The Biography of

Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam

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Lesson 13

Madinah at the time of migration

Madinah had been selected as the city that would provide shelter to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam and which would serve as the focal point of the Islamic faith. Madinah was different from Makkah in various ways. Makkah had only one dominant culture - idol worship. Madinah had a number of religions and cultures that lived side by side.

1. Jews

The Jews were an influential community in Madinah. The three most famous Jewish tribes were the Banu Quraiza, Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadhir. In total there were around two thousand adults belonging to these Jewish tribes. The Jews had migrated to Arabia due to two factors. The first was the attack on their temple and settlements in Babylon by Buktanassar in the year 587 B.C. During this time many Jews left Palestine and settled in the northern areas of Arabia. The second reason for the mass migration of Jews to Arabia was the occupation of Palestine by the Romans in 70 C.E. Many of them settled in Khaibar, Yathrib, Hijaz and Taima. (1)

  Jewish migration to Arabia  

As a community the Jews were not on good terms with each other and were constantly plagued with inter-tribal conflicts. From a religious point of view they were very well educated. They knew their scriptures well and they regarded themselves as the chosen people.

The economy of Madinah at that time was controlled by the Jews. Being wealthy, they lent money on interest on security of personal property. Madinah was an agricultural area of date vines and there was huge scope for money lending since the poorer tribes often needed finance for cultivation. An incident narrated by Imam Bukhari Rahimahullah tells us that the Jews went further than requesting personal property as security for loans given out by them. They often demanded the borrowers to pledge their women and children as security. Naturally, this caused tension and animosity, as the Arabs were passionate when it came to the honour of their womenfolk. As the controllers of finance in the city they exercised control over the social conditions of the inhabitants. They would spend lavishly in causing rifts amongst their neighbouring tribes.

2. The Aus and Khazraj

These were two Arab tribes who had migrated from Yemen and settled in Madinah. They came to Madinah after the Jews but were larger in number. They were also at loggerheads with one another and frequently fought battles. Spiritually, they were idol worshippers like the Quraish of Makkah.

Being of Arab stock, generosity was in their blood. They would often take loans from the Jews for their business and personal ventures. They did not care to save their money for a rainy day.

Strategic Importance of Madinah

Madinah was an important city since it commanded the commercial trading routes leading to Makkah. The Quraish were aware of this and knew that security of this caravan route was crucial for their economy. The Aus and Kazraj tribes of Madinah were also renowned in Arabia for their might and power in war.

From a geographical and defence point of view Madinah was impregnable like a fortified city. Only the north of the city was exposed. Buildings, date palm groves and lava plains protected the other three sides. A chain of high mountains, lava and volcanic igneous rock formations protected the city from the east and west. This was an impossible area for warfare. In the south there were dense date palm groves. An army attacking Madinah from this side would have difficulty synchronising and communicating. (2)

Madinah - A fortified city

Lessons to learn

  • For the strategic geographical factors discussed above Allah selected Madinah as the radiating source from which Islam would conquer the Arabian Peninsula and the world.
  • The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam was faced with the difficult task of producing a united society from the diverse community of Madinah. It was a real challenge, especially when it came to pacifying the Jewish element.
  • Madinah was very different from Makkah. In Makkah the activities and movements of the Muslims were severely restricted by the Quraish. In Madinah, they were now free to carve out a new society and system. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam now had the ability of laying down the foundations of economics, politics, war, worship and culture. A community of this type could, however, never be developed overnight. It took the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam ten years to do so.


(1) Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, Riyadh, 2000, p. 40

(2) Nadwi, Syed Ab al-Hasan Ali, Muhammad Rasulullah, Lucknow, 1982, p. 166-168



Dua for a happy marriage

Meaning : O our Lord, grant us such wives and progeny who are the

coolness of our eyes and make us the leaders of the pious.


The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam used to mend his shoes, sew his cloth and work in his house. Doing household chores is a prophetic quality that brings humilty and displays kindness.