Episode 19: Importance of Madinah
Apart from the great honor to be bestowed upon the people of Madinah and such
other reasons accessible only to the All‐knowing God, one of the considerations
in the selection of the town as the future center of Islam was that it was, from
a strategic point of view brought about by its geography and defense,
impregnable like a fortified city. No other town of the Arabian Peninsula
enjoyed the same advantage. Lying in a lava plain, surrounded on all sides by
chains of high mountains, the Western side of the city is protected by the lava
and extremely uneven hilly terrain known as Harratal‐al‐Wabra while
Harra‐al‐Waqim surrounds it on the eastern side. Madinahh lies unprotected and
open to military advance only in the north (where, in 5 A.H., the Prophet peace
be and blessings upon him ordered to dig trenches on the occasion of the battle
of clans). Thickly clustered plantations of date‐palm groves encompassed the
town on the remaining sides. An army taking this route would have had to
maintain communications through deep valleys and ravines. Thus, it would have
been difficult to attack Madinah in full force from these sides while the
defenders could have easily conquered the invaders through small outlying
Ibn Is’haq writes: “Only one side of Madinah was exposed, and the rest of the sides were strongly protected by buildings and date‐palm groves through which an enemy could not get access.”
The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him had perhaps covertly referred to this very aspect of Madinah when he said before his migration:
“I have been shown the goal of your migration ‐ a land of palm‐trees lying between two tracts strewn with black, rugged stones.” All those who resolved upon migration proceeded thereupon to Madinah. (Al‐Bukhari).
The two Arab tribes of Madinah, the Aus and the Khazraj, were well known for their passionate, chauvinistic spirit of the clan; self‐respect, boldness and valor while riding horses was one of the manly skills in which they excelled. Freedom of the desert was in their blood: neither had they ever submitted to any authority nor paid impost to a sovereign. The heroic character of these tribes was plainly set forth when the chief of Aus, S’ad Ibn Mu’adh had said to the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him during the battle of Trenches: “When we and these people were polytheist and idolaters, not serving God nor knowing Him, they never hoped to eat a single date except as guests or by a purchase.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 289)
“The two clans of Yathrib...” writes Ibn Khaldun, “...dominated over the Jews and were distinguished because of their prestige and eminence. The tribe of Mudar, which was just around the vicinity, was cognate with them.ʺ (Tarikh Ibn Khaldun, Vol. II, p. 289)
Ibn ‘Abd‐I‐Rabbehi, another Arab historian, writes in the Al‐‘Iqd al‐Farid; “The Ansaar descended from the tribe of Azd. Known as Aus and Khazraj, they were lineal descendants of the two sons of Haritha Ibn ‘Amr Ibn Amir. Being more proud and dignified than others, they had never paid tribute to any regime or supremacy.” (Al‐‘Iqd ul‐Farid, Vol. III, p. 334).
They were related, on the material side, to the Banu ‘Adiy Ibn al‐Najjar who had given one of their daughters, Salma bint ‘Amr, to Hashim in marriage. To Hashim she bore ‘Abdul Muttalib, but Hashim, however, left the boy with his mother in Yathrib where he was brought up and was taken to Makkah by his uncle after he had grown up into a youth. These blood relationships, which were the adhesive elements in tribal organization, cannot be ignored since kinship played an important role in the social life of the Arabs. On reaching Madinahh, the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him stayed with Abu Ayyub Ansari who belonged to Banu ‘Adiy Ibn al‐Najjar. Aus and Khazraj traced back their roots from Qahtan while the Muslims hailing from Makkah or other places close to it claimed their descent from ‘Adnan. Thus, after the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him migrated to Madinah and the Ansaar pledged their support to him, both the ‘Adnan and Qahtan had been at odds with one another during the pre‐Islamic times but they were banded together in Madinah and thus the pagan passions of blood and clan, of vanity and pride and of contemptuous self‐conceit were abolished by the wholesome influence of Islam. For all these causes and considerations as well as for its strategic location, Madinah was the fittest place to be selected for the emigration of the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him and his companions as it was eminently suited to be made the radiating center of Islam until it gained enough strength to prevail over the Peninsula and charged the whole country with a new spirit of virtue and godliness.