The Religion Of Islam vol.1


  • bookcover

  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1


  • V

    THE PROPHET AT MEDINA


    When the Prophet Mohammed and his companions settled at Yathrib, this city changed its name, and henceforth was called “Al-Medianh Al-Munawara,” the illuminated city, or more shortly Medina, the city. It is situated about eleven days journey to the north of Mecca. At the time it was ruled by two Kahtanite tribes, namely Aws and Khazraj. These two tribes, however, were constantly quarrelling among themselves. It was only about the time when the Prophet announced his mission at Mecca that these tribes, after long years of continuous warfare, entered on a period of comparative peace. When the Prophet settled at Medina, the tribes of Aws and Khazraj forgetting entirely their old feuds were united together in the bond of Islam. Their old divisions were soon effaced, and the ‘Ansar’, the helpers of the Prophet, became the common designation of all Medinites who had helped the Prophet in his cause. Those who emigrated with him from Mecca received the title of “Muhajereen” or “the emigrants”. The Prophet, in order to unite both classes in closer bonds, established between them a brotherhood, which linked them together as children the same parents, with the Prophet as their guardian.

    The first step the Prophet took, after his settlement at Medina, was to build a mosque for the worship of God, according to principles of Islam. Also houses for the accommodation of the emigrants were soon erected.

    Medina and its suburbs being at this time inhabited by three distinct parties, the Emigrants, the Helpers and the Jews, the Prophet in order to weld them together into an orderly federation, granted a charter to the people clearly defining their rights and obligations. This charter represented the framework of the first Commonwealth organised by the Prophet, and dwelt chief on freedom of conscience. It started thus: “In the name of the most Merciful and Compassionate God, this Charter is given by Mohammed. The Apostle of God, to all believers, whether of Koreish or Medina, and all individuals of whatever origin who have made common cause with them, who shall all constitute one nation.”. The following are some extracts from the Charter: “The state of peace and war shall be common to all Moslems; no one among them shall have the right of concluding peace with, or declaring war against, the enemies of his co-religionists. The Jews who attach themselves to our Commonwealth, shall be protected from all insults and vexations; they an equal right with our own people, to our assistance and good offices, the Jews of the various branches, and all others domiciled in Medina shall form with the Moslems one composite nation; they shall practice their religion as freely as the Moslems. The allies of the Jews shall enjoy the same security and freedom. The guilty shall be pursued and punished. The Jews shall join the Moslems in defending Medina against all enemies. The internal of Median shall be a sacred place for all who accept this charter. All true Moslems shall hold in abhorrence every man guilty of crime, injustice or disorder; no one shall uphold the culpable, though he be his nearest kin.”[1]

     

    After dealing with the interior management of the State, the charter concluded as follows: “All future disputes arising among those who accept this charter, shall be referred, under God, to the Prophet.” [2]

    Thus this charter put an end to the state of anarchy that prevailed among the Arabs. It constituted the Prophet Mohammed as chief magistrate of the nation. The party of the Ansars or helpers, included some lukewarm converts who retained an ill–concealed predilection for idolatry. These were headed by Abdullah Ibn Obay, a man with some claims to distinction. They ostensibly joined Islam, but in secret were disaffected. They often were a source of considerable danger to the new – born Commonwealth and required unceasing watchfulness on the part of the Prophet. Towards them he always showed the greatest patience and forbearance, hoping in the end to win them over to the faith, which expectations were fully justified by the result. With the death of Abdullah Ibn Obay, his party which were known as the party of the ‘ Munafiquin’ (the hypocrites) disappeared.

     

    The Jews who constituted the third party of the Medinites were however, the most serious element of danger. No kindness or generous treatment, on the part of the Prophet, would seem to satisfy them. They soon broke off, and ranged themselves with the enemies of the new faith. They did not hesitate to declare openly, that they preferred idolatry, with its attendant evils, to the faith of Islam. Thus, the Prophet had to keep an eye on his enemies outside Medina, on the one hand and those within the city on the other. The Meccans, who had sworn Mohammed’s death, were well acquainted, thanks to the party of the Hypocrites and of the Jews at Medina, with the real forces of Moslems. They also knew that the Jews had accepted Mohammed’s alliance only from motives of temporary expendiency, and that they would break away from him to join the idolaters, as soon as the latter showed themselves in the vicinity of Medina. The safety of the State required the proscription of the traitors who were executed for high treason of this nature.

     

    Towards the second year of the “Hijrah”, the infidels of Mecca began a series of hostile acts against the Moslems of Medina. They sent men in parties, to commit depredations on the fruit–trees of the Moslems of Medina and to carry away their flocks. Now came the moment of severest trail to Islam. It became the duty of the Prophet, to take serious measures to guard against any plot rising from within or a sudden attack from without. He put Medina in a state of military discipline. He had to send frequent reconnoitering parties, to guard against any sudden onslaught. No sooner did the Prophet organize his state, than a large well– equipped army of the Meccans was a-field. A force consisting of one thousand men, marched under Abu Gahl, a great enemy of Islam, towards Medina, to attack the city. The Moslems received timely notice of their enemies’ intention. A body of three hundred adherents, of whom two thirds were citizens of Medina, were gathered, to forestall the idolaters by occupying the valley of Badr, situated near the sea between Mecca and Medina. When the Prophet saw the army of the infidels approaching the valley, he prayed that the little band of Moslems might not be destroyed.

    The army of the Meccans advanced into the open space which separated the Moslems from the idolaters. According to Arab usage, the battle was begun by single combats. The engagement then became general. The result old the battle was, that the Meccans were driven back with great loss. Several of their chiefs were slain; and Abu Gahl fell a victim. A large number of idolaters remained prisoners in the hands of the Moslems. They were, contrary to all usage and traditions of the Arabs, treated with the greatest humanity. The Prophet gave strict orders, that sympathy should be shown them in their misfortune, and that they should be treated with kindness.[3] These instructions were faith-fully obeyed by the Moslems, to whose care the prisoners were confided. Dealing with this event, Sir William Muir quotes one of the prisoners saying: “Blessing be on the men of Medina: they made us ride, while they themselves walked; they gave us wheaten bread to eat, when here was little of it, contenting themselves with dates.[4]

    The remarkable circumstances, which led to the victory of Badr, and the results, which followed it, made a deep impression on the minds of the Moslems. They firmly believed that the angels of heaven had battled on their side against their enemies. The division of the spoils created some dissension between the Moslem warriors. For the moment the Prophet divided it equally amongst all. Subsequently, a Koran revelation laid down a rule for future division of the spoils. According to this rule, a fifth was reserved for the public treasury for the support of the poor and indigent; and the distribution of the remaining four fifths was left to the discretion of the Chief of the State.

     

    The next battle between the Koreishites and the Moslems, was the battle of Ohod, a hill about four miles to the north of Medina. The idolaters, to revenge their loss at Badr, made tremendous preparations, for a new attack upon the Moslems. The next year, they collected an army 3000 strong, of whom 700 were armed with coats of mail, and 200 horses. These forces advanced under the command of Abu Sofian, and encamped at a village, six miles from Medina, where they gave themselves up to spoiling the fields and flocks of the Medinites. The Prophet being much inferior to his enemies in number, at first determined to keep himself within the town and receive them there; but afterwards, the advice of some of his companions prevailing, he marched out against them, at the head of 1000 men, of whom 100 were armed with coats of mail: but he had no more than one horse, besides his own, in his whole army. With these forces he halted at Mount Ohod. He was soon abandoned by Abdullah Ibn Obay, the leader of the Hypocrites, with 300 of his followers. Thus, the small force of the Prophet was reduced to 700. At Mount Ohod the Moslem troops passed the night, and in the morning, after offering their prayers, they advanced into the plain. The Prophet contrived to have the hill at his back, and the better to secure his men from being surrounded, he placed fifty archers on the height in the rear, behind the troops and gave them strict orders, not to leave their posts whatever might happen. When they came to engage, the Prophet had superiority at first, but afterward, through the fault of his archers, who left their position for the sake of plunder, and suffered the enemies horsemen to surround the Moslems and to attack them in the rear, he lost the day, and was very near losing his life. He was struck down by a shower of stones, and wounded in the face by two arrows, and one of his front teeth was broken. Of the Moslems 70 men were killed, among whom was Hamza the Prophet’s uncle; of the infidels 22 men were lost.[5]

     

    The Koreishites were too exhausted to follow up their advantage, either by attacking Medina or by driving the Moslems from the heights of Ohod. They retreated from the Medinite territories, after barbarously mutilating the corpses of their dead enemies.

    The moral effect of this disastrous battle was such as to encourage some neighboring nomad tribes, to make forays upon the Medinite territories; but most of these were repressed.

    The Jews also were not slow to involve in trouble the Prophet and his followers. They tried to create disaffection among his people, and libelled him and his adherents. They mispronounced the words of the Koran, so to give them an offensive meaning. They also caused their poets who were superior in culture and intelligence, to use their influence to sow sedition among the Moslems. One of their distinguished poets, called Kaaba, of the tribe of Nadeer, spared no efforts in publicly deploring the ill–success of the idolaters, after their defeat at Badr. By his satires against the Prophet and his disciples, and his elegies on the Meccans who had fallen at Badr, he succeeded in exciting the Koreishites to that frenzy of vengeance which broke out at Ohod. He then returned to Medina, where he continued to attack the Prophet and the Moslems, men and women, in terms of the most obscene character. Though he belonged to the tribe of Nadeer, which had entered into the compact with the Moslems and pledged itself both for the internal and external safety of the State, he openly directed his acts against the Commonwealth of which he was a member. Another Jew Sallam by name of the same tribe, behave equally fiercely and bitterly the Moslems, as did Kaaba. He lived with a party of his tribe at Khaibar, a village five day’s journey north–west of Medina. He made every effort to excite the neighbouring Arab tribes against the Moslems. The Moslem Commonwealth with the object of securing safety among the community, passed a sentence of outlawry upon Kaab and Sallam. The members of another Jewish tribe, namely Bani Quaynouqa, were sentenced to expulsion from the Medinite territory, for having openly and knowingly infringed the terms of the compact. It was necessary to put an end to their hostile actions, for the sake of maintaining peace and security. The Prophet had to go to their head-quarters, where he required them to enter definitively into the Moslem Commonwealth by embracing Islam. Or to leave Medina. To this they replied in the most offensive terms; “Thou hast had a quarrel with men, ignorant of the art of war. If thou art desirous of having any dealings with us, we shall show thee that we are men.”[6] They then shut themselves up in their fortress and set the Prophet and his authority at defiance. The Moslems decided to reduce them, and siege was accordingly laid to their fortress without loss of time. After fifteen days they surrendered. Though the Moslems at first intended to inflict some server punishment on them, they contented themselves with banishing the Bani Quaynouqa. The tribe of Nadeer had now behaved in the same way as Quaynouqa. They had likewise, knowingly and publicly, disregarded the terms of the Charter. The Prophet sent them a message similar to that which was sent to their brethren, the Quaynouqa. They, relying on the assistance of the Hypocrites’ party, returned a defiant reply. After a siege of fifteen days, they sued for terms. The Moslems renewed their previous offer; and the Jews of Nadeer chose to evacuate Medina. They were allowed to take with them all their movable property, with the exception of their arms. Before leaving Medina, they destroyed all their dwellings, in order to prevent the Moslems from occupying them.[7] Their immovable property, warlike material, etc, which they could not carry away with them, were distributed by the Prophet, with the consent of the Helpers among the Refugees. A principle was henceforth adopted that any acquisition, not made in actual warfare, should belong to the state, and that its disposal should be left to the discretion of the ruling authorities.[8]

     

    Certain prejudiced Western historians wrongly accused the Moslems of having treated these Jews of Nadeer with the utmost cruelty. For instance Dr. prideaux in his “ Life of Mahamet”, falsely charged them with overtaking the Jews who fled to Syria and putting them all to death.

    1. Sale has already saved us “the Moslems” the trouble of refuting such erroneous statements.

    The expulsion of the Nadeers took place in the fourth year of the “Hijra”. The remaining portion of this year, and the early part of the next were passed in repressing the hostile attempts of the nomadic tribes against the Moslems and inflicting punishment for various murderous forays on the Medinite territories. Of this nature was the expedition against the Christian Arabs of Dumat el Gandal, (a place about seven day’s journey to the south of Damascus) who had stopped the Medinite traffic with Syria, and even threatened a raid upon Medina; these marauders, however, fled on the approach of the Moslems, and the Prophet returned to Medina, after concluding a treaty with a neighbouring chief, to whom he granted permission of pasturage in the Medinite territories.[9]

     

    In the same year, the enemies of Islam made every possible attempt to stir up the tribes against the Moslems. The Jews also took an active, if hidden, part in those intrigues. An army of ten thousand men, well equipped, marched towards Medina, under the command of Abu Sofian. They encamped near Mount Ohod, a few miles from the city. The Moslems could gather only a much smaller army of three thousand men. Seeing their inferiority in numbers on the one hand, and the turbulence of the Hypocrites within the town on the other, they preferred to remain on the defensive. They dug a deep moat round the unprotected quarters of Medina and encamped outside the city with a trench in front of them. They relied for safety of the other side upon their allies, the Koraiza, who possessed several fortresses at a short distance towards the south and were bound by the compact to assist the Moslems against any raiders. These Jews, however, were induced by the idolaters to violate their pledge and to join the Koreishites. As these Jews were acquainted with the locality and could materially assist the raiders; and as, on the other hand the Hypocrites within the walls of the city were waiting for an opportunity to play their part, the situation of the Moslems was most dangerous. The siege had already lasted for twenty days. The enemy made great efforts to cross the trench, but every attempt was fiercely repulsed by the small Moslem force. Disunion was now rife in the midst of the besieging army. Their horses were perishing fast, and provisions were becoming less every day. During the night–time a storm of wind and rain caused their tents to be overthrown and their lights extinguished. Abu Sofian and the majority of his army fled away and the rest took refuge with the Qoraiza.[10] The Moslems, though they were satisfied with the failure of their enemies, could not help thinking that the victory was unsatisfactory so long as the Qoraiza, who had violated their sworn pledge, remained so near. The Jews might at any time surprise Medina from their side. The Moslems felt it their duty to demand an explanation of the violation of the pledge. This was utterly refused. Consequently the Jews were besieged, and compelled to surrender at discretion. They only asked that their punishment should be left to the judgment of Saad Ibn Moaz, the prince of the tribe of Aws. This chief who was a fierce soldier, had been wounded in the attack and indeed died of his wounds the following day. Infuriated by the treacherous conduct of the Bani Qoraiza, he gave judgment that the fighting men should be put to death, and that the women and children should become the slaves of the Moslems. The sentence was carried into execution.

     

    Commenting on the harshness of the sentence, Mr. Stanley Lane Poole in the introduction of his “Selections from the Koran” writes as follows: “It was a harsh, bloody sentence, worthy of the Episcopal generals of the army against the Albigenses, or of the deeds of the Augustan age of Puritanism; but it must be remembered that the crime of these men was high treason against the State during time of siege; and those who have read how Wellington’s march could be traced by the bodies of the deserters and pillagers hanging from the trees, need not be surprised at the summary execution of a traitorous clan.”[11]

     

    It was about this time that the Prophet granted to the monks of the monastery of St. Catherine, near mount Sinai his liberal Charter by which they secured for the Christians noble and generous privileges and immunities. He undertook himself, and enjoined his followers, to protect the Christians, to defend their churches and the residence of their priests and to guard them from all injuries. They were not to be unfairly taxed: no bishop was to be driven out from his dioceses; no Christian was to be forced to reject his religion; no monk was to be expelled from his monastery; no pilgrim was to be stopped from his pilgrimage, nor were the Christian churches to be pulled down for the sake building mosques or houses for the Moslems. Christian women married to Moslems were to enjoy their own religion, and not to be subjected to compulsion or annoyance of any kind. No Christian resident among the Moslems should be treated with contempt on account of his creed. The Prophet declared that any Moslem violating any clause of the Charter should be regarded as a transgressor of God’s Commandments, a violator of His Testament and neglectful of His faith.[12]

     

    ([1]) Sir W. Muir G. Sale.

    ([2]) Sir W. Muir G. Sale.

     

    ([3]) Al Wakidi, Ibn Hisham, Ibn Athir, etc.

    ([4]) Sir William. Muir: The Life of Mohamed

     

    ([5]) Ibn Hisham

    ([6]) Ibn Hisham.; Ibn Athir.

    ([7]) Ibn Hisham.; Ibn Athir. 

    ([8]) Vide “ Droits Musulman” by M. Querry, p. 337,

    ([9]) C. de Perceval, Vol. III; Tabari, Vol. III.

    ([10]) Ibn el Athir; Ibn Hisham, etc.

    ([11]) Vide Stanley Lane Poole, Selections from the Koran.

    ([12]) Abul Feda; Ibn Athir; Al Wakidi etc.

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