23. Medina and Beginnings

The camel was at an empty lot where the people of Bani Najjar would dry their dates. It took a few more steps forward, then went back to where it had knelt before. This time it settled, and stretched its neck against the ground. “Here is the place,” said Prophet Muhammad (s). “Who lives closest to here that I can stay with for now?” Abu Ayub was overjoyed, “My home is closest, O Messenger (s), and here is my door.” And so, it was decided.

You can imagine the excitement and joy of Abu Ayub and his wife. The Prophet (s) was going to live with them until his house was built. They offered him the upper floor but he chose the ground floor because it was easier for people to visit him. Abu Ayub tells how he and his wife would respectfully walk along the walls for fear they might be walking above the Prophet (s). He tells how he and his wife would wait until the Prophet finished eating and then they would eat from where he had served himself to get the blessing of the food his hand had touched. He tells us that one day a jug of water broke, and they were terrified the water would drip on the Prophet’s (s) head, so they soaked it up with their only comforter and begged him, the next day, to move upstairs.

The first thing Prophet Muhammad (s) did in Medina was to start building his masjid. This is the masjid that we call Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi today. Now it is extremely big. Its floors are marble, its doors are gold plated, and its decorated ceilings slide open and shut. When it was first built it was much smaller and it wasn’t fancy or impressive. It was built quickly of mud bricks made of clay and straw. The ceiling was of big palm leaves. And yet it would become the most important building in the city, where the Muslims would pray, learn, meet, and discuss important matters.

Next, he created a brother system. Each newcomer from Mecca (they were called Muhajirs) had a brother from Medina (they were called Ansar). The brothers took care of each other and each Ansari shared all he owned with his Muhajiri brother.

Last, the Messenger (s) decided to form good relations with everyone who lived in Medina. He wrote up an agreement with the Jews that lived in the city, the non-Muslim citizens of the city, and the Muslims. The document was fair to all, and everyone accepted it.

The Muslims of Mecca should have been overjoyed. Now, they had a place where they could practice Islam freely. No one would torture them or try to stop them from praying or reciting Quran. The Ansar had welcomed them with open arms and loving hearts. But they were not happy. Actually, they were miserable. They had caught the Medina fever and they were all sick. They were feverish and aching, and terribly homesick in this new land, too. Prophet Muhammad (s) made dua for them that they would get better. He made dua for Medina that its disease would leave. He made dua that it would become a place beloved to all; that it would become a sacred place like Mecca is. And his prayers were answered.

And so, little by little, Medina became home. The Masjid was built, and connected to it was the Messenger’s home. Aisha had a simple wedding in Medina and moved into the one room house connected to the masjid. Sawda lived in another. The Prophet’s daughters Um Kulthoom and Fatima had come with Zaid (Prophet Muhammad’s adopted son) and his wife Um Ayman and his son Usama. Zainab remained with her non-Muslim husband in Mecca. And Ruqayah had come to Medina earlier with her husband Uthman.

One day, it reached the Muslims that the Chief of Mecca, Abu Sufyan, was coming back from Sham and that he had profited greatly from the money the Muslims had left behind in Mecca. Prophet Muhammad (s), asked the Muslims to follow him in order to interrupt the caravan and take it over. Three hundred armed Muslims followed him.

Abu Sufyan heard of the Muslims getting ready to meet him, so he sent word to Quraish to come and help him. Quraish were still eager to kill Muhammad (s) and to teach the Muslims a lesson. They quickly prepared an army of 1000 people, and every evil man who used to harm the Muslims joined. They headed toward Medina. Meanwhile Abu Sufyan took a route along the seashore and avoided the Muslims altogether. When the Muslims realized that Abu Sufyan had escaped with the caravan they were hoping to capture, they were disappointed. Then they heard that an army was on its way to attack them; the Prophet (s) asked them what they thought they should do. The Muhajireen replied promptly that they were willing to fight Quraish. But the Prophet (s) asked the question again and again. Finally, the Ansar realized he wanted to hear from them. One Ansari spoke for all saying that they would follow him even if he led them into the sea!

The Muslims camped by a spring of water called Badr. They built a simple shelter of palm leaves, for the Prophet (s) to watch the battle from. They didn’t want to lose him, they needed him to stay safe.

If you happened to be standing that night somewhere close to the spring of Badr, you would have been able to see the shelter they had made for the beloved Prophet (s) out of branches and palm leaves. You would have heard his beautiful voice as he called out to Allah softly but urgently, raising his arms high in prayer so that his cloak slipped off his shoulders and Abu Bakr came from behind him, embracing him, and telling him that God would answer him. You may have fallen asleep several times, as it was late and dark, but every time you awoke, you would have heard his voice; still praying to His Lord, still begging him for victory. You would have heard him say to His Lord, “If this group of believers is killed, You will no longer be worshiped on this earth.”

Perhaps that may have scared you. A world where no one knew about God and no one worshiped Him? Would the Muslims be wiped out by the unbelievers?