Hijra: The Journey of Hope and Women’s Role
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Category : COVER STORY

Emigrations are a part and parcel of human history. Great changes in the lives of people are made by emigration throughout centuries. When the month of Muharram marking the beginning of a new year in the Hijra calendar begins, believers start talking about Hijra. The usual talk circles around the Hijra (migration) of Prophet Mohammed (S) and his followers from Makkah to Madinah. After thirteen years of difficult life in Makkah since the first revelation, the Prophet (S) and his people were ordered by Allah to make Hijra to Madinah which was known as Yathrib at that time.

The socio-political environment of Madinah was sorely in need of Islam and its Prophet. The Arabs in Madinah were divided into warring tribes. They led a miserable life fighting each other and were very weak financially and culturally. The Jews in Madinah were in possession of power, wealth and education. They instigated the fights between the different Arab tribes and were exploiting them financially by lending money on interest basis to wage wars. The Jews believed that it was not a sin to exploit the illiterate Arabs. The Jewish scholars used to say that a prophet is going to come, based on the prophecies in their scriptures. Hence, the arrival of a Prophet was something expected among the people of Madinah, unlike in Makkah. This paved the way for the two treaties of Aqaba and eventually the Hijra.
The event has been narrated and read as a story over the years. But what is Hijra actually? Why and when a believer should do Hijra? Does Hijra mean only the Hijra of the body? What do believers learn from the Hijra of the Prophet and the Companions? Do women have a role to play in this? These are questions worth reflecting.
The word Hijra in Arabic indicates separating from others physically, spiritually or in speech. It is not just departing from the land of oppressors, but also connotes separating oneself from evil people, evil deeds and evil habits and practices.

History of Hijra:

Hijra is part and parcel of Islamic history. Before the Hijra of Prophet (S) from Makkah to Madinah in the 13th year of Prophethood, there were such journeys from homelands to foreign lands. It is there in the traditions of Prophet Ibrahim (A). The Qur’an quotes what he said: “and he said (after his rescue from fire): Verily, I am going to my Lord. He will guide me.” (37:99). He went along with some of his children to Ash-Sham, the home of the Al Aqsa Mosque. Later, he went to Al Hijaz, Makkah. The most important part of his Hijra is the sacrifice of Hajar who was made to go along with him and stay in Makkah, which had no sign of life at that time. But her reaching there resulted in the spring of Zam Zam and the sprouting of life and a great civilization around. The Qur’an quotes the supplication of prophet Ibrahim in this context. “Our Lord! I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House so that they may establish prayer. So, make hearts among the people incline towards them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.” (14:37)

Such journeys can be seen in the lives of other prophets too.

Before the migration to Madinah, Prophet Mohammed (S) had a journey to Taif. His followers were ordered two migrations to Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). Women were also included in both the migrations. The prominent among them were the Prophet’s daughter Ruqaiya and Umm Salama.

But Allah’s messenger remained in Makkah in spite of all the tortures and continued with his mission until the command to migrate to Madinah came from Allah. Hijra was not in Muharram. It took place in Rabiul Awal. But the starting month of the year was kept as Muharram as that order of months in the lunar calendar was familiar among the Arabs during those days. The discussion to fix a calendar for the Ummah started at the time of the second caliph, Umar ibn Khattab(RA) due to confusion regarding a letter. It was Musa Al Ash’ari who raised the question whether it was the last Sha’ban or upcoming Sha’ban about which there was a mention in the letter. So, he called a meeting. Different suggestions came from different people like – the calendar can start from the year of the birth of Prophet Mohammed (S), the starting of Prophethood, the death of the Prophet and so on. It was Uthman Ibn Affan (RA) who suggested Hijra as Starting point of the Islamic Calendar and Ali (RA) supported it. The emigration to Madinah is a turning point in history, paving the way for the establishment of a welfare state which stands as a model state in all aspects, with the fastest growth and development in every sphere of human life. Justice prevailed and there was communal harmony. Women’s status got elevated in the real sense of the term, which enabled them to excel in different fields and become contributing members in society. Thus, it was no wonder that everyone accepted Hijra as the marking point for the Islamic calendar.

Journey of Hope:

It was not an easy task to leave one’s home, family, relatives, properties, business, farmland etc. and go to an unknown place empty-handed. It wasn’t like a job transfer from one place to another. It was a journey to uncertainty. But the believers (including women) did so seeking the bounties and pleasure of Allah and helping the cause of Allah and His messenger. Their hope was in the help of the Almighty whose bounty has no limit. That is why Allah praised the Muhajirun (the Emigrants) and promised great reward. “And as for those who emigrated for the cause of Allah, after they had been wronged , We will certainly give them goodly residence in this world, but indeed the reward of the Hereafter will be greater if they but knew.” (16:41)

“Those who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah. It is they who will triumph.”
(Qur’an 9:20)

The emigration to Madinah was not an act of fleeing away for life, as some historians have wrongly put it. It was a journey of hope. It was the display of complete surrender to the command of the Lord in order to establish a peaceful nation where justice will prevail. “O my servants who have believed, indeed My earth is vast, so worship only me.”
(Qur’an 29:56).

Those who were not ready to leave their comfort zone and go to Madinah are criticized in the Qur’an: “Indeed those who have believed and emigrated and fought with their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided – they are allies of one another. But those who believed and did not emigrate – for you there is no guardianship of them until they emigrate. And if they seek help of you for the religion, then you must help, except against a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty. And Allah is seeing what you do.” 8:72 (Also see 4:97)

Types of Hijra:

Hijra doesn’t mean merely leaving one’s homeland and going to another place. It is the Hijra of the body. Believers need to do another kind of Hijra also. That is Hijra of the hearts.

Abandonment of wrong-doings which are part of disbelief, polytheism, hypocrisy, immoral acts, forsaking or keeping away from any deed, word, food as well as forbidden gaze and forbidden listening are Hijra of the heart. The Prophet (S) said that the one who abandons what Allah has forbidden is a Muhajir. Another kind of Hijra is to desert wrong doers. Allah advises the Prophet (S): “And be patient O Muhammed what they say and keep away from them in a good way.” (Qur’an 73:10). The highest form of Hijra of the hearts to Allah is to completely surrender to Him sincerely in secret and in public with no other intention except that of gaining His pleasure. Similarly, believers perform Hijra to Allah’s messenger by following him and giving priority in obeying his orders over anybody else.

Women’s Role:
The role of women and their contribution in Hijra is something beyond comparison in human history. They had to sacrifice, undergo physical torture and mental agony in order to preserve the Deen and protect Allah’s Prophet and his message of peace and justice. Some of them need special mention here for their bravery and pivotal role. • The two women who participated in the Aqaba treaty which led to Hijra, Nusaibah Bint Ka’ab and Asma Bint Amr. It was as part of fulfilling her promise at the treaty that Nusaiba Bint Ka’ab more widely known as Ummu Ammaarah (RA) served as a shield to the Prophet during the battle of Uhud and received twelve arrows on her body, which had been sent targeting the Prophet. She did so when there were rumors, chaos and even men were perplexed on what to do. • When Prophet Muhammad (S) got Allah’s command to set out for Madinah, he immediately went to Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA)’s house. Both his daughters Aisha (RA) and Asma (RA) were present there. They were also allowed to be part of the secret micro-planning of the journey. Ummu Ruman (RA), wife of Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA) also knew about the plan. • When Abu Jahal got to know that Prophet Muhammed (S) had already left, he went directly to Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA)’s house. He questioned Asma (RA) and even hit her face. But she did not reveal the truth. It was Asma (RA) who served food for the Prophet (S) and her father Abu Bakr (RA), secretly climbing all the way the dangerous and deserted mountain to reach the cave of Thawr during that difficult period at night when the Quraish were searching for them far and wide. She was titled Dhat-un-Nitaqain, meaning ‘owner of two belts’ by the Prophet (S) during this time in appreciation of her tying the food container by dividing lengthwise her waist belt as she did not have anything else for that purpose. The Prophet (S) blessed her and said that in place of that belt she will get two in Paradise. She was pregnant during Hijra and delivered a son who became the first son of the Emigrates and was a reply to the propaganda of the enemies that the Muhajireen will not have children. • When they reached Qudaid, they approached Ummu Ma’bad and requested some food and drink. She had nothing to offer. But the Prophet (S) asked her to say “Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem” (In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent and Benevolent) and to milk the goat she had. The goat was weak and wasn’t yielding milk at that time. Surprisingly, milk gushed from the goat as she did so and after that the goat always gave her milk until it died 18 years later. Henceforth, she used to calculate dates based on this incident. Her narration of the incident to her husband is as follows: “I saw a man of visible radiance and purity, beautiful in appearance, bright faced, with neither protruding ribs nor a small head, handsome and fair. His eyes were deep black and large, and his eyelashes were lush. His voice was mellow and soft. The whiteness of his eyes was bright and his pupils were very black. His eyebrows were beautifully arched and connected. His neck was long, his beard densely full. When he was silent, he appeared dignified. When he spoke, he was eminent and crowned with magnificence. His speech was sweet, his words precise, neither too little nor too much. Like a string of pearls flowing down gradually. He was the most striking and beautiful of people when seen from afar and the fairest of them when seen up close. He was medium height, neither unagreeably tall nor scornfully short; a branch between two branches. Among the three he was the most radiant in appearance, the finest of them in stature. He was surrounded by companions. When he spoke, they listened attentively. When he gave orders, they hastened to fulfil them. Honoured, served and surrounded by followers, he neither frowned nor criticised.” (Al-Baihaqi and Hakim) • The first woman to travel to Madinah was Ummu Salama. She had to travel all alone with her child, as her husband had to leave earlier. She had to face severe torture from her and her husband’s family. • Zainab, the daughter of the Prophet had to bear with the brutality of the Quraish. She was pushed down from the camel by Hubar ibn Aswad, due to which she had a miscarriage. • Another great woman who went to Madinah to protect her Deen and lead an Islamic life was Umm Kulthum Uqba. She was not married. By then the Hudaibiyah treaty which demanded the Prophet (S) to send back those who come from Makkah was already made. She pleaded the Prophet not to send her back. She argued that the condition of men and women wasn’t the same. Men would lose only their lives but that is not the case with women. She said that Allah will definitely show a way out. A verse was revealed in support of her (Qur’an 60:10). When her brothers approached the Prophet to take her back, he denied it saying women are not included in that condition. Allah has showered mercy on women. Points to Ponder: 1) Women have an equal role in preserving Allah’s Deen on Earth. 2) A believing woman can keep secrets for a good cause. That is what Asma (RA) proved in front of the fascist tyrant Abu Jahal. 3) Women are capable of undergoing physical strain if need occurs. Asma (RA) proved it by climbing the mountain to take food to the cave. 4) When we think there are no ways left and we are lost, Allah shows ways which we cannot even think of. That is what happened to the Muhajirun, leaving everything behind (kith and kin, property, home, business etc.). In turn, the land of Yathrib was getting prepared to receive them with the warmth of brotherhood and establishment of a new civilization which turned the course of the history of mankind. In fact, it was a journey from darkness to light, from injustice to justice. 5) The majority of the people in Yathrib were non-Muslims. Yet, they were eagerly waiting to receive the Prophet (S) and were excited to listen to him. It’s a lesson for all Da’ees. People receive the teachings of Islam wholeheartedly if presented in the right manner by the mercy of Allah. 6) The bond of relation among believers is stronger than that of even blood relations. This is what the Muhajiroon and the Ansar in Madinah proved. The Ansar of Madinah were ready to share anything to make the life of the emigrants comfortable: their homes, businesses, family etc. 7) Only after trying all means in the homeland can one think of leaving it. The Prophet (S) stayed in Makkah for 13 years and underwent all tortures and atrocities. 8) Dreaming for better days and working for that with complete trust in Allah is the essential quality of a believer. The Prophet (S) was promising the bracelets of Khusrow II of Persia to Suraqah during Hijra. It was something unimaginable for Muslims at that time. 9) Planning and preparation are essential even in the most difficult and uncertain times. The Prophet’s (S) arrangements before the Hijra in all minute details need more study. 10) The worth and reward of any action depends upon the intentions. This is what the Prophet (S) reminded the migrants. He told them that “Actions are judged by intentions. So each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger. But he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that or which he migrated.”

Conclusion:

Hijra will not and should not cease until the Day of Judgement. The Prophet (s) said: “Hijra will not end until repentance ends, and repentance will not end until the sun rises in the West.”

The entire history of Hijra teaches us the lesson that if we are ready for Hijra we can create Madinah. We need to do Hijra (abandon/migrate) from all that is against the spirit of the Qur’an and the Prophet (S)’s teachings. We need to be away from the customs and practices which enchain us culturally and deviate our attention from doing anything useful for us and humanity at large. We need to engage ourselves in more creative and productive activities which improve the social and economic status of the society.

 

 

 

 

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