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Meanwhile, Muhammad and his closest associates were thinking about reconstituting themselves as a separate community in a less hostile environment. In about 615, some 80 of his followers made an emigration (Hijrah) to Abyssinia, perhaps assuming that they would be welcome in a place that had a history of hostility to the Meccan oligarchy and that worshipped the same God who had sent Muhammad to them, but they eventually returned without establishing a permanent community. During the next decade, continued rejection intensified the group’s identity and its search for another home.

A Meccan army of 3,000 men had defeated the undisciplined Muslim forces at Uhud near Medina in 625, wounding Muhammad himself. In March 627, when they had persuaded a number of Bedouin tribes to join their cause, the Meccans brought a force of 10,000 men against Medina again. Muhammad then resorted to tactics unfamiliar to the Arabs, who were accustomed to brief, isolated raids. Rather than sally out to meet the enemy in the usual way—the mistake made at Uhud—he had a ditch dug around Medina, according to tradition, at the suggestion of a Persian convert, Salman.

He was also more able to harass and discipline Medinans, Muslim and non-Muslim 43 7 Islamic History 7 alike, who did not support his activities fully. He agitated in particular against the Jews, one of whose clans, the Banu Qaynuqa‘, he expelled. Increasingly estranged from nonresponsive Jews and Christians, he reoriented his followers’ direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. He formally instituted the hajj to Mecca and fasting during the month of Ramadan as distinctive cultic acts, in recognition of the fact that islam, a generic act of surrender to God, had become Islam, a proper-name identity distinguished not only from paganism but from other forms of monotheism as well.

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