Categories
ABC's of Islam New Muslims

First Muslim Community in Madinah & the Groundwork for Hijrah

It was 620, a year after the deaths of Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, and his uncle Abu Talib, and the time of the yearly pilgrimage to the Ka`bah and Makkah’s annual market period was drawing near. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was still dispensing his teachings in a climate of rejection, exclusion, and persecution.

Toward Exile

About a hundred Muslims now lived under protection in Abyssinia, but no solution seemed to present itself for the faithful who lived in Makkah.

The pilgrims, coming from all areas of the peninsula, started to settle in the Mina area, to remain there throughout the festival period. Muhammad often went there and conveyed his message to women and men who, in their distant dwelling places, had heard about it but did not know its actual contents. He was far from always receiving a favorable response.

At Al-`Aqabah, not far from Mina, the Prophet met a group of people from Yathrib. They were from the Khazraj tribe, one of the two great rival tribes in Yathrib (the other being the Aws), and he began to deliver his message to them. They had already heard of the message from the Jewish tribes who lived in their city, and they wished to know more about it. They listened to the Prophet and eventually accepted the message of Islam: they promised to inform the members of their tribe of the substance of the message and to keep in permanent contact with the Prophet. They went back home and started preaching in Yathrib.

In Makkah, conversions kept increasing, and Muhammad carried on with his public call. As far as his private life was concerned, many advised him to think of remarrying. Proposals had been made, but the Prophet had never pursued the matter. He had, however, had two dreams in which the very young `Aa’ishah, Abu Bakr’s daughter, who was then six years old, was offered to him in marriage.

When Khawlah, who had taken care of the Prophet’s needs since Khadijah’s death, advised him to remarry and suggested two names-Sawdah, a widow in her thirties who had very recently come back from Abyssinia, and `Aa’ishah, Abu Bakr’s daughter- Muhammad saw in this strange coincidence a sign of the truthfulness of his dreams, and he asked Khawlah to do what was necessary to find out whether the two unions were possible.

Polygamy was the norm in Arabia then, and the Prophet’s situation was the exception, since he had remained monogamous for twenty-five rears. The union with Sawdah was particularly easy to concretize: Sawdah immediately, and most favorably, answered the proposal made to her, and they married a few months later.

`Aa’ishah had already, in keeping with Arabian customs, been promised by Abu Bakr to Mutim’s son, and her father had to negotiate with Mutim in order to break the engagement. `Aa’shah then officially became Muhammad’s second wife, though the union would not be consummated for several years.

A year later, pilgrims and traders were again flocking to Makkah for the celebrations of 621. A second meeting was organized at Al-`Aqabah between the Prophet and the Yathrib delegation that had come to report on the evolution of the situation in their city. Twelve people from Yathrib, two of whom belonged to the Aws clan, took part in the meeting. They pledged allegiance to the Prophet, stipulating that they would worship only the One God, no others, and that they would honor the duties and interdictions of Islam.

They were therefore to constitute the first Muslim community in Yathrib. Muhammad sent back with them a Companion, Mus`ab ibn `Umayr, who had just returned from Abyssinia and who was known for his calm, his wisdom, and tile beauty of his recitation of the Qur’an.

Message of Brotherhood

Back in Yathrib, the delegation kept spreading the message and Mus`ab taught Islam, recited the Qur’an, and answered questions. In spite of age-old and still very sharp divisions between the Aws and Khazraj, members of both tribes converted to the new religion and realized that their former rivalries had become pointless: ’Islam’s message of brotherhood united them.

Clan chiefs nevertheless remained very reluctant to embrace Islam. Mus`ab never reacted to their attacks nor to their aggressive attitude; rather, he invariably answered: “Sit down and listen to the message: if you like it, accept it, if you do not, leave it.” As a result, the number of conversions was high, even among leaders.

During the following year’s pilgrimage, the Prophet met an important delegation of Yathrib. Muslims, composed of seventy-three people, two of them women. They belonged to both me Aws and the Khazraj, and they had come to bring the Prophet the good news of their commitment to Islam. After a few discussions about the nature of their future relationship, they concluded a second covenant stipulating that the Yathrib.

Muslims pledged to protect the Prophet, as well as Makkah’s Muslim women and children, against any aggression. This second covenant, granting refuge and protection and a commitment of Yathrib Muslims to support their Makkan brothers, opened before the Prophet the prospect of a promising future.

From then on, Muhammad encouraged Muslims to emigrate to Yathrib discreetly, while his closest Companions still remained by his side.

_________________________

The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

Soucre Link
Categories
His Life New Muslims

A Blessed Birth of a Noble Prophet

In his seminal authoritative book on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Ibn Hisham – the author of the first account of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, which has come down to us as As-Seerah An-Nabawiyah (The Prophet’s Life) – informs us that Ibn Ishaq has clearly and precisely established the Prophet’s birth date:

peace be upon him

He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and the needy.

“The Messenger (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) was born on a Monday, on the twelfth night of Rabi` Awwal, in the year of the elephant.”

Other accounts mention other months of the year, but throughout history there has been broad acceptance of that date among scholars and within Muslim communities. The Muslim calendar being a lunar one, it is difficult to determine exactly the solar month of his birth, but the “year of the elephant” to which Ibn Ishag refers corresponds to 570 CE.

Noble Birth… Noble Origin

The Last Prophet was born in one of Makkah’s noble families, Banu Hashim, which enjoyed great respect among all the clans in and around Makkah. This noble descent combined with a particularly painful and debilitating personal history. His mother, Aminah, was only two months pregnant when his father, `Abdullah, died during a trip to Yathrib, north of Makkah.

Fatherless at birth, young Muhammad was to live with the tension of the dual status implied in Makkah by a respectable descent, on one hand, and the precariousness of having no father, on the other.

Ibn Ishaq reports that the name Muhammad, quite unknown at the time in the Arabian Peninsula, came to his mother in a vision while she was still pregnant. (Ibn Hsham, As-Seerah An-Nabawiyah)

This same vision is also said to have announced to her the birth of the “master of this people” (sayyid hadhihi al-ummah); according to the vision, when he was born she was to say the words “I place him under the protection of the One (Al-Wahid) against the treachery of the envious.

Torn between her grief at her husband’s death and the joy of welcoming her child, Aminah said repeatedly that strange signs had accompanied the gestation, then the extraordinarily easy birth of her child.

The Desert

Aminah soon became aware that she was the mother of an exceptional child. This feeling was shared by Muhammad’s grandfather, `Abdul-Muttalib, who took responsibility for him after his birth. In Makkah, it was customary to entrust infants to wet nurses belonging to the nomadic Bedouin tribes living in the nearby desert.

Because he was fatherless, one nurse after another refused to take the child into her care, fearing that his ambiguous status would bring them no profit. Halimah, who had arrived last because her mount was tired, decided with her husband that it was better for them to take the child, although he was an orphan, than to risk being mocked by their tribe when they went home. They therefore went back with the infant Muhammad, and Halimah, just like Aminah, tells of many signs that led her and her husband to think that this child seemed blessed.

For four years, the orphan was looked after by Halimah and lived with the Banu Sa`d Bedouins in the Arabian desert. He shared the nomads’ life in the most barren and difficult natural environment, surrounded, as far as the eye could see, with horizons bringing to mind the fragility of the human being and spurring contemplation and solitude.

Although he did not yet know it, Muhammad was going through the first trials ordained for him by the One, Who had chosen him as a messenger and was, for the time being, his Educator, his Rabb (Lord).

Why Orphan?

The Qur’an would later recall his particular situation as an orphan as well as the spiritual teachings associated with the experience of life in the desert:

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? And He found you wandering, and He gave you guidance. And He found you in need, and made you independent. Therefore (for that reason), do not treat the orphan with harshness, nor chide him who asks. But the bounty of your Lord, proclaim! (Ad-Duha 93:6-11)

lighthouse

For each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching.

Those verses of the Qur’an carry several teachings: being both an orphan and poor was actually an initiatory state for the future Messenger of God, for at least two reasons. The first teaching is obviously the vulnerability and humility he must naturally have felt from his earliest childhood.

This state was intensified when his mother, Aminah, died when Muhammad was six. This left him utterly dependent on God, but also dose to the most destitute among people. The Qur’an reminds him that he must never forget this throughout his life and particularly during his prophetic mission. He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and the needy.

Considering the exemplary nature of the prophetic experience, the second spiritual teaching emanating from these verses is valid for each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching for oneself and for others.

Muhammad’s past, the One reminds him, is a school from which he must draw useful, practical, and concrete knowledge to benefit those whose lives and hardships he has shared, since he knows from his own experience, better than anyone else, what they feel and endure.

_________________________

The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s book “In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

Soucre Link