Arrival at Medina and Building of the Mosque
On the third day after Muhammad and Abu Bakr had escaped from the cave they observed a caravan and found that its leader was Muhammad’s cousin Talha returning from a mercantile trip from Syria. He gave them two changes of fine white Syrian raiment, a welcome gift to the soiled and weary travellers; yet more welcome was the news that Medina were in eager expectation of their Prophet. They had heard about Muhammad’s disappearance from Mecca but not of his three days’ withdrawal to the cave.
It was arranged that Muhammad should lodge at Quba with Kolthum, a hospitable chief, who had already received many of the emigrants on their first arrival in Medina. He stayed only four days at Quba and during this period he laid the foundation of a mosque, which was at a later period honoured in the Quran with the name the ‘Mosque of godly fear.’ He used to visit it every Saturday and attached to the saying of prayers therein the merit of the Umra, or lesser pilgrimage to the Ka’aba. On the Friday morning Muhammad mounted his favourite camel Al Caswa and with Abu Bakr behind him approached Medina. He stopped for prayer in the vale of Bani Salim, a Khazrajite tribe, and there performed his first Friday service with about a hundred Muslims; the spot is still shown to pilgrims, and is marked by a building called ‘Masjid al-Juma’, or the ‘Friday Mosque.’
Entry into Medina: the purchase of the land for the mosque and Muhammad’s private apartments
It was indeed a triumphal procession into Medina. Around the camels of Muhammad and his immediate followers, rode the chief men of the city clad in their best raiment and in glittering armour. The cavalcade pursued its way through the gardens and palm-groves of the southern suburb; and as it threaded the streets of the city, the heart of Muhammad was gladdened by the incessant call from one and another of the citizens who flocked around: ‘Alight here, O Prophet’ We have abundance with us; and we have the means of defence and weapons and room. Abide with us.’ So urgent was the appeal that sometimes they seized hold of Al Caswa’s halter. Muhammad answered them courteously and kindly; ‘The decision,’ he said, ‘rests with the camel; make way for her; let her go free.’ It was a stroke of policy. His residence would be hallowed in the eyes of the people as selected supernaturally; while the jealousy which otherwise might arise from the quarter of one tribe being preferred before the quarter of another, would thus receive a decisive check.
Onwards Al Caswa moved, with slackened rein; and, leaving the larger portion of the city to the left, entered the eastern quarter inhabited by the Bani Najjar. There finding a large and open courtyard with a few date-trees, she halted and sat down. The house of Abu Ayub was close at hand and it was here that Muhammad became his guest occupying the lower story of his house for seven months, until the Mosque and his own apartments were ready. The first concern of Muhammad was to secure the plot of land on which Al Caswa had halted. It was a neglected spot: on one side was a scanty grove of date-trees; the other, covered here and there with thorny shrubs which had been used partly as a burial-ground and partly as a yard for tying up camels. It belonged to two orphan boys who would have gladly given it to Muhammad but a price of ten golden dinars was fixed and the amount was paid over to the orphans by Abu Bakr. Arrangements were made for the construction of a great mosque with two adjoining houses – one for his wife Sauda, the other for his intended wife Ayesha.
Having taken up residence in Abu Ayub’s house Muhammad dispatched his servant, the freedman Zeid to fetch the rest of his family from Mecca. They met with no difficulty or opposition, and he returned with Sauda and his two daughters Fatima and Omm Kolthum. Sauda continued to be Muhammad’s only wife for three or four years.
Unwholesome climate of Medina
The climate of Medina contrasts strongly with that of Mecca. Accustomed to the dry air and parched soil of Mecca the refugees were severely tried by the dampness of the Medina summer and the rigour of its winter. Most of the refugees were affected by fever and when they were suffering its effects longed to return home to Mecca. Muhammad in response prayed ’O Lord! Make Medina dear unto us, even as Mecca, or even dearer. Bless its produce and banish far from it the pestilence!’ So prevalent was the fever that at one time Muhammad was almost the only person at prayers able to stand up; but he said, ‘the prayer of one who sits is worth only half the prayer of him that stands;’ so they all made the effort to stand up.
The ‘Brotherhood’ between the refugees and the citizens of Medina
To raise their spirits Muhammad sought to draw them into closer relations with the Medinan converts by establishing a new fraternity. Accordingly each of the refugees selected one of the citizens of Medina as his brother. The bond was of the closest description, and involved not only a special devotion to each other’s interests in the persons thus associated but in case of death the ‘brother’ inherited all the property of the deceased. This peculiar custom lasted for about a year and a half, when Muhammad finding it after the victory of Badr to be no longer necessary for the encouragement of his followers, and probably attended with some inconvenience and unpopularity as overriding the ties of nature, abolished the bond and suffered inheritance to take its usual course.
Marriage with Ayesha
The mosque and the adjoining houses were finished within seven months of Muhammad’s arrival. About the middle of winter, he left the house of Abu Ayub and installed Sauda in her new residence. Shortly afterwards he celebrated his nuptials with Ayesha, who, though she had been three years affianced, was but a girl of ten years. The marriage was completed in her father’s house at Al Sunh. Therefore, at the age of fifty-four, a new phase commenced in the life of Muhammad. The unity of his family was now broken as he entered a polygamous lifestyle, and his days would be spent between their houses, for Muhammad had no separate apartment of his own.
For some time we may suppose that the girl of ten or eleven years of age would require at the hands of Muhammad the solicitude of a father, rather than the devotion of a husband. He conformed to the childish ideas of his bride who carried her playthings with her to her new abode; and at times he even joined in with her games. But Ayesha was mature in the development of her charms, as well in mind as a person. Very early she displayed a ready wit and she enthralled the heart of Muhammad; and though afterwards exposed to the frequent competition of fresh rivals, she succeeded in maintaining to the end of his life her supremacy undisputed. By uniting himself to a second wife, Muhammad made another serious movement away from Christianity although the step was not repugnant to Judaism.
The Muhajerin and the Ansar
The enthusiasm by the inhabitants of Medina at the reception of Muhammad, by degrees subsided in the wake of a developing situation. Muhammad could depend on the Muhajerin (those who had emigrated, or fled from their home, for the faith) in all situations. The Ansar (Helpers, Allies), converts from Medina, were bound to Muhammad by fewer blood ties or fellowship and they had made less outward sacrifice, although their pledge at Aqabah had involved them in serious risks. They had compromised themselves almost as deeply as the Muhajerin but were bound by their oath only to defend Muhammad in the event of attack.
Enmity of Aus and Khazraj suppressed by Islam
The ancient feuds of the Bani Aus and Khazraj were almost forgotten among the converts from those tribes. Acceptance of the faith required that as Muslims they should accept not only the spiritual but also the temporal authority of Muhammad, and holding subordinate every distinction of race and kindred, regard each other as brethren. Having surrendered wholly to his will and government, there was little room left for internal rivalry. Still the memory of long standing jealousies and strife was not always suppressed by the lessons of religion.
The Disaffected (The Hypocrites)
The portion of the Bani Aus and Khazraj remaining unconverted, were neutral, or at least outwardly passive, in their unbelief. There was no active opposition, nor (as at Mecca) any open denial of Muhammad’s supernatural claims; neither was his temporal authority over his own adherents denied, yet a strong under-current of jealousy and discontent was rapidly setting in against him.
Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, chief of the Khazrajites and the most powerful citizen in Medina, was already aspiring to the sovereign power when his hopes were blighted by the arrival of Muhammad. Around Abd-Allah rallied a numerous party sceptical of the Prophet’s claims and unfriendly to the extension of his rule; but these were unable to check the influence of Muhammad or stem the tide of his popularity.
However, real doubts and jealousies possessed the hearts of many; and in private found free expression. They felt that they had foolishly espoused a cause which would make them run the gauntlet of all Arabia; and for what return? Only to lose their liberties, and to bring themselves under the bondage of a foreign usurper! The class which cherished these sentiments were styled the ‘Hypocrites’ but hypocrisy and disaffection are, in the vocabulary of Islam, nearly synonymous; and as the views of this party developed rather into political opposition rather than religious antagonism, it will be more correct to call them the Disaffected. Such outward conformity cloaked in an ill-concealed antagonism, was more dangerous than open animosity. The class soon became peculiarly obnoxious to Muhammad. He established a close watch over their words and conduct; and in due time he followed up his espionage by acts which struck dismay into the hearts of the disaffected.
The Jews and the ‘Treaty of Medina’
The Jewish tribes located in the vicinity of Medina were on an entirely different footing. Muhammad acknowledged the divine authority of their religion and had even rested his claim to an important degree upon the evidence of their Scriptures. One of the objects nearest his heart was a federal union with the Jews. His feasts, fasts, and ceremonies were, up to this time, framed in close correspondence with Jewish custom, his very Qibla, the holy of holies to which he and his people turned five times a day while they prostrated themselves in prayer was Jerusalem. No concession, in fact, short of the abandonment of his claim to the prophetic office, was too great to gain the Jews over to his cause. It was natural that Muhammad, holding these sentiments, should desire to enter into close association with the Jews. This he did in a formal manner shortly after reaching Medina. He associated them in a treaty of mutual obligation drawn up in writing, the believers of Medina on the one hand, and the Jews on the other, confirming the latter in the practice of their religion and in the secure possession of their property.
Tension develops between Muhammad and the Jews
We are not told when this treaty was entered into, but it was probably not long after the arrival of Muhammad at Medina. For a short time the Jews remained on terms of cordiality with their new ally; but it soon became apparent to them that Judaism could not go hand in hand with Islam. The position of Muhammad, was no longer negative: his religion was not a mere protest against error and superstition. It was daily becoming more positive and more exclusive in its terms.
The Prophet rested his claims on the predictions of the Jewish Scriptures; yet he did not profess to be the Messiah of the Jews; the Messiah he held, had already appeared in the person of Jesus, and had been rejected by their forefathers. He was himself another, and a greater Prophet, also foretold in their Book. The Jews, he said; knew this; they recognised in Muhammad the promised Prophet, ‘as they recognised their own sons;’ yet, out of jealousy, spite, and wilful blindness, they rejected him, in like manner as they had rejected their own Messiah. Thus Judaism and Islam came rapidly into antagonism.
In short, a Jew, in joining Muhammad, abandoned of necessity his ancestral faith, and went over to another. With few exceptions, however, the Jews remained steadfast, and fearlessly testified that their Scriptures contained no warrant for the assumptions of the Ishmaelite. The few traitors to Judaism, whom Muhammad was able to gain over, were of the utmost service to his cause. They were constantly referred to as his ‘Witnesses.’ They bore evidence that the person and character of Muhammad agreed in every particular with the prophetic description in their Books; and they asserted that their brethren acted out of jealousy, and were mortified that the gift of prophecy should pass from them to another people. They had also concealed the passages which were favourable to his claims.
The Jews became a constant cause of trouble and anxiety to Muhammad. They plied him with questions of which the point was often difficult to turn aside. The very people to whose corroboration he had appealed over and over again in the Quran proved a stubborn and standing witness against him. Muhammad’s Revelation teemed with invective against the Jews. The tales of their forefathers’ disobedience and idolatry were reiterated at wearisome length; and the conclusion was continually insinuated that the descendants also must be equally hardened.
Copyright © 2015 “Message 4 Muslims” All rights reserved.