3. At Madina
the beginning of the battles
The Prophet reached Madina on the 12th of Rabi' I, corresponding
to June 28, 622 of the Christian Era. The first thing that he did
on reaching Madina was to construct a mosque, now famous as the
Prophet's Mosque. Here prayers to God were offered five times daily
in a free atmosphere for the first time in the history of Islam.
He next turned to establishing a brotherhood of the Muslims. Those
who had fled from Makka, called Muhajirs (Refugees), had
left all their property behind. So, to provide shelter for them,
every refugee was bound in a bond of brotherhood with one of the
residents of Madina, called Ansar (Helpers).
The third important matter to which the Prophet turned his attention
was to establish friendly relations between the various tribes living
in Madina. Among these were three Jewish clans, and a pact was concluded
with them as well. The main terms of this pact were as follows:
- 1. The Muslims and the Jews shall live as one people.
- 2. Each one of the parties shall keep to its own faith.
- 3. In the event of a war with a third party, each shall be bound
to come to the assistance of the other, provided the party at
war were not the aggressors.
- 4. In the event of an attack on Madina, both shall join hands
to defend it.
- 5. Peace shall be made after consultation with each other.
- 6. Madina shall be regarded as sacred by both, all bloodshed
being forbidden therein.
- 7. The Prophet shall be the final court of appeal in cases of
This agreement with the Jews shows that the Prophet had an apprehension
that the exasperated Quraish who were foiled in their attempt to
put an end to his life at Makka would now attack Madina.
We have seen that when the Muslims fled to Abyssinia, the Quraish
tried all the means in their power to have them expelled from there.
How could they see Islam prosper so near home at Madina, an important
city only 270 miles distant and on the trade route to Syria. Muhammad
had already received an intimation from on High that he would have
to carry on a war to save Islam from utter annihilation. The sword,
he was told, would be taken up against him and he would have to
fight to save the small community of Islam from destruction at the
hands of a powerful enemy who was determined to uproot Islam from
the soil of Arabia.
Temperamentally the Prophet Muhammad was not inclined to war;
he had not once handled the sword in actual fighting up to the fifty-fifth
year of his age, and this in a country where, owing to constant
internecine warfare, fighting had become a vocation of the people.
The religion which he preached, Islam (lit. peace or submission),
was a religion of peace, laying stress on prayer to God and the
service of humanity, and he was required to preach this religion;
to deliver the message, not to enforce it on others:
"The truth is from your Lord, so, whoever will,
let him believe, and whoever will, let him disbelieve. [18:29]
And in still plainer words; it was laid down:
We have shown man the way, he may be thankful or he may be
There is no compulsion in religion. [2:256]
But war was being forced on him, and it was his duty, he was told,
to defend his oppressed community who had twice fled their homes from
the persecutions of a cruel enemy to a distant place:
Permission to fight is given to those upon whom war
is made; because they are oppressed, and Allah is well able to help
Why were they expelled from their homes ? Why was war made on them
? What was their offence ?
Those who have been expelled from their homes without
a just cause,except that they say, Our Lord is Allah. [22:40]
To worship Allah, to say that Allah is our Lord, to bow before Him,
was an offence in this land; the punishment for which was that the
men who worshipped God, and the places where He was worshipped, should
be destroyed. So the Muslims were required to defend all houses of
worship, whether they belonged to the Jews or the Christians or their
And had there not been Allah's repelling some people
by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques
in which Allah's name is remembered most, would certainly have been
pulled down. [22:40]
These three statements follow one another in the Divine revelation
to the Prophet. In a later revelation he was further told that he
should by no means resort to an aggressive war. It was in defence
only that he was allowed to take up the sword:
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight
with you, and do not exceed this limit, for Allah does not love
those who exceed the limits.[2:190]
There was no question of converting anyone to Islam by force; it was
the enemy that wanted to turn back the Muslims by force from Islam:
And they will not cease fighting with you until they
turn you back from your religion if they can. [2:217]
Religion was a matter between God and His servants and no one had
a right to compel anyone to adopt a particular religion, and the Prophet
had thus to fight for the noble cause of the liberty of man:
And fight with them until there is no persecution
and religion is held for Allah. But if they give up persecution,
then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
If the Prophet was required to cease fighting when the enemy ceased
to persecute on account of religion, he was also required to cease
fighting if the enemy offered peace even though he might be gaining
time only to renew his attack:
And if they incline to peace, do thou also incline
to it and trust in Allah; He is the Hearing, the Knowing. And if
they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for
It was in these circumstances and on these conditions that the Prophet
was allowed to fight. He had not up to this time trained a single
man for fighting; he had no army at all. He had a small community
of followers trained only in praying to God, and even they could not
be forced to fight. To carry on the war, even though single-handed,
was his duty:
Fight then in Allah's way; this is not imposed on
thee except in relation to thyself, and rouse the believers to ardour;
maybe Allah will restrain the fighting of those who disbelieve,
and Allah is strongest in power and strongest to punish (offenders).