The change of Qiblah

Sirat p. XXX, Tabari VII p. 24
People used to pray towards Jerusalem when Muhammad came to Medina, and for eighteen months after his emigration. He used to raise his head to heaven when he prayed, to see what he would be commanded; he used to pray towards Jerusalem, and then this was abrogated in favour of the Kabah. Muhammad used to like to pray towards the Kabah, and Allah revealed the verse: “We have seen the turning of your face to Heaven…” This is a significant moment in Islam. Interestingly, it is contradicted by archeological evidence, in that the qiblah (prayer direction) of all mosques constructed in the 7th century is towards Jerusalem. Except one: The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which does not have a prayer direction, as if it were the center of worship.

Arrangements about fasting

Sirat p. XXX, Tabari VII p. 25
In this year [AH 2], it is said, the fast of Ramadan was prescribed, and it is said that it was prescribed in Shaban. When Muhammad came to Medina, he saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He questioned them, and they told him that it was the day upon which God drowned the people of Pharaoh, and so saved Moses and those who were with him from them. He said: “We have a better right to Moses than they have,” and he fasted and ordered people to fast with him. Muhammad doesn’t elaborate why he should have a better claim to Moses than the Jews, who after all had revered their founding prophet for two millenia. It is pretty certain that the Jews would disagree with this statement, as would the clan and ancestors of Muhammad. Presented in this context, the Ramadan fast looks like a tool to legitimize this claim. When the fast of Ramadan was prescribed, he did not order them to fast on Ashura, nor did he forbid them to do so. It is not clear if the command comes from Allah or from Muhammad.

The Zakat tax

Sirat p. XXX, Tabari VII p. 25
In this year, he commanded people to pay the zakat al-fitr. It is siad that Muhammad adressed the people one or two days before the fitr and commanded them to do this. This is similar to, yet a change from paganism. The rifat tax collected by the Quraysh was specifically connected to the pilgrimage, in order that also the poor could affort to go to Mecca and perform the ritual sacrifices. The zakat tax is disassociated from the pilgrimage and has been collected by Islamic leaders throughout history. Christians and Jews are obliged to pay the (usually much higher) Jizya tax instead, a protection from the Muslims.


Sirat p. XXX, Tabari VII p. 25
In this year [AH 2] he went out to al-Musalla and prayed the Id prayer there. This was the first occasion on which the people went out to al-Musalla for the Id prayer. This is still a highly recommended prayer in Islam. In this year, it is said, the Staff was carried to al-Musalla for him and he prayed facing it. It belonged to al-Zubayr b. al-Awwam and had been given to him by the Negus, and it was carried before him in festivals. I am informed that it is today in the custody of the muezzins in Medina. This staff worship, on the other hand, has since been abandoned.

Battle of Badr

Sirat p. 289, Tabari VII p. 26
Then the apostle heard that Abu Sufyan was coming form Syria with a large caravan of Quraysh, containing their money and merchandise. […] When the apostle heard about Abu Sufyan coming from Syria, the summoned the Muslims and said: “This is the Quraysh caravan containing their property. Go out to attack it, perhaps Allah will give it as a prey.” The people answered his summons, some eagerly, others reluctantly, because they had not thought that the apostle would go to war. After the first successful caravan raid, where scripture was revealed that made booty ‘lawful and good’, and the enrichment had been generally accepted by the Muslims, there is no longer a need to issue raiding orders in secret. The motivation for the raid is spelled out clearly: Muhammad wants the property of the Quraysh. The Muslims, some of who probably didn’t expect the pledge of Al-Aqabar to be so urgent, are not all eager to fight. Bukhari has this comment from one of the highly motivated Muslims: Bukhari:V5B59N702: “Allah did not admonish anyone who had not participated in the Ghazwa of Badr, for in fact, Allah’s Apostle had only gone out in search of the Quraysh caravan so that he could rob it. But Allah arranged for the Muslims and their enemy to meet by surprise. I was at the Aqabah pledge with Allah’s Apostle when we gave our lives in submission, but the Badr battle is more popular amongst the people. I was never stronger or wealthier than I was when I followed the Prophet on a Ghazwa.’” ‘Ghazwa’ is a raid executed on the order of and in the company of the prophet Muhammad. Islam is the only religion that has a distinct term for this kind of military campaign. No qualms about the motivation. It was booty, not conversion or revenge. When he got near to the Hijaz, Abu Sufyan was seeking news, and questioning every rider in his anxiety, until he got news from some riders that Muhammad had called out his companions against him and his caravan. He took alarm at that and hired Damdam b. Amr al-Ghifari and sent him to Mecca, ordering him to call out Quraysh in defense of their property, and to tell them that Muhammad was lying in wait for it with his companions. Abu Sufyan and his tribesmen are concerned about ambush and check out the news. When he hears that Muhammad indeed plans to attack him, he raises the alarm and calls for protection. This is a large caravan, and having it plundered would be a severe blow to the Meccans, not to mention the risk of life for himself and his companions. The plot is set.


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