Click to View

page 25


State of Parties at Medina - First two Years after Mahomet's Arrival
A.H. 11 A.D. 623.

Parties at Medina: I. Muhajerin, or "Refugees"

Thn enthusiasm displayed by the inhabitants of Medina, on their first reception of Mahomet, by degrees found time to subside. The several parties began to settle down into their normal state, and to assume the relations which they were thenceforward permanently to hold. It will be of service to glance for a moment at each of these parties.

The followers of Mahomet who had forsaken, their homes and preceded or accompanied him in exile Were called by the afterwards illustrious title of MUHAJERIN, or "Refugees." They are already known to the reader as a devoted band, forward to acknowledge Mahomet not only as their prophet and priest, but also as their king Upon them he could depend to the uttermost1.

1Under the term Refttgece are included all those converts also who from time to time joined Mahomet at Medina, coming either from Mecca or from any other quarter, up to the taking of Mecca in A.H. vill. The number of the MUHAJERIN was then oloted. It was only while Mecca was under an idolatrous government that there was any merit in emigrating from it

part 26

II. Ansar; or converts of Medina

Next come the converts of Medina. Bound to Mahomet by fewer ties of blood and antecedent fellowship, they did not yield to the Refugees in loyalty to him, or in enthusiasm for Islam. They had made less outward sacrifice; but their pledge at Acaba had involved them in serious risks, as well from their own countrymen (should they disclaim the engagement), as from the Meccans. In short, they had compromised themselves almost as deeply as the Refugees. Plighted only to defend Mahomet in case of attack, they soon practically identified themselves with the Refugees in all offensive measures against his enemies. Hence they were styled ANSAR, "Helpers" or "Allies." But as, in process of time, Mahomet found many other auxiliaries amongst the Arab tribes, I have ordinarily, to prevent confusion, spoken of them as "the men of Medina2."

The enmity of the Aws and Zhazraj suppressed by Islam

The ancient feuds of the Aws and Khazraj were professedly forgotten amongst the converts at Medina. The very acceptance of the faith required that they should acknowledge not only the spiritual but also the temporal authority of Mahomet, and regard themselves all as brethren. Having surrendered

2Eventually the two terms become convertible; that is to say, when all the citizens of Medina were ostensibly converted to Islam, they became all Ansars.

I had wished to adopt an English term for this name, such as "Helpers," or "Adjutors" (the latter designation indeed will be found in a few places in the previous volumes); but I found I could not carry out the intention without either an offence to style or to perspicuity.

page 27

themselves wholly to his will and government, there was little room left for internal rivalries. Still, the memory of their long standing jealousy and strife was not always suppressed by the lessons of religion; and believer was ,often arrayed against believer in unseemly, and sometimes dangerous, contention.

Converts at Medina numerous

We have no precise data for calculating the proportion of the inhabitants thus actively ranged on the side of Mahomet. The seventy-five adherents who pledged themselves at Acaba were but the representatives of a larger body left behind at Medina; and the cause of Islam had since then been daily gaining ground. We may conclude that the professed converts at this time numbered several hundreds.

Abu Amir and his followers go off to Mecca

There was at Medina one Abu Amir, who had travelled in Syria and other countries, and from his secluded habits was called the hermit. This man professed to be a teacher in religion, and challenged Mahomet as having superadded doctrines of his own to the "Faith of Abraham." Offended at the popularity of the new religion, and sympathizing rather with the people who had cast forth the upstart prophet, Abu Amir, with about twenty followers, retired to Mecca3.

3Hishami, 204; K. Wackidi 105 1/2; C. de Perceval, iii. 21. Abu Amir was the father of Hantzala, one of Mahomet's devoted followers, killed at Ohod. His history is curious. When Mahomet denied his imputations against Islam, Abu Amir abused him as a "poor, solitary outcast," "Nay,"

page 28

Remaining citizens neutral

The remaining body of the Aws and Khazraj were either neutral or, at least outwardly, passive in their unbelief. There was no active opposition, nor, as at Mecca, any open denial of Mahomet's supernatural claims.

Mahomet allowed sovereign authority over his adherents,

There was, furthermore, no direct antagonism to his temporal authority over his own adherents. The peculiar constitution of Arab society, which admitted the residence of several detached bodies at the same place, each under its separate independent chiet enabled Mahomet freely to exercise an absolute and sovereign control over his own people, without, for the time, extending his claims to any further jurisdiction4.

Idolatry and scepticism suppressed

But, though there was no apparent hostility, and the whole of the citizens, unbelievers as well as converts, held themselves bound to fulfil the pledge of protection to the exile, yet a strong under-current of jealousy and discontent was rapidly setting in against him. We have before seen that Abdallah ibn Obey, the chief man of the Khazrajites, and the most powerful citizen in all Medina, was aspiring to the regal dignity, when his hopes were blighted by the

replied the Prophet, "that will be thine own fate, thou liar!" He took a prominent part, with fifty followers, in the battle of Ohod; and, after the conquest of Mecca, he retired to Tayif. When the people of Tayif gave in their adhesion to Mahomet, he proceeded to Syria, and there died (in fulfument of the Prophet's curse) "a wretched solitary outcast."

4See Introduction, chap. iv. vol.1. p. ccxlii., for a brief sketch of this state of society.

page 29

arrival of Mahomet5. Around Abdallah rallied the numerous party which was sceptical of the Prophet's claims, and unfriendly to the extension of his rule; but these were unable to stem the tide of the Stranger's popularity. The circle of his adherents steadily expanded, and soon embraced nominally the whole city. Idolatry disappeared, and scepticism over-matched, was forced to hide its head.

III. But ill will cherished by the Disaffected

Real belief in Mahomet was not, however, of such rapid growth. Doubts and jealousies possessed the hearts of many, and in private, at a convenient distance from Mahomet, found free expression. They complained that they had foolishly espoused a cause which would make them run the

5Introduction, chap. iv. vol.1. p. ccxxxiv. "One day Mahomet saddled his ass, and went forth to inquire after Sad ibn Obada, who was sick. By the way he passed Abdallah, sitting with a circle of his followers under the shade of his house. Mahomet's courtly manners would not permit him to pass without speaking; so he alighted, and saluted him, and sat a little while beside him, reciting some portion of the Coran, inviting him to God, &c. Abdallah listened quietly till he had ended: then he said, - 'Nothing could be better than this discourse of thine if it were true. Now, therefore, do thou sit at home in thine own house, and whosoever cometh to thee preach thus unto him, and he that cometh not unto thee refrain from troubling him, or intruding into his circle with that which he dislikes.' And Mahomet went his way, down- cast at that which Abdallah, the enemy of God, had said unto him; which Sad perceiving, inquired the cause. Mahomet recited what Abdallah had said. Then Sad replied, - 'Treat him gently, for I swear that when God sent thee unto us, we had already strung pearls to crown him, and he seeth that thou hast snatched the kingdom out of his grasp."' Hishami, 205.

page 30

gauntlet of all Arabia; and for what return? Only to lose their liberties, and to bring themselves under bondage to a foreign usurper! The class which cherished these sentiments were styled MUNAFICUN, the "Hypocrites." But hypocrisy and disaffection are, in the vocabulary of Islam, nearly synonymous; and, as the views of this party displayed themselves rather in political opposition than in religious antagonism, it will be more correct to call them the "Disaffected.6"

6Ibn Ishac thus describes this class: "Then the Jewish doctors were filled with hatred and envy or Mahomet, because God had chosen a prophet from amongst the Arabs. And there joined themselves unto these Jews certain men of the Aws and Khazraj, who were in reality little removed from the idolatry of their fathers and rejection of the true faith, only that Islam had by its prevalence overpowered them - the mass having already gone over to it. So they ostensibly joined Islam, and took it as a shield unto them from death; but in secret they were traitors, and their hearts were with the Jews in their rejection of the Prophet." Hishami, 183.

Tradition delights to hold up this class to scorn, in stories such as the following: - "Jallas, talking privately of Mahomet's teaching, said, - 'Verily, if this man speak the truth, we are all worse than asses.' Omeir, his ward, who was a believer, overheard the saying, and told it to Mahomet; but Jallas went also to Mahomet, and swore by the day of judgment that he lied. Whereupon, Sura, ix. 7, convicting Jallas, was revealed." Ibid. 185. See in further illustration, Introduction, vol. i. p. lxxii. note.

There are also tales of the 'disaffected' being ignominiously expelled from the Mosque, and even from the clubs or social circles of the citizens; but all such tales are to be received with caution, owing to the strong feeling against this class. See Canon, I. I. Introduction, vol i. p. lviii.

page 31

IV. The Jews

The JEWISH TRIBES located in the vicinity of Medina were on an entirely different footing. Mahomet, as I have already shown, had not only acknowledged the divine authority of their religion, but rested his own claims, in an important degree, upon the evidence of their Scriptures, and the testimony of their learned men. No object was nearer his heart than a combination with them. His feasts, his fasts, his ceremonies, were, up to this time, framed in close correspondence with Jewish custom. Jerusalem itself was his Kibla. Towards that holy spot, the Prophet, and all his followers, turned five times a day while they prostrated themselves in prayer. There was no sacrifice that Mahomet was not prepared to make, short of the abandonment of his claim to the prophetic office, in order to gain the Jews over to his cause.

Mahomet desirous of a combination with them

It was natural that Mahomet, holding these sentiments, should desire to enter isato close union with the Jews. This he did in a formal manner shortly after reaching Medina; for he associated them in a treaty of mutual obligation, drawn up in writing, between the Refugees and the men of Medina, in which he confirmed the Jews in the practice of their religion, and in the secure possession of their property. The main provisions of this Contract, as given to us by Ibn Ishac, are the following : -

The Treaty of Medina


page 32

"THE CHARTER of Mahomet, the Prophet, between the believers of the Coreish and of Yathreb, and whosoever else joineth himself unto them, and striveth with them7 for the Faith, - verily, they are a peculiar people, apart from the rest of mankind. The Refugees, according to their several clans, shall defray the price of blood shed among themselves, and shall ransom honourably their prisoners8. The Bani Awf, according to their clans, shall do the same; and so with the Bani Saida, Josham, Najjar, Nabit, Aws, &c., each according to their clans. Whosoever is rebellious, or seeketh to spread iniquity, enmity, or sedition, amongst the Believers, the hand of every man shall be against him, even if he be the son of one of themselves. No Believer shall be put to death for killing an Infidel9; nor shall any Infidel be supported against a Believer.

7 This word came subsequently to have exclusively the technical signification of Jihad, crusade, or fighting for the Faith. if we give it this signification here, it would involve the clause in the suspicion of being a later addition; for as yet we have no distinct development of the intention of Mahomet to impose his religion on others by force: it would have been dangerous, in the present state of parties, to advance this principle. The word is sometimes used in the more general sense in the Coran; Sura, xxix. 5, 69; xx. 77, and a few other places.

8 The mention of prisoners looks a little anticipative; though, in the insecure state of Arab society, the taking of prisoners was possible at any time, and the clause may therefore pass.

9 This also looks somewhat anticipative: Mahomet had no power to enjoin such an exemption, when his own position was as yet simply permissive.

page 33

Whosoever of the Jews followeth10 us shall have aid and succour; they shall not be injured, nor shall any enemy be aided against them. Protection shall not be granted by any Unbeliever11 to the Coreish of Mecca, either in their persons or their property. Whosoever killeth a Believer wrongfully shall be liable to retaliation; the Moslems shall join as one man against the murderer. The curse of God, and his wrath in the day of judgment, shall rest on the man that shall aid or shelter him.

"The Jews shall contribute with the Moslems, so long as they are at war with a common enemy. The several branches of the Jews, - those attached respectively to the Bani Awf, Bani Najjar, Bani Aws, &c., are one people with the Believers. The Jews will maintain their own religion, the Moslems theirs. As with the Jews, so with their adherents; excepting him who shall transgress and do iniquity, he alone shall be punished and his family. No one shall go forth but with the permission of

10Follows us, apparently used here in the sense of "joins our alliance." It does not imply "joins our religion;" for the Jews are specially secured in the enjoyment of their own religion. 11Unbeliever here refers apparently to that portion of the population of Medina which had not submitted to Mahomet's claims, and who are thus brought indirectly into the covenant M.C. de Perceval adds, - "or Jew;" but this is not in Hishami, iii.28.

page 34

Mahomet12. None shall be held back from seeking his lawful revenge, unless it be excessive. The Jews shall be responsible for their own expenditure, the Moslems for theirs. Each, if attacked, shall come to the assistance of the other. Medina shall be sacred and inviolable for all that join this Treaty. Strangers, under protection, shall be treated on the same footing as their protectors; but no stranger shall be taken under protection save with consent of his tribe. New questions and doubts, likely to produce evil and danger, shall be referred for decision to God and Mahomet his prophet. War and Peace shall be made in common13.

And none but the Evil man and the Oppressor shall change the conditions of this charter14."

12I do not know exactly the force of this clause; it signifies, perhaps, that no Believer should emigrate, or leave the country, or go forth to battle.

13 A suspicious addition occurs in the original, which excepts from this condition wars made by the Moslems "against all mankind :" - evidently an apocryphal clause.

14 Hishami, 176. I have given the translation in an abridged form. There is throughout frequent reiteration that upright and honest dealing shall be observed, and that whoever transgresses shall do so at his own risk, &c. After all, it is vain to look for any exact statement of the terms, as it is nowhere said that the original, or any copy, of the treaty was preserved. We can, therefore, only regard the version given by Ishac as an account transmitted by memory, admitting much vagueness and looseness of expression; and this will account for the several evidently purious clauses.

page 35

Ill-will grows up between Mahomet and the Jews.

It is nowhere stated when this treaty was entered into; but we may naturally conclude that it was not long after the arrival of Mahomet at Medina. It is probable that, for a short time, the Jews remained on terms of cordiality with their new ally; but it soon became apparent to them that Judaism could not go hand in hand with Islam. The position of Mahomet was no longer negative: his religion was not a mere protest against error and superstition. It was daily becoming more positive and more exclusive in its terms. The Prophet rested his claims on the predictions of the Jewish Scriptures; yet he did not profess to be the Messiah ; --- the Messiah, he held, had already appeared in the person of Jesus, and had been rejected. He was himself another, and a greater Prophet, also foretold in their Book. The Jews, he said, knew this: they recognized in Mahomet the promised Prophet, "as they recognized their own sons;" yet, out of jealousy and spite, from wilful blindness, they rejected him, as they had rejected their own Messiah. This was the position which Mahomet held: how could they concede it without an entire abandonment of Judaism? It was impossible. Thus Judaism and Islam came rapidly into a state of direct antagonism. Those Jews who joined Mahomet virtually abnegated their ancestral faith, and went over to another. With few exceptions, however, the Jews remained stedfast, and fearlessly testified that their Scriptures contained no

page 36

warrant for the assumptions of the Arabian Prophet: the Messiah that was to come, they said, should be of Jewish blood, and of the lineage of David. The disappointed hope of finding in Mahomet a supporter of their faith, naturally changed into bitter and hostile feeling. What availed his oft-repeated professions of respect for their ancient prophets, and allegiance to their Scriptures, when he now so openly contradicted their clearest testimony?

They are inveighed against as blind and stiff-necked

The few traitors to Judaism, whom Mahomet was able (by what inducements we shall see by and by) to gain over, were of the utmost service to his cause. They were constantly referred to as his "witnesses". They bore evidence that the Prophet's character answered to every mark predicted in their Books; and asserted that their brethren, actuated by jealousy, and mortified that the gift of prophecy should pass over from their nation to another people, had concealed the passages which were favourable to his claims. These were the only men whose eyes were open. Judicial blindness had seized the rest; a "thick covering" enveloped their hearts, and rendered them seared and callous. They followed in the footsteps of their forefathers. What but unbelief and rebellion might be looked for from the descendants of those who murmured against Moses, killed their Prophets, and rejected their Messiah?

The Jews a standing cause of annoyance to Mahomet

Such was the plausible reasoning by which

page 37

Mahomet succeeded, so far as his own followers were concerned, in setting aside the adverse testimony of the Jews; yet they were a constant cause of trouble and anxiety. They annoyed him with questions, the point of which he found it often difficult to turn aside. The very people to whose corroboration he had spontaneously appealed over and over again in the Coran, proved a stubborn and standing witness against him14. There existed, also, a strong sympathy between the clans of Medina and the Jewish tribes, which had severally stood by them in their troubles, and had repeatedly shed their blood in their defence. Sympathy in such a direction was dangerous to Mahomet. He resolved to rid him of this source of weakness and risk; and he was not long in finding pretexts which might enable him to gain his end.

Notices of them in the Coran

Meanwhile, his Revelation teemed with invectives against the Israelites. The tales of their forefathers' disobedience, folly, idolatry, were reiterated at great length; and the conclusion insinuated that the

14Tradition gives a great variety of tales in illustration of this point; but they are all cast in a mould of ridicule and contempt of the Jew, who always comes off the worst, humbled and abased. We may be allowed to doubt whether the scales did not rather turn on the other side. Mahomet evidently smarted under the attacks of the Jews. We have even greater need of caution in receiving these stories than those about the "disaffected." See Canon I.H. Introduction, lviii.

page 38

descendants of so flagitious and incorrigible a race must be equally incorrigible and flagitious15.

These remarks explain Mahomet's secession from the Jewish institutions

This outline, otherwise in some respects premature, is necessary as an introduction to the following chapter, in which we shall find Mahomet gradually receding from the customs and institutions of the Jews, even where he had formerly adopted them.

15The reader need not go beyond the Second Sura (Bacra), which appeared in parts during the first period of Mahomet's residence at Medina, for ample illustration of this.

The Life of Mahomet, Volume III [Table of Contents]

Click to View