Early History of Islam – A Refreshing Look at the Sirah (Biography of the Prophet Muhammad)
June 27, 2017
You may hover over a subtitle and click to go directly to it.
– I Focus on Arabia Before Islam
– II Focus on Early History of Islam
– Muhammad’s Humanistic Character
– Archangel Gabriel with the First Revelation “Read”
– Meeting with the Christian Monk
– Torture and Muslim Migration to Abyssinia
– Muslim’s Dialogue with the Christian King of Abyssinia
– The Siege of the Prophet and His Clan
– Christian-Muslim Alliance
– Muhammad’s Journey to al Ta’if
– The Miraculous Journey into Heaven (Isra’ and Mi’raj)
– Migration of the Prophet: Masterpiece of Thoughtful Planning
– Establishing Home Land
-Transitional Sunnah Example
– Urban development
1- Cleaning the City
2- Improving the Water and Irrigation Systems
3- Lighting the city
– Constitution of Medina
– Islam: A Faith of Mercy
– The Muslims’ Strategy of Survival
– The Turning Phase
– Islam’s Policy for Initiating a War
– The Battle of Badr
– The Myth: Muslims Enters Paradise by killing Christians and Jews
– The Battle of Uhud
– Muslim’s War-Preventive Measures
– The Crisis of Orphanage and Polygamy
– Islam’s Shura Principle Today’s Democracy
– Clarity and Priority
– The Battle of the Pact or the Ditch
– The Agreement of Hudaybiyah
– Early Muslims and Christians Dialog
– The War with Byzantine
– The Opening of Mecca
– The End of Idolatry in the Sacred City of Mecca
– The Farewell Pilgrimage and Farewell Speech of the Prophet
– The Legacy
– Period of the Guided Caliphs
By: Faysal Burhan
I Focus on Arabia Before Islam
Arabs before Islam were people who possessed certain distinguished virtues, such as loyalty, boldness, and generosity. Arabia had tribal organizations and literary clubs. They were highly eloquent in the Arabic language, making poetry an integrated part their lifestyle. Much of the social, political, and tribal life affairs of Arabia delivered in poetic forms. Poetry was the broadcasting media at that time.
The status of women was also extremely undermined, so much was the case that widowed and divorced women were not permitted to remarry. Certain tribes used to bury their daughters alive at birth. Pride and disgrace intruded this criminal attitude toward female babies. Addressing this odd behavior, God in the Holy Qur’an questioned the killers saying:
When the female (infant), buried alive, is asked about what crime she was killed. Quran, 81:8-9
In Arabia, tribal prejudice was extreme. Everyone firmly believed that each came from the noblest stock. Religion was in a state of pluralism. Each tribe had its god. The Jews and Christians, on the other hand, were having a waiting match. Each was expecting the awaited prophet “that Prophet,” to come from amongst their people. Jewish and Christian tribes had settled in the Arabian Peninsula in the locations matching the Old Testament’s description of where the awaited prophet shall be coming from. For example, eleven Jewish tribes settled around the city of Medina, as well as the Christian tribe of Najran. The Old Testament, Book of Habakkuk, Chapter 3, Verse 3, prophesied:
God came from Teman, and the holy one from mount Paran, Sila, his glory
cover the heaven, and earth and the earth was full of his praise.
According to the Dictionary of the Bible, under the word Teman, page 961, it states: Teman is a large oasis in the north of Medina. Arabia’s social, political and moral aspects demanded a reformer.
II. Focus on Early History of Islam (A Refreshing Look at the Sirah)
At the beginning of 600 CE, when the elders of Mecca renovated the shrine of the Ka’ba, they fell into an argument: Who would have the honor of resetting the sacred divine black stone (a stone from heaven) into the masonry? Agreeing that the next man to enter the holy precincts would judge the dispute. First to appear was a young Meccan merchant whose wisdom and honesty had earned him the name Al-Amin or the “Trustworthy.” He was a thin man, strong of bone and muscle and had dark eyes and a lightened face. He called for a cloak and spread it on the ground. With his own hands, he placed the black stone on it. With a nobleman from each of Mecca’s leading tribes pulling a corner of the robe, the sacred stone set. Then with his hands, the young man sat the stone into its niche where it remains to this day. The man’s name was Muhammad.
Muhammad was born in Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula, into the prominent Quraysh tribe about 570 C.E., both of his parents died young; first his father, Abdu-Allah and then his mother Amina shortly after. He was about six years old at the time of his mother’s death. His father died when he was still in his mother’s womb. His grandfather Abd-al Muttalib, a prominent leader in Mecca, took charge of him. Upon the death of his grandfather, Muhammad’s guardianship passed to his uncle Abu-Talib, who never converted to Islam but continued to show love and protection for his nephew despite extreme hardships and dangers. Muhammad, like the rest of the young men in Abu-Talib’s family, had to work. At first, he was a shepherd, but later he gained respect as a businessman. At 25 he married Khadijah, a 40-year-old widow. They lived 23 years together and had four daughters and two sons. All his sons died during early childhood, but his daughters lived and got married, only Fatima had descendants.
Muhammad’s Humanistic Character
Muhammad exhibited a trait of kindness and compassion for all people. Regarding this, historians relate to us a revealing story about Muhammad and his servant Zaid ibn Harithah, who was known as the son of Muhammad.
As stated earlier, Arabia was not civilized and individuals or tribes often raided or robbed others of food and gains, due to droughts and famine. It happened that the young boy, Zaid ibn Harithah was in route with his mother for some business when snatched from his mother by muggers, who later sold him in Mecca as a slave. Zaid was purchased and given to Khadijah by her nephew. Khadijah gave Zaid to Muhammad as a marriage gift. Meantime, Zaid’s family was in agony as a result of the loss of their son. His father, Harithah, had composed poetry revealing the suffering and sadness without their son, wondering his fate.
One day, al Harithah learned the good news that his son was with Muhammad. Soon he collected a large sum of money from his clan and went to Muhammad to buy back his son. When Harithah met Muhammad, he told him the story of Zaid and that he had collected a large sum of money as a ransom to get him back. Possibly not to hurt Zaid’s feelings, Muhammad said, what if I offer you a better solution? Sure, but what could be better than this sum of money, Harithah replied? Muhammad then said, “We will give Zaid a choice to either go with you or stay with me. If he chooses to go with you, you can take him, and I will take no money, but if he chooses to stay with me, I will not turn him down.” Harithah said that this is indeed a better solution.
So Muhammad calls upon Zaid, who greeted his father and later was given a choice to go back to his family or stay with Muhammad. Realizing Muhammad’s decency and treatment, Zaid had no difficulty choosing Muhammad over his own family. Zaid’s answer made his father uncomfortable. To comfort Harithah, Muhammad took Zaid by the hand to the Ka’ba and announced to Quraysh that Zaid was to be from here on called “Zaid, the son of Muhammad.”
Thus, Muhammad’s kind-heartedness did not impose on Zaid a mastership order to go back to his family, yet at the same time, assured his biological father that Zaid is like a son, not a servant. Such was Muhammad’s pristine nature. In fact, during his Prophethood, Muhammad taught that religion is “the way to treat others.”
Archangel Gabriel With the First Revelation “Read”
During the next several years Muhammad devoted much of his time to contemplation. Often he climbed to a small cave among the rocks of Mount Noor called Hira, just north of Mecca, to spend time in fasting and meditation. There, in the year 610, at 40 years of age and although unlettered, a revelation overwhelmed him, a blinding vision that frightened him to his knees. A voice from the sky said:
O Muhammad, Read!” He said: “I cannot read.” The voice again said: “Read!” He said: “I cannot read.” The third time the voice was more frightening than the previous. It commanded: “Read!” He said: “What shall I read?” Then the archangel replied:
Read, in the name of the Lord who createth, created man from a clot, read and it is thy Lord, the most Bountiful Who teacheth by pen, teacheth man that which he knew not. Quran, 96:1-5
Troubled, Muhammad returned home to Khadijah. Is it that God has spoken to him and had appointed him His messenger? Or is it that he is losing his senses? It is an undisputed fact that Khadijah was the first to believe in his appointment as a Prophet, before anyone, even the disturbed Muhammad himself. Since he returned to her saying: “Wrap me, wrap me,” and right after he told her what he had experienced and what was said to him, Kadijah responded by saying: “Allah will not disappoint you, you feed the poor, you cloth the needy…”
Meeting With the Christian Monk
Soon after, Khadijah took Muhammad and hastened to her cousin, Waraqah Ibn-Nowfal, who refused to worship idols and had become a Christian and who had also translated part of the Old Testament into Arabic. When Muhammad told him what he had seen and heard, he broke into these words:
Holy, Holy! By Him Who dominated Waraqah’s soul, O Khadijah, this must be the great spirit that spoke to Moses. Muhammad must be the Prophet of this nation. -Ibn Hisham
The next revelation for Muhammad was:
O you who lie wrapped in your mantle, arise and Warn. Glorify your Lord. Purify your garments. Qur’an, 74: 1-3
Thus, Muhammad became the Prophet who would later transform the face of this globe. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was prophesied in the judo-Christian scripture. In this writing, the author selected several points of prophecies quoted from the teachings of the modern Muslim scholar, Dr. Jamal Badawi. According to Dr. Badawi, the event of the First Revelation prophesied in the Old Testament in great detail. The following is from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 29, Verse 12:
And the Book is delivered to him that is not learned saying read this I pray thee, and he says I am not learned.
This astounding similarity between what took place during Muhammad’s appointment prophesied in the Old Testament cannot be anyone else other than Muhammad. It is incredible how accurate this prophecy is. Why is it that Muslims, Jews nor Christians have recognized this fact as a common heritage to all their respective religions? It would seem that we have an opportunity to construct a bridge for better understanding and closer ties amongst the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths.
Thus, the revelation started by enlightenment expressing word, “Read” and the revelation that formed the Holy Qur’an continued for the next twenty-three years. During this time, the Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in stages and as demanded by the relevant events and circumstances happening. At times he received only a single small Surah and at others, Surahs (chapters) of one or more verses. The Holy Qur’an expressed this as:
(It is) A Qur’an which We have divided (into parts from time to time) so that thou mightest recite it to men at intervals: We have revealed it by stages. Quran, 17:106
Again, looking at the Old Testament, there is similarly another perfectly fit prophecy of the description above for the awaited “Prophet.” In the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 28, verse 10, which says:
For precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little.
During the time the Revelation was delivered to Prophet Muhammad, he used to utter the words revealed to him, and he was worried about losing or forgetting part of it:
Move not your tongue concerning the (Qur’an) to make haste in addition to that. Qur’an, 75:16-17
For a matching description to this Qur’anic verse from the scripture, we read in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 28, Verse 11:
From for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to his people.
Stammering is to speak or say with involvement, pauses and rapid repetition of syllables and sounds, as from excitement. It is amazing how accurate and meticulous this description is and to be told hundreds of years before it took place.
Muhammad’s Prophethood came as a result of a divine plan to bless the nations of the world by raising a Prophet through the descendants of Prophet Ishmael, son of Abraham, patriarch of the monolithic religions. According to the Old Testament, God promised Prophet Abraham he would bless his nation. Read below Verse 18, Chapter 18, Book of Deuteronomy:
I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. -The Bible’s Last Prophet, page 12
Torture and the Muslim Migration to Abyssinia
The laws and injunctions brought by the Prophet had angered the leaders of Mecca who feared to lose their businesses, leadership, and influences. In 12 years, Muhammad was able to convert a few hundred people to Islam with extraordinary patience and despite Quraysh’s insults and ill-treatment. During these years Muslims were harassed, tortured and killed in Mecca. Muhammad gave orders for some of his followers to migrate secretly to Yathrib, a city north of Mecca and for others to go to Ethiopia, where there was news of a just Christian king, King Negus. Others, including the Prophet and his clan, were driven out of their homes into the desert where they suffered hunger and hardship for almost three years.
Muslim’s Dialogue With the Christian King of Abyssinia
Quraysh was so upset about the migration of the Muslims that they confiscated their homes, wealth and belongings in retaliation. Furthermore, Quraysh sent a delegation to King Negus of Abyssinia carrying precious gifts with hopes of extraditing the Muslims back to Mecca for punishment and humiliation. The two appointed ambassadors, Amr Ibn Al-As and Abdullah Ibn Abu-Rabiah, presented King Negus and his patriarchs their gifts and said:
O, King! Some ignoble plebeians from Mecca have taken refuge in your country. They have turned away from the religion of their people and have not joined your religion. They follow a new religion known neither to us nor to you, which they have created. The leading noblemen of Mecca, who are their parents, uncles and, relatives, have sent us to you to ask for their return.
Negus then sent for the refugees to hear their plea. When the refugees came before the king, he said: “What is this new religion which caused you to separate from your people?”
Jafar Ibn Abu-Talib, the Prophet’s cousin, rose and said:
O King, we were in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshiping idols, eating carrion and committing injustices, the strong amongst us exploited the weak. Then God sent us a Prophet, one of our people, whose lineage, truthfulness, loyalty, and purity are well known to us. He called us to worship God alone; he commanded us always to speak the truth, to remain true to trust and to keep the promise to avoid fornication, perjury, and false witness.
Thereupon, the king asked, “Will you show me some of the revelations which your Prophet claims?” Jafar Ibn-Abu Talib said yes and began to recite the verses from Chapter Mary where the infant Jesus spoke from the cradle. The Qur’anic verses on the birth of Prophet Jesus are:
Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: Then we sent her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: “I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.” He said: “Nay I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son. She said: “How shall I have a son seeing that no man has touched me and I am not unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be) thy Lord said,`That is easy for Me and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’ it is a matter (so) decreed.” So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree, she cried (in her anguish): “Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Grieve not! For thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; “And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. “So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man say, `I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.’ “At length, she brought the (babe) to her people carrying him (in her arms). They said: “O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! “O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil or thy mother a woman unchaste!” But she pointed to the babe. They said, “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said, “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet. “And He hath made me blessed where so ever I be and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. “(He) Hath made me kind to my mother and not overbearing or miserable; “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary, (it is) a statement of truth about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter He only says to it “Be,” and it is. Quran, 19:16-35
The King was pleasantly surprised, as he heard the verses and said:
These words must have sprung from the same fountainhead as the words from which our master Jesus Christ’s have sprung. Go forth in my kingdom; I shall not extradite you.
This collaboration of the Christian king with the Muslims was not only a cause for victory for them but a sign of the real and actual relationship between Muslims and Christians during the life of the Prophet of Islam. What is more revealing about the Christian/Muslim relationship during this time is that some of those Muslims who were under the protection of the Christian king had fought along with his Christian soldiers against certain rebellions within the king’s land. It behooves us, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, to come forth and rediscover such bonds for mutual and peaceful co-existence.
The Siege on the Prophet and His Clan
In its campaign of violence against Muslims, the Quraysh tribe imposed a boycott on the Prophet and his clan and forced them out to an arid and dry valley known as the Abu-Taleb Valley, eighth year after Muhammad’s first revelation. The siege went on for twenty-eight long months. During this time the family of the Prophet or members of his clan were not allowed to deal, trade, buy, sell, or socialize with the Quraysh tribe. The siege took its toll on the Prophet and his family. As a result, they had to eat grass, insects, roots, and shrubbery. Due to the harsh conditions imposed on them, some of his family became ill. The Prophet’s Uncle, Abu Taleb died as a result shortly after the boycott was removed and shortly after that, his wife Khadeejah also perished. Their deaths were a direct result of the long years suffering malnutrition and the hardship in exile.
Christians and Muslims Alliance
A significant Christian/Muslim alliance took place when Prophet Muhammad was in exile. In coordination with Ja’ffar ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet, and King Negus of Abyssinia, a Christian/Muslim delegation of thirty-three people was sent to visit the Prophet in exile and investigate the condition of the Muslims and the ill-treatment exposed by Quraysh. When the commission met the Prophet, they were overwhelmed with the wisdom and the verses of the Qur’an he recited to them. Quraysh leaders insulted the Christian delegation for showing sympathy to the Prophet and his family. However, the commission abstained from returning Quraysh’s insult and for this occasion, Allah revealed this verse in Surah 28, Verses 52-55 which states:
Those to whom We sent the Book before this, –they do believe in this (Revelation); and when it is recited to them, they say: We believe therein, for it is the truth from our Lord: Indeed we have been Muslims (bowing to God’s Will) from before this. Twice will they be given their rewards, for that they have preserved, that they avert evil with good, and that they spend in charity out of what We have given them. And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: To us our deeds, and to you yours. Qur’an, 28:52-55
Although Quraysh showed anger towards the Christian delegation on the outside, the act of a foreign investigation into their internal affairs and exposing their inhumane treatment of their people, was a hidden concern that possibly led to the removal of the siege. Moved either by the fear of an intervention of a foreign power or by the awakening of their conscientious, several leaders of Quraysh, Hisham bin Amr, Zuhair bin Umayah, Mut’im ibn ‘Addi, and Buhtury ibn Hisham agreed to “stop the fool act of the boycott.” Call the rest of Quraysh leaders into a public meeting at the Ka’ba to end the boycott. The meeting was a success, and the removal of the boycott achieved.
Indeed, the act of the Christian delegation of Abyssinia in visiting the Prophet cannot be anything other than an act of alliance with the prophet and Muslims, in times of hardship and oppression.
Muhammad’s Journey to al Ta’if
Having lost his wife and uncle, Muhammad’s exposure to Quraysh’s harassment and assaults grew greater. In old Arabia, the governing law was that everyone protected by belonging to a clan, the stronger the group, the better the protection. For Muhammad, both of his parents died when he was young, and his guardianship was moved to his grandfather, at first, then when his grandfather died it moved on to his uncle, Abu Taleb. Now that he lost his uncle and wife, he missed most of the protection of his clan.
Being tired of Quraysh’s assaults and rejection, Muhammad started looking for another chance to spread his cause outside of Mecca. The Prophet decided to go to al-Ta-‘if, 93 miles southwest of Mecca in the hope of finding a stronger collaboration with its people. It must have been painful for Muhammad to have made such a decision. He knew that if he left the city, lawless Arabia would endanger his life and that if he had to return to Mecca, he would have to find a new clan to protect him, which might not be possible.
In al-Ta-‘if, the Prophet was turned down by the city’s three leaders. One leader said to him: “If God sent you, I would tear down the hangings of the Ka’ba.” The second leader told him: “Couldn’t God find anyone else other than you to send?” The third leader refused to meet with the Prophet. He sent his servant with this message: “I do not need to speak to you, for if you are a messenger from God as you claim, then you are too great of a person for me to address. But, if you are a liar, it is not befitting for me to speak to you.”
Knowing the consequences if he returned to Mecca, Muhammad appealed to them to conceal the news of rejection from Quraysh or to allow him to stay amongst them. His plea also rejected. Instead of expected kindness, they turned loose their children to follow him and threw stones at him until his foot severely cut. He bled until blood came out of his shoes. Just outside of town in a vineyard, he and his servant rested and prayed these words:
O my God, unto You I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness, and of my lowliness before men. O Most Merciful of the merciful, You are Lord of the weak. And You are my Lord. Into whose hands will You entrust me? Unto some far off stranger who will ill-treat me? Or unto a foe whom You have empowered against me? I care not if Your wrath is not on me…
Upon this supplication, the Angel of Mountains came to Prophet Muhammad asking his permission to close the two mountains on the people of Ta-‘if, but despite his deepest wounds of rejection, Muhammad replied:
No, God may bring from their offspring people who may testify to the oneness of God and worship Him.
The Prophet was magnanimous. His zeal for peace and forgiveness indeed overpowered his anger and self-wounds. Testifying to this fact, God revealed:
And indeed you are of a high moral character. Qur’an, 68:4
The Qur’an further said:
And We have not sent you (O Muhammad), but as a mercy to the worlds. Qur’an, 21:107
Now, Muhammad had no other choice but bear the pain of rejection and humiliation and to return to Mecca. The next task for him was to find protection in Mecca. He sent his servant Zayd with the names of several tribal leaders in the hope that one of them will accept the request. Only one, al-Mufti Ibn ‘Addi, who was an Idolater took the protection of the Prophet. For the next three years, Muhammad was under the protection of a disbeliever.
As expected from the Prophet, who was sent to teach wisdom and rationality, he had to deal with the new circumstances differently. Now he would no longer speak low of their idols, nor would he introduce himself to Quraysh in the way and frequency he used to. Instead, he channeled his efforts to the people who visit Mecca, especially during the pilgrimage season. And this flexibility in approach seemed to be fruitful.
For example, he met with some people from the city of Yathrib who were favorable to his call and accepted Islam. The few converted Yathribian Muslims went back to their people and converted more. In the next pilgrimage season, twelve of them met secretly with the Prophet and made a covenant with him to act and live up to the highest of standards. He asked his companion Mess’b ibn Umair to go with them and be his Ambassador in Yathrib.
In Yathrib, the Prophet’s ambassador and the twelve Yathribian Muslims were successful in introducing Islam in the city. In the next year’s pilgrimage to Mecca, seventy Yathribian Muslims met again, secretly with the Prophet and made a pact with him to live morally and honestly and give him protection. The Prophet had them select twelve representatives from amongst themselves, possibly presenting their corresponding tribes, to report to Miss-‘ab. Under this leadership, the Yathribian Muslim community soon became a significant power. Now the scale of the relative strength of the Quraysh tribe and the Muslims had begun to shift in favor of the Muslims.
The Miraculous Journey into Heaven (Isra’ and Mi’raj)
Eleven years after the first revelation, the Miraculous Journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem and his ascension to the seven heavens took place. In this remarkable journey, Muhammad met with his brother prophets; Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets sent by God and led them in prayer in Jerusalem. From Jerusalem he ascended to the seven heavens, again meeting with the Prophets. It was here he received the Muslim duties of the five daily prayers. Muhammad’s meeting with all the prophets demonstrates the close ties and mutual grounds between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as well as other revealed religions.
Migration of the Prophet: Masterpiece of Thoughtful Planning
On at least two occasions, the tribe of Quraysh planned to kill the Prophet but did not because of the fear of new bloodshed between them. Quraysh tribes, however, drew up a plan to kill the Prophet without the fear of reprisal. This proposal called for the murder to be carried out by one representative from each clan of Quraysh, with each one plunging his sword into the victim. In this way, the tribe of the Prophet, Banu Hashim, would not be able to fight all of the Quraysh tribes combined.
Allah informed the Prophet of their plan, and He gave him the permission to migrate to Yathrib with his close friend Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr prepared two camels for the trip to where some of his followers had already emigrated and had converted others while there. On the night that the murderers surrounded the Prophet’s house, his faithful son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abu-Talib, a youth of twenty, was instructed to wrap himself with Muhammad’s clock and lie in Muhammad’s bed. By midnight Muhammad slipped away through the sleeping armed members of the plot, waiting to murder the Prophet (PBUH).
To mislead the enemy, Muhammad and his close friend Abu Bakr, headed south to cave Thawr, instead of traveling North in the direction of Yathrib. In cave Thawr, they spent three days until the hue and cry of Quraysh had subsided.
The plan of escape drawn by the Prophet illustrates the extent of dependence on the individual efforts to bring about the project to success. Before his migration, he had hired Abdullah Ibn Uraqith as a travel guide for his convoy, and he instructed Asma, Abu-Bakr’s daughter along with her brother, Abdullah, to provide them with food and news. Abu Bakr’s servant, ‘Aamir Ibn Faheerah was to graze the heard of sheep where Asma’ or her brother walked to destroy their footprints so that Quraysh would not be able to trace them. Abdullah stayed in Mecca during the day to collect the news and delivered it to the Prophet during the night. The Prophet was informed of all the news as if he was in Mecca. Asma was instructed to provide two camels and food for their journey to Yathrib. The convoy did not take the usual route to the city, but rather the Red Sea route which goes north along the shores of the Red Sea then east to ensure a successful escape.
Part of the blessing of being a believer in God is that God is always with you. For example, when Allah sees that you have done all that you can do to accomplish your mission, He, in return will show His assistance to you. In this case, to mislead the enemy from comprehending the whereabouts of the Prophet and his Companion, He sent a spider to build its web at the entry of the cave. When Quraysh’s men reached the opening of the cave, they saw a sound web of a spider and felt that no one can enter the cave without breaking the spider’s web and therefore left the site without searching the cave. In this regard, Allah said:
If ye help him not, still Allah helped him when those who disbelieve drove him forth, the second of two; when they two were in the cave, when he said unto his comrade: Grieve not. Lo! Allah is with us. Then Allah caused His peace of reassurance to descend upon him and supported him with hosts ye cannot see and made the word of those who disbelieved the nethermost, while Allah’s word it was that became the uppermost. Allah is Mighty, Wise. Quran, 9:40
The leaders of Mecca offered one hundred camels as a reward to the one who apprehended Muhammad, but all plans failed to find him.
It was in June, 622 CE when the travelers migrated north to Yathrib. That day marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. After a ten-day journey, Muhammad arrived at the Oasis. Having learned of his migration, the small band of Muslims waited for days at the southernmost fringe of palms. “He has come! He has come!” They started singing and rejoicing. Nearby was a Jew, Abdullah Bin Salaam, picking dates off a palm tree with his aunt on the ground assisting. Abdullah was in a better position to spot the incoming from a far distance. Therefore, he was the first to see the Prophet and his companion coming.
Upon this, he became overwhelmed with excitement, calling loudly, “Muhammad has arrived, God is great!” At this point, his aunt told him to quiet down saying, “If he were Moses son of Imran, you would not have shouted as loud.” Abdullah responded, “Oh my aunt by Allah, he is (only) the brother of Moses, son of Imran and is on his faith.” She asked, “Is he the expected Prophet we have been told about (in the Torah)? “ He answered, “Yes.”
This historical event is a natural reaction to what is in the inner-hearts of many of the faithful believers in God. Abdullah and other Jewish leaders and individuals accepted Islam along with many Arabian tribes residing in the city of Medina. (see A. Alhalabi, Alsirah Alhalabiyah, Volume 2, page 121.)
Establishing Home Land
After his arrival to Yathrib, many people opened their homes for him to stay. However, the Prophet started building the world’s first mosque. The mosque became the base from which the city received several major development projects in the social, agriculture, political and spiritual aspects that gave the city a whole new outlook. From then on, the oasis of Yathrib became known as “al Medinah al-Munawarah” or, simply “Medina,” (The City of the Prophet)
Incidentally, the Prophet’s emigration and the events of his coming gracefully prophesied in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21, verse 14
The inhabitants of the land of Teman brought water to him that was thirsty; they presented him with their bread him that fled, for they fled from the drawn swords and from the bent bow and from the grievousness of war..
A Transitional Sunnah
During construction on a typical project, there may be a need to go through temporarily steps to pass an obstacle or a particular stage. In the early days in Medina, Muslims faced a crisis. There were many Muslim immigrants but few jobs and housing to accommodate them. Here the Prophet (PBUH), remarkably, established a way to overcome the difficulties. He called on a “full brotherhood” union between the Ansar believers (people of Medina) and the immigrant Muslims from Mecca. Each Ansari Muslim shared his home, food and wealth with an immigrant believer. Allah praised this remarkable step in the Holy Qur’an when He said:
Those who entered the city and the faith before them love those who flee unto them for refuge, and find in their breasts no need for that which hath been given them but prefer (the fugitives) above themselves though poverty becomes their lot. And whoso is saved from his own avarice such are they who are successful. Qur’an, 59:9
Later, as the crisis subsided, this transitory of “full brotherhood” union ended. This Mosque of the Prophet became the first institution of Islam in which the desert people became messengers of peace, justice, and enlightenment for many nations of the world. Their belief was the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH):
The ink of scholars is more precious than the blood of the martyrs.
Lo! The angels offer their wings to the seeker of knowledge.
In the next few years, significant social development plans undertaken in addition to the teachings of the spiritualities and beliefs of Islam. The city was about to take on a whole new look. Some of the projects were urban development, law, and constitutionality.
1- Cleaning the City
As the new immigrants arrived in Yathrib (Medina), many of them had fallen sick, having no immunity against the kind of diseases existing there. Supporting the ill and raising their morale, the Prophet (pbuh) started ridding the causes of disease and made a prayer of encouragement and hope, saying:
Oh, Allah purify Medina and help us move its disposable to al Juhfa and cure our sick and make us love it in the same way You made us love Mecca. -Bukhari, Tradition Number, 1756
Unlike many of today’s Muslims, the Prophet (PBUH) did not just stop at saying the prayer as a way to cure the illness of the immigrant Muslims. The Prophet further established a task force to haul away the garbage that had accumulated in the city streets to a place called “al-Jahfah,” away from the city. As a result of this operation, a healthier environment for all citizens accomplished. See al Hafith, al Bidayah we al Nihayah, Volume 3, Page 147.
2- Improving the Water and Irrigation Systems
Another essential area of improvement was the city’s agriculture and water systems. Determining insufficient water resources demands more water well be dug. At this point, the Prophet (pbuh) drew up and executed a plan for drilling 54 water wells in and around the city. The project completed under the supervision of the companion Talhah Ibn Ubaidellah. Upon its completion, water for the city and irrigation of existing and new land was plentiful through channels versus the old streams of a few water wells. The Prophet (PBUH) had issued a land deed for those who improved a dead land. He said:
Anyone improves a dead field, he will have the right to own it. -Buhkari, the Book of Muzara’ah (agriculture)
As a result of this outstanding work, the agriculture of the city grew and prospered. In a few years, the city turned into a green valley of palm trees and other vegetation. The factors that led to this clean up of water and agricultural reforms are an integral part of the Muslim’s faith. It is clear in this example that religion does not stop at the offering of prayers, but it goes beyond utterance into physical work and actions to accomplish its goals.
3- Lighting the City
Tamim Ben al-Aus al-Darie had set lamps in the Mosque of the Prophet to illuminate it. The Prophet (PBUH) was so pleased with the idea that he provided Tamim with a few young companions and supplies, and assigned the task of producing lamps for all the city streets. Upon the completion of this task, in an inaugurating celebration of lighting the city streets, the Prophet (PBUH) encouraged developments for such standards of living improvements. He said:
May Allah enlighten the heart of Tamim al Darie; if I had a daughter, I would have asked her to marry him.
During the night, the city was like a pearl in the surrounding desert. After dressing it with lights, the city took on the name” al-Medina al Munawarah,” meaning the enlightened city. The city is also known as “Madinat al-Nabi,” the “City of the Prophet,” or just Medina. Thus, Yathrib took on a new name and many developments.
The Constitution of Medina – Peaceful Coexistence of Muslims and Jews
Along with the urban changes, Medina witnessed social and political developments. A historical manifestation is written that established the constitutionality of a pluralist society. “Sahifatu al-Medina,” better known as The Constitution of Medina was dictated by Prophet Muhammad and signed by the leaders of various tribes of the city of Medina and its suburbs. Among the Jewish tribes which signed the documents were: Banu Najjar, Banu Harith, Banu Sa’dah, Banu Jushum, Banu Awus, Banu Tha’labah, Banu Lujnah, Banu Shatheebah, and Banu Awuf. The Constitution of Medina among other things protected the freedom of speech and belief; the sanctity of life; criminal laws, municipalities, and justice. Following is the language of this Constitution.
Note: The text of the translation of Medina Constitution copied as a whole from the book, Sunshine at Madinah, published by Islamic Publication International. Also, see Minhaj Alsaliheen, Page 777, and Albidayah wa Alnihayah, Volume 3, Page 177 for the original Arabic version. Said Ibn Ishaq:
“The Messenger of God wrote documents (stipulating the relationship) between Immigrants and Helpers, in which he made peace with the Jews and pledged himself to them that he will secure their religion, wealth and property. He pledged to honor certain rights for them and demanded that they fulfill certain obligations.”
The Constitution of Medina reads:
1. In the name of Allah the Compassionate the Most Merciful. This is a document dictated by Muhammad the Prophet (p) (governing the relations) between the believers and Muslims from Quraysh and Yathrib (Medina), and those who followed and joined them and strove with them. They are one nation, distinct from all nations. The Immigrants from Quraysh, according to their established customs are bound together and shall ransom their prisoners in the kindness and justice common among believers.
2. The Banu ‘Awf (a Jewish tribe), according to their established customs, are bound together as before, each group shall ransom their prisoners in the kindness and justice common among believers. The Banu Sa’idah, the Banu al-Harith, The Banu Jushm and the Banu an-Najjar (Jewish tribes) are likewise.
3. The Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf, the Banu an-Nabeet, and the Banu al-Aws (Jewish tribes) likewise.
4. Believers shall not leave anyone among them in destitution by failing to give for him redemption money or blood-wit in kindness.
5. A believer shall not take as an ally a freedman of another believer against him.
6. The God-fearing believers shall be against whoever rebels or him who seeks to spread injustice, or sin or aggression or spread enmity between believers; the hands of every one of them shall be together against him, even if he be a son of one of them.
7. A believer shall not slay a believer for the sake of an unbeliever nor shall he aid an unbeliever against a believer.
8. The bond of God is one; the least of them (believers) may give protection (to a stranger) on behalf of them. Believers are protectors one of another, to the exclusion of outsiders.
9. The Jew who follows us is surely entitled to our support and the same equal rights as any one of us. He shall not be wronged nor his enemy be assisted.
10. The peace of believers is one and indivisible; no believer shall make a separate peace without other believers, when they are engaged in war in the way of God, except when conditions are deemed fair and equitable to all.
11. In every foray, a rider must take another behind him. The believers must avenge the blood of one another, if anyone of them fails fighting in the cause of God. The God-fearing believers follow the best and most upright guidance.
12. No polytheist shall take the property or person of Quraysh under his protection nor shall he intervene on their behalf against a believer.
13. Whoever is convicted of deliberately killing a believer without legitimate cause, shall be liable to retaliation, unless the next of kin is satisfied (with blood money). The believers shall all be against him, and they are bound to keep him under their custody (until either the next of kin is satisfied or retaliation takes place).
14. It shall not be lawful to a believer who has accepted this document as binding, and who believes in God and the last day, to help an evil-doer or to shelter him. The curse of God and His anger on the Day of Resurrection will be upon him if he does, and neither repentance nor ransom will be received from him.
15. Whenever you have a disagreement amongst you, it must be referred to God and Muhammad.
16. The Jews shall contribute to the cost of war, so long as they are fighting alongside the believers.
17. The Jews of Banu ‘Awf are one nation with the Muslims; the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs, their freedmen and their persons shall be protected except those who behave unjustly or sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and their families. The same applies to the Jews of Banu an-Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, and the Jafnah, clan of the Tha’labah and Banu al-Shua’ibah. Doing good deeds is a protection against sinfulness. The freedmen of Tha’labah are treated as themselves. The close friends of the Jews are as themselves.
18. None of them shall go out to war, save with the permission of Muhammad. But none shall be prevented from taking revenge for a wound inflicted upon him. Whoever kills a man, kills himself and his household, unless it be one who has wronged him, for God would accept that.
19. The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims bear theirs. Each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people of this document. Their condition must be one of mutual advice, consultation and charity rather than harm and aggression.
20. No man is liable for a crime committed by his ally. Support must be given to him who is wronged. The Jews must spend of their wealth, along with the believers, so long as fighting continues.
21. Yathrib (Medina) shall be a sanctuary for the people of this document. A stranger under protection shall be as his protecting host, unharmed and committing no crime. A woman shall not be given protection without the consent of her family.
22. If any dispute likely to cause trouble should arise among the people of this document, it must be referred to God, and to Muhammad.
23. God approves and is pleased with the piety and goodness in this document.
24. Quraysh and their helpers shall not be given protection.
25. The people of this document are bound to help one another against any attack on Yathrib. If they are called to make peace and maintain it, they must do so; and if they make a similar demand on the Muslims, it must be carried out except with one who insists on fighting against their religion.
26. To every small group belongs the share which is their due as members of the larger group which is party to this covenant. The Jews of the Aws and their clients, are entitled to the same rights as any other party to this document, together with the goodness and charity from all parties to it. Charity and good deeds exclude sinfulness and wrongdoing.
27. There is no responsibility except for one’s own deeds.
28. God approves of such truth and goodness as is included in this document.
29. This document shall not constitute any protection for the unjust or the wrongdoers.
30. Whoever goes out to fight or stays at home is safe in the city, unless he has committed an injustice or a crime. God is the protector of whoever honors his commitment to this document, and is God-fearing and so is Muhammad, the Messenger of God.
True believers are those who work toward the reconstruction of the distorted bridges connecting the three great faiths. Soon after this agreement was signed, the Jewish tribes of Banu Quraithah, Nadheer, and Qunaiqa’ who did not sign this contract signed a similar treaty with the Prophet Muhammad.
Islam: A Faith of Mercy
Islam is faith that promotes peace and justice. Throughout the early days of Islam, it is quite clear that Muslims engagements with the Idolaters were either in self-defense or for defending the freedom of belief. Ensuring no violence or commotion, Muslims hid their faith and worked discretely. They even modified the form of prayer (silent from loud) as not to aggravate the disbelievers of Mecca; they sustained torture and execution; they left their homes, properties, loved ones and migrated away to safe places, such as Abyssinia and Medina. Muslims endured hardship with no retaliation or revenge. Please see our article. Islam: Legacy of Peace.
The Muslims’ Strategy of Survival
In their new city of Medina, Muslims were watched by a host of hostile tribes and nations; Quraysh and its pact, the Roman and Persian empires were closely watching, just beyond Arabia’s borders. This hostile environment dictates that one must be strong to be able to survive.
Since Muslims were weak and fewer in numbers than any of their adversaries, they implemented the method of “prevention” to “terminate” the danger. Elaborating on this fact, Karen Armstrong in her book, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, stated.
It was essential that the Muslims display an image of strength and decisiveness if they were to survive the lawless state of Arabia, seventh-century. In Medina whenever the Prophet heard that one tribe, urged by Mecca propaganda, was preparing to invade the Medinan territory, he would march aggressively to forestall the attack and the opposition tended to melt away as soon as the Muslims arrived.
As far as showing strength and decisiveness, the Roman and Persian empires were considered no less than the surrounding tribes of Medina and Arabia. In fact, the Ghassan (the kingdom of Arab Ghassanids), who were the Roman allies in Syria, had already crucified and killed the messenger of the Prophet to the Ghassan ruler, Sharhabil. The act of executing a messenger was considered a declaration of war since messengers and ambassadors then were traditionally protected. For this irresponsible act of killing the messenger, the Prophet dispatched an expedition to the Syrian border to punish the killers, as is discussed later in “The War with Byzantine” section.
The Turning Phase
As was discussed earlier, Muslims had been oppressed, humiliated, tortured, persecuted and driven into exile. During this 13 year period, Muslims did not retaliate against the ill-treatment of Quraysh. The following critical incident, however, where Muslims attacked a caravan belonging to Quraysh, was a turning point in which a policy regarding war established. This method sets a new phase for dealing with the Idolaters. Below are the details of this incident.
Islam’s Policy for Initiating a War
In the latter part of 623 CE. (the beginning of the second year in Medina), the Prophet (PBUH) sent his companion Abdullah Ibn-Jahsh as the head of a number of his associates with a sealed document and asked him to unseal it after two days of travel in the direction of Mecca. He was also directed to follow its instructions without forcing any member of his companions to comply with the guidance. Two days after embarking on the mission, Abdullah unsealed the Prophet’s document which read:
As soon as you have read this paper, proceed to Nakhlah (a place between Mecca and Taif), observe and learn Quraysh news and return.
All members of the mission decided to proceed to Nakhlah. On their way, two people, Al-Zuhi and Urban Ibn-Gazwan, lost their camel and went to look for it. Later, they were taken by the Quraysh and kept as hostages. At Nakhlah, the Muslims saw a caravan carrying trade goods for Quraysh. The group felt the eagerness to seize the caravan in return for Quraysh’s confiscation of their gains earlier. Some of them, including their leader, did not want to attack the caravan because he was not commanded by the Prophet to do so and he did not want to kill in the Sacred Months. Arabs, before Islam, had established the tradition of stopping war among themselves for four Sacred Months. Finally, the decision was made to attack the caravan.
After the attack was carried out, Amr Ibn al-Hadrami, the caravan’s guardian, was killed, two others people were captured, and the goods seized. When Abdullah arrived in Medina, before the Prophet, together with the gains and the two taken men, the Prophet (PBUH) refused to accept the goods and receive the hostages. He said: “I have not instructed you to fight in the holy months.” Abdullah and his companions were under a lot of pressure until the Prophet received the following revelation that outlined the policy of Islam regarding their action and the act of war. The inspiration states:
They ask you concerning the Holy Months whether or not fighting is permitted therein. Say (oh Muhammad), fighting therein is a grave (offense). But graver is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of God, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque and drive out its people, tumult and oppression are worse than fighting in the Holy Months. Quran, 2:217
This verse approved the view that it is indeed a grave offense to fight in the Sacred Months. But it warns of something far weightier in its evil and immorality, which are: 1) Preventing man’s freedom of belief and obeying God, 2) Denying people access to the House of God and driving people out of their homes, and 3) Religious persecution, forcing Muslims to disbelieve. These actions of injustice are greater offenses than killing. This incident has set the fundamental philosophy of what may constitute war in Islam.
Defending freedom of belief and truth, and protecting the weak and justice against oppression and incitement to rebellion are the factors permitting a Muslim state to fight. If one does not fight for the right but preferably passively chooses not to get involved then this action directly or indirectly would be helping the wrong. Shortly after this incident, God sent His Prophet a revelation permitting the Muslims to defend themselves.
Permission (to fight) has been given to those who are being fought (the Muslims) because they were wronged. Quran, 22:39
All the major battles during the early period of Islam were deliberately made by the Pagans to attack the Muslims. For example, the onset of Badr (discussed below), which was the first significant battle not planned nor expected by the Muslims. The Muslims were out intercepting a caravan belonging to Quraysh, a move that appeared to be designed to pressure Quraysh to allow the Muslims to go about their businesses in practicing their faith. Even when the caravan in question escaped the Muslims and was safe in Mecca, Quraysh insisted on fighting the Muslims at the well of Badr.
The battle of Uhud, which took place a year after the battle of Badr, was an attack on the Muslims in revenge for Quraysh’s death in the battle of Badr. The last fight, (battle of the Ditch or the Pac), which took place a year after Uhud, was an attack by Quraysh and its confederacies on the Muslims in their city of Medina designed to finish them out. The battle defused because the Muslims dug a deep trench preventing Quraysh from clashing the Muslims. The move ended with no bloodshed and fight, such is known as the Battle of the Pact or the Ditch.
The Battle of Badr
During the first year after migration to Medina, the Muslims were attempting to intercept a caravan of goods belonging to Quraysh. For fourteen years Quraysh had been confiscating the Muslims homes and wealth and had driven them into exile. The caravan, however, was able to escape from the Muslims into Mecca unharmed. Having learned about the Muslims attempt to intercept the caravan, Quryash called its alliance and prepared an army of 1000 fighters for its rescue.
The news of the caravans safe arrival into Mecca reached the army, but Quraysh insisted on attacking the 314 Muslims, who were not equipped to fight. Attempts from the elder leaders of Quraysh, such as Utbah ibn Rabee’ah advising Quraysh not to attack the Muslims and return were denied by Abu Jahl, the Quraysh leader. He insisted to “perish the Muslims.” On January 8, 624 CE, at the wells of Badr, the Meccans attacked the 314 Muslims. Quraysh outnumbered the Muslims three to one.
“O, God! Fulfill thy promise to me. If this little band of believers perishes, there will be none on earth to worship Thee,” Muhammad stretched out his hands as he called. Just as the forces were about to engage, a violent storm whipped up sand in the faces of the Meccans. “Gabriel,” the Prophet cried ecstatically, “with a thousand angels is falling upon the enemies.”
A wild melee ensued. Over the slash of swords and the whistle of arrows, Muhammad cried:
All who die today will enter Paradise!
Even though the Muslims fought boldly and routed the Pagans, Allah told them:
It was not ye who slew them; it was God. Quran, 9:17
The total dead from the Muslims and the non-believers were fourteen and seventy, respectively. Several of Quraysh leaders killed. Over seventy other disbelievers taken as prisoners of war. Later, each prisoner of war had to pay a ransom, and those who were unable to pay had to teach ten children how to read and write.
Remarkably, the following Biblical verse, in great detail, expressed the event of the arrival of the Prophet to Medina and his victory at Badr.
The burden upon Arabia, in the forest of Arabia ye shall lodge, O you traveling companions of Dedanites. The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, with their bread they met him who fled. For they fled from the swords, the drawn swords, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war. For thus hath the Lord said unto me, within a year, according to the years of a hierling, all the glory of kedar shall fail: and the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar shall be diminished: for the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it. Isaiah, 21:13-17
The Myth: A Muslim Enters Paradise by Killing a Christian or a Jew
In the previous section, we related the Prophet’s call: “All who die today will enter Paradise!” We must take a deeper examination of the circumstances surrounding this call because it has been misused to mean, “by killing Christians or Jews, Muslims go to Paradise.” This interpretation does not stand ground or truth of any kind. First, the Prophet was facing the Pagans of Mecca, not Christians, Jews or westerners. Second, the Prophet’s word “today” limits the act of entering Paradise to those who die that day only. Thirdly, the word of the Prophet “die” implies dyeing in self-defense, since the entire battle of Badr made in self-defense.
Defending one’s self is considered a duty whether it be in the west or the east. There is no rule in Islam that calls Muslims to maliciously attack Christians and Jews, which advertised by some western media and writers. In fact, Islam’s philosophy concerning the act of war is to prevent it and bloodshed. Why is this quotation of the Prophet twisted to mean the killing of westerners, Jews or Christians? On the contrary, the Muslims and the Jews joined each other a few months before this battle of Badr and allied to defend the city of Medina against the Pagan Quraysh as stated above under the subtitle, Peaceful Coexistence of Muslims and Jews.
Furthermore, before this alliance with the Jews, Prophet Muhammad had sent his followers to Abyssinia to escape Quraysh’s execution, and to be protected by its Christian King, Negus. This event took place nine years before this battle, and the Muslim/Christian cooperative relationship lasted for centuries. For more information on this subject, see “The Muslim’s Alliance with the Christians and Jews.” Finally, the Islamic philosophy of martyrdom entering Paradise is no different than the concept of martyrdom in Christianity. This philosophy too cannot be interpreted as permission to kill Christians, Jews, westerners or any human being. The human soul in Islam is considered sacred and therefore protected. Islam’s philosophy regarding living with non-Muslims is not based on destructing, but rather on building good relations and friendships. To learn about this philosophy, click on the posted article, “Islam: Legacy of Peace.”
The Battle of Uhud
In 625 CE, Quraysh assembled an army of three thousand people to attack the Muslims and revenge for the death of their people in the battle of Badr the previous year. The Prophet consulted his people regarding where to meet Quraysh. The choices were either to stay in the City (Medina) or to fight Quraysh at mount Uhud, north of the city. The majority of the Muslims chose the latter alternative. This ‘majority’ or democratic approach was uneasy for people living for ages under common monarchy systems. On the way to the battlefield, one-third of the Muslim army split and returned to Medina, led by the head of the hypocrites, as a result of the majority choice. See Section: Towards Democracy (shura) below for more details.
At Mount Uhud, the Muslims stayed defeated. The Prophet and many of his companions were injured. The number of Muslims dead was seventy-three; most of them were Medinan Muslims. The number of disbelievers dead was 35. A large number of deaths from Medina led to an orphanage crisis, as explained below. Quraysh’s victory distinguished by the mutilation of the Muslim’s dead.
Muslim’s War-Preventive Measures
This defeat of the Muslims and their weak position was an opportunity for Quraysh to mobilize its confederate tribes surrounding Medina and launching more attacks on the city. Knowing this, the Muslims took several measures ensuring no further attacks by the Pagan or their confederates. The Prophet ordered the Muslims to chase Quraysh’s army or meet them if the situation called for it. At Hamrau al-Asad, the Muslims camped for three days, facing the army of Quraysh, ensuring that they do not return to attack Medina.
Elsewhere around Medina, tribes took the opportunity of the Muslims weakness and started preparing to attack the city. Upon learning of the locations of the massing, the Prophet quickly dispatched several units to stall the attackers. An example is sending Aba Salamah bin Abd al-Asad with 150 of his companions to hinder Banu Asad’s forces, and Abdu Allah ibn Anees to Khaled al Huzally to terminate the massing of Banu Huzail. By taking such war-preventive measures, the Muslims were able to prevent further violence and bloodshed.
The Crisis of Orphanages and Polygamy
The loss of seventy-three Muslims, mostly Medinans, in the Battle of Uhud created a new problem for Muslims, how to deal with the families of the dead? Widows and children went with no financial and social-psychological support. Moreover, some of these families have property and businesses that required management and care. This crisis addressed by God in the following verses;
And give the orphans their property, and do not substitute worthless (things) for (their) good (ones), and do not devour their property (as an addition) to your property> This is undoubtedly a high crime. And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem reasonable to you, two and three and four. But if you fear that you will not do justice (between them) then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course. Quran, 4:2 and 3
The solution to this social problem was the multiple marriages of more than one woman for a man. This resolution was not only a humanitarian one, but it solved the question of property management of the newer and possibly bigger families with fairness and equity. As a result of these revelations, several new marriages to the widows secured. Thus, some happiness, tranquility, and security returned to many helpless women and orphans. While the solution permitted the Muslim man to marry up to four women, indirectly, it limited the custom which allowed an unlimited number of wives for a man, which commonly functioned in the pre-Islamic times by Arabs as well as other People of the Book.
Islam’s Shura Principle Parallels Today’s Democracy
An interesting point is an indirect way of introducing what constitutes a portion of today’s democracy to people, who for centuries were under common tribal monarchy systems. The details of this approach occurred preceding the battle of Uhud as explained above. Although Muslims are not supposed to outvote the commands of Allah, such as prohibitions or permissions, but are allowed to cast votes and opinions on many issues about the health and well being of the Ummah.
Historically, a good example is the decision made on location to meet the army of Quraysh before Uhud was selected. As the Medinan learned of the news of the Meccans intent to attack Medina, the Prophet called upon his companions and the tribal leaders of the city, including the head of the hypocrites, Abdullah Ibn Abi Salul to discuss the alternative locations for meeting the Quraysh army. Two places considered: The first states that the Muslims stay in the city as they defend it. This choice was the elder’s approach (tribal leaders). The second method was meeting the Meccans outside the town by Mount Uhud. This plan managed by the majority and younger groups of Muslims.
At first, the Prophet (PBUH) sided with the first approach, that of the elders. The majority of the Muslims, however, kept asking the Prophet to take their method and to meet the Meccans at Mount Uhud. Before long, the Prophet (p) changed his mind for the majority opinion. This step was giant and risky for the Prophet since the traditions in Arabia are such that “no one goes against the opinion or order of a tribal leader and that “what the tribal leader says goes unquestioned, right or wrong.” And as is expected, selecting the approach of the youthful majority did not go free, but the Prophet and Muslims had to pay for it. As mentioned above 300 people split away from the Muslim army and left them more vulnerable to defeat in the battle ahead. After the battle and the Muslims defeat, Allah revealed verses re-enforcing the Prophet’s decision for consulting his people and siding with the majority saying:
So (Muhammad) pardon them (the companions who disobeyed your orders by leaving their positions during the battle of Uhud and essentially causing the defeat) and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And your decision, then rely upon Allah (as you carry out the plans). Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (on Him). Qur’an, 4:159
Clarity and Priority Guidance
Halfway into the battlefield in meeting Quraysh’s army, about one-third of the Muslim army, 300 people, split from the Muslim army and returned home. This split orchestrated by the head of the hypocrites, Abdullah Ibn Abi Salul, who said: “He (Muhammad) obeyed the young and disobeyed me.” He was referring to the Prophet’s decision about siding with the youthful majority. This act of betrayal created havoc for the Muslims. It broke their strength and lowered their moral; two groups of the Muslims lost course and vision and got into tangential issues of how to deal with the hypocrites, forgetting that dealing with such matter at this point takes away from the more crucial problem which was facing Quraysh in the battle ahead. What to do about the hypocrites can be dealt with later. Furthermore, such a matter requires a whole different setting to deal with effectively.
Before Muslims condition deteriorates any further, Allah (SWT) sent Gabriel with a revelation that questioned the moral and even discussing the issue of the hypocrites. The Muslim’s priorities must be calculated with wisdom and vision. Vision must be based on the best option that would carry the vehicle of Islam further. Below is the revelation:
What is [the matter] with you [that you are] two groups concerning the hypocrites, while Allah has made them fall back [into error and disbelief] for what they earned? Do you wish to guide those whom Allah has sent astray? And he whom Allah sends astray – never will you find for him a way [of guidance]. Qur’an 4: 88
The Battle of the Pact or the Ditch
After the Battle of Uhud, Quraysh continued leading its campaign against the Muslims. It called upon all the Arabian tribes around Mecca and Medina to carry out an attack on the Muslims and finish them off. A year after the battle of Uhud, Quraysh and its confederacies summed up ten thousand people and set off to attack the Muslims in the city of Medina.
What would be the fate of about 2,500 Muslims as they meet an army of 10,000 people in a battle? Could this mean their end? Here again, the Prophet called his people for suggestions and opinions, and still, it was shura that saved the situation. Salman al Farsi (Salman the Persian) suggested to the Prophet that he dig a ditch, “similar to what the Persians do in similar cases.” The trench would be in the flat part bordering the city from the north since the town naturally surrounded by mountains and protruding rock on the other sides. Besides, this solution can mean prevention of war and bloodshed altogether.
The Prophet accepted Salman’s suggestion and organized his people for the operation to begin digging the ditch. Within 25 days and just in time before the arrival of the Pac, diligently, the Muslims dug a massive trench, approximately 4 meters wide, 4 to 6 meters deep and about 2000 meters long. (again, should this be in feet?)This trench completed the city’s isolation from the Meccans. No one on a horse or otherwise could easily cross the ditch or enter the city.
When the Pact approached the city, they were taken by surprise as they faced the ditch and were unable to cross it or carry off an offense. Quraysh camped before the trench for forty days while attempting to pass it or working a strategy to engage in a battle. During this time, Quraysh’s knights over and over again challenged and intimidated the Muslims to start a fight. Quraysh’s poets (Amr ibn Wed al Ameri and Dherar Merdas) composed poems insulting, instigating, humiliating and challenging the Muslims to step outside the ditch and begin a battle. The wise Muslims, however, contained the intimidations and controlled themselves from preventing violence and bloodshed. Also during this time Quraysh made contact with one of the Jewish tribes, Qurathah, and was able to get the tribe to breach its covenant with the Muslims and join Quraysh.
As for the Muslims, the Prophet attempted to make peace with the tribe of Ghatafan (one of the Pac significant tribes) and convinced them to break away from Quraysh. Similarly, the Muslims were able to cut the ties between Quraysh and the Jewish tribe of Quraythah, who betrayed them. Quraysh planned that the tribe of Quraythah, which was inside the city with the Muslims, to attack the Muslims from behind, while Quraysh works from the front. The situation for Quraysh and the Pac in this long stand began to show that it was unwise to continue to engage in a battle that was not going to materialize. These developments along with God’s acts of severe winds that blew away Quraysh’s tents and belongings and exposed them to cold weather drove Quraysh to withdraw and return to Mecca.
The withdrawal of the Pac constitutes a significant victory for the Muslims. Quraysh is now exhausted. The Pac was their last straw. In fact, after the Pac’s diffusion, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Today we can conquer them, and they cannot conquer us,” pointing out to their exhaustion from war. Soon after the Pac withdraws, the prophet moved on to punished the Jewish tribe of Qurathah who betrayed him and the Muslims in the stance.
Should the diffusion and elimination of this war be another example of Islam’s quest for peace and a proof that Islam was not a religion that was “spread by the sword?” And evidence of Islam’s philosophy in preventing wars and changing enemies into friends? This prevention of fight philosophy is precisely what happened. See the Agreement of Hudaybiyah, nex.
The Agreement of Hudaybiyah
A year after the battle of the Ditch, the Prophet and the Muslims attempted to conduct the ritual of the Lesser Pilgrimage to Mecca, but Quraysh did not allow them to fulfill their duty. Then, the Prophet was able to negotiate an agreement with Quraysh called, “The Treaty of Hudaybiyah.” The treaty, among other things, called for peace between Quraysh and the Muslims for the following ten years and gave the freedom of choice for all Arab tribes to join either Muhammad or Quraysh’s camp. The agreement also called for the Muslims to make a Lesser Pilgrimage in the following year.
This agreement gave the Prophet and the Muslims a chance they had been after for the longest time: peacefully reaching out to members of Quraysh as well as the rest of Arabia, for which Quraysh had for the longest time been diligently keeping them away. Now, Muslims can freely contact people, practice and display the quality and virtues of their faith, which will clear the air and bring the truth out for others to see and judge. Ultimately, for the next two years, the number of people who embraced Islam exceeded many folds the number of those who entered it during the twelve-year Meccan period.
Early Muslims and Christians Dialog
In the next two years, most of Arabia embraced Islam. The Prophet sent emissaries and wrote letters to the tribes residing in the Arabian Peninsula introducing Islam and inviting them to accept it. Hundreds of tribe delegations, as a result, came to Medina to give their allegiance to the Prophet and embrace Islam. Many Christian tribes accepted Islam, others, however, did not and chose to stay Christian. For example, a delegation of the tribes of Najran (located between Yemen and Mecca) visited the Prophet in his mosque for two weeks. While the dialog was taking place, the Prophet gave the Christian delegation the right to practice their faith freely in his mosque during their stay. At the end of the dialogue, the Christian commission chose to stay Christians.
The Prophet accepted their decision and gave them a letter assuring their freedom of worship and the safety of their homes, churches, and towns. Below is part of his message :
Our covenant with Najran is that they are under the protection of God and his Prophet. Najran’s homes, churches, monks, priests, their present and absent and alliance shall be safe…
The War with Byzantine
The Muslims had to go to war with Byzantine and here are the details of why the war started. The Prophet sent Harith Ibn-Umair al Azdi with a letter to the Governor of Bostra, Sharhabeel al Ghassani, who was the Arab Governor of Sham (Syria), appointed by the Roman King Hercules. Sharhabeel tortured and killed the emissary as he learned that he was the messenger of the Prophet. The act of killing emissaries was considered an act of war; otherwise, emissaries were given protection by all nations.
In July 629 CE, the Prophet sent a group of men numbering fifteen to learn about Harith. This team was in turn attacked at al-Kara, bordering Syria. They met a shower of arrows, and all killed except one. The moment Prophet Muhammad learned of the fate of his messengers, he set out to punish the killers. If Prophet Muhammad (p) was to let this criminal act slide, the Arabs, the Romans, or the Persians would assume the door was open to finish off Muhammad and his followers.
In September, 629 CE, under Ziad Ibn-Harith a force of 3000 were dispatched to Syria. At Mu’tah, the Muslims appointed to the rank of leaders killed. Khalid Ibn-Alwalid took over the leadership of the army and withdrew back to Medina. The withdrawal at Mu’tah taken as a defeat, which encouraged the Romans and its Arab alliance to step up their aggression against the Muslims.
In the following months, news came to the Prophet that the tribes of Bali and Qudaha were massing in considerable numbers on the Syrian border, with alleged intentions of invading Arabia. The Prophet sent Amr Ibn al-‘ass as the head of 300 people to disseminate the massing. When the expedition arrived at the borders of Syria, they quickly realized that their enemy was in a more significant number than had been anticipated. Amr then sent back a man of Juhaynah tribe to the Prophet asking for reinforcement. Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah immediately dispatched with an additional two hundred men. Amr marched with the five hundred men across the Syrian border, and as they advanced, the enemy dispersed. There was only one brief exchange of arrows, but the rest of the march was a matter of coming upon deserted camps, whose very recent occupants had vanished. Amr returned without meeting the Arab Roman alliance. This expedition is known as Thatu al Riqa’.
The Opening of Mecca
Not until 630 CE did Muhammad re-enter his native city Mecca, leading ten thousand people. Before entering the city, the Prophet reached Quraysh’s leader Abu Sufyan, who submitted to the Prophet’s requests to engage in no war, accept Islam and allow this massive army to enter the city peacefully. Thus, without a fight the Muslims re-entered Mecca. Instead of slaughtering the inhabitants of the town as the custom then was, the Prophet pardoned the Meccans with his famous words: “Go about where you please, you are free.” Soon, many of the city’s people accepted Islam. Muhammad’s act of mercy in pardoning Quraysh of no weakness or fear, but rather when he was able and powerful. This gracious and magnanimous act endures Islam’s principles of peace and security for all people. The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 33, Verses 1-3 states:
Sinai, Mount Paran, Seir from his right hand there went a fiery law ‘A complete code of law. ‘ With him are ten thousand saints.
On June 8, 632 CE, in the arms of his wife Ayisha, Muhammad whispered his last devotions, and then peacefully surrendered to Allah’s will.
The End of Idolatry in the Sacred City of Mecca
Worshipping objects such as idols and sculptures is doing injustice to God, the Creator, the Sustainer and the Lord of all worlds. Also, praying to stones that have no sense and cannot talk, or hear is an insult to human beings dignity and intelligence. Seeking the advice and the help of idols that cannot help their selves is even insane. The stage to stop this offending practice of idol worship from the Sacred House of Ka’ba was coming to an end.
As stated in the previous paragraph, “The Opening of Mecca,” the Prophet pardoned the Meccans, whom, at large, entered Islam and the 360 idols around the Ka’ba destroyed. The destruction of the gods was a big step, but not enough to eliminate idol worshipping in Mecca. Some of the tribes residing around Mecca, who did not embrace Islam, would bring their idols along with them to the Sacred Mosque for worship during the Pilgrimage season. There were other idol worship traditions, such as the total removal of clothing during the ritual fulfillment.
An idol-worshipping Pilgrimage tradition was to remove all the clothes that they had worn during committing sins for their Pilgrimage to be accepted by God. These traditions conflicted with the Islamic standards of decency and spirituality and the purpose of the pilgrimage. Prophet Muhammad did not attend the Pilgrimage for two years after he opened Mecca. Perhaps, the reasons for this are the fact that he did not want to perform Pilgrimage rituals mixed with Idol worshippers, and that in staying away he would give time to those who did not accept Islam to re-evaluate their situation and to recognize the value and enter-dimensions of Islam. The process of changing customs and habits takes time. If this natural process violated, problems and violence could occur. Therefore the Prophet managed accordingly to give peace a chance, proving once more Islam’s ever quest for peace.
Nevertheless, two years after the opening of Mecca and during the second Pilgrimage season, God revealed the chapter of Declaration of Disassociation. This Chapter, among other things, addressed the total termination of idol worshipping in and around the city of Mecca. Mecca, which holds the primordial faith of Abraham and the whole humanity, is to be the sacred center of the orientation of all Muslims. The process of returning Mecca to its original sanctuary was made in several steps; one of these steps is misrepresented by some westerners for accusing Islam to be a religion that teaches violence. Below are the verses and the story of this process of cleansing Mecca of Idol worshippers:
(This is a declaration of) Disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger to those whom you had made a treaty among the Idolaters (Mushrikeen). So travel safely and freely, (O disbelieving Idolaters), throughout the land (during) four months but know that you cannot cause failure to God and that Allah will disgrace the disbelievers. And (it is) an announcement from God and His Messenger to the people on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage (Hajj) that God does disassociate from the disbelievers, and (so is) His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away, then know that you will not cause failure to God. And give tidings to those who disbelieve in a painful punishment. Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty (limited by an appointed time or condition) among the Idolaters, and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term (has ended). Indeed God loves the righteous (who are fully aware of Him). And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the Idolaters (mushrikeen) wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity (zakah), let them go on their way. Indeed Allah is Forgiving Merciful. Qur’an, 9:1-5
The steps below further explain the process of returning Mecca to its original sanctity:
1) During this Pilgrimage, announcement to be made that God and His Prophet disassociate themselves from the Idolaters, who violated the agreements of peace (a reference to the violation of the peace agreement of Hudaybiya) and that there will be no more agreements made between the Muslims and the Idolaters in the future. Note: Some Qur’anic interpreters illustrated that several of Quraysh tribes, not to include the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, broke the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah with the Muslims. Because of Quraysh’s breach of the agreement, God disassociated Himself and His Prophet from any more commitment to this particular treaty (except for the two tribes) as well as other informal and customary agreements that not bound by conditions or time and ordered the believers to execute the order. See al Tafseer al Muneer, Volume 10, Page 99.
2. Any existing agreement (or part thereof) with the Idolaters, such as that with the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, shall be honored until its appointed time or until they breach the agreement. We must pause here to understand Islam’s broad quest for keeping the peace by continuing to accept the deal of Hudaybiyah with the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, who did not collaborate with Quraysh in breaching the peace treaty.
3.There will be no more idol worshiping in the Sacred places (Mecca and the Sacred Mosque). Note: the sanctity of Mecca concerning Muslims is much like the Vatican City concerning Catholics.
4. A period of four months was to be given as a respite to those who chose to keep worshipping idols, to either leave the Sacred places or embrace Islam.
5. A severe warning of actual war, after the respite period against idolaters who insisted that they would stay in the Sacred places and refused to accept Islam.
It is this verse with its severe warning to the idolaters, who refused to leave Mecca, is what is misused today by some westerners to accuse Islam of teaching violence by killing disbelievers, Christians, and Jews. Correcting the misunderstanding of the verse, consider the two following points:
First, the multiple meaning of the Arabic word “mushrikeen,” and second, illustrating the Islamic mechanism for the prevention of war employing severe threat. First, the multiple meaning of the Arabic word “mushrikeen.”
The word musrikeen we encountered in the above verses is the plural of the word mushrik, from the base verb shirk. Shirk in the religious sense is worshipping “other things” with God. “Other things” can be idols, people, materialistic things such as money and wealth and can even be position and power. The standard English word for shirk is polytheism. In the above verse, however, the word mushrikeen applies to the Idolaters of Mecca and cannot be interpreted as the Christians and the Jews.
To assert the interpretation’s contextual aspects of the place, time and subject matter, mushrikeen in this case should only be translated as “Idolaters of Quraysh,” who are the subject matter of the above verses and to whom the declaration of disassociation addressed to. Unfortunately, some English translations of the Holy Qur’an inaccurately translated the above word ‘mushrikeen,’ into its generic form as ‘polytheists,’ thus creating a major problem, especially for the non-Arabic reading audience. It is good to note that Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, and M. H. Shakir’s translations, which are among the most trusted translations, accurately gave the meaning of mushrikeen as ‘idolaters’ in this verse.
Second, the mechanism for the prevention of war employing severe threat. Similar to the Islamic philosophy of strict punishment for prevention of vice and corruption, the Qur’an uses the belief of grave danger of war to prevent an actual fight. The psychological effect of harsh war on people is a change or compromise in behavior that would lead to the deterrence of the war. This policy of avoiding conflict by the mere fact of its threat is very much like preventing a traffic citation because of its severe penalty. This technique seems to work well, and in our case it averted war, and consequently, no one left Mecca. For more information on this subject of harsh threat for good reasons, see our posted article: “Reflections on the Islamic Penal Law.”
The Farewell Pilgrimage and Farewell Speech of the Prophet
The following Pilgrimage season after the cleansing of Mecca from Idol worshippers, the Prophet Muhammad made his last Pilgrimage to Mecca. He led over 110,000 people during this pilgrimage and gave his famous farewell speech at Mount Arafat. Among the topics in his farewell speech were human rights issues, economic justice and women’s rights and treatment.
O, People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present today.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so consider the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no-one, so that no-one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury. Therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest money due to Abbas ibn Abd al Muttalib [Muhammad’s uncle] shall henceforth be dropped…
Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have individual rights about your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your power then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in zakah or poor due. Perform pilgrimage if you can afford to.
All humanity is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no advantage over black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing should be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah and if you follow these, you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words in the same way as those who attend to me directly. Be my witness,
O Allah that I have conveyed your message to your people.
When the Prophet returned to Medina, he discussed the imminent threat of the Romans to his community. During his final sickness, he appointed Usamah ibn Zaid as the head of an expedition to the Romans and their alliances at the Syrian border, but the team did not go until after he passed away.
On June 8, 632 CE, in the arms of his wife Ayisha, Muhammad whispered his last devotions and then peacefully surrendered to Allah’s will.
Muhammad died, but his legacy did not. How could his legacy die when it calls for worshipping the One True God, the Fashioner and Sustainer of the universe and all that is in it? Why would Muhammad’s legacy die when he left vast spiritual teachings and a Scripture that endlessly nourishes spirituality and tranquility to the dry and hardened hearts? How could a Prophet’s legacy die as he calls for the liberation of slaves and women from ages of superstition and suppression?
Why would Muhammad’s legacy die for he had outlawed economic injustice and man’s exploitation of the land? Why would his legacy die when he transformed a tyrannical world into a charitable and just one? How could his legacy die when he converted a war-torn nation into a peaceful, secure and brotherly one? All these questions are legitimate for all humankind to ask one another. Muhammad’s legacy will never die for it calls for literacy, observation and ever learning mechanisms to improve human life spiritually and morally. It is qualities and values like these, not the sword, that helped the early Muslims conquer, even better said liberate much of the old world.
Period of the Guided Caliphs
Shortly after the Prophet died, Abu Bakr was chosen to be his successor (Caliph). The first significant action he conducted was to send Usamah ibn Zaid with 3000 people to the Roman borders where his father and many other Muslims killed. His second significant move was to stop and silence the tribes who reversed their position from Islam to the Pre-Ignorance Era. The third issue was to send armies to liberate northern Arabia, Syria, and Iraq from the Roman and Persian invaders. His rule lasted for only two years.
It was during the rule of Umar Ibn al Khattab, the second Caliph in which Jerusalem, Basra, Ibilla, Damascus, Hums and the rest of old Syria where opened with occasional resistance. For example, Ibilla and Basra were pockets of resistance. The peaceful opening of Jerusalem took place when the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Sophronius requested the Caliph Umar to come to Jerusalem so he can turn the city’s keys to him personally. When Umar arrived, he entered Jerusalem in humility, walking, not riding on a camel, but his servant was comfortably riding. They had been taking turns walking and riding. The two signed a peace treaty as follows:
From the servant of Allah and the Commander of the Faithful, Umar: The inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be free to follow their religion. They shall not be troubled…
The third caliph chosen was Uthman Ibn Affan. The rule of Uthman was for 12 years. Similar to the previous caliphs, Uthman’s armies continued expanding the Muslim land into central Asia in the east and northern Africa, then into Spain and France in the west. Again, pockets of resistance met during this vast conquered land. The Muslim armies were not just soldiers of war, but messengers of liberation from inequality, injustice, and ignorance into the light of freedom and learning of knowledge. Local populations in Syria and Egypt regarded Byzantine rule as oppressive and preferred Muslim conquest instead.
The Arab Muslims also had significant economic, cultural and familial ties with predominantly Arab citizens of the Fertile Crescent. Here is a quotation from Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri in Kitab Futuh al-Buldan “Book of the Conquests of Lands,”: “The people of Homs replied [to the Muslims],
We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your ‘family’s’ help, repulse from the city.” The Jews rose and said, “We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Homs unless we are first vanquished and exhausted!” The inhabitants of the other cities—Christian and Jews—that had capitulated to the Muslims did the same. When by Allah’s help the “unbelievers” were defeated, and the Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and music players who began to play and paid the kharaj [tax].
Another example of the welcome of Islam by early Christians is stated by Michael the Elder (Great). ‘Michael the Elder, Chronique de Michael Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite d’ Antioche,’ J.B. Chabot, Editor, Vol. II, Paris, 1901.
This is why the God of vengeance, who alone is all-powerful, and changes the empire of mortals as He will, giving it to whomsoever He will, and uplifting the humble beholding the wickedness of the Romans who throughout their dominions, cruelly plundered our churches and our monasteries and condemned us without pity, brought from the region of the south the sons of Ishmael, to deliver us through them from the hands of the Romans. And if in truth we have suffered some loss, because the Catholic churches, that had been taken away from us and given to the Chalcedonians, remained in their possession; for when the cities submitted to the Arabs, they assigned to each denomination the churches which they found it to be in possession of (and at that time the great churches of Emessa and that of Harran had been taken away from us); nevertheless it was no slight advantage for us to be delivered from the cruelty of the Romans, their wickedness, their wrath and cruel zeal against us, and to find ourselves at people.
Michael the Elder, Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, wrote this text in the latter part of the twelfth century, after five centuries of Muslim rule in that region. Concerning the Muslims conquered Egypt, Edward Gibbon in his book, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, stated:
According to Arab historians, the local Christian Copts welcomed the Arabs just as the Monophysites did in Jerusalem.
The fourth and final guided caliph was Ali Ibn Abi Talib. His rule witnessed many setbacks and commotion that the quest for land had discontinued.
This recap of the history of the early period of Islam is only a small glimpse of the purity, integrity, and traits of this faith. The author intends that all people, Muslims, and non-Muslims should have the opportunity to confront Islam face to face.
July 15, 2017
July 4, 2017