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From the Hijrah to Death
The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) departure from Mecca, which has been termed as hijrah (immigration), was a turning point in the life of the Prophet (PBUH) as well as in the history of Islam. No longer was he just a divine messenger calling to belief in a single God and rejecting idolatry, but he was placed at the head of a government which was to lay the foundations of a new society based on a divine shari`ah (law). However, contrary to what is claimed by some, while in Medina the Holy Prophet (PBUH) never abandoned his prophetic mission. His dispatching of representatives to various tribes who were, in turn, tasked with the propagation of the new religion and his letters to the heads of states are examples of his consistent devotion to the spread of the Islamic faith. The hijrah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) from Mecca to Medina was deemed by Muslims as a major event, so much so that it marked the beginning of the Muslim calendar; a fact that also reflects Arabs’ view of the importance of the Prophet’s (PBUH) emigration as the harbinger of a new era. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) arrived in Yathrib in the month of Rabi` al-Awwal, 14 years after his divine appointment. Later, the city came to be known as Madinat al-Nabi (the city of the prophet), or Medina in short. Upon his arrival, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) stopped at a place outside of the city called Qaba, where the Yathribites rushed to greet him. After a few days, he entered the city and chose a desolate parcel of land where he and his companions erected a mosque at the present site of Masjid al-Nabi (the prophet’s mosque).
The numbers of the Muhajirun (emigrants; those who followed the Holy Prophet (PBUH) from Mecca to Medina) kept on increasing, while the Ansar (helpers; the original inhabitants of Yathrib) welcomed them among their midst. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) established pacts of brotherhood between the Muhajirun and the Ansar, and himself took `Ali b. Abi Talib (PBUH) as his own brother. There also existed a group who in spite of their outward confession to Islam remained unbelievers deep in their hearts. This group was referred to as the Munafiqun (the hypocrites). A short while after his settlement in Medina, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) entered into a contract with the inhabitants of the city, including the Jews, regarding respect for each other’s social rights. The change in the direction of prayer (qiblah) from Bayt al-Muqaddas (Jerusalem) to Ka`bah further solidified the identity of Islamic faith. In the first year after the hijrah no confrontation of any magnitude took place between the Muslims and the Meccan polytheists, a situation that was to turn around in the following year. In fact, a great deal of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) energy in the post-hijrah period was devoted to the protection of the small Muslim community of Medina as well as to the expansion of the sphere of influence of the new religion. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his followers had two main tasks: to call the polytheists to Islam and to deflect the threat of their constant attacks. It appears that the followers of other religions, especially the Jews, were at first on good terms with the Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims as a whole, or at least they chose to pretend as such. In time, they took on a hostile stance and even colluded with the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH). However, an important fact to be bear in mind in any analysis of the reaction of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his followers is the immensity of threats they were faced with and the strategies they adopted to counter them. In other words, Muslims’ confrontation with the followers of other creeds should not be viewed in the context of a religious conflict. In fact, there are many instances of respect for other religious beliefs in the Holy Quran as well as in the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) which underscore the fundamental unity of all these religions.
The most crucial military conflict ever taking place between the Muslims and the Meccan polytheists was in the second year after the hijrah. In an encounter, which came to be known as the Battle of Badr, a small army of Muslims managed to rout a larger contingent of Meccans, many of whom were killed or captured. The victory infused the Muslim community with a sense of self-confidence, while it created anger and resentment among the population in Mecca. The first armed conflict between the Muslims and their Jewish rivals was a battle with the Jews of Bani Qaynaqaq, who were a clan living in the outskirts of Medina. It resulted in the defeat of the Jews and the loss of their territory to Muslims.
In the third year after the hijrah, the Quraysh united with other tribes against the Muslims and headed towards Medina with an army led by Abu Sufyan. At first, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) decided to take up defensive positions in Medina. But later he decided to meet the Meccan army outside of the city at a place near the hill of Uhud. In spite of the fact that the Muslims initially gained the upper hand, a commander of the Meccan army by the name of Khalid b. Walid took advantage of a mistake committed by a group of Muslims and turned the situation to the benefit of the Meccans. The Prophet’s (PBUH) uncle Hamzah lost his life and he himself was wounded in the struggle; an event that caused panic among Muslim ranks who ended up returning to Medina defeated and disillusioned. The Quranic verses revealed on the occasion aimed at providing solace to Muslims.
The fourth year of hijrah saw a string of battles between the Muslims and the nomadic tribes of the Medina region who deemed the new religion as contrary to their interests and a source of possible threat. The incidents at Raji` and Ba’r, which resulted in the death of Muslim missionaries, were clear indications of the potential of these tribes entering into an alliance against the Muslims; a development that could also create obstacles in the way of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) efforts to spread Islam during his years in Medina (Arnold 27 – 28). One of the major confrontations of this year was with a Jewish tribe of Medina by the name of Bani Nazir with whom the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had entered into negotiations and who, none the less, joined in a conspiracy to kill him. The affair concluded with the members of the tribe being forced to leave the region.
The next year saw the Prophet (PBUH) at the head of a Muslim army marching to a place at the border of Syria called Dumat al-Jandal only to find the enemy having fled, upon which they returned to Medina. In the later part of the fifth year of hijrah a grave event threatened the existence of the Muslim community. The Quraysh of Mecca and the exiled Jews of Bani Nazir, together with their allies, mustered an army that by some accounts numbered up to 10,000 soldiers. Upon the news of their march toward Medina, according to a well-known hadith, Salman the Persian recommended a moat to be dug around the city of Medina, a plan which met with the approval of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). There took place several minor skirmishes during the period that the two armies were locked in the ensuing stalemate. Finally, after 15 days the polytheists decided to abandon their mission and life in Medina returned to normal.
In the sixth year of hijrah the Muslims managed to defeat the Bani Mustalaq who had staged an insurrection against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There were also several other campaigns against enemy tribes. The tireless efforts of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) resulted in the removal of many obstacles in the of Muslims, a fact that was reflected in the conversion or subjugation of the northern parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Mecca had remained the sole bastion of resistance. In the same year, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his followers decided to head for Mecca for the performance of the hajj pilgrimage. The members of the Quraysh tribe made an attempt at preventing the Muslims from entering the city and sent an envoy to deliver a warning to the Prophet (PBUH), who declared that he had no intention of engaging in hostilities and that he considered the Ka`bah as sacrosanct. He even went as far as offering to enter into a peace treaty with the Quraysh. At first, the Meccans were divided over the offer. But later they sent a delegation to conclude a peace treaty with the Muslims. According to the treaty there was to be a cessation of hostilities for a period of ten years and the Prophet (PBUH) agreed not to return to Mecca until the following year. According to some hadiths, there were those of the Prophet’s followers who initially opposed the agreement but who later came to realize its crucial role in the future development of the nascent religion.
Having subdued the Meccan opposition, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) now turned his attention to announcing the new religion to the kings and rulers of other lands (7th century AD). This included dispatches to the Byzantine emperor, Najashi, and the emirs of Yamamah and the Qassanids of Syria. In the same year, Muslims conquered the Jews of Khaybar who had, time and again, thrown in their lot with the enemies of Islam and remained a source of concern for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). As a result, the Muslim forces occupied the fort of Khaybar and allowed the Jews to remain there on condition of sending a portion of their annual harvest to Medina. This was part of a large-scale military and religious campaign which continued for some time.
In the 8th year of hijrah the Quraysh breached the terms of their peace treaty by staging a nocturnal ambush against a group of Muslims. Subsequently, the Prophet (PBUH) marched to Mecca at a head of a large army and set up camp just outside Mecca. On the mediation of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) uncle `Abbas, the leader of Meccans, Abu Sufyan, came to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and confessed Islam and offered his house as a safe haven. The Muslim army entered the city without any resistance. The Prophet (PBUH) declared a general amnesty and proceeded to cleanse the Ka`bah of idols. He then sat on a high place in Safa where all the people of the city came to make their oaths of allegiance to him. Some two weeks after his conquest of Mecca a large number of Arabian tribes entered into an alliance against him. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) left Mecca at the head of a huge army. Upon its arrival in Hunayn, the Muslim army found itself ambushed by enemy forces, who had taken up positions at the flanks of the hill. A vast of number of Muslim soldiers were forced to retreat, except a small group of stalwarts who eventually managed to turn around the outcome of the battle.
In the summer of the 9th year after hijrah the news came of a Roman army marching towards Medina. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his men headed for Tabuk. However, no battle was joined and the Muslim army returned after concluding a number of treaties with the local tribes. Following this event, which came to be known as the Battle of Tabuk, the spread of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula gathered a new momentum. A constant flow of delegations continued to arrive in Medina in order to accept the new religion. The 10th year of hijrah, known as sinat al-wufud (the year of delegations), saw the Holy Prophet (PBUH) practically confined to Medina and engaged in meeting with representatives of various tribes. In the same year, he entered into a treaty with the Christians of Najran, went to hajj pilgrimage, and, upon his return at a place called Ghadir Khumm, declared `Ali b. Abi Talib (PBUH) as the mawla of Muslims.
In the 11th year of hijrah, he fell ill and passed away. Before his death, he ascended the pulpit and exhorted Muslims to kindness towards each other. He offered to compensate for any of his unfulfilled obligations, unless forgiven, and declared his readiness to be retaliated against any harm that he may have inflicted upon anyone. His death occurred on the 28th of Safar, or the 12th of Rabi` al-Awwal, at the age of 63. At his death, his only surviving child was Fatimah (PBUH). His son Abrahim had died two years earlier. The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) body was ritually washed and shrouded by `Ali (PBUH) and other members of his family. He was buried at his house, now inside the Medina Mosque.
He is described as having been a quiet man. He never opened his mouth completely. Often, he displayed a smile, but never laughed aloud. When addressing someone, he turned all his body towards him. He was much interested in cleanliness and good scent, so much so that when passing by a place his fragrance informed others about his presence. He led a simple life, ate his food sitting on a mat, and never displayed arrogance. He never ate to satiation and often, especially during his early days in Medina, welcomed hunger with open arms. He, none the less, refused to live like an ascetic. He himself said that he had enjoyed a fair share of the world’s blessings, while having fasted and worshiped at the same time. His treatment of others, including members of other religions, was marked by kindness and respect. His demeanor and lifestyle were so dear to Muslims that their slightest details have been transmitted from one generation to the next and are held up as guidelines to be followed in ones daily and religious life.
The fundamental message of Islam is a return to the original objective of the prophets, i.e. belief in a single God. A belief which according to one of the most well known teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is said to be at the root of man’s salvation: “qulu la ilaha ila ’l-lah, tuflihu” (say there is no god but Allah, so that you may achieve salvation). In the context of such a perspective, along with the establishment of justice (qist) which is among the main goals of prophets (Hadid 25: 57), all human distinctions such as race, color and language are viewed as mere externals. Here, the only criterion for being a superior human is taqwa (piety) (Hujurat 13: 49). To realize this aspect of his divine mission, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) established, in a small city, a government based on tawhid (belief in one God) and justice and created unity among the hitherto hostile tribes of Hijaz and Tahamah in order to set up an example of a “unified ummah” (Anbiya’ 21: 91). A notion that harkens back to the Quranic idea of an originally unified human community, whose reestablishment and consolidation was the focal point of all divine missions (Baqarah 2: 213). The message of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), in spite of its immediacy to the people of his land (An`am 6: 92), was from the outset a universal message (Yusuf 12: 104). Though the Quran set out to oppose the ignoble customs of the Arabs – like when it characterizes their notion of hammiyah (fierceness) as hammiyat al-jahiliyyah (the fierceness of Jahiliyyah, i.e. the pre-Islamic age of ignorance and paganism) (Fath 48: 26) – with regard to their noble traditions with occasional roots in divine teachings, it took an attitude of reform and monotheistic guidance.
* source: Gorji , Abolghasem "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.398 - 400
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