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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell:
The Messenger (saw) did not proactively call individuals to a persobal Islam - his mission was not to save lost individual souls like a missionary, instead, he sought to save lost nations like a revolutionary.
Early companion converts heard rumours of his public discussions with the tribal leaders and influentials whom he asked collectively and individually to change the deen of society, critiquing their society and practices, requesting a collective reorientation of society based on a new tawhidi worldview.
They would then question the Messenger (saw) and be told of his role and the revelation he had received and asked to believe him.

Assumptions | Misconceptions about the Companions' conversion stories

There is a widespread misconception that when the Messenger (saw) first received revelation, he was asked to call people to Islam as individuals - save only lost souls so to speak. An image of a missionary approaching individuals like Khadija, Abu Bakr, Ali, Bilal, and Uthman (ra) requesting they change their personal faith.

The revelation was not revealed as a personal religion or faith, rather it was a way of life (deen) for a nation, community, or polity to collectively accept and live by as Islam is an embodied collective tradition, arising from the fusion of revelation and power. To do so, they would be required to reorient their personal and collective way of life-changing their collective worldview, institutions, structures, laws, culture, traditions, roles, opinions, customs, and norms. In sum, it would transform society and its members, resulting in the emergence of a new civilisation - as what finally happened in Medina.

He would, therefore, focus his efforts on the collective clan or nation, then tribal leaders, elites and influentials, as their people trusted them and would readily accept their consensus to adopt a new way of life. This contrasts sharply with the perspective that Islam was a personal faith for individuals, who could personally practice it if they wished, whilst society continued along its existing trajectory.

This does not mean the Messenger (saw) neglected or rejected non-influential individuals who accepted the truth of his message; rather his approach was to win over the society collectively by calling them collectively, then targeting its influentials and elites, and later their support base.

Where individuals approached him, he responded to them, answered their questions, and spent time teaching them and helping them build their personalities in a preparation for the second step of the collective dawa to the society. It is interesting to note that most of the early companions were young in age.

Evidence | The way by which the companions accepted Islam

Reviewing the books of seera, I cannot find any examples of the Messenger (saw) proactively inviting non-influential individuals to Islam - in fact, all of the companions' conversion stories in Mecca (who were Muhammad's first converts to Islam) appear to state they came to the Messenger (saw) asking him about his call (occasionally via another companion whom they approached who then brought him to the Messenger (saw)).

Conversion of Earlier Companions of Prophet Muhammad

  • Khadija (ra) | who was the first person to embrace Islam :

She did not receive dawa from the Messenger (saw), rather he (saw) narrated his experience of the first revelation in the cave to her. She consulted her cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal who told them 'this revelation is similar to what Moses received.' Khadija (ra) converted before the Messenger started calling society to adopt Islam and even before the Messenger (saw) fully understood the purpose of revelation.

  • Ali (ra) | who was the first male to embrace Islam:

Ali was not also proactively invited by the Messenger (saw), rather Ali (ra) saw the messenger and his wife Khadija (ra) praying and inquired about what he saw. The Messenger (saw) explained and he believed him.

  • Abu Bakr (ra) | who was the first man to embrace Islam:

Abu Bakr heard rumours about Muhammed (saw) claiming to be a prophet after returning from a business trip so asked him what was going on. The Messenger (saw) explained Allah had chosen him and explained the revelation - Abu Bakr (ra) after pondering on his claims embraced Islam without hesitation. So, Abu Bakr is the companion who accepted Islam without hesitation.

  • Khalid ibn Sa'id ibn al-Ass (ra):

He was one of the first five companions embracing Islam. He experienced a dream where he saw the Messenger (saw) saved him from falling in a fire. He narrated the story to Abu Bakr (ra) who accompanied him to the house of the Messenger (saw). He learned about Islam and embraced it. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 445)

  • Bilal (ra) the first slave to accept Islam:

Bilal overheard the Prophet's (saw) message from his master's conversation with his household and went to meet the Messenger (saw) who performed a miracle in front of him that led him to embrace Islam. (Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah al-Nabawiyah; Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 10, p. 436)

  • Abu Dharr (ra) along with two of his friends:

Abu Dhar (ra), according to ibn Ishaq, heard rumours about a messenger and came to Mecca to find out more. He approached the Messenger (saw) and asked him about his new religion, consequently believing him and accepting his message. (Ibn Ishaq, al-Seera wa al-Maghazi, Vol. 1, p. 143)

  • Amr ibn Abbasah al-Sullami (ra):

Amr was the fourth in Islam. He lived outside Mecca and heard rumours of the Messenger's (saw) dawa and approached him in Mecca. He wanted to remain in Mecca, but the Messenger (saw) refused suspecting the Quraysh would harm him. (Muslim 1812; Nawawi, al-Minhaj fi Sharh Muslim, Vol. 6, p. 115)

Ibn Ishaq also narrated Ubaydah ibn al-Harith, Abu Salamah, Ibn al-Arqam and ibn Madh'un (ra) went to the Messenger (saw) and asked him about Islam. The Messenger (saw) recited the Qur'an to them and then they embraced Islam. (Ibn Ishaq, al-Seera wa al-Maghazi, Vol. 1, p. 143)

  • Saad ibn Abi Waqas (ra):

Saad saw a dream of accepting Islam and then he heard rumours of the Messenger's (saw) dawa. Saad (ra) probably met Abu Bakr who guided him to the Messenger (saw) and then embraced Islam. (Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 11, p. 215, Ibn al-Athir, Asad al-Ghabah, Vol. 2, p. 455)

  • Uthman ibn Affan (ra)

A priestess aunt of Uthman ibn Affan (ra) told him of the Prophet's revelation and urged him to follow him as he calls for the truth. He went to Abu Bakr (ra) and related the matter to him. Abu Bakr (ra) advised him to do the same thing and let him meet the Messenger (saw). (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 7, p. 199, Ibn Asakir, Mukhtasar Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 16, p. 115)

  • Abu Bakr's dawa to Islam:

Zubayr, Uthman ibn Madh'un, Abi Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah and other companions (ra) believed in Islam through Abu Bakr (ra) who told them of the Messenger's (saw) message. They went to the Messenger (saw) and asked him about Islam and converted. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 440-41)

  • Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (ra):

Ibn Awf (ra) was a trader, while he was trading in Yeman, an old man informed him of the message of the Messenger (saw) in Mecca. Ibn Awf (ra) went back and consulted Abu Bakr (ra) and then approached the Messenger (saw) and accepted Islam. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah fi Tameez al-Sahabah, Vol. 5, p. 98)

  • Tufayl al-Dausi (ra):

Tufayl heard the Prophet (saw) reciting the Qur'an in the prayer in front of the Ka'ba, followed him until he entered his home. He then knocked on the door and asked the Messenger (saw) to explain his religion so he could decide whether to accept it or not. The Messenger (saw) did so, reciting some verses of the Qur'an to him. Tufayl (ra) then accepted Islam and invited his people to Islam later. (Ibn Hisham, Al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 382-383)

  • A Christian group visiting the Prophet:

While the Prophet was living in Mecca, a Christian group - obviously pretending to be traders -approached the Messenger (saw) asking about his new deen, accepting Islam, however, Quraysh made them apostatise. (Ibid, Vol. 1, p. 391)

  • Talhah in Ubayd-Allah (ra):

Talhah was told of the Prophet's revelation in a trade journey; when he entered Mecca, he asked people if there is any news and they told them of the Messenger's (saw) claim of revelation and that Abu Bakr (ra) followed him. He approached Abu Bakr (ra) who took him to the Messenger (saw) where he embraced Islam. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 438-440)

  • The Prophet's uncle Hamzah (ra):

Hamzah (ra) heard of Abu Jahl insulting the Prophet (saw), he went in the marketplace and hit him severely and proclaimed being a Muslim out of tribal loyalty (asabiyyah). He later went to the Messenger (saw) and asked him to re-present Islam again to decide whether to keep his hasty decision or not. The Messenger (saw) presented Islam to him and he accepted Islam.

He appeared to have already heard of it, probably at the Messenger's (saw) banquet but hadn't embraced the message, as part of the collective response of his clan. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah, Vol. 1, p. 445-446; Salihi, Subul al-Huda, Vol. 2, p. 333; al-Mustadrak 4878)

  • Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra):

Umar ibn al-Khattab (one of the Quraysh elites) converted to Islam after the Messenger (saw) prayed for his conversion or that of Abu Jahl. Umar (ra) went to the Messenger (saw) in Dar al-Arqam after having discovered his sister had become a Muslim. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 441-442)

  • Ibn Mas'ud (ra):

The Messenger (saw) performed a miracle in front of ibn Mas'ud (ra) when he recited some prayers on a sheep that had not been milked before and then it brought a great amount of milk. The narrations don't say the Messenger (saw) then presented Islam nor there were any actions taken for his conversion, rather after a while, ibn Mas'ud (ra) went to the Messenger (saw) and asked him to teach him these words and he is supposed to accept Islam and learned the Qur'an from the Prophet (saw). (Qurtubi, Jawami' al-Seera, Vol. 1, p. 38)

  • Ammar and Suhayb (ra):

Ammar and Suhayb (ra) converted very early in Muslims' secret house Dar al-Arqam. It was narrated Ammar (ra) met Suhayb ibn Sinan (ra) in front of the door Dar al-Arqam. They then entered the house and asked the Messenger (saw) about Islam and then converted to Islam.

  • Husain abu Umran (ra):

Husain abu Umran (ra) embraced Islam and believed in the Messenger after Quraish took him as an outsider to Mecca and a wise individual to the Messenger (saw) try to convince him to stop criticising them and their way of life. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1)

  • Dimad al-Azdi (ra):

Dimad al-Azdi (ra) heard rumours accusing the Messenger (saw) of being insane. He used to cure mad people, so he asked the Meccans to guide him to the Messenger (saw) to help him seek a quick recovery. The Messenger (saw) recited some verses and supplications in front of him, Dimad (ra) believed in him. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, p. 452)

  • The conversion of the Prophet's adopted son, Zayd ibn Haritha (ra):

Regarding Zayd ibn Haritha (ra), the books of seera and hadith don't detail his conversion. We have only been told he was one of the first companions to embrace Islam. Given the historical context, it is probable the Messenger (saw) did not proactively invite him to Islam either, rather Zayd (ra), like Ali (ra) who was living with him, would have asked him about the rituals he saw and accepted Islam based upon the Messenger's (saw) explanation.

I can continue with adding to the list, however having read almost every narration in the books of seera, I would conclude there is probably no narration where the Messenger (saw) proactively initiated dawa with non-influential individuals, rather his focus was to change the deen of the collective nation via tribal leaders and influentials, who between them held the trust of wider society, so he could reorient and restructure society in accordance with Islam - their followers accepting the new deen without reservation.

It would be unclear what end the Messenger (saw) would be seeking even if he was to call an individual to Islam as the deen did not exist nor could that individual bring it about - at best he could only accept its truth and practice aspects of it. It required the elites or society as a whole to collectively agree to change, the former requiring direct discussions with them which the messenger undertook, the latter requiring a collective discussion over what the messenger brought which occurred through following year 3-4.


One may object by saying, did not Allah reprimand the Messenger (saw) for focusing on leaders like Umayyah ibn Khalaf (or Walid ibn Mughirah in some narrations) when he turned his back on individuals like ibn Umm Maktum?

This famous story "abasa wa tawalla" where the Messenger (saw) exhibited annoyance when a blind man approached him whilst he was engaged in a discussion with Umayyah adds to and supports the above answer. It shows the Messenger's (saw) approach of the dawa was highly focused on the elites to the point he was annoyed when someone disrupted it, even though he knew that person had come to inquire about revelation.

Allah (swt) reprimanded the Messenger (saw) not for calling the leaders, rather for turning his back on someone who might be purified, and the remembrance would benefit them, i.e., for not reacting to someone who came to him, whilst the individual he favoured was not interested.

Conclusion | How did the companions accept Islam?

The Messenger (saw) did not proactively call non-influentials or non-elite individuals to Islam. Most early converts heard rumours of his discussions with tribal leaders, critiquing their society and requesting they collectively reorient society according to a new worldview based on the divine, leading them to make inquiries.

Those questioning the Messenger (saw) would be told of his role, his message, and the revelation he had received.


Ibn Hisham, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah
Ibn Ishaq, al-Seera wa al-Maghazi
Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah
Ibn Kathir, al-Fusul fi al-Seera
Nawawi, al-Minhaj fi Sharh Muslim
Kinani, Mukhtasar al-Kabir
Qurtubi, Jawami' al-Seera
Sallabee, Life of the Prophet
Al-Ya'miri, Uyun al-Athar

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