On the pain of death...
In this short article, I discuss how Abu Sufyan became a Muslim.
Abu Sufyan was the active leader of Mecca. He used to lead commercial caravans to Syria and back. He actively resisted Muhammad’s raids and plundering of Meccan trade-caravans and aggression against the city of Mecca. Muhammad knew that Abu Sufya had to be eliminated or subdued in order for his dream of capturing Mecca and Ka’ba to materialize.
During the Battle of Badr, Muhammad and the early Muslims had a great luck in eliminating many Meccan leaders. The Quraysh leaders went to Badr only to teach Muhammad a lesson, so that he would refrain from attacking Meccan caravans, not to eliminate him and people. In doing so, they underestimated the evils of Muhammad’s intentions. Many of them fell to the swords of Muhammad’s followers.
A most prized one was a man of knowledge and wisdom, as he was called Abul-Hakam (father of wisdom). The Arabic origin of his name is “Hikma”, which literally means “Wisdom”. Muslims, however, do not know this name, as Muhammad mockingly gave him the name, Abu-Jahl (father of ignorance). Muhammad was no match for Abul-Hakam’s wisdom. He knew what Muhammad was all about. And Muhammad realized what a big obstacle Abul Hakam was to the advancement of his mission of assuming the leading role over Mecca. Therefore, Muhammad called him “Abu-Jahl” to discredit a man, who was most honored and praised by the Meccans for his wisdom. While Abul Hakam eliminated at Badr, Abu Sufyan – the other big obstacle of Muhammad – was not. He survived Badr, and also promised take revenge against Muhammad for massacring the Meccans a Badr. So, Muhammad had to get rid of him, if he could.
First, Muhammad experimented with an attempt to assassinate him, which, for him, had become a useful method for dealing with his perceived enemies. He had successes like killing old man Abu Afak, and poetess Asma Bint Marwan, a mother of five, etc. Many others were assassinated by Muhammad. Readers can find many articles in FFI (FaithFreedom) and IW (Islam Watch) by multiple authors on this topic.
Muhammad, just like the mafia of our days, utilized his henchmen to carry out assassinations of important people, who were an obstacle to him. Abu Sufyan’s name certainly topped the list of such people, as he stood out as Muhammad’s strongest opponent in his mission of taking over Mecca and the Ka’ba.
So, shouldn’t Muhammad try assassination, his tried-and-successful method of eliminating troublesome opponents, to get rid of Abu Sufyan?
Of course, he should! And, indeed, he did.
Muhammad did send some of his henchmen to assassinate Abu Sufyan. However, this mission was a failure. Let me quote about this assassination attempt from “The Sirat” (Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, Karachi, p. 673):
After the killing of Khybayb and his companions, the apostle sent an Ansari with me telling us to go and kill Abu Sufyan, so we set out.
The two henchmen of Muhammad went to Mecca to assassinate Abu Sufyan. However, their plot to kill Abu Sufyan was uncovered, before they could carry out the mission. The attempt to kill Abu Sufyan was thus a failure.
Given Muhammad’s ruthlessness in shedding blood of his perceived enemies, he had to settle score and deal with Abu Sufyan, when he captured Mecca in 630. At that time, did Abu Sufyan have other choices if he wanted to stay alive? Hardly! Below are the circumstances under which Abu Sufyan had to embrace Islam:[i]
(When Muhammad’s army approached Mecca) The Quraysh leader Abu Sufyan, one of the Prophet’s fathers-in-law, learning of Muslims’ approach, quickly set off in the darkness of night to meet Muhammad for persuading him not to attack the city. On the way, Abu Sufyan met his brother Al-Abbas, who assured him protection and led him to Muhammad. Omar al-Khattab (later the second caliph) came upon them and seeing Abu Sufyan, he cried out: ‘‘Abu Sufyan, the enemy of God! Thanks be to God who has delivered you up without agreement or word.’’ He then rushed for his sword, adding: ‘‘Let me take off his head.’’ (Ibn Ishaq, p. 547)
Al-Abbas persuaded Omar against taking drastic action on the ground of his promise to protect Abu Sufyan, and brought him over to Muhammad. Muhammad asked al-Abbas to bring him back the next morning. When Abu Sufyan was brought back the next morning, the Prophet said, ‘‘Isn’t it time that you should recognize there is no God but Allah?’’ Abu Sufyan never believed that Muhammad was a prophet. When he hesitated, an angry Muhammad exclaimed, ‘‘Woe to you, Abu Sufyan! Isn’t it time that you recognized that I am the apostle of God?’’ To this, Abu Sufyan answered, ‘‘As to that I still have some doubt.’’ Seeing Abu Sufian’s life in immediate danger, al-Abbas quickly intervened, forcefully telling him, ‘‘Submit and testify that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of God before you lose your head.’’ Abu Sufyan had no option but to comply.
[i] Khan, M A (2011) Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery, Felibri, p. 28