In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise is due to Allah the Lord of all creation. May Allah grant His praise, manifest his virtue and elevate the status of the noblest of the Prophets and the Seal of the Messengers, our Prophet Muhammad and protect him, the message of Islam, his family and all his companions from any harm in this life or the next. As for what follows:
Dear brothers and sisters, the Islamic Hijrah calendar was established by the second rightly guided Caliph and the Prophet’s close Companion, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, in 637/638 AD. According to Al-Jabarti, the great chronicler of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century, Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari wrote to the then Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab saying:
“Letters have reached us from the Commander of the Faithful, but we do not know which to obey. We read a document dated the month of Sha’aban, but we do not know which of the Sha’abans is meant: is it the month that has passed, or that which is to come?”
After consulting the Prophet’s Companions, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab established the year of the Prophet’s migration as the beginning of the Islamic calendar since it was the single most important event in the Islamic world at that time. The Islamic calendar is usually abbreviated in Western languages from the Latin Anno Hegirae “The year of the Hijrah.”
The Islamic calendar consists of 12 lunar months. They are:
3. Rabi al-Awwal
4. Rabi al-Thani
5. Jumada al-Awwal
6. Jumada al-Thani
And the word Hijrah comes from the root h/j/r. These letters in Arabic indicate movement and locomotion. In whatever order, the letters convey sound audibility. And because sound causes movement in air and moves from one place to another, from the mouth of the speaker to the ears of the hearer, the root letters also connote transport and movement. Hijrah from one place to another involves movement and transport.
In Hans Wehrs Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, the meanings listed for the noun “Hijrah” include: departure, exit, emigration, exodus and immigration while the meanings listed for the verb “Hajara” include: to emigrate; to dissociate, separate, part, secede, keep away (from), part company (with); to give up, renounce, forgo, avoid; to abandon, surrender, leave, give up, vacate (something in favour of someone); to desert one another, part company, separate, break up.
In the Islamic tradition, the word “Hijrah” is used to describe the emigration of Muslims from Makkah to either Abysinnia (modern day Ethiopia) or it is most commonly used to refer to the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah in 622 AD.
Dear brothers and sisters, there are two kinds of Hijrah; physical and moral: Physical migration can be defined as a process of moving, either across an international border, or within a state. Encompassing any kind of movement of people, whatever its length, composition and causes; it includes refugees, displaced persons, uprooted people, and economic migrants.
Religious persecution and the quest for religious freedom have played an important role in migration, forcing people to flee for their lives. The connection between religion and migration is a cross-cutting issue throughout the history of major religions such as Christianity (e.g. the spread of Catholicism by Portuguese and Spanish during the 11th and 12th centuries), Islam (e.g. the first and second migration during the Prophet Muhammad’s time), and Judaism (e.g. the migration from Eastern to Western Europe and overseas, and to the United States of America during the 19th).
The relentless persecution of the early Muslims prompted the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to allow those who lacked power and protection to flee to Abyssinia. Imam Muhammad Ibn Ishaq stated that:
“When the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) witnessed the trials descending upon his Companions, he compared this with his own good state derived from his own status with Allah the Almighty and from his uncle Abu Talib, and, recognising that he was unable to prevent the evil befalling them, he told them, ‘I wish you would go forth into the land of Abyssinia, for there is a king in whose realm no one is harmed and where truth prevails. Stay there until Allah the Almighty gives you relief from your plight.’”
This migration to Abyssinia took place seven years before the Prophet’s own Hijrah to Madinah and was followed by a second one to Abyssinia a few years later.
While in Makkah, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) continued to invite the Arab tribes that flocked to Makkah to Allah the Almighty, presenting himself to them and the message of guidance and the mercy that he brought.
When the Quraish could not endure the Prophet Muhammad anymore, they decided to get rid of him once and for all. They consulted among themselves on how best to do this and Abu Jahl said:
“I think we should select one young man from each tribe, and someone who is strong, of excellent lineage and reputation as a leader. We should give each one a sharp sword and they would go to him and use the swords to strike him in unison. They would kill him and we would then be rid of him. If they do this, his blood will be spread over all tribes. And the Banu Abdu Manaf will not be able to do battle against them all. Therefore, they will accept blood money which we can pay them.”
Angel Jibril (AS) came to the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) and commanded him not to sleep in his bed that night. The Prophet asked Ali Ibn Abu Talib to sleep in his bed instead of him, promising that no harm would come to him. Taking a handful of dirt and sprinkling it at those who gathered outside his door to kill him, the Prophet slipped away unseen after he had recited the following verses:
“Ya Sin. By the Qur’an, full of Wisdom,- you are indeed one of the Messengers, On a Straight Way. It is a Revelation sent down by (Him), the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful. In order that you may admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah …The Word is proved true against the greater part of them: for they do not believe. We have put yokes round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up (and they cannot see). And We have put a bar in front of them and a bar behind them, and further, We have covered them up; so that they cannot see.” [Qur’an, 36: 1-9]
He then made his way to Abu Bakr who had made preparations for the journey.
And so Allah the Almighty gave His permission to His Prophet to migrate. The event marks the beginning of the Islamic era as was agreed upon by the Companions during Umar’s rule.
The term ‘Hijrah’ has important subtle meanings associated with it other than physical movement from one place to another. In addition to its physical sense, it also means to abandon something and neglect it. This meaning finds support in some Prophetic Hadiths such as the one narrated by Abdullah Ibn Umar in which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“The Muhajir (emigrant) is the one who abandons what Allah has forbidden.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
The idea of a metaphorical Hijrah has numerous references to the life of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). Just as the Prophet’s Hijrah to Madinah was a transitional line between two states, a state of weakness to a state of security, the Hijrah of the soul is likewise a transitional line between the human weakness for sin to a position of security from sin, a state of disobedience to one of obedience. The Prophet’s departure from Makkah was a flight from the polytheists and from a hostile unbelieving environment, with the aim of finding security in another secure place and forming a new community based on piety; it was a move to a better situation conducive to production for the sake of Allah. In a similar vein, a person undertaking a moral Hijrah migrates from everything Allah has forbidden without falling prey to his earthly desires. It is a flight for the sake of moral refuge from all forms of evils and corruption. It is a spiritual leave-taking from oppression to justice; from cruelty, harshness, and pitilessness to mercy, compassion and grace; from intolerance to forbearance; from indulgence to moderation; from miserliness to generosity and munificence; from malignity to benevolence; from selfishness to charity and altruism; from hard-heartedness to sympathy; from hostility to goodwill and friendliness; from conflict and strife to peace and amity; from ignorance to knowledge; from pride to humility; from sins to repentance; and from defiance and resistance to Allah’s commands to complete submission to him. It is most of all a return to man’s natural disposition of good. Perhaps the spiritual Hijrah is best expressed by the words of our beloved Prophet Ibrahim who said:
“I will flee to my Lord: He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.” [Qur’an, 29:26]
Also Allah’s command to our Prophet Muhammad:
“Say, Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first (among you) of the Muslims.” [Qur’an, 6:162-163]
The metaphoric content of the journey is evoked every time a person decides to emigrate from prohibitions and disobedience. Like the Prophet’s journey from Makkah to Madinah, the flight to moral excellence and obedience is not without difficulties. Man’s existence on earth is not a promenade through life. His path is fraught with hurdles and fears, but with being mindful of Allah and following the guidance of our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him) it makes the journey in life light and easier. Sometimes the journey often means forsaking what one desires for what Allah desires. Because man has been ordered to strive for the life prescribed by Allah the Almighty, he cannot succumb to harsh conditions or to his weakness and desires. He must rely on Allah and cannot blame circumstances that are forced upon him or the temptations he meets along his way, taking in mind that Allah intends us ease and not to place a burden upon us. He also cannot give in or rely solely on Allah to live the virtuous and pious life required of him. He has to exert effort to attain the glory of Allah’s pleasure. On returning from a battle, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) once said:
“We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad.”
This Hadith clearly demonstrates man’s part in struggling against his own weakness and inclination for wrongdoing.
The secret nature of the Prophet’s Hijrah and the precautions he took all demonstrate his human insecurities. He ordered Ali to sleep in his bed in his place, chose an unconventional route to Madinah, took measures to wipe out their footsteps, and sheltered with his companion Abu Bakr in a cave to hide from the pursuing enemy. All of this reveals his reliance on Allah but at the same time, his employment of every human endeavour to achieve his goal. In a similar fashion, we are instructed to employ every measure possible to achieve our goal. i.e. obedience to Allah and the attainment of His pleasure both of which will ultimately secure for us Allah’s promise of an eternal life in paradise in the hereafter. This promise alone is a motivating force to do better, to shun disobedience and to strive for Allah’s pleasure.
The end of the Prophet’s journey and the triumphant welcome he received in Madinah foretell our own triumph at the end of our journey on earth and our entry into paradise. The Prophet’s flight from Makkah to Madinah, from a land of hostility to a land of security should serve as a moral compass for us. By all scales, the Prophet’s journey to security was not easy and neither is our own. The conscious decision to migrate from both major and minor transgressions is indeed of great magnitude and the difficulties that may ensue in its wake should not deter us from embarking on it. In essence, the Prophet’s migration was about fulfilling his mission on earth. Our moral migration, in turn, must also be about fulfilling our mission on earth for Allah says:
“I created jinn and man only to worship Me.” [Qur’an, 51:56]
It should determine our departure from the various realms of sin to a desire to attain Divine propinquity and secure our place in the hereafter. Although oftentimes difficult, a perpetual moral migration is the mark of a life lived along the lines of righteousness and success.
Although all kinds of Hijrah involve entering unchartered territory and therefore evoke a sense of fear in pledging to withstand the tribulations ensuing from the decision to stay on the path of truth, it is important to remember that Allah the Almighty is always the best Companion on the road to righteousness. We should always keep in mind the Prophet’s words of reassurance to Abu Bakr when, on their way to Madinah, the Quraish search party that was after them came dangerously close to the mouth of the cave where they were hiding. When Abu Bakr expressed his alarm, the Prophet told him:
“Have no fear for Allah is with us.”
Respected Servants of Allah, the Prophetic Hijrah kindled the light of hope in the hearts of the early Muslims who set a shining example for all Muslims, in every generation, to emulate. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:
“Those who believe, and have emigrated, and have struggled in the way of Allah with their possessions and their lives are greater in degree with Allah; and those, they are the triumphant. Their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him and beatitude; for them shall be gardens wherein is enduring bliss, therein they shall abide forever. Surely with Allah is a tremendous reward.” [Qur’an, 9: 20-2]
The significance of Prophet Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah is not limited to Islamic history or to Muslims. The Hijrah not only reshaped – socially and politically – the Arab Peninsula, but also had its impact on worldwide civilisations.
Throughout the history of Islam, the migration was a transitional line between the two major eras, regarding to the message of Islam; the era of Makkah and the era of Madinah. In its essence, this signified a transition from one phase to another, as follows:
– Transition, which is most significantly for early Muslims, to the phase in which Islam was not only the act of worship, but a way of life. This was encompassing (surrounding) politics, economy, social interactions and every other aspect of life. This was the first time when Islam was looked upon as a comprehensive religion.
– Transition from a position where Muslims represented a small group of people, surrounded by enemies and threatened by death, to the position of a regional power with a strong central leadership. This was one that was surrounded by a large number of followers and allies.
– Transition from being a simple Islamic group of believers, to being the Islamic nation. This was an organised Islamic state, with a central leadership and other organisations.
– Transition of Da’awah from regionalism, in which the focus was only on Quraish and the tribes surrounding Makkah, to the phase of universalism. This is where the Muslim State began reaching out to Persia, Egypt, and the Byzantine Empire.
– Transition from the position of weakness, where the non-believers of Makkah – particularly the people of Quraish- humiliated, tortured and killed Muslims, to the position of security. This is where Muslims were allowed to defend themselves and were able to defeat their adversaries.
– Transition from spreading Islam through individual Da’awah (inviting others to Islam) to the spreading of Islam through institutionalised Da’awah, initiated the state.
Prophet Hijrah, no doubt, kindled the light of hope in the hearts of the early Muslims who set a shining example for all Muslims, in every generation, to emulate.
Prophet Hijrah, in essence, is a process of transfer to a better situation. It is not meant to find a comfortable place where one would relax and stop endeavour (attempt). Rather, it is a search for an environment more favourable to continuous and constructive effort. Immediately after reaching Madinah, the Prophet undertook an all-embracing process to establish a faithful and strong society. This is a significant aspect and important lesson to learn from Hijrah.
Prophet Hijrah was one of the most important events in the history of Islam. It is for this reason the Caliph Umar adopted Hijrah date to calculate years. Muslims chose Hijrah as the focal point to reckon their chronology.
In physical terms, Hijrah was a journey between two cities about 200 miles apart, but in its grand significance it marked the beginning of an era, a civilisation, a culture and a history for the whole mankind. Islam progressed not only from the physical Hijrah, but because Muslims took Hijrah seriously in all its aspects and dimensions.
When Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) immigrated from Makkah to Madinah, he did not just transfer his residence or take shelter in another city, but as soon as he arrived in Madinah he began the transformation of that city in every aspect as follows:
1. Masjid (Mosque): The Prophet first established a Mosque to worship Allah. He himself worked in carrying the stones and building that small, humble but most powerful structure. That was the beginning, but soon other mosques were established in Madinah.
2. Brotherhood: He established brotherly relations between the Muslims who migrated from Makkah (Muhajirun) and the residents of Madinah (Ansar) who helped the Prophet and his companions. What was important was to have good relations between Muslims. They should have their brotherhood on the basis of faith, not on the basis of tribes, region or race as they used to have prior to Islam.
3. Intercommunity and Interfaith Relations: Prophet Muhammad also established good relations with other communities living in Madinah. There was a large Jewish community as well as some other Arab tribes who had not accepted Islam. The Prophet prepared a covenant for relations between these communities.
4. Water System in the City: The Prophet asked the companions to dig wells in different parts of the city. It is mentioned that more than 50 wells were opened in the city of Madinah and there was enough clean water for everyone.
5. Agriculture and Gardening: The Prophet encouraged the companions to cultivate the land and make gardens. He told them that anyone who would cultivate any dead land, would own it. Many people started working and cultivating and soon there was enough food for everyone.
6. Poverty Eradication: In a short period of time it happened that there were no poor people in Madinah. Everyone had enough food and shelter and the Prophet used to give gifts to coming delegations.
7. Safety, Security, Law and Order: Madinah became the safest city in the world. There were very few incidents of theft, rape, drunkenness or murder and they were immediately taken care of.
In short, the Prophet Hijrah teaches that wherever Muslims go, they should bring goodness to that land. Muslims should work for both moral and material goodness of the society.
Dear brothers and sisters, know that, a Hijrah was not something special for Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Rather, other Prophets emigrated before Prophet Muhammad. Yet, the Hijrah of Prophet Muhammad differed from those of other Prophets because it was not intended as a flight from torture but as the beginning of the Islamic state.
Most of Allah’s Messengers, if not all, emigrated. However, their emigrations differed from that of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). For example, Prophet Ibrahim (Peace be upon him) emigrated, as related in the Qur’an:
“And Lut believed him, and said: Lo! I am a fugitive unto my Lord. Lo! He, only He, is the Mighty, the Wise.” [Qur’an, 29: 26]
In another verse, Allah Almighty says:
“And he said: Lo! I am going unto my Lord Who will guide me.” [Qur’an, 37: 99]
So, Prophet Ibrahim migrated from place to place till he settled at a town in Palestine, where he was then buried. That town, Al-Khalil Ibrahim, (Hebron) is now named after him.
Prophet Musa (Peace be upon him) also emigrated before he was assigned with the divine mission. He fled from Egypt after he had mistakenly killed an Egyptian. He sought Allah’s forgiveness for that, and a man advised him to get out of Egypt in order to escape people’s revenge. Allah Almighty says:
“And a man came from the uttermost part of the city, running. He said: O Musa! Lo! the chiefs take counsel against you to slay you; therefore escape. Lo! I am of those who give you good advice. So he escaped from thence, fearing, vigilant. He said: My Lord! Deliver me from the wrongdoing folk.” [Qur’an, 28: 20-1]
Then Prophet Musa went to a country called Madyan, where he married the daughter of a righteous man and stayed with him for ten years. Throughout that period, Prophet Musa had no divine mission. He lived as a righteous man, a good husband, and a generous son-in-law; however, he had no prominent role to perform. That is to say, Prophet Musa had emigrated for fear of revenge. He said, as related in the Qur’an:
“Then I fled from you when I feared you, and my Lord vouchsafed me a command and appointed me (of the number) of those sent (by Him).” [Qur’an, 42: 21]
On the other hand, the Hijrah of Prophet Muhammad was not only to escape temptation and torture of his people. It was the starting point to establish the Muslim nation, a new Muslim community based on Islam, the universal divine message that calls for morality and human rights. That was the very purpose of Prophet Muhammad’s Hijrah to Madinah, and he performed his role as best as possible. He put the foundation of a sound Muslim community and established the best nation ever created.
Muslims measure the passage of time using the Islamic (Hijrah) calendar. This calendar has twelve lunar months, the beginnings and endings of which are determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Years are counted since the Hijrah, which is when the Prophet Muhammad migrated from Makkah to Madinah (approximately July 622 CE).
The Islamic calendar was first introduced by the close companion of the Prophet, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab as mentioned above. During his leadership of the Muslim community, in approximately 638 CE, he consulted with his advisors in order to come to a decision regarding the various dating systems used at that time. It was agreed that the most appropriate reference point for the Islamic calendar was the Hijrah, since it was an important turning point for the Muslim community (Ummah).
After the emigration to Madinah, the Muslims were able to organise and establish the first real Muslim community (Ummah), with social, political, and economic independence. Life in Madinah allowed the Muslim community to mature and strengthen, and the people developed an entire society based on Islamic principles.
Today, the Islamic calendar is the official calendar in many Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Other Muslim countries use the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes and only turn to the Islamic calendar for religious purposes.
The Islamic year has twelve months that are based on a lunar cycle. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year) – so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth…” [Qur’an, 9:36]
“It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory, and the moon to be a light of beauty, and measured out stages for it, that you might know the number of years and the count of time. Allah did not create this except in truth and righteousness. And He explains His signs in detail, for those who understand.” [Qur’an, 10: 5]
And in his final sermon before his death, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, among other things:
“With Allah the months are twelve; four of them are holy; three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Sha’aban.” [Bukhari]
Islamic months begin at sunset of the first day, the day when the lunar crescent is visually sighted. The lunar year is approximately 354 days long, so the months rotate backward through the seasons and are not fixed to the Gregorian calendar.
Dear brothers and sisters, as the beginning of the Islamic New Year (1443 A.H.) draws close, we would do well to reflect on the many lessons we can derive from the momentous journey on which the beginning of the Islamic calendar is based. We should not be content to celebrate the new Islamic year without drawing moral and psychological parallels from the Prophet’s journey from Makkah to Madinah to our own context and lives.
All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Dhul-Hijjah 27, 1442 A.H. (August 06, 2021).