“Am I not dearer to thee than she was?”
“No, by Allah!” cried Mahomet; “for she believed when no one else believed.”
It was her strength of character and sweetness of mind that impelled him to utter the amazing words—amazing for his time and environment, seventh-century Arabia—“women are the twin-halves of men.”
But fortune or Allah had not finished the “strong affliction” whereby Mahomet was forced to cast off from his moorings and venture into strange and perilous seas. Five weeks after the death of his wife came the death of his uncle, Abu Talib. If the first had been a catastrophe affecting his courage and quietude of mind, this was calculated to crush both himself and his companions. Abu Talib was well loved by Mahomet, who manifested throughout his life the strongest capacity for friendship. But more important than the personal grief was the loss of the one man whose efforts bridged over the widening gulf between himself and the Kureisch. As such, his death was irreparable damage to Mahomet’s safety from their hostilities.
Abu Lahab, it is true, touched a little by the sorrows crowding so thickly upon his nephew, protected him for a time, but very soon withdrew his support and joined the opposition. Ranged against Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl, with their influential following, and lacking the support hitherto provided by Abu Talib, Mahomet perceived that a crisis was fast approaching. His band was too numerous to be ignored or even tolerated by the Kureisch, but against such odds as Mecca’s most powerful citizens, Mahomet was too wise to attempt to resist. There seemed no other way but the withdrawal of his little concourse to such place of safety as would enable them to strengthen themselves and prepare for the inevitable struggle for supremacy. No more conversions of importance had taken place since Omar’s and Hamza’s allegiance to Islam, and now three years had passed. Mahomet felt increasingly the need for their exodus from the city of his birth. It is not evident from the chroniclers that he had any definite political aims whatever when he first considered the plan of evacuation. His motive was simply to obtain peace in which he might worship in his own fashion, and win others to worship with him. With this idea in mind he cast about for a suitable resting-place for his small flock, and discovered what he imagined his goal in Taif, a village south-east of Mecca, upon the eastern slopes of Jhebel Kora.
Taif is situated on the fertile side of this mountain range, the side remote from the sea. It stands amid a wealth of gardens, and is renowned for its fruits and flowers. Thither in 620 Mahomet set out, filled with the knowledge of his invincible mission, strong in his power to conquer and persuade. Zeid, his slave and foster-child, was his only companion, and together they had resolved to convert Taif to the one true religion. But their adventure was doomed to failure, and though we have necessarily brief descriptions of it, all Mahomet’s biographers naturally passing quickly over so painful a scene, there is sufficient evidence to show how really disastrous their venture proved.