For the sake of brevity, from now on, I shall call this series TIP, stands for Muhammad The Intelligent Prophet, with his name omitted.
To proceed, when Muhammad received the confirmation from the Archangel Gabriel about his status, as we have mentioned in The Apprehension of His Mission, his heart was then at peace. The words of Waraqa, that it was the Archangel Gabriel who came to him, not some kind of demon, were thereby confirmed.
He no longer feared being possessed, or had gone crazy, but in fact chosen by Allah to be His messenger.
The first fear being erased, it is easy to imagine that Muhammad must have been consumed with Waraqa’s additional words—that his people would turn him out. In the modern lingo, he has been Mr. Nice Guy all along. With the new mission entrusted to him, he would be labeled as Mr. Bad Guy in no time. Needless to say, this prophesy from Waraqa must have made him felt a little uneasy, to put it mildly.
The prospect of being rejected and turned out by his people probably did not bother him that much. A bigger issue in his mind was how to make his mission successful.
In this regards, it is safe to assume that as soon as Muhammad was certain about his role, he was also made known by Gabriel of his status as the Seal of Prophets. By implication, the fate of God’s religion lies in his hand.
Earlier prophets can “fail” in their missions, because other prophets would be sent thereafter. In his case, being the last Messenger, no more prophet would be sent. Failure, therefore, was not an option. God of course would guide him, but the success of the mission must be accomplished through human work, and that human was none other than himself. The weight of this realization must have burdened his mind heavily.
Knowing that not only his mission would be opposed, but his person as well, Muhammad decided that, for a start, the best approach would be to keep the new faith secret from his people. He would only reveal it to those close to him, those he trusted. He needed to establish strong foundation by recruiting people whom he thought would be congenial to the idea of the new faith. And he must do it quietly so that it would not attract the attention or opposition from the people at large.
His first targets were his household members—his wife Khadija, his adopted son Zayd, his cousin under his care Ali—and his closest friend Abu Bakar. Except for Ali, who was a minor of ten years old, all of these accepted his mission right away.
As for his wife Khadija, she was the one who comforted him when he was under the terrified and confused state, and brought him to see her cousin, Waraqa. So you can say that she was sold without Muhammad doing the selling.
Zayd bin Haritha, a man in mid or late twenties at that time, was Muhammad’s adopted son. When he was about ten, or early teenager, he was taken captive. Khadija’s nephew, Hakim bin Hizam, bought Zayd and gave him to his auntie as a slave. Khadija gave the young boy to her husband as a present, and the Prophet adopted him as a son he never had, for all his sons had died young.
Perhaps it would not be a waste of space to narrate that Zayd’s father went looking for his son for many years, since the boy was taken captive by the bandits. When he found out that his son was in Makkah, Haritha and his brother went to buy the freedom for the boy, so that Zayd can be brought back to the family.
When the real father of Zayd, Haritha, met his adopted father, Muhammad, the latter (Muhammad) was thrown in a bind. He felt sorry for Haritha, but he also loved the fine young boy, who was by then in his late teenage years. To resolve the conflict, he decided to let the boy choose for himself: either to stay with his adopted father, or to go back to his real father. And he told Haritha that if Zayd chose his real father, he would release him willingly, for free.
That made Haritha a very happy man, for he was sure that Zayd would choose him. After all, he had been a good father to his son.
Zayd himself was caught in a bind. He loved his father and his family back home, but the way Muhammad had been treating him had erased all the pain of separation from his real family. With a teary eyes, Zayd said: “Of all people, I loved you the most, father. But I cannot bear the separation from my adopted father, Abu Qasim. I have to choose him over you.”
For those uninitiated, Abu Qasim is the name Muhammad was called, meaning, the Father of Qasim. Qasim being his son who died very young. Among the Arabs, it is impolite to call a grown up by his real name. As a mark of respect, they are called by their kunyah, or nick name, generally as father of eldest son.
Sometimes, however, they are called by what is closely associated with them. For instance, Abu Bakar (or more properly Abu Bakr), is not the Father of a person called Bakr, for Bakr is not a person, but rather a young camel. Abu Bakar is so named because he is the expert in camel. Abu Hurairah, for instance, means the Father of Cat, because he loved cats so much.
Back to Zayd story, his father was shocked at first with his son’s decision. Soon thereafter, a strange feeling of sadness mixed with happiness overcame him. If his son chose Muhammad over his own father whom he loved, then this person must be very special. Hugging his son for the last time, he went back to his hometown feeling that his son is in a good hand.
As for Muhammad, although he sympathized with the plight of Haritha, the real father of Zayd, the decision made by Zayd filled him with joy. Full of emotion, he took the hand of his adopted son and went to Kaabah. At the top of his voice, he shouted: “O people, know that this is my son whom I love. He is of me, and I am of him. He inherits from me, and I inherit from him.”
In case you are wondering what Muhammad was doing, that was the Arab’s way of adopting a child. That effectively made Zayd his son, because Zayd is of him, and he is of Zayd. If he dies, Zayd will inherit from him like a real son; and if Zayd dies before him, he will inherit whatever belongs to Zayd.
From thereon, Zayd was known as Zayd bin Muhammad. When Islam came, he was known by that name, until the ruling dictates that the adopted son must be referred to the real father. He was henceforth Zayd bin Haritha again, and it is by this name that Zayd is known in the seerah literatures.
It would not be out of place to point out here that Muhammad had handled the delicate matter brilliantly. Not only that Haritha went home satisfied, knowing that his son is in a good hand, even better that what he can give to Zayd, but Muhammad was also able to “retain” what he did not want to lose.
In the end, just like years earlier, Zayd had chosen his adopted father over his real father without reservation, years later, when Muhammad was appointed as a Prophet, Zayd accepted the faith without reservation.
The third person, Abu Bakar bin Abi Quhafah, a man a few years younger that Muhammad, was the latter’s bosom friend. He was a wealthy merchant, a man of high standing in the society, a mild tempered and a very likeable person, and considered to be the most knowledgeable person in the history of the Arabs at that time. He too accepted the new faith without reservation.
Many sources say that Ali was the first person to accept Islam. The Shiah put it without reservation. The truth is that he was the first boy to have accepted Islam, and unlike the first three, he appeared to take a bit of his time before accepting it.
From the sources that come to us, it appeared that Muhammad did not approach him directly, on account of his young age. Rather, Ali found out about it indirectly. The Prophet was praying with his wife, and Ali, who lived under the same roof, saw what they were doing and asked the Prophet what was that about. The young Ali was wondering because that was not the way his people, the Quraysh, worshipped.
The Prophet explained to the young boy and asked whether he would want to join the fold of Islam. Ali told the prophet that since he was a minor, being only ten years old at that time, he would want to ask permission from his father, Abu Talib. The young Ali went back to his father house for that purpose, but half way through, he made a U-Turn.
“I did not ask the permission from Abu Talib to be born,” Ali thought, “why should I ask his permission in order to believe in the True God.”
He went back to Muhammad’s house and declared his faith.
Lest one thought that Ali ever had any reservation about accepting the new faith, this is definitely not the case. He was a minor, and under the responsibility of his father. It was only proper that he asked his father’s permission. But the intelligent and wise young boy quickly realized that the True God has more right than his father in this matter.
These are the first four to become Muslims. Khadija is credited with being the first woman to become Muslim; Abu Bakar the first free man; Zayd the first freed slave; and Ali the first boy. Other than these four, it should be mentioned that the Prophet’s four daughters, Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Ummi Kalthom, and Fatima, are among the earliest to follow the faith brought by their father.
Abu Bakar proved to be a good “investment.” In no time he brought five more in the fold of Islam. They are Uthman bin Affan, Zubayr bin Awwam, Abdul Rahman bin Auf, Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas and Talha bin Ubaydullah.
After that, many more came to the fold of Islam, including Abu Ubaydah bin al Jarrah, Saeed bin Zayd, Jaafar bin Abu Talib, Bilal bin Rabah, Ammar bin Yassir, and many others. In a matter of months, it is said that about forty men and women had accepted the new faith. They belonged to all strata in the society, from the high standing nobleman in the society such as Abu Bakar and Uthman, to the slaves like Bilal and Ammar.
End of Part One