The Migration to Abyssinia

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Five years had passed since the coming of the first revelation. It was the month of Rajab. The house of Ibn Arqam as a temporary sanctuary had met their needs to a certain degree, for there was now a place where believers could speak about issues concerning their faith in a peaceful environment. But this environment was limited to the one house only; people who left the house were being followed and especially those who were weak and had no protection were being subjected to increasing violence. With each passing day the Meccans were becoming even more merciless and they were giving no space to the Muslims to live according to their belief. Hence, there was need for a more fundamental solution. In the meanwhile, Allah the Almighty had shown a way to the believers through the Truthful Gabriel:

O My servants who believe: Keep from disobedience to your Lord in reverence for Him and piety. For those devoted to doing good in this world, aware that Allah is seeing them, there is good (by way of recompense), and Allah’s earth is vast (enabling worship). Those who are patient (persevering in adversity, worshipping Allah, and refraining from sins) will surely be given their reward without measure. (az-Zumar 39:10)

The verse was not giving a clear order of migration to everyone, but spoke of the ease and comfort such a journey may afford for living a religious life. Since the world was a vast place; then one had to take advantage of such vastness. Accordingly, the Messenger of Allah would offer the following suggestion: “I wish you could go to Abyssinia, for that is a safe place; and there is a king there under whom no one is oppressed!”

Abyssinia was a known place for Mecca as there was quite a lot of traffic between the two places due to trade. There was a general knowledge about Abyssinia in Mecca due to these visits. That is why the believers were encouraged to go to this land, the land of Najashi (the Negus).

A mere gesture of our noble Prophet would set masses into motion. He was now saying that it was safer to go and live in Abyssinia, and he was encouraging the believers to go in that direction. That is why preparations were now underway and fifteen people, including four women, set for the road in order to escape being the target of violence in Mecca and to be able to live their religion more freely. Among them was the son in law of the Messenger of Allah, Uthman. Naturally, this journey would be made without the knowledge of the Quraysh. In the darkness of the night they set out away from Mecca towards a new world. This was the first migration. It was not clear what would happen but such concerns were hardly important. When it was him who led, what could they possibly worry about! They came to the shores of the peninsula, some on animals, and some on foot. It was Divine will that had decreed that they should go on this journey. They met two ships that were waiting at the shore, and with the price of half a dinar, they bought their passage into Abyssinia.

On the other hand in Mecca, the absence of leading believers who left for Abyssinia, such as Uthman and his wife Ruqayyah, Mus’ab ibn Umayr, Abdurrahman ibn Awf, Abu Salama and his wife Umm Salama and Uthman ibn Maz’un, was greatly being felt. The Quraysh sent men after them to seek and find them. But they were too late, for when they reached the shore, the ships had already set off and the believers had already set sail for a peaceful land.

At last they reached Abyssinia, a place where neither the judgments of Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab, nor the insults of Utba and Shayba, nor the harassment of Uqba and Umayya could follow them! At once all the obstructions that they had faced to live their belief when they were in Mecca had disappeared; they could now pray in peace and read the Qur’an in rapture.

The Messenger of Allah had for a long time not been able to receive any news of those who had gone to Abyssinia, and he was wondering what had become of them. At last a woman who came from those parts said that he had seen Uthman and Ruqayyah. The news brought joy to the Illustrious Beloved of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said: “Verily Uthman and his wife are the third household to have migrated after the household of Ibrahim and Lot.”

This first journey happened in the month of Rajab. Two more months passed. On a day in Ramadan, the Messenger of Allah came to the Ka’ba again and he was worshipping his Lord. A crowd gathered around him once again to observe what he was doing. The Messenger of Allah then started to read the Qur’an wholeheartedly. He was reading Surah an-Najm. These eloquent words that came to the ears attracted the attention of those present and they were listening to him in pure concentration. Till that day, there had always been someone who made noise as the verses of the Qur’an were being read, always someone who would divert people’s attention.

This was probably the first time people could listen to it uninterrupted to appreciate its beauty and wonder. Everyone had forgotten their original intentions and was completely enraptured by the sweet melody of the Qur’an. This Divine articulation was cleaning away the dirt and the rust in minds, and it was transforming them into new people. When the Messenger of Allah read the verse of sajda, in which the prostration was mentioned, he went down to prostrate. Amazingly, all those listening to him also went to prostrate with the Messenger of Allah without questioning what they were doing! It was as though it had not been them who had declared war on this word and to the Messenger of Allah who was delivering it to them. It looked as if the Lord of the Ka’ba had shown a scene from what was to come to the Meccans.

Of course there were others who were watching this scene from afar, and because they had not been close enough, they could not interpret the meaning of what they were seeing and were censuring the Meccans who had prostrated themselves with the Messenger of Allah. This was a censure that called the people to the status of kufr, disbelief that they had been in, and before long many of them would say that they had been bewitched and they turned back. But news of this scene had reached Abyssinia in a very different manner and out of context, only as what had appeared to the onlookers. According to the news that spread, the Meccans had now all become Muslim! Then what reason was there to be away from the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him! If the Meccans had become Muslim, that meant the town no longer held any dangers or oppression for them.

Yes, they were very happy indeed, but they marveled at the news. How could the hatred and rancor that they had encountered change so drastically within the space of two months? How could these cold, hard hearts have softened and gone down in prostration in the presence of their Lord? But they reasoned that when Allah willed, everything was possible and so they decided to return to Mecca at once.

They once again boarded the ship and reached the opposite side of the shore. Unlike before, now they were walking with the excitement and the prospect of reuniting with our noble Prophet, with Mecca, the Ka’ba, their brethren in belief, their families and their homes. But when they came within an hour’s journey to Mecca they finally understood how things really were in Mecca! They had been the victims of a huge misunderstanding! This was a difficult situation indeed! They wavered for a while between going back to Abyssinia and going to Mecca for a little while. Then some of them decided to go back to Abyssinia and some decided to push on towards Mecca.

Yes, those who chose to return to Abyssinia had been saved once again, but they had not been able to see the Messenger of Allah to whom they had come so close! They had not been reunited with their friends in the Ka’ba to converse with them. But at least they had been spared the wrath of the Meccans, and before long, they were back to a land where they could perform their Prayers in peace. Some of those who came to Mecca had found refuge with people who could give them protection for a while. But the others had returned to days of hardship that were even worse than before. The Meccans knew that they had tried to escape and now they were trying to inflict even more injury, verbally and physically, wherever they saw them.

When he heard that the Meccans were migrating to Abyssinia, Mus’ab ibn Umayr had also found a way to escape his imprisonment and joined those who had migrated. He was thus among the first who had migrated in the way of Allah, and was now free of the aggression of his mother and the censure of his father. But now the period of peace he had experienced in Abyssinia was over and he had returned to Mecca.

This was a great opportunity for his mother who tried to lock him up again when he came home. But they were both very adamant, and they were both shedding tears. His mother was crying because she felt she was losing her son for what she considered was an empty cause, and he was upset about his mother who had closed her heart to the Truth and who was insistent on making life very difficult for him. This strife between a young man of faith and his enraged mother was the struggle between dead set denial and steadfastness in faith.

The situation would continue till she expelled her son from the house. Hunas ibn Malik was a woman who could not consider someone who did not listen to her word as her son. One day she had totally become enraged. She had once again insisted, but Mus’ab had not prostrated in front of the various idols, and he had not denied Allah. Her rage overshadowed her feelings as a mother and she said: “Do as you please. I am no longer your mother.”

She deprived Mus’ab of everything. As she expelled her son from her home and bolted the doors, she also bolted her heart against faith. Just as it was difficult for a mother to be separated from her son, it was equally unbearable that a son should leave his mother alone to her devices on this “eternal journey.” Mus’ab was not going to forsake his own mission for worldly cares. What did wealth and possessions mean to him? He had no concerns for worldly goods or his future. His one and only care had become the faith of people; that people should believe, starting from his own mother. He pleaded with his mother: “Dear mother! Please listen to me once! Come and believe that there is no deity but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.”

The invitation was sweet and soft, but the response to it was equally hard and without compromise: “I swear by the stars, never! I have lost neither my mind nor my conscience that I should enter your religion.”

His efforts were yielding no results, and so he bid his farewell and left his mother’s home. He had been expelled from what was before his warm hearth, but now he was going to set up camp in the warmest of hearts! He came to the presence of the Messenger of Allah submitted himself and never left again.

From now on Mus’ab was like the other Companions; he dressed in rough clothes that he could find, sometimes with a full stomach, but too often suffering from hunger. He had now entered the ranks of the poor and slaves like the Habbabs and Bilals. His skin, which he was used to adorn with beautiful scents and lotions, had now become crinkly and was peeling off in places.

One day he was coming to the gathering from afar. The Messenger of Allah was watching him approach with some of the other Companions. Mus’ab’s worn-out but peaceful state had brought tears to the eyes, heads were bowed down, and everyone was sad together! For Mus’ab was in old and worn-out clothes. This was a heart-rending sight to see for those who knew his state before Islam. Bilal had always been poor. Habbab and Ammar had never been rich; they were used to poverty! But Mus’ab was never like that. The Messenger of Allah was deeply moved by what he saw and started to say the following: “I used to see Mus’ab before as well. There was no man more powerful than him in Mecca when he was with his mother and father. He left all that for Allah and His Messenger and came here.”

Mus’ab did not care the slightest bit about all that had befallen him since he had embraced Islam, for clothes could not give man peace. If there was no faith in a heart, what enveloped the body was continued torment. He had one goal, to hold firm onto a medium that reached out beyond the skies in the name of faith. He was getting deeper in this understanding day by day, he was continually making progress. He was memorizing the verses that came day by day, he was learning the fine aspects of his religion from the Perfect Guide, peace and blessings be upon him, and he was trying to live according to the principles he was learning.

Kesmez, Umit. “The Luminous Life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)” Tughra Books Press. December 2014.