Among the indications of the Prophet's love for mankind is the untold sufferings he endured at the hands of his opponents whom he forgave with such ease after his victory.
When the Holy Prophet started his work almost all the people of his city opposed him even though they had known him for all of his life as a man of exceptional integrity and intelligence. They at first subjected him to verbal attacks, jeers and insults. But later they started to combine verbal attacks with physical aggression. They would lay thorns in his way and throw garbage and dust on him. On one occasion he returned with dust still on his head. One of his daughters rose, with tears in her eyes, to wipe it off. The Prophet was more hurt to see tears in his daughter's eyes than the treatment he himself received from his fellow citizens. He comforted her, saying: "My daughter, weep not, for verily the Lord will be your father's helper."
Once the city populace tried to inflict a different type on injury on the Prophet. When one day he went out for an errand, not one of the people in the streets looked at him or spoke to him or jeered or insulted him. This, their silent way of saying to the Prophet, "You are not one of us because you speak against our traditional ways" hurt the Prophet more than the jeers and insults he was used to hearing before.
When the Prophet felt that he was not getting anywhere with the Makkans, he started to turn more and more to outsiders who came to Makkah for pilgrimage. But his efforts among the pilgrims were frustrated by men like Abu Lahab who would follow the Prophet and cry aloud: "Believe him not, he is a lying renegade". One day this especially grieved the Prophet. But all he did was to look upward and say, "O Lord if You will it would not be thus!".
In the year 620 C.E., the Prophet decided to travel outside Makkah, so that he could preach his message without being followed by his Makkan enemies. The city of Al-Tayf was the natural first choice. Situated about sixty miles east of Makkah, it was the nearest city of importance. Accompanied only by Zayd, the Prophet made a tiring journey through barren rocky defiles. He spent ten days in Al-Tayf preaching to the tribal chiefs as well as common people. But they all rejected him saying they did not want to spoil relations with the Makkans for the sake of a new religion. As the days passed, the people of Al-Tayf became more and more hostile, until the tenth day they began to hoot him through the streets and pelt him with stones. Even as he fled the city, a relentless mob pursued him and did not desist until they had chased him two or three miles across the sandy plain to the foot of the surrounding hills. There, tired and with blood flowing from both his legs, the Prophet took refuge in one of the orchards. Zayd who had endeavored to shield the Prophet against the stones thrown at him was wounded in the head.
After a couple of years the Prophet managed to get sufficient support in one Arabian city - Medina - and decided to move there. But his enemies in Makkah plotted to murder him before he could emigrate to Medina, a plot that came very close to being successful.
Even after his escape from hostile Makkah to the relatively friendly Medina the suffering of the Prophet continued. The Quraysh and other Arab tribes under their influence frequently waged battles against him and his followers. In Medina itself the Jews vexed and frustrated the Prophet with their wily plots and at one time even tried to poison him. The hypocrites, the secret enemies of the Prophet who pretended to be Muslims, were also busy in intrigues and whisper campaigns against the Prophet, a particularly nasty example of which is provided by their accusations against the Prophet's wife Ayesha which were as painful for the Prophet as for Ayesha herself. Sometimes even the believers unintentionally caused pain to the Prophet. They would, for example, sometimes impolitely walk away from him leaving him alone standing by himself, as is witnessed by the following verse in the Qur'an:
"When they see some (opportunity of) trade or some amusement they rush headlong towards it and leave you standing alone..." (62:11)
These and many other things did the Holy Prophet suffer over a period of many years. He did not have to. Just before he started his mission he had everything that men generally hope for: health, a prosperous business, a loving wife, fine children, faithful relatives and friends as well as the trust and respect of his fellow citizens. If he wanted he could have led as comfortable a life as any in Makkah. But he chose the road of suffering and hardship. He did so for the love of the very people who ignorantly persecuted him and for the welfare of the whole of mankind.
THE MEANING OF THE PROPHET'S SUFFERING
Like all aspects of the Prophet's life, his suffering has profound lessons for us. It teaches us that this world is a battlefield between good and evil, truth and falsehood, justice and oppression and that although God has willed that in the long run goodness, truth and justice will always be victorious. He has also willed that this victory will not be made too easy.
The suffering of the Prophet is also a vivid reminder for us that whereas man has tremendous potential for goodness he also has an enormous potential for evil. The Prophet represents the ultimate in human potential for goodness while the opposition that his work inspired in his countrymen and which he gradually conquered by his love and wisdom represents the ultimate in human potential for evil. But we must not condemn those who persecuted the Prophet. For the Prophet's suffering was caused by that potential for ignorance and obstinacy that is found in all of us. Who knows that some of us would not have thrown garbage on the Prophet or persecuted him in some other way if we had been living in Makkah of his time? After all, men far greater than us, e.g. Hadhrat 'Umar and Hadhrat Khalid bin Walid at one time persecuted the Prophet. No, the Prophet did not suffer in order that we may condemn anyone. He suffered so that we may have hope and humility. He suffered so that we may find out how much potential there is within us for goodness and how much potential there is within us for ignorance and obstinacy - the root causes of all evil. We need to see both potentials within us. The first one gives us hope in our destiny and in the destiny of man generally and the second one gives us humility. And humility and hope is what we need in order to prosper.
Thus the Prophet's suffering should make us think of the potential of evil that we all have within us and make us determined to overcome that evil. The best way to overcome evil is to love the Prophet, for the more we love the Prophet the more we will strengthen the element of goodness in us and the more capable we will become to overcome evil.