22. The Welcome

“Well,” Um Ma’bad started, “From a distance I could see he was very fine-looking, for he had beautiful features and a radiant face. He wasn’t extremely tall, but he wasn’t short. His eyes were the most beautiful black with long lashes, and his eyebrows were delicate and almost connected. He was dignified when he was quiet, and his voice wasn’t sharp when he spoke. His words were like pearls one following the other. His companions listened to him with interest and rushed to do as he said. He was neither frowning and stern, nor simple and naïve.” “O, Um Ma’bad,” her husband responded, “you have described the person from Quraish that I had planned to accompany if I met. And I still will, if I can find a way to meet him.”

There were others anxiously wanting to meet him also. The Muslims of Yathrib and its outskirts had been waiting for Prophet Muhammad (s). Most of them had believed in him without ever seeing him. They knew he was on his way, so every day they would go out and wait until it was too hot to stand in the sun. One day, after they had returned to their homes because of the noon heat, a Jew who stood on the roof of his many-storied house saw the Messenger and Abu Bakr approaching from a distance. He called out to the Muslims, “O Bani Qayla, here, your companion has come!”

Great commotion and takbeer were heard as the Muslims went out to meet the Messenger (s). They came armed to show him that they were ready to defend him from any enemy. The Prophet (s) stayed in this area of Yathrib called Quba’ for four days. He asked the people to collect rocks from the lava plain to build a masjid, and the Prophet (s) carried rocks with them. He showed them where the qibla was and prayed in the not-yet-finished masjid.

By now, Ali bin Abi Talib, who had stayed behind in Mecca for three days returning all the valuables to their rightful owners, caught up with them in Quba’.

Some of the Muslims of Yathrib came to escort Prophet Muhammad (s) to the city and they were armed, too. They surrounded him, unable to turn their faces from him, in joy and love. Each time they would pass by the neighborhood of a tribe, its chiefs would say, “Come to us Oh Messenger (s), we will protect you!” The Prophet (s) would answer, “My camel has orders from Allah. It will know where to stop.”

As this procession neared the city, hundreds of welcoming Ansar, the new Muslims of Yathrib, poured into the streets with great joy and longing. Men and women stood on their bare roof tops, and servants and children ran through the lanes calling out, “Allahu Akbar, the Messenger of Allah has arrived! Muhammad (s) has arrived!” The Abyssinians put on a spear show in celebration, and women and children sang Tala’al Badru Alayna.  Little girls of Bani Najjar tapped their tambourines and said, “We are little girls of Bani Najjar / How dear to us that Muhammad is our neighbor.” “Do you love me?” the Messenger of Allah (s) asked those girls, “Yes,” they answered. “And Allah is my witness that my heart loves you,” he said.

Ten-year-old Anas bin Malik would say, “The day the Messenger of Allah (s) entered Yathrib, everything in the city lit up with a dazzling light. I witnessed that day, and not a single day was brighter or better than it.” From then on, the city’s name changed and it was called, al-Medina al-Munawarah – The Lit-up City.

Everyone was celebrating, everyone, except for one sour-faced man who stood at his door watching with a scowl. The man was called Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salool; and when the Messenger (s) passed by his door, he didn’t reach out for the reins of the camel, he didn’t ask him into his home, although he was the chief of the Khazraj, instead he said, “Go to the people who invited you and stay with them.” The reason he was so upset was that his people had been arranging the jewels on a crown to make him their king. But then they heard of Islam and followed Prophet Muhammad (s) and that left Abdullah bin Ubayy feeling jealous and mad.

The Prophet’s (s) camel showed no sign of stopping. It was as though it realized everyone was watching it, and waiting to see whose home it would choose. And so, it walked, confident and slow, confident and slow, paying no attention to the different people who reached out to gently tug at its reins. Finally, it paused and kneeled down. The Messenger (s) remained sitting. Then, the camel got up and took a few steps forward. Had it chosen its spot?