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from Meccah to Yathrib ; which Keane says is 375
miles by the shortest road, but Burton puts at
248. This guide was a pagan called Abdallah, son
of Arkat, * who kept the camels which had been pro-
cured for this journey, and brought them to the Cave
at the appointed time. The Prophet afterwards
recorded in the Koran how he and his companion
had waited by themselves in the Cave, and how he
had prophetically assured Abu Bakr of the assistance
of God, and told him not to grieve, f Nor need we
doubt that Mohammed, whose mental powers were
at their best in times of extreme danger, comported
himself with coolness and courage.

The distance then which the fugitives proposed to
traverse was about equal to that between London
and Newcastle, or perhaps London and Edinburgh.
Those who have accomplished this journey once
only do not make light of its difficulties and terrors.
Part of it lies over bare rocks, through narrow ra-
vines; part over a great glaring dirty plain.

* Different accounts were current of his origin and status,
f Sura h ix., 40. t m

2 1 o Mohammed

" Every yard into that dead barren waste with its con-
stant flitting mirage phantoms, made you feel more
dismal and insignificant than an hundred miles into the
bright, sparkling, briny ocean : even the Red Sea itself,
with a temperature of one hundred degrees in the shade,
is nothing to the desert for downright misery and help-

So writes Keane ; Burckhardt compares part of the
way to the Nubian desert. Burton speaks of the
same as " a desert peopled only with sand : a place
of death for what little there to die in it : Nature
scalped, flayed, discovering all her skeleton to the
gazer's eye." The Egyptian Soubhi, having to go
from Meccah to Medinah, envies the European
travellers in Switzerland or the South of France.

The hesitation of Mohammed to migrate to Yath-
rib may have been in part due to unwillingness
to encounter those physical horrors, which, though
less trying to an Arab than to a European, are
not likely to have been underrated : and indeed
he hated travelling,* and in the Koran couples
exile with death. + The Prophet was, like many
men, timid at the start, courageous when he had

The road followed by the guide appears to have
been not quite identical with any of the four men-
tioned by Burton. The first two days' journey
brought them near Usfan, thirty-six miles from
Meccah ; this is at the extreme edge of the hills,
and apparently retained its name as late as Burck-

* Muslim, ii., 107.

\ Baihaki, Mahasin, 326.

The Migration 2 1 1

hardt's time. Of the rest of the names that figure
in the narrative of the Prophet's flight few would
seem to be known to European travellers. The
guide intentionally followed bye-paths, only occa-
sionally crossing the ordinary route. The true form
of some of the names was doubtful in the third cent-
ury of Islam. The fabulous incidents with which
some of the chronicles embellish the journey need
not be repeated, but it is characteristic that when
they reached 'Arj, and Mohammed was told that the
land belonged to the tribe Aslam, whose name means
" safest," the Prophet gladly accepted the omen. *
His camel broke down here, and another was sup-
plied him by a member of the tribe; according to
one account, one of a family with whom a daughter
of Abu Bakr was being nursed, which also supplied
a guide acquainted with a short cut to Medinahf
over the difficult mountain called Rakubah, where
the Prophet succeeded in pressing a couple of robbers
into his service. :f The Aslam were a branch of the
Khuza'ah, and in conciliating them the Prophet had
taken the first step towards the recovery of Meccah ;
for, as we have seen, the Khuza'ah remembered that
they had been ousted from their privileges by the
Kuraish. § It is not certain that the Meccan pur-
suers went far on the road to Medinah, and it is
likely that the Kurashite leaders^ guiltless of fore-
thought, congratulated themselves on being rid of

* Perhaps, however, this story is an embellishment by the biog*
rapher. Similar tales are often told.

If Isabah, ii., 180.
\ MusnaJ, iv., 74.
§ Cf . Wcllhausen, Wakidi, 320, 374.

212 Mohammed

their vexatious countrymen without bloodshed.
'Akil, an unconverted son of Abu Talib, seized and
sold the dwellings of Mohammed and the other Mos-
lem members of his family * ; and a similar raid was
made on the houses and goods of the other Re-
fugees. For a time the city was to enjoy complete

On Monday the 8th of Rabi' I of the year I A.H.,
corresponding to September 20 of the year 622 A.D.,
the Prophet reached Kuba, now a great place for gar-
dens and orchards. Here the guide left them and
returned to inform Abu Bakr's family of his safe
arrival.f He arrived there at midday and the neo-
phytes could not tell which was the Prophet and
which Abu Bakr, both being clothed in white gar-
ments sent them by Talhah, son of Ubaidallah :£;
presently, however, they saw the latter shading
the former with his coat, and they had been taught
thus much, that a Prophet comes to be served.
Hospitality was offered by an aged convert, Kul-
thum, son of Hind, the name of whose slave " Suc-
cess " seemed to the Prophet of good augury. § It
was accepted, though for receptions the house of
another convert was found to be more convenient.
At Kuba they determined to remain till Ali joined
them, which happened on the Thursday ; with him
was Suhaib, son of Sinan, || who had been forced to
hand over his savings to the Kuraish. Iconoclasm

* Azraki, 389.
\Isabah, ii., 696.
\Ibn ScCd\\\., 122.
§ Isabah, iii., 1138.
\Ibn .SaV iii., 163.

The Migration 2 1 3

appears to have been rife among the inhabitants and
the Prophet is said to have started the building of a
mosque — a matter about which there is, however,
some doubt. There is evidence that the people of
Kuba afterwards manifested some pique at the
Prophet's failing to make their village his perman-
ent residence. Since Yathrib was so close, it might
have been expected that all the city would have
come out to Kuba to bring their Prophet home in
state; inhabitants of Eastern cities will ride out
many hours' journey to welcome guests of moderate
distinction. Since the people of Yathrib did not do
this, it is probable that the cautious Prophet, who
had escaped from Meccah with such skill, like
Ulysses of old at first kept the fact of his arrival a
secret known to the select few ; and indeed Abu
Bakr, who was known to the people on the road,
when asked who his companion was, replied, " a
guide to lead me." * The Prophet was not a man
to accept roseate statements without some scep-
ticism. From Kuba he communicated the fact of
his arrival to As'ad Ibn Zurarah and other converts
at Yathrib, but his time was doubtless well spent in
finding out the truth about the welcome he was to

On the Friday f the Prophet rode from Kuba to-
wards Yathrib, and is said to have performed service
in the Wadi Ra'unah, which forms the route between
the two places. This appears to be an anachronism ;

* Musnad, iii., 122.

\ Anas, son of Malik, makes the Prophet stay fourteen days at
Kuba. Musnad, iii., 212.

214 Mohammed

the adoption of Friday as a sacred day came later,
at the suggestion of a Medinese, and after the rela-
tions with the Jews had become unfriendly ; and,
indeed, confirmation of this is found in the fact of
his choosing the Friday 'for travelling. It is as-
serted that each tribe by which he passed desired
the honour of his presence and requested him to
take up his abode with them ; that he refused all
these offers, in order to excite no jealousy, and left
it to his camel to choose a site ; it chose that of
the future mosque, the Prophet only accepting
hospitality till his own house was built. Anas Ibn
Malik asserted that five hundred of the Helpers
came out to meet him, * and that an Abyssinian
war dance was got up by way of welcome, f These
stories may or may not be true. We know that he
was at first unable to sleep at night owing to his
alarm, and could only close his eyes when he found
that some of his faithful adherents from Meccah
were mounting guard. % The terrors of the at-
tempted assassination and of the days and nights
in the Cave were still on him. And he was aware
also that one of his new adherents, Nufai', son of
Al-Mu'alla, had been murdered before his arrival
in consequence of the blood-feud. §

Till a residence had been built for him he had
lodgings in the house of Khalid, son of Zaid, a
Khazrajite who was among the earliest converts

* Musnad, iii. , 222.
f Ibid., 161.
% Isabah, ii., 163.
§ Ibn Duraid, 271.

The Migration 2 1 5

from Yathrib, and who was on an intimate footing
with Mus'ab, son of 'Umair, the missionary whom
he had despatched to prepare the way. An early
step taken by him was to create between some of
his chief followers from Meccah with converts of
Medinah a relationship which he called brother-
hood, and which was to involve many of the rights
which belonged to that name. He had tried the
same method before, and so successfully broke down
the superstition about kinship. The measure at
Medinah appears to have been a temporary one
only, and to have been abrogated after the battle of

That the office of a Prophet involved all the du-
ties of a King, and both religious and political head-
ship, was doubtless understood by him. And we
can imagine the delight with which a man thor-
oughly qualified for ruling found himself at last in a
position in which his talents could be exercised. He
did not, however, enter upon all his duties at once.
For a time the old soothsayers continued to retain
some of their clients, when disputants required their
differences settled,! though presently resort to them
was forbidden, under pain of forfeiting the merits of
forty days' prayers \\ and their fees were declared
illegal. § The rudimentary organisation which had
existed among the tribes before his arrival did not
immediately disappear. Gradually, however, the

+ Ibn Sa'd II. % ii., Ill, etc
f Wahidi, 121.
\Musnad, iv., 68.
%/did., 1 1 8.

2 1 6 Mohammed

principle that all authority emanated from Mo-
hammed permeated the constitution of Medinah.
He claimed the right to depose the heads of tribes
and replace them by chiefs of his own choice.* Dis-
putes between his followers were naturally brought
to him to settle, and presently disputes between
them and their neighbours.

He inherited the devotion and adulation which
had hitherto been bestowed on the idols ; and though
he never permitted the word worship to be used of
the ceremonies of which he was the object, he ere
long became hedged in with a state which differed
little from that which surrounded a god. \ Enthusi-
astic converts habitually struggled for the honour of
washing in the water which the Prophet had used
for his ablution, and then drinking it upi Ere long
he took to bottling up the precious liquid and send-
ing it, after the style of the relics of saints, to new
adherents. When he employed the services of a
barber, the Moslems crowded round, and even
scrambled for the hair,f and nail-parings, which
they preserved as charms and relics.;): The ease of
approach which had characterised the old Bedouin
chiefs was soon prohibited, and a divine revelation
forbade the Moslems to address the Prophet as they
addressed each other. At one time he commanded
his followers to make an offering to the poor before
they addressed him, but this had to be rescinded. §

* Ibn Duraid, 274 ; Wakidi ( W.\ 249.
\ Musnad, iii., 133.
% Ibn Sa'dH., ii., 87.
^ Surah lviii., 13.

The Migration 217

He made a rule to enter no house of Medinah with
one exception save his own,* and perhaps broke it
only when it was necessary for him to administer the
last consolations to the dying ; but after a time it
became the custom to bring the dying or dead to
him.f Yet from costly paraphernalia, such as pleased
the childish taste of other monarchs, he abstained to
the end ; he rejected a proposal of Omar that he
should purchase a silken robe in which to receive
deputations ; neither when his resources were slender
nor when they were swollen were they ever wasted
on jewels or mosaics or cloth of gold. They were
employed in purchasing arms and men.

The Koran at Medinah entered on a new stage of
its existence, serving as a medium for legislation, and
so discharging the functions of an oracle, but also as
an official chronicle in which current events were
criticised from the Prophet's standpoint. % To the
end Mohammed appears never to have let even his
most intimate associates into the secret of his reve-
lations; though at times he gave notice in advance of
the import of a future revelation, and affirmed that
words of his had the same force as the words of God.
A whole staff of scribes presently came to be em-
ployed in taking down his effusions; and one of them
is said to have gone back to paganism by observ-
ing that the Prophet allowed him to write whatever

* Bokhari (A".), ii., 212. The contrary is asserted Musnad, iv.,

\ Musnad, iii., 66.

JSprenger's phrase, "Leading Articles," describes these Surahs
so accurately that it has been adopted m the sequel

2 1 8 Mohammed

he chose.* The faithful however did not reason
thus. Omar records in perfectly good faith how
when the Prophet went to say prayers over the dead
Hypocrite Abdallah Ibn Ubayy, he remonstrated
with the Prophet for paying such honours to his
enemy ; not without astonishment at his own bold-
ness in thus criticising the conduct of the messenger
of God. But shortly after the Prophet produced a
revelation " Pray not thou over any of them who
dies at any time, neither stand thou upon his grave."
To Omar the coincidence did not apparently suggest
the remotest suspicion ; to us the revelation appears
to have been nothing more than a formal adoption
of a suggestion of Omar, which the Prophet supposed
to represent public opinion. On another occasion,
when Omar (or another) bethought him of having the
Call to Prayer, so as to avoid imitation of Jews and
Christians, when he communicated the suggestion to
the Prophet, he found that he had been just antici-
pated by the Angel Gabriel. On three other occasions
he claimed to have coincided with Allah ; having
made a suggestion to the Prophet, he was presently
told that a revelation had come down embodying
his idea in his own words, f The occurrence flattered
his vanity, but suggested no suspicion of imposture.
Other followers were perhaps less simple, but were
aware of the danger of ridiculing the Koran. Quar-
rels occasionally arose between Moslems owing to
the fact that the Koran had been repeated to them
in different forms, and each naturally claimed that

* Musnad, iii., 121.
\Ibid. t i., 24.

The Migration 219

his version only was correct : the Prophet, never at
a loss, asserted that the Koran had been revealed in
no fewer than seven texts.

Although the notion that the Koran was the word
of God in the most literal sense seems to have been
present to the mind of both the Prophet and his
followers, it is rather surprising that its contents
were treated with the sort of carelessness which the
above anecdote illustrates, but which also appears in
other narratives. According to Ayeshah, a text of
enormous importance, that in which stoning was
enjoined as the punishment for adultery, was on a
slip (of parchment?) deposited under her bed, and
afterwards lost. Casual reciters of the Koran re-
minded the Prophet of texts which he declared that
he had himself forgotten. A text of vast importance,
recited by Abu Bakr after the Prophet's death, was
new to Omar. Persons were ranged at times in
order of merit according to the amount of the Koran
which they had collected, as though the process re-
sembled that of collecting the Sibyl's leaves ; and
certain believers in the Prophet's time made it their
business to collect it.* When asked by disputants
whether a certain Surah contained thirty-five or
thirty-six verses, the Prophet only blushed, and gave
them to understand that either would do.f The
Prophet, who was sometimes taunted with being

I" all ears," i. e., ready to be guided by any suggestion,
could easily be got to produce modifying or ab-
rogating revelations, when convicted of hasty and

♦So Kais Ibn Al-Sakan. Jbn Sctd II. % ii., 70.
\Musnad t i., 106.

2 2 o Mohammed

impracticable legislation ; but those who pointed out
the flaw had to take the greatest care to cast no
shadow of doubt on the divine character of the
earlier oracles. In consequence of the Prophet and
his bodyguard making absolutely no concession on
this point, the Prophet was able to the end to
maintain his power of producing oracles as a
deus ex machina to which he could effectively re-
sort whenever a serious emergency occurred; and
the dread of being made the subject of a text kept
many men from opposing the Prophet in any way

His first task at Medinah was to build a place of
worship, the first church of Islam, unless it be true
that the mosque of Kuba was yet earlier. The land
selected by his camel is said to have belonged to two
orphans, whom the Prophet elected to pay for the
site out of Abu Bakr's purse. They were connected
in some way with the zealous As'ad, son of Zurarah ;
yet it would appear that Abdallah Ibn Ubayy had
some claim on their land.* Of the erection of the
first of the mosques we read various details, some
supplied from the imagination. The most probable
account seems to be that the Prophet did not go to
the trouble of building, but utilised a barn or store-
house which had served for drying dates, and which
was to be had for a reasonable sum. Some author-
ities suggest that this barn had been used as a praying-
place before Mohammed came to Medinah, and
considering how rarely the Prophet left anything to
chance, it is possible that his camel had some reasons
*Ibn Sa'd If., ii., 53.

The Migration 221

for kneeling down at this particular spot. The
measurements are given variously ; perhaps 70 x 60 x 7
cubits is the most probable of those recorded. The
barn had a roof of palm branches and clay, not suf-
ficiently solid to keep out rain. In this the Prophet
found an analogy to the Tabernacle of Moses, which
he appears to have confused with the huts at the
Feast of Tabernacles, the roofing of which must not
keep out either light or wet. This roof was sup-
ported on palm trunks, against one of which the
Prophet used to lean when preaching, till the Minbar
or pulpit was introduced. The barn faced north,
with doors on the south-east and west sides; for the
first of these a northerly door was substituted when
the direction of prayer was changed. Flooring of
pebbles seems to have been gradually introduced by
worshippers who were inconvenienced by the puddles
which were the consequence of rainy days. An
eastern door was a private entrance for the Prophet,
who proceeded to provide quarters for himself and
his wives on that side of the mosque.

The first of these was for his wife Sauda, and his
bride Ayeshah whom Mohammed married shortly
after his arrival : ere his death the number had in-
creased to nine. An authority tells us that these
too were not new erections, but huts belonging to a
certain Harithah, son of Al-Nu'man,* who retired
from each as soon as the Prophet required it. Four
of them were of mud-bricks, with inner chambers of
lath and clay ; five were of lath and clay without
inner chambers. A curtain of sacking served in

* Samhudi, 126 (after Jbn Sa'd/f., ii., 52).

222 Mohammed

most cases for a door. They surrounded the
mosque on three sides, only the west being clear of

Round this pile of buildings many of the institu-
tions of Islam centre. In the absence of clocks the
worshippers assembled for prayer at very different
times ; and thereby much confusion was occasioned.
An early and faithful follower of Mohammed named
Bilal had a loud voice ; he was employed to summon
the worshippers from some eminence, such as the
roof of the barn. At some time in the early months
of the Prophet's residence at Medinah this practice
became regular, and was regarded as an institution
of Islam. Those who heard the call were ordered to
come to the meeting on pain of having their houses
burned down, no excuse being permitted.* Bilai's
voice saved his master from the necessity of imitating
the Christian hammer and the Jewish trumpet. The
former institution he had been near adopting ; one
Abdallah, son of Zaid, claimed to have had the " Call
to Prayer " revealed to. him in a dream, which he
communicated to the Prophet,f while according to
another account the suggestion came from Omar.
Minarets, now so familiar a feature of Mohammedan
towns, were not added till long after Mohammed's
death.;): With this substitute for a church bell re-
ligious worship began to assume a regular and
stereotyped form ; the details were supposed to have
been communicated to Mohammed during his ascent

* Musnad, iii., 423.

\ Ibid., iv., 43.

\ Kamil of Mubarrad, ii., 66.

The Migration 223

into heaven, this being the Moslem analogue of the
Jewish phrase "a rule delivered to Moses on Sinai."
For clearly the rules of prayer must have been com-
municated to Mohammed at some time; and when
they were not to be found in Koranic revelations,
the ascent into heaven was the most likely occasion
for their delivery.

The barn had to be enlarged during the Prophet's
lifetime and in course of time it was replaced
by more magnificent buildings. Other mosques
were erected before the Prophet's death, and when a
rival faction was started it commenced its short
career with the building of a mosque. Till the
Prophet's death however the barn served not only as
the sanctuary of Islam but also as the town-hall and
audience chamber of Medinah. It was here that
each fresh revelation was delivered. In the shabby
accommodation of the first mosque we may notice a
great instance of Mohammed's caution and economy.
Any dirhem that was wasted on building would be
taken out of the mouths of hungry Refugees : for
Mohammed knew men well enough to calculate with
precision the time by which the enthusiasm of the
Helpers would cool. A story that may be true
makes the owner of the barn offer it to Mohammed
gratis, and Mohammed insist on paying for it.
Whether this be historical or not, he certainly ab-
stained at this time from demanding any needless
contributions. If the prayer houses of Jews and
Christians were richly decorated, he could urge that
Gabriel had forbidden the decoration of that of the
Moslems. And indeed he held that the outlay of

224 Mohammed

money in building was the worst that a Moslem
could make.

While the mosque was being adapted for worship
and the huts being erected for Mohammed's families,
he was doubtless being waited on by all the heads
of households in Medinah, and exercising his sharp
vision upon them. His strong constitution appears
to have kept him free from the Medinah fever which
for a time struck down some of his most stalwart
followers, Abu Bakr, his freedman 'Amir, and
Bilal. His mode of dealing with men was ordinarily
so fascinating and winning that those visitors who
were already converted to Islam were doubtless
not disappointed. The Prophet had many ways of
making those visits agreeable. He could change the
names of visitors who had been called after pagan
objects of adoration, or substitute names of good
omen for such as were inauspicious.

Among his visitors, or at any rate among those who
made his acquaintance were representatives of two
parties of whom much will be heard, Jews and Hyp-
ocrites. The latter, or disaffected Medinese, are com-
plimented by the Prophet on their fine appearance
and melodious voices, but presently he had occasion
to compare them to a row of sticks *; men so cowardly
and irresolute were by no means to his taste. The
Hypocrites on the other hand gave the newcomers
the sobriquet, the "Surtouts " f meaning perhaps
that Medinah was over full of them. A tradition;):

* Surah lxii., 4.

\ Tabari, Comm., xxviii., 68.

\ Samhudiy 8.

The Migration 225

makes the Prophet request to be taken in at the
house or castle of Abdallah, son of Ubayy, who un-
courteously told him to go to the people who had
sent for him. Mohammed was not the man to bring
such an affront upon himself. A better authen-
ticated tradition* makes the Prophet visit Abdallah,
who complained of the odour of the beast which the

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 15 of 32)