“He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from among themselves, reciting to them His Verses, purifying them (from the filth of disbelief and polytheism), and teaching them the Book (this Qur’ân, Islamic laws and Islamic Jurisprudence) and Al-Hikmah [As-Sunna: legal ways, orders, acts of worship, etc. of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)].” [62:2]
The Prophet’s Companion (May Allah be pleased with), rushed enthusiastically to assimilate these Qur’ânic rules and fill their hearts joyfully with them:
“And when His Verses (this Qur’ân) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith.” [8:2]
With respect to the Muslims, this task constituted the greatest challenge for the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him). In fact, this very purpose lay at the heart of the Islamic Call and the Muhammadan mission; it was never an incidental issue though there were the matters that required urgent addressing.
The Muslims in Madinah consisted virtually of two parties: The first one already settled down in their abode, land and wealth, fully at ease, but seeds of discord amongst them were deeply seated and chronic enmity continually evoked; they were Al-Ansar (the Helpers). The second party were Al-Muhajirun (the Emigrants), homeless, jobless and penniless. Their number was not small, on the contrary, it was increasing day by day after the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had given them the green light to leave for Madinah whose economic structure, originally not that prosperous one, began to show signs of imbalance aggravated by the economic boycott that the anti-Islamic groups imposed and consequently imports diminished and living conditions worsened.
The purely Madinese polytheists constituted the second sector with whom the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had to deal. Those people had no control at all over the Muslim. Some of them nursed no grudge against the Muslims, but were rather skeptical of their ancestors’ religious practices, and developed tentative inclination towards Islam and before long they embraced the new faith and were truly devoted to Allâh. However, some others harboured evil intentions against the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his followers but were too cowardly to resist them publicly, they were rather, under those Islamically favourable conditions, obliged to fake amicability and friendliness. ‘Abdullah bin Ubai, who had almost been given presidency over Al-Khazraj and Al-Aws tribes in the wake of Bu‘ath War between the two tribes, came at the head of that group of hypocrites. The Prophet’s advent and the vigorous rise of the new spirit of Islam foiled that orientation and the idea soon went into oblivion. He, seeing another one, Muhammad (Peace be upon him), coming to deprive him and his agents of the prospective temporal privileges, could not be pleased, and for overriding reasons he showed pretension to Islam but with horrible disbelief deeply-rooted in his heart. He also used to exploit some events and weak-hearted new converts in scheming malevolently against the true believers.
The Jews (the Hebrews), who had migrated to Al-Hijaz from Syria following the Byzantine and Assyrian persecution campaigns, were the third category existent on the demographic scene in Madinah. In their new abode they assumed the Arabian stamp in dress, language and manner of life and there were instances of intermarriage with the local Arabs, however they retained their ethnic particularism and detached themselves from amalgamation with the immediate environment. They even used to pride in their Jewish-Israeli origin, and spurn the Arabs around designating them as illiterate meaning brutal, naïve and backward. They desired the wealth of their neighbours to be made lawful to them and they could thus appropriate it the way they liked.
“… because they say: “There is no blame on us to betray and take the properties of the illiterates (Arabs)” [3:75]
Religiously, they showed no zeal; their most obvious religious commodity was fortunetelling, witchcraft and the secret arts (blowing on knots), for which they used to attach to themselves advantages of science and spiritual precedence.
They excelled at the arts of earning money and trading. They in fact monopolized trading in cereals, dates, wine, clothes, export and import. For the services they offered to the Arabs, the latter paid heavily. Usury was a common practice amongst them, lending the Arab notables great sums to be squandered on mercenary poets, and in vanity avenues, and in return seizing their fertile land given as surety.
They were very good at corrupting and scheming. They used to sow seeds of discord between adjacent tribes and entice each one to hatch plots against the other with the natural corollary of continual exhaustive bloody fighting. Whenever they felt that fire of hatred was about to subside, they would nourish it with new means of perpetuity so that they could always have the upper hand, and at the same time gain heavy interest rates on loans spent on inter-tribal warfare.