Ted Thornton
History of the Middle East Database
Muhammad and the Early Islamic Period
570 - 632
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Overview of Islam

ca. 570 The Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca, a city near the west coast of Arabia.

ca. 590-595 Hilf al-Fudul ("the Alliance of Excellence") was formed in Mecca with Muhammad among the participants. This pre-Islamic pact was made initially to ensure the fair governance of economic relations, but, subsequently it became a frequently cited model for tolerance and justice for all Muslim social affairs.

603 - 629 War broke out between the Byzantine Empire and Sasanid Persia (Iran).

610 Muhammad began having visions during which God, through the Angel Gabriel (Jibril), revealed to him the Holy Qur'an (often spelled "Koran," the word means "recitation"). These revelations continued until shortly before his death.

614 Chosroes II and his Persian Sasanid troops overran Palestine slaughtering thousands of Christians and destroying churches. The Jews supported the invaders in defiance of the emperor, Heraclius, who had previously ordered all Jews to be baptized. (see also 629)

615 Eighty three Meccans newly converted to Islam, including Uthman Ibn 'Affan, fled Mecca and journeyed to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to avoid persecution. They were received graciously and offered sanctuary by the Christian negus (king) of Abyssinia.

620 On a hill named Aqaba outside Mina near the city of Mecca, six men belonging to the Khazraj, a leading tribe in Yathrib (Medina) accepted Islam during (what was at that time) the pagan pilgrimage to Mecca. (see Second Aqaba)

621 Five of the Khazraj converted at Aqaba the previous year were joined by seven others including two members of the other leading tribe of Medina, the Aws. The twelve pledged their loyalty to the Prophet in what came to be known as the "First Aqaba."

622 Again during the pilgrimage, seventy three men and two women swore an oath of allegiance to the Prophet that came to be known as the "Second Aqaba" (see First Aqaba) This oath included for the men a pledge to fight and defend the Prophet (the women were excused from actual fighting). The oath was followed in the same year by the Hijra ("migration"): Muhammad and his followers, failing to gain acceptance in Mecca, were invited to move north to the city of Yathrib where they established the first Muslim community. The Muslim lunar calendar began with this event and Yathrib eventually became known as Medinat al-Nabi ("the City of the Prophet" ), or, more simply as al-Medina ("the city").

The same year (622) or a few years later, the Constitution (or Charter) of Medina (full text) was put in place establishing equal justice and freedom of religion for Jews and Muslims alike and declaring Muhammad the final arbiter of all disputes. Some accounts claim that Muhammad had been asked to arbitrate between two feuding tribes in Medina, the Aws and the Khazraj, that he was successful, and that a significant number of the members of both tribes converted to Islam. The Constitution of Medina was seen by many as the fruit of his work of reconciliation in the city. Medinan converts to Islam came to be known as al-Ansar ("The Followers"). (more on the Constitution of Medina)

624 Battle of Badr, Islam's first jihad: Muhammad scored his first military victory over hostile Arabian clans. The battle took place on the 17th day of Ramadan in Year 2 of the Muslim calendar.

625 Battle of Uhud: Muhammad was defeated by the Meccans and wounded in battle.

627 Battle of the Trench ( khandaq ):  An attack by the Meccan Quraysh and their "confederates" ( al-azhaab ) on the Prophet's Muslim forces at Medina was foiled by a combination of ruse and technology. The latter involved the construction of a trench around the city of Medina, a method suggested to the Prophet by a Persian ally named Salman al-Farisi. Among the "confederates" whom the Prophet defeated was a Jewish tribe called the "Banu Qurayzah." Having dealt mercifully with these Jewish allies of the Meccan Quraysh on two previous occasions, Muhammad decided this time to submit their fate to a hakam, a traditional Arabian judge. The hakam decreed that the men of the clan should be executed. All six hundred men of the tribe were beheaded. (Qur'an, s.33:25-27). (See Reza Aslan, No god but God (New York: Random House, 2005), 91-92)

628 Responding to a call issued in a Quranic revelation to him (48:27), Muhammad set out from Medina with 1,000 men to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The party was unarmed and dressed in the ihram, or garb of the pilgrim.

Ten miles from Mecca at a place called Hudaybiyya, the Meccan Quraysh tribe stopped the pilgrims and attempted to turn them back. Parleys between the two groups finally led to the "Peace of Hudaybiyya" whereby the Muslims would be allowed to make pilgrimage to Mecca not that year but in the following year. The Peace also put into place a truce which was to have lasted ten years.

The Quraysh were true to their word. The Muslims were allowed into Mecca the following year to perform a three day pilgrimage. (But, see below)

This event was seen as a triumph for the Muslims and a sign that they had reached parity with their enemies, the Quraysh of Mecca.

Also in 628 (7 A.H.), Muhammad subdued the Jewish enclaves at Khaibar, ninety miles north of Mecca which had mounted resistance against him. This victory is referred to in s.33:27 of the Qur'an.

629 Heraclius ousted the Sasanid Persians and took bloody revenge upon the Jews.

630 Muhammad, citing violations of the truce agreed to in the Peace of Hudaybiyya two years earlier, marched on Mecca and captured the city meeting almost no resistance. He entered the Ka'aba and emptied it of all of its idols.

632 On June 8 in Medina, Muhammad complained of a severe headache, took to bed, and died just hours later. He was buried in Medina, the first city to welcome him and to embrace Islam.

Overview of Islamic Belief and Practice

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Last Revised: February 4, 2008