20. Six Men

The six men were from the city of Yathrib. All their lives they had heard from the Jews living in their city that a prophet would be coming soon. What Prophet Muhammad (s) told them was no different than what he had said to others before them, but the hearts of these men were open to the truth. When they heard Quran, they turned to one another and said, “This must be the prophet the Jews have been speaking of.” Then they said to the Messenger (s), “Our people are divided and have fought many wars against each other; perhaps if they would believe in this religion, they would come together in peace. We shall call them to this religion and if they respond, you will be powerful with their support.” They promised the Prophet (s) they would come back next year to meet him again, during the season of Haj.

The six men went back to Yathrib and began to tell people about Islam. The next year twelve men came to meet Prophet Muhammad (s). They were eager to see him and to listen to his teachings. They wanted him to come and live in their city. He asked them to make him a promise that they would never believe in any gods other than Allah – the One who created them – and that they would do good deeds. This was called the promise of Aqaba, because they were at a place called Aqaba when they made it. The twelve Muslims asked Prophet Muhammad (s) to send someone back with them to teach them Quran and Islam. He sent Mus’ab bin Umayr.

Remember Mus’ab bin Umayr? The handsome and wealthy young man that came to Islam very early? Now, he was sent by the Prophet (s) to teach the new Muslims of Yathrib. But that is not all he did. Mus’ab worked very hard. He taught the Muslims Quran and how to practice Islam. He also called the idol worshippers of Yathrib to the belief in One God. Soon, Islam had entered every house in Yathrib! As the time for the next Haj neared, 73 men and 2 women joined the larger group of pilgrims from Yathrib; but actually, they were going to meet Prophet Muhammad (s).

It is the middle of the night now in Mecca, and this is the camp of the people of Yathrib. But look! Someone has raised his head to look around. Someone is silently motioning to others to follow him. Look at these people creeping quietly out of the camp. They are going to meet the Prophet (s) in Aqaba. You can almost hear their hearts beating with excitement. Soon they will be standing there before the man they believed in without ever seeing him, and they will be making their promise to protect him from that which they protect their own families. They will tell him Yathrib is ready to welcome him and the Muslims of Quraish. They will ask him to come with them now.

The next day, Quraish was told of this meeting. They spoke angrily to the chiefs of Yathrib, “Last night you met with this troublesome person Muhammad and invited him to your city!” they exclaimed. “Are you planning on going to war with us?!” The chiefs of Yathrib swore to them that no such thing took place. And they were being honest, for they knew nothing of the meeting.

Now, Prophet Muhammad (s) asked the Muslims to go to Yathrib. He told them that it was to be their new home and that it was Allah’s wish. In Yathrib they would be able to practice Islam freely. But it was not that simple. They had to leave in secret, and that meant they couldn’t say goodbye to family, they couldn’t sell their homes, nor could they take their money or anything valuable with them. The trip to Yathrib wasn’t easy either. They couldn’t travel in a caravan or as a group. Some of them were caught leaving, and were imprisoned by their families, and then they were tortured to make them leave Islam.

But the Muslims continued to escape; until finally there were no Muslims left in Mecca except those who were imprisoned or too weak to leave and two families: the family of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the family of Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr was anxious to obey Allah and migrate to Yathrib but when he asked Prophet Muhammad for permission, he was told to wait. Hopeful that that meant they would be traveling together, Abu Bakr bought two camels and cared for them daily. And so, they waited.

One day, young Aisha, Abu Bakr’s daughter, saw the Prophet (s) coming to their home at noon. This was a time he never ever visited them in. He seemed agitated and as soon as he entered, he said to Abu Bakr, “Let everyone leave the room, I need to speak to you!”