protection, which latter alternative was equivalent to handing him over to the summary vengeance of his foes. This Abu Tâlib firmly but politely refused to do, and it was not until they added threats to their entreaties that he consented even to remonstrate with his nephew.
Mohammed, though deeply grieved at losing, as he feared, his uncle's protection and goodwill, exclaimed in reply, 'By Allâh! if they placed the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, to persuade me, yet while God bids me, I will not renounce my purpose!' and bursting into tears turned to leave the place. But the kind old Abu Tâlib, moved at his nephew's tears, recalled him and assured him of his continued protection.
From his fellow-citizens Mohammed met with nothing but raillery, insults, and actual injuries, when he ventured to announce his mission in public.
In return he could only threaten them with punishment in this world and the next, setting before them the fate of those who had rejected the prophets of old, of the people of Noah and Lot, of the destruction of Pharaoh and other contumacious folk; and painting in vivid colours the dreadful torments of the future life. But the one threat seemed little likely to be realised, and in an existence after death they had no belief. So the prophet's warnings went for naught, and he himself was forced to bear with patience the contumely heaped upon him and the still deeper pain of disappointment and the sense of failure.
In proportion as the new faith incurred the open hostility of the Meccans, the position of its converts became more embarrassing. Those who had powerful protectors could still weather the storm, but the weaker ones, especially the slaves and women, had to endure the severest persecutions, and in some cases suffered martyrdom for their belief.
Some of the slaves were bought off by Abu Bekr, Mohammed's own financial position not allowing him to do this himself; others having no resource apostatized to save their lives.
Under these circumstances the prophet advised his little