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What Changes did Prophet Muhammad make to the Society in which he Lived?

  1. Religious Characteristics:

      1. Belief: From the time that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was charged with the duty of prophethood he tried to correct the beliefs of people and distance them from the idols. Idolatry did not consist merely of believing that Allah had partners; the idols, which had been raised to the level of deities, were involved in worship and daily life. Thus, Prophet Muhammad informed everyone who embraced Islam that by uttering the Qalima-i Tawheed that they had distanced themselves from shirk (polytheism) and they should only worship and prayer to Allah; divining the future with arrows, using magic, considering objects to be unlucky, sacrificing an animal to anyone but Allah, swearing on an idol and discussing fate were all forbidden. Prophet Muhammad also demanded reliance on Allah and that only He be turned to for help. In fact, during the migration Abu Bakr became worried when the unbelievers followed them as far as the Cave of Thawr; Prophet Muhammad told him "Do not be afraid! Allah is with us,"advising him to rely on Allah. In addition, as everyone who had faith was close to Allah, Prophet Muhammad announced: "If the servant approaches Allah by the span of one hand, Allah will approach him by a yard, if he approaches Allah by a yard, Allah will approach him by two yards, again if he walks to Allah, Allah will run to him."2 In connection with the fact that no Muslim can question the belief of another (takfir) the Prophet said "If a person accuses a fellow Muslim of not being Muslim, then because of that takfir one of them will be an unbeliever."3

2. Worship: Islam is a religion that gives importance to both worship and belief. In the Quran Allah says: "I have only created Jinns and men that they may serve me,"4 indicating the importance of worship in the life of a person. The Prophet said "Allah will not look at your body or appearance or possessions; he will examine your hearts and your actions,"5 thus emphasizing the value of worship for a believing person.

In the society which Prophet Muhammad addressed, worship was important from two aspects. The first was the jamaat (congregation). In particular, the forms of worship that must be performed together as required by the jamaat, starting with the congregational prayer, increase the trust between individuals in society and pleasure is attained from worship. In fact, the Prophet said: "In Allah's eyes the most esteemed action is that which is continuous, even if it is little"6, focusing attention on the matter of constancy. There are different aspects for prayer, fasting, zakaat and hajj in the life of the individual and the society. All these forms of worship secure unity and togetherness, cooperation and solidarity, and altruism for others within the society.

3. Education and Instruction: One of the most important characteristics in the society of Prophet Muhammad was education, instruction and knowledge. Allah's first command to Prophet Muhammad was "Read".  The verses from the Quran: "If ye realize this not, ask of those who possess this message,""Say: "Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?"make clear the importance of knowledge, education and instruction in Islam.

In the time of Prophet Muhammad education and instruction began with education in the Quran and the sunnah (practices of the Prophet). In fact, Prophet Muhammad ordered: "The most blessed of you are those who learn and teach the Quran."As Prophet Muhammad gave the importance to both men and women learning how to read and write he appointed Shifa bint Abdillah to teach the women. In fact, the Prophet set the ransom for Bedir, one of the prisoners who knew how to read and write, as teaching 10 Muslim children to read and write. In addition to this, many Companions were assigned to teach and instruct in the Quran and the sunnah. Prophet Muhammad wanted for all Muslims, with no differentiation between men and women or young and old, to be occupied with all areas of learning that were concerned with human life. The Prophet, who ordered that there be specialization in knowledge, education and learning, stated that a person who had knowledge was blessed, but that they must not be conceited and must not hide their knowledge.

4. Abandoning Ignorant Traditions and Customs: One of the characteristics of the society in the time of Prophet Muhammad was the complete abandonment of the incorrect traditions, customs and behavior that belonged to the Age of Ignorance. The principles that the Prophet introduced put an end to the beliefs and concept of worship that belonged to the Era of Ignorance; while installing the Islamic principles in the place of these earlier beliefs it is only natural that some of the traditions, customs and behavior that existed in this period and which were contrary to the revelation ceased to be practiced. The Prophet tried to put an end to all behavior that was seen as superstitious from an Islamic point of view; by distancing people from belief and worship of idols and bringing them closer to Allah he endowed them with the Islamic morals.

In this matter the Prophet forbid the spilling of blood, stealing and adultery; that is, he forbid involvement in all forms of behavior that would threaten the security of property, life, honor  or reputation. Involvement in slander, backstabbing and unjust earnings, like interest, black-marketeering, and bribery, was also forbidden. In fact, when Ibnu'l Lutbiye, who had collected the zakaat from the Ezd tribe, separated out some objects from the zakaat goods that had been given to him personally, the Prophet was not pleased and said "If you had been sitting in the house of your mother and father (i.e doing nothing) would you have been given these?" (that is, the presents were given to the office not to the man) and he took the objects back. Prophet Muhammad cursed black-marketeering and cheating. Again in this period, to be involved in behavior that would damage family life or incur a bad reputation, to mock, to be careless when weighing goods, to oppress, to fail to prevent evil, to be conceited, to incite disorder and sedition, or to be an instrument of the same, to disturb those around one with one's attitude or behavior, to be malicious or vengeful were behavior considered to be part of ignorant traditions and customs and were forbidden by the Prophet.

5. Cooperation: Cooperation and solidarity were important characteristics in the society of Prophet Muhammad. During the Meccan and Medinan periods those who followed the Prophet helped one another both financially and spiritually. The Medinan Muslims met the needs of the emigrants as much as they could and for this reason they were called the Ansar (Helpers). The Prophet considered it a duty to help those who were destitute, poor, orphaned or abandoned and to relieve them of their difficulties. "Even if I were to have as much gold as Mount Uhud, I would not want to keep more beside me at night than what I owed or to have more than a dinar of that left."10 Again, the Prophet said: "If one of you does not want for their brother in religion what they want for themselves, then they are not a true believer,"11 indicating the importance of cooperation and meeting the needs of others.


  1. Political Characteristics:

1.      Feeling of Security: The state that was established as a result of the policies followed by Prophet Muhammad in Medina had the power to solve any potential problems. The construction of the first masjid was an important component of the foundation of brotherhood (Muahat), and was an important step in providing closeness, affection, love, cooperation and security among Muslims. In addition, the political structure that came about in Medina provided mutual security in the relationship between the state and the people; the Jewish, polytheist and münafik(hypocrite) elements in society were not able to destroy the closeness, unity and togetherness of the Muslims. Again, the Prophet's constitution (agreement - Medina Contract), which considered both Muslims and the other people in Medina, strengthened the feeling of security between the Muslims and non-Muslims. The Prophet, who was the head of state in Medina, treated both Muslim and non-Muslim according to the principle of rights, justice and equality that was involved in this constitution. However, taking into account developing events, despite the peace that had been established in Medina, the Jewish and hypocrite elements had adopted an attitude opposed to the Muslims and to the state and spread seeds of disunion and instigation among society.

This much is a fact; the Prophet included people loop in the decisions he was to make as leader of the society; he brought istishare (consultation) to the fore, and took into consideration not the benefits to his person, family or relations, but rather thought of the good of the society and state. When there was hardship he would be the first to step up, and when there was a reward he would put himself last, always placing the benefit of society to the fore. In fact, this behavior of the Prophet, as a leader of a society, provided for the establishment of an atmosphere of peace and security in society.

2. Disapproval of Tribalism: From the first day of Prophet Muhammad's revelation, the feeling of tribalism which existed in the Age of Ignorance was replaced by the concept of "brother/sister in religion", and in the Medina Contract the formula of "living together", disregardless of race, language or religion, was put into practice. When the Prophet removed the concept of tribalism from society he did not completely ignore the problem of the tribes, but established a balance between the Ansar and the Muhajir, trying to replace the tribal feelings that existed between these two groups with the concept of religious brotherhood.

3. Care in Appointing Administrators: The administrators who were appointed during the Prophet's time were people who were humble, gentle and merciful; they were people who expended all their energy for the community, people who were capable and competent, who complied with the principles of the Quran and sunnah, who worked to securing the unity and togetherness of society and the state and peace of mind of the individual and who did not allow themselves to be used as instruments for instigation or sedition. The Prophet said "You are all shepherds; you are all accountable for your herds"12, expressing the fact that all should act with a feeling of responsibility in society, in particular the administrators of that society. When Prophet Muhammad said: "My Lord! If one who has taken on a duty for the sake of the ummah makes things difficult, make things difficult for them, if they act well, then treat them well,"13 he made it clear that rights and the people are the support of administrators who treat society well.

C.  Economic Characteristics

1. The Economic Situation in MedinaWith the emigration of the Muslims to Medina great changes took place. In Medina, the arrival of Muslims like Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman b. Affan, Talha b. Ubeydullah, Abdurrahman b. Avf, Zubeyr b. Avam, sped up the commercial life of the city.

During the early days of the emigration to Medina it was the Ansar who saved the Meccan Muslims from financial strife; later the Meccan Muslims worked in such a way that the Ansar did not find themselves in a difficult position, and the economic situation righted itself. The economic problems of the Muslims continued until the Battle of the Trench. In this period thezakaat that the Muslims gave balanced the economy in favor of the poorer members of society. After the Hudaybiya Agreement and the conquest of Haybar the economy improved. In fact, the result of this relaxation in the economy was that some Companions became wealthy enough to leave inheritances.

The economy of Medina was agriculturally based. Dates, grapes, barley and wheat were among the main crops.  At the end of the migration, to prevent the agriculture suffering from the jihad, members of family joined in the battles in turn. Thus, Sad b. Ubade went on jihad one year and he sent his son the following year. The Prophet did not let the land lay unattended; he ordered "Whoever has land, let them plant it, if they cannot plant it themselves then their brother should plant it"14 and the Companions acted according to this.

3. Measures Taken to Develop Trade: Immediately after the emigration Prophet Muhammad established a new market to where the market place had been during the Age of Ignorance to speed up the vitality of trade. The Prophet, encouraging the Companions to be involved in trade, said: "Honest and reliable merchants are with prophets, saints and martyrs."15 There was no obstacle to women participating in trade.

Prophet Muhammad encouraged halal earnings and forbid the purchase of those things that were haram. The Prophet frowned on deception and when he discovered that some wheat, which appeared dry on top, was actually wet, he said "Those who deceive are not of us."16

Again the Prophet warned against empty promises when trading and ordered that purchases made on installments should be organized according to written documents that were witnessed. The Prophet stated that any purchase concluded should be on approval, and the responsibility for anyone who was wronged lay with the administration; he ordered that the property of others should not be abused, and strictly forbid earnings that were not honestly gained, but rather came through bribery, interest or black marketeering. He ordered that great care be shown to the property of orphans and ordered conformity with the law to protect the balance established between the inheritance rights of men and women. The Prophet appointed muhtesip(inspectors) to ensure honesty in trade; these officials knew the religion well, acted according to what they knew, were gentle, pleasant and honest and were also respected in society.

The Prophet announced the variety of needs of craftsmen to ensure the development of commercial life, and was pleased with those who carried out trades like brokers, tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, plasterers, butchers, leatherworkers, barbers, midwives, nurses, doctors, bakers, etc... No trade that existed in the Age of Ignorance that was important for human life was forbidden, however people were warned against fraudulent practices in these trades. In the era of the Prophet there was no obstruction to trade or other career practices for women in the market place.

 

1.Al-Tauba, 9/40.

2.Bukhari, Tawhid, 50; Tawba 1; Muslim, Zikr, 2-3.

3.Muslim, Faith, 111; Ibn Hanbal II/23, 60, 142.

4.Zariyat, 51/56.

5.Muslim, Birr, 33, 34; Ibn Hanbal II, 23, 60, 142.

6.Bukhari, Teheccud, 7.

7.An-Nahl, 16/43.

8.Az-Zumar, 39/9.

9.Bukhari, Fedailu´ul Quran, 21; Abu Davud, Vitr, 4 10.Bukhari, Riqaq 14; Muslim, Alms 31.

11.Bukhari, Faith, 7; Muslim, Faith 7; Tirmidhi, Kiyamah, 59.

12.Bukhari, Jum´a, 11; Cenaiz, 32; Muslim, Imarat, 19; Abu Davud, Imarat, 1.

13.Bukhari, Salat 33; Muslim, Imarat; Tirmidhi, Fiten, 25.

14.Muslim, Buyu, 88.

15.Tirmidhi, Buyu, 4.

16.Muslim, Faith, 99; Abu Davud, Buyu, 1.

 

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