Once a year, people from all over Arabia came to Mecca for a religious fair. Many of them began to hear of Mohammed and wished to hear him preach. In this way he gained new followers from outside of Mecca. One group came from Medina, which is a town to the North of Mecca.
Medina contained five tribes, three were Jewish and two Arab. The Jewish tribes were generally better educated and wealthier. There were quarrels between the Arab tribes and also between Arabs and Jews. This had spilled over into bloodshed.
Some of the Medinan Arabs who had converted to Islam invited Mohammed and his followers to come to Medina. They thought that he might be a unifying influence who would bring peace to their tribes.
The next year when the annual fair came around again, Mohammed took the Medinans to a hillside outside of Mecca, called Aquaba. There he had them swear an oath to him, which became known as the Oath of Aquaba.
This oath included a promise to fight to the death in the service of Mohammed. In return for this, he promised them paradise. This was the first time that Mohammed's teachings included the threat of killing; it is also the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
The Quraysh soon heard about this and hatched a plot to kill Mohammed. They figured that if they did not take action now, he would return from Medina with an army and make war on them.
Mohammed's followers had mostly left for Medina already and his uncle had died. Now he had no one to protect him. Mohammed heard of the plot and fled Mecca. He hid in a cave for three days until the heat had died down and then continued on the 10-day trip to Medina.
At this point in time Mohammed had been a prophet for 13 years. He was slightly more than half way through his career as a religious leader. He had acquired around 150 followers, the majority of whom were poor and uneducated and had made many powerful enemies.
Mohammed had made many threats to his enemies, (i.e. anyone who would not accept that he was God’s only prophet) about punishments in the afterlife. His teachings however, were essentially of a religious nature. In other words, they were about how Muslims should interact with Allah, or with other Muslims.
They were not however, political in nature (how Muslims should interact with non-Muslims). Islam has a habit of dividing things in two. The Koran is no exception and is divided into two separate halves. There is the Koran of Mecca, which is mostly religious and the Koran of Medina, which is essentially political in nature.
In the last chapter I laboured the point that Muslims are obliged to follow Mohammed’s teaching and traditions. I would like to add some important caveats here, because you may soon be thinking something like “I know a Muslim who doesn’t do that” or “how come most Muslims don’t do that.”
1) Not all Muslims follow their religion devoutly any more than followers of any other religion. Some are very devout but many are not. A Muslim may behave in a way which is against the teaching of Islam such as drinking alcohol. This doesn’t mean that Islam permits drinking alcohol. It just means that not everyone follows the rules all the time. Islam can affect Muslims but Muslims cannot affect Islam.
2) Muslims are supposed to follow the example of Mohammed. There are however, a number of different ways in which Mohammed behaved in order to achieve his aims. These methods depended largely on the circumstances. If I wanted to be kind I would describe him as “opportunistic.” I’ll be explaining this in more detail down the track as it is important. Whilst many Muslims do not follow Mohammed’s more unpleasant methods, most of them seem to share his goals.
3) Muslims in general are very ignorant of the details of their religion, this is not an accident. Most Muslims don’t speak Arabic and yet their books are written in an archaic form of it. Islamic scholars insist however, that these books cannot be translated. This is just one reason why, until recently, it was incredibly difficult to understand these books, (or even to know which books were important) unless you were taught by Islamic scholars.
(To read the next chapter, click on the link below)