Muhammad (SAW) began to meditate in the cave of Mount Hira to escape the corruption of Mecca and dwell on the deepest questions of life to which he could not seem to find answers. It is well known that he spent the entire month of Ramadan at this familiar retreat. It was then, in the year 610 A.D, that Allah changed the course of history and shed light upon darkness, starting with the man best equipped to enlighten the world: Muhammad (SAW) .
Gabriel (peace be upon him) filled the cave with light, and Muhammad (SAW) clearly saw someone with a mysterious piece of parchment. He commanded Muhammad (SAW) to “Recite!” three times before Muhammad (SAW) , shaken, asked what he should read. It was then that the first five verses of the Quran were revealed, from Surat Al-Alaq:
“Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot. Read, for your Lord is most Generous, Who teaches by means of the pen, teaches man what he does not know.” (96: 1-5)
Tired and shell-shocked, he returned home in a state of fear and asked Khadijah (RAA) to, “Cover me, cover me.” The tactful, intelligent, and supportive wife that she was, she waited until Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) anxiety had abated before asking about its cause. After the experience was told, Khadijah (RAA) said, “Allah (SWT) will not let you down because you are kind to relatives, you speak only the truth, you help the poor, the orphans, and the needy, and you are an honest man”. Later, she consulted with her cousin Waraqa, who possessed admirable knowledge about revelation and scripture, and he confirmed the truth: “Muhammad (SAW) is the expected Prophet.”
After that, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) began receiving revelations. His first convert was Khadijah (RAA) , who not only believed in him without hesitation but also helped spread the message of Islam. The next two converts were Ali bin Abi Talib (cousin) and Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (close friend). The Prophet (SAW) was reported to have said that everyone whom he approached with the message of Islam took their time answering his message – except Abu Bakr (RAA) , who was unhesitating; this is why he will always be remembered as Al-Siddiq, or The Believer.
For three years, the Prophet (SAW) only made da’waah within his own family and close friends. However, he was finally commanded by Allah (SWT) to publicize the message in Mecca. When he began sharing his profound message – that there is only one God – a number of men in their community had approached Abu Talib about what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was doing. Assuming he only wanted fame, they offered to make Prophet Muhammad (SAW) a king among them if he would end his efforts. When Abu Talib approached Prophet Muhammad (SAW) about the matter, the Prophet (SAW) told him that they could offer to place the moon in his right hand and the sun in his left, and he would still not defy Allah’s (SWT) command.
Poor and unprotected converts were subjected to horrible torture by the disbelievers; these disbelieving Meccans assumed that the rise of Islam would be their downfall, a prospect that encouraged hostility of the worst kind. The powerful and ruthless Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RAA) was among their number, and yet he converted later: his story is nothing short of miraculous.
Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s (RAA) belligerence to Islam was well-known; he resolved to defend the traditional religion of Arabia and was said to have been adamant in persecuting the Muslims. He saw the new monotheistic religion as a cause of discord and disunity for the tribe of Quraish, and when the message began to spread, he decided that the only solution was to kill Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He said to himself, “Here is a man who has split the people. People lived smoothly enough. He appeared on the scene. He has torn son from father and brother from brother. Now his followers are running away to another land. Surely Muhammad is the cause of all trouble. I must slay him and put an end to the trouble.”
On his way to the Prophet’s (SAW) dwelling with his sword in tow, Umar (RAA) was met by a fellow Quraishi who laughed when he heard the murderous plans. “Set your own house in order first,” he said, “your sister and her husband have converted to Islam”. After hearing such shocking news, Umar (RAA) changed course and made for his sister Fatima’s house. Upon his arrival, he found the two newly-converted Muslims reading Surat Taha. He began to beat his brother-in-law cruelly and furiously; Fatima bravely ran to help and was struck on the head. She began to bleed, and the couple shouted together, “Yes, we have become Muslims. Do what you will!”
At the sight of the blood on his sister’s head, Umar (RAA) felt remorse for his actions. He asked to take a look at the Qur’anic verse. Fatima told him to go cleanse himself first before being able to read the Holy Book. He did as he was asked, and upon his return Fatima noticed that her brother was calmer. She handed him the pages of the Qur’an, and Umar (RAA) sat down to read. After a few moments, struck by the beauty and divinity of the verses, he began weeping: “Surely this is the word of Allah!”
Umar (RAA) proceeded to make his way to the Prophet’s (SAW) house once more, yet for a different cause. He converted to Islam, and the Muslims were filled with great joy, for one of Islam’s greatest enemies had now become a follower.
The Prophet’s (SAW) message continued to spread, particularly after Umar’s conversion, and opposition to him grew and was led by Amr ibn Hisham (better known as Abu Jahl, or “Father of Ignorance”). His methods of torture grew so severe that Summayyah, one of the earliest converts, died as the first martyr of Islam. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself was unharmed, as his uncle, Abu Talib, was a prominent member of Mecca and protected him unfailingly. But Muhammad (SAW) was left on his own when both Abu Talib and Khadijah died in the year 619 AD. Little did he know that his biggest undertaking was yet to come: Hijra – his migration to the city of Medina.