“Nay,” they say, “(these are) medleys of dream! – Nay, He forged it! – Nay, He is (but) a poet! Let him then bring us a Sign like the ones that were sent to (Prophets) of old!”
The background of this verse is this: When the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) started gaining adherents, the chiefs of Makkah decided among themselves to start a propaganda campaign to counteract it. For this purpose they decided that every visitor to Makkah for pilgrimage should be approached and his mind so poisoned against the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he does not even go near and listen to him. Though this campaign continued throughout the year, in the pilgrimage season specially a large number of men were deputed to go to the tents of the pilgrims to warn them to beware of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Different sorts of things were said against the Prophet (peace be upon him) during these talks. Sometimes it was said that he was a sorcerer or that he had fabricated the Quran by himself but attributed it to Allah. Some would say that his revelations were the words of an insane person and a bundle of incoherent ideas. Others would say that these were ordinary poetic ideas which were being dubbed as the words of Allah. All they wanted to do was to poison the minds of the visitors irrespective of the correctness of their own versions. They had no considered and definite opinion in the matter. @ @ This false propaganda, however, had just the opposite effect. The name of the Prophet (peace be upon him) became known throughout the country through the nefarious activities of the chiefs of Makkah. A positive kind of approach from the Muslims would not have achieved the same publicity in years as was achieved so rapidly through this negative campaign of the Quraish. It made everybody thinking:After all, who is this man against whom such a campaign of vilification has been started? The serious type among them rather came to the conclusion that they must hear to the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself and said to themselves:After all we are not children who can be easily enticed away. @ @ For instance, Ibn Ishaq has related in detail the story of Tufail-bin-Amr Dausi in his own words:I was a poet of the clan of Daus. Once I went to Makkah and was, on my arrival there, surrounded by some people of the Quraish who told me all sorts of things against the Prophet (peace be upon him). So I grew suspicious and tried to avoid him as much as possible. The very next day, when I went to visit the Sanctuary, I saw him saying his prayer. I heard a few sentences and felt that what he was reciting were excellent words. I said to myself : I am a poet and a sensible young man and no child who cannot discriminate between the right and the wrong. Why should I not therefore meet him and inquire what he is reciting? Accordingly, I followed him to his house and said:The people had so much poisoned me against you that I had actually put cotton into my ears lest I should hear your voice, but what I have heard today from you was so appealing that I feel urged to inquire into your message rather in detail. At this the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited a passage of the Quran. As a result of which I embraced Islam there and then. On my return home I induced my father and wife to become Muslims, which they did, and then invited the people of my clan to embrace Islam with the result that by time of the battle of the Trench, as many as eighty families from my clan had entered the fold of Islam. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 22-24). @ @ According to another tradition cited by Ibn Ishaq, the chiefs of the Quraish confessed in their private meetings that all their charges against the Prophet (peace be upon him) were false. According to him, addressing a meeting, Nadr bin Harith once said:You cannot overcome Muhammad by the methods you are adopting against him. When he was a young man you regarded him as your bestmannered person and looked upon him as your most truthful and honest man. Now that he has attained advanced age, you say, he is a sorcerer, he is a soothsayer, he is a poet, he is insane. By God, he is not a sorcerer, for we very well know what kind of people the sorcerers are and what kind of tricks they resort to. By God, he is not a soothsayer, for we are fully aware of the guess works of the soothsayers. By God, he is not a poet for we know what poetry is and can judge that his words cannot be classified under poetry in any sense. By God, he is not insane, for we all know what nonsensical things the insane people utter. Therefore, O chiefs of the Quraish, let us think of some other plan to defeat him. After this, he himself proposed that stories from Persia like those of Rustam and Asfandyar should be given publicity to divert the people’s attention from the Quran. Accordingly, they put this scheme into practice and Nadr himself began to relate such stories before the people. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. l, pp. 320-321).
Maududi, Abul Ala (2010). Tafhim ul Quran. https://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/27/index.html