When the Messenger (saw) first received revelation, he focused on calling his nation, the people of Quraysh, to collectively accept Islam and reorient their way of life. Allah commanded him to focus on the tribal leaders, those whom society implicitly trusted, following them even if they adopted a new collective way of life.
He thus did not proactively call individuals, who could personally agree with him, whilst society still continued with their existing way of life. His mission was to change society, establish a civilisation, not change the faith of some individuals in a missionary sense.
Early companions (ra) would hear rumours of his dawa or see unusual dreams and approach him enquiring about his call with most believing him. One of them was Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (ra).
Abd al-Rahman Ibn Awf's Conversion
Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (ra) was a wealthy Meccan merchant. In one of his campaigns in Yemen, he was hosted by an old man who would ask him about Mecca and its news and whether a man had come rejecting its idols and called for a monotheistic deen.
The Messenger (saw) received the first revelation when ibn Awf (ra) was away on a trading mission. When he reached the old man, the old man prophesised the initiation of revelation and asked ibn Awf (ra) to return back and believe in it as it was better than any trade.
On his return, Ibn Awf (ra) consulted with his friend Abu Bakr (ra) who had believed in Islam and narrated the story of the old man. Abu Bakr (ra) told him of the Messenger's (saw) revelation and Ibn Awf (ra) approached him (saw) and accepted Islam. Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf narrated:
حَتَى قَدِمْتُ المَرَّةَ التي بُعِثَ النبيُّ صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلَّم وأَنَا غَائِبٌ فِيِهَا، فَنَزَلْتُ عَلَيْهِ فقال لِي: اُذْكُرْ نَسَبَكَ في قُرَيْشٍ، … قال: ألا أُبَشِّرُكَ ببِشارةٍ، وهيّ خَيِرٌ لكَ من التِجَارَةِ؟ قُلْتُ: بلى، قال: إن اللهَ قَدْ بَعَثَ من قَوْمَكَ نَبِيًّا اِرتَضَاهُ صَفِيًّا، وأَنْزَلَ عليهِ كِتَابًا وفِيًّا، يَنْهَىَ عن الأصْنَامِ، ويَدْعُو إلى الإسْلَامِ، يأمرُ بالحَقِّ ويَفْعَلُهُ، ويَنْهَىَ عن البَاطِلِ ويُبْطِلُهُ، وهو من بَنِي هَاشِمٍ، وإنَّ قومَك لأَخْوَالِه،
ُيا عبدَ الرَحْمَنِ، وازِرْهُ وصَدِّقه.
َقال عبد الرّحمن: فقدمتُ، فَلَقِيتُ أبا بكرٍ رضيّ اللهُ عَنهُ، وكان لي خَلِيطًا، فأخْبَرْتُه الخَبَر،
ِفقالَ: هَذَا مُحَمَدٌ بن عبدِ اللّهِ، قد بَعَثَهُ اللهُ إلى خَلْقِهِ رسولًا؛ فَذَهَبَ إلى رسولِ اللهِ صَلىَ الله عليه وآله وسلم وأَعْلَنَ إِسْلَامِه
"I came (to the old man) in the time when the Prophet (saw) received the revelation when I was not in Mecca.
He told me: Tell me your lineage from Quraysh … He said: Could I give you glad tidings better than your trade?
I said: Yes.
He said: Allah has sent a chosen Messenger from your people and revealed upon him a comprehensive book. He forbids worshipping idols and calls for Islam and commands the good and does it and forbids the evil and doesn't do it.
He is from Banu Hashim and your tribe's men are his maternal uncles. O Abd al-Rahman, support and believe in him.
I went back to Mecca and met Abu Bakr (ra) and he was my close friend and I told him the story.
He said: This is Muhammad ibn Abd Allah (saw) whom Allah has sent to his creatures as a Messenger.
He went to the Messenger (saw) and embraced Islam." (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah fi Tameez al-Sahabah, Vol. 5, p. 98)
Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf was a trader whom an old man from Yemen told him of the ba'thah of the Messenger (saw) in Mecca. On his return, Ibn Awf (ra) consulted Abu Bakr (ra) and then approached the Messenger (saw) and accepted Islam.
Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah fi Tameez al-Sahabah
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