The chief men of the city remained unconvinced, and at last the populace, in one of those blind furies that attack crowds at the sight of impotence, egged on the rabble to stone them. Chased from the city, sore, bleeding and despairing, Mahomet found shelter in one of the hill gardens of the locality. There he was solaced with fruit by some kindly owners of the place, and there he remained, meditating in profound dejection at his failure, but still with supreme trust in the support of his God.
“O Lord, I seek refuge in the light
of Thy countenance;
It is Thine to cleanse away the darkness,
And to give peace both for this world and the next.”
In this valley of Nakhla, too, so runs the tale, he was consoled by genii, who refreshed him, after the fashion of angels upholding the weary prophets in the wilderness. Mahomet was now in dire straits; he could not return to Mecca at once, because the object of his Taif journey was known; as Taif had spurned him, so he was forced to halt in Hira until he obtained the protection of Mutaim, an influential man in Mecca, and after some difficulty made his way back to the city, discredited and solitary, except for his former followers. For some months he rested in obscurity and contempt at Mecca, gaining none to his cause, but still filled with the fervent conviction of his future triumph, which neither wavered nor faltered. The divine fire which upheld him during the period of his violent persecution burned within his soul, and never was his steadfastness of character and faith in himself and his mission more fully manifested than during these despondent months.
He now began to seek in greater measure the society of women, although the consuming sexual life of his later years had hardly awakened. While Khadijah was with him he remained faithful to her, but her bright presence once withdrawn, he was impelled by a kind of impassioned seeking to the quest for her substitute, and not finding it in one woman, to continue his search among others. He now married Sawda, a nonentity with a certain physical charm but no personality, and sued for the hand of Ayesha, the small daughter of Abu Bekr.
Mahomet at this time was not blessed with many riches. His frugal, anxious life led him to perform many small duties of his household for himself. His food was coarse and often scanty, and he lived among his followers as one of themselves. It is no small tribute to his singleness of mind and lofty character that in the “dreary intercourse of daily life,” lived in that primitive, communal fashion, which admits of no illusions and scarcely any secrets, he retained by the force of personality the reverence of the faithful, and ever in this hour of defeat and negation remained their leader and lord—the symbol, in fact, of their loyalty to Allah, and their supreme belief in his guidance and care.