Wednesday, July 28, 2010

(5) The Escape Of Muslims From Mecca To Yathrib (Medina now)

By Sodium

The conversion from Pagan and other Arabia's religions to Islam had taken place first among the Prophet's Muhammad's immediate family and close friends and the underdogs. Among the underdogs was a slave by the name of Bilal bin Rabah, a former Ethiopian slave before becoming Muslim. Bilal's destiny after he accepted Islam was,and still is,a fascinating one, since he had/has become a hero among all Muslims till present time. In fact, many Muslim mothers have nmed their male babies Bilal, honoring that Ethiopian former slave who was number seven in the early converts to Islam. More about Bilal later on.

As more and more people had accepted Islam, as their new religion, there was no way out for the Messenger of God, (yes, that is the title I personally prefer to call him, since he had never called himself a prophet but a Messenger of God, but to avoid confusion, I would go along, for the moment and call him the Prophet Muhammad), not to practice his new religion in the open. The more Muslims practiced their religion in the open, the more resentments and rejections were publiclly expressed by the most powerful members of the Quraysh tribe who controlled Mecca and its three goddesses mentioned in an earlier topic already covered. Who had suffered the most were those Muslims who had no powerful men to protect them against hostility, ( remember the meaning of " murowah. " )  In this sense, Muhammad was protected by his uncle Abu Talib who took care of him while he was still a lad and after the death of his powerful grandfather, Abdul Mutalib. After Muhammad's uncle Abu Talib died, he had no one as powerful as his uncle to provide him with any protection. The Prophet Muhammad had become all on his own. He had to depend on his God given guidance to survive in Mecca whose Quraysh, the most powerful tribe, wanted to kill him and kill all his followers of Muslims. The hostility became unbearable for the Muslims in Mecca. The Prophet had to do something to save his own life and the lives of his fellow Muslims. He persuaded some of his followers to migrate to Ethiopia, the first African country to accept Christianity and became a Christian country before the appearance of Islam. Ethiopia had acted nobly by accepting those Muslims who fled from persecution in Mecca and gave them the religious asylum needed as protection to save their lives.

Just to show how bad the situation had become for Muslims in Mecca, the following two stories will make that point abundantly clear:

The Story Of Bilal, The Former Ethiopian Slave:

Bilal heard about the Prophet Muhammad, but never met him. Bilal knew Abu Bukr Al-Sideeq,the closest friend to the Prophet Muhammad. Through Abu Bukr, Bilal met with and listened to, Muhammad's new message. He immediately accepted Islam and became a good Muslim by the examplary role he played in the way he conducted himself as a Muslim. But, Bilal ended up having more terrible time with his master than he had before the conversion to Islam. His master was Umayyah ibn Khalaf, a notorious man who enjoyed torturing his slaves:

When Umayyah ibn Khalaf heard that Bilal, his slave, had become a Muslim he and his helpers started punishing Bilal every day to force him to repent and reject Islam and curse Muhammad: A huge rock used to be placed on Bilal's chest and demanded from him to reject Islam and Bilal kept responding under torture,"Ahad,Ahad,Ahad" meaning "God Is One, God Is One, God Is One", which in the final analysis, explicitly meant rejection not Islam, but the three goddesses most Arabs worshipped in the Kab'a in Mecca. The more Bilal defied his master, the more daily torture he was subjected to. One day,Abu Bukr Al-Sideeq was passing by and saw what Umayyah ibn Khalaf was doing to Bilal. He immediately intervened and offered to buy Bilal from Umayyah by asking for a price. Umayyah named his price and Abu Bukr accepted the high price and bought Bilal and immediately freed him from slavery. When the Prophet Muhammad heard what had Abu Bukr done, he was very pleased.

Because Bilal had a beautiful voice, he was, later on, appointed to be the first "Muadhin" in Islam. "Muadhin" also " Muazen " in Arabic means " the man who calls Muslims for the prayer ." That appointment took place in Medina, not in Mecca where Muslims were trying to spare their lives.

The Story Of Omar,(also Umar)Ibn Al-Khattab, His Sister,(Fatima), And Her Husband:

The story shows how a powerful and highly respectable Meccan, Omar ibn Al-Khattab, a former enemy of Islam and its Prophet, willingly accepted Islam after an unpleasant confrontation with his sister, (Fatima), and her husband who became Muslims secretly. It is a telling story about the power of the language of the Qur'an, since Omar was highly respected in Mecca for his implaccable integrity and for being well known as a Man of letters, for his profound knowledge of the Arabic language. He was one of the judges who selected the best ten poems called "Al-Mualaqat Al-Asharah" that were hung in Souk Okaz for all Arabs of letters to enjoy reading. "Al-Mualaqat" means in Arabic "The Hung" . Al-Asharah means "The Ten". The net result in English is "The Hung Ten" of the best poems the Arab poets of ancient Arabia could produce.

How Omar turned from strongly anti-Islam and its Prophet to a devoted Muslim was,(and will remain), an attestation to the uniqueness of the Qur'anic Language that impressed Omar so profoundly to a point of accepting Islam immediately after reading some Qur'anic verses,his sister and her husband had and eventually showed them to Omar to read, after unpleasant verbal confrontation. After reading the verses Omar ibn Al-Khattab asked: "who wrote such a beautiful Arabic ?". It seems that,Omar the Man of Letters had prevailed.

Googling Omar or Umar ibn Al-Khattab will tell the readers every thing they care to know about Omar ibn Al-Khattab who once wanted to slay The Prophet Muhammad because he adhered firmly to his Paganism through which he and most Arabs worshiped the three goddesses, namely: Al-L'at, Al-Uza, and Manat that were kept in the Ka'aba in Mecca, briefly mentioned in topic (3) of this series of topics about Islam.

Although Omar's acceptance of Islam was a big plus and in many ways a historical event for Islam as the future events from then on would prove, still the Muslims in Mecca were undesirable elements and remained a threatened minority that were subject to slaughter en masse, any time.

In order to save the Muslims lives, the Prophet had accepted the invitation from some tribes in Yathrib, (Medina now), including the Jewish Arab tribes there, to migrate with his followers of Islam to Medina. So it was and the migration began or rather the escape from the threatening Mecca to Medina began in earnest.

How the escape of Muslims from Mecca to Yathrib, ( Medina now), had begun was, and still is, interesting story:

Some of the most powerful men of the Qurayish tribe, in Mecca, had decided to kill Muhammad, as he left his residence. So, they selected the actual killers who started watching the house in which Muhammad lived. Words about the murderous plot had, somehow, reached Muhammad. Before the killers could fulfill their murderous plot, Muhammad took a flight on camel to Medina, accompanied with a single companion. That single companion was his closest friend, Abu-Bukr Al-Sideeq. It was Ali ibn Abi-Talib, Muhammad's first cousin, who stayed in Muhammad's residence in Mecca, while Muhammad and Abu-Bukr Al-Sideeq fled to Medina. Eventually, the potential killers realized that the man who was staying in Muhammad residence was not Muhammad, but someone else. Hence, the murderous plot had failed. Later on, all Muslims in Mecca fled the city to Medina, leaving all their positions behind, to save their lives from the Pagans of Mecca.      

Saturday, July 10, 2010

(4) The Five Pillars Of Islam.

By Sodium

The five pillars of Islam are:

1- Witnessing: Publicly witness that there is no God but God, (Allah), and Muhammad is his Messenger.

2- Praying: Perform prayers to God five times a day: Dawn, Morning, Noon, Evening and Bed Time.

3- Zakat: Voluntary payment of  the Zakat, (financial or food contributions), to help the poor of the community.

4- Fasting: One must fast the whole month of Ramadan in each year. There are exceptions, however, depending on the mundane circumstances under which Muslims live.

5- Pilgrimage: Make once in a life time,the pilgrimage to Mecca, providing health and financial conditions permit to do so.

To be a good Muslim one must perform all of the five pillars listed above, with emphasis on the health and financial conditions, as noted in the fifth pillar.

Friday, July 2, 2010

(3) How Islam Appeared.

By Sodium

In the last essay entitled, "Early Life of Muhammad Before Becoming The Messenger Of God",it was made clear that Muhammad was a happily married man. He was blessed by truly loving wife and four daughters. Family-wise, his life was fulfilled to the fullest. At the top of that, the family was considered wealthy.

What had bothered Muhammad was something spiritual, since Arabia was spiritually in a state of flux or in a state of increasing entropy,or rather increasing social and religious disorder. To put it simply, it was in a state of chaos and endless confusion:

~ The Meccans, including Muhammad own clan worshiped mainly three goddesses made of stones. These goddesses were namely: Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat.

~ The Nebatean Arabs in the fascinating ancient antiquity of the city of Petra, in southern Jordan, worshipped a god named Hubal and was made of stone also.

~ There were some Arab tribes in other part of Arabia that worshipped the sun and the moon.

~ Other tribes in isolated part of Arabia built their own god from dates and worshipped the dates-god for a while, but when they felt hungry, they ate their own god made of dates.

~ There were, at least, five Jewish tribes in Arabia. The well known Jewish tribes were specifically: Nadir, Qaynuqa', Qurayzah, Thalabah,and Hudl and they worshipped a G-d as described in a book, a G-d no one ever saw. That's the way the Arabs of ancient Arabia saw their fellow Arab Jews as " The People of The Book. "

~ There were a small number of Christian Arabs who worshipped, like the Arab Jews, a God described in a book, a God no one ever saw. Waraqa, the oldest brother of Khadijah, Muhammad's loving wife, was well known Christian. Again, the Arab Pagans of ancient Arabia called their Arab Christian minority, " The people of The Book " also.

After the appearance of Islam, the Qur'an also called both Jews and Christian as " The People of The book " also.

While Arabia lived in such spiritual chaos and tribal war-fares, Muhammad was about 40 year old and started looking for what might be called spiritual serenity. He found his oasis of serenity for meditation in Mount Hira', a walking distance from Mecca. The meditation in Hira' had become a habit. It seems that Muhammad was looking for a spiritual guidance.

While Arabia was living in "Al-Jahiliyah",translation: "The Time of Ignorance" when it came to religion, Muhammad was meditating in the cave of Hira'.

What had happened next to Muhammad in the cave of Hira', while meditating, I personally had/have found difficulty in describing based on so many references I had reviewd. Therefore,I will quote from a book entitled, " The Life of Mahomet " by Sir William Muir, a Scottish orientalist, for that purpose, in spite of the fact that Muir was devoted to his Christianity and considered Islam a foe and should be defeated. I do so because I have found his description of what took place in cave Hira' between Muhammad and the Angel Gabriel was/is so fascinating and quite close to what I heard, in formal academic lectures, given by well known Islamic scholars I had the privilege of listening to, in both,in Jordan and Egypt, at different times, in the 1970 s and 1980 s:


Now in the night that the Lord was minded to be gracious unto him, Gabriel appeared to Muhamet in the cave, and holding a writing up before him said, " Read. " He,(Muhammad), answered, " I cannot. "  Whereupon came." Read! " cried Gabriel the second time; and thereupon, but only to escape the agony, Mahomet said, " What shall I read ? " Gabriel then went on-

" Read! in the name of thy Lord is most gracious
it is He that hath taught to write with the pen,
Hath taught man that which he knoweth not, Nay, verily, for man rebillious when he seeth himself becoming rich:

O' Mahomet, thou art the prophet of the Lord, and I am Gabriel."


Muhammad was completely shaken and he finally gathered himself and walked as fast as he could to reach his home. Still shaken, he told Khadijah, his loving wife, what took place in Hira' and thought it was a nightmare. To comfort him, Khadijah put him in her lap and told him that God did not make such a great happening as a nightmare. She insisted that God wanted him to be His prophet. As her Christian brother, Waraqah, heard of what had happened in Hira', he also insisted that was no nightmare, but God Wanted Muhammad to be his messenger. Muhammad was finally persuaded that was no nightmare but what God wanted him to do.

So, Muhammad kept his usual meditation at mount Hira' and eventually he had another encounter with Gabriel. And I quote from Sir William Muir's book mentioned above and in which Gabriel told Muhammad the following:


O thou art covered
Arise and preach,
And magnify thy Lord
And purify thy garments
And depart from all uncleanness
And show not favour seeking for thine own aggrandizement.


And more and more encounters with Gabriel took place and Muhammad started his new spiritual duty by preaching that there was only one God to worship and it was wrong to warship stones. He conducted his new message among his immediate family and relatives and close friends and they recited what Gabriel dictated to him. The first convert to this new message was his loving wife, Khadijah. As converts, beside family members, relatives and friends, came the new converts of slaves and poor people.

Balal is a name of a black African slave whose name is revered across the Muslim world, because of what he went through as he converted to the new religion. his story will be told in a later topic as appropriate.

And so it was, a new religion, called Islam, appeared in Arabia and subsequently would change the core of the social and spiritual confusion of the society from Jahiliyah, (Time of Ignorance), and entropic social disorder and disunity to a united Arabia with peace among its warring tribes. But, unfortunately the road to a peaceful Arabia was not easy, at all, as we shall see later on.