Beginning of the Yathrib Period
Explanation of the City's Welcome
Having heard the news of his emigration, of Quraysh's plot to kill him, and of his travel in midsummer on an untrodden path ridden with hardships across rocky mountains and valleys aglow with fire under the torrid sun individuals and groups of men and women went out to welcome Muhammad to their city. Excited by their own curiosity after the spread of the news of Muhammad's mission throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the people of Yathrib went out to see and meet the author of this call to renounce the holy faith and sacred beliefs of their ancestors. More importantly, they went out to meet Muhammad and to welcome him because his intention was henceforth to live with them in their own city. Every clan and tribe of Yathrib well knew what political, social, and other advantages it stood to gain should it succeed in convincing the new guest to reside in its midst. Indeed, they went out to take a look at this man that they might confirm their intuition concerning him. Hence, neither the unbelievers of Yathrib nor its Jews were any less enthusiastic than the Muslims, whether Muhajirun or Ansar. That is why they came from all sides to walk in his procession although each was naturally moved by different feelings. As Muhammad allowed his camel to run loose, they followed him in a disorderly manner; it was as if he had intended it that way in order to give each one of them a chance to come closer to him to take a nearer glimpse of his face. It was as if everyone had come out in order to gather in one moment of consciousness all that he had heard about and all that he could see of the person to whom he had given the grand oath of allegiance at al `Aqabah where he pledged to lay down his life when necessary in fighting any man whatever that stood in the way of the faith. It was, furthermore, as if everyone wanted to see the man who taught the unity of God based upon a scientific investigation of the cosmos and an objective search for the truth: a doctrine for the sake of which he had abandoned his native town, its people, and borne their enmity and harm for some thirteen consecutive years.
Buildings of the Prophet's Mosque
We have seen that the Prophet's camel stopped in the courtyard of Sahl and Suhayl. The Prophet bought the land in order to build his mosque there. While the mosque was being erected, he stayed in the house of Abu Ayyub Khalid ibn Zayd al Ansari. In the construction of the mosque, Muhammad worked with his own hands as did the Muslims, whether Muhajirun or Ansar. When the mosque was completed, they built on one side of it living quarters for the Prophet. These operations did not over-tax anyone, for the two structures were utterly simple and economical. The mosque consisted of a vast courtyard whose four walls were built out of bricks and mud. A part of it was covered with a ceiling made from date trunks and leaves. Another part was devoted to shelter the poor who had no home at all. The mosque was not lit during the night except for an hour at the time of the night prayer. At that time some straw was burned for light. Thus it continued to be for nine years, after which lamps were attached to the tree trunks on which stood the ceiling. The living quarters of the Prophet were no more luxurious than the mosque although they had to be more closed in order to give a measure of privacy.
Upon completion of the building, Muhammad left the house of Abu Ayyub and moved into the new quarters. He began to think of this new life which he had just initiated and the wide gate it opened for his mission. The various tribes and clans of this city were already competing with one another; and they differed among themselves in ways and for reasons unknown to any Makkan. Yet it was equally obvious that they all longed for peace and freedom from the differences and hostilities which had torn them apart in the past. Moreover, they were ambitious for and willing to build a peaceful future capable of greater prestige and prosperity than Makkah had ever enjoyed. That is not to say that these matters concerned Muhammad in the least. Rather, his concern, whether immediate or ultimate, was the conveyance of the message God had entrusted to him. The people of Makkah had resisted that message with every weapon they knew, and their hostility prevented its light from shining in the hearts of most men. The injury and harm the Quraysh were wont to inflict upon anyone who ventured into the new faith was sufficient to prevent conversion of those who were not yet convinced of its truth and value. Hence it was a cardinal need that Muslims as well as others feel certain that whoever followed the new guidance and entered into the religion of God was absolutely secure against attack. This precaution was necessary in order to confirm the believers in their faith and to enable the weak, the fearful, and the hesitant to enter into the faith with confidence. This consideration preoccupied Muhammad as he moved to the security of his new home in Yathrib. In the years to follow, it constituted the cornerstone of his policy. All biographies have emphasized this orientation of Muhammad's policies. At the time, he thought of neither property, nor wealth, nor trade, but only of realizing the security of his followers and their right to worship as they pleased on an equal footing with men of other faiths. It was absolutely necessary that the Muslim, the Jew, and the Christian have an equal opportunity in their exercise of religious freedom as well as in their freedom to hold different opinions and to preach their own faiths. Only such freedom can guarantee victory for the truth and progress of the world toward perfection in the higher unity of mankind. Every war against this freedom furthers the cause of falsehood. Every limitation of it gives power to the forces of darkness to cut off the light shining within the soul calling man to unity with mankind and the world to an eternal bond of harmony and love instead of alienation, war, and extinction.
Muhammad's Aversion to War
Ever since the Hijrah, revelation persistently confirmed this orientation of Muhammad and caused him strongly to incline toward peace, away from fighting, hostility or war. It made him regard fighting as the last resort in defense of this freedom and this faith. When, at the cry of the Qurayshi spy, the people of Yathrib who pledged to him their allegiance at the second al `Aqabah meeting proclaimed, "By God who sent you as a messenger of the truth, if you wish us to pounce on the quarter of Mina tomorrow morning with swords drawn, not one of us will stay behind," did Muhammad not respond: "God has not commanded us to fight"? Did not the first verse granting such authority say: "Permission to fight is granted to those who are being fought, for they suffer injustice, and God is certainly capable of coming to their assistance"?[Qur'an, 22:39]. Was not this verse immediately followed by the revelation,
"And fight them until all persecution has stopped and religion has become all God's"[Qur'an, 8:39]
Muhammad's thought was then guided by one final objective, namely, the guarantee of freedom of religion and thought. It was for the sake of this freedom alone that fighting was permitted. It was in its defense that repulsion of the aggressor was allowed, that no one might be persecuted on account of his faith and that no injustice might befall anyone because of his faith or opinion.
The Thinking of Yathrib
While Muhammad was occupied by this line of thought and pondered over the measures necessary for guaranteeing this freedom, the people of Yathrib entertained different ideas. Each clan and party followed a line of thought peculiar to itself. The Muslims were either Muhajirun or Ansar; the unbelievers belonged to either al Aws or al Khazraj and were committed to a long history of mutual hostility, as we have shown earlier. There were also the Jews, of whom the Banu Qaynuqa` lived within the city, the Banu Qurayzah in the suburb of Fadak, the Banu al Nadir, nearby, and those of Khaybar toward the north. As for the Muslims, Muhammad feared that, despite the strongest ties with which the new religion had bound them together, the old hatred and prejudice might some day break out anew between them. The unbelievers, from al Aws or al Khazraj, were exhausted by the previous wars; they found themselves situated, in the new configuration of society, between the Jews and the Muslims. The unbelievers' strategy concentrated on dividing Jew and Muslim and pulling them farther apart. The Jews, for their part, gave Muhammad a good welcome in the hope of winning him over to their side. Their strategy demanded that they make use of the new unity of the Peninsula which he could help forge to bolster their opposition to Christendom. For to avenge their banishment from Palestine, the land of promise, and their national home, was the guiding concern of the Jews who saw themselves as God's chosen people. Each group followed its own train of thought and began to seek the means to realize its objective.
At this time a new stage, unlike any other prophet before him, began in the career of Muhammad. Here began the political stage in which Muhammad showed such great wisdom, insight, and statesmanship as would arrest attention first in surprise and then in awe and reverence. Muhammad's great concern was to bring to his new home town a political and organizational unity hitherto unknown to Hijaz, though not to ancient Yaman. He consulted with Abu Bakr and `Umar, his two viziers, as he used to call them. Naturally, the first idea to occur to him was that of reorganizing Muslim ranks so as to consolidate their unity and to wipe out every possibility of a resurgence of division and hostility. In the realization of this objective, he asked the Muslims to fraternize with one another for the sake of God and to bind themselves together in pairs. He explained how he and 'Ali ibn Abu Talib were brothers, how his uncle Hamzah and his client, Zayd, were also brothers, as were likewise Abu Bakr and Kharijah ibn Zayd, and `Umar ibn al Khattab and `Itban ibn Malik al Khazraji. Despite the Muhajirun's rapid increase in number, following the emigration of the Prophet, everyone of them was now bound to a member of al Ansar group in a bond of mutual assistance. The Prophet's proclamation in this regard transformed that bond into one of blood and real fraternity. A new, genuine brotherhood arose which forged the Muslim ranks into an indivisible unity.
A1 Ansar showed their Muhajirun brethren great hospitality which the latter had first accepted with joy. For when they emigrated from Makkah, they had left behind all their property, wealth, and goods and entered Madinah devoid of the means with which to find their food. Only `Uthman ibn `Affan was able to carry with him enough of his wealth to be prosperous in his new residence. The others had hardly been able to carry much or little that was of use to them. Even Hamzah, the Prophet's uncle, had one day to ask the Prophet to give him some food to eat. `Abd al Rahman ibn `Awf and Sa'd ibn al Rabi` were bonded together in brotherhood. The former had nothing. The latter offered to split his wealth with him. `Abd al Rahman refused and asked that he be shown the market place. There he began to sell cheese and butter and in short time achieved a measure of affluence fair enough to enable him to ask the hand of a Madinese woman as well as to send caravans in trade. Many other Muhajirun followed the example of `Abd al Rahman; for, the Makkans, it should be remembered, were quite adept in trade. Indeed, they were so expert at it that it was said of them that they could by trade change the sand of the desert into gold.
Those who could not engage in trade such as Abu Bakr, `Umar, 'Ali ibn Abu Talib and others, took to farming on the land owned by al Ansar under the system of sharecropping. Another group of truly helpless people, with a past full of suffering and hardship, put their hand to menial jobs, preferring hard labor to living as parasites on the earnings of others. Despite their meager earnings, they found consolation in the new peace and security of their own persons and of their faith. There was yet another group of emigrants so poor and helpless that they could not find even a place to sleep. To these, Muhammad permitted the use of the covered part of the mosque during the night. That is why they were called "Ahl al Suffah," "suffah," meaning the covered area of the mosque. To these, Muhammad assigned a ration from the wealth of the more affluent Muslims, whether Ansar or Muhajirun.
Muhammad's Friendliness to the Jews
By this new brotherhood, Muhammad achieved an operational Muslim unity. Politically, it was a very wise move destined to show Muhammad's sound judgment and foresight. We shall better appreciate its wisdom when we learn of the attempts to divide al Aws against al Khazraj, and al Ansar against al Muhajirun. The politically greater achievement of Muhammad was his realization of a unity for the, city of Yathrib as a whole, his construction of a political structure in which the Jews entered freely into an alliance of mutual cooperation with the Muslims. We have already seen how the Jews gave Muhammad a good welcome in the hope of winning him as an ally. He, too, returned their greeting with like gestures and sought to consolidate his relations with them. He visited their chiefs and cultivated the friendship of their nobles. He bound himself to them in a bond of friendship on the grounds that they were scripturists and monotheists. So much had Muhammad defended the Jews that the fact that he fasted with them on the days they fasted and prayed toward Jerusalem as they did increased his personal and religious esteem among them. Everything seemed as if the future could only strengthen this Muslim Jewish friendship and produce further cooperation and closeness between them. Similarly, Muhammad's own conduct, his great humility, compassion, and faithfulness, and his outgoing charity and goodness to the poor, oppressed and deprived, as well as the prestige and influence which these qualities had won for him among all the people of Yathrib-all these enabled him to conclude the pact of friendship, alliance, and cooperation in the safeguarding of religious freedom throughout the city. In our opinion, this covenant is one of the greatest political documents which history has known. Such an accomplishment by Muhammad at this stage of his career had never been reached by any prophet. Jesus, Moses, and all the prophets that preceded them never went beyond the preaching of their religious messages through words and miracles. All of them had left their legacy to men of power and political authority who came after them; it was the latter who put their powers at the service of those messages and fought, with arms where necessary, for the freedom of the people to believe. Christianity spread at the hands of the disciples of Jesus and after his time, but only in extremely limited measure. The disciples as well as their followers were persecuted until one of the kings of the world favored this religion, adopted it, and put his royal power behind its missionary effort[The allusion here is to Conszantine who began to show favors toward Christianity in 312 C.E. and decreed the Edict of Toleration in 313. He supported both paganism as well as Christianity. To the end of his life he bore the title of pontifex maximus, being the chief priest of the pagan state cult and classed among the gods by the Roman Senate. He was not baptized until the latter part of his life. -Tr.]. All other religions in the East and the West have had nearly the same history, but not the religion of Muhammad. God willed that Islam be spread by Muhammad, and that the truth be vindicated by his hand. He willed Muhammad to be prophet, statesman, fighter, and conqueror, all for the sake of God and the truth with which he was commissioned as prophet. In all these aspects of his career Muhammad was great, the exemplar of human perfection, the typos of every realized value.
The covenant of Madinah concluded between Muhajirun and Ansar on one side and Jews on the other, was dictated by Muhammad. It was the instrument of their alliance which confirmed the Jews in both their religion and position in society, and determined their rights as well as their duties. Following is the text of this important document:
"In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. This is a covenant given by Muhammad to the believers and Muslims of Quraysh, Yathrib, and those who followed them, joined them, and fought with them. They constitute one Ummah to the exclusion of all other men. As was their custom, the Muhajirun from Quraysh are bound together and shall ransom their prisoners in kindness and justice as believers do. Following their own custom, Banu `Awf are bound together as they have been before. Every clan of them shall ransom its prisoners with the kindness and justice common among believers. [The text here repeats the same prescription concerning every clan of the Ansar and every house including Banu al Harith, Banu Sa'idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al Najjar, Banu `Amr ibn `Awf and Banu al Nabit.] The believers shall leave none of their members in destitution without giving him in kindness what he needs by way of ransom or bloodwit. No believer shall take as an ally a freedman of another Muslim without the permission of his previous master. All pious believers shall rise as one man against whosoever rebels or seeks to commit injustice, aggression, sin, or spread mutual enmity between the believers, even though he may be one of their sons. No believer shall slay a believer in retaliation for an unbeliever; neither shall he assist an unbeliever against a believer. Just as God's bond is one and indivisible, all believers shall stand behind the commitment of the least of them. All believers are bonded one to another to the exclusion of other men. Any Jew who follows us is entitled to our assistance and the same rights as any one of us, without injustice or partisanship. This Pax Islamica is one and indivisible. No believer shall enter into a separate peace without all other believers whenever there is fighting in the cause of God, but will do so only on the basis of equality and justice to all others. In every military expedition we undertake our members shall be accompanied by others committed to the same objective. All believers shall avenge the blood of one another whenever any one of them falls fighting in the cause of God. The pious believers follow the best and most upright guidance. No unbeliever shall be allowed to place under his protection against the interest of a believer, any wealth or person belonging to Quraysh. Whoever is convicted of killing a believer deliberately but without righteous cause, shall be liable to the relatives of the killed. Until the latter are satisfied, the killer shall be subject to retaliation by each and every believer. The killer shall have no rights whatever until this right of the believers is satisfied. Whoever has entered into this covenant and believed in God and in the last day shall never protect or give shelter to a convict or a criminal; whoever does so shall be cursed by God and upon him shall the divine wrath fall on the day of judgment. Neither repentance nor ransom shall be acceptable from him. No object of contention among you may not be referred to God and to Muhammad, may God's peace and blessing be upon him, for judgment. As the Jews fight on the side of the believers, they shall spend of their wealth on equal par with the believers. The Jews of Banu Aws are an Ummah alongside the believers. The Jews have their religion and the Muslims theirs. Both enjoy the security of their own populace and clients except the unjust and the criminal among them. The unjust or the criminal destroys only himself and his family. The Jews of Banu al Najjar, Banu al Harith, Banu Sa'idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al Aws, Banu Tha'labah, Jafnah, and Banu al Shutaybah-to all the same rights and privileges apply as to the Jews of Banu Aws. The clients of the tribe of Tha'labah enjoy the same rights and duties as the members of the tribe themselves. Likewise, the clients of the Jews, as the Jews themselves. None of the foregoing shall go out to war except with the permission of Muhammad, may God's peace and blessing be upon him though none may be prevented from taking revenge for a wound inflicted upon him. Whoever murders anyone will have murdered himself and the members of his family, unless it be the case of a man suffering a wrong, for God will accept his action. The Jews shall bear their public expenses and so will the Muslims. Each shall assist the other against any violator of this covenant. Their relationship shall be one of mutual advice and consultation, and mutual assistance and charity rather than harm and aggression. However, no man is liable to a crime committed by his ally. Assistance is due to the party suffering an injustice, not to one perpetrating it. Since the Jews fight on the side of the believers they shall spend their wealth on a par with them. The town of Yathrib shall constitute a sanctuary for the parties of this covenant. Their neighbors shall be treated as themselves as long as they perpetrate no crime and commit no harm. No woman may be taken under protection without the consent of her family. Whatever difference or dispute between the parties to this covenant remains unsolved shall be referred to God and to Muhammad, the Prophet of God, may God's peace and blessing be upon him. God is the guarantor of the piety and goodness that is embodied in this covenant. Neither the Quraysh nor their allies shall be given any protection. The people of this covenant shall come to the assistance of one another against whoever attacks Yathrib. If they are called to cease hostilities and to enter into a peace, they shall be bound to do so in the interest of peace. If, on the other hand, they call upon the Muslims to cease hostilities and to enter into a peace, the Muslims shall be bound to do so and maintain the peace except when the war is against their religion. To every smaller group belongs the share which is their due as members of the larger group which is party to this covenant. The Jews of al Aws, as well as their clients, are entitled to the same rights as this covenant has granted to its parties together with the goodness and charity of the latter. Charity and goodness are clearly crime and injury, and there is no responsibility except for one's own deeds. God is the guarantor of the truth and good will of this covenant. This covenant shall constitute no protection for the unjust or the criminal. Whoever goes out to fight as well as whoever stays at home shall be safe and secure in this city unless he has perpetrated an injustice or committed a crime. God grants His protection to whosoever acts in piety, charity and goodness."
New Horizons in Political Life
The foregoing political document, which Muhammad wrote down fourteen centuries ago, establishes the freedom of faith and opinion, the invioliability of the city, human life, and property, and the forbiddance of crime. It certainly constitutes a breakthrough in the political and civil life of the world of that time. For that age was one in which exploitation, tyranny, and corruption were well established. Though the Jews of Banu Qurayzah, Banu al Nadir, and Banu Qaynuqa` did not sign this covenant at its conclusion, they did enter later on into like pacts with the Prophet. Thus Madinah and all the territories surrounding it became inviolate to their peoples who were now bound to rise to their defense and protection together. These peoples were now bound to guarantee one another in the implementation of the covenant, in the establishment of the rights arising there from, and in the provision of freedom it has called for.
The Prophet's Marriage to `A'ishah
Muhammad was satisfied with the result of his negotiations. The Muslims felt secure in their religion and began to practice its duties and precepts as individuals and groups in public, without fear of attack or harm from any source. At this time Muhammad married `A'ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr, who was then ten or eleven years old. She was a beautiful, delicate, and amiable young girl, emerging out of childhood and blossoming into full womanhood. Although she was fully grown, she was still quite attracted by amusement and play. She had a room of her own near that of Sawdah alongside the mosque. In Muhammad, she found not only a sympathetic and loving husband but also a compassionate father who was not at all offended by her inclination to play games and amuse herself with trifles. On the contrary, she was for him a source of relaxation from the continuous tension imposed upon him by his great burden to which the government of Yathrib had just been added.
Adhan or the Call to Prayer
It was during this interval in which the Muslims felt secure in their religion that the duties of zakat, fasting, and legal sanctions of Islam were imposed and its dominion was firmly established in Yathrib. Ever since Muhammad arrived in Madinah, whenever the time of prayer came, the people assembled around the Prophet without call. It occurred to him to have the Muslims called for prayer by means of a horn, following the style of the Jews, but he found the idea unbecoming. He had also thought of using the clapper, in the manner of the Christians. After consulting `Umar and a number of Muslims, according to one report, and by the command of God, according to another, he changed his idea to the Adhan and commanded `Abdullah ibn Zayd ibn Tha'labah : "Get up with Bilal and dictate the call to prayer to him, but let him deliver it forth for he has a more beautiful voice than yours." A woman of Banu al Najjar owned a house next door to the mosque which was higher than the latter. Bilal used to ascend to the roof of that house and deliver the call to prayer from there. Thus the people of Yathrib all began to hear the call to prayer many times a day beginning at dawn. The Islamic call to prayer was equally a call to Islam sung beautifully by a beautiful voice and carried on the waves of the air unto all corners of the horizon. It was a call which penetrated the ear of life itself. It said, "God is greater. God is greater. I witness that there is no God but God. I witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of God. Rise to prayer. Rise to felicity. God is greater. God is greater. There is no God but God." Henceforth, the Muslims' fears were dissipated and they felt secure. Yathrib became Madinah al Nabiy or "the City of the Prophet." While the non-Muslim inhabitants began to fear Muslim power knowing well that it stemmed from the depth of hearts which had tasted sacrifice and persecution for the sake of faith, the Muslims collected the fruits of their patience and enjoyed their religious freedom. There peace and freedom were now made constitutional by the Islamic principles that no man has any authority over any other, that religion belongs to God alone, that service is to Him alone, that before Him all men are absolutely equal, and that nothing differentiates them except their works and intentions. In Madinah, the atmosphere was finally cleared of all impediments, and Muhammad openly proclaimed his teachings. The theater was ready and the stage was set for Muhammad to constitute by his conduct the ideal exemplification and embodiment of these teachings and principles, and for his laying down the foundation stone of Islamic civilization.
Brotherhood: Foundation of Islamic Civilization
The rock bottom foundation of Islamic civilization is human brotherhood, a brotherhood under which man does not become truly human until he has loved for his brother what he loves for himself and implemented this love by deeds of goodness and mercy without weakness or servility. A man once asked Muhammad, "Which Islam is better?" Muhammad answered, "That you give food to the needy and that you greet those whom you know as well as those whom you don't." He opened the first sermon he delivered in Madinah with the statement, "Whoever can protect his face from the fire even with a basket of dates, let him do so; and whoever does not find even that much, then let him do so with a good word, for the good word brings a reward ten times greater than itself." In his second sermon he said, "Worship God and do not associate any being with Him. Fear and revere Him as He ought to be feared and revered. Be true unto Him by saying always the best than can be said. Love one another in the spirit of God. God is displeased whenever His covenant is violated." By this and like exhortations, Muhammad used to counsel his companions and preach to the people in his mosque, leaning against one of the date trunks supporting the ceiling. Later on, he ordered a pulpit of three steps to be made for him, the first to stand upon when delivering a sermon and the second to sit down upon.
The brotherhood which Muhammad made the cornerstone of Islamic civilization did not rest on his preachings alone. It was embodied in its highest perfection in his deeds and concrete example. True, he was the Prophet of God, but he consistently refused to adopt any of the appearances of power, authority, kingship, or temporal sovereignty. He emphatically repeated to his companions, "Do not praise me as the Christians have praised the son of Mary, for I am but the servant of God. Rather, call me the servant of God and His Prophet." Once, he arrived at a gathering of his companions leaning on a stick and they all rose up in respect for him. He said, "Do not stand up for me as the Persians do in aggrandizement of one another." Whenever he joined his companions, he always sat at the edge of the space they occupied. He used to joke and mix with them, to talk to them about their own affairs, to pamper and coddle their children, and to answer the call of freeman, slave, maid servant and destitute alike. He used to visit the sick in the farthest district of Madinah, to take the initiative in greeting whomever he met, and to stretch his hand in welcome to his visitors. No man came to visit Muhammad and found him in prayer but he shortened his prayer, .attended to his visitor and returned to his prayer after the visitor had left. He was the most charitable of people, always smiling in the face of everyone except when revelation came to him or when he delivered a speech or a sermon. In his home, he felt no superiority over the members of his family. He washed his own robe and mended it by his own hand. He milked his own goat, repaired his own sandals, attended to himself and to his camel, ate with his servant, and fulfilled the request of the weak, the oppressed and the destitute. Whenever he found somebody in need, however lowly or plebeian, he preferred to attend to him first rather than to himself or to his family. That is why he never saved anything for the morrow, and when he died his shield was in possession of a Jewish pawnbroker as lien for a loan made to Muhammad to spend on his family. He was exceedingly modest and extremely loyal. When a deputation from the Negus of Abyssinia arrived to see him, he rose to serve them. His companions sought to stop him, but he said to them: "The Abyssinians were kind to our companions when they went to their country; I would like to treat them likewise and reward them." He was so loyal to Khadijah that whenever she was mentioned he gave her the best of praises so that `A'ishah used to say, "I have never been jealous of a woman as I have been of Khadijah for all that I have heard the Prophet praise her." Once when a woman came to him, he rose to greet her, spoke to her gently, and attended to her pleas; people asked him who she was. He answered, "She used to befriend us in the days of Khadijah; loyalty to one's friends is of the faith." Indeed, he was so compassionate and gentle that he did not mind his grandsons' playing with him during his prayer. Once, he even prayed while Umamah, his granddaughter through Zaynab, sat on his shoulders and had to be put down when he prostrated himself.
Muhammad's Kindness to Animals
His kindness and mercy, on which he founded the new Islamic civilization, were not limited to man alone but extended to animals. Muhammad used to rise and open the door for a cat seeking to enter. He attended with his own hands to a sick rooster and rubbed down his own horse with his own sleeve. When `A'ishah rode on an obstinate camel and began to pull him hardly, he said to her, "Softly and gently please." Thus his kindness and mercy embraced all that ever came in touch with him every creature that sought to stand near his person.
The Brotherhood of Justice and Mercy
Muhammad's mercy did not proceed from weakness or servility, nor was it ever vitiated by pride, haughtiness, or the expectation of gratitude. It was done purely for the sake of God. Hence, nothing was excluded from it. This kindness differentiates the foundation of the civilization of Islam from all other civilizations. Islam puts justice side by side with kindness and judges that kindness is not kindness without justice.
"Whoever commits an aggression against you, return to him his aggression in like manner." [Qur'an, 2:194]
"In punishment a whole life lies implicit, O you who have minds to reason with!"[Qur'an, 2:179]
Kindness is felicitous and the good deeds that issue from it are praiseworthy only when the motivation is internal, the will is free, and the purpose is the seeking of God's sake alone. Kindness should proceed from a strong soul that has known no submission to anything but God, has not succumbed to weakness, does not go to extremes in the name of piety, and knows no fear or contrition except on account for a misdeed it has done or a crime it has committed. As long as the soul is under alien dominion, it can never be strong; it can never be strong, either, if it stands under the dominion of its own passions and desires. Muhammad and his companions emigrated from Makkah precisely in rebellion against the dominion of Quraysh who attempted to weaken their souls by means of dominion and the injuries it perpetrates. On the other hand, the soul is said to be under the dominion of passions and desires whenever the body's demands take precedence over those of the spirit, when passion vanquishes reason, when external life exerts any power over internal lifeline short, when the soul does not know that it has no need of either passion or desire and is really their final master.
Muhammad's Power to Surmount Life
Muhammad provided the highest example of the power to overcome life. He achieved such a degree of mastery over life that he did not hesitate to give all that he had whenever he wanted to give. A contemporary of Muhammad once said of him, "Muhammad gives as if he has no fear of want at all." In order not to allow anything to exercise any power over him but rather to enable himself to determine it, Muhammad led a very ascetic life. Despite his strong desire to know the secrets of life and understand its structure, he was quite contemptuous of its joys and attractions. He slept in a bed of palm fibers; he never ate his fill; he never ate barley bread on two consecutive days, gruel being his main daily meal together with dates. Neither he nor his family had ever had enough tharid[A dish made out of layers of bread often topped with meat, rice, and soaked with gravy. -Tr.]. He felt the pangs of hunger more than once, and learned to press a stone against his stomach as a means to silence those pangs. This remarkable restraint, however, did not prevent his enjoying the delicacies of God's bounty if such were available, and he was known to love to eat leg of lamb, squash, honey, and other sweets.
In his dress he was as ascetic as he was in his food. His wife once gave him a new robe because he was in need of one. One of his companions asked him for something with which to shroud a dead relative, and Muhammad gave him the new robe he had just received. His wardrobe consisted of shirts and robes made out of wool, cotton, or linen. But on special occasions he had no objection to wearing a luxurious robe from Yaman should it be called for. He used to wear a simple sandal, and he did not wear slippers until the Negus of Abyssinia sent him some together with other clothes.
Muhammad's denial of the world and its luxuries was not pursued for its own sake. Nor was it a duty imposed by religion. The Qur'an said: "Eat of the delicacies of God's providing," and "Do seek the other world in what God has given you of this, but do not give up your share of this world. Do good, as God has done good to you."[Qur'an, 2:57; 28:77]. In the traditions of the early Muslims it is said, "Work for this world as if your life in it is eternal; work for the other world as if you were to die tomorrow." Certainly Muhammad sought to give mankind the highest possible example of a mastery of life absolutely free of weakness, in which no goods, wealth, or power dedicated to another being beside God could have any effect. When brotherhood is based upon such a power over life and its attractions issue into such exemplary deeds as Muhammad had done, it is pure, candid, and has no other object whatever besides the lofty fraternalism of man and man. In it, justice dovetails with mercy, and the subject is not determined except by his own free and deliberate judgment. Islam places both mercy and forgiveness side by side with justice. It insists that if they are to be themselves at all, mercy and forgiveness must issue from power. Only then will their purpose be the genuine good of the neighbor and his reconstruction.
The Sunnah of Muhammad
The foundation for a new civilization which Muhammad laid down was expressed very succinctly in a report by 'Ali ibn Abu Talib. He asked the Prophet of God concerning his Sunnah, and the latter replied: "Wisdom is my capital, reason the force of my religion, love my foundation, longing my vehicle, the remembrance of God my constant pleasure, trust my treasure, mourning my companion, knowledge my arm, patience my robe, contentment my booty, poverty my pride, asceticism my profession, conviction my strength, truthfulness my intercessor, obedience my argument, holy war my ethics, prayer my supreme pleasure."
Beginning of Jewish Fears
Muhammad's teachings, example, and leadership had the deepest effect upon the people. Large numbers of men joined the ranks of Islam and their conversion consolidated and increased Muslim power in Madinah. It was at this stage that the Jews began to rethink their position vis-à-vis Muhammad and his companions. They had concluded a pact with him and were still ambitiously hoping to win him over to their side in order to increase their power against the Christians. Muhammad, however, was becoming more powerful than both Christians and Jews, and his command was growing in effect and application. Muhammad had even begun thinking of Quraysh, of their banishment of him and the Muhajirun from Makkah, and of their forced conversion of some Muslims to the old idolatry. It was at this time that the Jews asked themselves whether they should let his call, spiritual power, and authority continue to spread while remaining satisfied with the security they enjoyed under his protection and the increased trade and wealth which his peace had brought to their city. Perhaps they might have done so had they felt certain that his religion was not going to spread in their midst and their own men would not abjure the exclusivism of Jewish prophethood and the people of Israel to convert to Islam. A great number of their priesthood and a learned rabbi, `Abdullah ibn Salam, approached the Prophet and announced to him his conversion as well as that of his own household. `Abdullah himself feared the calumny of the Jews and their defamation of him should they learn of his conversion. He therefore asked the Prophet to inquire of them about him, before any of the Jews had learned of his conversion. The Jews answered Muhammad, " `Abdullah ibn Salam is our master, son of our master, our priest, and learned rabbi." When, however, `Abdullah went back to them as a Muslim and called them to Islam, they attacked him and spread in the Jewish quarters of Madinah all sorts of calumnies against him. This was the event which triggered their suspicions of Muhammad and their denial of Muhammad's prophethood. Those members of al Aws and al Khazraj tribes who never entered Islam or who did so in hypocrisy or for an ulterior purpose were quick to rally around the Jews once their opposition to Muhammad and to Islam began to crystallize.
The War of Words between Muhammad and the Jews
A war of words between Muhammad and the Jews, which proved to be greater and more sinister than that which raged between Muhammad arid Quraysh, followed ibn Salam's conversion. Unlike the hostility with Quraysh, the new war in Yathrib witnessed the connivance of treason, deception, and scriptural knowledge for the attack against Muhammad, his message, and his companions, whether Muhajirun or Ansar. The Jews sent some of their rabbis to feign conversion to Islam in order to enter Muslim ranks and councils. While showing all piety, these rabbis were commissioned to disseminate doubt and suspicion of Muhammad among his own people. They asked Muhammad questions which they thought might shake the Muslims' conviction and arouse doubt in the message Muhammad was teaching. A number of hypocrites from al Aws and al Khazraj tribes joined Islam for the same purpose. Both Jews and unbelievers, however, reached such levels of deception that they denied either Torah or God in order to ask Muhammad, "If God created creation, who then created God?" Muhammad used to answer them with the divine verses: "Say, `God is One, the Eternal. He was not born, nor did He give birth to anyone. None is like unto Him.'[Qur'an, 112:1-3]. The Muslims soon detected their purpose and uncovered their attempts. When some of them plotting in secrecy in one of the mosque's corners were discovered one day by the Muslims, Muhammad had to command that they be expelled from the mosque. However, their efforts to split Muslim ranks continued. A Jewish leader called Shas ibn Qays passed one day by a group of al Aws and al Khazraj tribesmen enjoying one another's company in good harmony. He remembered how they were once divided and warring against each other, and thought that should the Banu Qaylah[Le., al Aws and al Khazraj.] remain united in this territory the Jews would not be able to live in peace for long. He therefore instructed a young Jew who frequented their sessions to seek an opportunity to arouse memories of the Day of Bu'ath when al Aws vanquished al Khazraj. The youth did speak and recalled the memory of that war and succeeded in arousing the old pride and hatred of the two tribes, convincing some that a return to that dies nefastus was possible as well as desirable. When Muhammad learned of this, he hurried with his companions and reminded the divisive elements how Islam had sweetened their hearts and made of them mutually loving brethren. Muhammad continued to talk to them, emphasizing their Islamic unity and brotherhood until their tears ran down in emotion and they embraced one another.
The war of words between Muhammad and the Jews increased in intensity. The evidence therefore is what the Qur'an has to say about it. The first eighty-one verses of Surah "al Nisa'," mention the people of the book, their denial of their own scripture, and condemns their unbelief and denial in strong terms
"Verily, We revealed to Moses the scripture and called after him messengers to follow in his footsteps. To Jesus, Son of Mary, We gave manifest signs and We strengthened him with the spirit of holiness. `Will you then, O Jews, every time a prophet comes to you with what you yourselves do not like take to false pride and arrogantly belie some and kill others?' They rationalize and seek to excuse themselves by admitting to dimness of vision. God, however, curses them for their disbelief. Little are they convinced of the truth! And when the book which came from God and which confirmed their own scripture was brought to them and invoked for their benefit they denied it. Hitherto they were boasting of such revelation and deriding the unbelievers for never receiving any. Now that the same truth which they had known beforehand has come to the believers from God they reject it. God's wrath will surely fall upon the unbelievers."[Qur'an, 2:87-89]
The Story of Finhas
Sometimes, controversy and argument between Jews and Muslims reached such a level of intensity that the participants attacked each other. In order to appreciate how provocative the Jews were in their war of words against the Muslims, suffice it to remember the story of Finhas. The gentleness, patience, and largezcr de coeur of Abu Bakr are proverbial. And yet he too could and did lose his temper. He once talked to Finhas calling the latter unto Islam. Finhas answered, "By God, 0 Abu Bakr, we do not need God. Rather, it is He who needs us. It is not I who pray to Him, it is He who prays to us. We are self-sufficient and He is not. If God were self-sufficient, He would not borrow our wealth as your Prophet claims. If He were truly not in need of us, He would not have prohibited usury to you and allowed it to us." Finhas was actually referring to the Qur'anic verse which said: "Will you then lend God a good loan which He will repay to you many times over?"[Qur'an, 2:245]. At this point in the conversation, Abu Bakr lost his patience and struck Finhas on the face saying, "By God, were it not for the covenant between your people and mine, I would have struck your head off, 0 enemy of God." The said Finhas took his complaint to the Prophet and denied his blasphemy. It was then that this verse was revealed: "God has heard those who said, `He is poor and we are rich.' On the day of judgment, God will remember this as well as their murder of the prophets. Then will he say: "Taste the punishments of hell."[Qur'an, 3:181]
Not satisfied with their attempt to divide the Muhajirun and Ansar, al Aws and al Khazraj, in order to dissuade the Muslims from their religion and return them to idolatry without ever seeking to convert them to Judaism the Jews even tried to trap Muhammad himself. A number of their rabbis, elders, and noblemen went to him one day and said: "You know who we are and you know well our prestige with our people. You know that if we should follow you, the Jews would do likewise. Would you then not help us against our people by giving a verdict in our favor when we bring to you our litigation with them to arbitrate? If you do, we shall then follow you and believe in you. At this the following divine words were revealed
"Judge between them by that which God has revealed, and do not follow their desires. Take care lest they sway you away from some of the revelations made to you. If they turn away from you, know that God is punishing them for some of their misdeeds. Most of them are immoral. What? Do they seek judgment on the basis of the idolatrous principles of pre-Islam? Is not God's judgment preferable? But they are people devoid of certain knowledge."[Qur'an, 5:49-50]
Orientation to the Ka'bah in Prayer
By this time, the Jews had lost their patience and began to plot against Muhammad, They sought to get him to leave Madinah as the Quraysh had succeeded in causing him and his companions to leave Makkah. Their method, however, was different. They said to Muhammad that each and every prophet hitherto had gone to Jerusalem and there established his residence. They challenged him by asserting that if he were a true prophet, he would only do as his predecessors had done in considering Madinah only as an intermediate station between Makkah and the city where al Aqsa Mosque stood. Muhammad, however, did not have to think hard to realize that they were plotting against him. It was then, seventeen months after his emigration from Makkah, that God commanded him to orient himself in prayer toward the holy mosque, the house of Ibrahim and Isma'il. It was then that the verse was revealed: "We see your yearning for a direction to take in prayer. Let us then guide you to a direction that you will accept. Orient yourself in prayer toward the holy mosque of Makkah, and wherever you may be, turn your face toward it."[Qur'an, 2:144]. The Jews condemned Muhammad for this and sought to trap him once more. They went to him pleading that they would all enter into his faith if he would but return to Jerusalem, his old direction in prayer. In this connection, God revealed the following verses
"Some foolish people will ask, `What caused them to change their old orientation?' Say: `To God belongs the East as well as the West. He guides unto His straight path whomsoever he wills." Thus We have caused you to be a nation following the course of the golden mean, witnessing unto mankind and witnessed to by the Prophet. The whole question of the orientation in prayer was intended by us to sift the true believers from the apostates and deceptors. To change orientation is a big travail only to those who have missed the divine guidance."[Qur'an, 2:142-143]
The Christian Delegation from Najran
While the war of words was raging between Muhammad and the Jews in full intensity, a delegation from the Christians of Najran consisting of sixty riders arrived in Madinah. Among them were some of the nobles, learned men, and religious leaders of the tribe whom the emperors of Byzantium had been protecting, encouraging, financing, and assisting in the building of churches. Perhaps this delegation arrived in Madinah after they learned of the conflict between Muhammad and the Jews with the hope of adding fuel to the fire so that neighboring Christendom, whether in al Sham or in Yaman, might relax and feel safe from Jewish plots and Arab aggression. The three scriptural religions thus confronted one another in Madinah. The delegation entered with the Prophet into public debate and these were soon joined by the Jews, thus resulting in a tripartite dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Jews were obstinately denying the prophethood of Jesus as well as of Muhammad, as we have seen earlier, and pretending that Ezra was the son of God. The Christians were defending trinitarianism and the divinity of Jesus. Muhammad was calling men to recognize the unity of God and the spiritual unity of mankind. Most Jews and Christians asked Muhammad which prophets he believed in. He answered: "We believe in God, in what has been revealed to us, to Ibrahim, Isma'il, Ishaq, Ya'qub, and his children. We believe in what has been revealed to Moses, to Jesus, as well as in all the revelations which the prophets have received from their Lord. We do not differentiate between them. And we have submitted ourselves to God."[Qur'an, 2:136]. Muhammad criticized both Jews and Christians in very strong terms for their compromise of the monotheistic faith that God is one, for tampering with the words of God in their scriptures, and for interpreting them in ways violating the understanding of the prophets whose prophethood they themselves acknowledged. He criticized them for asserting that the revelation of Jesus, Moses, and their predecessors in prophethood differed in many essential matters from his own revelation. In support of this, Muhammad argued that what those prophets had received from God was the same eternal truth as that revealed to him. Being the truth, its light shines forth clear and distinct, and its content is majestic and simple to any researcher submitting to none but God and to anyone capable of seeing the world as a connected and integrated unity rather than as ephemeral intimations of desire, passion, and ulterior motives. Being the truth, it must be readily recognized by the man liberated from blind submission to old wives' tales or to the sanctified legends of the fathers and ancestors. By nature, such truth must be open and possible for everyone to perceive.
Congress on the Three Religions
This was a truly great congress which the city of Yathrib had witnessed. In it, the three religions which today dominate the world and determine its destiny had met, and they did so for the greatest idea and the noblest purpose. It had neither political nor economic aims, but stood beyond the materialistic objectives which our present world is anxiously, yet so vainly trying to realize. The objective of the congress was purely spiritual. Whereas in the case of Christianity and Judaism the spiritual objective was backed or motivated by political, capitalistic, and worldly ambitions, Muhammad's spiritual purpose was pure and advocated for the sake of humanity as a whole. It was God that gave this purpose of Muhammad's its form, and this same form was proclaimed not only to the Jews but to the Christians and all mankind. Muhammad was commanded to address the delegates of both faiths,
"Say, `O People of the Book, come now to a fair principle common to both of us, that we do not worship aught but God, that we do not associate aught with Him and that we do not take one another as lords besides God.' But if they turn away, then say, `Bear witness that we are Muslims."[Qur'an, 3:64]
Withdrawal of the Christian Delegation
What can Jews, Christians, or any other people say of this call to worship none but God, to associate none with Him and never to take one another as lords besides God? The spirit which is sincere and truthful, which is endowed with reason and candid emotion cannot but believe in this call and in it alone. But human life is not entirely dominated by such noble dispositions. There is yet the materialistic consideration. Man is indeed weak; and it is this inclination to material gain which causes him to subject himself to the dominion of another man for material advantage. Man suffers terribly from false pride, his considerateness, self-respect and reason are destroyed thereby. It was this materialistic ambition for wealth, worldly prestige and social eminence that caused Abu Harithah, the most learned of the people of Najran, to tell a friend of his that he was perfectly convinced of the truth of which Muhammad was teaching. When that friend asked him why he did not then convert to Islam, he answered: "I cannot do so on account of what my people have done to me. They have honored, financed, and respected me; and they insist on differing from him. Should I follow him, they would take away from me all this that I now have."
It was to this message that Muhammad summoned Jews and Christians alike. Muslim relationships with the former were already under the governance of the Covenant of Madinah. Those of the latter depended upon the Christians' response to Muhammad's invitation. Though they did not join Islam at this time, the Christians resolved neither to oppose Muhammad nor the missionary activity of his followers. Appreciating the perfect justice of Muhammad's new order, they asked him to appoint for them a Muslim to act as judge in their own disputes at home. Muhammad sent with them Abu `Ubaydah ibn al Jarrah, who was vested with the proper judicial authority.
Rethinking the Problem of Quraysh and Makkah
Muhammad continued to consolidate the civilization for which his teaching and example provided the foundation. Together with his Muhajirun companions, he thought over the problem of Quraysh, which had vexed them ever since their emigration. The Muslims were moved by many considerations. In Makkah stood the Ka'bah, the house of Ibrahim, pilgrimage center to them as well as to all the Arabs. Until their exile, they had performed this sacred duty in season, every year. In Makkah too many of their friends, relatives, and loved ones had stayed behind and were still practicing the old idolatry. In Makkah, their wealth, worldly goods, trade, and properties were still under the jurisdiction of the Quraysh. Madinah itself was struck with epidemic diseases which attacked the Muslims and inflicted upon them great suffering; indeed, the very trip to Madinah on foot and without provisions had so worn them out that they entered the city on their first arrival already diseased and exhausted. This hard journey had naturally increased their longing for their hometown. Moreover, they did not leave Makkah of their own accord but under compulsion and full of resentment for their overlords who threatened them with all kinds of punishments and sanctions. It was not in their nature to suffer such injustices or to submit to such tyranny for long without thinking of avenging themselves. Besides these determinants, there was the natural motivation of longing to return to one's homeland, to one's home where one was born and grew up. There was the natural longing for the land, the plain, and the mountains, the water and the vegetation, all of which had constituted their earliest associations, friendships, and love. The land in which he grows and to which he returns at the end of his life has a special appeal for man. It determines his heart and his emotion and moves him to defend it with all his power and wealth as well as to exert all possible effort indeed his life -for its guardianship and well being. It is to the land from which we came out, as it were, that we want to return and be buried in at death. This natural feeling added a degree of intensity to the other emotions. Indeed, the Muhajirun could never forget Makkah nor stop thinking about the problem of their relation with the Quraysh. From the very nature of the case, and after thirteen long years of persecution and conflict in which they held their ground firmly, the Muslims could not possibly entertain any ideas of withdrawal or giving up. The religion itself to which they had converted and for the sake of which they had emigrated did not approve of weakness, despair, servile submission, or the patient bearing of injustice. Although it was strongly opposed to aggression and condemned it in no uncertain terms, and although it called for and promoted fraternity and brotherhood, it demanded that man rise up to the defense of his person, of his dignity, of the freedom of religion, and the freedom of homeland. It was for this defense and purpose that Muhammad concluded with the Muslims of Yathrib the great covenant of al `Aqabah. Now the question posed itself how may the Muhajirun fulfill this duty imposed upon them for the sake of God, His holy house, and their beloved homeland, Makkah? Toward the realization of this objective will the policy of Muhammad and of the Muslims now turn. This objective was to preoccupy them all until the conquest of Makkah had been achieved, and the religion of God, and the truth which it proclaimed, had become supreme.