21. Hijrah

Abu Bakr replied, “There is no one here but your family.”  Then noticing his beloved Muhammad’s (s) excited face, he asked, “Is it companionship O Messenger of Allah (s)?” “Yes,” said the Prophet (s) and it was decided that they would leave together towards Yathrib that evening. Abu Bakr collected his money; then he gave instructions to his son, his daughter Asma’, and his servant.

Prophet Muhammad (s) knew that as soon as he was missed, Quraish would send people to find him. They had been watching him very carefully after so many Muslims had left Mecca. They knew that if he moved to Yathrib, they would not be able to stop Islam from spreading. So that night, they decided on an evil plan. A young man from every tribe in Mecca would wait outside his home, and as soon as he left in the morning, they would attack him together and kill him. It wasn’t because it would take so many people to kill one man, it was so that his family would not be able to take revenge from so many different tribes at once and would have to just accept money as payback instead.

And so, they stood outside his home; but Angel Jibreel informed Prophet Muhammad (s) about their plan. The Prophet (s) asked his brave cousin Ali to sleep in his bed and cover himself with his cover. He needed someone to return all the valuables that people of Quraish still entrusted the Prophet (s) with, so Ali would stay behind to do that. Then, Prophet Muhammad (s) opened the door and walked out. The young men had dozed off, and miraculously the Messenger (s) simply walked past them. He headed for Abu Bakr’s home and the two left from a small backdoor of Abu Bakr’s. They were finally on their way to Yathrib!

Knowing that Quraish would send people to check the road going north to Yathrib, the Messenger (s) went in the opposite direction. He went south and into a cave called Thawr. It was an amazing plan. For three days, Asma’ would bring them their food wrapped in a wide belt around her waist, Abu Bakr’s son would bring them the latest news of Quraish, and his servant would have the flock of sheep erase everyone’s footprints. Still, Quraish would not give up. They combed the area in every direction. Pretty soon there was a group of them standing a little above the cave. Abu Bakr was so frightened that they would discover where they were hiding and kill the Prophet (s). But Prophet Muhammad (s) reassured him saying, “O Abu Bakr, what do you think of two when Allah SWT is their third.” Allah was with them and Allah protected them. Just as the men were about to check out the cave, they noticed a spider’s web and a pigeon’s nest at its entrance, both made it seem like no one had entered the cave in a long time, so they moved on. But the danger was not over.

As they headed north, someone spotted them. This was mentioned in front of a man called Suraqa. Quraish had offered 100 camels to whoever brought them Muhammad dead or alive. Quickly, Suraqa followed them on his horse, until he could see Abu Bakr turning to look at him fearfully. When he was about to catch up with them, the feet of Suraqa’s horse sank in the ground and a whirlwind of dust rose between them. Suraqa spurred his horse who rose but sank again. Again, the whirlwind of desert sand rose between them. Suraqa now realized that this was truly the Messenger of God, and that God was protecting him. So he called out to the Prophet (s) for help and his horse was freed. Suraqa asked the two if they needed any help. They told him to make sure people didn’t follow them. And so, Suraqa who had gone after them a few hours ago, his heart filled with greed for the reward of killing Muhammad, now returned to Mecca to distract people and ensure Muhammad’s (s) safety.

The Prophet (s) was sad to leave Mecca, but he was obeying Allah’s orders. It was a long and difficult trip. The path was rocky and painful and the soles of the Prophet’s feet wore thin, and yet there was an excitement in the idea of going to a place where most of the people were Muslim. An excitement in being welcomed rather than being harmed and threatened.

Both men were tired, thirsty, and hungry when they came upon the tent of a woman called Um Ma’bad. Um Ma’bad was an old woman that would usually sell food and drink to travelers in the desert, but when Prophet Muhammad (s) and Abu Bakr got there she had nothing. There had been no rain for a long time, and the animals were too thin to eat or to give milk. But the Prophet (s) asked her if he could milk her old sheep, and miraculously, the bowl was brimming with foaming milk. The woman drank, Abu Bakr drank, and then Prophet Muhammad (s) drank last. He milked the animal again for the woman, then they left.

When the old woman’s husband returned with his tired sheep later in the day, he was surprised to see a bowl filled with milk. “Where did this come from?” he asked. “A stranger passed by and he milked our sheep that was too tired to join the flock,” she answered. “Describe him to me,” he said. Um Ma’bad was an old woman, but she had keen eyes and a gift for words. Her description of the Prophet (s) has been remembered and repeated for over 1400 years…