had lost his loving wife and his uncle, who afforded him unwavering support.
his attempt compensate for this dual loss with outside support not only failed to win him anything, but also compelled him to seek the protection of al-mutim, a quraysh notable who did not believe in islam. muhammad was now a fully aware that he could no longer rely on his own clan, the hashemites, for any measure of firm support.
he felt himself alone in the whole world. his few followers were no match for the forces opposing him. yet he firmly believed in the truth of the message he was preaching. his faith in god did not waver.