12. The First Believers

Prophet Muhammad (s) began to tell those he trusted about Islam; he started out with eight people.  Those first Muslims told their closest family members and friends, and quickly the numbers grew until there were about forty Muslims. They kept their belief secret and to a certain degree, they enjoyed a focus and peace, that they would later lose. 

For three years, Prophet Muhammad (s) called people to Islam in secret.  There were happy times during those earliest months; for example, when certain people heard about Islam and quickly accepted it, like something they were thirsty for, that they had finally found. Or when Prophet Muhammad (s) recited to them the latest verse revealed. There was a beautiful feeling shared by the believers; although some were rich, and some were poor, some were Arab and some were not, some were young and some were old, and some were free and some were slaves. They all shared the excitement and joy of finding guidance; they all enjoyed the love and kindness of Prophet Muhammad (s), as he taught them.

Amongst those who first became Muslim was Uthman bin Affan. He was Abu Bakr’s rich and handsome friend; and one of the earliest Muslims. On his way back from a trip to Syria, he heard a voice in the desert say, “Wake up sleepers for Ahmad has come!” so he asked his friend Abu Bakr what that could possibly mean. Abu Bakr told him about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (whose name is also Ahmad) and Uthman accepted Islam. 

Talha bin Ubaidullah was Uthman bin Affan and Abu Bakr’s friend. He heard about a prophet that would come in the land of the Kaba, from a monk in Sham. The monk warned him not to miss the opportunity of believing in the prophet. When he returned, he found that Abu Bakr had already become Muslim, so he and Uthman went to the Prophet (s) and accepted Islam.

Abdul-Rahman bin Awf was another friend of Abu Bakr. He, too, was very rich. He would say, “I feel as though if I were to lift a stone, I would find silver underneath.” He heard about Islam from Abu Bakr and became a believer.

Another was Al-Zubair bin al-Awwam. He was the Prophet’s cousin — the son of the Prophet’s aunt on his father’s side: Saffiya. He became a Muslim when he was fifteen or sixteen years old. 

Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas’ grandfather was the uncle of the Prophet’s mother Amyna, so he was the Messenger’s (s) second cousin. Sa’d became a Muslim when he was seventeen.

Little by little, news of Islam began to trickle out. Often people who were not rich or powerful, who had keen minds and pure hearts, believed in Islam sooner than others. They were slaves like Bilal bin Rabah or outsiders like the Yasser family. Although the Muslims tried to keep their new belief a secret, their family members and those people closest to them soon found out. Sometimes a non-believer would come upon a Muslim praying. Sometimes they would notice that he no longer participated in anything to do with the idols. And that is when the harming began.

Why did Islam upset Quraish? Well, some people in power felt they would lose their important positions if they accepted the belief that all people were equal. Some people were jealous and wanted such an important title as Messenger to belong to them or to their clan. Some people were so used to worshiping idols they didn’t want to open their minds and think clearly or change their old ways…

Bilal ibn Rabah was an Abyssinian slave. He heard of Islam and was of the early believers. The woman who owned him found out and had a wicked man called Umayyah bin Khalaf torture him. Each day, he would take him to the desert when it was the hottest time of day; he would throw him down on the hot sand and place a very big and hot stone on his chest saying, “Disbelieve in Muhammad’s God!” Bilal was strong in his faith and proud. He would not give in no matter what they did to him. His answer was, “There is one God.”  When the torture had gone on for too long, and he didn’t have the strength to say a whole sentence, he would just say, “One, One. Ahad, Ahad.”

Ammar bin Yasser, his father Yasser, and his mother Sumayyah were also of the first believers. Although they were not slaves, yet they were not of Quraish and so they were also harmed daily because they accepted Islam. The Prophet (s) would pass by them being tortured and tell them to be patient for they would meet in Jannah. One day, a non-believer thrust a spear through Sumayyah’s body, and so she became the first person to die as a martyr for Islam. 

Angel Jibreel had taught Prophet Muhammad (s) how to make wudu’ and how to perform salat. The first person he taught salat to was his wife Khadija. Then, Prophet Muhammad (s) taught those who had become Muslim. The Muslims would pray two raka’s in the morning and two in the evening; and each person would find a private place to do so where no one saw him or her.  Often, small groups would seek a pathway in the mountains far from people’s eyes. One day, while two Muslims were praying, a few men from Quraish saw them and started throwing stones at them. 

Now there was a need to find a place for the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to meet with Muslims in secret, and for them to be able to pray without being seen and attacked. The Muslims decided to meet in secret in the home of al-Arqam bin al-Arqam, whose house was close to the Kaba. The house had a passageway that ended in a door that led to the inside of the house. That way if a stranger knocked the door, he would not immediately see who was inside. In this home, the Messenger (s) would teach the new Muslims Islam and read to the believers the latest revelation of Quran.

And so, three years passed with the Muslims growing stronger in their faith, day by day. They grew to love Prophet Muhammad (s) more than anyone they had loved before, for it was he, who taught them about their Creator, and he who recited to them Quran. They grew to love Islam and they grew to love one another. 

Then an ayah was revealed that changed everything!