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Emigration to Yathrib

Emigration to Yathrib

Chapter One
Emigration to Yathrib

W¡d¢ al-Qur¡ is a long valley along with the trade route from Yemen to Damascus. Along this valley, which runs from the north to the south, there were numerous oases surrounded by grass and pastures.[1] The caravans made use of them on their trips along this valley. On one of these oases, five hundred kilometers north of Mecca, there was the old city of Yathrib which was later called Mad¢nat al-Ras£l (the city of the Messenger) after the Holy Prophet's emigration to it and then al-Mad¢nah (Medina).

The structure and social conditions of Yathrib was quite different from those of Mecca whose people were engaged in agriculture and orchard keeping. There lived in this city three great Jewish tribes of Ban£’l-Na¤¢r, Ban£-Qaynuq¡` and Ban£-Quray¨ah. The two famous tribes of Aws and Khazraj are originally from the Yemen (i.e. descendants of Qa¦§¡n); but after the destruction of the Ma'rib Dam, they migrated from the south to live in Yathrib along with the Jewish inhabitants.

During the years of the Holy Prophet’s promulgation of Islam in Mecca, some events occurred in Yathrib which paved the way for his emigration. These events had made this city the center for the propagation of Islam. Among these events were the following:

The Jews had owned the fertile lands around the city; they had created numerous palm groves, enjoyed wealth and excelled all others economically.[2] Once in a while, some quarrels occurred between them and the tribes of Aws and Khazraj. The Jews used to threaten them, saying, “In the near future, there shall come a new prophet whom we will follow and with his help we will root you out, just like the peoples of `ªd and Iram.”[3]

Because the Jews enjoyed a higher cultural status and they were respected by the idolaters, who believed in whatever the Jews would tell them, the issue of prophethood had rooted in the minds of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj.

Since older times, wars and bloodshed took place between the tribes of Aws and Khazraj. The last of these conflicts was the war of Bu`¡th. These conflicts had resulted in a lot of casualties and damages on both sides who, because they had suffered greatly, looked forward to ceasefire and compromise. However, there was no impartial person to carry out such a mission. `Abdull¡h Ibn Ubayy, who was not of the elderly chiefs of Khazraj, had announced his impartiality during the battle of Bu`¡th and desired for a ceasefire and reconciliation so that he might govern both of them. He had prepared for the coronation ceremonies.[4] However, the encounters of Aws and Khazraj with the Holy Prophet in Mecca changed the direction of events dramatically and `Abdull¡h Ibn Ubayy lost his chance.

The First Muslim Group of Yathrib

Through their pilgrimages to Mecca, the people of Yathrib had known about the Holy Prophet's mission since the early years of his open invitations to Islam. Some of them had met him in Mecca and become Muslims; but later on, they had either died or been killed.[5] They had never been able to invite anybody into Islam. In the eleventh year of prophethood, the Holy Prophet met six of the elderly chiefs of Khazraj during the season of °ajj and invited them to Islam. They told each other, “Be aware; this is the same prophet predicted by the Jews. Now we should not fall behind them in accepting his religion.” Then, they accepted Islam by telling the Holy Prophet, “We have left our people in the worst form of enmity. We hope that God will make them conciliate through you. Now, we will return to Yathrib and start inviting them to Islam. If they accept this religion, there will be nobody dearer to us than you.”

Upon their return to Yathrib, this group invited people to Islam. Not long after, the name of Islam was heard in every house of Yathrib and the Holy Prophet's name was uttered by everybody.[6]

The First Treaty of `Aqabah

By the twelfth year of the prophethood, twelve people of Yathrib swore allegiance to the Holy Prophet at the foot of the `Aqabah of Min¡[7] at the time of °ajj.[8] Among this group, ten people were from Khazraj and two others from Aws. This showed that these two groups had set their quarrel aside and showed interest in coming under the banner of Islam. They swore that they would not associate anybody with God, steal, engage themselves in adultery, kill their own children, accuse one another, and they would obey the Holy Prophet in performing good deeds.[9]

The Holy Prophet promised them heaven as a reward for their keeping this treaty.[10] After the °ajj ceremony, they returned to Yathrib and asked the Holy Prophet to appoint a teacher to teach them the Holy Qur'¡n and the principles of Islam. The Holy Prophet sent Mu¥`ab ibn `Umayr to them.[11] Due to his hard work in propagation, a great number of people accepted the Islamic faith. In Mecca, the chiefs opposed Islam; but the youth and the deprived ones accepted it as religion. However, in Yathrib, it was the other way round; the chiefs pioneered to adopt Islam and people naturally followed their suit. This was one of the factors for the spread of Islam in this city.

The Second Treaty of `Aqabah

In the thirteenth year of prophethood and at the °ajj ceremony, a group of seventy-five people, eleven of whom were from Aws and two women, entered Mecca. On the twelfth of Dhu’l-°ijjah, the second treaty of `Aqabah was concluded with a lot of precautions. The signers pledged that if the Holy Prophet emigrated to their city, they would protect him like their own relatives and children and fight anybody who would fight against him. For this reason, this treaty came to be called bay`at al-¦arb (the pledge of war). At the end of this meeting, the signers elected twelve representatives to manage their affairs upon their return to Yathrib.[12]

The initial Stages of emigration to Yathrib

Despite all the precautions that the Holy Prophet and the people of Yathrib had taken, Quraysh found out the secrets behind this treaty. Consequently, they endeavored to arrest the treaty signers. Since those who paid homage to the Holy Prophet had left Mecca in time, they could flee to safety except for one who was arrested.

After the departure of the people of Yathrib, Quraysh increased their pressure on Muslims, because they realized that the Holy Prophet had safeguarded a stronghold in Yathrib; they therefore increased their pressures on Muslims. Once again, life in Mecca had become intolerable.[13] For this reason, the Holy Prophet ordered Muslims to emigrate to Yathrib, telling them, “Go to Yathrib; God will provide you with brethren and a safe place.”[14] For two and a half months, (i.e. from the middle of Dhu’l-°ijjah up to the end of ¯afar)[15] Muslims gradually headed for Yathrib despite all hardships that Quraysh put in their way. Hence, no Muslim remained in Mecca except for the Holy Prophet, Imam `Al¢, Ab£-Bakr and some others. In the history of Islam, those Muslims who emigrated to Yathrib are called muh¡jir£n (Emigrants) and those who helped out the Holy Prophet in Yathrib are called an¥¡r.



[1] Y¡q£t al-°amaw¢, Mu`jam al-Buld¡n, 4:238.

[2] Montgomery Watt, Mu¦ammad at Medina, pp. 294.

It is said that the Jews had had fifty-nine castles and dwelling-places at Yathrib before the tribes of Aws and Khazraj resided there. On the other side, the Arab tribes had only thirteen castles and dwelling places. See op cit, pp. 293; Waf¡ al-Waf¡ 1:165.

This vividly shows the social distances between these two.

[3] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 2:70; ±abar¢, op cit, 2:234; al-Bayhaq¢, Dal¡'il al-Nubuwwah 2:128; Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, Man¡qib 1:51; ±abars¢, I`l¡m al-Hud¡, pp. 56.

Although they had been expecting the advent of the Promised Prophet, the Jews stood against the Holy Prophet. For this reason, the Holy Qur’¡n reprimanded them in the following manner:

And when there came to them [the Israelites] a book from Allah verifying that which they have, and aforetime they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieve, but when there came to them prophet that which they did not recognize, they disbelieved in him; so Allah's curse is on the unbelievers. (2:89.

[4] ±abars¢, op cit, pp. 57.

[5] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 2:67-70; ±abar¢, op cit, 2:233; al-Bul¡dhar¢, Ans¡b Al-Ashr¡f 1:238; al-Bayhaq¢, op cit, 2:118.

[6] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, pp. 70-73; ±abar¢, op cit, pp. 234-235; al-Bayhaq¢, op cit, 2:128; al-Majlis¢, Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 19:25.

[7] `Aqabah, meaning a pass, is situated to the west of Mecca.

[8] Five of them had sworn allegiance with the Holy Prophet in the last year, while seven paid homage this year.

[9] This treaty was termed bay`at al-nis¡', because the issues of war not included in it. After the conquest of Mecca, the Holy Prophet asked women to swear their allegiance. This issue is brought up in a verse in S£rah al-Mumta¦anah that reads,

O Prophet! When believing women come to you giving you a pledge that they will not associate aught with Allah, and will not steal, and will not commit fornication, and will not kill their children, and will not bring a calumny which they have forged of themselves, and will not disobey you in what is good; accept their pledge, and ask forgiveness for them from Allah; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (60:12.

[10] op cit, Ibn Sa`d, Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 1:220.

[11] Mu¥`ab was a young man from a rich family that belonged to Ban£-`Abd al-D¡r, Quraysh. Although his parents loved him passionately, he was deprived of everything due to his belief in Islam. He was a zealous Muslim who had migrated to Abyssinia twice. See Ibn al-Ath¢r, Usd al-Gh¡bah 4:368-370.

[12] Al-Bayhaq¢, op cit, pp. 132-140, Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, pp. 81-90; al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, pp. 240-254; Ibn Sa`d, op cit, pp. 221-223; ±abar¢, op cit, pp. 237; ±abars¢, I`l¡m al-War¡, pp. 54; al-Majlis¢, op cit, 19:25-26.

[13] al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, 1:357; ±abar¢, op cit, 2:240-241; Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 1:226; al-Majlis¢, op cit, pp. 26.

[14] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 2:111; Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, al-Man¡qib 1:182, Ibn Kath¢r, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 3:169.

[15] °alab¢, al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 2:189.

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