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Economic Worries

Economic Worries

Some recent researchers have considered the economic factor among the motives for Quraysh’s opposition to Islam. This is because a series of Meccan verses of the Holy Qur'¡n[1] severely reprimand the hoarders and money-mongers of those days. The great Meccan wealthy men, who had earned their huge wealth in the trades and through the supervision over the Kaaba, felt a great danger when they heard these verses. The progress of Islam would jeopardize their benefits badly. Here are some samples of such verses:

Leave Me and him whom I created alone, and give him vast riches, and sons dwelling in his presence, And I adjusted affairs for him adjustably; and yet he desires that I should add more, By no means! Surely, he offers opposition to our communications. (74:11-16)

I will cast him into hell. And what will make you realize what hell is? It leaves naught nor does spare naught. It scorches the mortal. (74:26)[2]

Perdition overtake both hands of Ab£-Lahab, and he will perish. Neither his wealth nor what he earns will avail him. He shall soon burn in fire that flames, and his wife, the bearer of fuel. (111:1-4)[3]

Woe to every slanderer, defamer, who amasses wealth and considers it a provision against mishap; He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal. Nay! He shall most certainly be hurled into the crushing disaster, and what will make you realize what the crushing disaster is? It is the fire kindled by Allah, which rises above the hearts. Surely, it shall be closed over upon them, in extended columns. (104:1-7)

Then as for him who gives away and guards against evil, and accepts the best, We will facilitate for him the easy end. And as for him who is niggardly and considers himself from need of Allah, and rejects the best, we will facilitate for him the difficult end. And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes. (92:4:11)[4]

A careful observation of the content of these s£rahs reveals that they were revealed to the Holy Prophet after Quraysh’s opposition. The increase in number of opponents might have been the reason for the revelation of these verses. However, the toughest opponents of the Holy Prophet were the traders and the wealthy. In accordance with a historical report, when the Messenger of God started guiding his people towards the light of the Religion, they at first did not go away from him; rather, they were about to accept his ideology. Then he started insulting their idols and the wealthy people from ±¡’if.[5] These people did not like his statements; they began struggling against him and invoking their followers against him. Then, the mass offended and deserted him.[6]

(3) Fear of the Neighboring Power

The Holy Qur'¡n refers to their fear of the neighboring states and powers and finds this worry baseless:

And they say: If we follow the guidance with you, we shall be carried off from our country. What! Have We not settled them in a safe, sacred territory to which fruits of every kind shall be drawn? Sustenance from Us; but most of them do not know. (28:57)

Once, °¡rith ibn Nawfal ibn `Abd-Man¡f said to the Holy Prophet, “We know that what you say is right; but if we believe in you, we fear that the Arabs might throw us out of our land and we are not strong enough to confront them.[7]

From their statements, worry could be observed and fear of the Iranian kings and Roman emperors[8] could be identified; this was the Arabs’ weak point towards the neighboring political powers.

This fear could be seen in the following event: The Holy Prophet had invited some of the great Arab personalities and read them some of the verses of the Holy Qur'¡n which dealt with ethical training. All of them were highly impressed and each one of them started admiring them. However, their leader, Muthann¡, said, “We are caught between two waters: on one side are the Arab waters and shores, and on the other side there lie Iran and Khosrow rivers. Khosrow has ordered us not to use any turmoil and not to shelter any wrongdoer. The acceptance of your faith by us is not palatable for the kings. If we do anything wrong here in our land, it might be excused. However, such an error around Iran is not pardonable by their king.”[9]

(4) Tribal Competition and Jealousy

Tribal competitions and false pride were prevalent among the Arab tribes and communities. Since the Holy Prophet belonged to Ban£-H¡shim, the chiefs of the other tribes—due to their jealousy—could not accept his faith, which was in the long run a sign of dignity for Ban£-H¡shim. Ab£-Jahl, who was from Ban£-Makhz£m tribe and one of the most influential and wealthy people of Quraysh, frankly revealed his secret, “We struggled against the children of `Abd-Man¡f over the attainment of dignity. They fed the needy; so did we. They gave horses to the needy; so did we. They provided the needy with money; so did we. Then we were neck to neck. But, then, they say that they have a prophet among themselves who gets revelation from God. Now how can we ever get equal to them? By God, we shall never believe in what he says nor shall we ever confirm him.”[10]

Umayyah ibn Ab¢-¯alt, a nobleman and great poet of ±¡’if, did not believe in Islam for the same reason. For years, he waited for the arrival of the Promised Prophet and at the same time, he wished that he himself would be that Prophet. When he heard about the prophethood of Mu¦ammad (¥), he abstained from following him and the reason he offered for his denial was the following: “How could I tell the women of ±¡’if that another person had obtained the status of prophethood? I have always told them that I would be the promised prophet. Now how could I endure this shame on my side to follow the young man of `Abd-Man¡f?”[11]



[1] The Holy Qur'¡n’s chapters (i.e. S£rahs) are divided according to their revelation into Meccan and Medinan.

[2] This holy S£rah is the fourth in revelation. See al-Tamh¢d f¢ `Ul£m al-Qur'¡n 1:104.

[3] This S£rah is the sixth.

[4] This S£rah is the ninth.

[5] These people, most probably, had invested their money in a Mecca economic center.

[6] ±abar¢, T¡r¢kh al-Umam wa’l-Mul£k 2:221.

Those who look at man from a material prospect only concentrate all their attentions to the economic motive and base all other motives to it. The analysis of Petroshfsky, a famous Russian analyst of Islam and Iran and a professor of Oriental Studies Department at the University of Leningrad writes, “Meccan chiefs were among the traders and usurers. They opposed Mu¦ammad openly. We could not say that the cause of this opposition was religious dogmatism; rather, the Prophet's propagation against their idolatry was the real motive of their opposition because their trade and political supremacy was greatly jeopardized. They assumed that his religious propagation would cause the fall of the Kaaba and the worship of their idols. This might result in fewer pilgrims to visit the Kaaba and a financial loss for them. In this way, the Kaaba might lose its political supremacy. For this reason, the Meccan chiefs interpreted Mu¦ammad's religious propaganda as a direct threat to their own interests. They hated him for these reasons. See Islam in Iran, pp. 26. In view of our previous discussions, we do not have to say how baseless the statement of this professor is.

[7] ±abars¢, Majma` al-Bay¡n 7:260; Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, Man¡qib 1:51.

[8] Man¡qib 1:59.

[9] Qi¥a¥ al-`Arab 2:258; Ibn Kath¢r, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 3:144.

[10] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 1:337; Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, Man¡qib 1:50; Ibn Kath¢r, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:506-507.

[11] Ibn Kath¢r, Al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:130.

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