The Hijrah was possibly one of the greatest and most significant events in Islamic history, both literally and for every thing it stood for. Abu al-Qasim Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Abd al-Muttalib Ibn Hashim also known as Prophet Muhammad, was born around the year 570 in the city of Mecca and is hailed as the last prophet of Islam. Having lost both his parents at an early age, Muhammad grew up with his uncle. In 610, while he was at Mount Hira meditating in the month of Ramadan, Muhammad received his first revelation from the Archangel Gabriel. In the 23 years that followed, Gabriel would continue to visit Muhammad and speak to him.
Muhammad realized that he had been given a mission and began preaching to the people of his home town. Muhammad’s first followers were his cousin, servant, his best friend, his wife and daughters. While trying to speak to the inhabitants of Mecca however, Muhammad realized they were not the most receptive audience. Many of them were traders – Quraysh, who governed Meccan life and did not take it too well when Muhammad asked them to forget idol worship and believe in a living God. They also took offence at the fact that Muhammad had denounced the traditional Meccan religion.
They tried to rope Muhammad into an agreement of some sort where he would quit preaching the revelations he received, even offering him prestigious administrative posts in the trading circle. Muhammad however continued to preach of the concepts that had been revealed to him ? judgment, resurrection and the like. Apart from his small band of followers, Muhammad’s preaching was facing a lot of opposition. The traders of Meccan found this unbelievable and asked for proof in the form of miracles. When they did not see any miracles, they denounced Muhammad as a kahin, a soothsayer, a disreputable sort of magician or madman.
The Meccans ignored what he said, mocked him and refused to listen to his teachings. The only ones who did were younger brothers and sons of great merchants; people who had fallen out of the first rank in their tribe or failed to attain it; and the weak, mostly unprotected, foreigners. As members of the lower ranks began to believe in Islam and what Muhammad preached, the following grew larger. Both Muhammad and his followers began to be persecuted, tortured and ill-treated by the Meccans themselves. They went to the extent of ‘an economic boycott that extended to keeping the Muslims from purchasing food in the markets.
’ As the ranks of Muhammad’s followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes and the rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Kaaba, the focal point of Meccan religious life, which Muhammad threatened to overthrow. Given the situation, it was time for Muhammad to make a move – one that would be wise and would also take them away from the people who wanted them done away with. Muhammad had preached to the Meccans for almost a decade and the ‘opposition had reached such a high pitch’ that it was time for his followers to move.
In 615, Prophet Muhammad advised a band of his followers to flee from the persecution they were facing and head to Axum, Ethiopia, where they were well protected by the King of Axum himself. As the condition worsened in Mecca, Muhammad instructed seventy of his followers to head to Yathrib that was renamed Medina, which means ‘the city’. A few years later, it was time for Prophet Muhammad himself to flee from Mecca after he learnt of a plot to kill him and his closest friend, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. So in 622 A.
D, 52 year-old Muhammad secretly migrated to the fertile northern oasis of Yathrib, which was not on the caravan trade route from southern Arabia to the north. This was the famous Hijra. An interesting twist of fate, luck, blessing ? call it what you will, saved Muhammad’s life at this point in time. The Meccans who were in search of Muhammad to murder him realized he was not in their city anymore. They went out in search of him. While fleeing from Mecca to Medina, Muhammad and his friend Abu Bakr hid from them in a cave. A spider at this precise moment, decided to spin its web across the mouth of the cave.
The Meccans noticed the spider’s web, inferred that Muhammad and Abu Bakr should’ve have disturbed the web if they were to get in and went right past it. Their lives had been miraculously saved. In the words of an exhortation on the Hijrah, “From imminent physical danger to the Prophet’s life, and the darkest moments, Allah guided His Messenger to the nucleus of the everlasting radiance of the Islamic being and civilization in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, the Luminous City! ” On reaching Medina (Yathrib), both Muhammad and Abu Bakr were welcomed with great rejoicing and the people of Medina had prepared the city for their arrival.
Each of Muhammad’s followers who had left everything they owned to follow the faith that they believed in, were also welcomed. To mark the ocassion, the ancient name of the city was renamed to Madinah ul Nabi (City of the Prophet) or Madinah for short. As mentioned at the start, there can be several synonyms for the Hijrah ? a journey, an escape, a wise move. But it means so much more to the religion of Islam and is a very significant occurrence. Followers of Islam several lessons from this one journey. How could a journey mean so much? What are the various intriguing aspects of the Hijrah?
Several, to say the least. The word Hijrah, when literally translated means ‘flight’, moving from one place to another. But a closer look at this important flight of Prophet Muhammad and one will realize that this was more than that ? it was an extremely necessary, well-planned and thought out migration. In Muslim history, it denoted an important break. It was clearly the beginning of a new, momentous era that would set the pattern for how Muslims ought to lead their lives in the future. As a matter of fact, the Hijrah is what begins the Muslim calendar every single year.
Unlike the Gregorian calender, the Muslim one is based on lunar cycles and is very different to correspond with. Governed by the moon, the first month of every year changes accordingly. And because of this legendary start, the Islamic calendar is called the Hijrah calendar. So New Year celebrations are not the norm in the Muslim world. Instead, what is celebrates is the beginning of the Hijrah calendar. Time is set aside every year to reflect and ponder on one’s life, the changes that are occurring in it and the journey that one is on. Not only did the Hijrah start off a new year, it also started a new way of life for the Muslims.
The men who accompanied Muhammad on the Hijrah were called the Muhajirun – “those that made the Hijrah” or the “Emigrants” – while those in Medina who became Muslims were called the Ansar or “Helpers. ” With the Hijrah, Muhammad was laying down unset rules for the Muslim fraternity ? they would stand by each other. The religion would be more than worshipping God; it would have to mean greater brotherhood, love, and unflinching support through thick and thin. The tradition still carries on as Muslims are known to be fiercely protective of their community.