Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seerah Muhammad: The Number Game

Muhammad the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, performed his work as a prophet for 23 years.  Measured by the number of his followers, his achievement may be divided into three stages.

For the first ten years, he got only chicken feed.  His total followers numbered only about 100 people, including children who were born into the family already converted. 

About half of this (or around 50 or so) was converted in the first year of his prophetic mission.  About two third of the other half (or around 35 or so) was converted in the next two years.  Afterward it trickled down only to a handful.  In the last three years of this phase, from the year eight to the year ten, there was hardly any conversion.

For the next ten years, however, he got substantial number of followers.  By the end of the second stage, he managed to bring an army of 10,000 strong to conquer his hometown Makkah.  The total number of his followers by then must have been double or triple the number of that army.  Or at least 200 times more than the first stage.

While the number of his followers increased substantially in the second ten year period, at least half of these conversions took place in the last two years of this period.  More precisely, after the Hudaibiyah Treaty, which took place in 6 AH. 

As for third stage, i.e., the last three years of his Prophethood, the number of his followers was impressive.  In the farewell pilgrimage alone, it was said that about 100,000 people attended.  Before he died, he managed to raise an army of 30,000 strong without much difficulty. 

By the time he died, practically the whole Arabian Peninsula was converted.  We might place the number of his followers by the time he died in the region of half a million, or perhaps more.

Another interesting phenomenon may also be observed.

In the first stage, he personally worked hard to gain conversion.  In the second stage, it was his followers who secured most of the conversions.  In the last stage, it was the people who came to him asking to enter into the fold of Islam.  In other word, when he exerted the maximum effort, he got the least; but when he practically did nothing as far as his personal effort for conversion is concerned, he got the most.

If we ponder about this pattern, it seems to fit with our employment career, or the business endeavor.  A senior colleague of mine once observes that when we start working, we are paid less than the hours we put to our work.  After many years of working, we are paid with handsome salary by fooling around in the meeting room.

Likewise, when we start our business, we put extraordinary hours but the revenue generated rarely exceeds the money spent.  After many years of working, the money keeps coming while we stroll along leisurely at the golf course.

There is one last observation to be made. 

As soon as the Prophet died, more than half of the Arabia revolted against the fledgling Islamic State headed by his successor, Abu Bakar.  Only three regions were free from rebellion: Madinah, Makkah and Taif. 

If number is the criterion for success, then the fledgling Islamic State would have vanished from the face of the earth.  But with the help of the leading companions, the Islamic State grew stronger than ever before, as soon as after Abu Bakar routed the rebellion for good a year and a half later.

Three distinctive groups made up the core of Abu Bakar’s forces against the rebellion. 

The first were the core companions who suffered numerous persecutions.  They were those who became Muslims in the first stage. 

The second were the Helpers, the people of Madinah, who helped transformed the fate of Muhammad’s mission.  If hitherto the Muslims were the weakest group, with the Helpers, they became the equal to their enemies.  Most of them became Muslims in the early part of the second stage.

The third were the persecutors turned ardent Muslims. They were the Quraysh who, in the first stage of the Prophetic mission, were the enemies of Islam.  Most of them became Muslims in the later part of the second stage, especially after the conquest of Makkah. 

Many heart wrenching stories are narrated about the fate of the early Muslims, especially those who became Muslims in the first stage.  With the benefit of hindsight, these persecutions are nothing but the process of making them men of steel.  If they had any other interest than the pleasure of Allah, they would not have been able to go through all those physical, emotional, social and economic tortures.  After going through all those extreme difficulties, they were ready to conquer the world.

And conquer the world they did, not long after their leader died. 

Thus, in terms of number, the Prophet may have gained “chicken feed” in the first stage of his Prophetic mission, but these were men and women of steel.  Not just any steel, but the steel that does not melt at any temperature.  In the third stage of his Prophetic mission, however, he got mostly “chickens,” though the number is surely impressive.

No comments:

Post a Comment