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Awaiting the Prophet in Yathrib

3242 2008/08/08 2024/07/14

during muhammad's long and exhaustive trip, the news reached his companions in yathrib that he had emigrated from makkah in order to join them. aware of the enmity of the quraysh and of their attempts to follow and to seize the prophet, the muslims waited anxiously for his arrival and looked very much forward to hearing the details of his escape. many of them had never seen the prophet before although they had heard a great deal about his eloquence and resolution. naturally, they were quite anxious to meet him. we can imagine the enthusiasm of these men when we know that a number of notables from yathrib had followed muhammad even though they had never seen him before. their knowledge of him depended on his companions who had spoken to them of their love for him and who had been staunchly carrying his message about.


the spread of islam in yathrib

sa'd ibn zurarah and mus'ab ibn 'umayr once sat in one of the courtyards of banu zafar listening to the speech of those who entered into islam. their news had reached sa'd ibn mu'adh and usayd ibn hudayr, chieftains of their tribes. sa'd said to usayd, as one chieftain to another, "go out to these two men who came here to subvert the weaklings among us. chastise them and forbid them to come here again. you can do this better than i because sa'd ibn zurarah is a cousin of mine and i cannot be harsh enough to him." usayd went out to seek the two men. mus'ab said, "will you not sit down and listen to us? if you hear something worthwhile, accept it. if, on the other hand, you hear something unworthy, you may put a quick end to it." usayd replied, "you are fair." he stuck his spear into the ground and sat down listening to mus'ab's preaching of islam. no sooner had mus'ab finished than usayd was converted to islam. when he returned, his fellow chieftain, sa'd, was annoyed at this and sought out the two men in person. they offered him the same choice, and he, too, was converted. following upon this, sa'd went to his people and said, "oh, banu 'abd al ashhal, what do you think of me?" they answered, "you are our chieftain, our dearest relative, our wise leader and righteous representative." he said, "then i shall forbid myself to speak to any of your men and women until you believe in god and in his prophet." banu 'abd al ashhal then entered into the faith en bloc.

islam had spread so widely in yathrib and the muslims had gathered so much strength before the emigration of the prophet that some muslim youths were encouraged to attack the idols of the unbelievers. apparently islam had enjoyed a strength that the muslims of makkah had never dreamt of before. 'amr ibn al jamuh had a wooden idol which he called manat and which he kept in his house according to the custom of the nobility, for he was one of the noblemen of banu salamah. when the youths of his tribe joined islam, they raided his house at night and, without his knowledge, would steal away the idol and place it in the refuse dump outside the city. in the morning, `amr would miss his statue and look for it. when he found it, he would cleanse, purify, and return it to its place. all along, he would curse and threaten the offenders in the strongest terms. the youth of banu salamah continued their attacks upon this idol until one day 'amr hung his sword on the shoulder of the statue and said to it, "if there is any power in you, there's my sword, defend yourself." the following morning, however, he found the idol robbed of its sword and tied to a dead dog inside an empty pit. at that moment, his people talked to him and showed him how unworthy of man is idolatry. he was convinced and entered islam.

with all these successes which islam had been scoring in yathrib, the people of yathrib looked forward quite eagerly to the arrival of muhammad when they heard of his emigration. for many days before his arrival, they went out to the outskirts of their city at dawn to spend the morning seeking signs of the prophet's arrival.

the month was july and the days were hot. muhammad reached quba', two leagues from madinah, [six and a half miles south of the city. -tr.] and stayed there four days with abu bakr being constantly with him. during this interval, he founded a mosque and before he left for madinah, 'ali ibn abu talib had joined his party. 'ali had returned the trusts left with muhammad which muhammad had asked him to return to their rightful owners, and he came to yathrib on foot, walking during the night and hiding during the day. he had been on the road for two whole weeks in order to join the prophet and his fellow muslims in madinah.


muhammad's entry into madinah

one day, as the muslims waited the arrival of muhammad, a jew of yathrib announced to them, "0 people of qaylah, your man has finally arrived." it was a friday, and muhammad performed his prayer in madinah at the mosque situated in the valley of ranuqna. the muslims of yathrib arrived there from all quarters in order to see the man whom they had not seen, but whom they loved with all their minds and hearts, in whose message they had believed, and whose name they had mentioned many times in their daily prayers. a number of notables invited the prophet to stay in their houses and to enjoy the comforts, security, and protection of their quarters. as muhammad apologized, he rode his camel, which he allowed to go free, toward the city. as it ran forth surrounded by the muslims who opened the way for it, the people of yathrib, whether jews or unbelievers, looked with surprise on the new agitation and vitality that had suddenly seized their city. they looked at this great visitor who was equally acclaimed by al aws and al khazraj, who had until recently been death enemies of each other. no one among them apparently grasped the new direction which history was taking at that auspicious moment, nor the great destiny at work to make their city immortal. the prophet's camel continued to run until it stopped at a yard belonging to two orphans of banu al najjar. there, the camel lay down and the prophet dismounted. upon inquiring who the owner of the yard was, he learned from mu'adh ibn `afra' that it belonged to sahl and suhayl, sons of `amr, of whom he was the guardian. he asked the prophet to build a mosque there and made a promise to satisfy the two orphans. muhammad accepted the request by building his mosque as well as his living quarters there.


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