Chapter IV: Unexpected Avenue for Expansion: Hijrah
The Plurastic Leader
Yathrib (later called Madinat an-Nabi, the city of the Prophet, and for short, al-Madinah) was an old city, the second largest in Arabia. Its population consisted mostly of two large Arab tribes and a number of Jewish tribes who lived in small forts around the city. The two Arab tribes, which later became the "Ansars" (helpers), were the Aws and Khazraj. The political fortunes of the two Arab tribes and the Jews of Madinah waxed and waned. Sometimes they were allies, but there was always covert and sometimes overt hostility. The Aws and Khazraj had been weakened by internecine warfare, leaving the Jewish tribes as the ascendant group.
Contact with Madinans: Oaths of Aqabah
Because of their familiarity with Judaism, the Madinan Arabs were conversant with the concept of monotheism. Since the Jewish tribes held messianic expectations, the concept of a new Prophet was not alien either. During the Hajj, Muhammad (S) used to go to the various tribal groups who were visiting Makkah and personally convey the message of Islam to them. This practice brought him in touch with the Madinan tribes who later were called the Ansar (Helpers). In the tenth year of his prophethood, he took his message to visitors from the Madinan tribe of Khazraj. The Qur'anic verses impressed the six to eight individuals in this group, convincing them that Muhammad (S) was the Messiah whom the Jews of Madinah seemed to be awaiting. They wanted Muhammad (S) to be part of their group in order to prevent the Jews from claiming him as their own.
During the following pilgrimage season approximately twelve people from the tribe of Khazraj took the oath of allegiance to Islam. In the next year (the twelfth year of the mission), a much larger number of about seventy-two accepted Islam. The oath, called "The Pledge at al-'Aqabah." , which Muhammad (S) took with the Madinans said, in part, "Not to associate anything with God (shirk); not to steal, fornicate, slander anyone, kill any offspring and not to disobey what was right." Muhammad (S) promised solidarity with the Madinans saying, "Your blood is my blood. Your destruction is my destruction. You are of me, and I am of you. I shall fight whomsoever you fight and make peace with whomsoever you will make peace."
The Prophet sent back to Madinah with them an instructor Mus'ab bin 'Umayr. Remembered as "The Reader", he was responsible for teaching them Islam and the Qur'an. The precedent for carefully selecting individuals to teach and lead was set.
Muhammad (S) accepted the Madinan invitation to migrate to their city. As always, he was thorough and meticulous in his preparation. The first Muslims who were told to migrate were the most vulnerable, the women and the slaves.
It was now the thirteenth year of the Messengerhood. Except for Muhammad (S), Ali, Abu Bakr and a few other Muslims, everyone else had left Makkah. The Quraysh had finally realized what was happening. They were chagrined at having over looked the clandestine migration of Muslims to Madinah and now felt threatened by the opening of a new avenue for the spread of Islam. Their chance to snuff out Islam was inexorably slipping away. They came up with a bold solution that would root out the problem once and for all: to assassinate the Prophet. To immunize themselves against retaliation, members of each tribe would participate, thus distributing the responsibility and the blame.
The Migration (Hijrah)
Muhammad (S) became aware of the plan to assassinate him and started to plan for the migration discreetly. Abu Bakr was asked to prepare two camels for the journey. Ali was asked to sleep as a decoy in the Prophet's bed the night of the migration. The assassins who were spying on Muhammad (S) were fooled. This allowed time for Muhammad (S) and Abu Bakr to escape and hide in a cave in Mount Sur, about three miles to the east of Makkah and a mile above sea level, until the pursuit had died down.
"If ye help not your leader (Muhammad), (it is no matter):
For Allah did indeed help him, when the unbelievers drove him out:
He had no more than one companion (Abu Bakr):
They two were in the cave, and he said to his companion
"Have no fear, for Allah is with us"
Then Allah sent down His peace upon him..." (Qur'an 9: 40).
The arrival at Madinah could not have been more different than the departure from Makkah. The entire populace seemed to be out in the streets. The city was buzzing with expectation and joy, little girls were singing his praises, and families were competing with each other to host him. To avoid showing any kind of favoritism, Muhammad (S) chose to stay as a guest with Amr bin Awj, in front of whose house his camel had spontaneously halted. The tradition of weekly congregational prayers was started on the first Friday of his arrival in Madinah.
"O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the day of assembly) hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah." (Qur'an 63:9).
Just before the migration, another important event had taken place. The danger to Muslims in Makkah was in extremis and there was a realistic possibility of their total eradication. Muhammad (S) received divine permission, through the instrument of Wahy, to fight back in self-defense against those who violently oppressed the Muslims.
"Permission is given (to fight) those who have taken up arms against you wrongfully.
And verily Allah is well able to give you succor.
To those who have been driven forth from their homes for no reason than this that say 'Our Lord is Allah.'
Hath not Allah repelled some men by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is ever mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down.
Verily, him who helpeth Allah, Allah surely helps.
For Allah is indeed Right, Powerful, and Mighty.
Those who, if we establish them in the land, will observe prayer and pay the poor due and enjoin in what is right and forbid what is wrong,
The final issue of all things rests with Allah.
And if they charge thee with imposture, then (bear in mind) that already before them (there have been other people who had behaved likewise with their prophets such as) the people of Noah, and 'Ad and Thamud..." (Qur'an 22: 39-42)
Migration (Hijrah) to Madinah is a watershed in Muhammad's (S) mission. One of the first public acts as he took charge of the city of Madinah was to build a mosque (Masjid) historically known as the Masjid an-Nabawi or the Prophet's Mosque. Next he set about getting all parties together to sign a covenant, arguably the first of it's kind in history, which would set standards for pluralism, tolerance and cooperation between various religious and ethnic communities.
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you,
But don't transgress limits;
For Allah loveth not the transgressor.
And slay them wherever you catch them,
And turn them out from where they have turned you out;
For tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter;
But fight them not at the sacred Mosque,
Unless they first fight you there;
But if they fight you, slay them;
Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.
But if they cease,
Allah is oft forgiving, most merciful.
And fight them on until there is no more oppression,
And there prevail justice and faith in Allah;
But if they cease let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression"
(Qur'an 2: 190-193)
The Covenant of Madinah ("...Conditions must be fair and equitable to all.")
The agreement that Muhammad (S) successfully persuaded the two Arab tribes of Aws and Khazraj, as well as the three Jewish tribes residing in Madinah to sign is called the "Covenant of Madinah." This covenant set out many of the principles essential to the peaceful functioning of a pluralistic society. It gave equality to all its citizens and accepted the coexistence of different religions in the community. All religious, ethnic and tribal groups had equal protection, rights and dignity. Muhammad's (S) inspiration for this pluralistic model was the Qur'an, which makes it incumbent upon Muslims to accept and respect all the previous messengers without distinction and respect their communities.
Say, "We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us
And that which was send down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma'il (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob) and his progeny,
And that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord
And we make no distinction between any of them
And to Him we are resigned (Qur'an 2:136).
The concept of the "Ummah", the community of the believers and their allies, supporters and friends, was advanced for the first time in this covenant and laws respecting life and property were enunciated. Madinah was to be a sanctuary for all signatories of the covenant. Treachery was discouraged and loyalty encouraged. The phrase "loyalty is a protection against treachery" appears many times in the text of the covenant. The full text of the covenant is in the appendix.
Pluralism-The Islamic view
The concepts laid out in the "covenant" provide an outline for a pluralistic society. Pluralism is essential in ensuring dignity to minorities in any multi-religious society. Even in countries where, for all practical purposes, there is only one religion, there are sects and groups within the religion that demand the protection and spiritual and intellectual freedom which pluralism offers. The concept of pluralism differs substantially from tolerance alone. Pluralism presupposes equality amongst various groups, rather than one elite group merely tolerating another inferior group out of charity. It allows for coexistence of different religious communities that live by their own beliefs, judge themselves by their own laws, and help each other against any outside threat.
The Qur'an may be the only major scripture which talks explicitly about pluralism.
Verily they who believe (in the message of Qur'an)
And they who are Jews, Christians, and Sabeans (a religious group whose identity is obscured by history)
Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and does that which is right
Shall have their reward with their Lord.
Fear shall not come upon them and neither shall they grieve. (Qur'an 2:62)
The Qur'an also condemns the antithesis of pluralism that is "Particularism" (a theological belief that only an elect few who follow a particular faith are eligible for redemption).
And (both) the Jews and the Christians say, "We are Allah's children, and His beloved ones"
Say! Why then does He cause you to suffer for your sins?
Nay you are but human beings of His creating
He forgives whom He wills" (Qur'an 5:18-19)
Emphasis upon community (Ummah) in Islam.
Islam places as much emphasis on the establishment of a just and social community as it does on attaining personal piety. Hypocrisy is defined as public display of piety and private acts of uncharitable behavior.
"Seest thou one that denies the Faith
Such is the man who repulses the orphan
And discourages the feeding of the indigent
So woe to those who offer the prescribed prayer
But are unmindful of the purpose (underlying it)
Who only make a show of devotion
But refrain from even elementary acts of kindness" (Qur'an 107: 1-7)
Symbolic of the importance of society over the individual is the fact that worship in a group is deemed more desirable than in solitude. It was therefore quite natural that the Masjid became the center of all activities in Madinah .It was the focal point around which all activities of the community, religious, social, political and economic were conducted.
The Prophet didn't have a house separate from the Masjid and small rooms were built along the perimeter of the Masjid for his wives. In one corner of the Masjid was a flat platform (as-suffah), where visitors who had no other place to stay would sleep. Prominent among the "people of as-suffah", a few years later, was Abu Hurayrah, the famous chronicler of the Prophetic traditions. The first few days in Madinah also saw the beginning of the "Adhan" or the call for prayer.
Another notable act of building a cohesive Ummah was that the Madinans, called the "Ansars" or helpers, took on all of the responsibilities of the Migrants or "Muhajirun" (approximately forty five in number at that time), and treated them as their brothers.
"Verily, they who have believed and left their homes and staked their lives and wealth in the cause of Allah,
And also they, who have given shelter and help to them,
These shall be friends the one to the other..."
"They who have believed and left their county and struggled in the way of Allah,
And they who have given the Prophet and his followers asylum,
And been helpful to them, these are verily the faithful.
Mercy is their due and an honorable provision." (Qur'an 8:72 and 74)
In a very short period after the Migration to Madinah, Muhammad (S) had proven himself capable of uniting various factions and setting exemplary standards of cooperation between them. He made a seamless switch from being a person under constant persecution to a leader with a large administrative and judicial responsibility. However this phase provided only a short respite before the next period of his mission. This phase was marked by crucial battles for survival of the Muslim community.