Sometimes we forget that all the Sahabah, the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, were new Muslims. Many of them were amongst the Muhajireen, those who emigrated with the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah, and the Ansar, those who welcomed and helped the Prophet and his companions in Madinah.
Today, the opportunity to follow the Prophet and make Hijrah or to be amongst those who helped him is long gone. However, there are still many ways in which we can embody the spirit of the Muhajireen and the Ansar.
All new Muslims are Muhajireen. As the Hadith states that those who move from unbelief to belief in Allah or from wrong actions to that which pleases Allah are doing Hijrah (Musnad Ahmad). If that is so, then those who welcome new Muslims into the community and help them can be considered Ansar. This is one way of embodying the spirit of the Hijrah.
At the age of fourteen, Harry made Hijrah
Harry became Muslim when he was fourteen. He grew up in a very humble household, his mum was a single parent and he had a younger sister. Since he was ten, he was sent to a catholic boarding school where they provided for everything.
The school had daily religious classes and students were required to attend daily mass. One way or the other, they installed a sense of the Divine in the children. They did not foresee, however, that for Harry what they had taught him was not enough.
Since the age of twelve, Harry began to show doubts in the catholic faith. He questioned the teachers and, surprisingly, some of them encouraged him to study further and investigate on his own. That is how Harry found about Islam.
Harry’s mum had a friend, Layla, that was Muslim. When Harry told her about his interest in Islam she rang her. Layla invited them to come over to her place and meet her husband.
Layla’s husband, Mahmoud, took Harry under his wing from day one. He taught him about the Deen, took him to the mosque and introduced him to other Muslim youngsters. Mahmoud and Layla’s children were all grown up and Mahmoud became the father figure that Harry never had. Eventually, Harry left the catholic boarding school and at the age of fourteen said his Shahadah.
Becoming Muslim is Making Hijrah
Making Hijrah is not only physical. As the Hadith states, those who go from unbelief to belief in Allah are making Hijrah because they are abandoning what is a false premise for the truth. Those who go from what Allah dislikes towards what pleases Him are also making Hijrah.
Sometimes, especially for new Muslims, this Hijrah is not only spiritual, but has many practical implications in their daily lives. Islam is a way of life which might impact all areas of our lives. A new Muslim might find himself drifting far away from his previous social circle and, sometimes, even rejected by his or her own family.
The new Muslim’s Hijrah is not only spiritual but also social and even financial. He leaves a place, people and means that are known to him towards the certainty of belief, but social and financial uncertainty. This can be a very difficult journey, even more than an actual physical one.
Here is where those who are already Muslims can help. They can help him by welcoming and supporting him until he finds his feet again, the same way that a traveller that arrives at a new place might need help.
The Little Ansar
When Emily walked for the first time into a mosque, after weeks of building up her courage, she didn’t know the proper etiquette. She knew she should wear modest clothing and somehow cover up her hair, but not really how to do it.
Emily walked into the lady’s section and no one really paid much attention to her, other than a few disapproving sights at her not very well put together looks. Feeling a bit confused and overwhelmed, Emily was about to walk out when Mariam, a nine years old girl walked up to her and said: “I like your scarf”. Emily smiled at her a relaxed a bit. “Thank you” she answered, “I like yours too!”. “What is your name?” asked Mariam, “I haven’t seen you before”. “My name is Emily” she answered. Mariam looked surprised. “Are you Muslim?” she asked. “Well… not yet,” said Emily a bit nervous. “Oh, it’s ok, my mum has many friends that are not Muslims, so we can be friends”. Emily smiled at her, “of course, we can be friends”.
Mariam ran to her mum to tell her about her new friend and when Mariam’s mum understood what she was trying to explain very excitedly, she rushed to meet Emily and help her out. From that day, Emily, Mariam and Mariam’s mum are always seen together.
Embodying the Spirit of the Ansar
If new Muslims are Muhajireen because they emigrate from the comfort of the known but false to the discomfort of the unknown but true, then, those who are born Muslim, or have become Muslims before them, can be considered Ansar because they welcome them and help them settle in a new place.
The Ansar in the times of the Prophet were those who welcomed and helped the Prophet and his Companions who emigrated from Madinah settle and start a new life.
The Prophet made a conscious effort for this to happen with an unprecedented brotherhood pact amongst them. So strong was the bond between them that they shared their households, wealth and family.
This bond of brotherhood, not supported by anything else than a shared belief in God and the desire to live a life accordingly, was one of the pillars of the success and expansion of Islam.
Today and always, we have the possibility of embodying this pact.