One may wonder, “Why would the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and Muslims leave their hometown, Makkah, to some far place like this?”
The straightforward answer is because he and the Muslims were not able to worship Allah in Makkah and they have been tortured by the Makkans.
While that was absolutely true, this may have been the cause of migrating to Abyssinia as a few of the companions did a few years back.
The Prophet and the rest of the believers could have joined their fellow Muslims there. They would have the opportunity to worship in peace over there.
In fact, right before the death of the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Talib, the leaders of Makkah offered the Prophet to let him worship the way he wanted on the condition that he would not get involved in the public life: no more calling to Allah, no more values Islam promotes, no more involvement in their “business.”
The Prophet could have accepted this offer and saved himself and his companions the trouble of migration.
A Mission beyond individual rituals
It was clear that the Prophet was not looking for a place where he can do his rituals in peace. He was not looking for just a quiet place.
Rather, he was looking for a place where he can fulfill his obligation in conveying his message to the whole world. He was entrusted with this message and he was required to convey it to the world.
The mercy that Islam came with is not exclusive to the Prophet or the few people around him. The world had the right to know this message, to experience its mercy, and have the ability and the freedom to embrace it.
The Prophet wanted to do so in a world full of tyrants, kings, and regimes that oppressed people and would not make his job easy.
What took place in Makkah is just an example of what he will face. With a place as hostile as Makkah, it is almost impossible to fulfill his responsibility.
The message of Islam and the values it brings will be opposed and fought and, therefore, need a lot of efforts and support. Such efforts and support were lacking in Makkah.
The Prophet tried and hoped for Makkah to be this home, this support, and the nucleus that would spread the light of Islam to the world. You can see this in his words to the leaders of Makkah.
When the Prophet found out that Makkah is no longer this place, he started looking outside. He traveled to At-Taif, another big city not far from Makkah, and came home with no success.
He talked to many tribes and individuals during the season of Hajj with no one accepting his message.
It was very clear in his message to these tribes and groups that he was not simply asking them to believe in him. He was explicitly demanding their support to his message and to his cause.
Kings will hate you!
One of the most interesting conversations that took place during that time was the conversation with Bani Shaiban. The conversation took place with 4 of their top leaders.
They were a strong tribe, large in number, and known of high quality character, a perfect fit for what the Prophet was looking for.
They even liked the message of Islam and they all agreed that it was worth believing in it. However, at the end of the conversation, one of their leaders said,
“We think that what you came with is something kings hate. If you want, we can host you and protect you from all the Arabs. However, we won’t be able to protect you from others.”
They were referring to the great Persian Empire not far from the north of where they lived. More interesting than the offer was the response of the Prophet to the offer.
He politely refused the offer clearly pointing out that he was looking for someone to shoulder this responsibility all the time in the face of all difficulties, a very clear sign that the Prophet was not looking for a place to live and perform some rituals.
The Hijrah marked the move where Islam had the hosting city. It marked the event where the Prophet finally had the support he was looking for.
The Hijrah marked the event where Muslims started spreading their message away from the torture of Makkah.
A Muslim’s Responsibility
We should understand our role as bearers of the message of Islam in our land. Our people have the right to know this message, pure and clear.
Our people have the right to learn about it and have the right to embrace it if they want. We cannot confine our role to be a group of people who worship Allah in isolation.
The message of Islam is a message of mercy to mankind until the Day of Judgment.
As it was the responsibility of the Prophet and his Companions to carry out this message until it has reached us, it is our responsibility to take it to our people and to generations to come.
Why would others migrate?
Another question that comes to one’s mind when the issue of migration is mentioned:
Why could not the Prophet leave alone?
He could have gone to find support in Madinah and let the Makkan Muslims stay in Makkah among their tribes. So, why the trouble?
Same answer, the effort needed to shoulder this responsibility is beyond the effort of the Prophet alone. It is beyond the effort of the few in Madinah.
It requires the effort of everyone: men and women, Makkan Muslims and others.
That is why it was required that every Muslim should migrate to Madinah unless the Prophet explicitly asked him not to.
That is why we see whole tribes coming to join Madinah.
We take the migration process lightly. Imagine; you lead a normal life, you have kids and a family, you have businesses and wealth. Imagine that you have to leave all this and migrate.
Some of these Companions left behind their whole family. Others left behind the savings of their life. Some left behind their houses and a lot of memories.
They left to a place where they knew no one and had no place to stay in. They left to a different climate where most of them got sick.
The most interesting part is that they did all that very quickly and very willingly.
Two interesting stories show themselves regarding this point: The first was the story of the family of Abu Salamah and his wife, Um Salamah. Without getting into the details of the sad story, migration for Abu Salamah meant leaving his beloved wife.
It meant also leaving his very young child. For Um Salamah, it meant losing her husband and her son. It meant traveling alone to Madinah after two years for about 500 kilometers
The second story was about a Roman young man, Suhaib, who came to Makkah when young and made a lot of money. When he decided to migrate, the Makkans told him, “You came to us as a poor boy and you made a lot of money. You can’t leave.”
He made a deal with them to tell them about the place where he had hidden his wealth in recompense for letting him leave. They agreed and he traveled.
Allah revealed Qur’anic verses about this story and the Prophet received him saying, “O Abu Yahia, what a successful transaction! What a successful transaction!”
Are we ready to migrate?
Are we ready to sacrifice for Islam the same way these people did?
How much of life comfort are we willing to give up in support of our message?
Are we ready to spend money, expend effort, and lose loved ones for the sake of Allah?
Are we willing to put our life as servants of this religion and workers for this cause?
These are the questions we need to ask if we want to leave behind a remarkable event such as the Hijrah.
Excerpted, with slight modifications, from Lectures and Thoughts.