After the second pledge of Aqabah, the Muslims in Mecca started to migrate to Yathrib in small groups. There they enjoyed greater freedom to practice their religion. Soon, hardly any of the Prophet’s Companions was left in Mecca except Abu Bakr and Ali. When Abu Bakr asked for the Prophet’s permission to emigrate, he said, “Go not away, for God may give you a companion.” Abu Bakr understood that he must wait for the Prophet and started making necessary preparations.
When the Quraysh realized that they could not stop the flow of conversion, they became furious and decided to murder the Holy Prophet himself. The leaders of the Quraysh gathered together and devised a plan under which each clan was to nominate a person. All the persons thus selected were to fall upon the Holy Prophet at a given moment and strike him a mortal blow. In this way all the clans would share equally in the killing of the Prophet which would make it difficult for the Hashemite to avenge his death. When the Prophet learned of the evil intentions of the enemy he, in the company of Abu Bakr, quietly slipped out of Mecca in the secrecy of the night. They both took shelter in a nearby cave called Thaur.
For two days and two nights, the Prophet and Abu Bakr hid in the cave. On the third night, according to plan, two swift camels were brought to the cave and the party, including the Prophet, Abu Bakr and his servant rode towards Yathrib led by a guide. Yathrib is located about two hundred miles north of Mecca but the party chose a more westerly route, close to the coastline of the Red Sea.
When the Meccans discovered that the Prophet and Abu Bakr had escaped, they searched for them all around Mecca. Failing to find them, they offered a reward of a hundred camels for the capture of the two, dead or alive. Tempted by the reward, a Bedouin chief, Suraqa bin Malik, went in pursuit of the party.
When Suraqa bin Malik sighted the party, he, according to the superstitious Arab custom of the time, consulted his arrows which bade ill luck. The temptation of the reward, however, made him continue the pursuit. At this time his horse stumbled and he fell down. This was another sign for him. When eventually he caught up with the party, he told them of his evil intentions and the sudden change of heart. The Prophet let him go but made him promise not to reveal the party’s whereabouts to anyone. Suraqa later narrated this incident, saying, that he was then convinced that the Prophet was a true one and that he would definitely succeed in his mission. Suraqa requested the Prophet to write him a guaranty of peace when the Prophet became supreme. To this the Prophet agreed.
At that moment the Holy Prophet received a revelation and said to Suraqa,
“Suraqa, how will you feel with the gold bangles of the Chosroes on your wrists?”
Amazed at the prophecy, Suraqa asked,
“Which Chosroes? Chosroes, the Emperor of Iran?”
The Prophet replied, “Yes”
Sixteen or seventeen years later this prophecy was literally fulfilled. During the reign of the second Caliph, Omar, the Muslims conquered the Kingdom of Chosroes. When the spoils of the war were placed in front of Omar, he noticed the gold bangles which Chosroes used to wear on state occasions. Remembering the Prophet’s words to Suraqa, he decided to make a visible fulfillment of the prophecy. He called for Suraqa and bade him wear the bangles. To this Suraqa protested since the wearing of gold by men was not permitted by the Prophet. Hazrat Omar said that the occasion was an exception and that Suraqa will have to wear the bangles. To this Suraqa finally complied. The Holy Prophet was no longer in this world but the Muslims who were present saw the prophecy of the Messenger of God fulfilled in front of their own eyes.
Coming back to the migration, the Holy Prophet continued his journey towards Yathrib, where the people were eagerly awaiting his arrival. When he reached near Yathrib, he decided to stop for a while in Quba, a nearby village. He stayed in Quba for a few days and also laid the foundation of the first mosque ever built by the Muslims. Then he went on to Yathrib, where the people of the city had turned out in large numbers to welcome him.
This emigration of the Holy Prophet from Mecca to Yathrib is called the Hijrah and took place in June 622 A.D., some twelve years after the beginning of his mission. The Muslim calendar, the Hijrah, dates from this event. With this migration the Meccan period of humiliation, persecution and restrictions finally came to an end and the years of success and religious freedom began.
With the arrival of the Prophet, Yathrib changed its name to al-Medinah-tun-Nabi, the City of the Prophet. In the course of time it was shortened to al-Medinah, the City.
On arriving at Medinah, the Prophet took up residence at the house of Abu Ayub Ansari. Soon he sent his freed slave, Zayd, to Mecca to fetch his family and relatives. The Prophet also bought a vacant piece of land nearby and laid the foundation of a mosque. After this he built houses for himself and his companions.
The faithful followers of the Holy Prophet, who had left their homes and other worldly possessions in Mecca and had come to Medinah for the sake of Islam, were known as Muhajiroon or Emigrants. Their love for the Prophet was unbounded and they were also very dear to the Prophet. They numbered about seventy men at the time of the Prophet’s arrival in Medinah.
The new converts at Medinah, who had helped the Prophet at a most difficult time, were called by him Ansar or Helpers. They numbered about one hundred. The Prophet formally established ties of mutual brotherhood between individuals of the two groups and asked each man among the Ansar to “adopt” a brother from among the Mohajereen. This action not only welded the social ties between the two groups but also helped economically the refugees who had left all their possessions back in Mecca.
On his arrival at Medinah, the Prophet devoted himself to the organization of the city. The Jews of Medinah were divided into three branches: Banu Qainuka, Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayzah. Prominent among the Arab tribes were Aus and Khazraj. There was strong rivalry among these various religious and political factions and mutual hostility often erupted in the form of fighting.
With the Muslims, the Jews and the idolatrous Arabs, the city of Medinah was divided into three religious groups. The Prophet realized it quickly that a peaceful state could only exist if it was based on goodwill and support of all sections of the society. The Prophet, therefore, formulated a charter for the people of Medinah which is also known as the Constitution of Medinah. According to this charter blood feud was abolished and all rights were given equally to all people. Some of the important points of this charter were:
In the early days of the Prophet’s stay at Medinah, whenever the time of Prayer came, the Muslims assembled in the Prophet’s Mosque without being called. Since there were no clocks or watches in those days, the Muslims could not come to Prayer at any fixed time. A strong need, therefore, arose to have the Muslims called to the Prayer. Various means to achieve this objective were considered by the Holy Prophet. The Jews used to call their people with a horn while the Christians used the bell. Even the lighting of fire, following the style of the Zoroastrians was considered.
After consultations with his Companions, the Holy Prophet finally decided in favour of an oral Call and asked Bilal, a freed Abyssinian slave, to give the first Adhan. Bilal used to ascend to the roof of the house adjacent to the Prophet’s Mosque and deliver the Call to Prayer from there.
One and a half years after Hijrah, the Holy Prophet sent nine persons towards the valley of Nakhlah in order to observe the movements of a Quraysh caravan. Abdullah bin Hajash was appointed the leader of this scouting team. It was the sacred month of Rajab when fighting was not permitted among the Arabs.
When the reconnoitering group reached Nakhlah and spotted the caravan, they conferred among themselves as to their course of action. Some of the Muslims did not like breaking the sanctity of the sacred month while others were opposed to letting the Quraysh escape unchecked. Finally, a consensus was reached to fight with the enemy.
During the fighting that ensued, Waqid bin Abdullah of the Muslims shot an arrow that killed Amrao bin Hazrami of the Quraysh. The Muslims took two prisoners and some booty and returned to Medinah.
When the Holy Prophet learned of this incident, he was highly grieved and refused to accept part of the booty presented to him. The two Meccan prisoners were eventually returned to the Quraysh in exchange for the two Muslims captured during the fighting.
After losing the opportunity to kill the Holy Prophet, the Meccans now were really angry at the spread of Islam in Medinah. The Meccans started to interfere with the Muslims’ right to pilgrimage and also instigated the people of Medinah against the Holy Prophet. They changed their normal caravan routes and started going through tribal areas around Medinah to rouse the tribes against the Muslims.
In the year 624 A.D., two years after the Hijrah, Abu Sufyan was bringing a commercial caravan back from Syria. The Muslim scouts were keeping an eye on the caravan just in case it posed any threat to Medinah. After Abu Sufyan saw the Muslim scouts he became frightened and sent a messenger to Mecca to bring an adequate force to safe guard the caravan.
When the chiefs of Mecca learned that their goods laden caravan was in possible danger, they quickly gathered a well armed and well equipped army of more than a thousand warriors. The army set out from Mecca under the leadership of Abu Jahal to confront the Muslims. When the Holy Prophet learned of the Meccans’ intentions, he gathered some 310 Muslims from among the Mohajereen and Ansar and set forth from Medinah. The Muslims camped for the night at a place called Badr, a few miles south west of Medinah. Early on the morning of March 13, 624 A.D., the Holy Prophet arranged his small army into ranks and files and delivered a brief address on Jihad, fighting in the cause of God.
Then, according to the Arab custom, three leaders of the Quraysh named Shaiba, Utba and Walid bin Utba challenged three Muslims to a single combat. Their challenge was accepted by Ali, Hamzah and Obadiah. Ali and Hamzah overpowered their opponents but Obaidah and Walid exchanged several blows and both fell down, severely wounded.
After these single combats, a fierce battle broke out in which both sides fought bravely. While the Quraysh were fighting for their false pride and glory, the Muslims were fighting in the cause of Islam and for their very existence. Two young Ansars attacked Abu Jahal and mortally wounded him. Very soon the Quraysh were routed and took to their heels. They were chased by the Muslims and some of them were made prisoners.
The Muslims lost fourteen men in the battle of Badr while the Quraysh lost seventy. The very first person to be slain among the Muslims in a pitched battle was Mahja bin Saleh, a freed slave. He was given the title of “Chief of the Martyrs” by the Holy Prophet. A number of the Quraysh were taken prisoners by the Muslims. The Prophet ordered his followers to treat these prisoners of war with kindness. The Holy Prophet decided to liberate the prisoners on payment of ransom. Those who could not pay the ransom but were literate, were allowed to earn their freedom by teaching ten Muslim children how to read and write. Those who were poor and illiterate were released on the promise that they will not fight the Muslims in the future.
The battle of Badr was the first confrontation between the Muslims and the Meccans. The Muslims not only came out victorious, but some of the worst enemies of Islam such as Abu Jahal were also eliminated in the battle. This battle, therefore, marked a turning point in the history of Islam and considerably boosted the morale of the Muslims who, until then, had only known persecution and harassment.
The Muslims’ victory at Badr could not be tolerated by the vendetta seeking Quraysh of Mecca and the hostile Jews of Medinah. Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan and daughter of Utba, who had lost her father, her brother and her uncle in the battle, swore that she would not rest until another army was sent against Medinah. The Jews of Medinah were envious of the spreading influence of Islam and started openly opposing the Muslims and the Holy Prophet, though they had a treaty with them. Then there were the hypocrites who had outwardly accepted Islam but in their hearts sought ways and means to hurt the Muslims and spread discontent and disunity among their ranks. The leader of the hypocrites was a man by the name of Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul. He was the chief of the Khazraj tribe and, before the arrival of the Prophet in Medinah, was generally accepted as the chief of the city. He, therefore, greatly resented the Prophet’s authority and, as later developments will show, tried his best in turning the people against the Prophet.
After the Battle of Badr, the Jews started giving open expression to their feelings of hatred and jealousy against the Muslims. The relations between the Muslims and the three Jewish tribes began to deteriorate. An isolated case of a street fight between a few Muslims and Jews of Banu Qainuka eventually led to an open confrontation between the two groups. The Muslims marched towards the strongholds of Banu Qainuka in Medinah and besieged them for a fortnight. After this period, the Banu Qainuka surrendered on the condition that they, their families and their animals be spared. The Prophet accepted these terms and the Banu Qainuka were expelled from Medinah.
The Quraysh of Mecca were smarting under their crushing defeat at Badr and could not tolerate the spread of Islam in Medinah. Moreover, the Meccans wanted to avenge the loss of some of their leaders, like Abu Jahal and Utba, who were killed in the battle of Badr at the hands of the Muslims.
The Quraysh, therefore, started to make preparations for another attack on Medinah. In the third year of the Hijrah, exactly one year after the battle of Badr, the Meccan army proceeded towards Medinah under the leadership of Abu Sufyan. The army consisted of some 3,000 soldiers and 200 horses.
In the month of March, year 625 A.D., the Prophet left Medinah with one thousand men and started marching towards Uhud to meet the enemy. Soon after leaving the city. Abdullah bin Ubayy deserted the Muslim army, taking his three hundred men with him. There were now only seven hundred Muslims left to face an enemy of three thousand strong.
Both armies camped near Mount Uhud, located a few miles north of Medinah. Next morning, the Prophet arranged the Muslim army in such a way that Mount Ohad was at their back. To further safeguard against a surprise attack from a small opening in the mountain, the Prophet appointed a batch of fifty archers to take up positions on a hill guarding this passage. These archers were instructed not to leave their positions until further orders.
During the first phase of the battle, a part of the Meccan army under the command of Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahal, advanced towards the Muslims from the front. The Muslims fought very bravely and overpowered the enemy which ran from the battle field. Thinking that the enemy was beaten, the Muslims started picking up the spoils of battle. The fifty archers, realizing that they may lose this opportunity, left their positions and also joined the plunder.
The ready eye of Khalid bin Walid, who had not yet accepted Islam and was fighting from the Meccan side, saw the chance and attacked the Muslims from their rear. The Muslims at that time were disorganized and panicked, falling easy target to the Meccans’ swords. The Holy Prophet tried to call his people together but a stone hurled at him broke his two teeth and he fell to the ground momentarily stunned. At that instant a rumour spread among the Muslims that the Prophet was killed. This further heightened the disarray of the Muslims who then ran from the battle field and took to the protection of the mountain.
Seventy Muslims lost their lives in this battle compared with a loss of only twenty three by the enemy. The Prophet’s uncle, Hamzah, was also killed during this battle by a spear thrown by Wahshi, an Abyssinian slave of Hind. Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, cut the belly of Hamzah’s corpse and chewed his liver to satisfy her revenge for her father and brother who were killed in the battle of Badr at the hands of Hamzah.
After a major victory at Badr, the Muslims now suffered a big setback at Uhud. The reasons for their defeat were the military tactics of Khalid bin Walid, the lack of discipline among the Muslim ranks, negligence of the Prophet’s orders by the archers, the love of plunder on the part of the Muslim army and the reduction of the Muslim forces by the desertion of Abdullah bin Ubayy.
After the battle of Uhud, the two Jewish tribes remaining in Medinah, Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayzah, had a dispute regarding a mutual agreement. The matter went before the Holy Prophet who decided in favour of Banu Qurayzah. Banu Nadir resented this decision and, upon the instigation of Abdullah bin Ubayy, decided to kill the Holy Prophet.
The Prophet escaped from this attempt upon his life and ordered them to leave Medinah. Banu Nadir initially defied this order but gave in after a fortnight of siege. They were allowed to take their goods and chattel and were expelled from Medinah. Some of these people went to Syria while others settled in a place called Khyber where they continued their anti Islamic activities.
In the same year as the Battle of Uhud, 625 A.D., seven men of the Banu Qara tribe came to Medinah and asked the Holy Prophet to send some missionaries to their area to teach them the Holy Quran and Islam. The Holy Prophet had already started sending missionaries to the various tribes and this time sent six of his own Companions for this purpose.
When these six missionaries reached the place called ar Raji belonging to the tribe of Banu Hudhayl, they were set upon by two hundred men. Four of the missionaries were killed in the fight and two, Zayd bin Dathinah and Khubayb, were taken prisoners and sold to the Meccans who intended to kill them to avenge the deaths of their own relatives in the Battle of Badr.
When Zayd was going to be beheaded, Abu Sufyan asked him:
“Tell me, O Zayd, would you not prefer that Muhammad was here in your place to receive this punishment while you were safe at home with your people?”
“I certainly prefer that Muhammad be where he is, safe from all harm. It is more preferable to me than my being with my own people.”
Abu Sufyan was amazed at this answer and this display of love and loyalty by the Companions of the Holy Prophet for him. Zayd was beheaded.
When the other Muslim prisoner, Khubayb, was taken out to be executed in front of the people of Mecca, he asked for permission to say a Nafl Prayer, which he made very short. After completing his Prayer he told his executioner:
“I wanted to prolong my Prayer but was afraid that you might think that I was not ready to die.”
Soon after the incident of ar Raji, a man named Abu Bata came to Medinah and asked for enlightenment in the religion of Islam. After being instructed in the new faith, Abu Bara requested the Holy Prophet to send some Huffaz, the Memorizers of the Holy Quran, to the people of Najd to preach them Islam. The Holy Prophet was afraid for the lives of his Companions and turned down the request. But when Abu Bata gave personal guarantees for their protection, the Holy Prophet acceded to his request and sent with him seventy Muslim missionaries.
When these seventy missionaries reached a place called Bir Mauna, the cousin of Abu Bara instigated the local tribesmen against the Muslims. These tribesmen surrounded the Muslim missionaries and after a fight killed all of them with the exception of one man who managed to return to Medinah.
Although the Muslims were defeated at Uhud, their efforts to spread Islam continued with intense zeal, and their numbers kept on growing. With the growth of Islam the city of Medinah started to enjoy a status which rivaled that of Mecca. The Quraysh saw, in the growth of Islam, a real threat to their own religious and social position among the Arabs. At the same time the Jews expelled from Medinah were instigating the Quraysh against the Muslims.
Finally, in the year 627 A.D., some five years after the Hijrah, the Quraysh once again rounded up an army and marched upon Medinah under the leadership of Abu Sufyan. This time their forces numbered ten thousand men and six hundred horses. A number of Arab tribes joined league with the Meccans in this battle. For this reason this battle is also known as the Battle of the Confederates.
When the Prophet learned of this threat he gathered some three thousand men to face the enemy. On the advice of Salman al Farsi, the Prophet decided to remain in the city and dug a long trench around that part of Medinah which gave an open access to the enemy. One side of Medinah had a natural protection of hills and another side was protected by stone houses and groves of trees.
When the Quraysh saw this defense, they were perplexed. They besieged the city and tried to storm it. But the Muslims easily repulsed the attack each time. Finally, the Quraysh decided that the only way to enter the city was by making a secret alliance with the Jewish tribe of Banu Quraysh. Since Banu Qurayzah already had a peace treaty with the Prophet, they refused this offer of the Meccans. On their persistence, however, they agreed to attack the Muslims from the rear while the Meccans engaged the Muslim army at the ditch. This secret plot of the Jews was discovered by the Muslims who then placed some five hundred soldiers on the Banu Qurayzah side of Medinah to guard against a surprise attack from that quarter.
Meantime, the Meccans were running short of their food supplies, the weather was turning adverse and a strong, cold wind had started to blow. Under the circumstances Abu Sufyan raised the siege and decided to return to Mecca.
Although the Battle of the Ditch was a major confrontation between the Quraysh and the Muslims, very little actual fighting took place. The Muslims lost five men while the enemy lost three.
After the departure of the Meccan army, the Muslims turned their attention to Banu Quraysh who had betrayed them during the battle of the Ditch. The Muslims laid siege to the Jews’ fortress. When Banu Quraysh could not hold out any longer, they sent a message to the Holy Prophet that they would surrender but would like their fate to be decided by one of their allies. Sa’d bin Muadh, the chief of the tribe of Aus, was appointed the arbiter. Sa’d passed the judgment on the Banu Quraysh according to the law of the Torah. According to the Jewish law the punishment for treason was death. In passing the death sentence on Bann Quraysh, Sa’d reminded the Jews of the fact that had the Jews succeeded in carrying out their plan, they would have put all the Muslims to death.
As a result of Sa’d bin Muadh’s judgment, all the male members of the Banu Quraysh tribe who were of fighting age were executed and their women, children and elders expelled, who went to Syria.
Many historians have commented that the Banu Quraysh made a tactical mistake in asking one of their own allies to decide their fate. The Mosaic Law was very strict in such matters and any person honestly passing a judgment under this law could not be too lenient. The historians believe that if the Banu Quraysh had entrusted their fate to the Prophet Muhammad himself, he would have definitely forgiven their excesses and, at the most, expelled them from Medinah.
In the sixth year of the Hijrah, the Prophet granted to all Christians a charter. According to this charter: