In the previous two posts in this series (part 1 and part 2), we examined the Shari‘ah evidences that show how the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ was not only restricted to how we perform the prayer, pilgrimage and other acts of worship, but also in how to govern, run an economy etc. and in the area of foreign policy. We also concluded that Allah had instructed the Prophet ﷺ to seek power in order to implement Islam and convey it to the world. This political Sunnah also needs to be followed when undertaking to re-institute the Caliphate, following the steps the Prophet ﷺ had taken to establish the first Islamic state in Medina.
We will now examine how the Prophet ﷺ directly sought political authority.
In his excellent book The Qur’an & Politics, the Sudanese-born scholar Dr. Eltigani Abdelgadir Hamid states the following:
“…the Messenger [ﷺ] was commanded to establish justice among the people. This meant he had to establish a new Islamic state, which implied rising against the government of the Elders of the Quraysh, in compliance with the verse: ‘The blame is against only those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress the bounds throughout the land, defying right and justice.’ [42:42] This marked the beginning of the strategic activities of the Messenger…
The Prophet’s [ﷺ] strategy for establishing the Islamic state comprised three vital steps:
- To annul the constitutional legitimacy of the Qurayshi government of the Elders; to disprove the religious claims on which they based their authority; to call for the organization of daily affairs according to religious principles derived from the revealed Book instead of man-made religions, and to refer to the revealed Shari‘ah (Islamic law) instead of personal whims and aspirations…
- To threaten and harm the economic interests of the Quraysh whenever possible.
- To encircle the Quraysh from the outside by contracting alliances, pacts and defence treaties with neighbouring tribes…
These were the Prophet’s objectives throughout the next few years. Moreover, the policies that he implemented were all in accordance with the philosophy of religious history and the principles of political thought specified in the Qur’an.”
[Dr. Eltigani Abdelgadir Hamid, The Qur’an & Politics, International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, 2004, pp. 127-126]
In another excellent book, From Darkness into Light, the following is stated regarding this stage of the Prophet’s call:
“A neglected yet critical period of the life of Muhammad ﷺ is his effort to attain Nusrah (support). This support was physical support, to allow Islam to be established in the land. It was a support to protect the Da‘wah and take authority and power. This targeting of authority and power was not for its own sake, but rather for the sake of Islam; to make it dominant. The books of sīra show that Muhammad ﷺ attempted this activity for almost five years prior to finally attaining the Islamic State in Madinah. His dialogue and struggle with tribes shows that it was the only way to establish authority for Islam and the last delicate steps before an Islamic State could be realised.”
The first tribe that Messenger of Allah ﷺ approached in this regard were the people of Ta’if. Specifically, he approached those who had authority and power.
In the English translation of Ibn Kathir’s sīra, published by the Centre for Muslim Contribution to Civilization in four volumes, we find the following:
Yazid bin Abu Ziyad related to me, from Muhammad bin Ka‘b al-Kurazi, who said, ‘When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ arrived in Ta’if, he made for a group of Thaqif, their leaders and nobles, who were three brothers. They were ‘Abd Yalil, Mas‘ud and Habib, all sons of ‘Amr b. ‘Umayr b. ‘Awf b. ‘Uqda b. Ghiyara b. ‘Awf b. Thaqif. One of these was married to a Quraysh woman of the Banu Jumah. He sat with them and invited them to Allah, asked them to help Islam and himself against those of his people who were opposing him. One of them replied, “He would tear off the covering of the ka‘ba if it were Allah who had sent you!” Another said, “Did not Allah have anyone but you to send?” The third commented, “By Allah, I will never speak to you. If you were a messenger from Allah, as you claim, you are far too important for me to argue with, and if you are lying against Allah, then it would certainly not be appropriate that I talk to you.” And so the Messenger of Allah ﷺ arose and left them, despairing of any good from Thaqif.’
[Ibn Kathir, Al- Sīra al-Nabawiyya, Volume II, pp. 99-100]
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ requested that they keep their meeting a secret, as he feared that the Quraysh would find out about their negotiations. However, they instead incited the people of Ta‘if against him. Ibn Kathir relates from Musa bin ‘Uqba:
“The people of Ta’if positioned themselves in two lines along his path and as he passed by every time he raised and put down his foot they threw stones at it until his feet began to bleed. His feet streaming with blood, he withdrew and made his way beneath the shade of a palm tree, completely overcome.”
[Ibid., p. 101]
Regarding this incident, Ibn Kathir then cites the following narration which is found in the two sahih collections:
It is related from ‘A’isha that she asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Have you ever experienced a worse day than the day of Uhud?” He replied, “I experienced much harm from your people, and the worst that I experienced from them was on the Day of ‘Aqaba when I presented myself to Ibn ‘Abdu Yalil ibn ‘Abd Kulal and he did not grant me what I wanted. I went off in great grief and felt no relief until I reached Qarn ath-Tha‘alib. Then I lifted my head and there was a cloud shading me, and I looked and in it was Jibril, and he called to me and said, ‘Allah Almighty has heard what your people have said to you and how they answered you. Allah has sent the Angel of the Mountains to you for you to command him to do whatever you wish to them.’ The Angel of the Mountains called to me and greeted me and then said, ‘O Muhammad, order what you will! If you like, I will crush them with the two heavy mountains.’ The Prophet ﷺ said, “Rather I hope that Allah will produce from their loins people who worship Allah alone without associating anything with Him.”
[Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith #3059]
Muhammad ﷺ was indeed a Prophet of Mercy, as indicated by the following Qur’anic verse:
‘We have sent you [O Prophet] only as a mercy for the whole world’ [21:107]
Despite this setback, the Prophet ﷺ still had trust in Allah and was confident of success. Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah narrates that his companion Zayd asked him when he was returning from Ta’if to Mecca:
“How can you go back to them [the Quraysh] when they have forced you to leave, and you went seeking support and they [the inhabirtants of Ta’if] failed you?” The Messenger [ﷺ] said: “O Zayd! Allah will show me a way out of this. Allah will support his dīn and will assist His Prophet.”
[Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Zad al-Ma‘ad, 2/46, quoted in Hamid, op. cit., pp. 130-131]
But the Prophet knew that he was in a precarious situation. The Quraysh had now learnt that he was seeking a political power base and would be determined to stop him, and so he was in danger. Again, we refer to Ibn al-Qayyim:
After the Messenger [ﷺ] left Ta’if, where the inhabitants had refused to help or support him, he went to Hira’. From there he sent an envoy to al-Akhnas ibn Shurayq, asking for protection. However, al-Akhnas declined, saying that he was an ally of Quraysh and therefore coud not grant him protection. He also sent an envoy to Suhayl ibn ‘Amr, who declined, saying that Banu ‘Amir would never grant protection against Banu Ka‘b for the same reasons. Finally, the Prophet [ﷺ] sent a man from the tribe of Khuza‘ah to al-Mut‘im ibn ‘Uday, the leader of the Banu Nawfal ibn ‘Abd Manaf, asking for his protection. Al-Mut‘im agreed and immediately called his people and told them to put on their armour and place themselves at the corners of the Ka‘bah to provide protection for Muhammad. Then the Messenger [ﷺ] entered Makkah with Zayd and stopped at the Ka‘bah. From his camel, al-Mut‘im said to the Quraysh: “Muhammad is under my protection, so do not try to harm him.” Then the Messenger went and touched the corner of the House, prayed two rak‘ats and returned to his house under the protection of al-Mut‘im and his armed retinue.”
[Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Zad al-Ma‘ad, 2/47 quoted in Hamid, op. cit., p. 132]
Because of this protection, the Quraysh had to give the Prophet ﷺ some freedom of movement and so
“Muhammad [ﷺ] took advantage of this to make contacts with the other tribes during the pilgrimage season. This was done in accordance with a well-defined political plan that he had devised with Abu Bakr, who was well versed in the genealogy of the Arabs. First, Abu Bakr would approach the dignitaries of the tribes and ask them about their numbers and strength, and their readiness for battle, then the Messenger [ﷺ] would talk to them and put forward his message.”
[al-Sam‘ani, al-Ansab, 1/36 cited by Hamid, op. cit., p, 135]
Ibn Kathir gives an account of how one of these tribes responded:
Al-Zuhri related to me that he [ﷺ] went to the Banu ‘Amir bin Sa‘sa‘a and called them to the path of Allah, offering himself to them. One of their men, named Bayhara bin Firas, replied to him, ‘I swear, if I were to have this brave man of Quraysh, I could eat up the Arabs with him.’ He then said to him, ‘If we were to follow your orders and then Allah gave you victory against those opposing you, would we have power after you were gone?’
He [ﷺ] replied, ‘Allah controls power and places it where He wishes.’ Bayhara commented in reply, ‘Are we to present our throats to the Arabs in your defence and then, if Allah gave you victory, see power go elsewhere than to us? We’ll have nothing to do with you!’ And so they refused him.
When the people there dispersed, the Banu ‘Amir returned to a sheikh of theirs who, being elderly, was unable to attend the fairs with them. When they returned home, they would tell him what would occurred at the fair. They told him, ‘A man of Quraysh, of the family of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, came to us claiming to be a prophet and he asked us to defend him and aid him and take him back to our territory.’ The old man put his hand on his head and said, ‘Could your mistake be put right? Can its consequences be reversed? I swear no descendant of Ishmael ever made such a claim falsely. It has to be true. Where did your good judgement go?’
[Ibn Kathir, Al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya, Volume II, pp. 105-106. Cf. Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, p. 90]
Several other tribes were approached by the Prophet ﷺ, such as the tribes of Kinda, Banu Kalb and Banu Shayban. However, Ibn Kathir states that the ‘great honour’ of providing help and support to the Prophet was reserved by Allah for the Ansar of Medina (op.cit., p. 103)
Ibn Hisham relates how a group of six men and one woman of the tribe of Khazraj (from Yathrib, which was later renamed Madinat al-Nabi or ‘City of the Prophet’) accepted Islam while the Prophet was approaching tribes during the pilgrimage season:
‘Who are you?’ asked the Prophet [ﷺ]
‘A company of the Khazraj,’ they replied.
‘Are you of the confederates of the Jews?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ they replied.
‘Would you then sit down so that I may talk to you?’
‘Yes,’ and they sat down.
The Prophet [ﷺ] then proceeded to exhort them to the worship of the One True God, and expounded (the doctrines) of Islam to them, and recited portions of the Qur’an. Some of the circumstances which Allah designed to render them more inclined to accept Islam were that the Jews of Yathrib who were a people with a Scripture, in contrast to them (the Khazraj), who were idolaters, used to threaten them, whenever they were in conflict, with the appearance of a Prophet, who would slaughter them as ‘Ad and Iram (two ancient Arab tribes) had been destroyed. When the Prophet [ﷺ] thus talked to them about Islam, they said unto one another: O people, he is indeed the Prophet with whom the Jews have been threatening us. Do not let them forestall us in accepting him! So they answered him favourably…”
[Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. I, p. 428f, quoted in The Makkan Crucible, p. 190]
After this group had arrived back in Yathrib ‘to their people they told them of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and invited them to Islam. Eventually, news of him spread among them to such a degree that not a single home of the Ansar was without knowledge of him.’ [Ibn Kathir, op. cit., p. 119]
The following year, ten men from Khazraj and two from Aws met the Prophet ﷺ in secret and pledged allegiance him. This is known as the first pledge of ‘Aqaba. Regarding this, the following is related in the Sahih of Bukhari:
‘Ubada ibn as-Samit, may Allah be pleased with him, who was at the Battle of Badr and was one of the leaders on the Night of ‘Aqaba, said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had a group of his Companions around him and said, “Give homage to me based on not associating anything with Allah, not stealing, not committing adultery, not killing your children, not making a false accusation of adultery which you forge yourselves and not being disobedient regarding anything good. Any among you who fulfill this will be rewarded by Allah. If anyone falls short regarding any of these things and is punished in this world, that will be an expiation for him. If anyone falls short regarding any of these things and Allah conceals it, then it will be up to Allah. If He wishes, He will pardon him, and if He wishes, He will punish him.” ‘Ubada added, “We gave him our allegiance on those conditions.”
[Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith #18]
The following year, seventy men and two women met the Prophet ﷺ again and pledged allegiance in what is known as the second pledge of ‘Aqaba. Ibn Kathir relates from Ka‘b bin Malik:
“When we met at the defile we waited and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ did come, accompanied by al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib. At that time al-‘Abbas was still following his people’s religion, although he was keeping track of his nephew’s affairs and watching over him. When they sat down, the first to speak was al- ‘Abbas bin ‘Abd al-Muttalib, who said, ‘O Khazraj’ – the Arabs used to know the Ansar as Khazraj, whether they were Khazraj or Aws – ‘Muhammad holds with us a position of which you are aware. We protect him from our people who think about him as we do. He is respected among his people and safe in his own town. But he is determined to join up with you. If you think you will keep trust with him in the invitation you have given him and will protect him from his opponents, then it’s up to you to accept your responsibilities. But if you think you might deliver him over and abandon him after he has joined you, then leave him right now. He does have respect and protection among his own people and in his town.’
“We replied, ‘We hear what you say. Speak to us, O Messenger of Allah, and take for yourself and for your Lord whatever you want.’
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ then spoke, recited the Qur’an, invited people to Allah and acclaimed Islam. He said, ‘I ask you to pledge that you will defend me as you do your women and children.’
“Al-Bara’ bin Ma‘mur then took him by the hand and said, ‘Yes indeed; we will, I swear by Him who sent you with the truth, protect you as we do our women from whatever threatens them. We pledge ourselves to you, O Messenger of Allah, and we are, I swear it, warriors from father to son over many generations.’
“While al-Bara’ was speaking to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ he was interrupted by Abu al-Haytham bin al-Tayyihan, who said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, we have certain ties to others’ – meaning the Jews – ‘and if we break these, we are concerned that if Allah gives you victory, you might return to your own people and abandon us.’
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ smiled at this and said, ‘If your blood be sought, our blood shall be sought, and your destruction is mine as well. I am of you and you are of me. I will battle those you battle and make peace with those with whom you make peace.’” Ka‘b bin Malik went on, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Bring forth twelve from among you to be leaders to take charge of their people’s affairs.’ “They selected twelve men, nine from al-Khazraj, three from Aws.”
[Ibn Kathir, op. cit., pp. 133-134]
Ibn Ishaq mentions the significance of this pledge:
“When Allah gave permission to his Messenger [ﷺ] to fight, the second ‘Aqaba contained conditions involving war which were not in the first act of fealty. Now they bound themselves to war against all and sundry for Allah and his Messenger [ﷺ], while he promised them for faithful service thus the reward of paradise.”
[Ibn Hisham, p. 208]
Ibn Kathir relates:
Ibn Ishaq stated, “When Allah Almighty gave permission for warfare with His words, ‘Permission (to fight) is being given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged. Allah has power to give them victory, those who have been expelled unjustly from their homes merely for having said, “Our Lord is Allah”’ [22:39-40]. “When Allah gave permission to do battle and that group of Ansar had followed him into accepting Islam and had agreed to give him and his Muslim followers aid and refuge, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ ordered his supporters, both those who had previously emigrated and those who had stayed with him in Mecca, to leave in migration to Medina to join their Muslim brethren there. He told them, ‘Allah has provided brothers and a home where you may be secure.’ “And so they left for Medina in groups.” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ stayed in Mecca waiting for his Lord to give him permission to emigrate from Mecca to Medina.”
[Ibn Kathir, op. cit., p. 144]
Thus the second pledge of ‘Aqaba was followed soon afterwards by the migration to Medina and the difficult struggle of the Prophet ﷺ to establish the first Islamic state had now culminated in the establishment of Madinat al-Nabi, the ‘City of the Prophet’ in Yathrib.
The significance of this Hijra will be discussed in the fourth part of this series.