Arabic, Volume 1 by J. R. Smart

By J. R. Smart

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This incident before the Negus highlights the nature of the Prophet’s early tactics when in Makkah. Prior to the Prophet’s hijrah, Muhammad 44 · The Generalship of Muhammad taught and emphasized tolerance and freedom of religion. This was necessary because he and his followers were an extremely small minority within the midst of one of the more powerful tribes in Arabia. If the numbers that migrated to Abyssinia and later to Madinah are any indication of the true strength of the Prophet’s movement in the early days, there may have been no more than 75 to 100 Muslims within a population of over 7,500, or no more than 1 percent.

However, Muhammad’s claim was beyond this, for he proclaimed that he was the Prophet of Allah, who was implicitly understood to be the highest of the gods in western Arabia. 36 With this in mind, a prophet of this stature could become a powerful tool or weapon in the hands of shaykhs and moneyed men who wished to expand their influence to other tribes. Such expansion would involve the collection of additional revenues that such powerful men could then use to enhance their prestige through distribution to the needy.

The question must be asked: on which side was Muhammad? Muhammad’s state of affairs must be recalled. He was an orphaned son raised by an uncle from a clan that was apparently in decline. By all measures of traditional Qurayshi or Arabian life, Muhammad’s future was bleak. Nevertheless, by the time he was twenty-five years old, he had at least gained some status as a merchant, although he was still unmarried and without a son, both issues that were of critical importance to enhance one’s stature in the community.

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