Islamic History : 622 - 627


The Hijra; Beginning of the Muslim Era

At the age of 52, The Prophet secretly migrated to the fertile northern oasis of Yathrib, which was not on the caravan trade route from southern Arabia to the north. This was the famous Hijra. Some Muslims had already left for Abyssinia to escape persecution, but it was largely unknown territory to them. On the annual Pilgrimage to the Ka'aba(still a pagan shrine) about 70 inhabitants of Yathrib had accepted Islam and invited Muhammad to their city, where he and his followers would be given sanctuary. Before his own departure, his followers, some 70 in all, had already, on his own instructions, left Makkah for yathrib in small groups, eluding the vigilance of the Quraish.

The people of Yathrib received with enthusiasm the Prophet and his makkan followers, who had abandoned their homes for the sake of their new faith. To mark the ocassion, the ancient name of the city was renamed to Madinah ul Nabi(City of the Prophet) or Madinah for short. The inhabitants of Madinah proved to be far more receptive than the Makkanshad been to Muhammad's(saws) teaching, and soon theMadinese Mslims(termed by the Prophet The Helpers or Ansari) greatly exceeded the Makkan immigrants in the numbers. He severed kinship ties in Makkah and started a new life as the leader of a religious community, acknowledged to possess divine authority. Here he settled and built his house which served as a gathering place for his followers and as a model fora masjid which would be later built on the site.*

The Hijra proved to be a decisive event in the life of Muhammad and the development of Islam. A part of the population of Madinah was Jewish.

*The Prophet's Masjid in madinah is the second holiest shrine of Islam, next in sanctity to the Ka'aba in Makkah.


The Battle of Badr

Muhammad had heard that Abu Sufyan, at the head of a caravan from Syria, was taking a vast quantity of wealth and merchandise to Makkah to help the Quraish in their fight against the Muslims. The Quraish had been spending great deal of resources in their utter determination to annihilate the new faith and its adherents who had secretly managed to escape Makkah to the safety of Madinah only two years before. Moreover, the whole economic life of the Makkans was dependent on camel caravans with the main trade centres in the north. Thus, if these trade routes could be made unsafe, the Makkans would be hit where they were most vulernable leaving them less reolved to fight Islam.

In command of little more than 300 Muslim converts, he went out in the middle of March to a place called Badr to attack the Makkan caravan which was on its return journey from Syria. Badr, a small town about 85 miles southwest of Madinah, was on the caravan route connecting Makkah and Damascus. Abu Sufyan skilfully eluded the Muslims by devious routes and led the caravan to safety. But a force was rshed from Makkah, which consisted of 950 men with 700 camels and 100 horses and was led by Abu Jahl, the Prophet's uncle and head of the Mukhzum clan, who decided to seek a real fight. In the ensuing battle, atleast 45 Makkans, including Abu Jahl and many other leading Makkans, were killed and about 70 were taken prisoner while the Muslims only lost 14.

The complete victory for the Muslims, though outnumbered by three to one, in this battle was a milestone in the early history of Islam. This was the first time the young Muslim community became conscious of its own striking power, which was destined to grow into an unstoppable avalanche. The event took an immense religious significance, too, since, according to the Quran*, God himself helped the Beleivers in sustaining the cause of Islam. It was recognized as a Divine vindication of the Prophet's mission and, as a consequence, brought new converts and increased the prestige of the Muslim community.

*Reference to the name Badr is made in the Surah Al Imran 3:123. Indirect references to this battle also appear in the Quran in some other surahs.

Change of Qibla to Makkah

The Qibla, the direction to which the Muslims turn in praying, was changed from Jerusalem to the Ka'aba in Makkah.

Fatima's Marriage to Ali

The Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Fatima, was married to his cousin and future Caliph(656-661)Ali ibn Abi Talib.*(ra)

*According to some historical accounts, the marriage took place after the battle of Uhad in 625.


The Battle of Uhad

To avenge the year old defeat in the Battle of Badr and also to make their trade route safe, the Makkans mobilized about 3,000 men and entered the oasis of Madinah in the month of March. In response, Muhammad could only muster a force of 700 only, and a pitched battle took place near the hill of uhad, about 3 miles to the north of Madinah. The Muslims repelled the Makkan infantry at first but were then thrown disarray by a sudden attack from the rear(which was caused by a group of archers that abandoned the position that the Prophet commanded them to guard for the booty left by the fleeing Makkans) led by Khalid ibn al-Walid(ra). This was the first time that Khalid, who was later to become the most famous of all Arab generals, displayed his brilliant talent for leadership on the battlefield. The Prophet himself was wounded, which added to the confusion. Yet strangely enough, the Makkans, who were again commanded by Abu Sufyan, head of the Umayya clan, did not pursue their advantageous position by attacking the town itself, which remained undefended; instead, they marched towards home. Perhaps they only wanted to prove their chivalry or teach the enemy a hard lesson. Whatever the reason, the battle did not produce a clear victor or loser. The Muslims lost 70 and Makkans lost 20. The Prophet lamented the death of his uncle Hamza, a great hunter and mighty warrior, whose body was mutilated by Abu Sufyan's wife Hind as an act of revenge for her father whom Hamza had killed at Badr.


The Battle of the Ditch

Madinah was besieged by a Makkan army of 10,000, perhaps the largest force ever seen in Arabia, under Abu Sufyan who had become Muhammad(saws)'s arch-enemy. Repeated attempts to cross a trench, especially dug to protect the town, failed and the army drifted away about a fortnight. This was partly due to the Makkans's lack of knowledge of regular warfare involving long sieges, and partly due to bad weather conditions and falling supplies.

Another factor was the dissension in the invading army, skilfully formented by Muhammad(saws)'s agents, in this long and restive siege. Muhammad(saws) had a wide and efficient intellignece network which he always employed in planning his strategy. The numbers killed onboth sides added up to no more than ten. The Prophet Muhammad(saws)'s position was freatly strengthened by this outcome, which he used as a clear demonstration of the impregnability of his city, where he had established his civil and religious authority. The Makkans had pooled all their resources in arranging this vast army, but their efforts to dislodge or destroy Muhammad(saws) had obviously failed. And both their trade and prestige had suffered badly.