Significance of the Hijrah
Al-Azhar Magazine – March 1970
At this moment of time the Muslim world celebrate the beginning of the Hijrah year. It marked the migration of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) from Mecca to Medina. This important event happened after the thirteen years of his mission. The departure of the Prophet was the turning point in the history of Islam. With his advent to Medina a new era dawned in the history of humanity, and he started there to establish the nucleus of the first Muslim Society.
The departure of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina commented on the 4th of Rabi Awwal (corresponding with the 20th of June 622 A.D.) and he entered Medina (Yathrib) on Friday, 16th of Rabi Awwal (2nd of July 622 A.D.). the ‘Hijrah’ year or the era of ‘Hijrah’ was instituted seventeen years later by the second Caliph Umar when he officially proclaimed the year of the Hijrah as the first year if the Muslim era. However, the months of the lunar year were retained and Muharram was kept as the first month of the ‘Hijrah’ year. By this proclamation, Umar, gave expression to the feeling of all Muslims.
On the beginning of the ‘Hijrah’ year, it is good to review the events leading up to this important happening that Muslims date their history from it. So much can be learned from this important event. The attitude of the Prophet at that crucial period of his mission, and his great wisdom and his actions, are a light and a guide for us in times of persecutions and difficulties. For the first three years of his mission, the Prophet preached only to his family and his intimate friends. At the end of the third year he received the command of God to preach his mission in public. It was then the Quraish became actively hostile.
The Qureish were now alarmed that Muhammed’s preaching took a serious revolutionary movement and their power prestige were at stake. They accordingly decided upon an organized system of persecution. The converts of the first four years were mostly humble folk unable to defend themselves against oppression so the Prophet advised all who could possibly contrive to so to emigrate to Abyssinia. In spite of cruel persecution and emigration, the little company of Muslims grew in number. While the disciples of Muhammed were seeking safety in other lands from the persecution of their enemies, he himself stood bravely at his post and amidst every insult and outrage pursued his mission.
They tried to bring the Prophet to a compromise, offering to accept his religion if he would so modify it as to make room for their gods as intercessors with Allah, or to make him their king if he would give up attacking idolatry.
They came to the Prophet with promises of honor and riches, to seduce him from his duty; always the reply was full of life and full of faith: “I am neither desirous of riches nor ambitious of dignity nor of dominion; I am sent by God Who has ordained me to announce glad tidings unto you. I give you the words of my Lord; I admonish you. If you accept the message I bring you, God will be favorable to you both in this world and the next; if you reject my admonitions I shall be patient, and I leave God to judge between you and me”. The idolaters grew more and more embittered and they decided to ostracize the Prophet’s whole clan and protectors. With that purpose the, in the seventh year of the mission, towards the end of 616 A.D., formed an alliance against the descendants of Hashim and Muthalib. They bound themselves by a document, which was deposited in the Ka’ba to the effect that not to enter into any contract of marriage with the Hashimites or to buy and sell with them. Then, for three years the Prophet was shut up with all his kinsfolk in their stronghold which was situated in one of the mountains passes which run down to Mecca.
Towards the tenth year of the mission, 619 A.D. the ban was removed and the Prophet was again free to go about the city. In the year 620 A.D. at the season of the yearly pilgrimage, he came upon a little group of six men from Yathrib, a city more than 200 miles away from Mecca, who heard him gladly. On their return to Yathrib they told what they have seen and heard from the Prophet. At Yathrib there were Jewish tribes with learned rabbis, who had often spoken to the pagans of a Prophet soon to come among the Arabs with whom, when he came, the Jews would destroy the pagans as the tribes of ‘Aas’ and ‘Thamud’ had been destroyed of old for their idolatry.
When the man form Yathrib saw Muhammed (peace be upon him) they recognized him as the Prophet whom the Jewish rabbis had described to them. At the next season of pilgrimage a deputations came from Yathrib purposely to meet the Prophet. These deputies met the Prophet on the same spot which had witnessed the conversion of the former six. In that meeting they swore allegiance to the Prophet. This called in the history of Islam the first ‘pact of Al-Aqaba’, from the name of the hill on which the conference was held.
In the following year, 622 A.D. at the time of pilgrimage, seventy-three Muslims from Yathrib came to Mecca to vow allegiance to the Prophet and invite him to their city. At Al-Aqaba, they swore to defend him as they would defend their own wives and children. Then the Prophet selected twelve men of position form among them as his delegates. Thus was concluded the second pact of Al-Aqaba. These delegates are called Naqib’s. This event occurred in the month of DhulHijja. The news of this pact spread among the Quraish and they worried about the far reaching danger resulting in the effect of the conclusion of the great pledge. It did not take longfor the Quraish to realize the effects of the Prophet’s preaching and beginning of victory for his mission.
When the Quraish started a furious persecution of the Prophet and his disciples fearing a general massacre, the Prophet advised his followers to leave Medina silently. About a hundre families left Mecca, separately and proceeded to Medina where they were received with enthusiasm, in order not to warn the Quraish of the planned emigration. The Prophet, his devoted cousin Ali, and his intimate friend Abu Bakr were the only notable Muslims left in Mecca. Throughout this period the Prophet remained at his post; when the storm was at it height and might. Nobody could say whether he would leave Mecca or not. Before, he had ordered his friends to migrate to Abyssinia while he remained and preached his mission at the city. Thus the Quraish doubted his intention to leave Mecca. Even Abu Bakr asked permission from the Prophet to emigrate, but he aid to hi, ‘Do not hurry, or God may send with you a friend”.
The Quraish were fully aware of the influence and power the Muslims had in Medina, especially in the way of trade with Syria. They were also aware of the danger of the emigration of Muhammed, and his appearance among the Muslims of Medina.
The clouds were gathering fast. The matter had become one of life and death for the Quraish. An assembly of the Quraish met in town-hall, called ‘Dar-al-Nadwa’ and some chiefs of other clans were invited to attend. It was as a stormy meeting for fear, of the escape of the Prophet, had entered their hearts, imprisonment for life or expulsion from the city were debated in the meeting. Assassination was then proposed, but assassination by one man would have exposed him and his family to the vengeance of blood. Thus Abu Jahl suggested that a number of courageous men chosen from different families should strike simultaneously in Muhammed’sbossom with their swords, in order that the responsibility of the deed might rest upon all the tribes represented, so that enough to avenge his blood. This proposal was accepted and a number of youths were selected for the execution should be carried out. The Prophet was well aware of the murderous intention of the Quraish, but this did not prevent him from staying on Mecca until he received orders from God to migrate.
Receiving his Master’s order to emigrate to Yathrib, he went to Abu Bakr and asked him to be his companion on the journey. The venerable Abu Bakr most decidedly agreed and both were ready to leave, but were sure that the Quraish would prevent them. On the appointed date as the night advance, assassins posted themselves around the Prophet’s dwelling. They watched all night long, waiting to murder him when he should leave his house inthe early dawn. They were peeping now and then through a hole in the door to make sure that he still lay in his bed. In order, to keep the attention of the assassins fixed upon his bed, the Prophet asked Ali to put on the Prophet’s own green garment and lie on the bed.
He also told Ali to remain to Mecca for a few days so as to return the belongings of persons who had entrusted them to him for safe keeping. Then the Prophet departed from his house at a moment when the assassins were unaware of his intention. It is reported that a deep slumber over took the conspirators that moment and the Prophet walked among them. He went straight to the house of Abu Bakr and they walked together unobserved from the city of their birth, to a cavern in ‘Mount Thawr’, which is a few miles to the south of Mecca. They lay hide for three days in the cavern and all this time the Prophet and Abu Bakr were sustained by food brought to them at night by the daughter of Abu Bakr, Asma.
The news that Muhammed (peace be upon him) had escaped and the-would-be assassins had returned unsuccessful, aroused the fury of the Quraish and their whole energy. Their horsemen scoured the country searching everywhere for the two fugitives. A very handsome reward of a hundred camels was set upon the capture of Muhammed. Once or twice the danger appeared so near the cavern, as some of the search party including a few, of the selected youth, reached ‘Mount Thawr’ and saw the cavern. One of them said that ‘they may be in that cavern’, and some of them climbed to it and then saw a very old cobweb hanging over its entrance and also a pigeon had laid eggs just in the entrance. Seeing this, one of them said ‘by the look of that web it was there a long time before the birth of Muhammed’. Hearing the voice of the search party so close Abu Bakr approached the prophet and touched him muttering: “If one of them had only looked down at his feet, he would have seen us.” The Prophet looked at him and said in deep faith: “Abu Bakr, what you think of two, God is their third? Grieve not, God is with us”.
On the evening of the third day the Prophet and Abu Bakr left the cavern on two camels, procured with great difficulty, by unfrequented path, to Medina. But even here the ways were full of danger. The heavy price set upon Muhammed’s head had brought many horsemen from Mecca, and they were diligent in search of him. Once powerful horseman actually caught sight of the fugitives and pursued them. When the wild and fierce warrior approached them Abu Bakr cried: “We are lost”; but the Prophet said: “Be not afraid, God will protect us”. Upon nearing Muhammed and Abu Bakr, the horse of the idolater reared and fell. Struck with sudden awe he entreated the forgiveness of the Prophet and asked for an attestation of his pardo. This was given to him on a piece of bone by Abu Bakr. They continued their journey, without further molestation and disturbance, but under a severe June sun.
After three days journeying the Prophet and Abu Bakr reached the territories of Yathrib. They rested for four days at a village called Quba few miles south of Yathrib. He found there many Muslims, and there Ali also joined them, journeyed from Mecca on foot, hiding in the day time and travelling only at the night. In this period of days the Prophet built the first Mosque in the World. The BanuAmr bin Auf, to whom the village belonged, requested the Prophet to prolong hi stay amongst them. But the duty of the Prophet lay before him, and proceeded towards Yathrib, attended by a numerous body of his disciples. Thus the Prophet entered the city on Friday, 16th of Rabi Awwal (2nd July 622 A.D.).
Holy Quran referred to the event of Hijrah and the story of the cavern in the following verses:
It means: “If you do not help him, yet God has helped him already, when the unbelievers drove him forth the second of two, when two were in cave, when he said to his companion, ‘sorrow not; surely God is with us’. Then God sent down on him His ‘Sekina’ (calmness) and confirmed him with legions you did not see and He made the word of the unbelievers the lowest; and God’s word is the upper most; God is Almighty, All-Wise. Go forth, light and heavy! Struggle in God’s way with your possessions and yourselves; that is better for you, did you know”. (9:40-41)
A large number of Medinites waited outside the city to welcome the Prophet. With his advent to Medina a new era dawned upon city. The city of Yathrib is said to have been established by an Amalekite Chief, whose name it bore until the advent of Prophet. HenceforthYathrib changed its ancient name and was styled ‘Al-Medina Al-Munawwara’ (the illuminated city) or Madinat-el-Nabawi (the city Prophet). It is shortly called Al-Madins (the city). A mosque was soon built, in the erection of which the Prophet assisted with his own hands. The building was simple in form and structure, suited to the unostentatious religion he taught. The wall were of brick and earth and roof palm leaves. The Prophet preached and prayed standing on the bare ground or leaning against a palm tree and the devoted hearts around him beat in unison with his soul stirring words.
The two tribes of ‘Aas’ and ‘Khazraj’ forgetting their mortal feuds in the brotherhood of the faith, reallied wound the standard of Islam. He old divisions were affected and the noble designation of ‘Ansar’ (helpers) became the common title of all who had helped Islam in its hour of trial. The faithful group, who had forsaken their beloved birth place, received the name ‘Muhajireen’ (emigrant). In order to unite the ‘Ansar’ and Muhajireen in closer bonds the Prophet established a brotherhood between them, which linked them together in sorrow and happiness.