Muharram 1444: Some Reflections on the Significance of Hijrah – By Dr AbdulHameed Badmas Yusuf

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Hijrah was an epoch making event in the history of Islam. Its significance ranges from its literal meaning to social, political, and religious aspects of humanity. Literally speaking, it means a migration from Makkah to Madinah by the Prophet (SAW) with small number of Muslims. Socially speaking, it was a flight from the territory of hate and hostility to the abode of love and peace. Politically speaking, it was a migration from the state of anarchy to the state of stability. And religiously speaking, it was a major transformation in the existence and survival of Islam from being a marginalized religion to a force to reckon with in the Arab land and beyond.

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The story of Hijrah which took place about 1444 years ago, is eternally interesting to tell. The planning was topnotch, while the execution and implementation was superb. The messenger of Allah exhibited a high level of strategic acumen. As a leader, he mobilized his followers to leave Makkah for Madinah before him. He didn’t leave first in order not to expose his people to further inhuman treatments at the hands of the unbelievers. He eventually left in company of Abubakar, his bossom friend, after all had left with the exception of ‘Ali whom he asked to stay behind for an important task, namely to return all items kept with him (SAW) in trust. Though, some of those items belonged to his detractors, he had to ensure their safe return to them in keeping with his trustworthy character with which he had been known before his prophethood.

The route to Madinah was tough and rough. It was turbulent and thorny. But the Prophet and his followers took solace in their belief and conviction that they were on a rewarding mission. Their love for Makkah, their birthplace, was naturally absolute. But they had to leave it on the command of Allah. In the end, their faith in Allah was rewarded with a very warmth reception they, as Muhajirun (i.e. the Migrants), enjoyed from Ansaar (i.e. the Helpers). Thus, the rejected stones became the diamonds.

The essence of Hijrah can be appreciated in two different ways. First, it was a difficult experience that was necessitated by the need to avoid bloodshed in the Arabian peninsula. The unbelievers were beating the drums of war capitalizing on their numerical advantage. But the Prophet (SAW) was desirous of peace and stability in the region. He endured persecution rather than heeding the call to war by his tribesmen. He had to calm down the nerves of his followers who were battle ready despite their inferior population.

The fact that the Prophet (SAW) resisted the war option and chose the path of peace did not mean he was a coward. He only acted in line with his peaceful character. This fact came to play more convincingly and vividly in the year of Conquest of Makkah, some two decades after the persecution. Then, he actually had every reason and authority to revenge but he chose the path of peace and considered all his detractors free. This spirit of magnanimity was unprecedented especially at that period of time when the might was right. It is also hard to come by in the contemporary time. This act of magnanimity in victory must be imbibed by modern politicians.

The second way to appreciate the essence of Hijrah is its humanitarian dimension which highlights the purest form of humanity. The Helpers’ reception and accommodation of the Migrants was legendary. The spirit of sharing displayed by the former towards the latter remains incredible and novel. Having left their birthplace in Makkah, the Migrants forfeited all their property and some their spouses. But in a bid to make them feel at home, their hosts shared all their property with them, including what is difficult to share, namely women. Some of them with several wives decided to let go some of them for the Migrants to marry. This spirit of sharing is what we need mostly in this period of abject poverty and deprivation especially in Africa whose abundant resources are being monopolized by a few at the detriment of the masses.

In recognition of the numerous values of Hijrah, ‘Umar, the second Caliph, adopted it to be the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Therefore, this year marks the 1444th anniversary of Hijrah. As we celebrate the event yearly it is more important for us as Muslims to reflect on its numerous lessons. We must imbibe the spirit of magnanimity to forgive our enemies. Also, we should be selfless and be public spirited by sharing our wealth with the poor and the needy.

The world over, there are refugees, war prisoners, and internally displaced persons. These categories of people should be treated well by the host communities in emulation of the Ansar. Muslim countries especially need to be reminded of their glittering past of Islam. They should put in place friendly policies for foreigners. This is particularly imperative with regard to Muslims who are based there for legitimate purposes. This should be done without compromising the integrity and security of the concerned countries. It is however, disheartening to note that non-Muslims have friendlier immigration policies that seek to provide welfare for the settlers more than virtually all Muslim nations. Leaders of those countries should address this issue if they are truly upholders of the heritage of the Prophet (SAW).

Finally, we should be conscious of the Islamic calendar more than we are about the Gregorian version. It is unfortunate and shameful that many Muslims do not know months in the Islamic calendar unlike the Gregorian version which they know very well. There is no gainsaying that the knowledge of the Islamic calendar constitutes an important part of our Islamic identity which we must cherish and value always. More importantly, we must internalize the moral cum philosophical significance of Hijrah which is to migrate from bad habits and prohibited things, according to a prophetic tradition.

*Dr. Abdulhameed Badmas Yusuf writes from University of Ilorin*

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