uhammad's religious career is often divided into two periods: the Meccan Period which lasted for thirteen
years, from the start of his revelations to his emigration to Medina; and the Medinan period, which lasted the
remaining ten years of his life.
The Meccan Period is characterized by the more elliptical and otherworldly portions of the Qur'an, and by the
story of the rejected and persecuted prophet. Had the assassination plot against him in 621 succeeded, his
religious career would have been similar in broad outline to that of Jesus.
However, Muhammad escaped the trap set for him and went to live in the oasis of Medina. There he evolved from
the charismatic head of a small group to the political and spiritual director of a large community. For the first time
he had to wrestle with the challenges of creating a new society. The Qur'an continued to be revealed to him, but
the focus of the message broadened now from the purely spiritual to include the more temporal issues of
community building, lawmaking, and social institutions. Muhammad also came under formal military attack for
the first time in Medina. Consequently, the Qur'an and Muhammad's teaching also focused on delineating the
concept of the just war. Formal permission to fight is first applied in the Medinan Period:
"They will question you concerning the holy month, and fighting in it. Say: 'Fighting in it is
a heinous thing, but to bar people from God's way, to disbelieve in Him and the Holy
Mosque and to expel its people from it - that is more heinous in God's sight; and
persecution is more heinous than fighting." (Qur'an 2:217)
Through most of the Medina period, the Muslim community was in mortal danger and surviving in a defensive
mode. Between 624 and 627 especially, the Muslim community was often quite literally fighting for its life. It is no
accident that the concepts of jihad and martyrdom were developed at this time.
Though the Qur'an takes on more temporal issues in the Medinan Period, it does not abandon the notions of
spiritual striving and God consciousness that were hallmarks of the Meccan Period. Even the concept of defensive
warfare is placed within the larger concept of jihad as striving for what is right. Though jihad might involve
bloodshed, it has the broader meaning of exerting an effort for improvement, not only in the political or military
realm, but also in the moral, spiritual, and intellectual realms. Muhammad is often cited in Islamic tradition for
calling the militant aspect of jihad the "minor" or "little" jihad, while referring to the improvement of one's self as
the "greater" jihad.
Other revelations and rulings during this period concerned the proper treatment of prisoners of war and non-
combatants, the sanction against killing innocent civilians, and the respectful treatment of enemy corpses (in
contrast to the custom of the time, which was mutilation.) The wanton destruction of property or agricultural
resources was put off limits too. Even words of consolation for prisoners of war are found in the Qur'an: