Was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the first refugee prophet in history?
Or were there earlier prophets God sent humanity who also went through this major hardship?
The answer to this question is that he (peace be upon him) was, in fact, not the first.
Before him, Prophet Abraham and Prophet Lot both suffered the same fate (peace be upon them both). The Quran mentions them in this verse:
And Lot believed him. [Abraham] said, “Indeed, I will emigrate to [the service of] my Lord. Indeed, He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”(29:26)
Allah (SWT) also says in the Quran:
And We delivered him (Abraham) and Lot to the land which We had blessed for the worlds.”(21:71)
Other prophets were also subsequently forced to leave their lands when their people could no longer tolerate hearing the Truth.
Who is Considered a Refugee?
A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
Does Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) fit this profile?
Indeed he does. He had to leave home not only because of persecution but to save his life. The night he left Makkah, his enemies were standing outside his house ready to kill him. But God saved him.
New converts to Islam living today in non-Muslim countries are not required to emigrate to a Muslim country. But anyone in that situation will find inspiration in how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers dealt with life in a “foreign land.”
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) left Makkah, he departed with tears in his eyes. As he looked back at Makkah one last time, he said:
By Allah, you are the best and most beloved land to Allah. Had I not been driven away from you, I would not have left you.”(Hadith in At-Tirmidhi)
Loving one’s homeland is a natural human feeling. Now that you have converted to Islam, your attachment to your country should remain unchanged. In fact, your love for your homeland and your people should increase.
As mentioned in Part 15, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr stopped in Quba’, close to Madinah. In Quba’ they built the first ever masjid, before proceeding to their final destination.
A Jewish Scholar Converts to Islam
Al Husayn ibn Salam was a leading Jewish scholar who resided in Madinah. He belonged to Banu Qaynuqa’, one of the three main Jewish tribes that had settled around Madinah.
His story is amazing. He recognized Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he arrived. His description matched the description they had of the chosen prophet in the Torah. They knew him as they knew their own sons, as Allah says in the Quran:
Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it].”(2:146)
He converted to Islam right away, and Prophet Muhammad gave him the name Abdullah ibn Salam.
Allah mentions him in the Quran as “the witness from the Children of Israel” in the following verse:
“Say, “Have you considered: if the Qur’an was from Allah, and you disbelieved in it while a witness from the Children of Israel has testified to something similar and believed while you were arrogant…?” Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.”(46:10)
Prophet Muhammad’s First Words in Madinah
In a sound hadith in Al-Bukhari, Abdullah ibn Salam recounts what happened when the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived in Madinah:
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived for the first time in Madinah, I went with everyone to see him. When I saw him, I knew his face was not that of a liar. The first words he said were:
O people: Feed the hungry, spread Salam (greeting of peace), maintain your kin relationships, and pray at night while others are asleep. With this, you shall enter Heaven in peace.”(Al-Bukhari)
As a new convert to Islam, always keep these four priorities in mind. They are important in helping believers enter Heaven in peace, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in this hadith.
A Second Witness: Salman the Persian
Salman searched for the Truth his whole life. In Persia, he was born into a rich family, and his father was the village chief. He followed the Zoroastrian religion and reached the position of custodian of the fire they worshipped.
But one day he discovered another path; the path of Monotheism. A small group of Nazirites (an early version of Christianity who believed that Jesus was a prophet) told him he should go to the Levant (Syria) if he wanted to learn more.
His father tried to dissuade him from changing his religion and caused him a lot of harm. He tied him in chains and locked him up, but Salman insisted on following the path of God.
One day, he managed to escape from home and joined a caravan heading to Syria. There, he joined a church and studied Christianity for several years from different church leaders and scholars he met.
Before the last of these scholars passed away, he told him that this was the time for God’s last prophet. He told him he would appear in the lands of the Arabs in a place with abundant palm trees.
Then he gave him three signs to recognize him. He would be a man known for his honesty. He would accept a gift but would not accept charity for himself. And he had the seal of prophethood between his shoulders.
After a sequence of events, Salman ended up in Madinah. One day, he heard that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had arrived from Makkah.
So, he went to meet him to check the three signs his teacher had told him about. He confirmed the three signs were true, saw the seal of prophethood between his shoulders, and immediately accepted Islam.
What happened next? What were Prophet Muhammad’s first initiatives in Madinah?
More events will be detailed in the next part of this series, in sha’ Allah.
So please stay tuned…
Activities for New Converts Following this Series
1- New Converts Living in the West or the East
2- Peace in Islam
3- Maintaining Ties of Kinship & Feeding the Needy
4- Send us your questions on this series to [email protected]
This is a special series for new converts to learn about Islam in a comprehensive way through learning the Seerah (Biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)) in a gradual, chronological way. We add a few more resources of other related areas of Islamic knowledge in each part of the Seerah at the end of each article as extra learning resources.
We are also adding videos to this series as we progress from Year 1 to Year 23 in sha’ Allah.
The references we use in each article are given below for further details. Please feel free to send us any questions you may have to this e-mail: [email protected].
You may also wish to join our Facebook Group, Islam 101, for further learning and also to interact with fellow new converts and those who are new to Islam here.