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Learning from Early Muslims: From Suffering Persecution with Patience in Makkah to Peaceful Coexistence with Other Religious Communities in Abyssinia and Madina

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

3 October 2020

Early Muslims suffered a miserable life in Makkah. Living in a hostile society, they repeatedly faced heartless torture and oppression. Every day they would come in the presence of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) in a state where either someone’s head was broken, or hand was badly damaged. For instance, Hazrat Bilal was rolled on glowing embers. Yasir and his wife Sumayyah were wounded with spears. Not to speak of the poor and the helpless, even the blue-blooded could not go unmolested. For instance, Hazrat Osman’s uncle would tightly wrap him in a fresh animal skin, and throw him in the scorching sun. The searing sun, profuse sweat and foul smell of the skin would choke his breath and be unbearably excruciating and painful. The religious persecution continued for about 13 to 14 years in Makkah. Muslims were weak and so they were called upon to endure all hardships and acts of violence with patience and forgiveness through the following verses;

 “Repel evil with the best deeds; We well know the matters that they fabricate”. (23:96)

“So forgive them and excuse them; indeed Allah loves the virtuous”. (5:13)

“And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance” (73:10).

When the aggression and ruthlessness of the pagan Arabs grew further, many Muslims had to migrate to Abyssinia, a non-Muslim nation. Here Muslims were given the opportunity to freely practice their religion and enjoy protection under the rule of Abyssinian Negus, a Christian King. This was the first place where Muslims as a minority were given the right to freedom of religion and security. The Muslims enjoyed these rights despite the repeated efforts of the Makkan enemies of Islam to change the Negus from his tolerant behaviour towards Muslims. This proved a great model of peaceful coexistence where different religious communities lived together in religious freedom without facing any insecurity.

These Muslims, the Sahaba, fulfilled their responsibility as Abyssinian citizens as they were enjoying the protection of their religious rights. These early Muslims on their part set a great example for peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims. This example is contrary to the principles adopted by the radicals and extremists of our time, who take refuge in non-Muslim states and enjoy all rights of citizenship they seek, and yet they repeatedly speak ill of the majority or original citizens. This is how they incite negative feelings of bigotry and hatred against Muslims and Islam. These radicals abuse them, show their supremacist and bigoted attitudes towards them for not being Muslim. This is an attitude unacceptable to Islam and its teachings of morals and ethics.

Having migrated to Madina and taken into consideration the variety of the Medinan community consisting of Muslims, Jews, Pagans and Hypocrites (Munafiqeen), the Prophet (peace be upon him) formed the Constitution of Madina (aka Meethaq-e-Madina). This Constitution had four major characteristics; 1) peace and security for all, 2) religious freedom for all communities, 3) rights of public participation in the fields of economy, military and politics, and 4) an affirmation of individual responsibility. It is wrong to say that when the number of Muslims in Madina increased, there was no diversity in that period. A number of texts demonstrate the fact that the Jews and hypocrites who remained as peaceful citizens continued to enjoy the same basic rights on the principles of justice and fairness.

It is important that we in the modern times learn from early Muslims including the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Sahaba from the phase of upholding patience in Makkah towards committing to peaceful coexistence with other religious communities in Abyssinia and Madina.


A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.



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