‘To you your religion, and to me mine’

Surah 109 (Al-Kafir/ The Disbelievers): 1-6

1.  Say ‘O disbelievers!
2.  I worship not that which ye worship.
3.  Nor worship ye that which I worship.
4.  And I shall not worship that which ye worship.
5.  Nor will ye worship that which I worship.

6. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.’


Ibn Ishaq states that the first person whom Muhammad informed of his  experience with Gabriel was his wife, Khadija, who believed. She took him to her cousin, Waraqa bin Naufal, ‘who had become a Christian and read from the Torah and the Gospel’ and who, on the basis of Khadija’s account of what Muhammad had told her, confirmed the authenticity of Muhammad’s revelation. The next to believe in Muhammad’s revelations were his cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib, followed by Zayd bin Harith, his adopted son, and Muhammad’s close friend, Abu Bakr. About forty other Meccans are said to have joined Muhammad, but Muhammad did not preach his revelation publicly for three years.


When Muhammad did start to preach his revelations, Ibn Ishaq describes him receiving a hostile response:

The Quraysh … stirred up foolish men who called him a liar, insulted him and accused him of being a poet, a sorcerer, a diviner and of being possessed. However, the apostle continued to proclaim what God had ordered him to proclaim, concealing nothing and exciting their dislike by condemning their religion, forsaking their idols and leaving them to their unbelief…


Yahya ibn Urwa ibn al-Zubayr on the authority of his father (Urwa ibn al-Zubayr, see 〈5.〉) from Abdullah al-As told me that the latter was asked what was the worst way in which the Quraysh showed their enmity to the apostle. He replied: ‘I was with them (the Quraysh) one day when the notables had gathered … and the apostle was mentioned. They said that they had never known anything like the trouble they had endured from this fellow: he had declared their mode of life foolish, insulted their forefathers, reviled their religion, divided the community and cursed their gods. What they had borne was past all bearing.’


While they were discussing him the apostle came towards them and kissed the black stone. Then he passed them as he walked around the temple. As he passed, they said some injurious things about him. This I could see from his expression. He went on and as he passed them the second time they attacked him similarly. This I could see from his expression. Then he passed the third time and they did the same. He stopped and said: ‘Will you listen to me O Quraysh? By Him who holds my life in His hand, I bring you slaughter.’ This word so struck the people that not one of them but stood silent and still. Even one who had hitherto been most violent spoke to him in the kindliest way possible….


(The next day when Muhammad attended the Ka’aba) ‘they leapt on him as one man and encircled him saying: ‘Are you the one who said that?’ And I saw one of them seize his robe. Then Abu Bakr interposed himself, weeping and saying: ‘Would you kill a man for saying ‘Allah is my Lord’?’ Then they left him. That is the worst that I ever saw the Quraysh do to him.’

The Qur’an is frequently defensive of accusations that it is falsified or erroneous (listed in 〈3.〉 above). In {44.14} it is said that that the Qur’an’s announcer was called ‘a well-tutored madman’ (per Maududi), in {9.61} thy ‘torment’ him by calling him ‘an ear’. As Muhammad’s influence grew, the Quraysh began to take action against Muhammad’s followers in their midst.


Then the Quraysh showed their enmity to all those who followed the apostle. Every clan which contained Muslims attacked them, imprisoning them, beating them allowing them no food or drink and exposing them to the burning heat of Mecca so as to seduce them from their religion.


Muhammad himself enjoyed the protection of his clan but those who did not enjoy this protection were sent to Abyssinia for their safety. At Mecca, the other clans declared a boycott and for a time Muhammad was forced to leave the settlement of Mecca and to base himself in a ravine nearby.


A partial accommodation between Muhammad and his opponents occurred when Abu Jahl, one of the foremost of Muhammad’s opponents in Mecca met with apostle and said to him:

By God, Muhammad, you will either stop cursing our gods or we will curse the God you serve,’

as a result of which God revealed:

Curse not those to whom they pray other than God, lest they curse God wrongfully through lack of knowledge, [{6.108}].’


A second attempt to reduce the discord was, however, unsuccessful:

There met the apostle, as he was going around the Ka’aba, so I have been told, Al-Aswad bin al-Muttalib …, al-Walid al-Mughira, Umayya bin Khalaf and al-As bin Wa’il, men of reputation amongst their people. They said:

‘Muhammad, come let us worship what you worship and you worship what we worship. You and we will combine in the matter. If what you worship is better than what we worship, we will take share of it, and if what we worship is better than what you worship you can take a share of that’.

So God revealed, concerning them ‘Say, O believers…’ [{109.1-6}, see above, which Ibn Ishaq paraphrases as:]

‘If you will only worship God on condition that I worship what you worship, I have no need of you at all. You can have your religion, all of it, and I have mine.’