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Muhajeroon and Ansar  

Can history repeat itself?  


By Mumin Salih  

2005/12/20

FEW MUSLIM scholars and historians disagree about the most important event in Islamic history. It was not the birth of Muhammad in the year 570 AD or even the start of his revelations in the year 610 AD. The majority of scholars will consider Muhammadís relocation to the northern city of Yathrib ( Hijra = migration) as the most remarkable turning point in Islamic history.  

Certainly, this was the opinion of the early Muslims who lived and had witnessed the event about 1400 years ago. When the second Khalifa Omar wanted to chose a starting point for the new Islamic calendar (known as Hijri calendar) he did not chose the year when Muhammad was born or the year when he started his call for Islam. Omar and fellow Muslims decided on the year 622 AD because they knew very well that REAL ISLAM only started after Hijra.    

Muhammad was not the first or the last Arab to claim to be a prophet. A Few Ďprophetsí actually co-existed with him in different parts of Arabia . Musailama (Muhammad called him the liar) was a successful prophet in his tribe. He had preceded Muhammad by few years.  Another interesting prophet was a lady (what a pity, it could have been a first for the Arabs, perhaps) whose name was Sijah. Musailama and Sijah, both attracted all their tribes as their followers--something Muhammad could only achieve after twenty years of brutal force and intimidation. Both Musailama and Sijah were not expansionists and they were only interested to rule and preach quietly among their own tribes. But the refusal by this duo to accept Islam resulted in the inevitable confrontation between them and Muhammad. Muhammad was the only prophet warlord with an organized army and a vision to fight and rule. 

 

The Arabs of Mecca  

The Meccan Arabs belonged to a tribe called Quraysh. They knew Muhammad very well since he was a child. When Muhammad claimed to be a prophet they did what any civilized society would do: they asked him for evidence of his claim of preophethood. All what Muhammad could provide were a few verses of what later became known to be the Quran. The Arabs of Mecca were the masters of the Arabic language and were deeply involved in the theology of the time as their city was the centre for the various religions practiced in Arabia in the seventh century. Quraysh looked at the evidence produced by Muhammad and were not impressed. They did not accept those verses as a divine proof and decided to reject Muhammadís claim. They were not biased or prejudiced and were happy to consider the matter seriously in a fair manner; but when they examined the evidence they knew it is a forgery and so rejected Muhammadís assertion.  

Muhammad tried his luck with other tribes with further disappointments; He even went to the neighbouring city of Taif with no success at all. His Islamic movement was in deep trouble and was set to die. In a rescue attempt he asked those who followed him to seek asylum in Abyssinia which was ruled by a Christian king. In preparation for this journey Allah revealed some of the best verses about Christianity which helped to impress the Christian king. This worked well and Muhammad learned how to use Allahís revelations to his best advantage to advance his career. In Abyssinia some of Muhammadís followers converted to Christianity and stayed there.  

Muhammad spent thirteen years in Mecca propagating Islam with very little success, as only a few dozens of Arabs, mostly his friends and relatives, joined him. His movement was set to die just like many other movements before him. However, his fortune changed dramatically when he met a group of Arabs belonging to the tribes of Aws and Khazraj who live in the northern city of Yathrib . These Arabs agreed to join Islam and invited Muhammad and his small number of followers to live with them in their city. After Muhammad had immigrated to Yathrib in the year 622 A.D, the city was renamed as Medina . 

 

The Arabs of Medina  

The generosity of Medina Arabs to Muhammad and his companions was unparalleled. Their hospitality covered all his needs: from shelter to food and more importantly, the moral support he needed so badly. Both tribes of Medina (Aws and Khazraj) accepted Islam which quickly doubled the number of Muhammadís followers.  

In the beginning, Muhammad just enjoyed the hospitality and was peaceful with everyone including the Medina ís Jewish tribes. The Medina Arabs were now called Al-Ansar, which means the supporters, while Muhammadís Meccan companions were called Al-Muhajeroon, which means the immigrants.  

Muhammadís only disappointment came from the Jewish tribes in Medina . He hoped that after he had included in the Quran some of the Old Testament stories and had prescribed in Islam some of their practices, he would be accepted by the Jews. But to his chagrin, the Jews of Medina denied Muhammad the recognition he desperately wanted. The Jews were known in Arabia as the people of the book and the ones who knew all about prophets. Therefore, their opinion about him was extremely important for his prophetic image. But the rejection from the Jews was very painful and insulting to Muhammad, and he could never forgive them for their insolence.  

Muhammad never really cared much about Al-Ansar and there are reasons to believe that he even looked down on them. When Muhammad started to launch his aggressive wars (Ghazwas) he gave clear priorities to his companions from Mecca in leadership and the war booties. This occasionally triggered some bad feelings among Al-Ansar which Muhammad dealt with very efficiently by revealing the latest Quranic verses in support of his actions, a tactic that Muhammad used regularly to quiet any criticism to his policies. The rest of Al-Muhajeroon too, concurred fully with Muhammadís views of Al Ansar and used them in the same way he did.    

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