Muhammad Ibn Sa’d, Book of the Major Classes (Kitab al-Tabaqat al Kabir) [9th century]
“…When the infidels found that the Companions of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, had sent their children and descendants to al-Aws and al-Khazraj, they realized that they were resourceful people possessing martial spirit, so they began to entertain fears of the departure of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him. They assembled in the Dar al-Nadwah and none of them who had the prudence and sagacity abstained from attending the meeting and expressing his opinion about this matter. Iblis attended the meeting in the guise of an old man of Najd and his sword was handing by his side. They discussed the affair of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him and every one gave his opinion; Iblis rejected each in turn mot approving any of them. ‘At length Abu Jahl said: Let us select a dexterous and sturdy person from every tribe of the Quraysh and supply him with a sharp sword, and all of them should strike him simultaneously. The blood feud will thus be shared by all of them, and Banu ‘Abu Manaf will not be in a position to decide what to do. He (Ibn Sa’d) said: he Najdi said: The excellent opinion of this youth is from Allah! This is the real opinion, and there is no other better than this! They agreed on this and dispersed. Gabriel came to the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him and revealed this information and asked him not to sleep in his bed that night…
“He (Prophet) asked ‘Ali to sleep in his bed that night. ‘Ali passed the night there having covered (himself) with the red Hadrami sheet in which the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, used to sleep. A group of the Quraysh assembled there and began peeping through the crevices in the door, and sat in ambush with the intention of (seizing him by) his clothes. They were consulting as to which of them was to attack the person sleeping in the bed. (In the meantime) the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, came out, and they were sitting at the door; he took a handful of dust and sprinkled at their heads and recited:
“Yasin. By the wise Qur’am. Lo! Thou art of those sent. On a straight path. A revelation of the Mighty, the Merciful, that thou may warn a folk whose fathers were not warned, so they are heedless. Already hath the word proved true of most of them, for they believe not…”
In this excerpt, it can be seen how descendants of different families came together to plot against Muhammad, deciding on a despicable plan to murder him in his sleep. This plan shows the type of society in which Muhammad was trying to spread his message and how threatened these prominent families were by Muhammad’s message and the following he was gaining. It is telling that the best plan they could decide upon was murder, even saying, “there is no other better than this!” It shows the violent lengths they were willing to go to in order to prevent any change. In The Message, Moustapha Akkad adapts this excerpt to his film. He shows seven sons of each of the merchant leaders storm a house where they believe Muhammad to be. In the film, these armed men are shown entering the house and to strike down the person sleeping, only stopping at the last moment when they realize that it is ‘Ali in the bed. The significant difference between these two scenes is that in Ibn Sa’d’s telling of events, Muhammad is there. He intercedes before the armed men enter and have the opportunity to attack. In Akkad’s version, Muhammad stays away, avoiding any potential danger.
While one could interpret Akkad’s depiction as Muhammad abandoning his cousin, it also shows Akkad’s effort to give viewers information about the Prophet. In the film, this scene speaks to Muhammad’s leadership and the loyalty he commanded. Muhammad’s earliest followers, especially his cousin ‘Ali as referenced in this scene, are so committed to Islam and the Prophet himself that they are willing to put their lives in danger. Because of the prohibitions on visual depictions of the Prophet, Akkad needed to look for other opportunities to show Muhammad’s influence. By excluding Muhammad from this scene, the viewer gets a sense of the type of trust and loyalty the Prophet inspired in his followers.