If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Beginnings of Islam: The Hijra to Medina and the conversion of Mecca

Early Muslims escape Quraysh persecution by migrating to Medina in 622. With Medina as the base of their community, they are able to convert Mecca and most of Arabia to Islam during the remainder of the life of Muhammed (next 10 years).

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Where we left off in the last video, we saw a Muhammed being born into a tribal Arabia. He's born into a powerful tribe, the Quraysh, who are in control of Mecca. But his early life is difficult. His mother dies when he's six, his grandfather, who's taken charge of him, dies when he's eight years old, but he's able to, under the care of his uncle, become a merchant, and at the age of 25, he marries a wealthy merchant widow named Khadija, who is 15 years his senior. Then we saw, at age 40 in 610, while meditating in a mountain outside of Mecca, he receives the first revelations of the Qur'an according to Islamic tradition. And he's skeptical of it at first, but he's reassured, and then he soon receives many more revelations, and within roughly three years he starts to preach those revelations. Now as we mentioned in that last video, what he was preaching did not sit well with his own tribe. Those who ruled Mecca, the Quraysh. He was preaching a monotheistic tradition based on Judaism and Christianity, he was preaching that there is no god but God, but Mecca's power, it's economy, was based on people making pilgrimages there to worship the idols at the Kaaba. So the Quraysh did not like Muhammed's revelations, and they did not like these early Muslims. And they persecuted them. They killed them, they tortured them, and we saw in 615, the migration of some of Muhammed's followers to Abyssinia, the Kingdom of Axum, modern day Eritrea in Ethiopia, to escape some of that persecution. Things got worse for Muhammed. We saw in that last video the death of his first wife, and up to that point, his only wife. And this is where we start to see a bit of a turning point for Muhammed and his followers. In 620, and this is according to Muslim traditions, there isn't historical evidence for this and this is one of the more metaphysical events that we'll talk about in this narrative, but according to the Islamic faith, in 620, Muhammed had a night journey from Mecca to the farthest mosque, which today is believed by many Muslims to be the Al-Aqsa mosque, which was built later in Jerusalem. So, right, right, right over here. So a night journey, according to the Muslim faith, to Jerusalem where he ascended with Gabriel to the heavens, and he conversed with some of the prophets of old. And once again, this is clearly a metaphysical thing, but it's a significant event in the Muslim faith. Now the Quraysh continued to persecute Muhammed and the early Muslims in Mecca. We have some of them that are now in the Kingdom of Axum, and Muhammed learns that there's a community, a growing community, of Muslims in the town of Yathrib, who are starting to follow Muhammed, or his revelations, and they come to him and they invite him to come to Yathrib because there's actually a lot of fragmentation, there's warring tribes, and they're seeking an outsider to help bring some peace and authority to this place where there is already a burgeoning Muslim community. So in 622, you have the famous migration of Muhammed and his followers to Yathrib, which is renamed Medina, and Medina literally means The City. And from then on, it really becomes the base of Muhammed and the early Muslims. And Muhammed at this, once he's in Medina, he is no longer just a prophet, he isn't just continuing to have his revelations according to Islamic tradition, but he essentially rules over Medina, and governs it. So he's starting to become both a political ruler, and a spiritual ruler. Now, the Quraysh in Mecca are still not happy, because Muhammed is continuing to preach, and he's continuing to get more and more followers. And so you start having, at first, a series of skirmishes between the armies of the Quraysh, or the members of the Quraysh, and some of the early Muslims. But these skirmishes eventually emerge into full on conflict. And here are some of the significant battles that occurred between the Quraysh tribe, remember, that's Muhammed's own tribe, and the early Muslims, the early followers of Muhammed and his revelations. So most famously perhaps, you have the Battle of Badr, because this is the first time that you have a significant confrontation between a very small, you wouldn't even necessarily call this an army, a small group of Muslims, roughly a little over 300 according to Muslim tradition, versus 900, or a little over 900, on the Quraysh side. And the Muslims are outnumbered three to one, but this results in a Muslim victory, and so you can imagine the early Muslims start to see this as a turning tide, they were able to defeat the powerful Quraysh tribe. Now the Quraysh weren't happy with that, and roughly a year later you have another battle outside of Medina, on Mount Uhud. And once again, the Muslims, which are now larger, but they continue to be outnumbered even more than three to one, this is closer to four to one right over here, and this results in a Quraysh victory. This is right over there, outside on the northern side of what is now called Medina. But then, a few years later, you have a significant battle where the Quraysh have built a confederacy and they want to end this, the teachings of Muhammed, they wanna end these Muslims who are threatening, whose preachings are threatening the pilgrimage, the legitimacy of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, and so they lay siege to the city of Medina. And as a defensive measure, the Muslims in Medina create a trench around the city, and that's why this is called the Battle of the Trench, and once again, according to Islamic tradition, the Muslims are outnumbered three to one, so this is right over here, the Battle, Battle of the Trench, in which the Muslims are victorious, and this is a significant blow to the legitimacy, the prestige of the Quraysh tribe. A year later, you have the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah between the Quraysh and the Muslims, and this is significant because it's starting to put these early Muslims on the same footing as the powerful Quraysh tribe. It has some allowances for the Muslims to make pilgrimages to the Kaaba. But then, as we go into 630, there's an incident in which one tribe is, kills some members of another tribe. Remember, we're still in a very tribal society, and the other tribe, the one that had some members killed, was aligned, was friendly, with the early Muslims. So the early Muslims did not appreciate this, they send an ultimatum to the Quraysh, and the Quraysh essentially say well, you know, that doesn't matter, we don't really take what you have to say seriously, and they take one of the options of the ultimatum, which is making the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah null and void. So, now that the treaty is not there, and once again this is according to Muslim traditions which are our main accounts that we have of this time, we then have in 630, 10,000 Muslims which is a very significant number, remember, where six years ago we're talking about only 300 Muslims in the Battle of Badr, but 10,000 Muslims march on Mecca. And they're able to take the city peacefully. And what this results in, is essentially most of the city converting to Islam. And famously, Muhammed goes into the Kaaba and destroys the idols there, and according to Islamic tradition, makes the Kaaba a center of the Muslim faith, and it is even today. Now from that point, the spread of Islam continues. You have Muhammed and his armies, this green area is essentially what they were able to conquer in the remainder of his life. And he lives for another, he lives, whoops, he lives for another two years after the acceptance of Islam by Mecca. And they're able to conquer most of this green, this dark green area here, and as we'll see shortly after his death, most of Arabia and even Persia, and within a few hundred years, a large chunk of the world were able to be conquered by these Muslim armies.