the arm of propaganda
it is nearly impossible for us to imagine the intensity and extent of the efforts which quraysh spent in its struggle against muhammad, or its perseverance during many long years in that struggle. the quraysh threatened muhammad and his relatives, especially his uncles. it ridiculed him and his message, and it insulted him as well as his followers. it commissioned its poets to revile him with their sharpest wits and to direct their most caustic sting against his preaching. it inflicted injury and harm on his person and on the persons of his followers. it offered him bribes of money, of royalty and power, of all that which satisfies the most fastidious among men. it not only banished and dispersed his followers from their own country but injured them in their trade and commerce while impoverishing them. it warned him and his followers that war with all its tragedies would fall upon them. as a last resort, it began a boycott of them designed to starve them. all this notwithstanding, muhammad continued to call men with kind and gentle argument unto the god of truth who sent him as a prophet and a warner. would quraysh lay down its arms and believe the man whom it had always known to be truthful and honest? or would they, under the illusion that they could still win, resort to new means of hostility to save the divine status, of their idols and the hallowed position of makkah as their museum?
no! the time had not yet come for the quraysh to submit and to convert to the new faith. rather, they were more apprehensive than ever when the religion began to spread outside of makkah within the arab tribes. they had still another weapon which, though they had used it right from the very beginning, was yet capable of more power and damage. that was propaganda, or mental warfare, with all it implies by way of debate, counterargument, spreading of false rumors, ridicule of the opponent's point of view, and positive apologetics in favor of their own view. the development of this weapon was not to be limited to makkah but would apply to the whole countryside, to the whole desert, and to the tribes of the peninsula. threat, bribery, aggression, and gangsterism allayed the need for propaganda within makkah. there was a great need for it, however, among the thousands who came into makkah every year for trade or pilgrimage, and among the attendants of the markets of 'ukaz, majannah, and dhu al majaz, who later arrived at the ka'bah for thanksgiving and worship near the ka'bah idols. therefore, it was expedient for the quraysh, the moment the lines of battle against muhammad were clearly drawn, to plan and organize its propaganda forces. it had all the more reason to do so since muhammad himself had always taken the initiative of approaching the pilgrim and addressing him on the subject of restricting worship to god alone without associates. the idea of such initiative did not occur to muhammad until years after his commission to prophethood. at the beginning, revelation had commanded him to warn his nearest relatives. it was only after he had warned quraysh and those who wanted to convert had converted that his revelation commanded him now to address his warning to the arabs as a whole. he was later to be commanded to address his call to all mankind.