Ted Thornton
Notes for film, The Message




Main Characters:

Hamza, Muhammad’s uncle, an early convert to Islam, great warrior, killed at the Battle of Uhud (625).

Abu Talib, Muhammad’s uncle (raised Muhammad following the death of the Prophet’s father), died in 620, the same year as Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija ("Year of Grief").

Abu Lahab, Muhammad’s uncle, withdrew Meccan protection from Muhammad precipitating the Hijra in 622. Died shortly after the Battle of Badr in 624.

Abu Sufyan, prominent Meccan merchant who led some of the Meccan campaigns against Muhammad (for example, the Battle of Uhud in 625).

Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan and one of Islam’s fiercest opponents. She and her husband were among the last to convert to Islam when the Prophet took Mecca in 630. The descendants of Hind and Abu Sufyan initiated the Ummayad Dynasty of caliphs.

Abu Bakr, second convert to Islam after Khadija, first Caliph, 632-634; he ransomed the slave Bilal.

Bilal, the first mu’adhan, or, "muezzin,"   ("caller to prayer"), a Black Abyssinian slave ransomed and freed by Abu Bakr.

Ja’far ibn Abu Talib, cousin of the Prophet, leader of the eighty three emigrants from Mecca who sought protection from the Negus ("king"), a man named Anajache of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) in the year 615.

Ali ibn Abu-Talib, cousin of the Prophet, fourth Caliph, 656-661.

Zaid, adopted son of Muhammad.

A’ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr, favorite among the later (11) wives of Muhammad.

Chronology:

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

603 - 629 War breaks out between the Byzantine empire and Sasanid Persia (Iran).

610 Muhammad begins experiencing visions during which God reveals to him the Holy Qur'an (often spelled "Koran," the word means "recitation"). These revelations will continue until his death.

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

615 Eighty three Meccans newly converted to Islam, including Uthman Ibn 'Affan, flee Mecca and journey to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to avoid persecution. They are received graciously and offered sanctuary by the Christian Negus ("king"), Anajache 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) accept Islam during (what was at that time) the pagan pilgrimage to Mecca. This year is remembered as Muhammad’s "Year of Grief." He lost both his wife Khadija and his Uncle Abu Talib this year. Muhammad and his adopted son Zaid flee to Taif but are driven out soon after their arrival.

621 Five of the Khazraj converted at Aqaba the previous year are joined by seven others including two members of the other leading tribe of Medina, the Aws. The twelve pledge 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 swear allegiance to the Prophet in what came to be known as the "Second Aqaba." This oath included a pledge to fight and defend the Prophet on the part of the men (the women were excused from actual fighting). This was followed in the same year by the hijra ("migration"): Muhammad and his followers, failing to gain acceptance in Mecca, are invited to move north to the city of Yathrib, henceforth called al-Medina ("the city"), where they establish the first Muslim community. The Muslim lunar calendar begins with this event.

624 Battle of Badr: Muhammad scores his first military victory over hostile Meccan clans. (s3:13)

625 Battle of Uhud: Muhammad is defeated by the Meccans and wounded in battle. (s3:121-128)

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 is 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." All six hundred men of the tribe were beheaded. (Quran, s.33:25-27.

628 Responding to a call issued in a Quranic revelation to him (48:27), Muhammad sets 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. 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 subdues 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 ousts the Persians and takes bloody revenge upon the Jews.

630 Muhammad, citing violations of the truce agreed to in the Peace of Hudaybiyya two years earlier, marches on Mecca and takes the city meeting almost no resistance.

632 On June 8, complaining of a severe headache, Muhammad takes to bed and dies just hours later. A portion of Muhammad’s last sermon is recorded in s.49:10.

Concluding Notes: 

The Ummayyad Caliph Mu’awiyya was the son of Abu Sufyan and Hind.

Sunnis believe that the office of Caliph can be filled by any qualified person. Shiites believe that the Caliph must be a blood relativeof Prophet.

Kufah,  661 - The Caliph Ali is assassinated by members of a militant group of Muslim puritans called "Kharijites."

Karbala, 680 - Ali's son, Hussein falls in battle against Sunni forces on 10 Muharram.   This event is commemorated in the Ashura festival "passion" plays, emotionally charged reenactments of this battle and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein.

Additional Resources:

Benchmarks in Islamic History

History of the Middle East Database

Overview of Islam

 

World Religions Homepage

Islamic Middle East Homepage

 

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email: tthornton@nmhschool.org

Last Revised: May 19, 2007