LESSON: Islam is a message to be carried and a responsibility to be shouldered
Why did the prophet migrate?
One may wonder, “Why would the prophet and the Muslims leave their hometown to some far place like this?” The straight forward answer is, because he and the Muslims were not able to worship Allah in Mecca and they have been tortured by the Meccans. While that was absolutely true, this may have been the cause of migrating to Abyssinia as a few of the companions did a few years back. The prophet and the rest of the believers could have joined those in there and they would have been given the opportunity to worship in peace. As a matter of fact, right before the death of Abu Taleb, the uncle of the prophet, the leaders of Mecca offered the Prophet to let him worship the way he wants on the condition that he does not get involved in the public life: no more calling to Allah, no more values Islam promotes, no more involvement in their “business.” The prophet could have accepted this offer and saved himself and his companions the trouble of migration.
It was clear that the Prophet (pbuh) was not looking for a place where he can do his rituals in peace. He was not looking for just a quiet place. Rather, he was looking for a place where he can fulfill his obligation in conveying his message to the whole world. He was entrusted with this message and he was required to convey it to the world. The mercy Islam came with is not confined to the prophet or the few people around him. The world had the right to know this message, to experience its mercy, and have the ability and the freedom to embrace it. The prophet wanted to do so in a world full of tyrants, kings, and regimes that oppress people and will not make his job easy. What took place in Mecca is just an example of what he will face. With a place as hostile as Mecca, it is almost impossible to fulfill his responsibility. The message of Islam and the values it brings will be opposed and fought and therefore, needs a lot of effort and support. This effort and support was lacking in Mecca.
The prophet was trying and hoping for Mecca to be this home, this support, and the nucleus that spreads the light of Islam to the world. You can see this in his words to the leaders of Mecca. When the prophet found out that Mecca is no longer this place, he started looking outside. He traveled to At-Ta’f, another big city not far from Mecca and came home with no success. He talked to many tribes and individuals during the season of Hajj with no one accepting his message. It was very clear in his message to these tribes and groups that he was not simply asking them to believe in him. He was explicitly demanding their support to his message and to his cause. One of the most interesting conversations that took place during that time is the conversation with Bani Shaiban. The conversation took place with 4 of their top leaders. They were a strong tribe, large in number, and known of high quality character, a perfect fit for what the prophet was looking for. They even liked the message of Islam and they all agreed it is worth believing in it. However, at the end of the conversation, one of their leaders said, “We think that what you came with is something kings hate. If you want, we can host you and protect you from all the Arabs. However, we won’t be able to protect you from others.” They were referring to the great Persian Empire not far from the north of where they live. More interesting than the offer is the response of the Prophet to the offer. He politely refused the offer clearly saying that he is looking for someone to shoulder this responsibility all the time in the face of all difficulties, a very clear sign that the prophet was not looking for a place to live and perform some rituals.
The hijra marked the move where Islam had the hosting city. The hijra marked the event where the prophet finally had the support he was looking for. The hijra marked the event where Muslims started spreading their message away from the torture of Mecca. We should understand our role as bearers of the message of Islam in our land. Our people have the right to know this message, pure and clear. Our people have the right to learn about it and have the right to embrace it if they want. We cannot confine our role to be a group of people who worship Allah in isolation. The message of Islam is a message of mercy to mankind until the day of judgement. As it was the responsibility of the Prophet and his companions to carry out this message until it reached us, it is our responsibility to take it to our people and to generations to come.
Why would others migrate? Are we ready to migrate?
Another question that comes to one’s mind when the issue of migration is mentioned. That is, “why can’t the prophet leave alone? He can go and find support in Medina. Let the Meccan Muslims stay in Mecca. Let everyone stay in his/her tribe. Why the trouble?” Same answer, the effort needed to shoulder this responsibility is beyond the effort of the prophet alone. It is beyond the effort of the few in Medina. It requires the effort of everyone: men and women, Meccan Muslims and others. That is why it was required that every Muslim should migrate to Medina unless the Prophet explicitly asked him not to. That is why we see whole tribes coming to join Medina.
We take the migration process lightly. Imagine; you live a normal life, you have kids and a family, you have businesses and wealth. Imagine that you have to leave all this and migrate. Some of these companions left behind their whole family. Some left behind the savings of their life. Some left behind their houses and a lot of memories. They left to a place where they know no one and they have no place to stay. They left to a different climate where most of them got sick. The most interesting part is that they did that very quickly and very willingly.
Two interesting stories show themselves regarding this point. The story of the family of Abu Salamah and his wife, Umm Salamah. Without getting into the details of the sad story, migration for Abu Salamah meant leaving his wife, the one that he loved. It meant leaving his very young child. For Umm Salamah, it meant losing her husband and her son. It meant traveling alone to Medina after two year for 500 kilometers
. The second story was about a Roman boy. Suhaib, who came to Mecca when young and made a lot of money. When he was migrating he was approached by the Meccans who told him, “You came to us as a poor boy and you made a lot of money. You can’t leave.” He made a deal with them to tell them about the place where he had hidden his wealth on the condition to let him leave. They agreed and he traveled. Allah revealed Qur’an about this story and the Prophet received him saying, “O Abu Yahia, what a successful transation! What a successful transaction!”
Are we ready to sacrifice for Islam the same way these people did? How much of life comfort are we willing to give in support of our message. Are we ready to spend money, expend effort, and lose loved ones for the sake of Allah? Are we willing to put our life as servants of this religion and workers for this cause? These are the questions we need to ask if we want to leave behind a remarkable event such as the hijra.