Growing Muslim community in Madinah

Last updated: 4 October 2017 From the section Biography of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Many people were visiting Makkah on business or as pilgrims to the Ka'ba. Although their worship was not anything like the Hajj that Islam has taught us, they regarded the Holy Ka'ba as an important building. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took advantage of this time of the year by meeting the visitors and introducing the teachings of Islam to them. It was the Prophet’s wise practice to meet the delegates of the Arabian tribes by night so that the hostile Makkans would not debar him from achieving his objectives.

With years of persecution for him and his followers, it was also a great opportunity for the Prophet (pbuh) to look for a new home for himself and his followers. After several unsuccessful negotiations, he found hope with some men from Yathrib (later called Medina).

The Arab population of Yathrib were familiar with monotheism (belief in one God) because a Jewish community existed there. They knew from the Jews that one day there would be a Prophet who would come from Arabia as revealed to the Jews in the Torah (their holy book) by Prophet Musa (AS).

The Madinese always heard the Jews say that a Prophet was about to rise, for the time for a new dispensation had arrived. Him they would follow and then smite their enemies as the children of ‘Ad and Iram had been smitten.

Rahmat- al-lil'alameen 1/84; Ibn Hisham 1/429; Za'd Al-Ma'ad 2/50

First Aqabah Bay'at (Pledge)

Warring tribes

The two main Arab tribes in Madinah were the Banu Khazraj and the Banu Aws. They were great enemies of each other and fought numerous battles. The recurring slaughters and disagreements over the resulting claims, especially after the Battle of Bu'ath (around 617) in which all clans (including Jewish) were involved, made it obvious to them that the tribal conceptions of blood-feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there was one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases.

12 Muslim men from Madinah pledge loyalty

During the pilgrimage season in the eleventh year of Prophethood (approximately 620) the Prophet (pbuh) along with his two Companions 'Ali and Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them) met with six men from Yathrib as they were passing by 'Aqabat Mina.

The six men were:

  1. As‘ad bin Zurarah
  2. ‘Awf bin Harith
  3. Rafi‘ bin Malik
  4. Qutbah bin ‘Amir
  5. ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir
  6. Jabir bin ‘Abdullah bin Ri'ab

All six were from the Banu Khazraj clan.

The following year (around 621), on the occasion of the pilgrimage, a group of twelve disciples came to Makkah ready to acknowledge Muhammad as their Prophet. This group was made up of five of the original six who had met the Prophet (pbuh) the previous year, only Jabir bin 'Abdullah bin Ri'ab was missing, and seven new members.

The additional seven members were:

  1. Mu‘adh bin Al-Harith Ibn ‘Afra
  2. Dhakwan bin ‘Abdul-Qais
  3. ‘Ubadah bin As-Samit
  4. Yazeed bin Tha‘labah
  5. Al-‘Abbas bin ‘Ubadah bin Nadlah
  6. Abul-Haitham bin At-Taihan
  7. ‘Uwaim bin Sa‘idah

All of them were from the Banu Khazraj clan except for Abul-Haitham and 'Uwaim who were from Banu Aws clan.

The meeting took place at Aqabat Mina (Mount Aqabah), Makkah and resulted in the first Islamic agreement. After embracing Islam by reading the Shahadah, the delegation pledged themselves and their fellow-citizens to accept Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) into their community and physically protect him as one of themselves. This pledge became known as the "First Bay'at (Pledge) of Aqabah".

The 12 men vowed their faith in Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a Prophet and swore:

  • Not to worship anyone but Allah alone.
  • Not to steal.
  • Not to commit adultery, nor bury their daughters alive.
  • Not to utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood.
  • Not to disobey the Prophet in any just matter and to perform good deeds.

Notice all of the vows are spiritual and religious - nothing economical or political.

He who fulfills this, Allâh will reward him. And who neglects anything and is afflicted in this world, it may prove redemption for him in the Hereafter. And if the sin remains hidden from the eyes of the men and no grief comes to him, then his affair is with Allâh. He may forgive him or He may not.

Prophet Muhammad after the pledge, Sahih Bukhari (1/550; 2/727; 2/1003)

Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair Al-‘Abdari (RA) - the first Muslim anbassador

After the oath of allegiance (the Bay'at) was taken the Prophet (pbuh) sent Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair Al-‘Abdari (RA) to Yathrib to teach people the doctrines of Islam, give them practical guidance and make attempts at propagating Islam among those who still professed polytheism. Thus Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair Al-‘Abdari (RA) became the first Muslim 'ambassador.'

Mus'ab was an ulama - a learned scholar - who had memorised all of the Qur'an that was revealed at the time. He was young, in his 20s, and the vast majority of Yathrib were of similar age since most of the elders were killed in the bloody battle of Bu'ath few years ago. Mus'ab also came from similar economic standing and family background (upper class and cultured) as many in Yathrib, therefore he could relate to the educated Yathribs.

As‘ad bin Zurarah hosted Mus'ab in Madinah. All the members propagated Islam with such zest that it spread rapidly from house to house and from tribe to tribe so much so that the first Jumu'ah (Friday congregational prayer) was established here (and not in Makkah by the Prophet) in As'ad's house.

Mus‘ab stayed in Madinah carrying out his mission diligently and successfully until all the houses of Al-Ansar (the future Helpers) had Muslims elements, men and women. One family only stood obdurate to the Islamic Da‘wah (Call). They were under the influence of the poet Qais bin Al-Aslat, who managed to hold them at bay and screen off the Call of Islam from their ears until the year 5 A.H. (circa 627 C. E.).

Mus'ab returned to Makkah before the following year's pilgrimage (i.e. around 623) and informed the Prophet (pbuh) of the new hospitable community and fertile soil of Islam in Madinah. The city provided power and immunity to spread the cause of Islam, and its people, the 'Ansars' (Helpers), eagerly awaited the Hajj season so that they could meet the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and personally declare their readiness to help Islam.

Second Pledge of Aqabah

73 Muslims, including two women, pledge alliance

The following Hajj season in June 622 C. E. 500 people of Madinah, mainly from the tribe of Khazraj, came to Makkah. It included 73 Muslims, two of whom were women. The rest of the people were those who wanted to find out more about the religion before becoming Muslims. They met the Prophet (pbuh), accompanied by his uncle Al-Abbas bin Abdul-Muttalib, secretly by night on the 13th of Dhul-Hijjah (Islamic month) at 'Aqabah where the Prophet (pbuh) addressed them and recited verses of the Noble Qur'an. Moved by its splendour and truthfulness the people accepted Islam and pledged their oath of allegiance (similar to the original twelve, two years ago). This pledge became known as the 'Second Pledge of Aqabah'.

The articles of the Second Aqabah Pledge:

  • To listen and obey in every difficulty and ease.
  • To spend in plenty as well as in scarcity.
  • To enjoin good and forbid evil.
  • In Allah's service, they will fear the censure of none.
  • To aid Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he comes to them, and protect him from anything that they protect themselves, their spouses and children from.

The guarantee of protection led the Orientalists to describe it as "Pledge of War"

After approving of the articles of the pledge, clarification and emphasis, the process of actual pledging began by touching hands stretched out. The two women's pledge was taken orally for the Prophet (pbuh) never shook hands with an unrelated woman.

One of the leaders of the Ansar (Helpers), Ka'b bin Malik Al-Ansari, gave an account of the historic meeting which changed the whole course of the struggle between Islam and paganism, and said:

"We set out for pilgrimage and had planned a meeting with Allah's Messenger (pbuh) in the midst of the Days of Tashreeq. The night of our planned meeting with Allah's Messenger (pbuh) arrived. We were accompanied by Abdullah bin Amr bin Haram, one of the most notable and respected among our people. We said to him, "O Abu Jabir! You are certainly one of our most respected and one of the most noble of our nobility. We do not want you to be fuel for the Fire tomorrow". Then we invited him to accept Islam and informed of the meeting we had planned with Allah's Messenger (pbuh) at Al-Aqabah. He accepted Islam and attended Al-Aqabah, and he was our chief representative.

That very night we slept with our people in our camps. After a third of the night had elapsed, we began to leave quietly and met at a hillock nearby. We were 73 men plus two women, Nusaibah bint Ka'b - Umm Umarah - from the Bani Mazin bin Najjar and Asma bint 'Amr - Umm Muni from Bani Salamah. We gathered in the hillocks waiting for Allah's Messenger until he came in the company of his uncle Al-Abbas bin Abdul-Muttalib who was at that time still following the religion of his people. Yet he liked to be present for the affairs of his nephew. He was first to speak:

"O you people of the Khazraj - the Arabs used to call the Ansar (Helpers) 'Khazraj', whether from Khazraj or Aws - all of you know the position that Muhammad holds among us. He is honoured and respected among his people. He refuses to join any party except you. So, if you think you can carry out what you promise while inviting him to your town, and if you can defend him against the enemies, then assume the burden that you have taken. But if you are going to surrender him and betray him after having taken him away with you, you had better leave him now because he is respected and well defended in hi own place"."

Ka'b replied: "We have heard your words, and now, O Messenger of Allah, it is for you to speak and take from us any pledge that you wish regarding your Lord and yourself".

It was a confident response showing complete determination, courage and deep faith to shoulder the great responsibility and bear its serious consequences. Allah's Messenger then preached the Faith, and the pledge was taken.

The Sealed Nectar

12 representatives agree separate oath of answerability

The Prophet (pbuh) then asked the group to appoint 12 men to represent the group, and to be responsible regarding the articles of the pledge. Nine representatives from Al-Khazraj and three from Al-Aws came forward and took another oath to hold the position of answerability.

You are responsible over your people in matters among them, a responsibility like that of the disciples of Isa bin Maryam [i.e. 'Jesus' in Christianity], and I am the one responsible over my people - meaning the Muslims.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) agrees separate oath of answerability from the 12 representatives

Pledges precede migration to Madinah

The Second pledge at al-Aqabah was an important event as it preceded the migration to Medina. Following the pledges at Aqabah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged his followers to emigrate to Yathrib. As with the migration to Abyssinia, the Quraish attempted to stop the emigration. However, almost all Muslims managed to leave.

Being alarmed at the departure of Muslims, the Makkans plotted to assassinate Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). With the help of Ali (RA), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) fooled the Makkans who were watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town with Abu Bakr (RA).

By 622, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emigrated to Madinah, a large agricultural oasis. This migration is known as the 'Hijrah' and it marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Those who migrated from Makkah along with the Prophet (pbuh) became known as muhajirun (emigrants).