Anṣār (Arabic: الأنصار) or Anṣār al-Nabī (s) (Arabic: أنصار النبی)—helpers or helpers of the Prophet (s)—were Muslims in Medina from Aws and Khazraj clans who allied with the Prophet Muhammad (s) before his migration or Hijra, and after his migration to Medina they helped him and the Muhajirun (Muslims who migrated from Mecca to Medina). They were highly respected by Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (a) during his caliphate, and they always supported him.
The word "anṣār" is the plural form of "naṣīr" and "nāṣir" from the root "n-ṣ-r" which means helper. It was first used literally for Muslims of Medina from Aws and Khazraj clans who helped Muhajirun, but soon it turned into a terminology referring to Muslims who allied with the Prophet (s). It is not obvious exactly when the term was used for Muslims of Medina, but according to a hadith from Anas b. Malik, the terms "Muhajirun" and "Ansar" were first used in the Quran. And according to a hadith from Ibn Athir, the Prophet (s) was the first person who used the word for Muslims of Yathrib.
In the Quran
In two verses, 100 and 117, of Sura al-Tawba, the terms "Muhajirun" and "Ansar" are used in conjunction with one another. Other than this case, the word "Ansar" is used in the Quran, 61:14, for the companions of Jesus (a).
- Main article: Pledge of al-'Aqaba
The first person from the Yathrib clans who converted to Islam was Suwayd b. Samit from Aws. But when he returned to Yathrib, he was killed in the battle of Bu'ath by people of Khazraj. After that, a young man called Ayas b. Mu'adh converted to Islam.
Around the 10th year after the Bi'that (619), six people from Khazraj met the Prophet (s) during the hajj annual pilgrimage and converted to Islam. The next year, 12 people went from Yathrib to Mecca to perform hajj rituals and met the Prophet (s) there, and made the first Pledge of al-'Aqaba with him. According to this pledge, Muslims of Yathrib were committed to abandon polytheism, avoid theft and adultery, avoid killing their children, and abstain from defamation and wrongdoing. After this pledge, the Prophet (s) sent Mus'ab b. 'Umayr to Yathrib in order to introduce and propagate Islam. Then the number of Muslims there began to increase; and in particular, Sa'd b. Mu'adh, the head of Aws, converted to Islam.
The next year, 73 people from Aws and Khazraj went to Mecca to meet the Prophet (s), and made the second Pledge of al-'Aqaba, whereby they committed themselves to support the Prophet (s).
In the 13th year after the Bi'that (622) when people of Yathrib (or Medina) widely received the Prophet (s)'s religion, he found it the right time to migrate to Medina. People there warmly welcomed and hosted him there. When the Prophet (s) moved to Yathrib, most tribes and people of the city converted to Islam and pledged their allegiance to the Prophet (s). Thus Yathrib came to be known as Madinat al-Nabi (s) (the city of the Prophet (s)) or Medina. Following the formation of an Islamic community in Medina, old disputes between Aws and Khazraj came to an end. Since then, the Muslims in Medina were known to be of two groups: Muhajirun that is, Muslims who migrated from Mecca to Medina, and Ansar, that is, Muslims who hosted and helped the Prophet (s) and his companions.
Soon after the migration, the Prophet (s) made a Pact of Brotherhood between Muhajirun and Ansar, whereby the latter committed themselves to treat Ansar on the basis of justice, brotherhood and equality and help them in all circumstances.
Position of Ansar
In the Period of the Prophet (s)
In the events that occurred during 10 years after Hijra or migration to Medina, Ansar undertook more responsibilities, and since their number was larger than Muhajirun, their presence was more remarkable in most battles. Thus the Prophet (s) repeatedly expressed his satisfaction by Ansar—hadiths that are compiled as "manaqib al-Ansar" (praises of Ansar).
What made them especially respectable for the Prophet (s) was their attitude in 9 A.H. (630) in the Battle of Hunayn. In this battle, when the Muslims defeated their enemies, the Prophet (s) donated all the booties to people of Quraysh and others, and gave no shares to the Ansar. Some people of Ansar expressed their surprise, to whom the Prophet (s) replied that his own presence among was more precious and valuable than the property. Ansar were satisfied by this, and the Prophet (s) prayed for them.
The Pact of Brotherhood made by the Prophet (s) between Banu Hashim and Ansar reveals his deep relationship with Ansar. There are hadiths from the Prophet (s) according to which he called them to be patient and tolerant about events after him.
Period of the First Caliph
In the period of the Prophet (s), while there was brotherhood and equality between Muhajirun and Ansar, they still preserved their tribal distinctions and were sometimes boastful of their own honors. After the demise of the Prophet (s) they turned into two distinct and rival historical and political strands. The rivalry showed itself in the story of Saqifa Bani Sa'ida. After the demise of the Prophet (s), Ansar gathered in Saqifa before everybody else goes there, announcing Sa'd b. 'Ubada who was a well-reputed companion of the Prophet (s) and the head of Khazraj as their candidate for caliphate. However, it was opposed by some Muhajirun who took caliphate to be their right. Each group mentioned their virtues and intimacy with the Prophet (s), considering itself to deserve the occupation of caliphate more than the other one.
When Ansar failed to seize the power, they suggested that they share it with the Muhajirun. But this strategy failed too, and when Muhajirun overtook the power, Sa'd b. 'Ubada who was a candidate for caliphate did not give up and threatened to launch a battle against Muhajirun.
In any case, Ansar finally pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr, and cooperated with him in order to preserve unity among Muslims. In 12/633-34 when Abu Bakr went to hajj, he appointed Qutada b. Nu'man as the administrator of Medina.
During the Second Caliph
During the Second Caliph, Ansar were in the same conditions as those they were in during the reign of Abu Bakr, and some of them attended the battles too. 'Umar b. al-Khattab showed respect to Ansar and consulted them on some affairs; for example, he consulted them about the origin of the Islamic calendar, and though none of the members of the Six-Member Council—who were supposed to elect the candidate after 'Umar—were from Ansar, he had ordered that Ansar should supervise the process of electing the caliph after him.
However, when 'Umar allotted wages to Muslims from the treasury, he took into account people's tribal features and their precedence in conversion to Islam. Thus he allotted more wages to Muhajirun than Ansar, and among Ansar, he allotted more wages to Aws who pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr prior to Khazraj.
The caliph's special reading of the Quran (9:100) that led to his preference of Muhajirun over Ansar was followed by a strong objection by Ubayy b. Ka'b—the well-known reciter of the Quran. Ubayy b. Ka'b appealed to many Quranic verses (including, 62:3, 59:10, and 8:75) in order to show the equality of Ansar and Muhajirun and the virtues of the former. Some people hold that reliable reciters of the Quran, most of whom were from Ansar, suggested that 'Umar collect the Quran, but he did not accept.
In the Period of Imam 'Ali (a)
During the reign of Imam 'Ali (a), Ansar were his enthusiastic supporters, playing significant roles in most political and military events of the time, as Imam 'Ali (a) wrote in his letter to Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan that Muhajirun and Ansar were on agreement over pledging their allegiance to him.
In the Battle of Siffin, prominent figures of Ansar, such as Bara' b. 'Azib, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Layla, Khuzayma b. Thabit and Zayd b. Arqam, were in the army of Imam 'Ali (a), which made Mu'awiya so upset that he reproached Ansar.
However, there was serious rivalry between Ansar (who were called "Yathribi", that is from Yathrib) and Muhajirun (who were called "Makki", that is from Mecca). Muhajirun considered themselves to be relatives of the Prophet (s) and the first Muslims. And Ansar cited their honors during Islam, as well as their being Yemeni (being from Yemen) and Qahtani.
Poets from Ansar wrote verses concerning their honors; for example, Hassan b. Thabit al-Ansari—the well-known Muslim poet—wrote many verses concerning the virtues of Ansar, reproaching Muhajirun or Makkis.
In contrast, because of their political dominance and social power, Makkis or Muhajirun overmatched Ansar. This was obvious from the wages 'Umar allotted to Muslims.
In the Period of Mu'awiyya
In the period of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, Ansar were reproached more than ever. When Busr b. Abi Artat al-'Amiri, the commander of Mu'awiya's army, invaded Hijaz and entered Medina, he humiliated Ansar and addressed them with titles such as "abna' al-'abid" (sons of slaves) and "Ma'shar al-Yahud" (group of Jews). Mu'awiya's enmity with Ansar was so serious that he and 'Amr b. al-'As tried to officially remove the title of Ansar, but to no avail.
In the period of Yazid b. Mu'awiya
Yazid b. Mu'awiya continued to humiliate and oppress Ansar. He ordered the poet, Ka'b b. Ju'ayl, to satirize Ansar. In the Event of Harra, that occurred in 63/682, many people of Medina, including 173 people from Ansar, were killed, and when Yazid heard the news of the victory of his army, he recited some verses of Ibn Ziba'ri that were composed when he was still a polytheist during the Battle of Uhud. It seemed as though Yazid was avenging the Battle of Badr, in which many people of Umayyads were killed, from people of Khazraj.
These events, as well as the oppression of the uprising of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, undermined the power of Ansar. Thus many of them joined warriors in North Africa, Andalusia and other battle fields.
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