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above be true, they apparently had taken the loss
of their men quietly, preferring a battle of curses
and imprecations to the use of the sword or spear.
The defeated Aus, catching like drowning men at a
straw, negotiated with these tribes for assistance in
their war, and the Khazraj, hearing of this, sent to
warn the Jews against interference, and demanded
forty lads as hostages. These were provided : but
the real purpose of the Khazraj was to force the Jews
into a quarrel with the view of obtaining their lands,
and the game which they played was afterwards

* Jbn Athir, i., 247.
\ Ibn Sa'd II., ii., 135.

194 Mohammed

imitated by Mohammed with most signal success.
The Khazraj demanded the lands of the Jews under
threat of killing their hostages : and the Jews suf-
fered the hostages to be killed. So the Jews were
driven to help the Aus, and to take part in the war
of which they had kept clear. They opened their
doors to the fugitive Nabit. Fighting under foreign
commanders, and by the sid-e of brave men, the Jews
have often proved themselves as good soldiers as
other men ; and in the battle which resulted after
long preparation, the Khazraj were defeated by the
Aus with their Jewish allies. In following up the
victory and exacting full vengeance the Jews were
not restrained by the usages which the Arabs

One of the Khazrajite chiefs played a part in this
history of which he was destined to give many re-
productions after the arrival of Mohammed. This
was Abdallah, son of Ubayy, of the clan Balhubla.
In the crime of murdering the hostages he would
not participate ; he endeavoured to dissuade the
others, and sent back the hostages that were de-
posited with him. From the battle, too, he kept
aloof — out of conscientious scruples. Hence when
the tide of fortune had turned against the Khazraj
he was able to secure the deliverance of his own
fortress. But to take full advantage of a victory
was a proceeding which the Arabs had to learn from
Mohammed. The battle of Bu'ath left the Aus vic-
torious, but the enemy were not exterminated — only
humiliated, with a heavy score against them which
every member of the tribe was under a solemn obliga-

The Migration 195

tion to pay in blood. The hostile tribes were still
living side by side, and the life of no man was safe
when he went outside his house. The day of Bu'ath,
said Ayeshah, had been arranged by God for the
benefit of the Moslems. *

During the civil war some of the antagonists, it
is said, had appealed to distant Meccah, and had
tried to ally themselves with the Kuraish, but with-
out success. To the disappointed envoys Moham-
med offered Islam as a substitute, but this was not
accepted. Others visited the sacred places on pil-
grimage at the usual times, when, as we have seen, it
was the Prophet's custom to provide part of the
spectacle. Two Yathribites, As'ad, son of Zurarah,
already a monotheist in belief,f and Dhakwan, son of
Abd Kais, on one of these occasions, were engaged
in a contest concerning their claims to distinction,
which they submitted to the highly respected Mec-
can, 'Utbah, son of Rabi'ah, who probably, after the
fashion of his colleagues, refused to decide. While
waiting for his decision they heard at Dhu'l-Majaz
the Prophet's discourses, and became the first of the
Helpers,:): as the people of Yathrib who joined Is-
lam were afterwards called. Another account §
makes Rafi', son of Malik, the first convert ; he
heard the Surah of Joseph, and took it with him to
Medinah. Yet another || makes the first convert
from Medinah Mu'adh, son of Al-Harith. Other

* Sam Audi, 90.

\Ibn Sa'd//.,n., 22.

\Isabah i., 988.

%Ibid., i., 102; Jbn Duraid, 272.

\Isabah, iii., 874.

196 Mohammed

accounts make the first converts a band of six, or
seven, or eight. * It is likely that the persons
whose attention was roused by the Prophet's words
were chiefly members of the Khazraj, and it is
stated that As'ad, son of Zurarah, the foremost of
the Helpers, was a hater of the Jews, f The Khaz-
rajites were fresh from a severe defeat which they
had sustained from the united forces of the Aus and
the Jews ; and the native tradition represents them
as having taken up with Mohammed in order to out-
wit the latter. The Jews had talked in moments of
despair (as they talk still) of the Messiah who would
one day appear and conquer the world for them. If
this Prophet was the Messiah — and he claimed to be
something of the sort — would it not be excellent
policy to secure him before the Jews could claim
him? So argued the Khazrajites. Hence they
listened gladly to the Prophet's sermon.

The history which has come down to us is meagre
and one-sided : we hear little of the triumph of the
Aus or of the pride of the Jewish tribes in their vic-
tory over their oppressors. When men have had to
endure failure and humiliation, a little success turns
their heads. That the victory of Bu'ath was re-
garded by the Jews as a direct intervention by their
God can scarcely be doubted ; and since the gods of
the Aus had failed to secure them victory, it pre-
pared their enemies to recognise the transcendent
power of the Israelitish God, whose emissary and
agent Mohammed claimed — as we have seen, with

* Ibn Sa'dZI., ii., 55.
f Wakidi ( W.\ 414.

The Migration 197

some Jewish support — to be. Perhaps Mohammed
confirmed them in this view of the situation. What
more natural than that Allah should help his wor-
shippers? The Khazrajites returned home with
much food for reflection.

Thus we can interpret the saying of the keen-
witted Ayeshah. In the civil war at Yathrib the side
that had long been defeated had won a signal victory
by the aid of Allah, the God of the Jews. The Jews
however care little to make proselytes, and took no
advantage of the event for religious propaganda.
But some of the defeated side learned of a man
who could obtain for them the favour of Allah, and so
were disposed to give a favourable hearing to Mo-
hammed's preaching; and to the victors the name of
Allah was associated with success, and they were not
willing that the favour of his assistance should be
transferred to those whom they had defeated. The
expedient which had originally been intended for
the continuance of the civil war resulted in uniting
the parties. The Jews of Yathrib, impolitic and un-
foreseeing in the extreme, are likely to have attested
the correctness of the first principles of Islam which
reached them — the Unity of God, necessitating the
destruction of idols, and the resurrection of the
dead ; the fact that prayer was to be directed
towards their Temple clenched the matter. More-
over a century before they had made a convert
of an Arab chieftain who had established a Jewish
throne in South Arabia. Further, there are classical
precedents of a prophet being called in to treat
a state which was suffering from stasis (internal

1 98 Mohammed

dissension) ; some new cult was the expedient
whereby the disease was curable. Such precedents
were not indeed known to the Yathribites, but his-
tory is homogeneous. Hence the soil of Yathrib
was thoroughly prepared for Islam. In a healthy
community like that of Meccah it gained no hold;
but in one that was ailing from long years of civil
strife it could spread apace.

At next year's feast the Khazrajites returned,
their numbers increased to twelve, a few members of
the rival faction accompanying them. These persons
were inaugurated in the elements of Islam and put
through a rough catechism : they were made to
promise to abstain from infanticide, theft, adultery,
and lying, and to obey Mohammed in lawful things.
One of Mohammed's followers — a man resembling
him in appearance, and on whose suavity and amia-
bility he could rely,* — Mus'ab, son of 'Umair, was
sent back with them to lead prayer, and teach them
such portions of the Koran as had already become
part of the ritual. This was Mohammed's first
choice of a lieutenant. When they returned — for
only one or two of them remained f at Meccah —
their numbers, increased probably by clients and
dependents, speedily grew to forty, and a place for
prayer was extemporised in the Harrah of the Banu
Bayadah, a clan of the Khazraj. %

By what means the converts spread their religion
among the people of Yathrib we do not know. But

* Ibn Sa'd y Hi., 82.

\Ibn Sad II., ii., 93, 128, 131.

\Ishak, 290.

The Migration 199

the missionary whom Mohammed had sent was an
earnest man. In early life he had been a fop, who
rejoiced in fine raiment and dainty perfumes. He
had concealed his conversion till the secret was be-
trayed to his parents by one who saw him pray.
Then he openly espoused the cause, losing his all.
He fled to Abyssinia, and returned with the others.
Poverty and privation had changed his dainty com-
plexion so that the Prophet wept to see it ; rags
scarcely sufficient to cover him were the substitute
for his smart apparel. Presently a martyr's death
awaited him. If other Moslems reaped some of
their reward in this world the first Refugee reaped
none. Fops and dandies were thought good ma-
terial by Epictetus, who perhaps knew men well.

A valuable convert won by him almost as soon as
he had arrived was Mohammed, son of Maslamah,*
a namesake of the Prophet, in his thirty-first year ;
but the persons whose conversion decided the fortunes
of Islam at Yathrib were two chieftains of the Aus,
Usaid, son of Huraith, and Sa'd, son of Mu'adh.
The conversion of both is told with the same
formulae ; each approaches the missionary with
threats, is persuaded to listen and is charmed by the
Siren's song. The rights of clients and of kindred
furnish some of the machinery here as so often.
As'ad, son of Zurarah, is the Khazrajite in whose
protection the missionary is dwelling at Yathrib.
The Ausite chief, Sa'd, son of Mu'adh, is his cousin :
hence the protection of the missionary falls partly on
Sa'd, who is induced to hear him on the pretext that

+Ibn Sa'd II., ii., 19.

200 Mohammed

his cousin is likely to suffer injury for his opinions.
But if the idea of the first converts was, as the histo-
rian says, to heal the ulcer which was ruining Yathrib
by introducing a religion which would unify the com-
batants, Mus'ab's audience had been well prepared
for his sermons. In the case of these men we might
well look for analogies in the lists of conversions
which some recent writers have collected. Earnest-
ness and asceticism, joined to refinement, effect
wonders. A roseate picture could be drawn of the
Prophet, somewhat like those which devout Moham-
medans so often paint. Perhaps the Jewish hopes
of a Messiah were recalled to these allies of the Ku-
raizah and Nadir, and their chieftains urged to
seize, while it was still there, the chance of securing
him for themselves. It was to Allah, the God who
had won the battle of Bu'ath, that the missionary
summoned them ; and his representative was to be
not one of the Jews, but a distant connexion of one
of the Yathribite tribes. A later age than ours may
know something definite about the physical or
psychological conditions which determine the propo-
gation of idea-germs ; to us the process is absolutely
mysterious. Whatever the arguments employed,
Mus'ab succeeded. Sa'd, son of Mu'adh, became so
enthusiastic about his new faith that he not only
brought Mus'ab and As'ad into his lodge* but
vowed to hold converse with none of his clan, the
Banu Abd al-Ashhal, till they were converted ; and
this energetic measure led to the conversion of the
whole clan.f In the sequel he maintains the character

*I6n Sa'd II, ii., 2. \ Isabah.

The Migration 201

of the fanatical convert. And when these chieftains
had been won to the new movement, Islam became
fashionable at Yathrib. Soon there was only one
clan (the Ausallah) left in Yathrib of which no mem-
ber was a Moslem. Yet some years elapsed before
the blood-feud between the Aus and the Khazraj
was forgotten, and desultory murders continued for
a time. *

What the Jews of Yathrib thought of the new
movement we know not ; when the Prophet's regime
began to fall heavily on them there were not
wanting persons among them who professed to have
foretold it all; but it is probable that they favoured
any movement which was likely to result in quiet
and security. It was not Mohammed's custom to
break with people till he was quite sure of the upper
hand, and till he left Meccah he probably was on
good terms with the Jews there, from whom favour-
able reports might spread to their brethren at the
northern oasis. The tradition makes a Jew the first
to recognise the Prophet on his arrival, which would
imply that accurate accounts of him had circulated
between the Israelites of the two cities.

Of the other magnates of Yathrib the only figure
of interest is Abdallah, son of Ubayy, who has
already appeared on the scene. This "arch-Hypo-
crite" was a man who commanded respect by his
talents and virtues — both of them of a sort which is
of little use to a statesman, especially in times of
trouble and confusion. He disliked bloodshed ; he
abhorred treachery. His mental powers placed him

* Isabah, iii., 1 1 79.

202 Mohammed

above all the theological disputants ; he cared little
for these things. When he tried to interfere in
politics he failed through want of practice, of readi-
ness, and of dexterity.

Once Islam had begun to spread in Yathrib the
younger converts burned to give some exhibition of
their zeal. Idols were attached to dogs and sunk in
wells, and that which was too much honoured be-
forehand was now eagerly trampled in the dust;
in their enthusiasm for the new God the fiery prose-
lytes indulged in a fit of iconoclasm — breaking the
heads of idols, instead of those of the rival tribesmen.
Fetishes have a bad time when their devotees can
be got to wake up ; and the people of Yathrib
were now wide awake — on this subject. * Of the
Propket's own reflections and deliberations during
this period we have no record. He was of course
kept constantly informed of what was going on in
Yathrib, and regularly sent instructions to his
agent, f As the reports of that agent's success
reached him he began to frame the scheme of con-
duct to be pursued when the invitation to Yathrib
should arrive. To this able agent's communications
it may be attributed that the Prophet was well
acquainted with the affairs of Yathrib before he got

The next scene is what the Moslems call the
second (or the third) Akabah. The number of con-
verts who visit Meccah at the next feast % is swollen

*Isabah, i., 452.

\Ibn Sa'd, iii., 84.

I Or in the month Rejeb. Musnad, iii., 390.

The Migration 203

to seventy; the party is headed by As'ad, son of
Zurarah, followed by his daughter.* For the Mos-
lems of Yathrib had been taking counsel together
(probably at Mus'ab's suggestion) saying, " How
long shall we leave the Prophet of God to wander
about the mountains in fear of his life ? " f At dead
of night they meet the Prophet at the appointed
place, the ravine under the hill of Akabah. An in-
vitation can now be given him to come over to
Yathrib, and allegiance definitely sworn him. At
the first Akabah the neophytes had promised very
little: to keep about half the ten commandments.
At the second, we are told, they promised something
more : to fight men of all colours in order to defend
the faith. For meanwhile, as the Moslems put it,
the use of the sword had been divinely authorised.
It seems however that this is projecting into the
past the theory of a later time; for in the earliest
expeditions of the Prophet the Helpers took no part,
their contract binding them to defensive but not
offensive operations. Still there must have been
something in the attitude of the Prophet's followers
or the nature of his utterances, since the prospect of
the sovereignty of Yathrib had been opened out,
which rendered it probable that he would embark on
such an enterprise. As'ad, son of Zurarah, put be-
fore his hearers the momentous character of the
undertaking to which they were binding themselves,
but there were no faint-hearts among them. % The

* Isabah, iii., 1 135.
f Musnad, iii., 322.
\Ibid. % 323.

204 Mohammed

Prophet even nominated officials — twelve, in im-
itation of the number of the Apostles — to preside
over the new community. *

The meeting was secret, and only accomplices
knew of it. But a secret cannot well be kept
between seventy persons, and next morning Meccah
knew that the Prophet whom they had rejected had
secured an alliance and a retreat likely to be more
valuable than Axum ; for to Yathrib there was no
sea to traverse, and, more important still, its people
were to be not Mohammed's patrons, but his sub-
jects. Remonstrances were directed to some Yath-
ribites who were in Meccah, but they, not being in
the secret, could only express surprise. An abortive
attempt was made to retain as hostages some of
those who had sworn, and Sa'd, son of Ubadah,
received some rough treatment before he was allowed
to escape. But the Meccan rulers were not men
who could either foresee emergencies or know how
to act when one arrived. Vaguely indeed they
could perceive that their enemy had won to his side
a city which lay on the main route of their caravans.
Rather less vaguely they may have been aware that
men only preach patience under injuries when they
have no chance of avenging them, and that the
scruples which had fettered their own action might
be abrogated by a messenger from heaven.

The second Akabah was followed by an exodus

* Our authorities make Abbas secure that the Prophet shall enjoy
the same protection at Yathrib as he was enjoying at Meccah. Since
Mohammed was enjoying the protection of Mut'im, son of 'Adi, this
is probably a fiction to glorify the Abbasides.

The Migration 205

from Meccah. Some persons had even made their
escape after the first Akabah, so soon as the prospect
of refuge at Yathrib was opened out ; Abdallah,
son of Abd al-As'ad, was named as the first
Refugee. * The Meccans tried to stop the flight of
their fellow-citizens; some they pursued and even
brought back by force or deceit, some, precluded
from access to the new refuge, fell away and
returned to paganism. Omar, Hisham, son of
Al'Asi, and 'Ayyash made an arrangement to escape
together; Omar and 'Ayyash got away, but Hisham
was detained, and 'Ayyash was afterwards lured
back, f Of one man, Nu'aim, son of Sallam, famous
as a philanthropist, it is recorded that the Meccans,
fearing to lose the advantage of his presence, per-
suaded him to stay, with the right of holding any
religion he chose. But the same half-heartedness
which led to the collapse of the Meccan resistance
made most of their measures abortive. Of those who
wished to escape the greater number succeeded.
Some had relatives in Medinah on whom they could
quarter themselves; as Sa'd, son of Abu Wakkas, a
brother of whose had fled from Meccah through
blood-guiltiness, and settled at Kuba. \ Lots were
drawn by the converts at Yathrib for the honour of
entertaining the other Refugees § ; as a poet of the
Helpers afterwards boasted, || they shared their pos-
sessions with the newcomers, as in old times the

* Said to have arrived Muharram 10. Ibn Sa'd, iii., 171.

\ Ibn Sa'd, 194.

X /bid., iii., 99.

§ Bokhari (A'.), ii., 163.

\Isabah, iii., 1 157.

206 Mohammed

camels were shared by the arrow-game. Sa'd, son of
al-Rabi', offered Abd al-Rahman, son of 'Auf, the
half of his property, including one of his wives.* So
liberally were the Refugees treated that they began
to fear their colleagues might get the whole of the
heavenly reward, f A place of worship was started
at Kuba — one hour's distance from Yathrib, in the
direction of Meccah — and Salim, freedman of Abu
Hudhaifah, owing to his acquaintance with the
Koran, was made minister there. J

The sagacious founder of Islam waited till the end,
though Abu Bakr kept urging him to leave, and
cried for joy when at last he resolved to do so.§
The faith of the people of Yathrib was to be tested
before the Prophet committed himself to them. If
they were to receive him, they must first receive
his followers. If they welcomed in the name of
Allah and his Prophet all those hungry mouths, the
Prophet might leave his stronghold and enter into
his palace. But even if the people of Yathrib should
prove fickle, these Refugees would form a bodyguard
of desperate men, of whose loyalty he could be
absolutely sure. " When we return," said a Hypo-
crite at a later time, " the stronger of us shall eject
the weaker." The stronger were those who had
sacrificed every hope and every conviction to one.

The departure from Meccah was brought about by
the action of Mohammed's enemies. The idea of a

* Musnad, iii., 190.
f Ibid., 200.
\ Isabah, ii., no.
§ Tabari, i„ 1238.

The Migration 207

man having friends and adherents of a new sort
alarmed them ; the defence of the madman by his
kindred had been entirely in accordance with their
views of what was proper, and provoked no resent-
ment. But when for protecting kindred there was
substituted a guard of followers, belonging to a dif-
ferent city and different tribes, some of the most
intelligent realised in a dim way to what consequen-
ces that might lead. Arabia would have remained
pagan had there been a man in Meccah who could
strike a blow ; who would act, and be ready to accept
the responsibility for acting. But many as were Mo-
hammed's ill-wishers, there was not one of them who
had this sort of courage ; and, as has been seen, there
was no magistracy by which he could be tried. The
history tells how they met in their Senate-house,
and bethought them of one plan after another ; and
the final issue was that Mohammed should be assas-
sinated, every tribe in Meccah sending a representa-
tive to take part in the murder. Mohammed's tribe,
too weak to demand blood-vengeance from all the
other tribes, would have to accept blood-money,
which would be easily paid, perhaps even readily
received. Abu Bakr's son Abdallah possessed
some talent for espionage, and managed to be pre-
sent at their deliberations.* The resolute man with
whom they were dealing was quickly apprized of
this design, and had his measures ready for out-
witting it. When the trembling conspirators reached
his house, to execute their melodrama as he rose
from sleep, he was not there. He had escaped from

* Isabah^ ii., 619.

208 Mohammed

a window in the back of Abu Bakr's house, accom-
panied by Abu Bakr, who took with him five thou-
sand dirhems — all that remained to him of his
fortune.* The son-in-law, AH, was sleeping in
Mohammed's blanket, and would have served for a
hostage. But the Kurashites were too chivalrous
to take so mean an advantage of their foe. They
satisfied themselves with offering a reward of one
hundred camels for the heads of the Prophet and
Abu Bakr, f and employing professional trackers to
follow their trail. %

When convicts escape from prison, their plan is,
it is said, § to hide in the neighbourhood for three
days, before they seek another country. The hue
and cry has then calmed down, and not every man
they meet is a detective. Mohammed's plan was
the same. Before leaving Meccah a refuge was se-
cured, known ever since as the Cave. It is in the
mountain called Thaur, in the region called Mafjar;
to the south of Meccah. Few of the Meccans were
cunning enough to search for him in the direction
which was opposite to that in which Yathrib lay ; or
if they searched, they failed to find the hiding-place,
though one Kurz, son of 'Alkamah, professed after-
wards to have followed the Prophet's trail as far as
the Cave. || A few trusty persons were admitted to
the secret. One was 'Amir, son of Fuhayrah, freed-

* Ibn Sa'd, iii., 122.
\ Musnad, iv., 176.
\ Muruj al-dhahab, i., 233.

§ Boisgob/, Trente ann/es d'aventures. Mohammed's followers
did the same : Wakidi (W.), 171.
\Isabah % iii., 585.

The Migration 209

man of Abu Bakr, and an early convert, whose con-
version had won him his liberty : he served in Abu
Bakr's household, and presently shared his em-
ployer's camel in the flight. He undertook the
difficult task of providing the fugitives with food,
visiting the Cave at evening for this purpose — so
we read ; but the convicts who stock their lurking
places with provisions beforehand do more wisely,
and Mohammed's forethought was not less than
theirs. Another was a guide who knew the way

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 14 of 32)