|The walled city of Madinah in the Abbasid era. Courtesy of the Hadarah Tayyibah Exhibition held in Madinah in 2010-2012.
So many statements did the Prophet (pbuh) make on the merits of the Helpers that al-Bukhari in his
"Sahih" grouped some of them under the title "The Merits of the Helpers in
Madinah". The Prophet (pbuh) said, for example: "None loves the Helpers but a believer, and none hates them but a hypocrite. So Allah will love him who loves them, and He will hate him who hates
"The sign of belief is to love the Helpers, and the sign of hypocrisy is to hate the
One day the Prophet (pbuh) saw some women and children from the Helpers who were returning from a wedding party. The Prophet (pbuh) stood up and said thrice:
"By Allah! You are from the most beloved people to me."
In reality, had it been improperly administered, exceedingly sensitive, and at times even hazardous, would the situation in Madinah have turned out to be, especially at the early stages when all the reconciliatory measures between the Migrants and Helpers were yet to be implemented, and the process of total Islamization was far from its completion. Besides, whenever given a chance, the hypocrites of Madinah
- for long periods a considerable portion of the city's overall population - never failed to try to capitalize on the existing state of affairs in the city, so that a commotion of any kind or degree could have been stirred, thus opening the door for their scams and deceit. The hypocrites would normally target at those Muslims, from either the
Helpers' or the Migrants' ranks, who were not at all times perfectly unwavering, not from contumacy or ill-will, but from thoughtlessness and some intrinsic human weaknesses and vulnerability.
One such chance was the Prophet's military expedition against the tribe Banu Mustaliq in the sixth year in which a large number of the Migrants took part. The number of the Helpers was large too. The leader of the Madinah hypocrites, Abdullah b. Ubay b. Salul, was also there with some of his men, hoping for attaining any of his filthy goals. Among the Migrants there was a man who used to fool around, so he jokingly stroked a Helper on the hip. The Helper got so angry that both of them called their people. The Helper called:
"Help, O Helpers!" And the Migrant called: "Help, O Migrants!" The Prophet (pbuh) came out and said:
"What is wrong with the people as they are calling this call of the period of
Ignorance?" When told what had happened, the Prophet (pbuh) demanded that such evil calls be immediately stopped. However, when Abdullah b. Ubay b. Salul heard what had come about, his malevolent comment was:
"The Migrants have called (and gathered against us), so when we return to Madinah, surely, the more honorable people will expel therefrom the
meaner." So offensive was the statement that Umar b. al-Khattab wasted no time to ask the Prophet (pbuh) to allow him to kill its author. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, reflecting further the complexity of the situation in
Madinah: "No, lest the people should say that Muhammad used to kill his
companions." This incident was the immediate cause for revealing the following
Qur'anic verse: "They say: 'If we return to Madinah, surely the more honorable (elements) will expel therefrom the
meaner.' But honor belongs to Allah and His Messenger, and to the Believers; but the Hypocrites know
8). This verse is in a Qur'anic chapter called "Hypocrites" (al-Munafiqun).
|The city of Madinah in the Ottoman era. The Quba' district is on the right. The core of the city with the Prophet's mosque in the middle, is on the left. Courtesy of the Hadarah Tayyibah Exhibition held in Madinah in 2010-2012.
By bringing the Hijrah to Madinah to an end, the Prophet (pbuh) virtually opened the door for, and even indirectly encouraged, the establishment of new Muslim urban settlements in a foreseeable future. Such a strategy was inevitable, in order to cater for the needs of both the conquering army and the conquered Islamized population in the increasingly vast and vibrant Muslim state. Thus, due to the incredible nature of the spread of Islam, and due to the overwhelming Muslim socio-political, economic and cultural dominance in the territories opened to Islam (fath), several new urban settlements were soon established. Having undergone a necessary inclusive Islamization process, a number of conquered cities were simply adopted as such to serve the same purpose. Those urban settlements quickly emerged as the fresh political and economic centers of the Muslims. Because of the ensuing socio-political and economic developments in the state, moreover, the new centers started soon to rival, and some even to challenge, Madinah with regard to the
latter's political dominance. Ultimately -- as well as unfortunately -- Madinah was stripped of its reputation as the center of gravity in the Muslim state, dominating the life of the Muslims thereafter but in the matters pertaining to the religious and, from time to time, intellectual domain. As a result, many people were enticed into leaving Madinah intending to settle somewhere else.
As early as during the reign of the fourth orthodox caliph, Ali b. Abi Talib, Madinah started to lose its luster to some other cities, such as Kufah in Iraq and Damascus in Syria. In order to accommodate and tackle head-on the new challenges generated by the new conditions, Ali b. Abi Talib, too, had to consider moving out of Madinah for the interim until the differences with his opponents were once and for all resolved. Eventually, Ali made Kufah a new provisional capital of the state. On leaving Madinah, Ali was confronted by Abdullah b. Salam, a renowned
Prophet's companion, who took hold of his reins, warning: "Do not leave Madinah, commander of the faithful! By Allah, if you do, neither you nor the rule over the Muslims will ever return here
again." Unquestionably, Ali wished to restore the deserving role of Madinah at all costs, but after the caliphate had passed from him to
Mu'awiyah b. Abi Sufyan, in a bloody conflict of two different philosophies of, and two irreconcilable approaches, to rule and leadership, Damascus was made the capital of the state, and what happened next was precisely that which the companion Abdullah b. Salam had envisaged.
The Prophet (pbuh) was able to predict the tendency of some Muslims abandoning Madinah in support of other cities for various political, economic, social and personal reasons. Therefore, he was regularly reminding the people of the copious advantages associated with Madinah. He was also urging them to stay in it and commit themselves to the preservation, appreciation and promotion of its magnificent struggle and its multihued legacy, which embodied everything that Islam as a comprehensive life system stood for. The Prophet (pbuh) said, for example:
"Yemen will be conquered and some people will migrate (from Madinah) and will urge their families and those who will obey them to migrate (to Yemen), although Madinah will be better for them, if they but knew. Syria will be conquered and some people will migrate (from Madinah) and will urge their families and those who will obey them to migrate (to Syria), although Madinah will be better for them, if they but knew. Iraq will be conquered and some people will migrate (from Madinah) and will urge their families and those who will obey them to migrate (to Iraq), although Madinah will be better for them, if they but
Once a bedouin came to the Prophet (pbuh) and gave a pledge of allegiance for embracing Islam. However, the next day he came with fever and asked for permission to cancel his pledge both of embracing Islam and migrating to Madinah. The Prophet (pbuh) refused the request three times and said that Madinah is like a furnace; it expels out the impurities (bad persons) and selects the good ones and makes them perfect.
This article is an excerpt from the author's book "The Prophet Muhammad and Urbanization of
Dr. Spahic Omer, a Bosnian currently residing in Malaysia, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design, International Islamic University Malaysia. He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and philosophy of the Islamic built environment. He can be reached at
spahicoyahoo.com; his blog is at
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