Clashes Against the Prophet
For the first three years after he was visited by Angel Gabriel, Muhammad limited his preaching to his close family and friends. Apart from his wife, only a few cousins and friends converted to Islam. Muhammad was afraid of Quraish's reaction if they heard of his preaching; they were hostile and unpredictable. To avoid bringing trouble upon himself and his followers, he conducted his prayers and preaching in secrecy.
Allah, however, intended for Muhammad to preach to the whole world. But Muhammad still feared the people of Quraish, so Allah sent to him the following verses: “[S]o proclaim that which you are commanded, and withdraw from the idolaters. Lo! We are Sufficient for you against the scoffers, who set some other god along with Allah. But they will come to know. Well know We that your bosom is at time oppressed by what they say” (15:94–97).
Encouraged by Allah's assurance, Muhammad slowly but surely made his message public. He began by preaching to his extended family. Eventually, he worked up the courage to face the tribe of Quraish. One day, he stood on a hill and called upon them. When they gathered, he told them about Allah, but didn't get far, as they quickly turned their backs and walked away, mocking and ridiculing him. Although Muhammad was highly respected and renowned for his truthfulness, when it came to his preaching, Quraish rejected him.
Hostility Toward Muslims
Eventually, however, some of the tribe's members listened to Muhammad. As more people converted to Islam, the concern of the Quraish leaders grew, and hostility toward new converts increased. The large and mighty tribesmen seized the new converts, particularly weaker ones, like slaves, and locked them into torture chambers. Their creative methods of torture included suffocating converts by placing massive rocks on their chests, abandoning them on the scorching desert sand, forcing them to lie flat on hot coals, and severely beating them. Yet none of the converts surrendered the belief in Allah.
Hostility was not limited to new converts, but extended to include the Prophet himself. Although they would have loved to kill him, the Quraish leaders couldn't simply do it because they were afraid it would cause feuds, which were common at the time. Therefore, Muhammad's enemies reverted to mockery and verbal abuse. His enemies’ aggression was never fruitful, however, as divine intervention always protected the Prophet.
Mecca and Medina are the two holy cities of Islam, located in Saudi Arabia. The original name of Medina, Yathrib, was changed after Prophet Muhammad migrated there. The word medina means city; the city's name refers to it being the “City of Muhammad.”
One interesting account tells of what happened near the Kaaba as Muhammad was consumed in prayer. A hateful enemy of Islam with the nickname Abu Jahl (meaning Father of Ignorance) schemed to knock the Prophet dead with a massive rock. Abu Jahl staggered toward the praying Prophet before the anticipating eyes of the tribe, lifted the rock, and was prepared to strike when suddenly his eyes widened with fear; he dropped the rock and ran away, terrified. Abu Jahl later told the crowd that he had seen an enormous creature with a huge head and a terrifying set of teeth glowering at him, ready to shred him if he thought to proceed. Later, Prophet Muhammad told his companions that the creature Abu Jahl had seen was Angel Gabriel in disguise.
The Hijrah (Migration)
When conditions became too difficult to tolerate, Muhammad advised the Muslims of Quraish to migrate to Medina (a city in Saudi Arabia that still exists today). When the rest of Quraish heard of the migration, they became outraged that Islam would now spread to farther regions, and all their efforts in seizing and restraining the spread of Islam would have been in vain.
The tribe gathered to discuss this critical issue. They decided that they would put an end to it once and for all by killing Muhammad. Because they feared the vengeance of his family, they selected random men who would all strike simultaneously and kill the Prophet, so that the blame would fall on the entire tribe rather than on a single individual. That way, they could protect their families from feuds.
The tribe plotted to hide in the bushes around Muhammad's house, and strike him when he left at dawn for prayer. That night, Allah sent Angel Gabriel down to warn Muhammad of the danger and to grant him permission to migrate to Medina. Muhammad's cousin, Ali, offered to help by wearing the Prophet's cloak and sleeping in his bed. If one of the enemies came to check, he would think the Prophet was still sleeping soundly.
Muhammad walked out of his house before the eyes of the enemies, but not one person saw him. He picked up a handful of sand and cast it upon them, and they fell asleep one after the other. Muhammad made his way to the house of his loyal friend, Abu Bakr, and they set out on their way to Medina. When morning came, the enemies awoke to discover that the Prophet had slipped through their fingers; the Koran comments, “We have set a barrier before them and a barrier behind them, and thus have covered them so that they see not” (36:9).
The Islamic calendar was established from the year of the Hijrah (or Hegira). Before that, the Arabs had been aware of passing months but had not been counting years. The Hijrah took place on the year a.d. 579. Based on this starting date, the year a.d. 2000 corresponds with the year 1421 in the Islamic calendar.
Life in Medina
The numbers of Muslims increased greatly in Medina, but the original dwellers of the city were Jews. Before similar conflicts to those in Mecca could arise between the two groups, they decided to draw up a treaty to protect the rights of everyone. This settled disputes, but resentment still sizzled under the surface. Nevertheless, Muhammad quickly gained public support and became a trusted and respected leader.
As Islam flourished in Medina, the Prophet's mosque was constructed. Muhammad, already married to his second wife, Sawda, married his third wife, Aisha, who was yet at a tender age. (Khadijah had passed away three years before the Hijrah.) Although the situation appeared stable, threats of hostility from Mecca disturbed the Prophet. It appeared that the people of Quraish were still bitter about the escape of Muslims from Mecca, and that they were determined to fight them.
Wars and Battles
With the passage of time, the air between Muslims and the other groups thickened. The spark that caused the explosion was a dispute over a trade caravan. Immediately, Quraish gathered 950 soldiers and 700 camels and marched toward Medina to fight Muhammad. Learning of their advance, Muhammad called upon Muslims and prepared an army of just over 300 soldiers and a meager 70 camels. They had limited supplies and provisions, and their armor was sparse and weak.
The two armies battled away from the city in a region called Badr, and later the battle became known as the Battle of Badr. The Muslims knew they were outnumbered, but their faith in Allah strengthened their will. Muhammad prayed to Allah for support, and in response, Allah sent thousands of angel soldiers to the battlefield. The Koran says, “And when you did say unto the believers: Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord should support you with three thousand angels sent down (to your help)?” (3:124). One Muslim soldier reported to the Prophet seeing an angel fighting at his side, riding a horse whose hooves never touched the ground. Victory was declared to the Muslims. They had only fourteen casualties, while the enemies’ dead totaled seventy, with an additional seventy taken as prisoners.
Wars continued between the Muslims in Medina and the pagan tribes of Mecca and other parts of Arabia. Alliances were formed between the Jews and pagans against the Muslims. Yet, after many years and many battles, the Muslim community gained more power, and Muhammad's influence strengthened. After many years, Mecca was peacefully reopened for Muslim inhabitants, idolatry was banished, laws were set, women regained equality to men, thousands embraced Islam, and it was a time of enlightenment and knowledge.
Islamic teachings urge Muslims to remember Allah in their speech. Four common phrases that Muslims might repeat numerous times a day in their conversations with others are “Allahu Akbar,” meaning Allah the Greatest; “Al Hamdu Lillah,” meaning praise be to Allah; “Insha Allah,” meaning Allah willing; and “Subhan Allah,” meaning exalted is Allah.