Allah the Almighty sent Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to mankind at the time when it was most in need of His message. The whole world was in the total darkness of polytheism and ignorance. It was at this time that Allah chose to send His servant Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to mankind.
The Prophet of mercy (peace and blessings be upon him) came to enjoin on people chastity, noble manners and characteristics, firmness in faith, kindness to kith and kin, good neighborliness, and abstention from injustice and oppression. He (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined upon them to consult the Qur'an in all their affairs. He (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined earning from lawful means and spending in virtuous ways and made everybody equal with respect to the law of Allah. Allah says:
[Say, "My Lord has only forbidden immoralities — what is apparent of them and what is concealed — and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know."] (Al-A`raf 7:33)
When the early Muslims responded to the call of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), they were being severely persecuted by the disbelievers. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was opposed by three sets of people: the envious; the arrogant who knew the truth yet denied it; and the misled, ignorant ones. These people exerted all their efforts to stop the spread of Islam:
[They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.] (As-Saff 61:8)
When the torment became severe in Makkah and the idolaters wanted to assassinate the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), the angel Jibreel (peace be upon him) came to him and said, "Allah has given you permission to migrate to Madinah. Therefore, do not spend tonight in your house, giving them (the idolaters) the chance to get to you." While the idolaters were lying in wait outside the house of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) for him to come out — so that they could all strike him at the same time — he (peace and blessings be upon him) emerged from his house reciting the opening verses of Surat Yasin and threw sand in their faces. Allah prevented the idolaters from seeing him and made slumber overtake them.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companion, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), hid in the cave of Thawr for three days until the search for them subsided. The Quraish searched for the Prophet in every nook and cranny and followed his tracks until they were at the very entrance of the cave where the Prophet was hiding in. Abu Bakr then said, "If any of them looks down at their feet, they will see us." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, assuring him, "What do you think about two companions, of whom Allah is the third?" After three days, the two companions found a guide and proceeded to Madinah.
While the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) was on his way to Madinah during his migration, Suraqah ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), who had not yet embraced Islam at that time, pursued the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in order to capture or kill him and win the prize money that the Quraish had offered for the Prophet's head. However, Allah Almighty intended that Suraqah would change his mind and ask the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to forgive him instead. This is the story of how the Hijrah took place and it represented a manifest victory for Islam and the Muslims in that Allah rendered the disbelievers' plots fruitless. Allah says:
[If you do not aid him [the Prophet] Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of the two, when they [Muhammad and Abu Bakr] were in the cave and he [Muhammad] said to his companion, "Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us." And Allah sent down His tranquillity, upon him and supported him with soldiers [angels] you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah – that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.] (At-Tawbah 9:40)
Dear Muslims, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companion Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) entered Madinah gloriously and honorably. He (peace and blessings be upon him) then moved into a house, built his mosque with quarters for his wives, and started upon a new era full of blessings and victories based on divine support. After this, the Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah became compulsory on every Muslim, until the conquest of Makkah by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
The issue of Hijrah to Madinah was a miracle in itself, for the city at that time had very meagre commerce, infrastructure, and agricultural resources. In fact, living in the city was financially restrictive even for its inhabitants. By any human estimation, immigration to such a city, with all its deficiencies, would cause immense economic and social difficulties, but as Allah the Almighty would have it, the reverse was the case for the Hijrah to Madinah.
This Hijrah caused Madinah to achieve large number of benefits. People now had the opportunity of meeting the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), learning their religion from him, emulating his noble character, preserving his Sunnah, learning about his public and private life and everything else about the religion of Islam. The Hijrah had a great impact on Islam and the Muslims because Allah bestowed a lot of His blessings on them.
Although the Muslims faced some difficulties during the first days of their immigration to Madinah, they were able to overcome these difficulties through their strong belief, patience, and perseverance. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was full of love and compassion for the people in general and their children in particular. After the initial period of hardships, Allah bestowed good things in abundance upon the people of Madinah in all areas of life.
We have all missed out on the reward of making Hijrah to Allah the Almighty and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) during the prophetic era, but there is another type of Hijrah which we can make and which will earn us immense rewards. We must migrate from disobedience to obedience of Allah; shun negligence in religious matters and migrate to adherence; migrate from sins to submission to Allah; migrate from laziness and false hopes to diligence, seriousness, and striving in what pleases Allah; and migration of our hearts from affinity to this mundane life to the love of the hereafter. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "The Muslim is one who does not harm other Muslims with his hands or tongue and the muhajir (migrant) is the one who shuns all that Allah has forbidden." Allah says:
[Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah — those expect the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.] (Al-Baqarah 2:218)
In the Prophet's Hijrah, there are admonitions and lessons for every Muslim, especially of patience and perseverance. Another lesson is that it was the will of Allah to make His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) perform the Hijrah with means that human beings are well accustomed to, such as riding on a camel and hiring a guide. If Allah had wished, He could have willed that his Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did the Hijrah on Al-Buraq [a riding animal that the Prophet rode when on his Night Journey to Jerusalem and Paradise], but the will of Allah was that He wanted the Muslims to emulate their Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and to aid and assist their religion with whatever means that Allah had facilitated for them. The greatest obligation upon us all then, dear Muslims, is to aid and assist the religion of Allah by practicing it and advising each other and being patient upon that.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) was exposed to several assassination attempts, both before and after his migration. In Makkah, Abu Jahl had attempted to kill him before Allah sent the angel Jibreel (peace and blessings be upon him) to prevent him from carrying out this devilish act. At the Battle of Tabuk, an attempt was made on his life by some of the hypocrites. Even in Madinah, an attempt was made to kill him (peace and blessings be upon him) by poisoning his food, but Allah saved him from all these attempts. This was due to his embodying all forms of worship totally for the sake of Allah and for his sincere dependence on Him. Allah says:
[And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him.] (At-Talaq 65:3)
Indeed, the current predicament of the Muslims throughout the world necessitates that we benefit from the lessons derived from the Hijrah. We must realize that the situation of this generation of Muslims cannot improve except by that which improved the condition of our righteous predecessors: sincere and correct belief, noble manners and characters, absolute trust in Allah, patience, and perfection of acts of worship in accordance with the sunnah.
May Allah make us of those who listen to the truth and follow it, and may He bless, guide, and forgive us all. Ameen.
Sheikh Ashraf Salah is the imam of London Central Mosque.