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Abu Sufyaan’s Dialogue with the Messenger of Allaah and His Companions
Abu Sufyaan ascended to a high place and asked, “Is Muhammad present amongst the people?” The Prophet ordered: “Do not answer him.” Abu Sufyaan asked, “Is the son of Abu Quhaafah [i.e., Abu Bakr] present among the people?” The Prophet said: “Do not answer him.” Abu Sufyaan asked, “Is the son of Al-Khattaab [i.e., ‘Umar] amongst the people?” He then added, “All of them were killed, for, were they alive, they would have replied.” On that, 'Umar could not help shouting back, “You are a liar, O enemy of Allaah! Allaah has preserved what will make you disgraced.”
Abu Sufyaan said, “May Hubal [an idol] be superior!” On that the Prophet said [to his Companions]: “Reply to him.” They asked, “What should we say?” He said: “Say: Allaah is superior and more Majestic!” Abu Sufyaan said, “We have [the idol] Al-'Uzza, whereas you have no 'Uzza!” The Prophet said [to his Companions]: “Reply to him.” They asked, “What should we say?” The Prophet said: “Say: Allaah is our Helper, and you have no helper.”
Abu Sufyaan said, “[This] day compensates for our loss at Badr, and the battle remains undecided. You will see some of your dead men mutilated, but neither did I urge this action, nor am I sorry for it.” [Al-Bukhaari]
In another narration of this incident, ‘Umar said, “We are not equal: our dead are in Paradise, yours are in Hell.”
The questions of Abu Sufyaan about the Prophet Abu Bakr and ‘Umar clearly indicate that the polytheists were especially interested in killing them. That is because they were aware that they represented the pillars upon which Islam and its state were established. Thus, the polytheists believed that their death would mean the end of Islam.
Not answering Abu Sufyaan at first was done in order to belittle him, so that when he began to speak arrogantly they would tell him the truth and refute his allegations with courage.
Ibn Al-Qayyim commented on this conversation saying
The Prophet commanded them to answer him when he began priding himself on his gods and polytheism, in order to glorify Tawheed [monotheism] and state the greatness, power and Invincibility of Allaah The Almighty, whom the Muslims worship and take pride in being His soldiers. Nevertheless, the Prophet commanded his Companions not to answer him when he asked about the presence of the Prophet Abu Bakr and ‘Umar because it would have been of no benefit, and because they were still burning with anger.
However, when Abu Sufyaan said to his companions, “As for these [men], they have been killed”, ‘Umar was enraged and said, “You are a liar, O enemy of Allaah!” This statement humiliated Abu Sufyaan, and indicated the bravery of the Muslims who would defy their enemy even under such circumstances. Indeed, this was a sign that the Muslims were still strong and that they had not been weakened by the events. Additionally, this statement proved that the Muslims do not fear the polytheists, as Allaah The Exalted had kept for them what would make the polytheists miserable.
Refraining from declaring that the Prophet and his two Companions were still alive until Abu Sufyaan and his people believed that they were dead was in the interest of the Muslims. It weakened the enemy and enraged them in such a way that outweighed the effect of answering him when he asked about each one of them individually. Abu Sufyaan’s questions and his announcement of the death of the Prophet and his two companions were the last arrows in the enemies’ quiver. Therefore, the Prophet waited until he finished and then chose ‘Umar to answer back.
Delaying the answer and then answering him was a very smart tactic as refraining from answering him at first was a humiliation and belittlement for him, and then answering him when he believed that the three had been killed and he became very arrogant, was further humiliation and belittlement for him. Answering Abu Sufyaan was not a violation of the command of the Prophet who said, “Do not answer him;” because he only forbade them from answering him when he asked about them individually, but did not forbid them when Abu Sufyaan said that they had all been killed.
In every respect, refraining from answering him at first and then answering him was the best action possible.
Events Following the Battle of Uhud - I
Events Following the Battle of Uhud - II