Mahomet was not yet convinced of the impossibility of compromise, neither was the powerful party among the Kureisch utterly indifferent to Mahomet’s ancestry as a member of the house of Hashim, and his position as the husband of Khadijah. He had been respected among men for his uprightness before he affronted their prejudices by scorning their gods. His power was daily becoming a source of strife and faction within the city, and the Kureisch were not averse from attempting to come to terms. Mahomet for his part, as far as the scanty evidence of history unfolds his state of mind, seems to have been almost desperately anxious to effect an understanding with the Kureisch. His cause still journeyed by perilous ways, and at the time hopes of his future achievement were apparently dependent upon the goodwill of the dominant Meccan party.
The story runs that the chief men of Mecca were discussing within the Kaaba the affairs of the city. Mahomet came to them and recited Sura liii—The Star—a fulgent psalm in praise of God and heavenly joys. When he came to the verses:
“Do you see Al-Lat and Al-Ozza and Manat the third beside,” he inserted:
“Verily these are the exalted females, and truly their intercession may be expected.”
They Kureisch were rejoiced at this homage to their deities, and speedily welcomed Mahomet’s change of front; but he, disquieted, returned moodily to his house, where Gabriel appeared to him in stern rebuke:
“Thou hast repeated before the people words I never gave to thee.”
And Mahomet, whether conscience-stricken by his lapse from the Muslim faith, or convinced that compromise with the Kureisch was impossible and also undesirable in face of his growing power, quickly repudiated the whole affair, which had been unquestionably born of impulse, or possibly an adventurous mood that prompted him “to see what would happen” if he ministered to the prejudices of the Kureisch. It must be acknowledged, however, that repentance for his homage to heathen idols was the mainspring of his recantation, for the period immediately following was one of hardship and persecution for him, and his transitory lapse injured his cause appreciably with the brethren of his faith. The attempt was honourably made, and only failed by Mahomet’s swift realisation that his acknowledgment of Lat and Ozza as spirits sanctioned the worship of their images by his fellow-citizens, and this his stern monotheism could not for a moment entertain.
The Muslim, with numbers that increased very slowly, were harried afresh by the Kureisch as soon as Mahomet had withdrawn his concessions, and most of them were forced at length to return to Abyssinia. His pathetic little band, wandering from city to city, doubtful of ever attaining security and uncertain of its ultimate destiny, was the prototype in its vagrancy of that larger and confident band which cast aside its traditions and the city of its birth, headed by a spirit heroic in disaster and supreme in faith, to find its goal in the foundation of a new order for Arabia. Chief among them were Othman and Rockeya, and these were the only ones who returned to Mecca, for the rest remained in Abyssinia until after the migration to Medina, in fact until after Mahomet had carried out the expedition to Kheibar.