All Praise belongs to Allāh, Lord of the worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon His final messenger, Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
Do Muslims belong in the West?
That the sahāba were the best of mankind after the prophets and messengers is widely known. Not only is their superiority as a generation known by necessity, but they have been unambiguously seen as role models for all Muslim generations that followed. We frequently cite their authority in our theological positions, juristic rulings and our ethics. However, pondering over this eminent generation also reveals another aspect of their guidance: their societal strategies and political ambitions. I believe that Muslims living in the west today can learn a lot from this oft-neglected model.
From a political perspective, the biography and strategy of the sahāba can be split up into those living under the shade of an Islamic political entity, and those living under an officially non-Islamic regime. Perhaps the most prominent example of the latter is the early Muslim minority in Makkah, before the hijra of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to Madīna, however there is another example of a body of companions living under a non-Muslim political entity. That is those who emigrated to Abyssinia, a safe kingdom ruled by a just, initially-Christian king: al-Najāshi.
Are you in Makkah, Abyssinia or Madina?
Many thinkers have asked the question, do we compare ourselves to the sahāba in Makkah, Abyssinia or Madina? Many have said that we in the west, for example, are more similar to the sahāba in Abyssinia. After all, we are not being persecuted as they were in Makkah, and there is relative freedom to practise many aspects of our Dīn, as they were in Abyssinia. In my honest opinion, however, these similarities do not mean we share the same overall strategy as them, and I believe thinking so may be a comforting delusion.
Although there are many lessons to learn from the sahāba in Abyssinia and indeed Madīna I believe, for a collective political and societal strategy, we should look to the sahāba in Makkah. It is true that they were being persecuted severely which is not the case for us today, alḥamdulillāh—although there is no guarantee of this as we have seen in recent history. However the key difference between the two models for us is that the sahāba in Makkah, despite it being ruled by polytheists, despite their persecution, still saw it as their home. They saw the disbelievers of Makkah as their own people. This is in contrast to the sahāba in Abyssinia, who did not regard it as their home but rather a temporary dwelling, which determined their strategy.
Do you really feel this is your home?
Many of us say nominally that we are British, that Europe is our home, but in our heart of hearts, if we reflect sincerely on ourselves and our actions, we may believe that we do not really belong here; that we are here for a short time after which, one day, we will go “back home”. Do we regard Britain, Holland, Germany, Norway or wherever we live in the western world, as our home? Or, like the sahāba in Abyssinia, do we think of the day we will leave?
This distinction in thinking is perhaps most obviously displayed in Muslim converts. Our brothers and sisters whose recent ancestors did not migrate to their country of residence do not suffer from the virus of hijra, of not belonging. They truly feel that their European dwellings are indeed their countries, their homes.
They do not feel inferior, they do not feel that they somehow need to prove themselves to “the host”, or imitate the predominant or popular trends in their cultures. As a result of this, they have no hesitation or shame in saying that they would love for their country to one day become a Muslim country, to enjoy the mercy of Islām in all spheres.
This is something that many Muslims may feel scared to say aloud in this climate, in particular those whose parents or grandparents immigrated to their countries. They may not really consider this their country, and as a result do not wish to “cause a fuss”. This is far from the case of the sahāba in Makkah, who wanted their fellow Makkans, despite their differences and their persecution, to enjoy the mercy and enlightenment of Islām. And so should we.
Although this may be shocking to some, the logic of this position is simple and sound. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has told us that He has not sent the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), except as a Mercy to the worlds, not just the Arabian Peninsula or the Orient. Islām is a mercy not only for all peoples, but the entire ecosystem and beyond. If we feel a place to be our home, a people to be our people, then why would we not want them to enjoy this mercy? This was the vision of the Muslim minority in Makkah, led by the Prophet himself, (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), in line with many Qur’anic verses.
“It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion.” 
The Prophet’s repeated attempts to approach the elite decision makers in Makkah and beyond, was a clear manifestation of his ambition to influence and reform the power structures in a positive way, to endorse Islām. However, it is clear that the aim was not to gain political power per se, otherwise he would have accepted the many offers he was given to be appointed king of the Quraysh if he compromised his Message. To put it simply, he wanted Islām to take its rightful place as the mercy and law of the Creator that should govern His creation. People belong to Allāh and should strive obey Him in all their affairs.
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” 
“And We have revealed to you [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allāh has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allāh willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allāh is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.” 
For some time, I have been trying to draw a parallel between the Qur’ān and the life of the early Muslims in Makkah and Abyssinia on one hand, and our lived experience in the western world, on another. I have found that serving their aforementioned vision, there were three key strategies that formed the basis of the sahāba’s political and social ambitions whilst living as a minority in Makkah, which we should likewise adopt as part of our own strategies going forward.
I. Institution building
As a priority, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and the sahāba built institutions in society that would preserve ther īmān and identity. This is exemplified in Dār al-Arqam, the hub of the Muslim minority in Makkah. This included but is not limited to, institutions for education at different levels. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would teach the sahāba their Dīn in Dār al-Arqam, as well as deal with social problems, deciding and disseminating their strategies, and carrying out a number of other social functions.
This is why we say that Muslims in Europe who wish to strive towards the sahāba’s social and political strategy should prioritise institution building to preserve their identity from the different perspectives. They may also strive to constitutionally and/or legally protect these institutions and ensure their integrity, as a fundamental commandment in the Qur’ān states,
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.”
The second key quality we learn from the sahāba as a minority in Makkah is their main aim on a personal level: da’wah. The propagation and invitation to Islām was not just an individual enterprise but it was organised. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and the sahāba organised the da’wah so that it was coherent and synergistic, not carried out in a haphazard way.
This is shown in the various stages of da’wah the Muslims in Makkah had; there was the command for inviting those close to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and early Muslims to Islām, then there was a silent da’wah to people, followed by an open call to all Makkans. What is remarkable is that it seemed everyone knew their place, even the children among the sahāba.
Alī b. Abī Ṭālib (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) was only nine or ten years of age when he met Abu Dharr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) seeking to meet the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) in order to confirm whether or not he was a true prophet. Alī (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) did not begin to give da’wah to him there and then, but quietly took him to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) in Dār al-Arqam, because that was the period of silent da’wah. Da’wah was organised and strategic, and this strategy was disseminated throughout the whole community.
III. Social ills
The third thing that the Muslims in Makkah were commanded to focus on as a collective strategy was to increase goodness in society, one of the main aims of the Sharī’ah,
“Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” 
This included minimising certain major sins in society, in particular those that involved injustice. An inductive analysis of early revealed chapters and verses of the Qur’ān shows how Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) amazingly addresses social ills in a time where the Muslims were themselves a weak and persecuted minority.
“Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan. And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray, [but] who are heedless of their prayer? Those who make show [of their deeds]. And withhold [simple] assistance.”
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) combines the censure of false ‘aqīda with social problems. The one who denies the Day of Judgement is the one who drives away the orphan, and does encourage the feeding of the poor; a lesson to the sahāba to excel in these things as a society, despite the poor and needy predominantly being non-Muslims at this stage in their history. These are not isolated commands to individuals but it was a manhaj, a comprehensive methodology or even a strategy, for the sahāba as a whole; the whole society must strive to deal with these issues.
“Woe to those who give less [than due]. Who, when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss. Do they not think that they will be resurrected? For a tremendous Day – the Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?”
Likewise the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) remembered with approval the Hilf al-Fudūl, a pact that he had made with the dignitaries of Makkah to protect unprotected foreigners from suffering any injustice. Although this happened before the prophethood began, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) left no doubt in the minds of the sahāba, by later saying that had he been given the opportunity to participate in such a treaty again, during his prophethood, he would do so.
What about Abyssinia?
To suggest that we should follow the communal strategy of the sahāba in Makkah does not mean we ignore any lessons—strategic or otherwise—from the sahāba in Abyssinia, or indeed Madīna, who are also a beacon of guidance for us today. In fact, we should not say that we are living under Makkan, Abyssinian or Madinese conditions completely, because our situation is not similar enough to a single one to equivocate, and there is legislative weight behind elements of all three, for us. It would be more accurate to say that we must take elements from all three types of social and political dynamics.
The historian Sheikh Suleman al-Awda has written a thesis on the history of the sahāba in Abyssinia, which contains many benefits for us to learn from today. To summarise, it seems that the sahāba lived in a pocket close to one another, marrying one another and having children there too. They were characterised by unity and being close together, whilst being noticeably absent from political matters.
Ja’far b. Abi Talib (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) narrated that there was an armed rebellion against al-Najāshi that the Muslims did not participate to defend him. They watched a battle from across a river and were engaged in du’ā for al-Najāshi, and once it was over they sent a sahābi to see who had come out victorious. When they learned that he was still in power they rejoiced. Amazingly however, the sahāba did not participate in this political struggle.
The unity and organisation of the sahāba in Abyssinia is manifested clearly when ‘Amr b. al-Ās, on behalf of the Quraysh of Makkah, travelled to al-Najāshi and tried to sow discord between the Muslim migrants and their hosts. He told the then-Christian king that the Muslims under his protection “blasphemed” against Jesus (ʿalayhi al-Salām), saying that he was not the son of God.
In responding to this ‘ideological challenge’, the first thing the Muslims did—under the leadership of Ja’far b. Abi Talib—was convene a council among themselves. That they were able to do this quickly itself shows a level of organisation and coordination. What is important to note is no one from among them jumped to speak to the authority himself, in isolation from others. No one wanted to gain favour, nor did anyone want to prove to the king that he was a “good”, “moderate” Muslim, or try to appease him. They managed to choose the right spokesperson that could address both the political and propagandist “media” narratives. These fundamental points are lessons for us today, in an age where the ideological attacks are as rife as are the numbers of self-styled spokespeople and unrepresentative organisations who wish to please the authorities with their obedience.
To summarise, the sahāba as a generation are not only a shining light to guide us in spiritual, theological or legal matters, but also in their social and political strategies. For Muslims living today as minorities under non-Islamic regimes, there are elements we can take from the sahāba as minorities in both Makkah and Abyssinia. We can learn from the organisation and unity of the latter, but I believe we share the overall strategy of the former.
The Makkan minority had clarity of vision—to spread the mercy of Allāh to let all enjoy it—which they followed with a profound, well-defined strategy. They prioritised institution building for preserving their identity and īmān. Their main aim was da’wah, which was organised on different levels and not haphazard. They were commanded as a community to be involved in society, engaged whether politically, socially, financially or otherwise, to minimise sins, in particular those related to injustice. This, no doubt, stemmed from their belief that Makkah was their home, despite it being a non-Muslim regime, and that the Makkan polytheists were still their people.
This is the sunnah of Allāh, to send prophets and messengers to their people,
“And to ‘Ād [We sent] their brother, Hūd…”
“And to Thamūd [We sent] their brother, Sālih…”
“And to Madyan [We sent] their brother, Shu’ayb…”
Since we are the followers of the final prophet, after whom there will be no more, the onus falls on us to carry out the prophetic duties, of inviting our people in our countries to the mercy and enlightenment of Islām. But do we really feel it?
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 Al-Qur’ān, 21:107
 Al-Qur’ān, 9:33, 48:28, 61:9
 Al-Qur’ān, 51:56
 Al-Qur’ān, 5:48
 Al-Qur’ān, 66:6
 Al-Qur’ān, 16:90
 Al-Qur’ān, 107:1-7
 Al-Qur’ān, 83:1-6
 The Sealed Nectar p12; Sīrat ibn Hishām 113/1
 Al-Qur’ān, 7:56
 Al-Qur’ān, 7:73
 Al-Qur’ān, 7: 85
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