The Long Road from Mecca to Medinah: Hijrah

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What is the hijrah? What does hegira means? Why did Muhammad migrate from Mecca to Medina? What is Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina called?

Arriving at Abu Bakr’s –Allah be well-pleased with him- house after leaving his, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- remitted the money for the camel prepared for him for the journey, despite Abu Bakr’s reluctance. Having slipped through the idolaters only moments before, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- this time acted cautiously as instructed by the Divine will and to set an example for his ummah. Together they left from the back of Abu Bakr’s house, where the camels were to remain for a few more days.

Again, as a subtle precaution, they headed toward the direction opposite to Medina.

Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- was walking behind the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- one moment and in front of him the next. Upon being asked by the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- for the reason he walked thus, he replied:

“I fear for your wellbeing, Messenger of Allah”.

They eventually made it to the Cave of Thawr.

“It is best if you wait until I clear out the cave, Messenger of Allah”, Abu Bakr recommended after which he entered the cave, cleaning it up and blocking all holes in case pests might enter. Only then did he advise the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to make his way in. (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 222-223)

Headed by Abu Jahl, the idolaters meanwhile rushed to Abu Bakr’s house, and unable to find the two there, they began interrogating his daughter Asma. For saying she knew nothing of her father’s whereabouts, the poor girl bore the brunt of the idolaters’ frustration and anger, receiving a fierce slap across the face.

The Light of Being and his “Companion of the Cave” (Yar-i Ghar)[1] were to remain in the cave for a while, where they could find breathing space from the idolaters who were busy searching for them on the roads to Medina. Besides, they were under the protection and assistance of the Almighty, who was intervening, so to speak, just when all options were exhausted. Following their traces, some idolaters were in fact able to come to within the threshold of the cave. But other than a pigeon’s nest at the entrance of the cave they found nothing but cobwebs, as if no man had set its eyes on the cave before, let alone entered it. With the command of the Almighty, moreover, a tree had grown in the entrance, blocking the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- face from prying eyes.[2]

Without suspecting the slightest possibility of finding the Noblest Being -upon him blessings and peace- there, the idolaters turned back.

The common aid and protector of these two dignified wayfarers was no other than Allah, glory unto Him. Thus, the miserable men who had turned up at the cave could see nothing but a pigeon’s nest and cobwebs. As elegantly said by poet Arif Nihat Asya:

The spider was neither in the sky,

Nor in water, nor on land,

It was only in the eyes

Blinded to the Truth so grand.

As all this was taking place, Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- was becoming increasingly restless in the cave. He was in fear, not for himself but for the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-.

If the idolaters were to do so little as to peek inside, they could have easily seen the two. Instead they were walking around the cave, inspecting it and remarking, “Had there been anyone inside, the pigeon’s eggs and the spider web would have long been destroyed!”

Some who suggested taking a look inside the cave were prevented by the furious Umayyah ibn Khalaf:

“Are you out of your minds? What are you going to do inside? How can you even suggest walking inside a cave knit with layers of cobweb? Believe me…this web was weaved well before even the birth of Muhammad!”

While Abu Jahl remarked:

“I swear Muhammad is nearby…I can just feel him! But he has blinded our eyes again with magic!”[3]

Overcome with anxiety, Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- meanwhile was whispering to the Noble Messenger upon him blessings and peace:

“If they kill me, I am just one person after all. But if something happens to you, then the whole ummah will be destroyed!”

The Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was offering salat on his feet and Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- was keeping an eye out, all the while voicing his uneasiness:

“Your tribe is looking for you everywhere. By Allah, it is not for myself that I fear but I am worried they will do something to you!”

The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- calmly responded:

“Do not fear, Abu Bakr! Surely Allah is with us!” (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 223-224; Diyarbakri, I, 328-329)

This phase is retold in the Quran:

“If you will not aid him, Allah certainly aided him when those who disbelieved expelled him, he being the second of the two, when they were both in the cave, when he said to his companion: ‘Fear not, surely Allah is with us.’ So Allah sent down His serenity upon him and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see, and made lowest the word of those who disbelieved; and the word of Allah, that is the highest; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (at-Tawbah, 40)

Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- later said:

“In the cave I could see the idolaters’ feet. ‘If they had only kneeled they would have seen us’, I whispered to the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, who said, ‘Why do you fear for two companions, the third of whom is Allah?’ (Bukhari, Fadail’ul-Ashab 2, Manaqib 45; Muslim, Fadailu’s-Sahabah, 1)

The Cave of Thawr where the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had been guided following the thirteen-year struggle in Mecca, was a different sort of training place than Hira.[4] There, the gist was to observe the flow of Divine mysteries and might, to read the Wisdom right from the book of man and universe; and to become immersed in Divine secrets, thereby to develop the heart.

The stay in Thawr lasted for three days and three nights. The Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was not alone. He was accompanied by Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, the noblest of men after prophets. Honored with being by the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- side for three days and nights, he thus became ‘the Second of the Two’.

“Fear not! Allah is with us”

By counseling his friend:

“Fear not! Allah is with us”, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was at the same time revealing the secret of being-with-Allah (ma’iyyah). This was the beginning of the teaching of silent dhikr, or remembrance, the opening of hearts to the Almighty on the way of becoming content.

Thus the Cave of Thawr served as the starting place of the training of the heart towards reaching the Almighty from the horizon of endless mysteries, the first stop of this Divine journey.

The Noble Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- exposure of the secrets from the realm of the heart to his ummah thus first began in this cave with Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, the first ring of the Golden Chain set to survive until the Day of Judgment.

Faith receives its power from the love of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. The main impetus in this sublime journey is the love felt for the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- and the only way of reaching the Almighty is through feeling such affection. In any case, to love is not only to love the person, but also to love whoever and whatever the person loves. Keeping love ever alive is possible through the spiritual bond (rabitah).[5] A raw and shallow understanding can never conceive Divine Love.

Understanding the spiritual bond of Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- with the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- should leave an impression on each mind, the depth of which depends on their capacities. Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- would receive a different kind of sublime satisfaction each time he talked with the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-; being the person most privy to prophetic secrets, he would always long for the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- even when he was by his side witnessing unique manifestations.

Indeed, when the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- remarked appreciatively:

“I have never benefited from the wealth of anyone like I have from the wealth of Abu Bakr”, Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- responded, in tears:

“Are not my wealth and I for you anyway?” (Ibn Majah, Muqaddimah, 11); an expression of total devotion to the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and annihilation in him. (In tasawwuf, this spiritual position is defined as Fana fi’r-Rasul).

One point during their stay at Thawr, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, placing his head on Abu Bakr’s lap, had drifted off to a light nap. At that stage Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- noticed a small hole close by in the cave. To prevent the likely appearance of a pest from the hole that could harm the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, blocked it with his foot, quickly but also delicately not to wake him up.

Soon, as part of the Divine test, it turned out that Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- had every reason to worry, when a snake made its presence felt in the hole, fiercely biting Abu Bakr’s –Allah be well-pleased with him- foot, dribbling its venom. Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- was left in such agony that even though he did not move in order not to awaken the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, he nonetheless could not contain his tears; such that one dropped right on the blessed face of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Waking up, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- inquired:

“What’s wrong Abu Bakr? What happened?”

Even though Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- said there was nothing wrong, he ended up telling his experience upon the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- insistence. (Bayhaqi, Dalail, II, 477; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 223)

Without further ado, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- applied his saliva with his finger to the bite wound. With the blessing of Allah, the wound of Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- was quickly healed, without a single trace of pain left.

Though from a disputable source, there is an account according to which the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- asked the snake, in spiritual language, the reason for the bite, to which the snake responded:

“Messenger of Allah…I have been waiting for years in that small hole longing to see you. Just when I finally had the opportunity to realize my wish, I saw my path had been blocked. Unable to withhold the severe desire to see you, to unblock my path, I had no other option than to bite.”

This inspired poet Fuzuli to elaborate the following, in celebration of the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- being a source of spiritual and physical healing, from which those who befriend him can receive a share:

Drunk by His friend, and the fount of life a snake’s venom shall be,

But venom is what becomes of water drunk by His enemy.

When during his caliphate Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- overheard some people implying his superiority to Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, he interrupted and said:

“By Allah, Abu Bakr is better than Omar’s entire family. More so, even one day of Abu Bakr’s life is more blessed than Omar’s entire family: the day when Abu Bakr was by the side of the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- when he left his home for the cave.” (Hakim, III, 7/4268)

Throughout their stay in the Cave of Thawr, Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma would bring them food, while his son Abdullah would spend each night at the cave with them, returning to Mecca toward the break of dawn, leading the idolaters to think he had spent the night in the town. An exceptionally witty and capable man, Abdullah would mix with the idolaters during the day and listen unassumingly to their plots against the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, leaking the information to the cave at night.

Amir ibn Fuhayrah, the freed slave of Abu Bakr, would likewise graze Abu Bakr’s sheep alongside the other sheep with the shepherds of Mecca. Setting out with them early in the morning, he would purposely lag back from the other shepherds on their return at nightfall, going to the cave with the sheep, for the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and his honorable friend to obtain their milk. On his return to Mecca in the early hours of the morning, Amir would wipe out the footprints of Abdullah with the hooves of his flock, making them unnoticeable.[6]

Having been in search of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- for three days now, the idolaters had lost all hope. Receiving the news of Meccan despair from Abdullah, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, on the fourth day, mounted their camels brought by the guide and set off from the cave. This meant that the time had come for the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to bid farewell to his hometown where he had spent his entire life till that day, which thus cast grief over him. He very much loved the blessed town of Mecca. A short time before, overlooking the town from the hill of Hazwarah, he had remarked:

“By Allah, Mecca, you are for me the most beloved of all places. Had I not been driven out, I would never have turned my back on you!” (Ahmed, IV, Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 68/3925)

Again, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said:

“What a lovely town you are Mecca and how much do I love you! I would never have sought haven in any other, if it were not for my tribe expelling me!” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 68/3926)

Comfort came through Divine Revelation, dispersing the Prophet’s sorrow:

“Most surely He Who has made the Quran binding on you shall bring you home again. (al-Qasas, 85)

Explicitly promising the return, also as the first sign of the Conquest of Mecca, this ayah also served to rid the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- heart from sorrow and make way for joy.

The 400 km stretch between Mecca and Medina then took eight days to complete at a camel’s pace. In spite of the long road, the scorching weather and the burning sand, the journeymen continued their walk non-stop for the first day.

Being a trader who had made numerous journeys to Damascus, Abu Bakr was a recognizable face for many. So at times during the journey they would come across people he knew, asking Abu Bakr of ‘the identity of the man in front of him’. Acting prudently and to stay safe, Abu Bakr would reply:

“He is my guide…He is showing me the way!” Of course, at heart, he would mean “he is guiding me to the best of ways.” (Ibn Saad, I, 233-235; Ahmed, III, 211)

Led by the tracker Abdullah ibn Urayqit[7], the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- and Amir ibn Fuhayrah stopped by a tent near Qudayd owned by Ummu Mabed, who used to take care of the needs of passing travellers. So the blessed travellers bound for Medina asked her for some milk.

In the tent there was a weak sheep, which did not even have enough power to join the flock to graze, much less milk in its udders. It was therefore left behind in one corner of the tent. When the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- asked permission from Ummu Mabed to milk it, she said:

“Do as you wish—but good luck finding a drop of milk in her!”

After praying to Allah, glory unto Him, to bless the sheep with prosperity, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- began milking it with his own hands, ending up drawing out plenty of milk from it.

From what Ummu Mabed later told, that sheep survived until a drought that struck during the caliphate of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, at which time they milked it day and night, even when livestock could not find any grass to graze.

After the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- left Abu Mabed’s tent, her husband turned up. Astonished at the sight of the amount of milk inside, he exclaimed:

“Where did these come from, Ummu Mabed? The sheep are all away on land, all infertile, and there is nothing to milk! What happened?”

“Today a holy man came to the tent”, Ummu Mabed said, going on to explain the event and the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- beautiful traits.

“Go on, tell me more about him!” Abu Mabed requested, upon which his wife began elaborating further:

“A handsome man, with a luminous face…He has exceptionally good morals. There was nothing wrong with him that I could see. His eyes are black and sparkling, lashes thick but slender and there is a politeness to his voice. Somewhat tall, he has black hair and a slightly long beard.

“There is serenity and majesty in his quietness, and a flowing beauty and kindness in his speech. His words are like perfectly aligned pearls, spilling from his mouth with measure. He speaks clearly, separating precisely right from the wrong. Neither did he speak very little as if to show inability, nor a lot that would make one wearisome.

“From a distance, he looks the most imposing and awe-inspiring of all men, but up close, he is the most amicable and charming. Of medium height, he is neither outrageously tall, nor short. He is like a sapling that has surpassed in beauty the other saplings it has grown among. Next to him he had friends who would peacefully listen to each word he uttered and rush to fulfil his each command. He is dearly respected. From what I saw, blaming or telling off others is something he never does.”

Upon hearing this vivid description, Abu Mabed remarked:

“That man is the Prophet from Quraysh. How I wish I had met him and become his friend! But still I am going to try when the first opportunity presents itself.”

During those days, an unknown voice in Mecca was heard delivering emotional eulogies in praise of the guests of Ummu Mabed’s tent. Stirred by this unknown voice, Hassan ibn Thabit improvised a poem declaring that the people who let go of their Prophet are now doomed, and that the Prophet is spreading guidance in the heart of Medina, reading aloud the words of Allah, glory unto Him. (Ibn Saad, I, 230-231; VIII, 289; Hakim, III, 10-11)

Abu Mabed’s entire family ended up accepting Islam and the honour of becoming Companions of the Prophet.

Incapable of finding the blessed travellers in spite of their efforts, the idolaters as a last resort offered a ludicrous award for their capture. One of the many adventurers dazzled by this promise of reward was the hunter Suraqa ibn Malik.

At the end of a long search, Suraqa was able to track down the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. With the hope of seizing him, Suraqa immediately had his horse gallop towards them. Suddenly, however, the hooves of his horse sank into the sand, causing Suraqa to fall off.

Despite great effort, Suraqa could not free himself from the sand in which he was bogged and resume his pursuit of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Only after a while of struggling did he come to his senses and began feeling remorse. Thereupon, he sought the mercy of the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- prayed for him, shortly after which Suraqa’s horse rose from the sand. Suraqa instantly had a turn of heart for the better and became a genuine friend of the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. With the intention of keeping their location secret, Suraqa returned, diverting others from heading towards them by suggesting various other directions. (Muslim, Zuhd, 75)

Echoing in Suraqa’s ears for a while to come were the following words the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- told him:

“How will you feel Suraqa, the day you shall wear Khosrau’s gold bracelets and crown, and don his belt?”

Indeed, when the bracelets, belt and crown of the defunct Khosrau were brought to Medina following the conquest of Persia, Caliph Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- called Suraqa and, making him wear the adornments, told him to lift his hands and say:

“Allahu Akbar! Praise be to Him who has taken these away from Khosrau ibn Hurmuz, who paraded himself as the god of men, and placed it in the hands of Suraqa ibn Malik, of the sons of Mudlij!” (Ibn Athir, Usd’ul-Ghabah, II, 332; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, II, 19)

Encountering Buraydah ibn Husayb and his tribe on the way near Ghamim, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- invited them to Islam. They all accepted wholeheartedly. That night, the Light of Being -upon him blessings and peace- taught Buraydah –Allah be well-pleased with him- the opening part of Chapter Maryam.[8]

Undoing the white turban (imamah) on his head, Buraydah then said to the Prophet upon him blessings and peace:

“Allow me to be your flag bearer!”

Buraydah thereafter bore the flag for them, until they reached the village of Quba.

Afterwards on the way, they met a commercial caravan returning from Damascus, among which was Zubayr ibn Awwam who enshrouded the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- and Abu Bakr in two white cloaks.[9]

Each step was now drawing the Hegira company closer to Medina. Regardless of the idolaters rallying each and every person they could to murder the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, he was nonetheless proceeding steadily, continuing to extend his invitation to Islam on the way.

Saad ad-Dalil –Allah be well-pleased with him-,[10] one of the Companions, recounts the following:

“During the Hegira, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- and Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- came to our place. A daughter of Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- was with us at the time, being breastfed by a wet nurse. They wanted to reach Medina through the shortest way possible. We told them that they were on the Ghair Way amid the Raqubah Passage, famous for two bandits known as Mukhanan, and that he only needed to say the word for us to take care of them.

‘Take us to them’, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- said.

So we set out. When we walked up to the end of the Raqubah slope, we saw the bandits, one of whom we heard say to the other:

‘That man looks like he is from Yemen.’[11]

Calling the two next to him, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- explained and openly invited them to Islam. They accepted there and then. When the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- asked their names, they replied, ‘We are called Mukhanan (i.e. the despised two)’.

‘Quite the reverse, you are Mukraman (i.e. the honoured two)’, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said. He then told the two to go to Medina before them with the good news of their upcoming arrival.” (Ahmed, IV, 74)

[1] Yar-i Ghar, meaning the Companion of the Cave, is an expression used to describe the companionship of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- in the Cave of Thawr. In time, it has also been used to signify genuine friendships.

[2] Ibn Saad, I, 229; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 223-224.

[3] Ibn Saad, I, 228; Halabî, II, 209.

[4] Thawr provided a precinct of education distinct from that of Hira. In Hira the seeds of iman were cultivated, whereas at Thawr the seeds of ihsan and tasawwuf were planted after the seeds of iman had already flourished. This shows that a heart must first live sharia, by virtue of which it acquires an aptitude for tasawwuf.

[5] For a more detailed elaboration of rabitah, see Osman Nûri TOPBAŞ, Îmandan İhsâna TASAVVUF, p. 249-257, Istanbul 2002.

[6] Ibn Hisham, II, 99; Bukhari, Manaqıbu’l-Ansâr, 45; Haythami, VI, 53.

[7] Abdullah ibn Urayqit, though then a nonbeliever, was a man thought highly of. Although it is disputed whether or not he later became a Muslim, preferable are the reports that he in fact did.

[8] Ibn Saad, IV, 242.

[9] Bukhari, Manâqıbu’l-Ansâr, 45.

[10] For showing the shortest route to Medina and guiding the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- through the Raqubah Passage, the great Companion was given the appellation ad-Dalil, the Guide.

[11] Intended by the remark is the fact that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was from Mecca. Mecca was regarded as part of Tihama, a region classified as within the borders of Yemen. the Kaabah, for that very reason, has also been called al-Kaaba’tul-Yemeniyya. (Ibn Athir, an-Nihaya, V, 300)

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect, Erkam Publications

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