Throughout the entire Meccan period spanning 13 years, only a handful of people embraced Islam. Surprisingly, in Medina, a significant number of people converted to Islam even in Muhammad's absence. How did this happen?

Here are the factors, which Muhammad used to spread Islam:

  1. Lower-status individuals with immature opinions.
  2. Dissatisfaction with the pagan religion.
  3. Power dynamics and politics (during the initial period of Medina)
  4. Coercion through Sword (during the later period of Medina)

(1) Lower-status People with immature opinions

According to the pagan Quraysh, only a small number of lower-status individuals believed in Muhammad's message due to their immaturity:

Quran 11.27: The chiefs of the disbelieving nation said, "We find you to be no more than a human like us, and we find that only those of lower status and immature opinion follow you. We do not find you superior to us in any way. In fact, we think you are a liar!".

However, the number of such people was very limited, and many of them were slaves.

(2) Dissatisfaction with the Pagan Religion

Pagan religions often involved strange rituals that seemed nonsensical to many. In contrast, Muhammad's message of monotheism, focusing on one single god, was appealing to certain individuals. According to Muslim accounts, some pagans had already abandoned their faith to become Christians or followers of the Hanif religion. However, their numbers remained relatively small.

(3) Power dynamics and politics

Throughout the entire Meccan period spanning 13 years, only a handful of people embraced Islam. Surprisingly, in Medina, a significant number of people converted to Islam even in Muhammad's absence. How did this happen?

The answer lies in power dynamics and politics.

Medina was home to two major pagan Arab tribes, Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, alongside three major Jewish tribes and several smaller ones.

The pagan Arabs, feeling inferior to the Jews due to their superior education, wealth, and fertile lands, gradually began to convert to Judaism.

Sunan Abi Dawud, 2682:

When the children of a woman (in pre-Islamic days) did not survive, she took a vow on herself that if her child survives, she would convert it a Jew

Moreover, the pagan Arabs were also afraid of the Jews, as they used to hear from their Jewish neighbours that a prophet would be sent at the end of time and that the Jews would follow him and fight the Arabs along with him and kill them in the same manner in which the earlier nations of ‘Ad and Iram were killed and destroyed.

A huge civil war broke out in Medina, where al-Aws and al-Khazraj fought each other too. And when al-Aws lost a lot of wars against al-Khazraj, they went to seek the alliance of pagan Meccans, but they refused (Samhudi, Wafaa al-Wafaa, Vol. 1, p. 385). At that time Muhammad presented himself to them, seeking protection in Medina and telling them that he and his followers would then assist them. Some of them accepted Islam at that time. 

This was soon followed by the war of Bu'ath (another civil war in Medinah). It took place 5 years before hijra (i.e. Muhammad's migration to Medina). 

*Aisha described this war:

Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 3846:

"Allah caused the day of Bu'ath to take place before Allah's Messenger (saw) was sent so that when he reached Medina, those people had already divided (in different groups) and their chiefs had been killed or wounded. So, Allah made that day precede Allah's Messenger (saw) so that they (i.e. the two pagan Arab tribes) might embrace Islam." 

Most of their key leaders (those who had a similar mentality to ibn Ubbay) who could hinder the message of Muhammad were killed as well as large numbers of their followers. Thus, the new generation of two pagan Arab tribes wanted to unite again and utilised the offer of Muhammad. (Samhudi, Wafaa al-Wafaa, Vol. 1, p. 389, Shireef, Tarikh Makah wa al-Madinah, p. 367)

The promise of the Jews to kill and destroy the polytheistic Arabs on the arrival of their next prophet also made al-Aws and al-Khazraj to accept Islam. As al-Aws and al-Khazraj collectively could exert control over the Jews, they received Muhammad and were able to launch the Islamic state.

In Zad Al-Ma‘ad, Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote (link):

One of the things which Allah Almighty accomplished for His Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was that the tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj heard from their allies from among the Jews of Al-Madeenah, that 'A Prophet will appear in our time and we will follow him and kill you, in the same manner in which ‘Ad and Iram were killed.' The Ansar used to perform Hajj, as did the Arabs, but not the Jews. So when they saw the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, inviting people to Allah during the season of Hajj and they observed his manners, some of them said to the others, "You know, by Allah, O people, that this is the prophet whom you were threatened with by the Jews, so do not let them precede you in following him. So hasten to accept his invitation."

(4) Not even 10 Jews believed in Muhammad due to the alleged greatest miracle of inimitability:

After arriving in Medina, initially, Muhammad tried to please the Jews so that they accepted him as a true prophet. For this purpose:

  • Muhammad started to copy a lot of Jewish Laws into Islamic Sharia. 
  • He also claimed the revelation of such verses, that were pleasing the Jews, like verse 29:46 {Our God and your God is one, and to Him we submit}.
  • He also changed the Qibla from Ka'ba to the Jewish Temple (Bait-ul-Muqqadas) in Jerusalem. 

Nevertheless, the Jews of Medina didn't believe in Islam and kept declaring Muhammad to be a false prophet. 

The alleged inimitability and literary miracles of the Quran neither ever impressed the Pagans in Mecca, nor it ever impressed the Jews in Medina. 

This frustrated Muhammad so much, that he used to say even if 10 Jews believed in him, then all Jews would become Muslims. 

Sahih Bukhari, 3941:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ "‏ لَوْ آمَنَ بِي عَشَرَةٌ مِنَ الْيَهُودِ لآمَنَ بِي الْيَهُودُ

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Had only ten Jews (amongst their chiefs) believe me, all the Jews would definitely have believed me."

Sahih Muslim, 2793:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ لَوْ تَابَعَنِي عَشْرَةٌ مِنَ الْيَهُودِ لَمْ يَبْقَ عَلَى ظَهْرِهَا يَهُودِيٌّ إِلاَّ أَسْلَمَ

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: If ten scholars of the Jews would follow me, no Jew would be left upon the surface of the earth who would not embrace Islam.

Note: The Islamic Translators of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim added these words in parenthesis on their own "(amongst their chiefs)" or "Scholars of the Jews" It is a Distortion (TEHRIF) case, while these words have nothing to do with the original tradition, which is talking about normal 10 Jews, and not about any of their chiefs/scholars. Islamic preachers are compelled to do this TEHRIF (distortion) while it EXPOSES Islam and Muhammad, and Islamic preachers want to HIDE the Truth from the masses. 

This distortion by Islamic preachers is utterly shameful and shows how dishonest they are and how ashamed they are of the truth.

It seems Muhammad repeated this statement multiple times, and his companion 'Auf ibn Malik is also a witness to a similar statement from him. 

Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Hadith 23464:

حدثنا أبو المغيرة قال حدثنا صفوان قال حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن جبير بن نفير عن أبيه عن عوف بن مالك قال انطلق النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يوما وأنا معه حتى دخلنا كنيسة اليهود بالمدينة يوم عيد لهم فكرهوا دخولنا عليهم فقال لهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: يا معشر اليهود أروني اثني عشر رجلا يشهدون أنه لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدا رسول الله يحبط الله عن كل يهودي تحت أديم السماء الغضب الذي غضب عليه

Narrated by Abu Al-Mugheera through Safwan through Abdul-Rahman ibn Jubayr through his father through 'Awf ibn Malik, who said: One day, the Prophet ﷺ and I went to a Jewish synagogue in Medina on one of their festivals. They hated that we made an appearance. The Prophet ﷺ said: "O' Jewish tribe, show me twelve men from among you who testify that there is no deity but Allah,and that Muhammad is his messenger, and Allah will spare all the Jews under the visible heaven from the wrath He has upon them."

Grade: Sahih (Albani)

But the Jews of Medina still refused to accept him as a true prophet, and that was the point where Muhammad's enmity and hatred started against the Jews:

  • First of all, Muhammad changed the Qibla once again from Bait-ul-Muqqadas to Ka'ba in Mecca. 
  • Then he started openly threatening the Jews to accept Islam, otherwise, they would be expelled from Medina, and he would snatch away all of their lands by force. 

Sahih Bukhari, 3167:

Narrated Abu Huraira: While we were in the Mosque, the Prophet (ﷺ) came out and said, "Let us go to the Jews" We went out till we reached Bait-ul-Midras. He said to them, "If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle (only), and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle."

Yes, that was the whole argument of Muhammad: "...that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle (only) ..."

Please remember that Muhammad used the same argument to attack innocent Pagan tribes (who had nothing to do with Muhammad previously and had never attacked or harmed Muhammad). 

Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 3012:

Narrated As-Sab bin Jaththama: The Prophet (ﷺ) passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." Prophet said: All the graze-lands belong to Allah and his prophet.

Later Muhammad's anger and hatred against the Jews went so high that he was no more satisfied by expelling them from Medina, but he wanted to expel them from the whole Arab peninsula. It was due to the reason that it was a shame for him that he was claiming himself to be the promised prophet of the Jews, but the Jews were telling people that he was not that promised prophet. Muhammad didn't want the Jews to tell this to others, thus he wanted to expel them from the whole Arabian peninsula. 

Sahih Muslim, 1767(a):

It has been narrated by 'Umar b. al-Khattib that he heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.

(5) Pagans didn't accept Islam even after the Victory of Mecca:

Despite the conquest of Mecca by Muhammad in the 7th year of Hijri, the pagan Meccans remained resistant to accepting Islam.

In an effort to prevent opposition from the pagan leaders of Mecca, Muhammad offered stipends to them, fostering a sense of financial interest and aiming to ensure their compliance with Islam. Quran (9:60). But despite getting the stipends, they didn't accept Islam. 

(6) Pagans accepted Islam only after they were FORCED to do it under the Fear of Sword

So, the situation was:

  • Native Arabic-speaking Pagans of Mecca were not accepting Islam due to its challenge of inimitability or any linguistic miracle.
  • They didn't accept it after the conquer of Mecca in 7th Hijri year. 
  • They didn't accept it even after receiving stipends. 

In the 9th Hijri year, Muhammad claimed the revelation of verse 9:5 (i.e. the Verse of the Sword, which ordered to kill all polytheists after 4 months). 

Quran 9:5:

And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah (i.e. if they become Muslims), let them [go] on their way.

Muhammad allowed the people of the book (i.e. Christians/Jews/Magians) to stay alive by paying Jizya tax, but he refused to accept any Jizya from polytheists. They either had to accept Islam, or they would be slaughtered.

Only after that, pagan Arabs accepted Islam to save their lives. 

The Christians/Jews/Magians paid Jizya but didn't accept Islam. It was difficult for Muhammad to kill Christians and Jews as killing them for not accepting Islam would have angered the Christian Byzantine Empire while killing Magians would have angered the Magian Persian Empire. But pagan Arabs were vulnerable and they had no backing outside of Arabia. Therefore, Muhammad allowed them to stay alive by paying Jizya. 

Due to this forced conversion, we do see Christians and Jews in Arab countries, but no polytheists as all of them were forced to convert to Islam. 

(7) Reasons for Arab Success over Byzantines and Persians

There are many books on this subject. For example: 

  • Empires of Faith: The Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam - Peter Sarris - Oxford University Press (2011)

Here's an excerpt of the latter on Page 272

Reasons For Arab Success

What had begun as an attempt on the part of Muhammad’s followers to claim and occupy what they regarded as their divinely promised patrimony in Palestine had therefore escalated into an extraordinary wave of conquests; these wiped the ancient empire of Persia off the face of the map and once more drove Heraclius and the Romans back behind the mountains of the Taurus and ante-Taurus that defended the Anatolian plateau. From their initial focus on Palestine, and on uniting all Arabs within the embrace of the new faith, the armies of Abu Bakr and Umar had acquired a momentum of their own: they would continue to march on and conquer until either they were defeated or the Day of Judgement came. The Arab armies were clearly aided in their success by the relative exhaustion of the two great superpowers that they had set about dismembering; it was the perspective of the author of the Armenian History, for example, that it was the destructive pride and overweening ambition of Khusro II which had opened the gates of Hell and unleashed the Saracen scourge. In Persia, as we have seen, political circles in Ctesiphon had gone into meltdown as a result of Heraclius’ victorious campaign of 628. Heraclius’ daring descent into Persian territory and his ravaging of the lands to the north of Ctesiphon may well have done lasting damage to the agricultural resources and administration of a region that had been the economic powerhouse of the Sasanian state. Political paralysis and administrative chaos may also have critically limited the ability of the Persian authorities to respond to the Arab threat.

Likewise, Heraclius, it should be noted, had gambled everything on his last throw of the dice against Persia. Already drained of their resources by the demands of his war effort, or reduced to ruin by Persian assault, the cities of Asia Minor simply may not have been in a position to finance and support a sustained defence of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, where the restoration of Roman rule in the aftermath of the Persian withdrawal of 628–30 is likely, in any event, to have been largely symbolic at the time when the Arab armies began to appear: long-standing traditions of Roman control had been fractured and disrupted and were yet to be fully restored. Indeed many of the ‘Roman’ armies that the Arabs encountered are likely to have been little more than gendarmes, or local levies, hastily gathered together by civic notables and landowners to defend their cities and estates.

Moreover, it could be argued that the Eastern Roman Empire’s extensive desert frontier was in any case its Achilles heel. The Romans had never successfully resolved the problem of how to police and defend the frontier: walling it off was impossible; maintaining security through the services of conflicting networks of client chiefs had proved untenable; and relying upon the services of a single client chief had been unworkable. At the end of the day, all that had perhaps rendered Roman imperialism practicable and sustainable in Syria and Palestine had been the absence of a concerted threat from along the desert fringe. The Palmyrene revolt of the 270s had demonstrated how fragile Roman control of the region might be if faced with such a challenge. ‘Divide and rule’ thus remained the key to Roman survival. Given the objective military and geographical circumstances, the unity that the religion of Muhammad provided to the tribes of north-central Arabia, and the cultic and military focus towards Roman Palestine that the Prophet ordained, may of itself have been sufficient to seal the fate of Roman power in the East. Constantinople, too, suffered political problems of its own: the death of Heraclius in 641, and the power struggle that ensued, did much to distract attention from the Arab march on Alexandria and to detract from the effective coordination of Roman resistance. Likewise, disaffection on the part of Jewish and other religious minorities, and alienation on the part of the peasantry and the poor, are also likely to have played their role in encouraging communities to come to terms with the invaders in their midst.

But the triumph of the Arab armies was also the work of the Arabs themselves. The combination of Beduin mobility and the more organised military and political traditions of the sedentary populations of the southern Arabian littoral, such as the Yemenis, created a formidable war machine, whilst the wealth of the Roman and Persian territories provided a clear material incentive for military expansion (especially for tribesmen whose ability to profit from trade with the sedentary empires to the north had perhaps been disrupted by warfare). Tactically, the strategy we see at work in Palestine in 634, of Arab armies attacking ‘soft targets’ such as villages, engaging in conspicuous massacres of the rural population, and then offering terms to the leaders of civic communities, promising security in return for tribute, was a psychologically canny one that permitted strikingly rapid conquests and the avoidance of entanglement in lengthy sieges. When faced with resistance from cities such as Dara, the favoured Arab strategy was simply to storm them, throwing men at the walls until enough of them got in, rather than bedding down to a long drawn-out war of attrition. The brutality shown to the inhabitants of those cities that did resist sent a clear message to the leaders of other communities that it would be in their manifest interest simply to surrender and ‘pay tribute out of hand’, as the Qur’an directed, rather than risk suffering a similar fate. As the Armenian History records of the Arabs, ‘then dread of them fell on the inhabitants of the land, and they all submitted to them’.

It is, however, the ability of the Arab commanders to storm cities—to order their warriors to advance and attack and advance again until a city fell, irrespective of the casualty rate—that perhaps alerts us to the ultimate factor behind Arab success: zeal. Driven on by religious fervour and certain of paradise, the Arab armies appear to have had a far higher ‘pain threshold’ and to have enjoyed morale superior to that of either their Persian or Roman adversaries. Dead or alive, Allah would reward them. Confident in the power of their God, the authority of the Prophet, and the imminence of Divine Judgement, the forces of Islam swept all before them. Both Roman and Persian armies, by contrast, had recently experienced defeat, and, as the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz realised, in warfare it is morale that is often the decisive factor.


The success of military campaigns and empires throughout history has often been linked to strong organizational structures and ideological motivation. An example is the rise of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan, whose methods of unification and military discipline paralleled the early Islamic caliphates in their effectiveness and reach.

Organized Power Under Genghis Khan Genghis Khan's ability to unify the Mongol tribes into a cohesive force dramatically changed the landscape of the known world. Before his leadership, the Mongol tribes were fragmented, often warring among themselves. Genghis Khan's innovative strategies, along with his ability to inspire loyalty among his followers, laid the foundation for the vast Mongol Empire, mirroring the early Islamic caliphates' success in unifying diverse groups under a common cause.

The Role of Religious Indoctrination in Military Bravery An undeniable aspect of historical military success is the role of religious indoctrination in fostering bravery and resilience among fighters. Religious beliefs can instill a sense of purpose and a willingness to sacrifice oneself for a higher cause. This phenomenon can be observed in various historical contexts.

For example, in the Christian tradition, regular armies often lacked the fervor that religiously devoted groups like the Templars and Hospitallers possessed. These orders, driven by religious zeal, demonstrated remarkable courage and tenacity in battle, owing much to their belief in their spiritual mission.

Similarly, in the Islamic tradition, the Hashashin were a sect of religiously driven assassins known for their fearlessness and readiness to die for their cause. Their brainwashing and strict adherence to religious ideology contributed to their effectiveness, much like what we see today with groups like ISIS. This kind of religious fervor, however, can lead to significant risks and extreme violence.