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Brief life-sketch of Holy Prophet Muhammad

3. At Madina --- the beginning of the battles
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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 dispute.

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]

We have shown man the way, he may be thankful or he may be unthankful.[76:3]

And in still plainer words; it was laid down:
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 them. [22:39]
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 own community:
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. [2:193]
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 thee. [8:61,62]
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). [4:84]

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