Episode 29: The Blessed Guest

Abu Bakr and the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him passed by the tent of Umm M’abad, a woman of Khuza’a, who had a milk ewe but its udder had dried up owing to drought. God’s Messenger wiped its udder with his hand and mentioning the name of God the most High. He prayed that Umm M’abad might have a blessing in her ewe. It then gave a flow of milk. He first gave Umm M’abad and others a drink until all of them were fully satisfied, then he drank knowing everyone was through. He milked it the second time around and when the vessel was full, left it with her. When Abu M’abad came back and his wife told him about the prodigious happening and the angelic stranger, he replied, “By God, he appears to be the same man of the Quraysh whom they are prowling after.”

They continued their journey with the guide until they reached Quba in the vicinity of Madinah. This was on Monday, the 12th day of Rabi ul-Awwal. (24th September, 622 A.D.) A new era was indeed commencing, because it was from the start of this year that the Islamic calendar of Hijrah took its humble beginnings!

 

The People of Madinah

Yathrib had been chosen by Allah to shelter the Messenger of God peace be and blessings upon him after his emigration and to bring forth not only the first Islamic Society but also to serve as a focal point for the universal call of Islam. The great honor accorded to the city makes it necessary to know its distinctive features, its unique physical, social and cultural conditions, like those of the Arab tribes living there and their interactions with one another, the economic and political manipulations of the Jews and their fighting spirit as well as the way of life sustained by its fertile land. Various religions, cultures and communities flourished in the city in stark contrast to Makkah, which was dominated by one faith and one cultural pattern. The details given here, albeit briefly, depict the state of affairs in Madinah when the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him made his debut in that city.

 

THE JEWISH PRESENCE

The view preferred by historians about Jewish settlements in Arabia, at large and those in Madinah, in particular, is that they date from the first century A.D. Dr. Israel Welphenson writes that:

“After Palestine and Jerusalem were laid waste in 70 A.D. and the Jews dispersed to different parts of the world, a number of them made their way to Arabia. This is in accordance with the Jewish historian Josephus, who was himself present at the siege of Jerusalem and had led the Jewish units on several occasions. Arab sources also corroborate his statement.

Three Jewish tribes, Qaynuqaa', an-Nadhir and Quraydha, were settled in Madinah. The number of adults belonging to these tribes was over two thousand where Qaynuqaa' was estimated to have seven hundred combatants, with an-Nadir having almost the same number too, while the adult men of Quraydha were reported to be between seven and nine hundred. These tribes were not on good terms and very often they are caught in confrontations with one another. Dr. Israel Welphenson says:

“Bani Qaynuqaa' were set against the rest of the Jews because they had sided with Bani Khazraj in the battle of Bu’ath in which Bani an-Nadir and Bani Quraydha had inflicted a crushing defeat and massacred Bani Qaynuqaa' even though the latter had paid bloodwit for the prisoners of war. The bitterness among the Jewish tribes continued to persist after the battle of Bu’ath. When Bani Qaynuqaa' subsequently fell out with the Ansaar, no other Jewish tribe came to their aid against them (Ansaar).” (Al-Yahud fi Balad il’Arab, p. 129).

The Qur’an also makes a reference to the mutual discord between the Jews:

“And when We made with you a covenant (saying): Shed not the blood of your people nor turn (party of) your people out of your dwellings. Then ye ratified (Our covenant) and ye were witnesses (thereto). “Yet it is you who slay each other and drive out party of your people from their homes, supporting one another against them by sin and transgression - and if they come to you as captives ye would ransom them, whereas their expulsion was itself unlawful for you.[Qur'an 2:84-5].

The Jews of Madinah had their dwellings in their own separate localities in different parts of the city. When Bani an-Nadir and Bani Quraydha forced Bani Qaynuqaa' to relocate their settlement in the outskirts of the town, they took up their quarters in a section of the city. Bani an-Nadir had their habitation in the higher parts, some four or five kilometers from the city towards the valley of Bathan, which houses some of the richest groves and agricultural lands of Madinah. The third Jewish tribe, Bani Quraydha, occupied vicinity known as Mehzor, which is a few kilometers to the south of the city. The Jews of Madinah lived in compact settlements where they had erected fortifications and citadels. They were however, not independent but lived as confederate clans of the stronger Arab tribes which guaranteed them immunity from raids by the nomads. Predatory incursions by the nomadic tribes being a perpetual menace, the Jewish tribes had to always seek the protection of one or more chieftains of the powerful Arab tribes.

 

 

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