The word ansar means "helper" in Arabic, while the word ansari refers to a person who helps. But as a term, the Ansar were the people from Medina who supported Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the muhajirun (Emigrants) when they migrated from Mecca to Medina.
The people of the Ansar were from two tribes: the al-Aws and the al-Khazraj. It is reported in the sources that these two tribes often fought against each other in the civil wars that preceded the advent of Islam. A delegation consisting of six people from the al-Khazraj came to Mecca to demand the support of the Quraish against the al-Aws (or perhaps just for pilgrimage, it is not known for certain) in the pilgrimage season in the eleventh year of the prophethood, and they converted to Islam when invited to do so by Prophet Muhammad.
On their return to Medina, the people from al-Khazraj, who had spoken about Islam to the people of al-Aws, sent emissaries to Mecca and met the Prophet; the people of the al-Aws, who joined them in the 12th and 13th years of the prophethood, gave an oath of allegiance to the Prophet at the place called known as al-Aqaba. Twelve people in total, that is ten from the al-Khazraj and two from al-Aws, joined the First Pledge of al-Aqaba, and seventy-five people from the al-Khazraj and the al-Aws joined the Second Pledge of al-Aqaba. The Medinan Muslims, who made an oath at the Second Pledge of al-Aqaba that they would protect and support the Prophet and the Meccan Muslims as they protected their own lives, families and possessions, greatly contributed to the formation of an Islamic state in Medina and the opening of a new era in the history of Islam.
After these pledges, the Muslims started to migrate to Yathrib (Medina), which was described as a "safe and peaceful location" by the Prophet. Immediately after the emigration, the Prophet established a bond of brotherhood which united every one of the Muhajirun (Muslims from Mecca) to one of the Ansar (Muslims from Medina) as siblings. Thus, the support of the Ansar for the Muhajirun was enriched by the spiritual bond of brotherhood and any possible feeling of embarrassment on the part of those who were receiving support was prevented, making the adaptation of the Muhajirun to Medina easier.
The Ansars, the Medina Muslims, embraced the Muhajirun as if they were their real family, wanting to share with them whatever they had. Providing them with accommodation in their homes, they shared their food with them; they even wanted to divide their orchards and share their property rights with them. However, the Prophet encouraged the Ansars to share products, but to maintain their property rights. Actually, the Muhajirun did not want property, but preferred to have a share of the income that was earned through work and trade in the market place. However, from the time after the Battle of Badr until the revelation of the 75th verse of Al-Anfal, there was an inheritance right between the Ansar and the Muhajirun.
The Qur'an refers to this Islamic brotherhood, which had never before been seen in history, as follows: "Those who believed, and adopted exile, and fought for the Faith, with their property and their persons, in the cause of Allah, as well as those who gave (them) asylum and aid,- these are (all) friends and protectors, one of another" (Al-Anfal 8/72).
Many events display the close relationship between the Ansar for both the Muhajirun and the Prophet; these events are reported in many sources. The way in which the Ansar awaited the Prophet and the Muhajirun and looked forward to their arrival is admirable; it is also impossible not to be moved by the attention, treatment and love they gave to the Muhajirun. In the Qur'an, this altruism is described as follows: "But those who before them, had homes (in Medina) and had adopted the Faith,- show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity" (Al-Hashr 59/ 9).
If the Medinan period of the Prophet's life is examined, it becomes obvious that the Ansar adhered to their oath given in the Pledges of al-Aqaba. Actually, the Ansar became a single body protecting the Prophet from the discord of the hypocrites and Jews, as well as against the threats of the polytheists.
Before the Battle of Badr, when the Prophet was assessing the situation, Sa'd ibn Muadh gave voice to the feelings of the Ansar and said, "Oh, Prophet of Allah, I swear to Allah that if you show us this sea and you dive into this sea, we will dive in with you without any hesitation and none of us will return."
In the Battle of Uhud, during the chaos that occurred when the Muslims were under attack by the idolaters, most of the people who were trying to protect the Prophet by surrounding him were from the Ansar.
Because of such behavior and attitudes on the part of the Ansar, Prophet Muhammad had a deep respect for them, and expressed his feelings by saying, "You are from the people I love most." The Prophet, who mentioned the altruism of this eminent group on all occasions, in the speech he delivered after the conquest of Mecca allayed their fears that he would stay behind in Mecca when they returned to Medina, and soothed their consciences with his complimentary remarks and the glad tidings that he would return to Medina with them.
After his death, the Ansar continued to be loyal to their oath and put their hearts and souls into serving Islam. They did not try to take over the state administration after the Prophet, but voluntarily accepted the caliphate of Abu Bakr. Moreover, they did not participate in the rebellious movements that occurred in the subsequent years, rather in general preferring a life removed from political issues. They carried on trading and they were engaged in religious sciences; they also participated in some conquests.
These distinguished attributes of the Ansar, who included some well-known companions, such as Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Anas ibn Malik, Ka'b ibn Malik, Sa'd ibn Muadh and As'ad ibn Zurarah, are well-known; their names are mentioned respectfully alongside that of the Prophet by all Muslims. Their lives have been accepted and are followed as examples of the ideal practice of Islamic brotherhood.
ONKAL, Ahmet. “Ensar” (The Ansar), Samil Islam Ansiklopedisi, (The Encyclopedia of Islam) v. II, Samil Yayinevi, Istanbul, 1999.
ALGUL, Huseyin. “Ensar” (The Ansar), Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi Islam Ansiklopedisi (The Turkish Foundation for Religious Affairs Encyclopedia of Islam), v.XI, Istanbul, 1995.
ALGUL, Huseyin. “Ensar” (The Ansar), Islam’da Inanc Ibadet ve Gunluk Yasayis Ansiklopedisi (The Encyclopedia of Creed, Worship and Daily Life in Islam), v. II, Marmara Universitesi Ilahiyat Fakultesi Vakfi Yayinlari, Istanbul, 1997