The Prophet of Islam and his devoted band of followers had patiently endured untold hardship, tyranny and oppression for thirteen years and ultimately had to abandon their hearths and homes, sacrificing whatever worldly possessions they had. They had not wanted any worldly gains, nor had they aspired for any position of worldly eminence or share in the administration. The Prophet had unequivocally told the Meccans:
"I desire neither riches nor eminence nor dominion. I am sent by God Who has ordered me to announce glad tidings to you. I convey to you the words of my Lord. I admonish you. If you accept the message I bring you, God will be favorable to you both in this world and in the next. If you reject my admonition, I shall be patient and leave God to judge between you and me."
The early Muslims were harassed and persecuted simply because they believed in God, the Lord of the universe, and worshipped Him without ascribing to Him any partner or colleague. They had not exercised any compulsion, for the Qur'an had said:
There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the rebels (i.e. false deities) and believes in Allah, he indeed has laid hold of the strongest handle which shall not break off. (Qur'an, 2:256)
The Qur'an only appealed to the inner consciousness of man, to his reason and intellect. Nevertheless, the new religion was in sharp contrast with the cults practiced by the Quraish, which ages of observance and belief had sanctified for them. The Prophet preached equality of man and stressed the point that in righteousness alone lay the superiority of one over the other. The Quraish saw in this leveling of distinctions the end of their authority and privileges as the guardians of the Ka'bah, of their political and social hegemony, and of their vested interests at large.
The new religion placed restraints upon the promiscuous and unbridled license indulged in social intercourse. It heralded the end of licentious ways, of sensual pleasure and drunken orgies to which the Quraish were, by and large, espoused. It imposed spiritual discipline in the form of prayers, fasting and continence and frowned upon avarice, greed, slander, falsehood, indecency and other vices with which society was permeated. In short, it meant the giving up of old ways and the taking to a new life of austere piety and chastity. The opposition of the Meccans was, therefore, sharp and violent. They relentlessly persecuted the followers of the new faith and made life so difficult for them that ultimately the Prophet and his followers had to abandon their hearths and homes for more congenial surroundings. The Prophet did not even invoke the wrath of God on them. When once he was requested by Khabbab son of Arrat to curse the Quraish, the Holy Prophet pulled him up by saying:
"People have gone by who were sawn and torn to pieces in the cause of God, but they did not desist from their duties. God will accomplish His plan till a rider will go from Sinai to Hadramaut fearing none except God."
How true was the prophecy!
The Prophet at Medina
Living in contact with the Jews, the Aws and the Khazraj were not foreign to the idea of the unity of God. They had heard from the Jews that a Prophet was to come. Some of their people had come into contact with the Prophet at Mecca and had been deeply impressed by Him. The deputation they had sent to Mecca had returned entirely satisfied and had accepted Islam. The disciples who had preceded the Prophet were spreading the message of Islam throughout Yathrib. Unlike the Meccans, the Yathribites had no vested interest standing in the way of their accepting the new religion. Islam had already taken roots in Yathrib thus before the Prophet arrived there on the invitation of the people of Aws and Khazraj. No wonder they gave the Prophet a tumultuous welcome at Yathrib.
The name of the city was then changed to Madinat-un-Nabi, the City of the Prophet. Islam effaced the age-long enmity between the tribes of Aws and Khazraj.and they were given the honorific designation of "Ansar" (helpers or supporters). The emigrants, forty-five in number, were called "Muhajirun" (exiles). The construction of a mosque, Masjid-un-Nabi (mosque of the Prophet), was now underway, and the Prophet worked at it like any other laborer. Soon, a simple, unostentatious mosque with walls of unbaked bricks, with trunks of palm trees as pillars, and a thatch of palm leaves was built with a few adjoining rooms of similar material. On the completion of these rooms, the Prophet, who meanwhile was living with Abu Ayyub, moved into one of them.
The doors of the houses of some of the companions opened into the mosque (Masjid-un-Nabi). The Prophet ordered the doors of all of them except that of 'Ali to be closed. The companions raised some objections against this order. The Prophet, thereupon, stood up and addressed them. Having praised Allah, he said:
"In accordance with the decree of Allah, I ordered you to close the doors and 'Ali to keep his open. Your wrangling is undesirable. Neither did I open nor close any door of my own accord. I only acted as I was ordered by Allah."
The Muhajirun needed some meaningful relief. To ensure their economic security and also to establish brotherly ties between them and the Ansar, the Prophet joined each Muhajir with an Ansar in a tie of "Brotherhood" that became even more precious and enduring than the bond of blood relationship. The Ansar volunteered to share half and half with their contractual brothers everything they earned or possessed. It is to this unification of interests that the Qur'an refers in the following passage:
Surely those who believed and migrated and strived hard in the way of Allah with their property and souls, and those who sheltered and helped them, these are indeed friends (and protectors) of one another. (Qur'an, 8:72)
The Muhajirun were anxious not to remain a burden on their brothers. Soon, many of them settled down to trade and do business. In the course of time, they were rehabilitated, and within a few years, they were no longer in need of any financial support. It was then that the following verse was revealed:
And the possessors of relationships are nearer to each other. (Qur'an, 8:174)
In Medina, Islam had at first to face serious difficulties. Danger threatened it from all sides, and it had to fight against great odds for mere survival. Some of the battles forced on it were inspired by political motives, others were the result of direct opposition to the new faith and the desperate efforts which its enemies exerted to put it down before it firmly established itself. Other difficulties were added by the predatory and warlike habits of the nomadic tribes hovering round the city and the insecurity and lawlessness prevailing in the country at large. It may be a good idea, therefore, to analyze and understand the political conditions of Arabia at this time.