When the Prophet honored Makkah, there were mainly Muslim Arabs, Polytheistic Arabs and Jewish people there; there were also some Christians but not many.
After the Messenger of God settled in Madinah, Islam became more common in Madinah. People of Madinah embraced Islam in groups. Meanwhile, the Prophet established a political and administrative organization for Muslims.
Meanwhile, another group appeared: A group of munafiqs (hypocrites) that did not believe heartily but seemed to be believers.
The tribes of Aws and Khazraj, which had been tired of the internal clashes and fights that lasted for years between them, made an agreement and decided to appoint Abdullah b. Ubay b. Salul as their ruler just before the Prophet came to Madinah. They even ordered the crown that he would put on. (1)
However, the dream of Abdullah b. Ubay to be the leader came to naught when the Messenger of God honored Madinah because almost all of the members of Aws and Khazraj had become Muslims; they all gathered around the Prophet as a necessity of their belief.
This situation offended Abdullah b. Ubay b. Salul, whose dream of being the ruler ended, a lot. When he saw that there were not many people around him, he seemingly became a Muslim. (2)
He himself said that he had become a Muslim seemingly due to the psychological pressure of the people around him. During the Expedition of Muraysi, he worked hard to set Muhajirs against Ansar and overstepped the mark by saying, “Once we return to Madinah, the strong ones will definitely drive out the weak ones.” Thereupon, the chapter of al-Munafiqun was sent down about munafiqs.
After the chapter was sent down, some people said to Abdullah b. Ubay, “O Abu Hu¬bab! (3) Very severe verses were sent down about you. Go to the Messenger of God and tell him to ask for forgiveness from God for you!” He said,
“You ordered me to believe and I did. You ordered me to pay zakah and I did. There is nothing but to prostrate before Muhammad now.” (4)
The following event also shows clearly how grieved and sad Abdullah b. Ubay was due to losing the hope of becoming the ruler:
Once, the Prophet was going to the house of Sa’d b. Ubada, who was ill, to visit him. On the way, when the Prophet saw that some Muslims, polytheistic Arabs and Jews were sitting in the shade of the house of Abdullah b. Ubay, he greeted them and sat next to them. He recited a passage from the Quran to them; he gave them the glad tiding that good deeds would lead them to Paradise and warned them that bad deeds would take them to Hell.
When the Prophet finished his words, Abdullah b. Ubay said, “O Speaker! If what you say is true, there can be nothing better than them. However, You should stay in your house and tell them to the people that come to your house. Do not go to the meetings of the people who do not like what you say and do not disturb them!”
The Prophet was offended by what he said. He left that place and went to Sa’d b. Ubada’s house. When he told Sa’d b. Ubada why he was sorry, Sa’d said, “O Messenger of God! Forgive the mistakes of Ibn Ubay. I swear by God, who sent the Quran to you, that the will of God became manifest by giving you the prophethood. However, the people of this city had prepared to make him put on the crown and be their ruler. When God gave you the prophethood, his expectation came to nothing and Ibn Ubay became very sorry and got offended by your prophethood; he treated you badly because of it. (5)
The leader of the munafiqs was Abdullah b. Ubay. There were many accomplices around him. Besides, there were many people who followed him blindly due to reasons like kinship, being allies. It is not possible to give a definite number about them. However, the number of people that left the Battle of Uhud by following Abdullah b. Ubay was about three hundred. That is, it was about one third of the Islamic army. It was not a number to despise. It shows that they had an influence on the political life of Madinah.
When the Messenger of God returned from the Battle of Badr as victorious, the religion of Islam became stronger. The enemies were intimidated. Thereupon, some Jews in Madinah believed in Islam by saying, “That is the person whose attributes are mentioned in the Torah! No one can resist him from now on. He will always be victorious!” Some of them pretended to be Muslims. Thus, munafiqs appeared among Jews, too. Most of the Jewish munafiqs were among Jewish scholars. They were fiendishly clever. They were more mischievous and dishonest than the others. They worked hard to humiliate Islam, to demoralize Muslims and to prevent the polytheists from being converted to Islam. They asked many complicated questions in order to keep the Prophet busy and to trouble him. (6)
We learn from the Quran that there were munafiqs among the desert Arabs called ‘Bedouins’: “Certain of the desert Arabs round about you are Hypocrites, as well as (desert Arabs) among the Madinah folk: they are obstinate in hypocrisy: thou knowest them not: We know them.” (7)
Although the social levels, lifestyles and races of munafiqs were different, they all had the same attributes: Their first attribute was “saying with their lips what was not in their hearts.” (8) That is, they seemed to be believers although they did not believe heartily. They talked to Muslims, traveled with them by seeming to be Muslims and asked them questions that would make them doubt. Thus, they wanted to weaken the trust of Muslims about one another, to drive a wedge among them and to set them against one another.
Their aim was to put forward views that will cause mischief and separation among Muslims and to humiliate the Prophet in the eyes of Muslims by lies and slanders. They did everything to realize their inauspicious aim; they regarded everything as fair to realize their aim. There was no meanness and fraud that they would resort to in order to realize their aim.
The attitude and the policy of the Prophet toward them was thought-provoking and exemplary. The Messenger of God was informed about their activities aiming to shake Islam a few times. The Messenger of God summoned those people at once and questioned them whenever he was informed. However, they always said that they did not carry out any harmful activities and that they were innocent each time. Then, they uttered kalima ash-shahada and repeated that they were believers and Muslims. As a matter of fact, when Hazrat Zayd b. Arqam told the Prophet that Abdullah b. Ubay said, “Once we return to Madinah, the strong ones will definitely drive out the weak ones”, the Prophet summoned Ibn Ubay and asked him, “Did you utter the words that I was informed?”
Abdullah b. Ubay responded as follows:
“No! I swear by God, who sent you the book, that I did not utter any of those words. Zayd is definitely a liar!”
The Quran points out to those attitudes of the munafiqs as follows:
“When the Hypocrites come to thee, they say, "We bear witness that thou art indeed the Messenger of Allah." Yea, Allah knoweth that thou art indeed His Messenger, and Allah beareth witness that the Hypocrites are indeed liars!” (9)
The revelation that was sent down while they were denying their crimes told the Prophet that they committed those crimes and that they were denying them by telling lies. However, the Messenger of God showed patience and tolerance toward them and forgave them.
As we have mentioned above, when the Prophet read a passage from the Quran and preached Abdullah b. Ubay and the people who were together with him, Abdullah b. Ubay could not bear it said to the Prophet, “Go and tell these things to the people who come to visit you. Do not disturb us!”
The Prophet was offended by his words. He mentioned Sa’d b. Ubada, whom he visited about what he had said; When Sa’d b. Ubada said, “O Messenger of God! Forgive his mistake”, the Prophet forgave him. (10)
Another attribute of the munafiqs was to act hypocritically and fawn on Muslims when they met them and to say, ‘We believe’ but when they are alone with their evil ones they say: ‘We are really with you we (were) only jesting.’ (11) They took pride in this hypocrisy and immoral act.
An example to show this attitude of the munafiqs clearly is the act of Abdullah b. Ubay, their leader. Once, he was outside with his accomplices. He saw that some Companions were coming. He said to his men, “Look how I will get rid of them.” When they approached, he held Hazrat Abu Bakr’s hand and said, “Hello, O Master of Banu Tamim! The friend of the Messenger of God in the cave! The loyal one who sacrificed his self and property willingly for the sake of the Prophet!” Then he held Hazrat Umar’s hand and said, “Hello, O Master of Banu Adiyy! Hazrat Faruq, who is strong in his religion and who sacrificed his self and property for the sake of the Messenger of God!”
Hazrat Ali could not put with this hypocrisy and said “Abdullah! Fear God, do not be a hypocrite because the munafiqs are the most evil creatures of God.”
Thereupon, Ibn Ubay said, “O Abul Hasan! Do you say this about me? By God, our belief is like your belief; our confirmation is like your confirmation” and left them.
Then, Abdullah b. Ubay turned to his friends and said, “Have you seen what I did? Do as I did when you see them!” (12)
According to a narration, the 14th verse of the chapter al-Baqara was sent down after this event. (13)
Munafiqs took part in the prayers and other kinds of worshipping seemingly but they tried to do things secretly against Muslims. It is remarkable that they tried not to show the things that are related to unbelief and that they were not expelled from the Islamic community because they seemed Muslims. Therefore, it was more important to maintain the solidarity and security against those internal enemies rather than the unbelievers and polytheists because the harm caused by the internal enemies is always greater. The internal enemies disperse the strength and decrease the courage; the external enemies increase the solidarity and strength. Therefore, the Quran mentions the munafiqs a lot. Muslims are warned by the Quran to be always alert against them and not to be deceived by their tricks.
The Prophet knew them because God Almighty informed him about them; and then he informed some Companions about them. However, he did not reveal their names publicly. He did not taunt them.
This attitude was better for the interest of Islam and Muslims. Besides, there was another important reason why the Prophet treated them like that. It was the possibility of their giving up the evil deeds and the activities of mischief and sedition gradually because it is possible that an evil deed is abandoned in time if it is not revealed; however, if it is revealed, it will arouse the fury of its doer and will increase his evil deeds. (14)
Due to those reasons, it can be said that the Prophet took into consideration the following issues when he did not reveal the munafiqs, treated them like Muslims in the world and did not exclude them from the Islamic community in compliance with the Quran:
1) To make it possible for their children that will grow up in the Islamic community be good Muslims.
2) To make them face the spiritual trouble when they seemingly practice the divine decrees that they did not believe in their hearts and to enable them to become real believers feeling repentance. (15)
The munafiqs resorted to many ways to humiliate the Prophet in the eyes of the believers and tried to use every opportunity. Many events regarding the issue took place.
The arrogance of Mirba b. Qayziyy can be given as an example.
When the Messenger of God was going to Uhud with his army, this ferocious munafiq did not want to let the Messenger of God pass through his truck farm and said, “O Muhammad! If you are a prophet, it is not permissible for you to tread on my farm.” Then, he picked a handful of soil and said, “By God, if I knew it would not disturb others, I would throw this soil at you!”
Some Muslims, who could not put with that arrogant act of that munafiq, wanted to kill him; however, the Prophet said, “Leave him! He is blind! His heart is blind; the eye of his heart is blind.”
Before the intervention of the Prophet, Said b. Zayd hit this ferocious munafiq.
Another example to the similar acts of the munafiqs is what happened in the expedition of Tabuk.
During a stopover, the camel of the Prophet got lost. Despite all searches, it could not be found. The munafiqs took action and started to say, “If Muhammad were really a prophet, he would know where his camel was!”
When the Prophet heard what they said, he said, “Yes... By God, I can only know what God informs me. Now, He has shown me where my camel is. My camel is in such and such a valley; its halter is attached to a tree. Go and get it.”
They found the camel in the valley, attached to a tree, just like the Prophet described. (16)
The most remarkable harmful act of the munafiqs during the period of the Prophet was to abandon Muslims in the most critical moments. Thus, they wanted to weaken them in number and demoralize them. A clear example of it took place when they left the Islamic army during the Battle of Uhud. The number of the munafiqs who left the Islamic army under the leadership of the ferocious was three hundred; that is, one third of the Islamic army. By doing so, the munafiqs decreased the number of the Muslims and demoralized the mujahids. Due to their act, some Muslims felt uneasy and even wanted to return. However, they changed their minds due to the sagacity of the Prophet and the help of God Almighty. (17)
Similarly, in the most critical moment of the Battle of Khandaq, the munafiqs said to the Prophet, “Let us go to our houses because our houses are defenseless.”
Meanwhile, Sa’d b. Muadh came to the presence of the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of God! Do not let them. By God, whenever we are exposed to a misfortune or we face a difficult situation, they always act like that.”
As it can be understood from the statements above, the munafiqs tried to abandon the Islamic army in the most critical moments in order to leave the Messenger of God and Muslims in the lurch.
They did the same thing during the expedition of Tabuk. While the Muslims were getting ready for the expedition, some of the munafiqs said to them, “Do not set out in this scorching heat!”, trying to demoralize the Muslims; they also applied to the prophet and asked for permission for not joining the expedition. About eighty of them were given the permission. The Quran mentions their situation as follows:
“Those who were left behind (in the Tabuk expedition) rejoiced in their inaction behind the back of the Messenger of God: they hated to strive and fight with their goods and their persons, in the Cause of God: they said, "Go not forth in the heat. Say, "The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat." If only they could understand! Let them laugh a little: much will they weep: a recompense for the (evil) that they do.!” (18)
In the same expedition, Abdullah b. Ubay, the munafiqs and his Jewish allies joined the Islamic army and went as far as Thaniyya al-Wada; they settled there. However, he decided not to go with the Islamic army and returned with the people who were together with him. He not only returned with the munafiqs who were subject to him and his Jewish allies but he also spoke as follows in order to weaken the enthusiasm of jihad of the mujahids:
“Muhammad is in a difficult situation; he will fight against Banu Asfar (Byzantines) in the scorching heat and in distant places. He thinks it is a game to fight against Banu Asfar. By God, I virtually see his friends tied by ropes in twos one morning!”
Despite those destructive and mischievous attitudes of the munafiqs that aimed to set Muslims against one another and harmful acts, the Prophet treated them differently from the polytheists and Jews. He usually invited Abdullah b. Ubay to meetings and consulted him.
His attitude toward them almost always included forgiveness and tolerance. However, he always acted cautiously despite his forgiveness and tolerance. He always checked and followed their acts and attitudes secretly.
When Abdullah b. Ubay, the leader of the munafiqs, spoke insultingly about the Messenger of God and Muslims in the expedition of Banu Mustaliq, Hazrat Umar could not put up with it and said, “O Messenger of God! Let me kill Abdullah b. Ubay!” The Messenger of God responded as follows:
“No! O Umar! What will happen when those who do not know the issue will say, ‘Muhammad kills his friends’?”
In another narration, the Messenger of God is reported to have said the following:
“If I order my Companions to kill him, they will kill him. However, there will be a lot of turmoil in Yathrib (Madinah) soon!”
As it can be understood from those statements, the Prophet always took into consideration the possibility that the munafiqs, whose number was quite a lot, could cause an internal fight among Muslims. Therefore, he always showed patience against what they did.
Again, during the expedition of Banu Mustaliq, the son of Ibn Ubay, Hazrat Abdullah, who was a sincere Muslim, went to the presence of the Messenger of God and said, “O Messenger of God! I heard that you were going to kill my father. If you really want to do it, let me kill him!” The Messenger of God responded as follows:
“No... Treat him leniently. As long as he is with us, we will treat him well.”
In fact, the Messenger of God always treated him tolerantly and appreciatively until he died. Even when he died, he did him a favor; he gave his shirt to be used as a shroud for Ibn Ubay. The Prophet led his janazah prayer in spite of the opposition of some Companions, primarily Hazrat Umar. The Messenger of God obtained good results for the policy of forgiving, tolerance and doing favors toward Abdullah b. Ubay and the other munafiqs. When the Prophet led the janazah prayer of Ibn Ubay, about one thousand munafiqs who saw it became sincere Muslims.
The Prophet left the munafiqs free in the community but he never neglected to keep them under psychological pressure. When he was informed about the plots that they attempted, he immediately told them what they were planning to do; thus, they had the fear that all of their acts were observed and followed.
Once, the Prophet saw that a group of munafiqs gathered and started to talk secretly; he approached them and said, “You came together in order to do this and that; and you said this and that. Come on! Ask forgiveness from God. I am asking for forgiveness from God, too.”
Therefore, they were always in fear that God Almighty would inform His beloved Messenger about their tricks. They were living in such worry and fear that when they heard a small noise in the army, they thought it was something against them. The Quran informs us about their situation as follows:
“When thou lookest at them, their exteriors please thee; and when they speak, thou listenest to their words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them.” (19)
Another attitude of the Prophet against them was to prevent them from coming together separately no matter where they were. The aim of this attitude was to prevent them from developing common ideas.
Demolishing the Mosque of Dirar was a good example of it. They built that mosque in order to develop some ideas against Islam and to make their plans freely not in order to worship there. The Messenger of God knew what their aim was; so he ordered the Companions to demolish that mosque. His order was fulfilled at once.
To sum up, it can be said that the Prophet obtained the results of his policy, which was based on tolerance and caution, against the group of munafiqs. Thanks to his attitude, he prevented them from leaving the Islamic community and joining the ranks of polytheists. He maintained the unity of Muslims. He prevented them from getting organized and rebelling against Muslims.
1. Muslim, Sahih, V. 5, p. 182-183
2. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3, p. 540
3. Hubab, was the name of the son of Abdullah b. Ubay; he was a sincere Muslim. The Prophet changed his name as “Abdullah” by saying, “You are Abdullah; Hubab is the name of Satan.”
4. Tabari, Tafsir, V. 28, p. 116
5. Muslim, Sahih, V. 5. p. 183; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V. 5. p. 203
6. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 3, p. 174-175; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 174; Muslim, Sahih, V. 8, p. 128-129; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V. 4, p. 239-240
7. At-Tawba, 101
8. Aal-i Imran, 167; al-Baqara, 8-9
9. Al-Munafiqun, 1
10. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V. 5. p. 203
11. Bakara, 14
12. M. Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, V. 1, p. 237-238
13. M. Hamdi Yazır, ibid, V. 1, p. 238
14. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, İşaratü’l-İ’caz, p. 35
15. M. Hamdi Yazır, Tafsir, V. 1, p. 241
16. Ibn Abdi’l-Barr, al-Istiab, V. 1, p. 289
17. Tabari, Tafsir, V. 4. p. 73
18. At-Tawba, 81-82
19. al-Munafiqun, 4
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- The Battle of Khandaq
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