Why the Year of Migration (Hijrah) became the Era of Islamic History?
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
Islam is the most perfect heavenly religion and adapts the religions of Musa and 'Isa in a more perfect form suited to all the conditions and situations. It has brought blessing for mankind. Although Jesus and his birth are respectable in the eyes of the Muslims, they did not adopt his birth as the origin of their era, because they are an independent and distinguished nation and it is not appropriate that they should follow others in adopting their era. For quite some time the 'Year of the Elephant' (the year in which Abraha came to Makkah with an army of elephants and wished to demolish the Ka'bah) was treated by the Arabs to be the origin of history and the birth of the Prophet also took place in the same year. However, the Muslims did not treat it to be the first page of the history of Islam.
The year of Be'that (appointment to the prophetic mission) was also not treated to be the starting point of the history of the Muslims, because at that time there was no trace of Islam and the Islamic faith, and the number of the Muslims in those days did not exceed three. However, in the first year of migration, Islam and the Muslims were blessed with a great success. An independent government came into existence in Madina. The Muslims got rid of homelessness and freely gathered at a central place. On account of this very success and victory, therefore, they decided to treat that year to be the starting point of their history and till today they reckon the date of everything; good and evil in accordance with it.
SCHEDULE OF THE JOURNEY
The journey which the Prophet had to perform consisted of a distance of about 400 kilometers, and covering this distance in the scorching heat of summer necessitated correct planning. Furthermore, they (i.e the Prophet and his companions) were also afraid of the Arabs, who met them on the way, for they might report their whereabouts to Quraysh. They, therefore, performed the journey at night and rested during day-time.
It seems that a camel-rider, having seen the Prophet and his companions from a distance, went to Quraysh at once and informed them of the itinerary of the Prophet. In order to earn the prize alone, Saraqah bin Malik bin Ja'sham Madlaji dissuaded others from pursuing the matter and told them that they (i.e. the persons seen by the said camel-driver) were some other persons. Then he came to his house, armed himself, rode a swift horse and reached, as quickly as possible, the spot where the Prophet and his companions were resting.
Ibn Athir writes: "This state of affairs made the Prophet's companion very sad and the Prophet had to console him once again with the words: 'Don't worry. Allah is with us'. Saraqah was very proud of his physical strength and sharp weapons and was quite ready to shed the blood of the Prophet to earn the biggest prize offered by the Arabs.
In the meantime the Prophet prayed for himself and his companions with a heart overflowing with faith and confidence and said "O Allah! Save us from the mischief of this man". Suddenly Saraqah's horse got startled and threw him violently on the ground. Saraqah realized that a Divine hand was at work and these developments were due to the bad intention which he had against Muhammad. He, therefore, turned to the Prophet in a beseeching manner and said: "I surrender my slave and camel to you and am prepared to do whatever you like". The Prophet then replied: "I want nothing from you".
However, the late Allamah Majlisi says that the Prophet said to him: "Return and dissuade others from pursuing us". Hence Saraqah told whomsoever he met: "There is no trace of Muhammad on this route".
The Sunni and Shi'ah writers have quoted miracles which were performed by the Prophet during his journey from Makkah to Madina. For brevity's sake, however, we refrain from narrating them.
ARRIVAL IN THE VILLAGE OF QUBA
Quba, which is situated at a distance of two leagues from Madina, was the seat of the tribe of 'Bani 'Amr bin 'Auf'. The Prophet and his companions reached there on Monday the 12th of Rabiul Awwal and stayed at the house of Kulsum ibnul Hadam, the chief of the tribe. A number of 'Muhajirs' (migrants) and 'Ansar' (helpers) were then awaiting the arrival of the Prophet.
The Prophet stayed there till the end of the week and during this time he laid the foundation of a mosque for the tribe of Bani 'Awf. Some persons insisted upon his proceeding to Madina as early as possible. He was, however, waiting tor the arrival of his cousin, Ali.
After the migration of the Prophet, Ali stood up at a place in Makkah and said: "Whoever has entrusted anything to Muhammad should come and take it back from me". Those concerned came and took back their things after mentioning the marks of identification. Thereafter, according to the directions given by the Prophet, Ali had to take to Madina, along with himself, the Hashmite women including Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet and his own mother Fatimah binte Asad, and also those Muslims who had not till then been able to migrate. Ali adopted the route of 'Zi Tuwa' and proceeded to Madina at night.
Shaykh Tusi writes: "The spies of Quraysh came to know about the migration of Ali and his party. They, therefore, pursued him and came face to face with him in the area of 'Zajnan'. Hot words were exchanged between them. During that time the cries of women were reaching the sky. Ali realized that he had no alternative left but to defend the honour of Islam and the Muslims. He, therefore, turned to the opponents and said: "Whoever wishes that his body should be cut into pieces and his blood should be shed should come forward". Signs of wrath were visible on his face. The agents of Quraysh felt that the matter had become serious. They, therefore, adopted a conciliatory attitude and took to the way they had come".
Ibn Athir writes: "When Ali reached Quba, his feet were bleeding. The Prophet was informed that Ali had arrived, but was not in a position to come up before him. The Prophet immediately went to the place where Ali was, and took him in his lap, and when he saw the swollen feet of Ali tears began to flow from his eyes".The Prophet arrived at Quba on the twelfth of Rabiul Awwal and Ali joined him there in the middle of the same month. This view is supported by Tabari: "Ali stayed in Makkah for three days after the migration of the Prophet and during this period he returned to their owners the things which they had entrusted (to the Prophet)".
TUMULT AND GLAMOUR OF JOY IN MADINA
There was a great excitement and jubilation among the people who had expressed faith in the Prophet three years ago and sent their representatives to him every year and used his sacred name every day in their prayers, when they learned that their great leader had arrived at a distance of only two leagues and was likely to enter their city soon. What their feelings and emotions were cannot be described in words.
The Ansar had thirst for Islam and its sublime and invigorative programme, and in order to purify Madina of all traces of polytheism and idol-worship they had burnt the idols and had removed all signs of idolatry from the homes, the streets and the bazaars of the city. It will be appropriate if we quote here an example of the interest taken by the Ansar in Islam.
'Arnr bin Jumuh, who was one of the chiefs of Banu Salmah tribe, had placed an idol in his house. In order to make him realize that the wooden idol was a useless thing, the men of his tribe took it away and threw it upside down in a pit which was used in those days for easing nature. He got up in the morning and, after making a good deal of search, found the idol in that pit. He picked it up, washed it and restored it to its place. This drama was repeated many times. Eventually 'Amr tied a sword round the neck of the idol and said: "If you are the origin of any strength in this world defend yourself". One day, however, he found the idol in a well, tied to the dead body of a dog, and without the sword. Observing these events he realized that the status of man was much higher than that he should bow his head before every stone, wood or mud. Then he recited some verses whose purport is this: "By Allah! If you had been a true god you would not have been lying in a well tied to a dead dog. Praise be to Allah Who owns all blessings. It is He Who is Merciful and Who nourishes and gives reward. It is He Who grants us salvation before we are consigned to the grave".
The Prophet proceeded to Madina. When his mount descended at Thaniyatul Wida' and set its foot on the land of Yathrib the people warmly welcomed and greeted him and began singing mirthful songs to this effect: "The moon rose from Thaniyatul Wida'. It is our duty to be thankful for this blessing till the day when even one person on the face of the earth prays to Allah and worships Him".
"O you, who hate been sent by Allah for our guidance! It is necessary for all of us to obey your orders".
The tribe of Bani 'Amr bin 'Awf insisted that the Prophet might stay on in Quba and said: "We are assiduous, steadfast and brave people". The Prophet did not, however, agree to this. When the people of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj came to know about the migration of the Prophet, they armed themselves and hurried to welcome him. While he was proceeding on his way the people encircled his camel and the chiefs of the tribes held its bridle. Every one of them insisted that the Prophet might stay in his area, but he replied to all of them: "Don't obstruct the camel. I shall dismount wherever it kneels down". The camel stopped and bent its knees in a spacious piece of land which belonged to two orphan boys named Sahl and Suhayl who lived under the protection and guardianship of As'ad bin Zurarah. This land was used for drying palm-dates and for agriculture. The house of Abu Ayub was situated nearby. His mother, therefore, availed of the opportunity and took the belongings of the Prophet to her own house. Hence competition and solicitations began for taking the Prophet. He, however, cut the argument short and said, "Where are my belongings?" He was told that Abu Ayub's mother had taken them to her house. Thereupon he said: "Let somebody go to the place where my belongings are". And As'ad bin Zurarah took the camel of the Prophet to his own house.
SEEDS OF DISSENSION
Abdullah bin Ubay is considered the chief of the hierarchy of hypocrites. Before the people of Madina concluded an agreement with the Prophet they had decided to select Ubay as their absolute ruler. However, on account of the relationship which Aws and Khazraj developed with the Prophet this decision was automatically dropped, and from this very moment he nursed a grudge against the great leader of Islam and did not believe in him till the last moment of his life. On observing the welcome accorded by the people of Aws and Khazraj to the Prophet he was very much disturbed and could not help uttering a sentence, which fully indicates his envy and enmity against him. He turned his face to the Prophet and said: "Go to the people who have deceived you and don't deceive us here".
Said bin Ubadah, fearing that the Prophet might treat his words to be true (i.e. indicative of the sentiments of the Ansar or take them to heart, apologized for his remark and said to the Prophet: "He has said these words on account of grudge and enmity, because it had been decided that he should be the absolute ruler of Aws and Khazraj and now, by your arrival, his rulership has become out of question.
The historians generally say that the Prophet arrived in Madina on Friday and offered Friday prayers along with his companions at a spot which was situated in the area of Bani Salim tribe. Here he delivered an eloquent sermon which made deep impression on the hearts of the people who had never heard such words before. The text of this sermon has been quoted by Ibn Hisham, Miqrizi in Amta'ul Asma' and by Allamah Majlisi. However, the wording and contents of the sermon as quoted by the first two are different from those quoted by Allamah Majlisi.
 lbn Wazeh Akhbari writes in his history entiitled 'Tarikh-i Ya'qubi' that in the 16th year of 'migration' the second caliph determined to fix a starting point of the history of the Muslims. He wished that it should be the date of the birth of the Prophet or the date of his appointment to the prophetic mission, but Ali did not endorse his views and said that 'migration' should be the origin of Islamic history. (Tarikh-i Ya'qubi, vol. II, page 135).
 Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 74.
 Most of the biographers of the Prophet, like Ibn Athir (Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 74) and Majlisi (Bihar, vol. IX, page 88) have quoted this incident, as narrated above, from the sixth Imam with reliable sources. However, the author of 'Hayat-i Muhammad' says: "Saraqah considered these occurrences to be a bad omen and thought that the gods wished to prevent him from this task".
 Biharul Anwar, vol. XIX, page 75.
 'Amali, page 300.
 Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 75.
 Imta'ul Asma, page 48.
 Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. I, page 106.
 Usudul Ghabah, vol. IV, page 99.
 Biharul Anwar, vol. XIX, page 108; but according to some books including Tarikh-i Kamil they were under the guardianship of Mu'az bin 'Afra'.
 Biharul Anwar, vol. XIX, page 108.,
 Seerah, vol. I, pp. 500 - 501.
 Biharul Anwar, vol. XIX, page 126.