Monday, March 28, 2011

The Greatest Emancipation of Women

It was towards the end of the sixth century that the world witnessed the greatest emancipation of women. The country was Arabia and the place was Mecca. The Arabs and those living in and around the precincts of the Kaabah conducted all kinds of trade, attracting visitors from near and wide even as far as Persia, what is today known as Iraq.

This period was known as the 'Ayyim Jahilliyah' or the Age of Ignorance. It was a time when women were not regarded as full citizens of the country. They had to obey their husbands and sons.

A woman who displeased her husband would be summarily divorced by her spouse by the simple words, "You are to me like the back of my mother!" And she had to leave the house with no legal recourse anywhere. Infact, there were no law or court that a women could lay her case and fight the injustice.

A woman was also expected to share her favours with her husband's friends. If a male visitor came from a far off place, and, the man of the house invited him to stay over the wife would then have to sleep with him at the request of her husband.

Females were severely punished when they overstepped the boundaries laid down for them by their spouses. The Arabs thought nothing of tying a woman between two horses and have her ripped apart as an example to other would-be transgressors. Girl babies were buried alive for fear of bringing bad-luck to the household.

It was at such a time that the abyss that the Arabs had created for themselves seemed to swallow them in. It was at such a moment that Muhammed(PBUH), son of Abdullah and Amina appeared on the world stage.

At the age of twenty five he married Khadija, who bore him a daughter, named Fatima or Fatima Al-Zahra(the fair one).

Khadija was forty and she was a woman of great standing in her community. She was one of the very few woman allowed to trade in Mecca, and, Muhammed(PBUH) became manager of her businesses.

Strange enough, Muhammed, albeit being the envy of many an Arab, for having married Khadija, showed scant interest in the prospects of obtaining great wealth. He was more interested in how the Arabs were continuing their aimless lives and how they ill-treated their woman. He spent endless hours in a cave called Hira, on Mount Tuhr, meditating and wondering why the Arabs were doing what they did, and why he was different to them. Why he could not indulge in the popular pastimes of womanising and whatever went with that.

It was on one such occasion, while meditating in the cave, that the Arch Angel Gabriel appeared unto him and commanded him to read.

Muhammed(PBUH) never went to any formal school. He could not read nor write.He could not even spell his own name. Nowhere in the anals of history is there any evidence of him being taught in any institution. So when Gabriel commanded him to read a second time Muhammed(PBUH) shook his head and lifted his hands in confusion. One can only imagine what must have gone through his mind at that moment. Here was someone whom he had never seen in his life before, appearing out of thin air, literally, commanding him to read. What was he to read in any case?

It was then that the Arch Angel embraced him and whether through the pressure of his powerful grip or something Muhammed(PBUH) did not understand himself, he blurted out the words, "Read! In the name of Your Lord Who Creates. Read! In the Name of Your Lord, Who taught Man the use of the Pen."

Shaking and half out of his mind with fear and consternation,Muhammed(PBUH) immediately sought the comfort of his wife, Khadija, and she, in turn, consulted her cousin, Waraqah bin Naufal, who informed her that Muhammed was going to be the next prophet of God.

Waraqah was not a Muslim. Infact, Islam was not yet established as a formal religion at that time. The Arabs were indulging in all sorts of pastimes, namely the drinking of wine and the pleasures of women. Law, as such, was something nobody knew about. Disputes were settled either by the throwing of stones on the ground or by hand to hand combat. These Arabs were so immersed in their wrong-doing that even their women believed it was part of life to be ill-treated and abused by their menfolk.

These were some of the fundamental evils that Muhammed(PBUH) set out to change. He brought a complete turn-about in the way that people saw themselves and those around them. He brought them a complete new way of life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Prelude To The Great War in Islam.

Article first published as Prelude to the Great War in Islam on Blogcritics.

Previously we spoke about the Jews of Medina and how they fraternized with the Muslims, even to the extent of following some of their doctrines, in the hope of winning Muhammed (pbuh) over to their side— to help them against the Christians whom they hated for having expelled them from Palestine.

We spoke about how these Jews enjoyed countless privileges alongside the Muslims, especially the fulfillment of huge trade benefits that Muhammed's (pbuh) emergence on the political scene effected.

We looked at how many of the Jews accepted Islam and what turmoil this caused amongst the 'Jewish Council'— mainly because some of their respected clergy were abjuring the exclusivity of their own Faith.

We then saw what happened to Abdullah ibn Salam, a respected Rabbi, who had converted to Islam, and who had approached the Prophet (pbuh) for help.

We found that he was jeered at, mocked incessantly, and even physically abused by those who had previously held him in great esteem, when they learnt about his conversion to Islam— and, as the Council had decreed, blasphemed against Judaism.

This in itself may or may not have caused the Jews' mistrust of Muhammed (pbuh), as well as their disillusionment with Islam. But their ambitions of winning him over to their side to bolster their aspirations against the Christians was taking a serious knock and they gradually began to deny any legitimate claims he laid to prophet-hood.

So much so that we now saw many of the followers of Judaism consorting with the enemies of Islam—the tribesmen of Qureish in Medina; the Aws and Al Khazraj (those who were not Muslim); the Jews of Khaybar and many other tribes who could not wait to see the back of Muhammed (pbuh).
The situation was becoming so serious that many of the Jews who had accepted Islam previously had to be turned out of the mosques— some violently— because of their collusion with the 'mischief-makers', and they were then classified alongside those (the 'inbetweeners') who became known as the 'Munafiqun' (Hypocrites) that Al-Quran describes.

Medinah was fast becoming a threatening powder-keg of political upheaval.

One other point of note, though, was that many of the Muhajireen (Muslims who came from Mecca) were seriously starting to rethink their situation concerning their forced migration from the 'Holy City'.

These Arabs (as has been amply recorded) had left behind most of their possessions, their properties—houses and businesses—even, in some cases, wives and children! And it was high time to do something about it.

One can then imagine Muhammed's (pbuh) dilemma in keeping vigil on different fronts, all at the same time. On the one side there were the Jews and 'Hypocrites' who were going out of their way to stir up trouble between the various Arab tribes (those who were Muslim, of course) and, on the other, there were the Muhajireen who wanted to wage war on the Qureish in Mecca.

Muhammed (pbuh), albeit, an astute leader and statesman, was not at liberty to follow his own desires. Up until now his constitution had primarily been the 'Injunctions and Guidelines of Al-Quran'. And, according to one particular verse revealed in the 'Holy Book', Muhammed (pbuh) is actually cautioned against 'the act of aggression...'

However, on further consideration, The Quran also states that even though God does not love 'aggression, and, neither the Aggressor', to keep men away from the Commands of God, to deny Allah and to violate the sanctity of the 'Holy Mosque' by turning its people away from its precincts, is an even greater sin than fighting, even if it be during the 'Holy Months' of Islam.

We then found that Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers adopted a new line of thinking when confronted by those intent on destroying Islam. No more was there the 'turning of the other cheek'— and no more were there the compromises that were being struck in order to keep the peace. Muslims were now engaging the 'mischief-makers' head-on!

We find that coupled with the forceful removal of 'mischief-makers' from the mosques, Muhammed (pbuh) instructed strong men like his uncle, Hamza (the lion hunter), to lead raids on Qureish's caravans which, in those days, were packed to the brim with merchandise—moving through the desert towards destinations like Al Abwa and Buwa, on the outskirts of Medina

The Prophet (pbuh) himself, together with 200 men from the Muhajireen as well as Ansars, also led raids deep into enemy territory— and although they never engaged the enemy physically (at that time) this mere show of force drastically changed the perception the Qureish had of the Muslims.

Qureishi caravans travelling in near proximity to Medina were considerably beefed up with more camels and escorts. Seasoned warriors, armed to the hilt, kept careful watch over their precious cargo as it braved, not only the dangers of attackers, but the elements as well. Sandstorms and the murderous desert sun were known to decimate many an unsuspecting caravan.

All in all, Muhammed (pbuh) only sought to claim what was rightly theirs (the Muhajireen) as fair retribution for the belongings and properties they left behind in Mecca, or strike an agreement with Qureish to allow the Muslims (those who had families in the 'Holy City') free access into Mecca and to reclaim whatever belonged to them.

Qureish, on hearing this, did not only refuse outright, but spread malicious rumors about Muhammed's (pbuh) violation of the sanctity of the 'Holy Months' that all Meccans had to abide by, as well as his manifest evil in attacking their bread and butter.

And, as fate would have it, Abu Sufyan, the leader of Qureish at that time, was bringing a caravan through the desert that boasted an almighty amount of 2000 camels! The estimated value of merchandise it carried was 50,000 dinars! (1 dinar = 1 gold coin.)

So one can imagine, in today's terms, how much money that is!
Muhammed (pbuh) then gathered all his followers in Medina and prepared to attack the caravan while it was still near to the city. He knew that he would never get such an opportunity to strike at Qureish, where it would hurt them severely. He knew that the time was right for the first real confrontation of Islam!

Read more:



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Jews of Medina|Islam The Straight Path|Islam Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as The Jews of Medina on Blogcritics.

Thus far we have looked at the political turnaround Muhammed (pbuh) brought about in Medina, and we also looked at the mixed reactions the various communities displayed towards these changes.

We spoke about the Aws and Al-Khazraj- two tribes who aspired to the highest office of that city, and who were obviously not impressed by Muhammed (pbuh) deploying his new brand of politics amongst all the peoples of Medina – and not only the Muslims!

We spoke about the 'Unbelievers' from amongst these two tribes, those who had ceaselessly plotted to oust Muhammed (pbuh) from their City and whose primary function it was to create dissension amongst the 'Believers' - especially the Ansar (local Arabs from Medina) and the Muhajireen (immigrant Arabs from Mecca).

We spoke about the 'inbetweeners'- those who had reverted to Islam, but were not really Muslim; those who had backstabbed the Prophet (pbuh) at every turn, even going as far as building their own mosque.

We discussed the Jews, who, on the other hand, afforded the Prophet (pbuh) a genuine warm welcome - fraternizing with the Muslims, even following them in certain of their doctrines, believing and hoping that Muhammed (pbuh) had come to help them against the Christians whom they hated for having expelled them from Palestine.

But as we have said before, Muhammed (pbuh) knew that the peace that existed between the various tribes (of Arabs), as well as some of the other denominations (Muslims and non-Muslims), could not be left to chance and he instituted the 'Covenant of Medina'.

We discussed how this 'Accord' instructed them in ways contrary to what they believed and practiced - in their personal lives - and how it bonded Arab and non-Arab into a brotherhood that had never been thought possible at that time.

The Jews, as we have said previously, looked at Muhammed (pbuh) with great expectations. They enjoyed having the Prophet (pbuh) in their midst, engaging in healthy debates with their Rabbis, and even fasting with them during their 'Holy Days'.

These Jews, or most of them, apart from following the Muslims, enjoyed countless privileges under Muhammed (pbuh), who, in the meantime, was becoming increasingly powerful due to the unprecedented conversion of large numbers of people to the religion of Islam.

We find that the Prophet's (pbuh) unique brand of politics was bringing untold trade prospects to the city of Medina - and one can thus imagine what this must have done for the Jews, who, in turn, offered the least resistance to Muhammed's (pbuh) ministries and his universal 'Call to Islam'.

Perhaps this euphoria or state of perceived security (if you like) that the Jews enjoyed might have continued had some of their own hierarchy not abjured the exclusivity of their own faith.

We find that suddenly and unexpectedly huge numbers of Jewish scholars and 'holy men' entered into the fold of Islam; Priests and Rabbis seriously began to look at what Muhammed (pbuh) was offering - besides prosperity - and wondered if they were doing the right thing in allowing the Prophet (pbuh) so much freedom in making so many inroads into their lives. Even some Rabbis were starting to look favorably towards the 'Religion'.

One such Rabbi, Abdullah ibn Salam, approached the Prophet (pbuh) and announced that he and his family had embraced Islam. His entire household! he said.

He then proceeded to proclaim the 'Oneness of Allah' and the articles of faith that are customary to the 'Acceptance of the Religion', and the Prophet (pbuh) welcomed him and his whole family into the religion of Islam.

Abdullah ibn Salam then said, 'O, Messenger of Allah, I fear for the well-being of my family and myself, should the others find out about our conversion.' He stared hesitantly at the Prophet (pbuh) who looked at him reassuringly.

'What is it you would like me to do?' the Prophet (pbuh) enquired.

'I would like you to ask them what would they do if I, Abdullah ibn Salam, were to accept Islam.' And he looked down at his feet, feeling awkward and not knowing what to say further.

The Prophet (pbuh) then placed his hand on Abdullah's shoulder and said. 'O, Abdullah...It is only Allah who gives guidance, and if He has so willed that you shall become a Muslim then have no fear. Allah will protect you!'

But when Muhammed (pbuh) approached the 'Jewish Council' as Abdullah ibn Salam had requested, he was told in no uncertain terms: 'Abdullah ibn Salam is our master and the son of our Master. He is a learned scholar and Rabbi, and he shall never denounce his faith!'

Thus when Abdullah ibn Salam went back to his people and told them about his conversion, they attacked him and spread all sorts of malicious gossip about him and his family to all and sundry in the Jewish quarters of Medina.

This incident also triggered the Jews' mistrust of Muhammed (pbuh) and their denial of him as a prophet. It also opened the path to all those enemies of Islam to form a bond with the Jews and systematically begin to undermine Islam.

Read more:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Islam in Medina(Part Two)|Islam The Straight Path| Islam Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as Islam in Medina (Part Two) on Blogcritics.

Previously we discussed Muhammed's (pbuh) implementation of a new political order in Medina, and his instructions to the Muhajireen (immigrant Arabs from Mecca) and the Ansar (local Arabs from Medina) to join in a pact of forming one brotherhood, and to align themselves to one another to effectively combat any connivance the 'Unbelievers' from the Aws and Al-Khazraj could devise against them.

We looked at how Muhammed (pbuh) endeavoured ceaselessly to bring cohesion amongst his followers and how the Aws and Al-Khazraj felt cheated at the emergence of the Prophet (pbuh) on the political scene— thwarting their ideals of claiming Medina for themselves to govern.

We spoke about the different tribes of Jews that existed in Medina, and their aspirations of winning the Prophet (pbuh) over to their side to fight against the Christians whom they hated for having expelled them from Palestine.

One can thus imagine the political powder-keg that must have existed at that time.

On the one side there were the Muslims who were now solely reliant on Muhammed (pbuh) for guidance and instruction; on the other hand there were the Jews, Christians, and Unbelievers, as well as those 'in-betweeners' who had reverted to Islam, but were not really Muslim. They were the ones who took pleasure in back-stabbing the Prophet (pbuh) at every turn! They were the ones who befriended those Jews and Christians who had it in for Muhammed (pbuh)— and together, they plotted with the 'Unbelievers' how to overthrow the Prophet (pbuh) and expel him from their city.

We learn about one incident where these hypocrites built their own mosque and endeavoured to cause a split between the Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) summarily burnt down that mosque and effectively stopped any further attempts at such deviant ideologies.

One point of note, though, is that Muhammed (pbuh), unlike any other Prophet before him, was politically motivated enough to understand the social implications of leaving any emerging subversiveness unattended. He knew that his presence in Medina was causing dissension amongst the different tribes of Arabs inhabiting the city, and he speedily instituted a strategy whereby all concerned parties had to swear fealty to him and abide by this new constitution. He instituted the 'Covenant of Medina' which to this day is hailed as a 'master-strategy' of political expedience.

Muhammed (pbuh), as has been said before and recorded through all the annals of history, could neither read nor write; he could not even spell his own name! But he understood and appreciated the power of the pen.

He therefore had this particular 'Covenant' reduced to writing— by one of his trusted scribes—and all concerned parties then had to abide by this constitution of Islam. Many of the Jews of Medina were also a part of it.

Below follows a brief synopsis of this 'Pax Islamica'. It also outlines the role of the Muslims regarding the socio-political infrastructure of Medina, as well as the role of the Jews who aligned themselves with the followers of Muhammed (pbuh):

In the name of Allah; The Compassionate;
Most Merciful.
This is a Covenant given by Muhammed (pbuh)
to the Muslims of Qureish, Medina, and all
Those who followed them, joined them, And,
Fought with them.

It is a Covenant for those who believe in Allah
Almighty and in the Last Day. Those who shall not
cause division amongst the People and neither

It is hereby agreed that no Believer shall leave
his fellow-believer in destitution, without giving
him in kindness what he needs by way of ransom or
blood wit.

All Believers shall rise, as one man, against
anyone causing harm or mischief, or, creates
division amongst the Believers—even though he be
a son or close relative.

No Believer shall slay another Believer as
retribution for an Unbeliever. And, neither shall
he assist an Unbeliever against a Believer.

Any Jew who follows us is entitled to our assistance
and shall enjoy equal rights and partnership as
any one of us, without injustice, nor partisanship.

The Document goes on to explain what happens in times of war and peace; about those who fall in battle and those who are left behind; about those committing murder and the punishment for it; and about peace-agreements—and who could transact these agreement and under what circumstances.

It was quite a lengthy Covenant, but all in all it bounded the Muhajireen, Ansar, Jews, as well as a group of the other denominations, who had recently accepted Islam, to an inviolable treaty that stretched far and wide across Medina.

The Arabs, being known for their wild and volatile nature, slowly began to respect one another—to fraternise with one another, as had never been done before! They could be seen hugging each other through mutual understanding and genuine concern, helping one another without expecting anything in return. Even those Jews who had not signed the initial 'Accord', like the Jews from the Banu al Nathir, Banu Qurayzah, and Banu Qaynuqah, entered into similar 'pacts' with the Prophet (pbuh) as time went on. Crime and corruption were being given a telling blow and Medina began to glow from a tranquility that to this day bears testimony to that transformation that took place when Muhammed (pbuh) instituted the Covenant of Medina.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Islam in Medina|Islam The Straight Path|Islamic Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as Islam in Medina on Blogcritics.

We have thus far looked at Muhammed's (pbuh) entry into Medina, and we have briefly touched on the special relationship the Prophet (pbuh) had with that city. We discussed the mixed emotions that each one— those who witnessed this momentous occasion— grappled with as they watched him alighting from his camel and working his way through the crowd.

Young girls continued singing his praises, moving rhythmically from side to side, some with awe and admiration on their faces, others calling out his name and trying to touch him.

They could see his lips moving; they could hear him mutter words like: 'O Allah! You are the Greatest! You are the Greatest! Only You are worthy of all Praise! You are Exalted! Most High!'

Muhammed (pbuh) let his she-camel roam ahead while he himself followed sedately, muttering the praises of God continuously. And the animal proudly swung its head from side to side, sniffing the air, not looking at the throng, almost sensing that its master was no ordinary man, blowing haughtily through its nostrils as if to tell everyone present that she had been entrusted with the special task of finding a suitable abode for this very special person.

The camel finally came to a halt in the courtyard of Sahl and Suhail, the two twins from the Ansars, and the Prophet (pbuh) announced to all those who listened to him that that was where he was going to build the first mosque in Islam, as well as a living quarters for himself.

There were those, of course, who felt that with the coming of Muhammed (pbuh) a new political system was going to be inevitable, such as the Aus and Al-Khazraj, two tribes from the 'Unbelievers' whose sole purpose was to cause division between the Muslims and Jews, and who regarded Medina as a sort of free-for-all, ready for a strong takeover by themselves.

The Jews, on the other hand, had some sort of secret hope concerning the arrival of Muhammed (pbuh). They harbored the ideal that Muhammed (pbuh)— like Jesus, whom they had relied on to help them against the Romans— would join their ranks and bolster their resistance against the Christians whom they bore a grudge against for having expelled them from Palestine.

But before we can explore any sort of relationship Muhammed (pbuh) had with either the Jews or Christians, or with the Unbelievers, for that matter, we have to look at the social structure of Medina, per se.

There were the local Arabs of Medina, called the Ansars, and then there were the newcomers from Mecca, called the Muhajireen, loosely translated as immigrants.

The Jews, for their part, formed a large part of the indigenous community. There were the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayzah, and the Banu al-Nadir who lived in and around the City. And, to the North, were the Jews of Khaybar, who, as history tells us, stirred up a lot of problems for the Muslims.

Muhammed's (pbuh) first task was thus to strengthen whatever ties there existed between the Ansars and Muhajireen and establish some sort of council that could regulate the affairs of the Muslims in Medina. The dangers of previous enmities and prejudices were something not to be taken lightly and Muhammed (pbuh) knew that he had to strike the iron while it was still hot. Medina's new-found Islam could not be left to chance.

He thus called upon the Ansars and the Muhajireen to fraternize with one another, bind themselves in pairs, and form a brotherhood for the sake of God. He explained to them that like he and Ali ibn Abu Talib were brothers, Abu bakr and Kharijah ibn Zayd, Umar ibn Al Khattab and Itban ibn Malik al Khazraji, were brothers; so too he desired for each one of the Muhajireen to link himself to an Ansar and to perpetuate this brotherhood of Islam.

So effective proved this idea that as time progressed a genuine blood link developed amongst the Muslims, so that the enemies of Islam had their work cut out in trying to divide the Muslims over petty issues.
Medina then became known as Medina-tul-Rasool, or the City of the Prophet (pbuh).

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Impact of Islam(part Two)|Islam The Straight Path|Islamic Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as Impact of Islam (Part Two) on Blogcritics.

Previously, we discussed Muhammed's (pbuh) escape from Qureish(leading Arab tribe in Mecca), accompanied by his close friend, Abu Bakr and their guide, Abdullah bin Uraiqit.

We also discussed how the leaders of Qureish had offered a massive reward of 100 camels to anyone capturing Muhammed (pbuh) and whoever was with him, dead or alive, and how this had attracted fortune seekers and bounty hunters from all over the Arabian peninsula.

We spoke about Suraqah bin Malik, a warrior, and an absolute killer with a bow and arrow— someone who had relentlessly tracked down the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions, at a place somewhere near the Red Sea. We related what happened to Suraqa every time he had the Prophet (pbuh) in his sights and, prepared to strike. We discussed how Suraqah confessed to the Prophet (pbuh)— afterwards— about his evil intentions, and how on his return to Mecca he spread the rumor that the Prophet (pbuh) was nowhere to be found.

But the question that remains is, what was the impact of Islam on the people of Medina? How did they receive Muhammed (pbuh) and his 'Message of Islam'?

We find that after the episode with Suraqah bin Malik, Abdullah bin Uraiqit was taking no chances. No one could be trusted!

He led the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr away from the mainland, following a route that led them along the coast of the Red Sea as well as the treacherous Tihamat mountain ranges.

And what normally was a 200-mile journey that could be covered in a few days (by travelling inland, of course) now became an absolute nightmare!

For days they traveled through hot and inhospitable territory, resting only when they were certain that chances of discovery were minimal. At night when there was a full moon they made good ground, otherwise they lay under shimmering stars and distant galaxies.

Their rations were getting low; water was at a premium and Abdullah bin Uraiqit feared for the safety of the Prophet (pbuh).

But it was at times like these that Muhammed (pbuh) found his solace in his Almighty Allah. At times like these he would find his inner strength by looking at the mountains and the skies and everything around him— and praise the Almighty continuously, much to the wonderment of Abdullah bin Uraiqit who had only come to know the Prophet (pbuh) as of late.

He found himself continuously staring at Muhammed (pbuh) whenever he thought the Prophet (pbuh) was not looking. And he also had the strangest feeling that everything else, like the trees and the animals, even the birds, seemed to be focused on the presence of Muhammed (pbuh)!

After what seemed like an eternity, they reached the quarters of the Banu Sabin, a friendly tribe, situated not far from Medina.

Buraydah, the elder chieftain of the tribe, came to welcome them and the party of the Prophet (pbuh) had great difficulty in controlling their emotions. Their traumatic sojourn was nearly at an end.

They learnt from all the other tribesman that Qureish, albeit having given up the chase themselves, still kept dangling the reward of the 100 camels in front of anyone interested in capturing Muhammed (pbuh)— dead or alive. They (Qureish) were not giving up on their aims of destroying Islam.

However, to come back to our point of discussion- the impact that Islam had on Medina— one has to understand the ties the Prophet (pbuh) had to that city and its people.

First, his father, Abdullah, was buried in Medina, and, from his paternal side, Abdul Mutallib, his grandfather had close relatives there.

His mother, Amina, used to come for yearly visits to Medina, and Muhammed (pbuh) as a child used to accompany her. She died when the Prophet (pbuh) was six years old, at a place called Al Abwa, midway between Medina and Mecca.

Strangely enough, though, the people of Medina— the Arabs, that is— were a different breed to those of Mecca.

History records that when Qureish were at their most fervent in their persecution of the Muslims, Medina was the only city in the Arabian peninsula to give them a safe haven and succor.

One thinks back to the time when the Prophet (pbuh) advised the early Muslims to emigrate to Abyssinia, to escape the torture of Qureish, and, how the clansmen sent a delegation to the Negus(Christian king of that country) to extradite the Muslims and to punish them.

We learnt what happened there: how the Negus refused to turn the
Muslims over to Qureish, even though he was told that the Muslims did not accept any other religion except Islam, and that they did not recognize Jesus as the son of God.

But Medina was different. Many Muslims had emigrated to that city as well. Besides, Medina, compared to Abyssinia, was but a stone's throw from Mecca. So why didn't Qureish try to extradite the Muslims there?

Be that as it may, we find that even before the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions set foot in Medina, there was such a hive of excitement in that city that those who were not Muslim— like the Jews, Christians, Coptic, and whoever— couldn't understand the fever that was gripping Medina.

There seemed to be merriment everywhere. Young and old came to meet the Prophet (pbuh)— Muslims and non-Muslims; Arabs and non-Arabs. Everyone wanted to see what Muhammed (pbuh) looked like. Everyone wanted to meet Muhammed (pbuh), the man whom they had heard so much about, the man who had turned Mecca upside down with his preachings of the 'New Religion'. The only man who had managed to shake the mighty Qureish and their belief system to its very core.

They jostled with each other, pushing and shoving— almost trampling one another— as they tried to catch a glimpse of Muhammed (pbuh) when he entered the city gates.

Young girls, their faces lighting up as they watched him alighting from his camel, sang his praises: 'O Messenger of Allah! Blessings upon you! O Beloved of Allah! Blessings upon you!'

History records that so great was the impact of Islam on Medina at that moment, that all who witnessed the entry of Muhammed (pbuh) instinctively knew that a great revolution in the history of the world was coming.

Read more:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Impact of Islam|Islam The Straight Path|Islam Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as Impact of Islam on Blogcritics.

We previously discussed the Prophet Muhammed's (pbuh) 'Flight to Medina' also known as the 'Hijra' or 'The Prophet's Emigration' and we also touched on the massive manhunt Qureish(the leading tribe of Mecca) launched in order to capture Muhammed (pbuh) dead or alive and, consequently, bring an end to Islam.

But what impact did Islam have on the people of Medina particularly? How did they receive Muhammed (pbuh) and that which he brought to the world?

Before we look at that aspect of Islam, let us continue where we left off earlier, i.e. with the trackers of Qureish following the trail of Muhammed (pbuh) and his companion, Abu Bakr, and the subsequent discovery of the cave where the two were hiding.

We discussed previously how Abu Bakr became convinced that it was the end of both him and the Prophet (pbuh) since there was only one way into the cave, and the baying of the mob outside had sounded very ominous indeed. The Prophet (pbuh) had told him not to worry—that Allah was with them, and that the Almighty would not allow any harm to come to them.

We spoke about how the leaders of Qureish— when they arrived at the cave, which was situated on Mount Tuhr— refrained from entering the hideout, especially since a spider had spun its web across the mouth, and a bird's egg was entangled in the center of the web as well! The Prophet (pbuh) and his Companion didn't know about this.

Qureish had felt that no human being or even an animal could have entered the cave without disturbing the web or the egg, and so it was senseless wasting time searching inside, while the two were probably making their getaway. They (Qureish) then left in 'hot pursuit' of the fugitives, whom they knew couldn't have been too far ahead since the two had no means of transport, either by camel or horseback.

History records that a reward of one hundred camels was offered for the capture of Muhammed (pbuh) and Abu Bakr, his friend, dead or alive. Thus one can imagine what this must have meant to the ordinary citizens of not only Mecca, but all the outlying areas as well. One hundred camels! Here was the one chance, perhaps the only chance, of becoming rich and powerful overnight, and to say good-bye to the life of abject poverty and strife that so many of these Arabs were subjected to.

For three days, the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr remained inside the cave, and as per prior arrangement, Abu Bakr's son Abdullah came to visit and brought them food. He also brought them three camels.

After the three days, the two then prepared for the journey to Medina, which was known as Yathrib at the time, led by a guide by the name of Abdullah bin Uraiqit, who knew the back roads very well. He was also a trusted friend of Abu Bakr.

The hunt for the Prophet (pbuh) had by now somewhat abated.

Nonetheless, caution remained the watchword—opportunists and bounty-hunters were roaming the hills, and, as has been recorded, one such bounty hunter, a warrior by the name of Suraqah bin Malik, acting upon a rumor that the Prophet (pbuh) and his party had been seen in the vicinity of the Red Sea, came upon the three as they made their way through lesser-known territory towards Yathrib.

Suraqah was an absolute killer with a bow and arrow. And no one escaped his aim!

It is said that the Prophet (pbuh) and his friends had their backs to the killer when Suraqah bin Malik prepared to strike. He was a good distance away from them, but he was an expert— he could already see the hundred camels grazing on his ground. Muhammed (pbuh) was as good as dead.

Suraqah pulled back the arrow and his horse's knees buckled.

He swore, and took aim once again. Muhammed (pbuh) was lucky! He grimaced

The horse stumbled a second time just as Suraqah prepared to let fly. He cursed vilely.

What was going on? he thought to himself as he calmed the animal. There were no potholes or rocks that he could see lying in his path.

He took aim a third time and suddenly the horse reared so violently that Suraqah was unceremoniously dumped to the ground.

History records that after Suraqah bin Malik regained his composure and managed to get himself back on his horse again, he hastened after the Prophet (pbuh) and his party and called out to them to wait for him.

Suraqah had never been so shaken in all his life.

And when he caught up with them, he told the Prophet (pbuh) what his intentions had been and that he was convinced that the Prophet (pbuh) had the protection of his god.

Suraqah returned to Mecca and told everyone that Muhammed (pbuh) was nowhere to be found. Thus Qureish called off the search and Muhammed (pbuh) and his party could continue to Medina in safety.

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