In a Nutshell: Assumptions
The Prophet (saw) did not proactively call non-influentials or non-elites to Islam. Most early converts heard rumours of his discussions with tribal leaders, critiquing their society, requesting a collective reorientation of society according to a new worldview based on the divine. He critiqued fundamental polytheistic values of Meccan society, ancestralism and socio-economic practices.
Those questioning the Prophet (saw) would be told of his role, his message, and the revelation he had received. Those who believed him would often tell others and bring them to him.
There is a widespread misconception that when the Prophet (saw) first received revelation, he was asked to call people to Islam as individuals. It paints a picture of him adopting a missionary-like style approaching individuals like Khadija, Abu Bakr, Ali, Bilal and Abu Talib requesting they change their personal faith.The revelation was not revealed as a personal religion or faith
, it was a way of life (deen
) for a nation, community or polity to accept and collectively live by. 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 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 Prophet (saw) neglected or rejected non-influential individuals who accepted the truth of his message; rather his approach was to win over the influentials and elites of society, who could more readily ensure a transition for all of their followers. 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. Evidences
Reviewing the books of seera, I cannot find any examples of the Prophet (saw) proactively inviting non-influential individuals to Islam.All of the companions'
conversion stories in Mecca appear to state they came to the Prophet (saw) asking him about his new religion or another companion told them of the message and then brought him to the Prophet (saw). Conversion of Earlier CompanionsKhadija (ra) was the first person to believe the prophet.
She did not receive dawa from the Prophet (saw), rather he (saw) narrated his experience of the first revelation in the cave to her. She suggested he may be the next prophet people are waiting for. She consulted her cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal who told them 'this revelation is similar to what Moses received.' Khadija (ra) converted before the Prophet started calling society to adopt Islam and even before the Prophet (saw) fully understood the purpose of revelation.Ali (ra) was also not proactively invited by the Prophet (saw)
, rather Ali saw the prophet and his wife Khadija (ra) praying, and inquired about what he saw. The next day, he came to the Prophet (saw) and accepted Islam.Abu Bakr (ra) heard rumours about Muhammad (saw)
claiming to be a prophet after returning from a business trip so asked him what was going on. The Prophet (saw) explained Allah had chosen him and explained the revelation - Abu Bakr (ra) after pondering on his claims embraced Islam without hesitation.
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 Prophet (saw) did not proactively invite him
to Islam, rather Zayd (ra)
, like Ali (ra)
who was living with him, would have asked him about the rituals and accepted Islam based upon the Prophet's (saw) explanation.Khalid ibn Sa'id ibn al-Ass (ra)
was one of the first five companions embracing Islam. He experienced a dream where he saw the Prophet (saw) saved him from falling in a fire. He narrated the story to Abu Bakr (ra) who accompanied him to the house of the Prophet (saw). He learned about Islam and embraced it. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 445)Bilal (ra) overheard about the Prophet's (saw) message
from his master's conversation with his household and went to meet the Prophet (saw) who performed a miracle in front of him that led him to embrace Islam.Abu Dharr (ra) along with two of his friends
, according to ibn Ishaq, heard rumours about a prophet and came to Mecca to find out more. He approached the Prophet (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) was the fourth in Islam
. He lived outside Mecca and heard rumours of the Prophet's (saw) dawa and approached him in Mecca. He wanted to remain in Mecca, but the Prophet (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 Prophet (saw) and asked him about Islam. The Prophet (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)
saw a dream of accepting Islam and then he heard rumours of the Prophet's (saw) dawa. Saad (ra) probably met Abu Bakr who guided him to the Prophet (saw) and then embraced Islam.
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 Prophet (saw).
Zubayr, Uthman ibn Madh'un, Abi Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah and other companions (ra) converted to Islam through Abu Bakr (ra) who told them of the Prophet's (saw) message. They went to the Prophet (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)
was a trader whom an old man from Yeman told him of the ba'thah of the Prophet (saw) in Mecca. Ibn Awf (ra) went back and consulted Abu Bakr (ra) and then approached the Prophet (saw) and accepted Islam. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah fi Tameez al-Sahabah, Vol. 5, p. 98)Tufayl al-Dausi (ra)
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 Prophet (saw) to explain his religion so he could decide whether to accept it or not. The Prophet (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. As-Sirah al-Nabawiyah, Vol. 1, pp. 382-383)
A Christian group visited the Prophet (saw) asking about his new religion, accepting Islam, however, Quraysh made them apostatise. (Ibid, Vol. 1, p. 391)Talhah (ra) 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 Prophet's (saw) claim of revelation and that Abu Bakr (ra) followed him. He approached Abu Bakr (ra) who guided him to the place of the Prophet (saw) where he embraced Islam. (Ibn Kathir, al-Seera al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, pp. 438-440)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 fanaticism (asabiyyah). He later went to the Prophet (saw) and asked him to re-present Islam again to decide whether to keep his hasty decision or not. The Prophet (saw) presented Islam to him and he accepted Islam. He appeared to have already heard of it, probably at the Prophet's (saw) banquet
but hadn't embraced the message, as part of the collective response of his clan.Umar ibn al-Khattab (one of the Quraysh elites) converted to Islam
after the Prophet (saw) prayed for his conversion or that of Abu Jahl. Umar (ra) went to the Prophet (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)
The Prophet (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 Prophet (saw) then presented Islam nor there were any actions taken for his conversion, rather after a while, ibn Mas'ud (ra) went to the Prophet (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' as-Seera, Vol. 1, p. 38)Ammar and Suhayb (ra)
converted very early in Islam 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 Prophet (saw) about Islam and then converted to Islam.Dimad al-Azdi (ra)
heard rumours accusing the Prophet of being insane. He used to cure mad people, so he asked the Meccans to guide him to the Prophet (saw) to help him seek a quick recovery. The Prophet (saw) recited some verses and supplications in front of him, Dimad (ra) responded:
وَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ سَمِعْتُ قَوْلَ الْكَهَنَةِ، وَقَوْلَ السَّحَرَةِ، وَقَوْلَ الشُّعَرَاءِ، فَمَا سُمِعْتُ مِثْلَ هَؤُلَاءِ الْكَلِمَاتِ، فَهَلُمَّ يَدَكَ أُبَايِعْكَ عَلَى الْإِسْلَامِ. فَبَايَعَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ لَهُ: وَعَلَى قَوْمِكَ؟ فَقَالَ: وَعَلَى قَوْمِي
"By Allah, I have heard the speech of clergymen, sorcerers and poets, but I have not heard similar words (to what the Prophet said). Give me your hand to pledge allegiance (bay'ah) to you. The Prophet (saw) gave him bay'ah and said: 'Does this bay'ah include your tribe?' He answered, 'Yes, it is the bay'ah of my tribe.'" (Ibn Kathir, as-Seera al-Nabawiyah, Vol. 1, pp. 452)
An interesting part here is the last question "Does this bay'ah include your tribe?" because it confirms the assumption above that the Prophet (saw) focused on the collective dawa to communities and not individuals.
I can go continue with the list until it becomes unnecessarily long, but after reading almost every narration in the books of seera, I would say there is no narration where the Prophet (saw) proactively initiated dawa with non-influential individuals, rather his focus was with tribal leaders and influentials who between them held the trust of wider society so could reorient and restructure society in accordance with Islam - their followers accepting the new deen without reservation. Objections
One may object by saying, did not Allah reprimand the Prophet (saw) for focusing on leaders like Umayyah ibn Khalaf when he turned his back on individuals like ibn Umm Maktum?
This famous story "abasa wa tawalla" where the Prophet (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 Prophet'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 Prophet 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
The Prophet (saw) did not proactively call non-influentials or non-elites 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. He critiqued fundamental polytheistic values of Meccan society, ancestralism and socio-economic practices.
Those questioning the Prophet (saw) would be told of his role, his message, and the revelation he had received. Those who believed him would often tell others and bring them to him. References
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
Al-Ya'miri, Uyun al-Athar