An Historical Study

By Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss)

A Living Symbol

The Hijrah of the Prophet and his Companions to Madinah heralded an entirely new era in the history not only of Islam but of the world. Thanks to the support offered by the Ansaar the Prophet was able to realise the aim for which he had hitherto striven in vain: the establishment of a theocratic polity, the first of its kind in the world. All organisations on a theocratic or semi-theocratic basis before Islam had been limited by narrow conceptions of tribal homogeneity: thus in the early theocratic state of the Jews, when God was supposed to rule, it was necessarily the God of the Children of Israel alone. In the structure of Islamic thought, considerations of descent or tribal adherence never had any room, but the true significance of this attitude was not fully realised until the Hijrah. While Muslims were still in Makkah, Islam affects mostly Quraysh, their slaves or freedmen, and a few individuals from other tribes. To many of the non-Muslim Quraysh it appeared to be no more than a local extravagance, albeit very unpleasant to the conservative mind of the Makkans. But the Hijrah changed everything. Suddenly it became clear both to Muslims and non-Muslims that Islam aimed at much more than a mere moral re-orientation of man, as was the case with Christianity, or the fulfillment of a national destiny with the help of the moral imperative, as was the case with Judaism. With the migration of the Prophet and his Companions to Yathrib it became clear that Islam aspired, among other things, to the establishment of a self-contained political community which cut across the conventional divisions of tribe and race. The fire of persecution, endured for more than a decade, had purified and steeled the minds of the Muslims. But more than this it had helped them to realise that ties of tribal kinship were of no importance as compared with the higher loyalty towards an idea. The new conception of a brotherhood of men united not by bonds of blood-relationship but by their consciousness of common outlook on life and common aspirations, found its expression in the Islamic principle of Ummah - an organisation open to everyone (of whatever race or colour he be) who stands for the common ideal, and closed to anyone (even one's nearest kinsman) in case he refuses to accept the same. And more than thirteen centuries before this century of ours; which has elevated the conception of "Nationality" to the status of godhead, Islam unfolded before the world the dazzling spectacle of an idealistic - but nonetheless severely practical - commonwealth which was spiritually as far ahead of any society conceived on "national" lines as motor car is ahead of an ox cart. The Hijrah of the Holy Prophet and his Companions to Madinah became the living symbol of this development.

The Prophet's Migration

Towards the end of the year I B.H. and in the beginning of I A.H. most of the Makkan Muslims who had gone previously to Ethiopia migrated in batches to Yathrib. Many of them had to go secretly as the pagan Quraysh did everything they could to stop this emigration. Only a few families remained in Makkah, among them those of the Prophet and of Abu Bakr. After having made sure that most of his Companions had safely reached their destination the Prophet, accompanied by Abu Bakr, set out on the 1st Rabi'-al-Awwal on their historic journey northwards: and, according to the most trustworthy reports, reached Qubaa, a suburb of Yathrib, on the 12th of the same month. (For a description of their route see Ibn Sa'd I/I, 157, and Ibn Hishaam I, 295.). Born in the midst of danger and suffering and self-sacrifice, the cause of Islam found at last a congenial soil among the inhabitants of Yathrib, which henceforth came to be known as Madinat-un-Nabi, the City of the Prophet.

Dates of Departure and Arrival

As regards the above-mentioned dates of the Prophet's departure from Makkah and arrival at Madinah, the reports are not unanimous. The difference of opinion with reference to the Hijrah is perhaps partly due to the fact that Muslims reckon the beginning of a month from the appearance of the new moon; thus, errors must evidently occur here and there. The three days which the Prophet and Abu Bakr spent in the cave on Mt. Thawr may have contributed to this uncertainty, for some historians count those days as part of the journey, while others calculate the beginning of the journey from the moment when the two fugitives left the cave (which is so near Makkah that it may be regarded as being situated almost within the precincts of the town). So, e.g., Tabari (II.254) says that the Prophet left Makkah on a Monday, and reached Madinah (or to be more exact, Qubaa) on Monday, 12th Rabi' I. It appears that the first Monday (according to this calculation, the 5th Rabi' I) refers to the departure not from Makkah proper but from Mt. Thawr. This view is supported by Ibn Sa'd (I/i.157), who explicitly mentions that the Prophet and Abu Bakr left Mt.Thawr in the night of the 5th (i.e., the night preceding the 5th) which was a Monday. As against this Ibn 'Abd al-Barr quotes a report on the authority of al-Kalbi (Istee'aab I, 18) to the effect that they left the cave and not Makkah proper) on the 1st, which was a Monday (according to the calculation of the Ibn Sa'd and Tabari the 1st should have been a Thursday). Regarding the date of the arrival at Qubaa, the historians are still less unanimous. Ibn Hajar (Fath al-Baaree, VII. 194) mentions several dates suggested by various authors; these dates cover almost the whole of the month of Rabi'I, and are, therefore not at all helpful. Most of the authorities however, agree in that it was the 12th. Besides Ibn Sa'd and Tabari (Loc.cit.), Ibn Hisham also (I.295) subscribes to the view. But, while these three authorities state that the 12th Rabi'I fell on a Monday, al-Kalbi (Istee'aab, loc.cit.) maintains that it was a Friday. On the whole the most probably dates are: departure from Makkah, 1st: depature from Mt. Thawr. 5th; arrival at Qubaa, 12th. In Caetani's Chronographia (I.2) we find the following dates of the Christian Era corresponding to the Muslim dates: 1st Rabi,I = September, 622 A.C.; 5th Rabi'I = 17th September. As regards the weekdays, Caetani's calculation coincides with that of al-Kalbi, the 1st being a Monday, and the 12th, a Friday, but the week-days as given by Ibn Sa'd and Tabari (i.e., departure from Makkah on Thursday, from Mt. Thawr on Monday, and arrival at Qubaa on Monday) are, on the whole, better supported by the evidence of other reliable Traditions.






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