The Hijrah; the Flight of the Prophet

The Turning Point

The Hijrah, which means “flight’, marks a dramatic turning point in the career of the Prophet of Allah, Mohammad. It’s supreme importance to Islam is highlighted by the fact that all Islamic calendars mark July, 16, 622 A.D. as their starting point. 632 AD, then is A.H. (the year of the Hijra) 10 on Islamic calendars.

The year of the Hijra delineates a divide also in the behavior and demeanor of Mohammad between his earlier Meccan years and those after the Hijrah and his time in Medina. In his early Meccan period, the Prophet was sympathetic towards his Jewish and Christian neighbors. And even when they rejected his teachings he was too weak and vulnerable to take any action.

After he left Mecca a second time to sojourn in Medina, he began to grow in power and following, and it was from there that he ordered his first raid on a caravan for booty. This was the Nahkla Raid, which took place during a month the Arab tribes had set apart for peace, a time of truce.  Muslim scholar, Ali Dashti has this to say over the Nahkla raid and those that soon followed;

“After the Nahkla raid, further attacks on the Quorayshite caravans and unfriendly tribes met with success and helped to make the financial position of the Moslems more secure. This raiding opened the way for the acquisition of power by the prophet Mohammad…but the immediate step which secured the economic base…and the prestige…was the their seizure of the property of the Jews of Yathrub.” (1)

It was at this time that Mohammad changed the direction of prayer for his followers from Jerusalem to Mecca. And the keeping of a Saturday sabbath to a Friday sabbath for all Muslims was now enjoined.

From this point forward, Mohammad found it impossible to resist attacking the Jewish settlements for their wealth and goods. The Jewish people, not having a warlike culture common to Arab tribes, and being men of business rather than nomadic raiders, were easy targets. In one raid alone the prophet had 700 to 800 men beheaded and their wives and children sold into slavery.

The Jews were not lacking “chutzpah”. One poetess rebuked Mohammad and teased him for stealing material for the Quran, from her father, a local poet. At Muhammad’s orders, an assassin snuck into her tent at night, quietly removed her sleeping children from her breasts, and silenced her for ever with a swift stroke of his sword. Yet her audacious provoking of Mojammad to anger by publicly revealing his use of her fathers poetry in the Quran, is legendary. This type of courage would show its face again in Stalag 16 and else where across war-torn Europe, where the Jewish taught their Nazi tormenters a lesson in house to house warfare. In Warsaw, the faces of the German SS troops were ashen with fear as they were ordered to enter the city to put down the Jewish rebellion. A rebellion by a people they had been taught couldn’t fight.

History, the Hadiths, and the Quran all testify of two Muhammad’s. An earlier, pacific one in his early days and a powerful religious warlord in his post Medina days. The difference is so marked that even the Quran is interpreted according to the principle of abrogation. By this, later Medinan verses over rule earlier Meccan ones if a contradiction occurs. Just as a later Mohammad undeniably contradicted the earlier, pre-Hijrah Prophet of Allah.

(1) Dashti, Ali, 23 years; a study of the prophets career of Mohammad, London, 1985

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About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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