11.1 The Dawn from Yathrib (Medina)
The Prophet's followers in Mecca were fewer in number than before. Some had fled to Abyssinia with their religion; some had wavered and turned back; but those who remained were of deep and sincere faith. Isolated and surrounded by the great numbers of Quraysh, they were a united and strong group, working together in harmony. So few were they, they lived in fear of being wiped out, but Mohamed never gave up. He was certain that Allah would make His religion prevail, even if the deniers hated it.
At this dark hour the dawn of hope began to break from a direction no one had expected. It came from the direction of Yathrib. Next to Mecca, Yathrib was the city Mohamed had most connection with. His uncles of Banu Najjar were from Yathrib. His father was buried there and his mother in a nearby village. He had gone to Yathrib when a little boy to visit the grave of his father and once a year the aged and stately chief of Quraysh, Mohamed's grandfather, used to go there to visit the grave of his beloved son.
Yathrib was a more pleasant city than Mecca, with a temperate climate and cool green shade. Its inhabitants were the two tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj. There were also some Jewish tribes in the city. The Jews, who were a minority, had created misunderstanding and hatred between the two tribes in order to be safe from them and to be the dominant power. The two tribes lived in a state of constant warfare, strife, and raids..
The Jews mocked the Arabs for their idolatry and foretold the appearance of a great prophet, described in their ancient books, who would lead those who followed him to dominate over all. Believing themselves the chosen people, they assumed that this prophet would appear from amongst them, and they told the Arabs of Yathrib that, when he appeared, they would exterminate them as Ad and Thamud and other Arab tribes had been exterminated in ancient times, or keep them as slaves. They thought that day was soon approaching.
A war of hatred and vengeance broke out between the Al-Aws and the Al-Khazraj, and each tribe resolved to exterminate the other if it was victorious. So some of the Aws went to Mecca to seek the aid of Quraysh.There they met the Messenger and listened in hope and wonder to his words. One of them said,
"My people, this is much better than what you have come for,"
and he entered into Islam. The rest, though very much attracted to the new religion, did not commit themselves for they were preoccupied by the impending battle and feared to do anything that would offend Quraysh as the fate of their own people hung in the balance.
This battle proved to be a life and death struggle. At first Al-Khazraj were victorious, then Al-Aws by a mighty effort turned the tide of defeat into victory. As they were about to bum down the houses of their enemy and to cut down their palm trees, one of their leaders intervened, saying that as both Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj had become so weak neither could stand alone without the other, and that it was better to have Al-Khazraj as neighbors than be in the neighborhood of the foxes. He meant the Jews, for he knew that the Jewish tribes of Yathrib would soon dominate whichever tribe survived and use them as slaves.
An uneasy truce resulted between Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj. They could not trust each other, nor could they trust the Jews. Al-Khazraj were honor bound, according to the rules of war of the tribes, to revenge this defeat. Another battle would have been the end of both tribes.