In this part, we will see how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) dealt with `Urwah ibn Mas`ud Al-Thaqafi who talked to him both harshly and impolitely and stretched his hand out towards his beard and `Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh who accused him of the fabrication of the Qur’an.
`Urwah ibn Mas`ud Al-Thaqafi
When Prophet Muhammad and Muslims decided to make a minor pilgrimage to Mecca, Quraysh (the people of Mecca) dispatched `Urwah ibn Mas`ud Al-Thaqafi to Prophet Muhammad to dissuade him from going on such a minor pilgrimage.
`Urwah ibn Mas`ud Al-Thaqafi made its camel keel down near to Prophet Muhammad and then came to him and said: “O Muhammad, I left your people behind … at Al-Hudaybiyah wells along with their women and children. They called upon their allies to fight against you, swearing by God that they will not let you in the holy sanctuary even if you invade them. Now, if you are willing to fight them, you have two choices: that you invade your people though we have never heard of a man who invaded his people before or that you are failed by those whom we see with you. Indeed, we see with you only the rabble out of whom we do not know notables or persons with illustrious ancestors.”
While talking to Prophet Muhammad, `Urwah ibn Mas`ud Al-Thaqafi kept touching Prophet Muhammad’s beard, with Al-Mughirah standing with a sword at Prophet Muhammad’s head. Every time `Urwah touched Prophet Muhammad’s beard, Al-Mughirah would knock his hand down, warning: “Stop touching the beard of the Messenger of God with your hand before it does not come back to you!”
When `Urwah finished his conversation with Prophet Muhammad, he came back to Quraysh and said: “O people, I had gone to kings, including Khosrau, Heraclius, and Negus. By God, I have never seen a king who is obeyed by his retinue more than Muhammad by his Companions. By God, they do not look at him closely (out of esteem for him), nor do they raise their voices in his presence. It is enough for him to just hint at something so that it will be done. He would not expectorate or spit without the phlegm or sputum falling down in the hands of a man from them who would thereby wipe his skin. He would not perform ritual ablution without them crowding for it with, everybody hoping that he would win a part of it. I appraised those people. Let you know for a certainty that if you want to fight, they will come to fight. I saw a people who do not care about what may be done to them while protecting their companion. I saw people with him, who would in no way fail him…”
However, when `Urwah ibn Mas`ud Al-Thaqafi wanted to convert to Islam, Prophet Muhammad accepted his conversion. Thereupon, he sought Prophet Muhammad’s permission to return to his people and call them to Islam. Then, Prophet Muhammad prophesied: “If you do that, they will kill you.”
`Urwah replied: “O Messenger of God, they love me more than their eyesight.” Actually, `Urwah was loved and obeyed among his people.
Then, he came back to call his people to Islam and declared his conversion to Islam in the hope that they would not disobey him, given his status among them. However, they became angry with him and insulted and swore at him.
At the dawn of the next day, `Urwah ascended the roof of a room of his house and made a call to prayer. Then, Thaqif (his people) went out and shot arrows at him from every direction. Thereupon, an arrow hit him and as a result he fell down on the ground. Then, his family members carried him and entered his house.
There, it was said to `Urwah: “How do you see your blood?” He replied: “It is honor with which God honored me and martyrdom which God conferred upon me. I only have what the martyrs who were killed with the Messenger of God had before he left you. So bury me with them.” So they buried him with them.
When Prophet Muhammad knew what happened to `Urwah, he said: “The parable of `Urwah with his people is that of the believer with Yasin people who killed him when he called them to God.” (At-Tabarani)
`Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh
`Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh first converted to Islam before Al-Hudaybiyah Peace Agreement and migrated to Medina. He served as a revelation scribe for Prophet Muhammad. Then, he apostatized and joined the polytheists in Mecca. He argued: “Muhammad did not write down any revelation (from the Qur’an) except as I liked.”
There are two different reports accounting for his conversion. One report states that Prophet Muhammad once dictated to him: “(God) is All-Hearing, All-Knowing”. Then, by mistake, `Abdullah wrote: “(God) is All-Knowing, All-Wise”. When he did that, Prophet Muhammad said to him: “He is so,” or “So is He.” Prophet Muhammad meant that God is actually All-Hearing, All-Knowing and also All-Knowing and All-Wise for all of such attributes are included in God’s Most Beautiful Names. However, Prophet Muhammad did not mean that what `Abdullah said is what was revealed at the given position.
Yet, `Abdullah misunderstood Prophet Muhammad as approving `Abdullah’s change of the words of the Qur’an. Then, `Abdullah was tempted out of Islam and alleged: “Muhammad does not know what he says. I wrote down for him what I liked. God reveals to me just as He reveals to Muhammad.” Then, he escaped from Medina at night. When he reached Mecca, he declared his return to idolatry, arguing that he could distort the Qur`an.
The other report says that when the Chapter of Al-Mu’minun was revealed, after Prophet Muhammad recited from the beginning of the Chapter till “then We developed him into another creation”, before reciting (in Arabic) the following verse: “So blessed is God, the best of creators,” (Al-Mu’minun 23:14) `Abdullah interrupted and, out of bedazzlement and wonder at the detailed description of the creation of man, said: “So blessed is God, the best of creators.” In reply, Prophet Muhammad said: “It was revealed to me just as you said.” Then, `Abdullah harbored doubt and said to himself “If Muhammad is truthful, God reveals to me also. If he is untruthful, here I am saying something like what he says.” Thereupon, he converted from Islam to idolatry and fled to Mecca.
About `Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh among others, the following verse was revealed:
And who is more unjust than one who invents a lie about God or says, ‘It has been inspired to me,’ while nothing has been inspired to him, and one who says, ‘I will reveal [something] like what God revealed.’” Scholars say that it is `Abdullah who is referred to in the following part of the verse: “I will reveal [something] like what God revealed. (Al-An`am 6:93)
When an Ansari man, most likely Abbad ibn Bishr, heard about that, he vowed that had God enabled him to kill `Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh, he would have put him to the sword. On the day of Mecca Conquest, `Abdullah turned to `Uthman ibn `Affan, his brother by suckling, for intercession.
Then, `Uthman took him to Prophet Muhammad and said: “O Messenger of God, this is `Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh coming while feeling repentance and regret.” Then, Prophet Muhammad turned away. When the Ansari man heard about that, he came while girding himself with a sword. He kept circling `Abdullah while looking at Prophet Muhammad, waiting for a wink. After some time, Prophet Muhammad spread out his hand and then `Abdullah pledged allegiance to him.
After `Abdullah left Prophet Muhammad, Prophet Muhammad said to the Ansari man, “By God, I waited for you to fulfil your vow.” The man replied: “O Prophet of God, I feared your reaction. Why did you not wink at me?” Prophet Muhammad said: “A prophet should not wink.”
Though `Abdullah ibn Abi Al-Sarh came back to the fold of Islam after his repentance, he could not show his face to Prophet Muhammad. Rather, he would escape from him. If he encountered him, he could not look at him straight in the eye, out of shame.
So `Uthman said to Prophet Muhammad: “I ransom you with my father and mother. Ibn Abi Al-Sarh escapes from you every time he sees you.” Prophet Muhammad smiled and said: “Did I not accept his pledge of allegiance and afford him protection?” `Uthman replied: “Yes O Messenger of God, but he still remembers the grave offence he caused to Islam.” Prophet Muhammad said: “Surely, Islam tears down what preceded it.”
Then, `Uthman went back to `Abdullah and told him about that. From this time on, he would dare greet Prophet Muhammad if he met him. Subsequently, he became a good Muslim.
1- The Glorious Qur’an (Sahih International Translation)
2- Al-Mu`jam Al-Kabir, by At-Tabarani
3- As-Sirah An-Nabawiyah, by Ibn Ishaq