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  3. The Arm of Propaganda

The Arm of Propaganda

3082 2008/07/11 2024/07/23

the conversion of `umar to islam reduced the power of quraysh significantly in that `umar brought with him to the faith the tribal loyalties with which he had fought islam earlier. he did not hide himself or conceal his islam. on the contrary he proclaimed it to all the people and fought them for not joining him. he did not at all approve of the muslims' hiding themselves or holding prayers in the outskirts of makkah far beyond the quraysh's reach. he continued to struggle against the quraysh until he could pray near the ka'bah where his fellow muslims joined him. henceforth, quraysh became certain that no injury inflicted upon muhammad or his companions would stop men from entering the religion of god since they could now rely upon the tribal protection of `umar, hamzah, the negus of abyssinia, or others capable of protecting them. the quraysh then sought a new strategy, and agreed among themselves to a written pact in which they resolved to boycott banu hashim and banu `abd al muttalib completely, prevent any intermarriage with them, and stop all commercial relations. the written pact itself was hung inside the ka'bah, as was then the practice, for record and sanctification. they thought that this negative policy of boycott, isolation, and starvation would be more effective than the previous policy of harm and injury, though the latter was never stopped. the quraysh blockaded the muslims as well as the banu hashim and banu `abd al muttalib for two or three years during which time they hoped that these tribes would renounce muhammad and thus cause him to fall under the hand of quraysh. they had hoped that such a measure would isolate muhammad and remove all danger from his mission.

the new strategy of quraysh served only to strengthen muhammad's faith in god and his followers' determination to protect his person and god's religion against attack. it did not prevent the spreading of islam, not only within the bounds of makkah but outside of it as well. muhammad's mission became widely known among the arabs of the peninsula, and the new religion became the subject of conversation everywhere. this growth, in turn, increased the fury and determination of quraysh to oppose and fight the man who abandoned and blasphemed her gods and to prevent the spread of his cause among the arab tribes. loyalty of these tribes was indispensable for makkan commerce and trade relations with other people.


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.


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