Early Western Civilization

.. deliver them from oppression and establish a kingdom in which justice prevailed. A document has been preserved known as the Constitution of Medina. In its present form, it is a combination of at least two earlier documents and was probably compiled later than 627, but its main provisions are almost certainly those originally agreed upon between Muhammad and the Muslims of Medina. In form the document creates a confederation on traditional Arab lines among nine groups; eight Arab clans and the emigrants from Mecca.

Muhammad is given no special position of authority except that the preamble speaks of the agreement as made between “Muhammad the prophet” and the Muslims now resident in Medina, and it is stated that serious disputes are to be referred to him. For at least five years, Muhammad had no direct authority over members of other clans, but, in the closing years of his life, the prestige of his military successes gave him almost autocratic power. The revelations he received at Medina frequently contained legal rules for the community of Muslims, but they dealt with political questions only rarely. The first 18 months at Medina were spent in settling down. Muhammad was given a piece of land and had a house built, which eventually held apartments grouped around a central courtyard for each of his wives.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

The Muslims often joined Muhammad at prayers in his home, which, after his death, became the mosque of Medina. The emigrants (muhajirun, the men from Mecca) were at first guests of brother Muslims in Medina, but Muhammad cannot have contemplated this situation continuing indefinitely. A few emigrants carried on trade in the local market run by a Jewish clan. Others, with the approval of Muhammad, set out in normal Arab fashion on razzias (ghazawat, “raids”) in the hope of intercepting Meccan caravans passing near Medina on their way to Syria. Muhammad himself led three such razzias in 623.

They all failed, probably because traitors betrayed the Muslim movements to the enemy. At last, in January 624, a small band of men was sent eastward with sealed orders telling them to proceed to Nakhlah, near Mecca, and attack a caravan from Yemen. This they did successfully, and in doing so they violated pagan ideas of sanctity thereby making the Meccans aware of the seriousness of the threat from Muhammad. About the same time, there was a change in Muhammads general policy in important respects. One aspect was the “break with Jews”; instead of making concessions to the Jews in the hope of gaining recognition of his prophethood, he asserted the specifically Arabian character of the Islamic religion. Hitherto the Muslims had faced Jerusalem in prayer, but a revelation now bade them face Mecca.

Perhaps because of this change some Muslims of Medina were readier to support Muhammad. In March 624 he was able to lead about 315 men on a razzia to attack a wealthy Meccan caravan returning from Syria. The caravan, led by Abu Sufyan, the head of the Umayyah clan, eluded the Muslims by devious routes and forced marches. Abu Jahl, the head of the Makhzum clan, however, leading a supporting force of perhaps 800 men, wanted to teach Muhammad a lesson and did not withdraw. On March 15, 624, near a place called Badr, the two forces found themselves in a situation, perhaps contrived by Muhammad, from which neither could withdraw without disgrace. In the ensuing battle, at least 45 Meccans were killed, including Abu Jahl and other leading men, and nearly 70 taken prisoner while only 14 Muslims died.

To Muhammad this appeared to be a divine vindication of his prophethood, and he and all the Muslims were greatly elated. In the flush of victory, some persons in Medina who had satirized Muhammad in verse were assassinated, perhaps with his connivance. He also made a minor disturbance an excuse for expelling the Jewish clan, which ran the market. This weakened his most serious opponent there, the “hypocrite” (munafiq), or nominal Muslim, Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, who was allied with the local Jews. The remaining waverers among the Arabs probably became Muslims about this time.

Thus the victory of Badr greatly strengthened Muhammad. At the same time he was using marriage relationships to bring greater cohesion to the emigrants. Of his daughters, Fatimah was married to Ali (later fourth caliph, or leader of the Islamic community) and Umm Kulthum to Uthman (third caliph). He himself was already married to A`ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr (first caliph), and was now espoused also to Hafsah, daughter of Umar (second caliph), whose previous husband was one of the Muslims killed at Badr. In the same year, Muhammad led larger Muslim forces on razzias against hostile nomadic tribes and had some success.

Presumably, he realized that the Meccans were bound to try to avenge their defeat. Indeed, Abu Sufyan was energetically mobilizing Meccan power. On March 21, 625, he entered the oasis of Medina with 3,000 men. One of the features of Medina was a large number of small forts that were impregnable to Arab weapons and tactics. Muhammad would have preferred the Muslims to retire to these; but those whose cereal crops were being laid waste persuaded him to go out to fight.

By a night march with 1,000 men, he reached the hill of Uhud on the further side of the Meccan camp. On the morning of March 23, the Meccan infantry attacked and was repulsed with considerable loss. As the Muslims pursued, the Meccan cavalry launched a flank attack after the archers guarding the Muslim left had abandoned their position. The Muslims were thrown into confusion. Some made for a fort and were cut down, but Muhammad and the bulk of his force managed to gain the lower slopes of Uhud, where they were safe from the cavalry.

The Meccans, because of their losses, were unable to press home their advantages and without delay set out for home, while Muhammad the next day made a show of pursuing. The battle produced neither a clear victor nor loser. In Badr and Uhud together, the Meccans had killed about as many men as they had lost; but they had boasted that they would make the Muslims pay several times over, and they had not shown the degree of superiority appropriate to their leading position in Arabia. Muhammad, though he had lost above 70 men, realized that this was a military reverse, not a defeat, but the confidence of the Muslims and perhaps his own had been struck a serious blow. If the victory of Badr was a sign of Gods support, did Uhud indicate that he had abandoned the Muslims? Muhammads faith soon overcame any momentary doubts, and he was gradually able to restore the confidence of his followers.

For two years after Uhud, both sides prepared for a decisive encounter. In the razzias Muhammad led or sanctioned, he seems to have aimed at extending his own alliances and at preventing others from joining the Meccans. In at least two cases, a small party of Muslims was tricked or ambushed, and most of their lives were lost. In April 627, Abu Sufyan led a great confederacy of 10,000 men against Medina. On this occasion Muhammad had ordered the crops to be harvested and a trench to be dug to defend the main part of the oasis from the Meccan cavalry.

For a fortnight the confederates besieged the Muslims. Attempts to cross the trench failed, and fodder for the horses was scarce, while Muhammads agents among the attackers fomented potential dissensions. Then, after a night of wind and rain the great army melted away. The Meccans had exerted their utmost might and had failed to dislodge Muhammad, whose position was now greatly strengthened. For more than two years now there had been opposition to Muhammad in Medina, chiefly from Abd Allah ibn Ubayy and other so-called hypocrites who had abandoned Muhammad at Uhud and who together had fostered disaffection.

Shortly before the siege Muhammad had a showdown with Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, who had joined in spreading slanders about Muhammads wife A`ishah. This confrontation revealed that Abd Allah had little support in Medina, and he became reconciled to Muhammad. After the siege of Medina, Muhammad attacked the Jewish clan of Qurayzah, which had probably been intriguing against him. When they surrendered, the men were all executed and the women and children sold as slaves. Muhammads farsightedness as a statesman is manifest in the policies he next adopted. He might have continued to crush the Meccans, and he indeed put economic pressure on them; but his main aim was to gain their willing adherence to Islam.

He had already realized that, insofar as the Arabs became Muslims, it would be necessary to direct outward the energies expended on razzias against one another. There could be no question of Muslims raiding Muslims. It is noteworthy that his largest razzias, apart from the expeditions against the Meccans, were along the route to Syria followed by the Arab armies after his death. He doubtless realized that the administrative skill of the Meccan merchants would be required for any expansion of his embryonic state. In a dream, Muhammad saw himself performing the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, and in March 628 he set out to do so, driving sacrificial animals. He was disappointed because no more than 1,600 men would accompany him.

The Meccans were determined to prevent the Muslims from entering their town, so Muhammad halted at al-Hudaybiyah, on the edge of the sacred territory of Mecca. After some critical days, the Meccans made a treaty with Muhammad. Hostilities were to cease, and the Muslims were to be allowed to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in 629. The orderly withdrawal showed how completely Muhammad controlled his followers. Partly to reward this orderly conduct, Muhammad two months later led the same force against the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, north of Medina. After a siege, it submitted, but the Jews were allowed to remain on condition of sending half of the date harvest to Medina.

Throughout 628 and 629, Muhammads power was growing. The success led more men to become Muslims, for the religious attraction of Islam was apparently supplemented by material motives. Meanwhile, Mecca was in decline. Several leading men had emigrated to Medina and become Muslims. New leaders had taken over from Abu Sufyan but had accomplished little, although the treaty with Muhammad had removed his pressure on their caravans. Shortly after the treaty, Muhammad had married Umm Habibah, a daughter of Abu Sufyan, and a widow whose Muslim husband had died in Ethiopia.

This led to an understanding with Abu Sufyan, who began to work for the peaceful surrender of Mecca. It was probably when he was in Mecca for the pilgrimage in March 629 that Muhammad became reconciled with another uncle, al-Abbas, and married his uncles sister-in-law Maymunah. An attack by Meccan allies in about November 629 upon allies of Muhammad led to the Muhammads denunciation of the treaty of al-Hudaybiyah. After secret preparations he marched on Mecca in January 630 with 10,000 men. Abu Sufyan and other leading Meccans went out to meet him and formally submitted, so Muhammad promised a general amnesty. When he entered Mecca there was virtually no resistance.

Two Muslims and 28 of the enemy were killed. A number of people were specifically excluded from the amnesty, but some were later pardoned. Thus Muhammad, who had left Mecca as a persecuted prophet, not merely entered it again in triumph but also gained the allegiance of most of the Meccans. Though he did not insist on their becoming Muslims, many soon did so. Muhammad spent 15 to 20 days in Mecca settling various matters of administration.

Idols were destroyed in the Kabah and in some small shrines in the neighborhood. To relieve the poorest among his followers, he demanded loans from some of the wealthy Meccans. When he marched east to meet a new threat, 2,000 Meccans went with him.


I'm Lydia!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out