Why Prophet Muhammad Emigrated to Madinah
Madinah was the best option after the hostility Muslims faced in Makkah.
When Makkah became a hostile environment for the Muslims, Madinah was the direction all eyes turned to. Picture © Microsoft.Com
The People of Madinah
The city of Yathrib, now known as Madinah (meaning ‘The City’), was inhabited at the time of the Prophet by two major Arab tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj.
These two tribes had a long history of bloody wars which sapped their strength. The last of these battles, named Buath, took place about two years before the events we are now relating.
A large Jewish community had lived in Madinah for well over a century. All history books agree that the Jews were instrumental in keeping the two Arab tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, at each other's throats. Historians also relate that the Jews came to Madinah because their sacred books mention it as the place where the last messenger from God was to establish his state.
Like the rest of the Arabs, the Aws and the Khazraj were idolaters. In common with all Arabs they revered the Kabah and offered pilgrimage. In a pilgrimage season after the Prophet had adopted his strategy of speaking to the various Arab tribes, seeking their protection in his fulfillment of his mission, a group of six men from the Khazraj tribe were offering the pilgrimage.
The Prophet met them at a place called Aqabah, at Mina, where pilgrims encamp for three days. When they identified themselves to the Prophet and he ascertained that they were the neighbors of the Jews, he sought to explain his message to them. They were willing to listen to what he had to say.
The Prophet outlined to them the principles of his message and read them a passage from the Quran. He called on them to believe in God as the only deity to be worshipped. Some of them said to the others: "You may be sure that he is the Prophet with whom the Jews keep threatening you. Let them not be the first to follow him."
That apparently touched a sensitive nerve with them. The Arabs of Madinah used to respect the Jewish religion. They recognized that their own pagan beliefs stood no comparison with the monotheistic religion of the Jews, who professed to have better knowledge of God and man.
Every time the Arabs of Madinah clashed with the Jews, the latter would say: "It will not be long before a new messenger shall be sent by God. We shall follow him and will kill you all in the same way as the peoples of Ad and Iram were killed."
The six Khazrajis did not hesitate to accept what the Prophet said. They were Asad ibn Zurarah, Awf ibn al-Harith, Rafi ibn Malik, Qutbah ibn Amir ibn Hadidah, Uqbah ibn Amir ibn Zayd and Jabir ibn Abdullah ibn Riab.
They declared their belief in God and the message of Muhammad. They also said to the Prophet:
"We have left our people in an unprecedented state of mutual hostility. May God make you the cause of their unity. We shall call on them to follow you and explain to them your religion which we have accepted. Should God unite them in following you, you shall enjoy with them a position of the highest prestige."
Thus the Prophet had six emissaries who carried his message to their own people. They were apparently very active emissaries. In no time the whole of the city was speaking about the Prophet and his call. Many accepted Islam through the efforts of these six. It was clear that Madinah was the most fertile environment for Islam to spread.
The Unique Environment of Madinah
In the first place, it was free from any hostile feelings like those which existed in Makkah. Hence Islam, with its clear and simple logic, had a great appeal among its inhabitants. Secondly, the monotheistic idea was particularly appealing to the Arabs of Madinah, owing to their respect for the Jewish religion. Some historians see the arrogance of the Jews in Madinah as the only thing which prevented its Arab population from converting to Judaism.
The Jews behaved in a condescending manner towards the Arabs and showed them that Judaism was the religion of the elite only. Moreover, the embattled Arabs of Madinah yearned for a life of peace. It was not easy for the two tribes of Aws and Khazraj to achieve a lasting reconciliation without a powerful catalyst. It is obvious from what the six said to the Prophet that they hoped he would be the catalyst of peace and unity.
With Islam making such headway very quickly in Madinah (or Yathrib), converts longed to meet the Prophet. The obvious time for such a meeting was the next pilgrimage season when the original six were joined by six more to meet the Prophet at Aqabah. The Prophet was very pleased with the enthusiasm shown by this delegation for the cause of Islam. They were very keen to do their utmost for their new faith.
The Aqabah Covenant
The Prophet, however, did not ask them, at that particular stage, for protection as he used to ask other tribes. A shrewd statesman, he recognized that such a pledge would come at the right moment, without him asking for it. The immediate necessity was to consolidate the new base in Madinah. Hence, the Prophet entered into a covenant with the 12 men, ten from the Khazraj, the other two belonging to the Aws.
The terms of the covenant meant that the 12 pledged themselves "to worship no deity other than God, to commit neither theft, nor adultery, nor child murder, to utter no monstrous falsehood of their own invention, and never to disobey the Prophet over anything which was just or reasonable." This covenant came to be known later as 'the covenant of women', for its terms continued to apply to women only.
Men had to add a pledge to fight the enemies of Islam. This pledge of support was a very important breakthrough in the history of Islam. The terms did not include any military provisions but the need for those was not yet pressing.
It was enough, for the time being, that Islam should be able to establish its roots in Madinah by the recruitment of more people. After all, Islam does not like to go to war unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
Although the Prophet realized that the Quraish would not let Islam move freely in Arabia without trying to silence it by all the means at its disposal, such a confrontation was not yet imminent. Hence the pledge included what could be termed 'the Islamic peaceful program'. The Prophet sent Musab ibn Umayr to Madinah with his new followers. His mission was to educate the new Muslims in Madinah in their new faith, to teach them the Quran and all they needed to know about Islam. He was to call on people to adopt Islam.
He also led the Muslims in Madinah in prayer. As the memories of the most recent battles between the two tribes, Aws and Khazraj, were still fresh in their minds, neither group found it easy to be led in prayer by someone from the other tribe. Musab was therefore the perfect choice.
He also had an additional task: to study the situation in Madinah very closely and to make an assessment of likely reactions in all eventualities. The Prophet would then be able to make the decisions he had to make on the basis of first hand information.