Medina and its People
Medina had become “the center of Islam” after the migration of the Honorable Messenger. Therefore, it would be useful to give concise information about Medina of that time and its people.
Medina was regarded as one of the important cities of Arabian Peninsula in those times, as it still is in our day. It has a valley with a quite wide area. The valley is all surrounded by mountains. Its climate is favorable, and its soil is fertile. It has got beautiful weather, cool and abundant water. It receives more rain than Mecca.
The city was called “Yathrib” until the migration of the Messenger of God. It is said to have taken this name after the Amaliqan called Yathrib, who was the first settler of the place. (1) However, the Prophet disliked this name because it meant “sinister” and changed it to Medina. Although it was called “Medinatu’n-Nabi” for a while, it began to be called by the name Medina alone later. Historians record that Medina has got ninety-four names, mentioning them all one by one. (2)
Apart from Muslims, there were Jewish people and Christians residing in Medina, too. In this sense, the city was highly populated. It is assumed that the city population in that time was about ten thousand.
Muslims in this city were from Aws and Khazraj tribes. As it is in the nature of Arabs, disputes, fights and collisions followed one another between these two tribes, which generated from two brothers named Aws and Khazraj. The last one of these civil fights, Battle of Buath, had continued for a hundred-and-twenty years until it ended five years ago before the migration of the Prophet. In this bloody battle, the most honorable warriors of both sides were either killed or left disabled. The immigration of the Messenger of God took place at that time when the Ansar (people of Medina) were in this pitiful situation.
With the immigration of the Prophet, the enmity between these two tribes developed into brotherhood and love. Resentment and discontent came to an end entirely. Undoubtedly, heroic legends told by poets and memorized by women and children from both sides, which tell about how this enmity of a century turned into brotherhood is a gift blessed upon our dear Prophet from God, the Glorious. (3)
Hazrat Aisha says:
“The day of Buath is a day which God prepared for His own Messenger, and as a result of this battle, the Messenger of God (pbuh) migrated to Medina. Before the migration, the unity of Aws and Khazraj, which had fought each other, had been disrupted; their elite people had been killed and wounded. Because of this miserable situation, God prepared this day for the Prophet (pbuh) so that Ansar, who had fought each other, would convert to Islam.” (4)
Jews living there were members of three tribes: Bani Qaynuqa, Bani Quraiza and Bani Nadr…
Christians held the smallest portion of the population. They could not tolerate the rapid spread of Islam throughout Medina and left Medina after a short time. These Christians, who fought against Muslims in the war of Uhud, took refuge in Byzantine later.
As for the political life of Medina, it was at a primitive level at those times. Tribal lifestyle still prevailed. Just like that of the polytheist Arabs, each tribe of Jews were regarded a community on its own. They did not obey any other authority than their own chiefs.
A lifestyle which was not familiar with the notion and practice of equality was adopted at that time. For instance, the blood money paid to weak tribes was half the blood money paid to strong and powerful tribes. Community life was deprived of laws. Arbiters were appointed when necessary and judgments were made based on those arbiters’ personal decisions and views.
The number of literate people was quite few.
So, our reverend Prophet migrated to such a city which we have told roughly about in geographic, political and social terms. He had important missions ahead and a lot of difficult situations to be solved awaited him.
Conversion of Abdullah B. Salam to Islam
Abdullah Ibn Salam, who was from the progeny of Prophet Joseph, was one of the prominent scholars of Medina Jews.
He had learnt a lot of things from his father Salam, who was a great scholar, including the Torah and its interpretation. Moreover, his father told him about the prophet to come in the last days of the world, his attributions, signs and what he would do. He also said to his son “If he (the last prophet) comes from progeny of Aaron, I will pay homage to him. Otherwise, I will not.” Salam had died before the Prophet came to Medina.
Abdullah Ibn Salam was also one of those who heard the voice of the Jew who gave Muslims the happy news of the reverend and supreme Messenger’s arrival to Medina and, he could not help saying “Allahu Akbar!”
His aunt, upon hearing this, scolded him saying, “May God not let you find what you seek! I swear by God, you would not be happier if you heard Moses was coming!”
And Abdullah said: “O aunt! I swear by God, the one who is coming is his brother! He is a prophet, too, just like him.”
In return, his aunt asked: “So, is this the prophet who was told us to come before the end of the world?
Abdullah answered: “Yes…” And then she said: Then, you are right to behave like this!” (5)
Abdullah Ibn Salam went to see the reverend and supreme Messenger when he honored Medina with his arrival and when he saw the shining, blessed face of the Messenger, he said to himself: “There is no lie in this face! There can be no fraud in this face!” (6)
His Question to the Prophet and His Conversion to Islam
The Honorable Prophet was a guest at Hazrat Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s house.
Abdullah Ibn Salam went there to visit the Prophet and asked him some questions. When he received answers in compliance with the Torah to his Torah-based questions, he said the sentence of Shahadah and converted to Islam. (7) Then, he said: O Messenger of God! Jewish people are slanderers and liars. When they find out that I converted to Islam tomorrow, they will make up many lies about me and slander me. Before my conversion is heard by them, ask them about me and have my place confirmed!”
The reverend Prophet let him hide somewhere, invited some of the notable people of Jews and said to them: “O Jewish community! You know very well that I am a prophet sent by God! I have come with the true religion; Convert to Islam!”
The Jews responded, repeating the same sentence three times: “We do not know whether you are a prophet or not!”
After that, the Honorable Messenger asked: There is among you someone named Abdullah Ibn Salam. What kind of a person is he?
The Jews witnessed saying: He is a decent son of a decent father among us. Both he and his father are the most virtuous and most knowledgeable of us.
The Messenger of God asked: “What would you say if Abdullah Ibn Salam converted to Islam?”
The Jews said: “God forbid! Ibn Salaam would never convert to Islam!”
The Prophet asked the same question three times.
And they repeated the same answer of refusal.
Upon seeing this, the Reverend and Supreme Messenger called out to Abdullah Ibn Salam: “O Ibn Salam! Come out!”
Abdullah came out of where he was hiding and declared that he converted to Islam, saying
اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لَٓااِلٰهَ اِلَّا اللّٰهُ وَاَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللّٰهِ And he invited Jews to convert to Islam by saying: “O Jewish community! Fear God! Accept what you have been given! I swear by God that you also know that he is the prophet whose name and attributions you find written in the Torah.” (8)
However, Jews said “You are lying! You are the most evil son of the most evil father among us!” and blackened him making up various faults and misdeeds about him.
Abdullah b. Salam said: O Messenger of God! This is what I was actually afraid of! Have I not told you they are cruelpeople, liars, sinners and slanderers? I was right!
The reverend Prophet let the Jews leave his presence.
Abdullah Ibn Salam returned his home. Upon his call to Islam, his all household and his aunt converted to Islam. (9)
Although some of the notable Jews tried to make Abdullah Ibn Salam leave Islam with various intrigues and words, they failed.
A lot of Jewish scholars converted to Islam and persevered living as Muslims sincerely, following Abdllah b. Salam. And Jewish scholars who did not convert to Islam began to sound off saying: Only the evil ones among us paid homage to Muhammad! If they were decent, they would not have left their ancestors’ religion.”
Thereupon, God the Glorious stated the following in the honorable verse He sent:
“Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stands (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.” (10)
Seeing that the Prophet and Muslims had a free and peaceful life in Medina, polytheists felt very annoyed and started to worry.
They did not want to leave them alone in Medina. They wanted to put the strategy of “keeping people away from the Honorable Messenger of God”, which they adopted in Mecca, into practice in Medina as well. For this reason, they sent two letters as a memorandum, one after the other, written in harsh, threatening language, to the Ansar who promised to protect the prophet. In those letters, the Ansar were asked to quit protecting the Prophet and otherwise, they were told to be prepared for anything that might happen to them.
However, these two memorandum letters by the polytheists of Quraish failed to put any negative pressure on Muslims of Medina. Contrarily, the letters received harsh answers. So, the polytheists of Mecca understood that they could not turn anyone in Medina against the Messenger of God by terrorizing and threatening them.
Frightening Days in Medina
The Prophet found out about the threatening letters sent to the people of Medina. As a result, Medina was always on full alert. In case of any possible “sudden attack by polytheists”, the Honorable Messenger was always careful and asked Muslims to be careful and precautious, too. They did not even sleep some nights for this reason.
Indeed, Muslims of Medina were in a real critical situation because their migration to Medina put them in the target of polytheistic Arab tribes. Of course, they had to be alert all the time in this situation. Muslims would gather together even for the slightest commotion.
One day, they heard a noise. Whoever heard the noise cried out. The Honorable and Supreme Messenger, who was the zenith of any positive trait, was the zenith of courage as well. He girded himself with his sword and got on his horse at once, and rode off to the crowd; and consoled them.
Anas b. Malik says:
“Whenever an outcry was heard, we would see the Messenger of God arrive there on horseback!” (11)
The efforts of Meccan polytheists on making Medina Muslims quit protecting the Honorable Messenger were not limited to sending memorandum-like letters. They also took some economic precautions in this sense. Moreover, they were systematically plotting mischief and causing disorder among Muslims, by using unbelievers and some Jews in Medina.
Despite all these, Muslims of Medina did not hesitate at all or refrain from embracing the Messenger of God, living Islam and helping Muslim immigrants at any cost. On the contrary, they continued with their service more seriously and more sincerely.
1. Suhayli, Rawdu’l-Unf, V. 2, p. 16; Muslim, Sahih, V. 4, p. 120.
2. See Âsım Köksal, Hz. Muhammed ve İslamiyet: Medine Devri, V. 1, p. 30.
3. Tecrid Tercemesi, V. 10, p. 123.
4. Bukhari, Sahih, V. 2, p. 309.
5. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 2, p. 163; Balazuri, Ansab, V. 1, p. 266.
6. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 235; Ibn Abdi’l-Barr, al-Istiab, V. 3, p. 922; Badiüzzaman Said Nursi, Mektûbat, p. 92.
7. Bukhari, ibid., V. 2, p. 335; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V. 3, p. 108.
8. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 2, p. 164; Bukhar, Sahih, V. 2, p. 335.
9. Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 2, p. 164.
10. Aal-i Imran, 113.
11. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 373; Muslim, Sahih, V. 7, p. 72