There was no room for deception and double dealing in Makkah. (41) Islam was helpless, harried and harassed there. Moreover, none had the power to turn the tide in Makkah, nor could anyone think of gaining any advantage by accepting Islam. Giving one's faith to Islam meant one was prepared to set the whole of Makkah at defiance and to risk one's life. Only one venturesome in spirit and having the courage of convictions could bear to play with the fire of hostility raging in the hearts of Islam's enemies, only a man of mettle could take a chance with his life and property, future and prosperity. In Makkah, there were not two powers equally poised; the heathens were brought out forcefully by the Qur'an in its elegant style.
"And remember, when ye were few and reckoned feeble in the land, and were in fear lest men should extirpate you."
When Islam found a new safe haven in Madina and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with him) were blessed with peace and stability, Islam began to prosper. It brought into existence a new society, a new brotherhood of men united by the consciousness of a common outlook in life and common aspirations as expressed by the Islamic principles. The dazzling spectacle of an idealistic commonwealth meant a complete break with the past for the change was so radical so as to induce the fainthearted to sail under false colors. This was quite logical or rather based on the natural instincts of those who could not cope with the revolutionary movement. Also, pharisaism or hypocrisy shows up its mettle only where two contending powers or principles are pitted against each other, for the indecisive and the spineless are always wavering, swinging from one end to another. They are always in two minds, hesitant and never able to take a final decision. Often they hang together with one of the two contenders, profess loyalty and try to go along with it, but their self-solicitude and vested interests do not permit them to cling on and sacrifice and endure with it. The fear that the other party might recover its strength someday does not elude them, nor are they ever able to make a total break with their past for the sake of new ideas or ideals. This is a delicate state of disloyalty or infirmity of purpose portrayed graphically by the Qur'an as follows:
"And among the mankind is he who worshipeth Allah upon a narrow marge so that if good befalleth him, he is content therewith, but if a trial befalleth him, he falleth away utterly. He loseth both the world and the hereafter. That is the sheer loss." [Qur'an 22:11]
The distinctive trait of this group is delineated in another verse which says:
"Swaying between this (and that), (belonging) neither to these nor to those." [Qur'an 8:26]
The leader of the hypocrites, drawn from the ranks of Aus and Khazraj as well as the Jews of Madinah, was Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Sal'ul. Exhausted by the battle of Buath that was fought between the Aus and Khazraj around five years before the arrival of the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) in Madinah, both these tribes had agreed to recognize 'Abdullah b. Ubayy (may Allah be pleased with him) as their leader. By the time Islam came to gain adherents in Madinah, preparations were already being made to formally crown him as the king of the city. When he saw that the people were being won over by Islam, quickly and in large numbers at that, he became so annoyed that his resentment lingered upon to devour on his mind.
Ibn Hisham writes: "When the Prophet came to Madina the leader there was 'Abdullah b. Ubayy Salul al-'Aufi. None of his own people contested his authority and Aus and Khazraj never rallied to one man before or after him until Islam came as they did to him. 'Abdullah b. Ubayy's people had made a sort of jewelled diadem to crown him and make him their king when Allah sent His Prophet to them. So when his people deserted him in favor of Islam he was filled with enmity realizing that the Prophet had deprived him of his kingship. However, when he saw that his people were determined to go over the fold of Islam, he did too though unwillingly, retaining his enmity and dissimulation. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 277-8 (Trans. A. Guillaume)
All those persons who had a suppressed desire concealed in their hearts or were ambitious of a name, power or authority felt cut to the heart at the success of religion that welded the Muhaajirun and the Ansaar as two bodies with one soul. A religion that inspired them with a dedication to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) which was even more intense than one had for one's own father, son and wife. Hate and ill will against the Prophet (Peace be upon him) filled their heart and they started hatching up plots against Muslims. This was how a coalition of the double-faced discontented ones came into existence within the Islamic world who were in reality worthless and just a parcel of the Muslim society. People no better than a lowly but dangerous snake in the grass that Muslims had to be even more careful with than to Allah's openly acknowledged enemies.
This is why the Qur'an repeatedly exposes their hypocrisy and warns against their concealed designs. Their surreptitious intrigues continued to undermine the stability of the Islamic society and hence the works on the life of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) cannot do otherwise than divulge their hidden agenda and activities.
BEGINNING OF THE JEWISH ANIMOSITY
After initially maintaining an attitude of indifference and neutrality, the Jews gradually began to show their hatred and rancor against Islam. In the beginning they steered a middle course between the Muslims and the pagans and the Arab tribes of Makkah and Madinah; or, were rather inclined towards the Muslims. The Jews of Madinah had, in the beginning, felt closer to the Muslims having found a striking resemblance of their own religious beliefs to such fundamental teachings of Islam as prophecy and prophethood, belief in the Hereafter, Unity of Allah, etc.and their own faith. This is notwithstanding the differences in detail as well as the fact that undue veneration of certain Prophets ('alaihimus salaam) and adoption of pagan customs through their age-old association with heathens had beclouded their pristine faith in monotheism. (See the chapter 'The Age of Ignorance')
It was thus reasonably expected that if they did not side with the Muslims, they would at least remain non-partisan. At any rate, Islam testified the divine origin of scriptures and called upon the Muslims to have faith in all the Hebrew prophets ('alaihimus salaam). This was later to become a fundamental dogma of faith in Islam as affirmed by the succeeding Qur'anic verse:
"Each one believeth in Allah and His Angels and His scriptures and His messengers - We make no distinction between any of His messengers." [Qur'an 2:285]
Would that the Jews had understood the conciliatory mood of Islam; had it been so, the history of Islam or rather that of the world would have been entirely different today. Then Islam would not have faced the impediments it had to encounter in the dissemination of its message. Especially in its initial stages, resulting from the strife between the early Muslims armed only with the strength of their faith and the powerful and influential, educated as well as wealthy Jews of old which could be attributed to two causes. One of these was their inborn trait of envy and covetousness, bigotry and narrow-mindedness and obstinate niggardliness. While the other lays in their errant beliefs, misdemeanors and wickedness, repeatedly criticized by the Qur'an and illustrated by a set of prophets whose teachings had been opposed and who are mostly put to death. Refusing to take the right path, bearing ill will and malice to those who commended the virtuous trail, speaking slightly of Allah, excessive greed of wealth, driving hard usurious bargains despite its interdiction and grabbing the property of others. Furthermore, making interpolations in the Torah to suit their convenience, the insatiable thirst for worldly life and what it stands for and the national and racial jingoism all but had become their characteristic trademark.
Had there been a political leader in place of the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him), he would have tactfully met the Jews halfway, especially in view of their importance in the tangled Medinan politics. Even if it were not possible to placate the Jews, a national leader would have at least avoided setting them at odds against him by concealing his ultimate objective. But, as Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), he had to proclaim the truth, interdict what was forbidden and countenance no vestiges of evil and peccantliness. He had been saddled with the responsibility to deliver the message of Allah to the whole World throughout all races and nations including the Jews and Christians as well as to invite them to accept Islam regardless of its costs or consequences. This was really the path taken by all the prophets of old--a distinctive mark only akin to them, one which is in no way followed and cherished by politicians and national leaders alike.
But, this was what the Jews detested most for it struck at the very roots of their beliefs and mental outlook, or, rather their very nature and character, leading them to become hostile to Islam and the Muslims. They gave up their earlier policy of steering the middle course and decided to oppose Islam in every way possible, openly as well as through intrigues. Israel Welphenson, quoted here, has been frank and straightforward in his analysis of the reasons for ill will between the Jews and the Muslims.
"If the teachings of the Prophet had been restricted only to the denunciation of idolatry and the Jews had not been called upon to acknowledge his prophethood, there would have been no conflict between the Jew and the Muslims. The Jews might have then commended and acclaimed the Prophet's doctrine of monotheism and backed him or even supported him with men and other material resources until he had succeeded in destroying the idols and effacing polytheistic creed rampant in Arabia. But this depended on the condition that he left the Jews and their religion well enough alone and not demanded the acceptance of the new prophethood. For the bent of Jewish temperament cannot take kindly to anything that tries to seduce it from its faith, they can never acknowledge any prophet save one belonging to Bani Israel." (Al-Yahud fi Balad il-'Arab, p. 123)
The Jews were further shocked and agitated when some of their learned rabbis like 'Abdullah Salam, whom they held in high esteem, embraced Islam. The Jews could never imagine that a man of his stature and erudition would accept the new faith. Thus, this only served to make the Jews all the more annoyed and jealous of the Religion.
The animosity of the Jews against Islam was not such as to be content with defying or putting up a bold front against it. Although Muslims shared their faith in monotheism, it was only but logical as well as reasonable to expect that if the Jews were called upon to give their verdict on the Prophet's faith vis-a-vis the idolatrous creed of the Quraysh, they would speak well of Islam. They would cite the soundness of its belief in one Allah against the multiplicity of deities taken for granted by the pagans of Makkah. But their hatred against Islam had so infuriated them that they were even willing to deny that gospel truth. Once, when some of the rabbis went to Makkah, the Quraysh asked them whether their idolatrous religion or that of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was better, to which they answered: "Your religion is better off than his and you are more rightly-guided than them."(43) The comment of Dr. Israel Welphenson on the reply given by the Jews is worth repeating here.
"But, surely, the thing for which they deserved to be reproached and which would be painful to all those who believe in the Unity of Allah. Whether they be Jews and pagan Quraishites wherein they had given preference to the religion of the Quraysh over what had been brought by the Prophet of Islam." (Al Yahud fi Balad il-'Arab, p. 142).
The same writer further goes on to say:
"Deception, mendicity and similar means for entrapping the enemy have been sanctioned by the nations for achieving a military objective in times of warfare. Yet the Jews ought not to have committed the grievous mistake of declaring roundly that adoration of idols was preferable to the Islamic faith in the Unity of Allah. Not even if they feared to miss the distinction by doing so. For Bani Israel had, in the name of their forefathers, held aloft the banner of Allah's Unity for ages amidst heathen nations of the old, had all along braved innumerable trials and tribulations and gone through fire and blood for its sake. It was their bounden duty to sacrifice their lives and whatever they held dear to humble the idolaters and polytheists. " (Al-Yahud fi Balad il-'Arab, p. 142).
As a matter of fact, the situation was sufficiently serious so as to warrant a reference in the Qur'an:
"Hast thou not seen those unto whom a portion of the Scripture hath been given, how they believe in idols and false deities and how they say those (Idolaters) who disbelieve: These are more rightly guided than those who believe?" [Qur'an 4:51]