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Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 5: The Flight to Madinah

Chapter 5:
The Flight to Madinah:

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Contents: | Council of the Quraish | In the Cave of Thaur | Leaving for Madinah | Pursued by Suraqah | Consoling Revelation | The New Era | Brotherhood | A Pact between Various Tribes |

"If you help him not, Allah certainly helped 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: ‘Grieve not, surely Allah is with us’ " (9:40).

Council of the Quraish:

The fourteenth year of the Call set in, and the Holy Prophet, with Abu Bakr and ‘Ali for his only companions, was left in Makkah surrounded by his enemies. All the rest of his comrades, bidding farewell to their homes, had taken shelter either in Abyssinia or Madinah. But the moment of the Prophet's utter helplessness was yet to come. Abu Bakr would often ask him to emigrate to Madinah; but God, he replied, had not yet commanded him to do so. In this too there was at work a Divine purpose which was made manifest by the final decision of the Quraish. Up until then, individual efforts to make away with him had been made, and all had failed. Bitter opposition had been offered and severe persecution inflicted. But the last drop was yet needed to fill the cup of the Makkan's crimes to the brim. At last the hour came. Finding the Holy Prophet almost alone, they held a big conference in the Dar al-Nadwah (House of Assembly), where national affairs were discussed and settled. The chiefs of the Quraish met there to deliberate on what might be done with the Holy Prophet. Some thought he should be fettered, thrown into a cellar, and starved to death. But this was open to the objection that his companions, gaining strength, might find an occasion to effect his release. Another proposed that he should be exiled. But it was apprehended that wherever he might be sent, he might win over the people there with his impressive teachings and might some day overcome the Quraish. Abu Jahl at length came forward with the proposal that strong and stout youths of noble lineage should be selected, one from each of the Quraishite clans and armed with sharp swords, they should fall upon the Holy Prophet in a body. Thus, no particular clan would be held accountable for his murder. The Banu Hashim would therefore have to content themselves with blood-money instead of vengeance. This was unanimously agreed upon.

In the Cave of Thaur:

While the Quraish were thus maturing their plans, Divine revelation informed the Holy Prophet of their foul intent, warning him not to remain in his bed that night. Sending for ‘Ali, he informed him of the Divine command, and told him to sleep in his (the Holy Prophet's) bed; for he himself had charge of many a trust which ‘Ali should duly make over to the respective owners the following morning, and then follow him to Madinah. What a tribute to his integrity that, notwithstanding such strong opposition public trusts were still placed in his charge! And for this express purpose he commissioned ‘Ali to stay behind, whereas Abu Bakr was told to make the necessary preparation for flight; for the Divine behest had been received. Abu Bakr eagerly enquired if he might accompany the Holy Prophet and, on being told that he should, he burst into tears of joy. Why such intense pleasure at the prospect of hardships and troubles? Only because he would. be in the company of him for whom he was prepared to sacrifice his all. Abu Bakr had already arranged for two camels in anticipation of this hour. All other necessaries being forthwith provided, a meeting place was arranged between him and the Holy Prophet. Just after dusk, the body of armed men drawn from among the Quraishite tribes laid siege to the Holy Prophet's house, ready to fall upon him as soon as he ventured out. (It was against the Arab sense of chivalry to kill any one within the four walls of his house.) ‘Ali, however, was lying in, the Holy Prophet's bed and this gave the Quraish the impression that the Holy Prophet was there and fostered the belief that their intended victim was in their hands. Meanwhile, the Holy Prophet, trusting in the protecting hand of Allah who had all these thirteen years preserved him in the midst of his enemies, waited for darkness and then calmly walked out through the midst of his would-be assassins and went to Abu Bakr's house as prearranged. Together they set out for Madinah and reached a certain cave known as the Cave of Thaur, three miles from Makkah. Abu Bakr went in first, cleaned it and closed the holes that he could feel in the dark cave. Then the Holy Prophet followed.

The names of two caves figure prominently in the history of Islam. It was in the Cave of Hira' that the Divine Call first came to the Holy Prophet. Now it was in the Cave of Thaur that Islam was taking a new birth. The Flight is a red-letter day in the annals of Islam, so much so that the Muslim calendar begins from that time.

Next morning, at daybreak, the Quraish were amazed to find ‘Ali rising from the Holy Prophet's bed. Careful search was made on all sides and large rewards were offered. A tracking party, following the footprints of the fugitives, reached the mouth of the Cave. Hearing the sound of their footsteps, Abu Bakr grieved within himself, not on his own account but for one whose life was dearer to him than his own. It was indeed a critical moment. The sword of the blood-thirsty enemy was almost at their throats. A glance into the Cave and the inmates would be cut to pieces. In such a situation the bravest heart might sink, the calmest mind might be dismayed. Death was staring them in the face and there was no way to escape, nor any earthly protection. Yet, even in this extreme hour of uttermost helplessness the Holy Prophet's heart was at perfect peace and knew no fear. With supreme and matchless faith and perfect trust in the protecting arm of God, the All-Mighty, the All-Protecting, he quieted the anxiety and fears of his friend, with the words: "Be not grieved, for surely Allah is with us." Surely this could not have been a voice from within. For the heart of a mortal human being, as the Holy Prophet was, could not have remained so unperturbed in circumstances so imminently perilous. It was not a voice from within, but the voice from above, from Allah, the Lord of all, came to console and compose a heart afflicted for His sake. And who but the All-Knowing God could tell that, on the very point of succeeding in their foul designs, the enemy would be frustrated.

Leaving for Madinah:

For three whole days the Holy Prophet remained in the Cave. Abu Bakr's son brought them news of all that went on in the town and his daughter, Asma', would bring them food. His servant, ‘Amir ibn Fuhairah, while tending his goats, would drive them up to the mouth of the Cave and milk them for its inmates. At last, when the search was over, and all was clear, on the fourth day they emerged. They took one ‘Abd Allah ibn Uraiqit, a non-Muslim, as their guide. ‘Amir mounted behind Abu Bakr. When on the way the heat grew scorching they halted to rest. Abu Bakr, cleaning the ground in the shade of a rock, spread his mantle for the Holy Prophet to lie upon, and himself went off in search of food. Coming across a Bedouin tending his goats, he cleaned the teats of a goat, milked her in a clean pot and then, covering it with a piece of cloth, brought it to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet's companions knew how he loved cleanliness.

Pursued by Suraqah:

The Quraish had announced that whosoever should apprehend the Holy Prophet should have a hundred camels as reward. Among those that were on the lookout for him, in order to win the reward, there was one Suraqah ibn Malik by name. Hearing that three mounted persons had been seen on the way to Madinah, Suraqah, a strongly built man, put on his armour, mounted a swift horse and went in pursuit of them. On the way the horse stumbled and he fell to the ground. On drawing lots to find out whether he should continue the chase or not, as the Arabs usually did in such circumstances, he found the omens unpropitious. Disregarding them, he resumed the chase but the same stumbling and the same forbidden omen recurred. Again he jumped into the saddle and galloped on till he came quite close to the Holy Prophet, and was about to shoot an arrow at him when the horse stumbled once more, its feet this time sinking into deep sand. "Then it transpired to me," as Suraqah is reported to have recounted the incident later, "that it was preordained that the Holy Prophet's cause should triumph." Abandoning the intention of murder, he came to the Holy Prophet with a penitent heart, begged his forgiveness, asking not to be punished for his offence when the Prophet came to power. The Holy Prophet gave him in writing the promise asked for [Pen and ink were always kept at hand in order to write down Divine revelation as soon as it was received.]. He also gave Suraqah the happy news that the time would come when he would be wearing the gold bangles of the ruler of Persia. This was a wonderful vision of an event that was to come about sixteen years later - an event far beyond the imaginative faculty of man, especially of one fleeing for his very life. In this state of helplessness, with his life hanging in the balance, the Holy Prophet received the happy news that the kingdom of the Chosroes of Persia would come into his possession. The words then uttered found fulfilment during the caliphate of 'Umar when, at the fall of Mada’in, the capital of Persia, Suraqah was sent for and decorated with the bangles of the Chosroes.

Consoling Revelation:

The marvellous steadfastness of the Holy Prophet in the midst of overwhelming perils was due to Divine revelation that visited him at intervals and confirmed his faith. "He who has made the Quran binding on thee will surely bring thee back to the Place of Return (The Quran, 28:85)", was another consolation which he received in the course of his flight to Madinah. In fact, the emigration was to him nothing unexpected. He had been informed long before that he would have to leave Makkah and that the rise of Islam was to start from some other centre. The Holy Quran abounds in prophecies to this effect. Just at the time when the storm of opposition was at its highest and the helplessness of the Holy Prophet at its uttermost, it was proclaimed that Islam must triumph in the long run, even though the opponents exerted themselves to the utmost. The accounts of previous prophets, the opposition they had met with, and their ultimate success, as narrated in the Holy Quran were mostly revealed in this period of the Holy Prophet's career as consolation to sustain him in his troubles. A little before the flight, he had a vision that he had emigrated to a place, rich and fertile. It was no other than Madinah, which is still famous for its gardens.

That the prosperity of Islam was bound up with the Hijrah or the Flight, was well-known to early Muslims. Thus they looked upon this event as the birth of Islam, and the Muslim calendar, as already observed, dates not from the first Call in the Cave of Hira', but from the time of the Holy Prophet's flight. It was in the Hijrah that the climax of the Holy Prophet's helplessness was reached. Therefore, the Holy Quran refers to this event as a testimony to the fact that the helping hand of God was at the back of Islam and was a guarantee for its ultimate success. If the Mans did not help him, the Holy Quran says, Allah did surely help him, in the hour of his extreme helplessness, when he had to flee from Makkah, with but one companion [The Quran, 9:40.]. The two had to take refuge in a cave, it goes on to say, but even there they were not safe. Pursuers following close on their heels traced them up to the mouth of the Cave. His companion felt anxious that they had been overtaken. At so anxious a moment, he consoled his friend not to entertain any fear, for Allah was surely with them. This implicit and deep-rooted faith in Divine help was in fact the very secret of his courage and hope under the most trying and discouraging circumstances. Never did a word of despair or complaint escape his lips. He knew no despondency, no despair, no dismay. Even in the most critical situations, his heart was aglow with hope. In this hour of dire helplessness when, humanly speaking, even the very last shelter in the Cave appeared to have been withdrawn, he exclaims with a heart full of hope and confidence: "Most surely Allah is with us."

During the Mean period, extending over thirteen years, the Holy Prophet had to work in the teeth of the most bitter opposition. His spiritual force produced three hundred giants of spirituality, who never for a single moment wavered in their faith in him, stood by him in spite of excruciating tortures and bade farewell to their homes and their property but did not desert him. The phenomenal transformation brought about by him in the brief space of thirteen years, notwithstanding the united resistance of the whole nation, has won unwilling appreciation, even from a critic like Muir, who thus draws a sketch of his companions:

"In so short a period, Mecca had by this wonderful movement been rent into two factions which, unmindful of the old landmarks of tribe and family, had arrayed themselves in deadly opposition one against the other. The Believers bore persecution with a patient and tolerant spirit, and though it was their wisdom to do so, the credit of a magnanimous forbearance may be freely accorded. One hundred men and women, rather than abjure their previous faith, had abandoned home and sought refuge, till the storm should be overpast, in Abyssinian exile. And now again a large number, with the Holy Prophet himself, were emigrating from their fondly loved city with its sacred Temple, to them the holiest spot on the earth, and fleeing to Madinah. There, the same marvellous charm had within two or three years been preparing for them a brotherhood ready to defend the Prophet and his followers with their blood. Jewish truth had long sounded in the ears of the men of Madinah; but it was not until they heard the spirit stirring strains of the Arabian Prophet that they too awoke from slumber, and sprang suddenly into a new and earnest life. The virtues of his people may be described in the words of Mahomet himself:

‘The servants of the Merciful are they that walk upon the earth softly, and when the ignorant speak unto them, they reply, Peace.

‘They that spend the night worshipping their Lord, prostrate and standing;

‘And who say, O our Lord! Turn away from us the torment of Hell; verily, from the torment thereof there is no release. Surely it is an evil abode and resting place.

‘Those that when they spend are neither profuse nor niggardly, but take a middle course;

‘Those that invoke not with God any other god; and slay not a soul that God has forbidden, otherwise than by right; and commit not fornication; ....

‘They who bear not witness to that which is false; and when they pass by vain sport, they pass it by with dignity.

‘They who, when admonished by the revelations of the Lord, fall not down as if deaf and blind;

‘Who say, O our Lord! Grant us of our wives and children such as shall be a comfort unto us, and make us examples unto the pious."'

As a matter of fact, these as well as hundreds of other verses in the Holy Quran, which depict the characteristics of the virtuous, do not draw an imaginary picture. They set forth a true description of the lives of the Holy Prophet's companions. It was the soul-force of a single personality that wrought this miraculous transformation. In a marvellously short time, hundreds of people, sunk in vice and superstition given to the most debased forms of idolatry and fettered in the shackles of the vilest and most cruel social customs, were uplifted and raised to the heights of morality. He breathed a new Life into them so that the principles of truth, of virtue, of doing good to fellow-men, once accepted were never lost despite terrible harassment. He infused into them a sense of human dignity and responsibility. Here indeed was the greatest benefactor of humanity.

The New Era:

The Holy Prophet and his companions accomplished in eight days the journey to Madinah which usually took eleven days and arrived there on the 12th of Rabi‘i, in the 14th year of his mission, corresponding to June 28, 622 A.D. News of his disappearance from Makkah had preceded him, but his three days' hiding in the Cave was known to no one. The city had been in eager expectation of his arrival. Every morning people would go out on the road to Makkah to await the appearance of their Master. The tedious hours of impatient expectancy were at last over, and the illustrious visitor appeared on the horizon. At a distance of three miles from Madinah lies the habitation known as Quba'. It is considered a suburb of Madinah. Here dwelt several families from among the Ansar or the Helpers, of which that of ‘Amr ibn ‘Auf was the most distinguished. Before entering the city, the Holy Prophet accepted his invitation and stopped at Quba'. A number of Emigrants (Muhajirin) were also putting up there. Muslims from the city flocked to Quba' in crowds to meet their revered leader. For fourteen days the Holy Prophet stayed here. ‘Ali joined him at this place. A mosque was built there, the first mosque in the history of Islam, known as the mosque of Quba'. It is of this mosque that the Holy Quran speaks in the ninth chapter as "the mosque founded on piety. [The Quran, 9:108.]" The Holy Prophet and the companions erected it with their own hands, all working as ordinary masons and labourers. This was followed by his entry into the city of Madinah, which was wearing a look of jubilation. People came out to greet him, clad in their gayest attire. Women sang in chorus from the housetops to welcome their noble guest. Everyone was eager that he should stop at his house. Slackening the reins of his camel, he let it have its own way. Wherever it stopped, he said to the eager crowds around him, there would he lodge. The camel moved on until it reached an open space in front of Abu Ayyub's house, where it halted.

Muslim Brotherhood:

The courtyard belonged to two orphan boys. They offered it as a free gift for the erection of a mosque, but the Holy Prophet would not accept it without payment. They had therefore to take the price. The first thing done was the construction of a mosque, the Holy Prophet and his comrades working at it with their own hands. Each looked upon this labour of love as a proud privilege and, as they worked, all chanted in chorus after the Holy Prophet, "O Lord! there is no felicity, but the felicity of the Hereafter; O Lord! help the Helpers and the Refugees." The mosque was a monument of simplicity -walls made of mud bricks, the roof supported by trunks of palm-trees, and covered over with palm leaves and twigs it could not keep out rain, which made the unpaved floor muddy. To remove this difficulty, the floor was strewn with gravel. In a corner of the courtyard, a sort of platform with a roof was raised to accommodate those who had neither family nor home. Those who lived there were known as the residents of the Suffah (ashab al-Suffah). This was, so to speak, a kind of seminary attached to the mosque for those accommodated there, devoting their whole time to the study of religion. Adjoining the mosque were erected two apartments for the household of the Holy Prophet.

In Makkah Muslims could not say their prayers openly in congregation. Now that the peaceful conditions of Madinah permitted public prayers various ways were one day considered to summon the faithful to prayers at the fixed hours. 'Umar had seen a vision of a man repeating the words, Allahu-Akbar, Allahu-Akbar (Allah is Great) and so forth - the full text of the Muslim call to prayer. Next morning he narrated his vision to the Holy Prophet. Another of the companions had had exactly the same vision. This was approved by the Holy Prophet as the call to prayer. The first Friday congregational prayer was held here on the day when the Holy Prophet left Quba' and entered into the city of Madinah.

Prayers being thus regulated, the Holy Prophet next turned to the question of providing for the Refugees. Most of them, while in Makkah, had lived in ease and plenty, but they had had to abandon their wealth and property. So he established a brotherhood between Helpers and Refugees - a brotherhood unique in the history of the world. Each of the Refugees was bound to one of the Helpers in a bond of brotherhood. The fellow-feeling and love on which this new brotherhood was created found wonderful expression. Each one of the Helpers took a brother Refugee home with him, placed half his house at his disposal and equally divided all his goods and chattels with him. The Helpers were an agriculturist people, and wished to divide their farms equally with their new brethren. The Refugees were tradesmen by profession, quite unused to farming. On realising this, the Helpers said they would do the whole labour themselves and give half the produce to the Refugees. So strong, in short, was this new tie that it surpassed even the relationship of brothers. When either of the couple thus joined passed away, his property was inherited not by his brother-in-blood, but by his brother-in-faith. But the Holy Quran forbade that the tie should have so far-reaching an effect and enjoined the inheritance to go in the natural course to the blood-relations [The Quran, 8:75.].

Such was the genuine sacrificial spirit with which the Helpers embraced their brethren-in-faith, but the Refugees did not take undue advantage of their sympathy ["Surely those who believed and fled (their homes) and struggled hard in Allah's way with their wealth and their lives, and those who gave shelter and helped -these are friends one of another" (The Quran, 8:72).]. One ‘Abd al Rahman ibn ‘Auf, when offered half of everything owned by his Helper brother, expressed his gratitude for the kindness, and asked him only to show him the way to the market so that he could manage his own living; and in a short time he developed a flourishing business. Similarly, the rest of the Refugees also took to trade. Those who could find nothing to set their hand to, worked as ordinary porters, thereby not only maintaining themselves, but also sparing something to contribute towards the Public Treasury (Bait al-Mal) to be expended on community welfare. Before long, their business flourished to such an extent that the merchandise caravans of some of them consisted of seven hundred camels each. There was a time - a time of want - when, on the arrival of a guest, the Holy Prophet, finding no provisions in his own house, asked Abu Talhah, one of the companions, to entertain him. On going home with the guest, Abu Talhah found that the food was hardly enough for his own children. To meet the awkward situation the light was put out and such food as there was served to the guest, Abu Talhah and his wife, who had to bear him company as hosts, taking nothing but moving their hands and mouths as though they were also partaking of the food. The food being just enough for the guest, the whole family went hungry.

But the Muslims worked so hard that poverty soon changed to plenty and prosperity, and they began to live a comfortable life. Under these fluctuations of fortune, however, they conducted themselves admirably. Neither in the state of indigence did they ever grumble, nor in the time of affluence did they become extravagant. They spent it in the way of Allah - in helping the poor, the needy, the orphans and the residents of the Suffah, whose sole occupation was to attend throughout the day to the teachings of the Holy Prophet and spend their nights in prayers. Out of these sprang the band of religious teachers and preachers who carried the torch of Islam far and wide to different countries and different peoples. The well-known Abu Hurairah, through whom a vast number of the Holy Prophet's sayings have come down to us, was one of them. As they had no means of livelihood, the well-to-do among the Muslims used to invite them to take food with them. It is recorded that Sa'd alone sometimes took home as many as eighty guests.

A Pact between Various Tribes:

The third important matter to which the Holy Prophet addressed himself was to establish friendly relations among the various tribes living in Madinah. The Jews were a considerable power there. In alliance with the tribes of Aus and Khazraj they took part in their internecine warfare. They were Arabs by descent but formed a distinct unit by their adoption of Judaism. They were subdivided into three clans, Banu Qainuqa', Banu Nadir and Banu Quraizah. The other inhabitants of the town were the Aus and the Khazraj, always at war with each other. Of the two chief clans of the Jews, the Banu Quraizah were the allies of the Aus, while the Banu Nadir joined the Khazraj. Now, it so happened that the major portion of the Khazraj and the Aus embraced Islam. So the Holy Prophet concluded a pact between Muslims and Jews. The main terms were as follows: Firstly, Muslims and Jews should live as one people. Secondly, each party should keep to its own faith, and neither should interfere with that of the other. Thirdly, in the event of war with a third party, each should come to the assistance of the other, provided the latter were the party aggrieved and not the aggressors. Fourthly, in the event of an attack on Madinah, both should join hands to defend it. Fifthly, peace should be made only after consultation with each other. Sixthly, Madinah should be regarded as sacred by both, all blood-shed being forbidden therein. Seventhly, the Holy Prophet should be the final court of appeal in cases of dispute.



Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 5: The Flight to Madinah


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