The Thinking of Yathrib
while muhammad was occupied by this line of thought and pondered over the measures necessary for guaranteeing this freedom, the people of yathrib entertained different ideas. each clan and party followed a line of thought peculiar to itself. the muslims were either muhajirun or ansar; the unbelievers belonged to either al aws or al khazraj and were committed to a long history of mutual hostility, as we have shown earlier. there were also the jews, of whom the banu qaynuqa` lived within the city, the banu qurayzah in the suburb of fadak, the banu al nadir, nearby, and those of khaybar toward the north. as for the muslims, muhammad feared that, despite the strongest ties with which the new religion had bound them together, the old hatred and prejudice might some day break out anew between them. the unbelievers, from al aws or al khazraj, were exhausted by the previous wars; they found themselves situated, in the new configuration of society, between the jews and the muslims. the unbelievers' strategy concentrated on dividing jew and muslim and pulling them farther apart. the jews, for their part, gave muhammad a good welcome in the hope of winning him over to their side. their strategy demanded that they make use of the new unity of the peninsula which he could help forge to bolster their opposition to christendom. for to avenge their banishment from palestine, the land of promise, and their national home, was the guiding concern of the jews who saw themselves as god's chosen people. each group followed its own train of thought and began to seek the means to realize its objective.
at this time a new stage, unlike any other prophet before him, began in the career of muhammad. here began the political stage in which muhammad showed such great wisdom, insight, and statesmanship as would arrest attention first in surprise and then in awe and reverence. muhammad's great concern was to bring to his new home town a political and organizational unity hitherto unknown to hijaz, though not to ancient yaman. he consulted with abu bakr and `umar, his two viziers, as he used to call them. naturally, the first idea to occur to him was that of reorganizing muslim ranks so as to consolidate their unity and to wipe out every possibility of a resurgence of division and hostility. in the realization of this objective, he asked the muslims to fraternize with one another for the sake of god and to bind themselves together in pairs. he explained how he and 'ali ibn abu talib were brothers, how his uncle hamzah and his client, zayd, were also brothers, as were likewise abu bakr and kharijah ibn zayd, and `umar ibn al khattab and `itban ibn malik al khazraji. despite the muhajirun's rapid increase in number, following the emigration of the prophet, everyone of them was now bound to a member of al ansar group in a bond of mutual assistance. the prophet's proclamation in this regard transformed that bond into one of blood and real fraternity. a new, genuine brotherhood arose which forged the muslim ranks into an indivisible unity.
a1 ansar showed their muhajirun brethren great hospitality which the latter had first accepted with joy. for when they emigrated from makkah, they had left behind all their property, wealth, and goods and entered madinah devoid of the means with which to find their food. only `uthman ibn `affan was able to carry with him enough of his wealth to be prosperous in his new residence. the others had hardly been able to carry much or little that was of use to them. even hamzah, the prophet's uncle, had one day to ask the prophet to give him some food to eat. `abd al rahman ibn `awf and sa'd ibn al rabi` were bonded together in brotherhood. the former had nothing. the latter offered to split his wealth with him. `abd al rahman refused and asked that he be shown the market place. there he began to sell cheese and butter and in short time achieved a measure of affluence fair enough to enable him to ask the hand of a madinese woman as well as to send caravans in trade. many other muhajirun followed the example of `abd al rahman; for, the makkans, it should be remembered, were quite adept in trade. indeed, they were so expert at it that it was said of them that they could by trade change the sand of the desert into gold.
those who could not engage in trade such as abu bakr, `umar, 'ali ibn abu talib and others, took to farming on the land owned by al ansar under the system of sharecropping. another group of truly helpless people, with a past full of suffering and hardship, put their hand to menial jobs, preferring hard labor to living as parasites on the earnings of others. despite their meager earnings, they found consolation in the new peace and security of their own persons and of their faith. there was yet another group of emigrants so poor and helpless that they could not find even a place to sleep. to these, muhammad permitted the use of the covered part of the mosque during the night. that is why they were called "ahl al suffah," "suffah," meaning the covered area of the mosque. to these, muhammad assigned a ration from the wealth of the more affluent muslims, whether ansar or muhajirun.