The Prophet reached Medina on the 12th of Rabi' I, correponding to June 28, 622 of the Christian Era. The first thing that he did on reaching Medina was to construct a mosque, now famous as the Prophet's Mosque. Here prayers to God were offered five times daily in a free atmoshere for the first time in the history of Islam. He next turned to establishing a brotherhood of the Muslims. Those who had fled from Mecca, called Muhajirs (Refugees), had left all their property behind. So, to provide shelter for them, every refugee was bound in a bond of brotherhood with one of the residents of Medina, called Ansar (Helpers).
The third important matter to which the Prophet turned his attention was to establish friendly relations between the various tribes living in Medina. Among these were three Jewish clans, and a pact was concluded with them as well. The main terms of this pact were as follows:
This agreement with the Jews shows that the Prophet had an apprehension that the exasperated Quraish who were foiled in their attempt to put an end to his life at Mecca would now attack Medina.
We have seen that when the Muslims fled to Abyssinia, the Qurais tried all the means in their power to have them expelled from there. How could they see Islam prosper so near home at Medina, an important city only 270 miles distant and on the trade route to Syria. Muhammad had already received an intimation from on High that he would have to carry on a war to save Islam from utter annihilation. The sword, he was told, would be taken up against him and he would have to fight to save the small community of Islam from destruction at the hands of a powerful enemy who was determined to uproot Islam from the soil of Arabia.
Temperamentally Muhammad was not inclined to war; he had not once handled the sword in actual fighting up to the fifty-fifth year of his age, and this in a country where, owing to constant internecine warfare, fighting had become a vocation of the people. The religion which he preached, Islam (lit. peace or submission), was a religion of peace, laying stress on prayer to God and the service of humanity, and he was required to preach this religion; to deliver the message, not to enforce it on others:
We have shown man the way,
he may be thankful or he may be unthankful. [76:3]
And in still plainer words; it was laid down:
There is no compulsion in religion. [2:256]
But war was being forced on him, and it was his duty, he was told, to defend his oppressed community who had twice fled their homes from the persecutions of a cruel enemy to a distant place:
And had there not been Allah's repelling some people by means
of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which
Allah's name is remembered most, would certainly have been pulled
These three statements follow one another in the Divine revelation to the Prophet. In a later revelation he was further told that he should by no means resort to an aggressive war. It was in defence only that he was allowed to take up the sword:
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, [2:190]
and do not exceed this limit,
for Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.
There was no question of converting anyone to Islam by force; it was the enemy that wanted to turn back the Muslims by force from Islam:
And fight with them until there is no persecution [2:193]
and religion is held for Allah.
But if they give up persecution,
then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
If the Prophet was required to cease fighting when the enemy ceased to persecute on account of religion, he was also required to cease fighting if the enemy offered peace even though he might be gaining time only to renew his attack:
When news of this reached Medina, the Prophet made hurried preparations to meet them, but could gather only a force of 313 Muslims. The two forces met at Badr, a distance of three days journey from Medina and ten days from Mecca; on the one side being 1,000 veteran warriors with whom fighting had been a life-long profession, armed with every weapon of warfare of the time, and on the other only 313 ill-equipped men, including raw youths and men advanced in age. The Prophet saw this and in deep anxiety passed the night praying to God in a small hut:
The unexpected happened. Almost all the Quraish chiefs, the ringleaders of the campaign against Islam, were slain in action. Seeing their chiefs fall, the rank and file were seized with confusion and took to flight. Seventy fell and an equal number were taken prisoners. There were fourteen casualties on the Muslim side.
The Quraish defeat at Badr was an ignominy which th could not leave unavenged. An army of 3,000 strong, with warriors like Khalid among them, marched on Medina next year, Shawwal, 3 A.H. The Muslims could muster no more than 700 men, and marched out of Medina to meet the enemy at the foot of Uhud, only three miles from the city. The Muslims fought desperately and seven of the enemy's flagbearers fell one after another. Utter confusion seized the Quraish. They took to flight and the Muslims pursued them, but just at this time Khalid saw that the Muslim archers had left their rear undefended by vacating a certain position to join in the pursuit, and wheeling round at the head of his 200 cavalry attacked the Muslims from behind. Seeing this, the fleeing Quraish army also turned back, and the handful of Muslims, in disorder on account of the pursuit, were thus pressed on both sides.
The position was so precarious that the whole Muslim army was now in danger of being annihilated. The Prophet, braving the danger of himself becoming the target of the enemy's attack, called out aloud to his men to rally round him:
This was a signal to the enemy to direct their attack to this particular point. The Muslims saw this and, cutting their way through the enemy ranks, mustered strongly round the Prophet. But in this attempt they sustained serious losses, and Mus'ab ibn 'Umair, who resembled the Prophet, being killed, the news spread like wildfire that the Prophet had been killed. Still the Muslims did not lose heart."Let us fight on for the cause for which the Prophet fought," said one of them. By this time, the Prophet had sustained serious wounds and had fallen down, but the position had become secure both for the army and for the Prophet himself who was surrounded on all sides by devoted friends. Here closing their ranks on elevated ground with the mountain protecting their reat, they again made the enemy feel their strength. The Quraish retired from the field and took their way back to Mecca. When some one entreated the Prophet to pray for the destruction of his enemies, he raised his hands, saying:
Though they had this time inflicted severe losses on the Muslims, the Quraish knew that even this attack on Medina had proved abortive. Therefore after returning from Uhud, they tried to raise the Jews and the Bedouin tribes againsts the Muslims, and in this they were successful. The Jews, the Bedouins and the Quraish all combined to deal a crushing blow to Islam. A large army of 100,000 was gathered in the fifth year of the Flight. The Muslims, unable to meet these hosts in the open field, fortified themsleves in Medina by digging a ditch on the side which was unprotected. The Prophet himself participated in digging the ditch like an ordinary labourer. Covered with dust and with the fear of annihilation lurking in their minds, they yet sang in happy chorus:
The huge force at last reached Medina. It was an hour of consternation for the Muslims. The Holy Quran thus depicts the anguish and perplexity of the moment:
Amid this seeming scene of dread and terror, the hearts of the Muslims were full of faith:
During a full month of siege the Muslims stood firm. Arrows and stones came in terrible showers but they could not break through the defence. Attacks were made and repulsed in quick succession. The siege became wearisome to the besieging army, which also began to run short of provisions. The elements of nature ultimately came to the help of the brave Muslim defence. A storm raged one night which blew down the tents of the besiegers. There was confusion among the Allies and they took to flight during the night, to the great joy and thanksgiving of the Muslims.
The Quraish now lost all hope of being able to crush the Muslims. About a year after this, the Prophet with about 1400 companions (Islam was gaining ground in spite of the wars) undertook a journey to Mecca to perform the lesser pilgrimage, but finding that the Quraish were prepared to offer armed resistance to his entry into Mecca, even though it was simply with the object of performing a religious obligation, he had to stop at about nine miles from the sacred city, at a place called Hudaibiya. Emissaries were sent to find a peaceful solution, but they were maltreated, and at last a man of the high position of Uthman, deputed to negotiate, was arrested by the Quraish. The situation was critical; the Muslim envoy had been taken into custody and there was a rumour that he had been murdered. The Muslims were unarmed except for sheathed swords, which they carried as a necessity when journeying in a country like Arabia, but they, were determined not to turn their backs. The Prophet took pledge from them, and they pledged afresh one and all, that they would fight to the last man in defence of the Prophet, whom the enemy wanted to put to death. This pledge is known ts Bai'a al-Ridzwan (Pledge of Divine Pleasure) in the history of Islam.
This resolve on the part of the Muslims brought the Quraish to their senses and a truce was at last drawn up to last for a period of ten years, with the following conditions among others:
After returning from Hudaibiya, the Prophet made arrangements to send the message of Islam to all people, Christians as well as Magians, living on the borders of Arabia. He wrote letters to the sovereigns of the neighbouring kingdoms, the Emperor of Rome, Chosroes II of Persia, the king of Egypt, the Negus of Abyssinia and certain Arab chiefs, inviting them to Islam. The letter to the Roman Emperor was worded as follows:
Peace be with him who follows the guidance.
After this, I invite thee with invitation to Islam.
And, O followers of the Book !
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful ............. [Bukhari 1:1]
From Muhammad, the servant of Allah and His Messenger,
to Heracleus, the chief of the Romans.
Become a Muslim and thou wilt be in peace --
Allah will give thee a double reward;
but if thou turnest away,
on thee will be the sin of thy subjects.
Come to an equitable proposition between us
and you that we shall not serve any but Allah,
and that we shall not associate aught with Him
and that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah;
but if they turn back, then say:
Bear witness that we are Muslims.
Peace be with him who follows the guidance.
After this, I invite thee with invitation to Islam.
And, O followers of the Book !
Of the rulers addressed the Negus accepted Islam; the king of Egypt sent some presents in reply; the Roman Emperor was impressed but his generals were averse; while Chosroes tore up the letter and sent orders to the governor of Yemen to arrest the Prophet. When the governor's soldiers reached Medina for the execution of the orders, the Prophet told them that Chosroes was himself dead and no more the king of Persia. They went back with this report to the governor of Yemen, and it was found that Chosroes II had actually been murdered by his own son on the very night indicated by the Prophet. This event led to the governor's conversion to Islam, and ultimately to Yemen's throwing off the yoke of Persia.
The truce of Hudaibiya had hardly been in force for two years when the Banu Bakr, an ally of the Quraish, attacked the Khuza'a, an ally of the Muslims, with the help of the Quraish. The Prophet thereupon sent word to the Quraish that they should either pay blood-money for those slain from among the Khuza'a or dissociate themselves from the Banu Bakr, or, in the last resort, declare the truce of Hudaibiya to be null and void. The Quraish did not agree to either of the first two proposals, and the result was the annulment of the truce. The Prophet thereupon ordered an attack on Mecca in the closing months of the eighth year of the Plight.
The two years during which the truce remained in force had brought such large numbers over to Islam that the Prophet now marched on Mecca with 10,000 men under his flag. The Meccans were unable to make any preparations to meet the attack. At Marr al-Zahran, a day's journey from Mecca, the Quraish leader, Abu Sufyan, sued for pardon, and though he was the arch-offender who had left no stone unturned to annihilate Islam, free pardon was granted to him by the Prophet.