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The Unlettered Prophet (22)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Migration to Madinah


The Plan to kill the Prophet (sws)

The Quraysh lost their patience in the new circumstances. They decided to take serious steps to deal with the situation. They expressed general satisfaction at the migration of Muslims to Madinah, but started planning for decisive action against the Prophet (sws). A meeting of all leaders was held in Dar al-Nadwah and three steps were deliberated upon. One was to arrest Muhammad (sws) so as to preclude his communication with anyone else; the second, to ask him to leave Makkah so that he would be cut off from his roots and there would be an end to his message. The third related to a plan to murder him in such a manner that no single tribe could be blamed, but the responsibility of his death would be shared among all tribes. Objections were raised against the first two suggestions, because in case of an arrest, the Prophet’s companions would attempt to get him freed and there was danger of a civil war erupting in the city. In case of exile, he could become active outside of Makkah and re-gather his forces which could create a problem for the Quraysh. Hence only the third option was considered as implementable. The most appropriate plan for this was suggested as one in which one individual from each tribe would arm himself and surround the Prophet’s house. As soon as he came out, they would attack him simultaneously and kill him. In this way, because the Quraysh would all be on one side, the Banu Hashim would not be in any position to claim retribution or blood money.  All decisions that were necessary to implement this plan were taken. When a nation decides to kill a messenger of God, all conditions for his and his companion’s migration are fulfilled. This is because God’s law does not allow any harm to come to His messenger and removes him safely after destroying the plans of his enemies. The disbelievers get nothing except defeat and disappointment. When the time came to put the plans made in Dar al-Nadwah into operation, God instructed the Prophet (sws) to migrate to Madinah. He went to Abu Bakr’s (rta) house in the afternoon and told him to make necessary arrangements. He had bought two camels earlier and had asked a confidante, ‘Abdullah ibn Ariqat al-Laythi to accompany them as a guide. The example of the Ashab-i Kahf (People of the Cave) had already explained that the faithful had taken refuge from the repression of disbelievers in a cave. At this time, a temporary shelter was required and the Cave of Thawr which is located a few miles south of Makkah at the summit of the Thawr Mountain was selected for this purpose. It is extremely difficult to reach the top of the mountain. Most probably, arrangements for necessary provisions and information about movements of the Quraysh had also been made.


The Journey of Migration

According to narratives, the Quraysh surrounded the Prophet’s house the night of the same day when they had made plans to attack him. The Prophet (sws) instructed Ali (rta) to spend the night at his house and settle his matters. As night fell, he threw a handful of sand over those besieging his house and left it. The disbelievers found that he was gone in the morning. As the Prophet (sws) shifted to the cave of Thawr in the darkness of the night, the Quraysh sent out horse riders in pursuit towards Madinah. When they could not find any clue, they searched the area around Makkah until some people began to move towards the cave. Abu Bakr (rta) was worried in case they caught them but the Prophet (sws) consoled him by saying that since God was with them he was not to worry. When the disbelievers reached the cave, they returned, seeing that not only was it difficult to reach, there was also no way to enter it. Abu Bakr (rta) used to say that if these people had looked inside the cave, they would have seen them, but God had placed a veil over their eyes.

Abu Bakr’s son ‘Abdullah kept them informed of what was happening in the city. When three days had passed and the Quraysh gave up hope, the Prophet (sws), his slave ‘Āmir ibn Fahirah (rta) and guide ‘Abdullah ibn Ariqat left for Yathrab on camel back through a less well known path in the valley of the Mountain of Thawr.

The Quraysh announced in Makkah that if anyone gave information about Mohammed’s (sws) whereabouts, he would get one hundred camels as a reward. Several greedy people searched far and wide but to no avail. However, Suraqah ibn Malik ibn Ja‘tham of Banu Mudlaj saw two camels and started to follow them. When he was close, his horse stumbled and fell down along with its rider. Suraqah got up and started again. When he got close, again his horse was stuck in the sand up to its ankles. Suraqah realized that God did not like this action of his: he apologized to the Prophet (sws) and returned to Makkah.

There were many people who recognized Abu Bakr (rta) easily, while only a few knew the Prophet (sws). When acquaintances met them, they would greet Abu Bakr (rta) and would also ask who was the gentleman accompanying him on the camel. Abu Bakr (rta) would reply that he showed him the way. Thus, he was telling the truth because it was the Prophet (sws) who gave him guidance and he was also saved from identifying him by name.

According to Ishaq al-Nabi ‘Alawi’s research, this small caravan left Makkah on 5th Rabi‘ al-Awwal and reached the suburbs of Madinah on Monday, 12th Rabi‘ al-Awwal. This was 22nd November, 622 A.D.1 It was a festive occasion in Qaba. The people of Yathrab had opened their hearts for the Prophet (sws). Every day, they would sit on the ground for hours on end, staring at the road coming from Makkah, waiting for the Prophet’s arrival. Elders, the youth, women, men, everyone had made preparations to greet him as well as they could. A man saw from atop a hill that some travelers were on their way. He called out aloud, “O’ People, he for whom you were waiting has arrived.” People rushed forward and brought the Prophet (sws) in a procession to Qaba where he stayed at Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf’s leader Kulthum ibn Hadam’s house.


Temporary Stay in Qiba’

According to narratives, the Prophet (sws) sat down under a tree on reaching Qiba’ and Abu Bakr (rta) addressed the people and gave instructions. Both were wearing clean clothes and did not have much age difference between them. Many people who had not met the Prophet (sws) earlier assumed that Abu Bakr (rta) was him. Later, when the sun fell on the Prophet (sws) and Abu Bakr (rta) shielded him with a cloth did they realize their mistake.

During his stay in Qiba, the Prophet (sws) selected a wasteland that belonged to Kulthum bin Hadam, and which was used for drying of dates, for the construction of a mosque and laid the foundation of Masjid-i Qiba’. In honour of that mosque, the Qur’an says that the foundation of that mosque was laid on piety from the very first day. It was that mosque which was worthy of the Prophet (sws) performing his prayers instead of  the one built by the hypocrites in 9th hijrah. The Prophet (sws) had that mosque destroyed later.

The Jews of Yathrab were neither unaware nor unconcerned about the changes occurring in their cities. Thus, when the Prophet (sws) reached Qiba’, just as he was welcomed by the tribes of Aws and Khazraj, he was also welcomed by the Jewish elite. Authentic sources in narratives identify Ḥuyy ibn Akhtab who was leader of the Banu Nadir and his brother Abu Yasir who had both come to meet the Prophet (sws). It is obvious that they must have had an opportunity to say something in the meeting. They must have tried to judge for themselves what had been hearsay so far. The views they exchanged about the Prophet (sws)’s personality among themselves while returning from Qiba’ to Yathrab have been preserved in narratives. When Abu Yasir enquired of his brother as to his opinion and the next steps to be taken, Ḥuyy had replied that he was the same prophet who has been referred to in their books, but they could not accept him and were to resist him. This was the summarized decision in the light of which the subsequent attitude of the Jews was developed and the Qur’an explained that these people recognized the Prophet (sws) much as they recognized their own sons, but did not wish to have faith in him.   

However, there were the Jews who recognized the truth when they saw it and they expressed their devotion on meeting the Prophet (sws). A well known Jewish scholar, ‘Abdullah ibn Salam said that when the Prophet (sws) came to Madinah after migration, he also made haste to meet him along with others. When he saw the Prophet’s face, he said that this could not be the face of a liar. The first words he heard from the Prophet (sws) were: “O People, obey Islam; feed the poor; do good to your near ones; pray when others are asleep. You will then enter Paradise.”2

After a two week’s stay in Qiba’, on Friday, the Prophet (sws) proceeded towards the main settlement of Yathrab, and led the Friday prayer at village of Banu Salim. Various tribes of Khazraj and Aws requested him to grant them the honour of staying with them permanently, but the Prophet (sws) excused himself by saying that his she camel had been given this responsibility by God to determine his abode. Wherever she decided to sit, that would be where he would settle. If one looks at the situation in Yathrab, accepting one request could have created an environment of resentment and mistrust in the minds of other people. The answer given by the Prophet (sws) enabled him to retain objectivity throughout. The she camel trotted towards and sat in the area that belonged to the Banu Malik al-Najjar. The Prophet (sws) stayed at an adjacent house which belonged to Abu Ayub Ansari (rta) for about seven months.

After the Prophet’s migration, Yathrab became known as Madinah al-Rasul (the city of the Prophet). Later, the name became just Madinah and it is still known by this name.


Difference between Migration and Change of Place of Residence

In these times, the West has aimed to distort the image of Islam and made attempts to create hatred for its teachings, under which they have termed jihad as terrorism. They have also rephrased migration as change of place of residence, in the manner that people do to gain education or seek better economic opportunities. To give credence to their statements, they incite and pay Muslim researchers to repeat these and claim that Muslims of that period moved to another place as a result of their own free will and desire. However, it must be well understood that the migration was not at all the resettlement of residence which implied that the Prophet (sws) had either shifted his centre of preaching from Makkah to Madinah happily and willingly, because Madinah had a good climate, or it was a more central place from where his message could be spread more easily, or it was because his companions were demanding a better and more prosperous place to live in. Migration was not an easy risk that the followers of the new faith had decided to take. The West also terms the migration as a “flight’ of the Prophet (sws), to demean him. They try to show that he left Makkah because he was frustrated by the situation and did not possess the strength to tackle the issues and thus fled from Makkah. None of the above explanations is valid for the migration. On the contrary, this migration was the equivalent of standing by one’s faith so steadily, as to forsake one’s family, tribe, motherland and wealth and property and give oneself up to great dangers. The immigrants had to begin their lives anew. This migration was not a temporary one that after victory over Makkah, Muslims could reclaim their property and retain their residence there. It is true that companions, who fell ill after going to Makkah by chance, became very depressed. An example is of Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas (rta) who fell ill in Makkah. When the Prophet (sws) went to see him, he expressed his concern that he may pass away in Makkah. The Prophet (sws) consoled him and told him that he would not remain behind but would return to his place of migration where he would live to raise his levels in Paradise. There would be several nations which would benefit through him and others which would suffer. This prediction came true. During ‘Umar’s caliphate, the Iranian reign was brought to an end by Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas (rta). Thus, migration was a process that became an instrument for raising the levels of the immigrants in Paradise. 

It was a fact, too, that as time passed, the leaders of the Quraysh became so resistant to the message of the Prophet (sws) that they were not even ready to listen to it being mentioned. They subjected every person who became a Muslim to extreme torture and inflicted the most brutal of punishments on those who mentioned the name of God; not only the slaves but well to do and respected members of society were also not safe from these punishments. Every coming day would increase the trials for the Muslims. This was the reason why the Prophet (sws) had instructed them to migrate to Abyssinia first, where the king was known for his justice, and had turned to Madinah in the last stage and called it (Dar al-Hijrah), the place of migration. Here, two main tribes, Aws and Khazraj, had converted to Islam and had expressed the desire to welcome Muslims from Makkah into their city.

The Qur’an mentions the migration in words that specifically include the tyranny of the Quraysh, the forced displacement of the Muslims from their homes and departure from their motherland.  

[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right - only because they say: “Our Lord is God.” (22:40)

So those who emigrated or were evicted from their homes or were harmed in My cause or fought or were killed. (3:195)  

The best of the people in society were also accorded this treatment. Abu Bakr al-Ṣiddiq (rta) was a notable citizen and a wealthy member of the society in Makkah. Deeply worried by the situation, he also started his journey towards Abyssinia and on the way, he met a friend, Ibn al-Daghnah. When the latter found out the reason for Abu Bakr’s (rta) departure, he brought him back to Makkah and declared that he was responsible for Abu Bakr (rta) from then onwards and was his protector. According to western scholars, if the Quraysh were so tolerant, they could have objected to the verses just quoted and said that it was merely an accusation: they had not targeted any Muslim. In fact, Muslims were living in peace and prosperity among them.

People who had not been able to migrate on time had had their lives made so difficult for them by the Quraysh that they would pray: 

Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper? (4:75)  

The words of this prayer show the extent to which the cruel Idolaters had made it difficult for Muslims to live in their own motherland, that the shelters of their homes were no longer safe. They were so weary that their own city was a city of tormentors and their circumstances so hopeless that they could see no way out. They placed their entire trust in God, to open a door of escape for them. Those who prayed thus, as quoted in the Qur’an, were not only men, but women and children too, on whom the collective conscience of human beings hates to inflict pain and torment.

It was impossible for most immigrants to take their wealth and leave their city with the knowledge of their tribes. They left their entire belongings in Makkah and arrived in Madinah in a state of poverty and need. It was not an easy task to resettle them. The Ansar’s desire of sacrifice and selflessness enveloped a large number of migrants in love and kindness and gave them the comfort of home. Otherwise, the idolators would have thrown the Muslims out such that they would have had only their faith and sincerity left with them. This is a reflection of the migration that our enemies call a resettlement of location which Muslims made for their own convenience.

The Quraysh had conspired to harm the person of the Prophet (sws) and in the words of the Qur’an, their aim was to “arrest you or kill you or exile you from the city.” The decision made after much debate in Dar al-Nadwah was to kill him. To implement this, the Prophet’s sleeping quarters were surrounded and when God removed him safely from there, a price on his head was announced and murderous warriors were sent out to search for him. The Prophet (sws) reached Yathrab safely under the protection of God but the Quraysh had not left any tactic unexplored to kill him. The Prophet (sws) did not leave Makkah because he wanted to, but because he was forced to. On the day of victory over Makkah, he said, very wistfully: “O Makkah, you are so pure and beloved to me. Had my people not forced me, I would never have left you and settled somewhere else.” This sentence shows the reasons for the Prophet’s migration, whereas the Orientalist scholars of the West believe that this was a way of escape for the Prophet (sws) for which the Quraysh were not to blame. It is a wonder why researchers evade giving views based on justice because of their prejudice.

The Quraysh, who had shown such active attitudes in resisting the truth, were not expected to remain quiet, tolerate the increasing strength of Islam in Madinah and not make efforts against it. They wrote to ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the leader of Yathrab: “You people have given shelter to our man. We swear by God that either you fight with him and banish him, or we shall mount an attack on you with full strength. We will kill all your able bodied men and keep your women for ourselves.” The quality of the research of the orientalists is that, according to them, the Quraysh who wrote this letter did not have any resentment against Muslims after their migration and that the Muslims themselves were responsible for starting every injustice and every war.


Why did Divine Punishment not come on the Quraysh after Migration? 

The reason for migration is the enmity and ill-will towards Muslims and the truth, but, for the results to become obvious, there is a practice of God which usually remains hidden from the eyes of our researchers. It is known that the nations of Noah, Lot, ‘Ād, Thamud, the people of Madyan, those of the Pharaoh had all denied their messengers. When all the guided people of these nations had accepted the faith, the faithful migrated with their messengers and no believer was left behind. Then, God sent his punishment on the non believers who had insisted on their wrong beliefs and were all destroyed as a result.

Muhammad (sws) was a prophet of God. He was given prophethood within the Ishmaelites and his immediate addressees were the Quraysh. In his 13 year long preaching, a substantive number of people became Muslims but the Quraysh leaders did not accept the path towards the truth. They not only remained firm on their ancestral religion, but used their power and influence to terrorize and punish the Muslims, after which migration became a necessity for the latter. According to God’s law mentioned above, His punishment should have been sent to the Quraysh but this is not to be found anywhere. It is not possible that the practice that He used with other nations  changed. However, it is important to understand the reasons why His punishment did not come on the Quraysh at that time.

One aspect of the migration to Madinah is that while the Quraysh showed great alacrity in getting the Muslims out of the city, at the same time, they stopped some of their relatives in order to torment and harm them. For example, the verse of Surah al-Nisa’ quoted above shows how the Muslims who were captives among the Quraysh would pray to be delivered from that place of torment. Muhammad (sws)’s own daughter, Zaynab (rta) was not allowed to leave Makkah. Many leaders made the open departure of Muslims a matter of ego and, later, they had to leave under cover of the night. Abu Jahal’s step brother, ‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi‘ah had reached Madinah after migration, but was tricked into returning by Abu Jahal and kept confined in a locked up empty house.

The second aspect of migration is that, although the instruction to migrate had been given, there were still several people left in Makkah who believed that Islam was the true faith. They were impressed with the Prophet’s teachings, but were unable to migrate because of some difficulties. Some people from these reached Madinah later. For example, the Quraysh sent an army toward Juhfah in Shawwal, 1st century hijrah. A group of companions, under the leadership of ‘Ubaydah ibn al-Ḥarith was also there. Miqdad ibn ‘Amr and ‘Utbah ibn Ghazwan saw this as an opportunity and joined the group of Muslims. It is obvious that the two had become Muslims but had been unable to migrate. During the expedition of ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash, when two people from Makkah were arrested and brought to Madinah, Ḥakam ibn Kaysan accepted Islam, which shows that he had become convinced of the truth of Islam but it was only then that he could declare his allegiance openly. In the battleground of Badr, when the Prophet (sws) looked at the army of the Quraysh, he said to his companions: “I see from some of these faces that they have been brought against us by force…” In later stages too, people accepted Islam regularly and would keep coming to Madinah from Makkah, thus increasing the population of Muslims. These signs indicate that the people of Makkah still had the capacity for faith in them. It was the brutal behavior of their leaders that prevented from accepting Islam openly and that forced the faithful to migrate. Had the punishment that came on earlier nations after the migration of their messenger been sent on the Quraysh after the Prophet (sws) migrated, countless Muslims and those who were ready to accept the new faith would also have been destroyed. Such a situation would have been against God’s practice.

The third aspect of migration was to re-gather and regroup the collective strength of the Muslims. The people of that region were able to develop their views independently and be with the Prophet (sws) after accepting his message. In such a conducive environment, it was easier for Islam to spread faster. Soon, the political position of the Muslims became strong. It became possible for Muslims to become a force that could fight the Quraysh, destroy their arrogance and bring them to the fate they deserved.

These are the factors due to which the Quraysh were not subjected to punishments similar to those that had been sent to other nations that had denied their messengers. In this case, the nature of punishment was such that after migration, Muslims were ordered to kill the Idolaters and were told that this should continue until Islam overpowered all other religions of Arabia. God’s support and help was promised in this fight. Punishment in the form of wars was meant to not only destroy the arrogant Quraysh leaders, but also to serve as a warning to other enemies.


The Permission for Qatl

Tired and angry with the oppression of the Quraysh, when the faithful would request the Prophet (sws) before hijrah to fight and obtain their rights which the enemy had suppressed, he would ask them to be patient. After migration, they were given permission to fight:  

Indeed, God defends those who have believed. Indeed, God does not like everyone treacherous and ungrateful. Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, God is competent to give them victory. [They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right - only because they say: “Our Lord is God.” And were it not that God checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned. And God will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, God is Powerful and Exalted in Might. [And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to God belongs the outcome of [all] matters. (22:38-41)  

While these verses give permission to fight and its reason, they also indicate that the faithful would have power in the area. Their main responsibilities would be to maintain prayer, establish a system of zakah, and ensure the doing of good and removing evil from society. Thus, we see that the Prophet (sws) made arrangements for collective prayer, although neither a mosque had been built nor was a suitable place available. He would perform his prayers in any open place which was for any other use and others would follow his example. As the rule of the Muslims took root, the Prophet (sws) gave form to other instructions given in the above verses. As far as fighting is concerned, the reasons to take it up are created by circumstances and it is not to be adopted by individuals. It has become clear, however, that if war becomes necessary because circumstances so demand, then Islam will not create a barrier.


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)







1. Ishaq al-Nabi ‘Alawi. Sirah in the Light of Chronology.

2. Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqat al-kubra, vol. 1,159.


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