The Hijrah- The Emigration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina

“The Hijrah”- The Emigration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina’

Al-Azhar Magazine – April 1968

The migration of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) from Mecca to Medina was the turning point in the history of Islam. This important event happened at the age of fifty- three, after the thirteen years of his mission. The departure of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina commenced on the 4th of Rabi’ Awwal (corresponding with the 20th 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 Hijjrah as the 1st year of the Muslim era. However, the months of the lunar year were retained and Muharram was kept as the first month of the Hijrah year. On the beginning of the Hijrah year, it is good to review the events leading up to this important happening which marked he greatest moment in the history of Islam.

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 publicly. It was then the ‘Quraish’ became actively hostile. At the season of the pilgrimage they posted men on all roads leading to Ka’aba, to warn the tribes against Muhammed (peace be upon him) who was preaching in their midst. They tried to bring the Prophet to compromise, offering to accept his religion if he would so modify it as to make room for other gods as intercessors with Allah, or to make him their king if he would give up attacking idolatry.

The bitterness of the idolaters was increased by the refusal of his Uncle Abu Talib to let them kill Muhammed as well as by the conversion of Umar, one of their stalwarts. The Quraish were now alarmed the Muhammed’s preaching took serious revolutionary movement and their power and 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 oppressions, so the Prophet advised all who could possibly contrive to do so to migrate to Abyssinia. In spite of cruel persecution and emigration, the little company of Muslims grew in number. While the disciples of Muhammed (peace be upon him) were seeking safety in other lands from the persecution of the enemies, he himself stood bravely at his post and amidst every insult and outrage pursued his mission.

Again they came to him 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 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 they, 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’aba, 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 mountain passes of which run down to Mecca. Only at the time of pilgrimage could he go out and preach or did any of his kinsfolk dare to go into the city. 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 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. In 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 A’ad and Thamu’d had been destroyed of old for their idolatry. 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 deputation 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. They then returned to Yathrib with a Muslim teacher in their company and soon there was not a house in Yathrib wherein there was not mention of the messenger of Allah. In the following year, 622 A.D., at the time of pilgrimage, 73 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 from among them as his delegates. Thus was concluded the second pact of Al-Aqaba. These delegates are called ‘Naqibs’. This event occurred in the month of Dhul Hijjah.

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 long for the Quraish to realize the effect of the conclusion of the great pledge. It did not take long for the Quraish to realize the effects of the Prophet’s preaching and the beginning of victory for his mission. The Quraish started a furious persecution of the Prophet and his disciples. Fearing a general massacre, the Prophet advised his followers to leave Mecca and go to Medina silently. About a hundred families left Mecca, separately, and proceeded to Medina, where they were received with enthusiasm, in order not to warn the Quraish of the planned migration.

All his disciples had left for Yathrib, and the Prophet, his devoted cousin Ali, and his intimate friend Abu Bakr were the only notable Muslims left in Mecca. Throughout this period that Prophet remained bravely at his post; when the storm was its 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 said to him “Do not hurry, for God may send with you a friend”. The Quraish were fully aware of the influence and the power of the Muslims had in Medina, especially in the way of trade with Syria. They were also aware of the danger if 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 of the assembly of the Quraish met in the town hall, called “Dar-el-Nadwa” and some chiefs of other clans were also 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 of the Prophet was then proposed, but assassination by one man would have exposed him and his family to the vengeance blood. Thus Abu Jahl suggested that a number of courageous men, chosen from different families should strike simultaneously in Muhammed’s bosom with their swords, in order that the responsibility of the deed might rest upon all the tribes represented, so that the relations of Muhammed would not be strong 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 in Mecca until he received orders God to migrate. Receiving this 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 advanced , the assassins posted themselves around the Prophet’s dwelling. They watched all night long, waiting to murder him, when he should leave his house in the early dawn. They were peeping now and then through a hole in the hole in the door to make sure that he still lay on 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 in Mecca for a few days so as to return the belongings of those who had entrusted them to him for safe keeping. Then the Prophet departed from his house at the when the assassins were unaware of his intention. It is reported that a peep 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 was a few miles to the south of Mecca. They lay hidden 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. She always walked to cavern in front of the sheep which obliterated her foot-prints, in order to cover all traces of her movement.

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 approached so near the cavern, as some of the search party including a few of the selected youth, reached ‘Mount Thawr’ and saw a cavern. One of them said ‘that they may be in that cavern’, and some of them 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 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 do you think of two, when God is their third? Grieve not, God is with us.” The Holy Quran referred to this 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 the 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 and All-wise. Go forth, light and heavy! Struggle in God’s way with your possessions and your selves; that is better for you, did you know.”


After three days the Quraish slackened their efforts. On the evening of the third day the Prophet and Abu Bakr left the cavern on two camels, procured with great difficulty, by unfrequented paths, to Medina. But even here the ways were full of danger. The heavy price set upon Muhammed’s head had brought out many horsemen in Mecca, and they were diligent in search of him. Once a 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 pardon. This was given to him on a piece of bone by Abu Bakr. They continued their journey, without further molestation and the disturbance but under the 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 and travelling only at night. In this period of days the Prophet built the first Mosque in the world. The Banu Amr bin Auf, to whom the village belonged, requested the Prophet to prolong his stay amongst them. But the duty of the Prophet lay before him, and he proceeded towards Yathrib, attended by a numerous body of his disciples. Thus the Prophet entered the city on Friday, 16th of Rabi’ Awwal (2nd of July 622 A.D.). With his advent to Medina a new era dawned in the history of Islam.