|The city of Madinah in the Umayyad era with the Prophet's mosque in the middle. Courtesy of the Hadarah Tayyibah Exhibition held in Madinah in 2010-2012
After the Hijrah of the Prophet (pbuh), the Muslims from outside Madinah set out to throng the newly established city-state from wherever they had embraced Islam, but chiefly from Makkah. Initially, they all stayed together with the citizens of Madinah, shared with them, as well as amongst themselves, whatever they could procure, until the new houses were built and some new employment opportunities were created for them. In order to help the non-Madinah citizens settle down fast, the Prophet (pbuh) legislated the system of brotherly association
(mu'akhah) among the Migrants and Helpers. The mu'akhah included 90 men, 45 from either side. Before long, the projected integration of the Helpers and Migrants was set to be consolidated further after the mixed marriages started to take place. Of the first Migrants who got married from the ranks of the Helpers were Abu
Bakr, 'Umar b. al-Khattab and 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf. Consequently, the number of the Madinah citizens grew very fast. The increase was several times the original population size. Following the expulsion of the Jews, who numbered between 6000 and 7000 and whose estates and houses the incoming Muslims occupied, the overall population growth, for a short term, was brought to a halt. However, it was not so long before it started increasing again. According to an estimation, the size of the Madinah populace at the time of the
Prophet's death was about 30000. Some researchers also estimated that in the sixth year subsequent to the Hijrah, the houses of Madinah numbered approximately 800, and by the tenth year the number must have climbed the figure of between 2000 and 2500.
Obviously, due to this sharp population increase in Madinah, the Prophet's mosque, a community development center, had to be enlarged after the conquest of Khaybar in the seventh year. However, before long the mosque appeared again to be too small to accommodate comfortably the ever-increasing number of worshippers, especially on Fridays during the
Jumu'ah prayer. An unmistakable hint at this is found in a proclamation of the second caliph Umar b. al-Khattab, who several years after the
Prophet's death enlarged significantly the mosque. Umar said that if he had not heard the Prophet (pbuh) saying - perhaps shortly before he had passed away
- that the mosque should be enlarged (yet again) he, in all probability, would have refrained from doing anything to it.
This only goes to prove that the number of the Migrants in Madinah was constantly increasing, whereas the number of the Helpers remained virtually static. The ratio of the Helpers vis-ˆ-vis the rest was steadily becoming in favor of the latter. How the Madinah demography was fast changing against the interests of the Helpers could be seen from the statistics on the number of Muslim warriors in the battle of Badr, which occurred eleven months after the Hijrah. The number of the fighters from the Migrants was only over sixty, whereas the number of the Helpers was over 249. Apart from the battle of Uhud, about one year later, this kind of disparity, whereby the Helpers greatly outnumbered the Migrants, was not to recur in any forthcoming military expedition.
The Prophet (pbuh) was very much concerned about this emerging phenomenon and its potential repercussions, doing his best to safeguard the identity, interests, role and standing of the Helpers. The
Prophet's words that the Hijrah to Madinah, following the conquest of Makkah, was no longer binding, could be viewed as one of the strategies adopted for protecting the Helpers. One day during the illness from which he never recovered, the Prophet (pbuh) came out from his house to the mosque where he sat on the minbar and addressed the people with these words:
"The people will go on increasing, but the Helpers will go on decreasing till they become just like salt in a meal. So, whoever amongst you will be the ruler and have the power to harm or benefit others, should accept the good of the good-doers amongst them (the Helpers) and excuse the wrong-doers amongst them (the
Surely, the Prophet (pbuh) could not forget what the Helpers had done for his own sake, for the sake of Islam, and for the sake of their brethren from Makkah. He one day remarked that the Helpers were those with whom he finally found a safe haven. The companion Abu Hurayrah, while narrating one of the hadiths on the virtues of the Helpers, commented that the Prophet (pbuh) was not unjust by loving and having a high regard for the Helpers, for they sheltered and helped him.
On the eve of the materialization of the Hijrah, when the Prophet (pbuh) concluded a pact in Makkah with the future Helpers, he did so on condition that the allegiance they pledged him shall bind them to protect him even as they protect their women and children. It should be noted that at this point a man from the Aws tribe anxiously remarked:
"But might it not be that if we do this, and if then God gives you victory, you will return to your people and leave
us?" At this, the Prophet (pbuh) just smiled and said: "Nay, I am yours and you are
The name "Helpers" (Ansar) was not given by chance to the Muslim citizens of Madinah. The name Ansar was actually given after the Ansar of the Prophet
'Isa (Jesus), i.e., Hawariyyun or Disciples, who pledged to dedicate their lives to helping their prophet in conveying, disseminating and putting into action
God's words of guidance, exactly what the Helpers of Madinah later did to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The
Qur'an says: "When Jesus found unbelief on their part he said: 'Who will be my helpers (ansari) to (the work of)
Allah?' Said the Disciples: 'We are Allah's helpers (ansar Allah) we believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are
"O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah (ansar Allah): as said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples:
'Who will be my helpers (ansari) to (the work of) Allah?' Said the Disciples: 'We are
Allah's helpers!" Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: but We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, and they became the ones that
The Helpers came to the Prophet's rescue when he and the rest of the Muslim nascent and fragile community needed a helping hand most. When the hopes of making any new notable
da'wah progress in Makkah started to fade away, and, at the same time, when the assaults on the existing position of Islam and the Muslims seem to have reached some novel and extremely perilous proportions, the Prophet (pbuh) embarked on an exercise of meeting the people from different regions during their pilgrimage seasons, telling them in the frankest manner:
"Who is going to help and shelter me so that I can convey the message of my Lord, since the Quraysh had prevented me from doing
so?" In one of such seasons, the Prophet (pbuh) came across some people from Madinah and the meeting marked the commencement of incubating the ideas and strategies that led to what later turned out to be the most significant event in the history of Islam, i.e., the Hijrah.