The fourth year of prophethood: Declare what you have been commanded! Warn your nearest relations!
After the three year period of secrecy, in the fourth year of prophethood, the Almighty revealed:
فَاصْدَعْ بِمَا تُؤْمَرُ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ
“So declare openly what you are commanded and turn aside from the idolaters.
Surely, We will suffice you against the scoffers”. (al-Hijr, 94-95)
These ayah were commanding the open declaration of Islam. Another emphasizes the same point with greater clarity, with a tone of warning.
يَااَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا اُنْزِلَ اِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَاِنْ لَمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ اِنَّ اللهَ لاَ يَهْدِى الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
“O Messenger! Deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message. Allah will protect you from people. Surely He will not guide the unbelieving.” (al-Maida, 67)
From then on, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, was ordered to:
قُلْ يَااَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اِنِّى رَسُولُ اللهِ اِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِى لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَاْلاَرْضِ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ هُوَ يُحْيىِ وَيُمِيتُ فَاَمِنُوا بِاللهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِىِّ اْلاُمِّىِّ الَّذِى يُؤْمِنُ بِاللهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
“Say: O people! Surely I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him to Whom belongs the kingdom of heavens and earth. There is no God but He, He gives life and death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the unlettered Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him so that you may walk in the right way.” (al-Araf, 158)
But while thinking how and where he was to begin, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was aided by another Revelation:
وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ
وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
فَإِنْ عَصَوْكَ فَقُلْ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ
الَّذِي يَرَاكَ حِينَ تَقُومُ
“And warn your nearest relations; and be kind to him of the believers who follows you. But if they disobey you, then say: Surely I am clear of what you do. And rely on the Mighty, the Merciful, who sees you when you stand.” (as-Shuara 214-218)
Once the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- began the calling to Islam openly, he first invited his close relatives, compliant with the Divine order. Treating them with honor and respect, he then addressed them in the following:
“I have been sent as Prophet first to you, sons of Abdulmuttalib, then to all of mankind. You have already borne witness to many miracles through me. Now, who among you will follow me as a brother and friend?”
Nobody took much notice. They remained silent. But Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him-, who was still a child at the time but had the honor of being the first male to join faith, stood and said:
“I will be sure to help you, Messenger of Allah!”
As those who were present looked on belittlingly and mockingly, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- turned his warm gaze towards Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- and caressed his head with the gentle hand that so many would have given all to kiss just once.
The unwillingness of his relatives to accept Islam did little to break the perseverance of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. After all, Allah the Almighty had revealed:
يس وَالْقُرْاَنِ الْحَكِيمِ اِنَّكَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
“Ya Seen. By the wise Qur’an. Most surely you are one of the messengers. On a straight path…” (Ya-Seen, 1-4)
وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولاً وَكَفَى بِاللّهِ شَهِيدًا
“…and We have sent you to mankind as a messenger; and Allah is sufficient as a witness!” (an-Nisa, 79)
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“And We have not sent you but to all of mankind as a bearer of good news and as a warner, but most men do not know.” (as-Saba, 28)
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ
“Say: O people! Surely I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth…” (al-Araf, 158)
As made clear by the Quran, different from those before him, Prophet Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- was sent to all humankind. This is explicated by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- himself in the following hadith:
“I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me.
- Allah made me victorious by awe, by His frightening my enemies from a distance of one month’s journey.
- The earth has been made, for me and for my followers, a place for praying and purity through tayammum, hence anyone of my followers can perform salat wherever and whenever the time is due.
- Spoils have been made permissible for me even though it was not lawful before for anyone else.
- I have been given the right of intercession on the Day of Judgment.
- While every prophet was sent to his nation only, I have been sent to all mankind.” (Bukhari, Tayammum, 1)
Except for Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him-, who was only a child at the time, the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- first open calling of his relatives fell virtually on deaf ears.
Afterwards, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- once again invited his relatives to his house. Treating them again with respect and honor, he then addressed them:
“Sons of Abdulmuttalib! By Allah, I know of no other man among the Arabs who has brought a thing of greater benefit, for your world and your hereafter, than I.
Sons of Abdulmuttalib! I have been sent as a prophet to you in particular, to all mankind in general. And you have indeed already seen some of the miracles in this regard. Now who is willing to lend me brotherly help in this duty in return for paradise? Who is willing to follow me in this path as a brother and friend?”
Again, not only did any of his relatives not accept the invitation of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, they all mocked and laughed at the offer. Soon after they all disbanded. (Ahmed, I, 159; Ibn Saad, I, 187; Haythami, VIII, 302; Ibn Asir, el-Kâmil, II, 63; Balazurî, I, 119; Halabi, I, 283)
Close relatives are more apt to accept what a person has to say in comparison to those who are more distant. Considering also the relatives of those who accept Islam, it is evident that the Religion through this way carries the potential of being carried to society at a greater speed. It is even more difficult for others to show acceptance if the relatives do not believe in and accept the words of the caller. It was for that reason that the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- followed the Divine command and initiated the process with his relatives.
On the other hand, for prophets to be successful in their duty of invitation, the support and assistance of close relatives has always been crucial. This has in fact been explained in the Quran with reference to past examples:
قَالُواْ يَا شُعَيْبُ مَا نَفْقَهُ كَثِيراً مِّمَّا تَقُولُ وَإِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِينَا ضَعِيفًا وَلَوْلاَ رَهْطُكَ لَرَجَمْنَاكَ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْنَا بِعَزِيزٍ
“They said: O Shu’aib! We do not understand much of what you say and most surely we see you to be weak among us, and were it not for your family we would surely stone you!” (Hud, 91)
When Lut (upon him peace) was left helpless in the face of his people’s deviance, he bemoaned in sorrow the lack of help at his side:
لَوْ أَنَّ لِي بِكُمْ قُوَّةً أَوْ آوِي إِلَى رُكْنٍ شَدِيدٍ
“He said: If only I had strength to resist you or had some strong support!” (Hud, 80)
Islam has placed particular emphasis on looking out for relatives. Therefore, if a person wishes for the guidance of others through Islam, he ought to first think of his own family and relatives. Allah the Almighty says in this respect:
وَأُوْلُو الْأَرْحَامِ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلَى بِبَعْضٍ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ
“Blood relations are more deserving of one another in the Decree of Allah.” (al-Ahzab, 6)
 Ahmed, I, 111, 159; Haythami , VIII, 302-303.
 In another narration, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- further emphasizes three more points: “I have been made jawami’ul-kalim (i.e. endowed with the ability to express the greatest meanings through the least amount of words). Prophethood has come to an end with me, sealed, and there shall come no more prophets after me. And as I was lying asleep, the keys of the treasures of earth were brought and placed in front of me.” (Muslim, Masajid, 5, 6)