The Prophet Muhammad (saw)

Fire in the Arabian Peninsula

Experiencing a serious uncertainty and panic with the loss of the Prophet, like "sheep caught during the night in a downpour of rain," the Muslims gathered together before long under the guidance of Abu Bakr "whom Allah had freed from hell." However, the storm had not yet died down. Successfully overcoming their first crisis in the absence of the Prophet, the Muslims found themselves in much rougher turbulence. An attempt had been made to prevent its spread since the first day Islam appeared; however, within a short time after the conquest of Mecca, Islam had secured its victory throughout the whole peninsula. This time, however, it was being tested with a different trap: Islam was facing huge propaganda aimed at its belief system and the message of its Prophet by means of the weapon: "religion against religion."

Popping up while the Prophet was still alive, these destructive movements speeded up seriously with his death and impacted the whole peninsula like an earthquake that could bury the new state. The words of Aisha, "If the mountains had taken on the difficulties my father faced with the death of the Prophet, they would have been smashed into pieces," are witness, at least to an extent, to this terrifying situation.

From the Sham region in the north to Hadramaut, Mahra and Yemen; from Bahrain and Oman in the east to the shores of the Red Sea in the west, many tribes in every region of the Arabian Peninsula were apostatizing with a mass movement against Medina and turning away from their faith.

Active under the leadership of three divisions - Aswad al-Ansi, Musaylima, Tulayha bin Huwaylid - during the time of the Prophet, apostasy attracted seven more divisions during the period of Abu Bakr; outside of Mecca and Medina there was almost no place to make the Friday prayer. Even Meccans intended to turn back from this new religion; however, they were cowered by the threat of Suhayl b. Amr, "I'll cut the neck of who ever I see turning back from his religion." The famous Saqif tribe of the Quraish came to its senses with the warning from Governor Osman b. Abi'l-As: "You were among the last to become Muslims. Don't be the first to turn back."

While some of the apostates gathered around false prophets, others only showed resistance to giving the alms tax. For those who had just recently been introduced to Islam and whose understanding of the religion had not yet become settled had neither been illuminated by the Prophet's talks nor had they breathed enough of Islam's atmosphere to transform their morals and natures. The proportion of those able to assimilate Islam decreased the farther away one went from Medina and the Hijaz. These masses who wanted to escape the leadership of Medina and the responsibilities the new religion placed upon them felt themselves squeezed into a press by this religion which would erase the way they had been raised and their habits, and they nurtured an attitude of enmity towards those ruling them. In an environment where Islam had not yet been fully grasped, the problem stemmed more from the nature of the Bedouins that did not recognize authority more than from the religion itself. Instead of seeing Islam as a religion that would save them, they interpreted it as a vehicle for Medina's authority. The answer given by Uyayna b. Hisn when he was caught and brought to Medina after the defeat of the false prophet Tulayha is interesting: Children from Medina asked him, "Hey enemy of Allah! Did you become an unbeliever after declaring your faith?" He replied, "I swear that I never had faith for even a moment."

Encouraging rebellion against the political ramifications of certain Islamic principles rather than a return to idolatry, the false prophets and their supporters saw Islam as an agreement between the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and themselves. With his death, they thought the agreement had ended. The words of a Bedouin poet are meaningful: "When the Prophet was among us, we obeyed him. What about Abu Bakr; who will obey him? If he dies will he leave us a bakr (baby camel)? I swear this is not acceptable."

Seeing the alms tax as "a tax of submission" and considering that the personal agreement of political allegiance to have ended with the death of the Prophet, these people insisted on the thesis, "We only give the poor tax to the Prophet whose prayer was a means of peace and calm for us." Perceiving the alms tax as "itavet," meaning "property taken by force by the victorious tribe from the defeated tribe," which was the custom before Islam, they saw it in one sense as the dominance of the Quraish. The rebellious masses, which declared that the balance of power had shifted with the death of the Prophet and that they were exempt from their former responsibilities, aimed to break the political and economic power of the Medina-centered Islamic state. It did not appear to be easy to eradicate this initiative which could wipe out 23 years of the Prophet's efforts.

Under these circumstances, there was heavy interest in the false prophets who each appeared with claims of being a prophet and who were chiefs of their tribes. Wanting to escape from the guardianship of the Quraish, under the influence of tribal rebelliousness that had been engraved in the spirit of Arab society, the tribes embraced the false prophets who incited a return to the Age of Ignorance order. While Aswad al-Ansi represented national formations in Yemen and Yamame and Musaylima al-Hanafi, who gathered supporters in the east, represented regional political developments, false prophets who pursued direct take-over of the political structure in Medina also created large followings.

While the fire was preparing to surround all four sides of Medina, which had lost its prophet, was the friend of the Prophet going to be able to protect the fledgling state and give the good tidings to the Prophet, whom he would shortly join, that he had turned over his trust in a sound way?



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