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The Sealed Nectar

 The Sealed Nectar by Shaykh Safi ur-Rahman

The Madinan Period - Before Islam came to Madinah, its inhabitants belonged mainly to three communities: the two Arab tribes of `Aus and Khazraj and the Jews, in whose hands was much of the city's wealth and who dominated its economy largely through the practice of monopoly and usury. Rifts between the two Arab tribes were promoted by the Jews who profited from money-lending toward war efforts and the sale of weapons. As a rule, the pagan inhabitants of Madinah followed the religious and social traditions of the Quraysh, as they were guardians of the Ka`bah.[1] Many of them also tended to respect the Jews and Christians for the books and the knowledge they possessed. And since their idol worship was fundamentally opposed to the message of monotheism, they viewed the attitude of the "People of the Scripture" as justification for refusal to accept to the faith brought by Muhammad.

For their part, the Jews and Christians of the region were resentful of the Prophet because they felt that divine scripture should have been revealed to one of them rather than to an Arab, so the majority were openly hostile. Jealousy motivated them to join ranks with the pagans in opposition to Islam even after the fact of Muhammad's prophethood had become unmistakably clear.

For several centuries, the Jews had been waiting for the prophet foretold in their scriptures. They often spoke of this expectation, and thus it was known to the Arabs, perhaps indirectly influencing the `Aus and Khazraj tribes toward recognition of the Messenger once they heard about him. The number of Muslims from these two tribes had been steadily increasing. Upon receiving news of the Prophet's departure from Makkah they eagerly awaited his arrival. The Muslims of Madinah welcomed him to their city with excitement and elation.

Believers continued to migrate from Makkah to Madinah until the only ones left were those who had been forcibly detained by the Quraysh. The Muslims of Madinah assisted the emigrants in a most generous manner, offering to share with them equally whatever they possessed, sometimes even depriving themselves to accommodate their brothers in faith. They were called Ansaar (Helpers), and the Prophet himself established a bond of brotherhood between them and the Muhajirun (Emigrants) in order to unite and strengthen the emerging Islamic society.

After thirteen years of oppression in Makkah, the faithful now had a community of their own. The first undertaking of the Prophet after arriving in Madinah was to begin construction of a permanent place of worship, a mosque. He then drew up peace agreements with the Jews of Madinah and Arab tribes of the surrounding regions. With consent of the non-Muslim Arabs, the Jews, Christians and others, he established an Islamic state in which justice was guaranteed for all. Its written constitution - the first of its kind in world history - defined the rights and duties of both citizens and head of state and laid down principles of defense and foreign policy. It acknowledged that Prophet Muhammad would have the final word on any matter of disagreement while explicitly recognizing freedom of religion, particularly for the Jews, to whom the constitution afforded equality with Muslims in all that concerned life within the community.

Prior to the spread of Islam in Madinah and arrival of Allah's Messenger, the Aus and Khazraj as well as the Jews had agreed to recognize Abdullah bin Ubayy as their leader, and preparations were being made to crown him king. So when people began to desert him in favor of Islam, he perceived that the appearance of the Prophet in Madinah had deprived him of his kingship and was filled with rage and jealousy. Since most of the community were determined to embrace Islam, he went along with the tide and declared acceptance of it outwardly while retaining enmity in his heart. All those who had been ambitious for power and prestige were similarly outraged at the success of this new movement which had united the Muhajirun and Ansaar in allegiance to the Messenger of Allah. These formed a group of hypocrites who entered the religion deceptively and worked against it from within.

Not content with the being rid of their Muslim citizens, the Quraysh in Makkah contacted Abdullah bin Ubayy. They sent him an ultimatum demanding that he hand over or at least expel the Prophet and his companions, otherwise they would launch a military offensive that would annihilate his army and take his women captive. Abdullah bin Ubayy responded positively to the Makkan polytheists and mobilized his supporters. On learning of this alliance, the Prophet advised Abdullah to be more rational and cautioned his men against being tricked into fighting against their own kinsmen. The men abandoned the idea so their chief had to comply, but he remained a dangerous ally of the angry Quraysh and envious Jews.

The revelation of Qur'anic verses to the Messenger of Allah continued regularly, providing constant guidance and direction for him and his followers. The style of revelation in Madinah was distinct from that of Makkan verses and dealt with different matters. Relationships with other peoples were defined and the believers were repeatedly warned by Allah against both external enemies and internal weaknesses. The Qur’an exposed and warned against strategies of the hypocrites, their hidden agenda and concealed activities.

Divine legislation and instruction was eagerly awaited and immediately applied within the community of believers. The verses were being sent down in stages according to the needs and requirements of specific circumstances, giving certainty to the believers that Allah is aware of all things and that He was with them during every situation, no matter how difficult. At the same time, it contained the charter for an Islamic state as well as universal guidance for all mankind, applicable to every place and every age and valid until the end of time. The Qur'an is indeed the lasting miracle of God's final prophet.

Muslims who were unable to emigrate from Makkah had become the object of increasing vengeance of the Quraysh, but still no order to defend or retaliate had come from Allah. In desperation, the oppressed people called out to Him to save them from the ever-increasing persecution. At this precarious juncture, permission was finally given for the Muslims to fight because of the injustice done to them­.

Provocations and skirmishes were to pave the way for a major confrontation between the Muslims and the polytheists. The Makkans threatened to exterminate the Muslims in their new homeland of Madinah. When the Prophet received information from reliable sources attesting to the intrigues and plots being devised by the enemies of Islam, precautionary measures were taken and a state of alert was declared.

Then Allah revealed: Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not commit aggression. Indeed, Allah does not like aggressors.[2] Thus began the struggle defend the infant state, to liberate mankind from the tyranny of other men and to establish true worship of Allah upon the earth. This is an aspect of the term "jihad". But it is incorrect to assume that jihad is synonymous with war, for the word essentially means: a strenuous and sincere effort on the personal as well as the social level. It is a struggle to implement good and to remove injustice, oppression and evil from one's self and one's society. This effort is a spiritual, social, economic and political one.[3]

Trade caravans were essential to the continued prosperity of the Quraysh. Word reached Madinah that a caravan returning from Syria laden with goods would be passing within close range of the city. By intercepting the caravan the Muslims hoped to assert their influence and recover a small portion of what they had been forced to leave behind. However, since it was a commercial caravan, the Prophet did not make significant arrangements for fighting. Perceiving the possibility of a raid, the caravan's leader sent a call for help to the Quraysh, who immediately dispatched an army from Makkah. The result was the Battle of Badr. Upon seeing the Muslims inadequately equipped and vastly outnumbered, the Prophet fervently supplicated his Lord for support. The small band of Muslims fought valiantly, and as Allah revealed in the Qur'an, He reinforced them with a thousand angels. The amazing victory at Badr established the Muslim community as a political entity and gained it prestige among the neighboring tribes. ­

One year later, burning with the desire for revenge, the Prophet's enemies amassed an army three times larger than before. Revelation came down from Allah ordering the believers to defend and strike back.[4] The Messenger of Allah decided it would be best to face them in his own territory, so the armies met at Mount Uhud. Again the Muslims, whose numbers were small in comparison, fought courageously. They were on the verge of victory when a faction of the army, using their own judgement and disobeying the Prophet's orders, caused a weakness in the ranks which was exploited by the enemy. This led to a setback for the Muslims, the loss of many lives, and the wounding of the Prophet - a costly mistake but a valuable lesson for the believers.

After the Battle of Badr, one of the Jewish tribal chiefs proceeded to Makkah to reconfirm his alliance with the pagans and incite them to a war of revenge. Following the Battle of Uhud, the same Jewish leader and his men conspired to assassinate the Prophet by dropping a large stone on him from the top of a wall, but Allah again protected His Messenger. In spite of their treachery, the only demand made of this tribe was that they leave the region of Madinah.

Two years later, the Quraysh amassed an even larger force and made alliances with other pagan tribes and the exiled Jewish clans as well as the Jews who remained inside Madinah. They did not hesitate to violate their agreement with the Prophet since they expected his defeat at the hands of the powerful alliance. The coalition planned and mobilized for an invasion.

Upon obtaining this information, the Prophet and his companions prepared for defense of Madinah. They spent days and nights digging a trench around the vulnerable part of the city to keep the attacking armies at bay. The coalition of enemy forces besieged the city for three weeks. There were also enemies from within - the Jews who had defected and Arab hypocrites secretly working against the state. After a tense and difficult period in which their defense was nearly broken, the Muslims turned in fervent supplication to their Lord. Thereupon, Allah sent a violent wind against the enemy camp, wrecking havoc therein, terrifying them and forcing them to withdraw. This encounter, known as the Battle of al-Khandaq (or al-Ahzaab), was the last attempt by the Quraysh to destroy the Muslim base.

In the following period it was necessary to subdue the Jews, who had violated their treaty with the state, as well as those polytheistic tribes which were a continuing threat. But during this time as well, many of the neighboring tribes, hearing of the "new" religion and sending emissaries to inquire about it, entered Islam. This active period also witnessed several of the Prophet's marriages, all of which were contracted for political and social reasons and out of mercy for widows who had suffered for the cause of Islam.[5]

In the sixth year after the Hijrah the Prophet and a large company of his companions set out for Makkah with the intention of performing the rites of Umrah.[6] Alarmed at growing Muslim influence, the Quraysh sought to prevent them, and met them a short distance from Makkah. After a session of difficult negotiations, they established a ten year agreement, called the Truce of Hudaybiyyah. Its conditions may be summarized as follows:

Ÿ Both parties would observe a state of peace and not interfere with the free movement of the other.

Ÿ Every tribe would be allowed to enter into an alliance with either party and become a participant in the treaty.

Ÿ The Umrah would be postponed until the following year. At that time, the Muslims would be permitted to stay in Makkah for three days only.

Ÿ Any man leaving the Quraysh to join the Muslims must be sent back, but any man coming from the Muslims to Quraysh would not be sent back.

The Quraysh of Makkah were pleased with this treaty so seemingly to their advantage. Although they were reluctant to accept its terms and viewed it as a setback, the companions complied out of faith in their prophet, who had agreed to the conditions. But Allah distinctly referred to it in the Qur'an as a "clear victory", and those who had first considered it a concession came to understand its benefit and wisdom thereafter. This truce was, in fact, a formal recognition of the Muslim state and of the right of all people to practice and invite others to their religion.

The following year Makkah was temporarily evacuated by the Quraysh, and the Messenger with 2000 of his followers were allowed to perform Umrah. Observing them from the surrounding hills, the Makkans were impressed by the sight, and many conversions to Islam took place.

Even before the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and despite his demanding responsibilities as head of state, the Prophet had been resolutely teaching the religion ordained by Allah. But it was as yet confined to the region of Madinah due to the belligerent activities of the Quraysh and their widespread influence. The ten-year truce provided a cessation of hostilities between the Quraysh and Muslims during which the Prophet could freely send his representatives on missions to make the religion known throughout the Arabian peninsula. This he did with remarkable results.

Among the objections to Islam cited by pagan chiefs who rejected any concept of accountability for their actions was belief in the Hereafter and its balance of just compensation. They asserted that restoration of life after death is impossible, simply because no man had ever witnessed it. But the Qur'anic verses recited by the Prophet offered the logical answer that the present creation is in itself a clear sign of Allah's ability to create and re-create as He wills. "Is not He who created the heavens and earth able to create the likes of them?[7] Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and earth and did not fail in their creation, is able to give life to the dead?[8] Does man not remember that We created him before, while he was nothing?[9] And you have already known the first creation, so will you not be reminded?"[10] Many found this reasoning compelling enough to dispel all doubt. Other issues of faith were progressively being resolved in the same way - through divine revelation to the Messenger of Allah.

As he was commissioned by Allah to address all of mankind, Prophet Muhammad campaigned intently for the return to pure monotheism and to divinely ordained moral values among the peoples of the world. Profiting from the period of peace, he now launched an intensive program for the propagation of Islam and extended his message into lands beyond the frontiers of Arabia. He sent emissaries who, in addition to their dedication and extensive knowledge of the religion, were acquainted with the culture and language of the peoples to whom they were sent. The Prophet dispatched letters to rulers of Byzantium, Persia, Abyssinia, Egypt, Damascus, Bahrain, Yamamah, Oman and other provinces, some of whom responded favorably while others refused out of arrogance or fear of losing power.

Because common people are likely to follow the customs, ideologies and incentives of their leaders, the Messenger of Allah addressed several letters to the most influential rulers of neighboring nations and empires, inviting them to Islam. Only a prophet of God sent on a divine mission would dare to summon imperious autocrats to accept his prophethood. Such a man could not harbor the least doubt about the success of his sacred mission. His conviction regarding the support and capability of his Lord was such that the proudest sovereign did not appear to him anything more than a puppet whose strings were held in the hand of Allah. Whatever responses he received, the Prophet and his message had now been acknowledged by the major powers of the day.




[1] At that time, the Ka`bah, representing monotheism, housed 360 idols in and around it.

[2] Qur'an - 2:190.

[3] For example, one of the highest levels of jihad mentioned by the Prophet is to speak a word of truth to a tyrant. Restraining the self from wrongdoing is a form of jihad, and it also includes social reforms and efforts to eliminate ignorance, poverty, foreign domination, racial discrimination, religious persecution and oppression of every kind.

[4] Qur’anic verses concerning battle are often quoted out of their historical context to allege that Islam promotes violence and exhorts its followers to kill non-Muslims. However, these verses, without exception, address aggressions committed against Muslims during the time of the Prophet. Jihad in the form of armed struggle becomes an option only after the failure of all peaceful measures, and then, it can only be declared by the religious leadership or head of a Muslim of state. Moreover, it is subject to strict regulations. The Messenger emphatically prohibited the killing of non-combatants, and the Qur'an instructs: And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (8:61) Islam forbids injustice, even toward those who oppose the religion. Enmity toward any people or nation should never provoke Muslims to commit aggression against them, oppress them or disregard their rights, as stated in the Qur'an (See 5:8).

[5] After the death of Khadijah and before the Hijrah, the Prophet married Sawdah, a widow, and A'ishah, the daughter of his closest companion, Abu Bakr. The rest of his marriages took place after his residence in Madinah.

[6] The lesser pilgrimage to the Ka`bah, which may be done at any time of the year.

[7] Qur'an - 36:81

[8] Qur'an - 46:33

[9] Qur'an - 19:67 It is to be noted that God's reference to Himself as "We" in many Qur'anic verses is understood in the Arabic language to denote grandeur and power, not plurality.

[10] Qur'an - 56:62




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