Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/32

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band of followers to seek safety in flight, and a few of the most helpless of them accordingly emigrated to the Christian country of Abyssinia. The next year others joined them, until the little colony of Muslim emigrants numbered a hundred souls.

The Qurâis were much annoyed at the escape of the Muslims, as they had hoped and determined to suppress the movement completely: they therefore sent a deputation to the Naggâsî or king of Abyssinia, demanding the surrender of the fugitives. The Naggâsî called his bishops around him, and summoning the refugees to the conference bade them answer for themselves. They told him how they had been plunged in idolatry and crime, and how their prophet had called them to belief in God and to the practice of a better life; then they quoted the words of the Qur′ân concerning Jesus, and finally begged the monarch not to give them up to these men, who would not only persecute them, but force them back into unbelief and sin. The Naggâsî granted their request and sent the messengers back. The failure of this attempt increased the hostility of the Qurâis towards the small remnant of the Muslims who were left in Mecca.

Almost alone, exposed to hourly danger and annoyance, it is not to be wondered at that Mohammed should for a moment have conceived the idea of a compromise.

The chiefs of Mecca cared little for their own idols, but they cared greatly for their traffic and their prestige. If the gods in the Kaabah were false and their service vain and wicked, who would visit the holy shrine? and where would then be the commercial advantages that flowed into Mecca from the pilgrims who crowded yearly to the town? Again, if they allowed the favourite deities of the neighbouring powerful tribes to be insulted or destroyed, how could they expect that these latter would accord safe conduct to their caravans or even allow them to pass through the territories unmolested?

Al ʼHuzzâ, Allât, and Manât were the idols of the most important of these neighbouring tribes, and the Qurâis pro-