The Migration (Hijrah)

Meanwhile, the hostility of the pagan Meccans increased. They could no longer tolerate Muhammad's presence and his influence on the Meccan population. Without the protection of his uncle Abu Talib, Muhammad felt the pressure to leave. He tried to travel to the nearby village of Ta'if, but the people there threw stones at him and chased him out of town.

Muhammad subsequently turned to other cities and tribes to find a place of shelter. He finally found a group of sympathetic people from the city of Yathrib, about 275 miles north of Mecca. They invited Muhammad and his followers to migrate to their city, where the Muslims would be sheltered, protected, and treated as family.

A Murder Plot

After some time for preparation and negotiations, small groups of Muslims began to secretly travel to Yathrib. As they left, the Meccan leaders confiscated their property. Soon whole quarters of the city were abandoned, and the only Muslims remaining in the city were Muhammad, his faithful friend Abu Bakr, and his son-in-law, Ali.

Seeing that the Muslims were escaping, the tribal leaders devised a plan to get rid of Muhammad once and for all. They convened a meeting to determine how they could murder Muhammad without exposing any individuals or tribes to revenge attacks. It was decided that one man from each tribe would attack Muhammad at the same time so the guilt would be spread among them.

In 622 C.E., the entire Muslim community finally succeeded in reaching Yathrib safely. The migration itself is called the hijrah, or migration. From that point on, the city of Yathrib became known as Madinah An-Nabi (“The City of the Prophet”) or Madinah Al-Munawwarah (“The Radiant City”).

On the eve of the planned attack, the angel Gabriel reportedly appeared to Muhammad and gave him God's permission to finally leave Mecca. Aware of the plan to assassinate him, Muhammad went to Abu Bakr's home to make the final preparations for the migration. Ali stayed behind at Muhammad's own home with instructions to distribute some money that was held in trust before departing for migration the next day. When the assassins came into Muhammad's home, they were surprised to find only Ali there.

Muhammad and Abu Bakr thus escaped from Mecca unharmed. To thwart the enemies trying to kill them, they traveled south and holed themselves up in a cave for three days to escape detection. Then they went up a rarely traveled coastal road toward Yathrib. Ali and other stragglers joined them within days.

Muhajireen and Ansar

In Madinah, the newly arrived Muslims were each matched with a local family, who looked after them and assisted them in settling into their new home. The emigrants from Mecca became known as the Muhajireen (“those who have emigrated”), and the people of Madinah became known as the Ansar (“the helpers”). They formed solid bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood. The Ansar were extremely generous to their brethren in faith, many of whom had arrived from Mecca alone and penniless.

Why is the Islamic calendar called the Hijrah calendar?

To honor the importance of hijrah, Muslims calculate time in terms of this event. The Islamic calendar, known as the Hijrah calendar, begins with the year of the emigration. Year zero in the Islamic calendar thus corresponds to 622 C.E.

This emigration to Madinah was a turning point for the Muslim community and for the history of the Islamic faith. No longer tortured and persecuted, the Muslims found themselves in a place of protection and liberty.

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