Muhammad Ibn Maslamah

Muhammad Ibn MaslamahMuhammad Ibn Maslamah

Black, tall and sturdy, Muhammad ibn Maslamah towered above his contemporaries. He was a giant among the companions of the Prophet, a giant in body and a giant in deeds.

Significantly he was called Muhammad even before he became a Muslim. It would seem that his name was itself a pointer to the fact that he was among the first of the Yathribites to become a Muslim and to follow the teachings of the great Prophet. (The name Muhammad was practically unknown at the time but since the Prophet encouraged Muslims to name themselves after him, it has become one of the most widely used names in the world.)

Muhammad ibn Maslamah was a halif or an ally of the Aws tribe in Madinah indicating that he himself was not an Arab. He became a Muslim at the hands of Musab ibn Umayr, the first missionary sent out by the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah. He accepted Islam even before men like Usayd ibn Hudayr and Sad ibn Muadh who were influential men in the city.

When the Prophet, peace be on him, came to Madinah, he adopted the unique method of strengthening the bonds of brotherhood between the Muhajirin and the Ansar. He paired off each Muhajir with one of the Ansar. This arrangement also helped to relieve the i mmediate needs of the Muhajirin for shelter and food and created an integrated community of believers.

The Prophet was a keen observer of character and temperament and was concerned to join in brotherhood persons of similar attitudes and tastes. He joined in brotherhood Muhammad ibn Maslamah and Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah. Like Abu Ubaydah, Muhammad ib n Maslamah was quiet and pensive and had a strong sense of trust and devotion. He was also brave and resolute in action. He was a distinguished horseman who performed feats of heroism and sacrifice in the service of Islam.

Muhammad ibn Maslamah took part in all the military engagements of the Prophet except the expedition to Tabuk. On that occasion, he and Ali were put in charge of an army which was left behind to protect Madinah. Later in life, he would often relate scenes of these battles to his ten children.

There are many instances in the life of Muhammad ibn Maslamah which showed what a dependable and trustworthy person he was. Before the start of hostilities at the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet and the Muslim force numbering some seven hundred persons spent a night in an open camp. He put fifty men under the command of Muhammad ibn Maslamah and entrusted him with the task of patrolling the camp the whole night. During the battle itself, after the disastrous rout of the Muslims by the Quraysh during which abo ut seventy Muslims lost their lives and many fled in every possible direction, a small band of the faithful bravely defended the Prophet till the tide of battle turned. Muhammad ibn Maslamah was among them.

Muhammad ibn Maslamah was quick to respond to the call of action. He once stood listening to the Prophet as he spoke to the Muslims about the designs of some of the Jewish leaders in the region.

At the beginning of his stay in Madinah, the Prophet had concluded an agreement with the Jews of the city which said in part:

“The Jews who attach themselves to our commonwealth shall be protected from all insults and harassment. They shall have equal rights as our own people to our assistance…They shall join the Muslims in defending Madinah against all enemies…They shall no t declare war nor enter in treaty or agreement against the Muslims.”

Jewish leaders had violated this agreement by encouraging the Quraysh and tribes around Madinah in their designs against the state. They were also bent on creating. discord among the people of Madinah in order to weaken the influence of Islam.

After the resounding victory of the Muslims over the Quraysh at the Battle of Badr, one of the three main Jewish groups in Madinah, the Banu Qaynuqa was especially furious and issued a petulant challenge to the Prophet. They said:

“O Muhammad! You really think that we are like your people (the Quraysh)? Don’t be deceived. You confronted a people who have no knowledge of war and you took the chance to rout them. If you were to fight against us you would indeed know that we arc men.”

They thus spurned their agreement with the Prophet and issued an open challenge to fight. The Qaynuqa however were goldsmiths who dominated the market in Madinah. They were depending on their allies, the Khazraj, to help them in their declared war. The Kh azraj refused. The Prophet placed the Banu Qaynuqa’s quarters under a siege which lasted for fifteen nights. The fainthearted Qaynuqa finally decided to surrender and ask the Prophet for a free passage out of Madinah.

The Prophet allowed them to leave and the tribe – men, women and children – left unharmed. They had to leave behind them their arms and their goldsmith’s equipment. They settled down at Adhraat in Syria.

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