Live & Let Live -Negotiating With the Prophet -Part10
hence a delegation from the quraysh went to meet the prophet, headed by two men known for their "diplomatic talent", the first is al-walid ibn al-mughirah and the second one is al-aas ibn wail.
the delegation made what in any circumstances could be considered a very attractive offer: "we will make you the wealthiest of us all, and we will give you the prettiest of our virgin daughters to marry. we will ask of you nothing in return except to stop abusing our gods and ridiculing our practices."
the quraysh could not understand that they were dealing with a man of principle. their offer did not go beyond what was sure to satisfy any person of ambition. all they came up with was wealth and women.
in their small world, there could be nothing more attractive. besides, they did not ask for anything much in return. they simply wanted muhammad to accept the principle of compromise and to "live and let live". muhammad should simply leave them alone and not criticize their beliefs or their practices.
perhaps it is important to point out here that although the quraysh delegation refereed in their offer to a pledge by the prophet not to "abuse our gods or ridicule our practices", the prophet never used any foul or obscene language, even when he criticized idolatrous practices most strongly.
his manners were too refined to allow any usage of vulgar or obscene language. moreover, muslims are not allowed to refer in such terms to idols or deities of the polytheists: "do not revile god out of spite, and in ignorance." (al-an`am 6:108)
the prophet simply stressed the fact that those false gods had no power to bring benefit or cause harm to anyone. he also criticized ignorant practices, calling for a fundamental change in beliefs, concepts, behavior and social traditions so as to bring them in line with the basic principle of god's oneness.
deep at heart the chiefs of the quraysh recognized the strength of the prophet's argument and the truthfulness of his message.
they realized that their own beliefs had no solid definition and feared that the social structure which brought them all those privileges they enjoyed would soon collapse, as it could not be expected to resist the message of muhammad for long.
hence, they came up with the proposal of coexistence, coupled with the temptation of wealth and women, which they were ready to provide for muhammad. god's messenger, however, made it clear to them that he wanted nothing for himself and would not compromise any principle of his message.
he meant to go on preaching it, unhindered by any opposition, hoping to save mankind from tyrannical beliefs and offer them the freedom which is enjoyed only by those who worship god alone.
that should have brought this round of negotiations to a halt, since it was clear that the prophet was not in a compromising mood. indeed, he never was. to compromise any principle of his faith never entered his mind, no matter what attractions were on offer.
the quraysh, however, had a genuine desire to contain the problem. they changed direction and abandoned offers of personal temptation to make a proposal which maybe described in human terms as demonstrating an exceptional degree of fairness.
they offered to extend full recognition to muhammad and his message, asking in return only that muhammad should extend the same treatment to them. their proposal was simply: "we will worship your god one day and you worship our gods the following day".
had muhammad been after any material gain, or had he been politician or a party leader, he would have jumped at this offer. the quraysh were not making a simple offer of recognition of the rights and aspirations of their opponents, they were offering full partnership in the government of makkah, and perhaps arabia as a whole.
one can see in this offer something similar to a grand coalition between two major parties in the political arena in modern times. but the prophet was an advocate of the truth. he could not simply accept half the truth and sacrifice the other half.
such a sacrifice meant acceptance of half the falsehood. that was not something which could be done by a prophet, let alone muhammad, the last of god's messengers to mankind.
he was commanded to reply to this offer in the following terms, set out in the quran: "say: disbelievers, i do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what i worship. i shall never worship what you worship; neither will you worship what i worship. you have your own religion and i have mine." (al-kafirun 109:1-6)
thus this round of negotiations ended like previous ones with the prophet maintaining his ground, stating that he wanted nothing except a chance to convey his message to people, so that they might accept it if they so wished.
the strained relations between the prophet and his people continued as he went about fulfilling his task, calling on people to abandon idolatrous beliefs and practices and to worship god alone. there were new converts, but no major breakthrough was to be expected with the sort of determined opposition shown by the quraysh.
however, the hope of arriving at some sort of accommodation was never far from the minds of at least some of the chiefs. one day, a large group of them met after sunset at the kabbah, inevitably, their discussion drifted to the problem presented by the message preached by the prophet.
some of them felt that since so many of the chiefs of makkah were present, an attempt to achieve a compromise with muhammad could be fruitful. they sent a messenger to tell muhammad that the leaders of his people wished to speak to him. he came quickly, hoping that they might have started to realize the truthfulness of islam.
absurdity knows no limits
nothing would have given him greater pleasure, since he loved his people and cared for their well being. as he listened to their spokesman, however, he realized that he was in for another futile discussion. the spokesman started with an appraisal of the situation in makkah and a repetition of an old offer:
"no man in the history of the arab nation has ever caused his community a problem like the one you have caused: you have insulted our forefathers, criticized our beliefs, reviled our gods, ridiculed our sages and caused division within our community.
" indeed, you have been the cause of every bad thing in the relationship between you and us. nevertheless, we have the following offer to make to you:
"if you have started this matter of yours in order to become rich, we will pay you from our own money until you are the wealthiest among us. if it is honor that you are seeking, we are prepared to make you our leader and if you seek a kingdom, we will make you our king. on the other hand, if what you experience is some sort of evil spirit which you cannot control, we will seek medical treatment for you and will pay for that whatever is required of us until you have been cured or until we have done everything we can."
one may observe here that these offers were more of a test than a realistic or practical offer. the chiefs of makkah were simply hoping for the slightest indication form muhammad that he was after some material gain.
that would have given them all the justification they needed to resort to the most violent means in order to suppress his call. he however, was clear about his priorities and objectives. he said to them:
i am not after your money, and i do not seek a position or a crown. god has made me his messenger and revealed to me a book and instructed me to give you a message of good tidings and a warning. i have conveyed god's message to you as best as i could and i have given you good counsel. if you accept it from me, it will be good for you in this life and in the life to come. if your turn it down, i will continue to preach it until god settles the issue between us.
perhaps that should have been the end of the matter, since it was apparent that no change of attitude was possible. but the quraysh had not brought all its chiefs, hard-liners and moderators alike, just to reiterate old attitudes.
therefore, the elders proceeded to confront muhammad with impossible demands, making their realization a proof of the truthfulness of his message. how ill-advised and short-sighted! their spokesman put their demands in the following terms:
you know that our country is so hard to live in: water is scarce and we are very poor. pray your lord who sent you to us and ask him to move away these mountains surrounding us and make our land an open plain with rivers similar to those in syria and iraq flowing through it. ask him also to raise for us a few of our forefathers who should include qusayy ibn kilab, who was a man of his word, so that we may ask them about what you say and whether it is true or false. if you do that and if they testify for you, we will recognize your high position with god and will believe that you are his messenger.
raising the dead will do the trick
the line of argument had nothing to do with the subject matter of the conflict between the quraysh and the prophet. they said nothing about the oneness of god, the basic principle the prophet advocated.
they did not defend their idols either. they simply wanted mountains to be moved and rivers to flow. such are the demands of the weak who cannot address the main issue. it is worth commenting here about the request they made that muhammad should resurrect some of their forefathers, including qusay ibn kilab, the one they described as " a man of his word". none of them ever met qusay, because he died long before their time.
they asked for him specifically because he had earned the reputation of being truthful. little did they reflect that they had known muhammad himself for close on 50 years and they had never accused him of telling even the smallest of lies.
they knew from their personal experience that he never told a lie. if they could not believe the man whom they knew to tell the truth would they have believed qusay, about whom they had heard from their fathers and grand fathers that he was a man of his word?
what if qusay told them what they did not want to hear: that muhammad was telling the truth? would they not have turned against him in the same way as they turned against muhammad when he told them that he was god's messenger?
the prophet paid no attention to their demands, but simply said to them: "this is not what i was sent to you for. i have conveyed to you the message with which god has entrusted me. if you accept it, you benefit yourselves here and in the life to come. if you deny it, i will await god's judgment between us.
giving up is not an option
apparently, the quraysh chiefs had planned in advance what line they would follow in their discussions with the prophet and they were determined not to deviate from his predetermined line. they continued to demand acts of a miraculous nature, challenging the prophet to prove his superiority:
"since you decline that, why do you not get something for yourself? ask your lord to send you an angel to endorse what you say and argue your case with us. ask him further to give you a palace and a garden and a great amount of gold and silver so that you do not need to work for your living. we will then realize that you are favored by god, and we would know that your claim to be his messenger is true."
in this request, the quraysh chiefs betrayed their naivety and ignorance. they knew muhammad to be a man of great integrity. before he preached his message, they always expressed their admiration for his good manners and his moral values.
all that was heightened after he received his message, but all these qualities were not equal in their view to material wealth, such as a palace, a garden, and an amount of gold or silver. this, however, did not deter the prophet from making the proper answer: "i would not ask him anything of the sort".
all these demands were made by way of trying to exact a price before the quraysh chiefs changed their view of the message of prophet muhammad. such attempts to set a price in return for conversion to islam is often made. it betrays, however, complete ignorance and perfect delusion.
man thinks himself more important than the whole universe. hence if he supports an idea, then that idea is indebted to him. if he believes in a particular religion, it is the good fortune of the religion that won him as a believer.
wise human beings tend to examine the issue under discussion and make an objective judgment. this was far from the approach of the quraysh chiefs in that meeting with the prophet.
they continued their challenge, asking the prophet now to bring about their doom: "make the sky break up then, and let it fall over us as you claim your lord is capable of doing. we will not believe in you unless you do this." how misguided! god tells us in the quran that on another occasion the quraysh prayed: "our lord, if this be the truth which has come from you, then rain down on us stones from the skies or inflict some other grievous suffering on us" (al-anfal 8:32)
indeed, the stupidity of disbelievers is limitless. they ask god to pour over them stones from the skies if islam be the truth, when they should have prayed god to guide them to the truth whatever it is.