During the Khilafah of Umar bin al-Khattab the sahaba agreed to start the Islamic calendar from when the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم made hijra to Medina and established the first Islamic State. As we enter the blessed month of Muharram and the year 1431 we should remind ourselves of the hijra and dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding it.
Very often when the Hijrah is discussed, we tend to limit ourselves to the details describing how the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم hid in a cave or who slept in his صلى الله عليه وسلم bed. This process inevitably diverts us from discussing the true substance of the event. An account of such events should serve only to remind us that Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, while relying on the revelation as the source of the Islamic Message, had to carry the Islamic Da'wah as a human being, and through the means accessible to a human being.
The Hijrah to Medinah did not take place because the Muslims in Mecca wanted to avoid the persecution there, or because they wanted to find a safe haven for themselves, or to run away from the hardships they faced in that city. Rather, it was an event that took history in a new direction, and this can only be seen if we look at the Seerah in the correct manner.
The Seerah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم is an integral part of the Sunnah, and is just as much a part of the revelation as is the Qur'an. After a careful study of it, we can extract a very specific method for carrying out the Da'wah, and if our aim is to please Allah سبحانه وتعالى, then it is our obligation to adhere to this method step by step, through each and every phase.
"And whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you avoid it." (Al-Hashr, 59:7)
According to the Seerah, the Hijrah marks the transition from the phase in the Da'wah known as "Seeking the Nusrah" to the phase where Islam is implemented in the form of a state. The Nusrah is the transfer of authority to a person via the material support or allegiance from the powerful elements of a society. The Hijrah is a direct result of seeking, and subsequently receiving, the Nusrah.
When Mus'ab ibn Umair (ra) was sent to Medinah to spread the Message of Islam, it took him one year of tireless work in that city before its leaders journeyed to Mecca to transfer their authority to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم by giving him the Ba'yah. This Ba'yah was called Bayat-ul Harb (Allegiance of War). Although there was no war, it was called Bayat-ul Harb because it indicated the willingness of the Muslims to fight, when necessary, to protect the Da'wah and the newly established Islamic State. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had invested four years of Da'wah, towards most of the tribes in Najd (the large area between Mecca and Medinah) before he صلى الله عليه وسلم received the Nusrah.
It is important to note that until this time in the Seerah, even with all the pressure the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم placed upon the Kufr society of Mecca, all the persecution that the Quraysh inflicted on Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Muslims was comparatively trivial to the persecution that came after the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم received the Nusrah from the leaders of Medinah. From this point onward it was the plot of the Kuffar to assassinate Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. Indeed, it is true that Shaitan and his followers are most afraid of the implementation of Allah's rules.
Keeping these elements in mind, whenever we discuss the Hijrah, which many people will try to reduce to a spiritual journey the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم took over some terrain, we should discuss the overall ideological significance of this event in terms of Islam and the Da'wah mission.
It is critical for us, the Muslims, to realize that this event not only marks the beginning of our calendar, but more importantly it commemorates the establishment of the nucleus of the first Islamic state. For hundreds of years to come this nucleus would engulf neighboring lands, subsequently liberating one oppressed people after another and bringing them the Mercy from Allah سبحانه وتعالى called Islam. If we want to talk about the essential nature of the Hijrah, we have to realize that it marks the time when Islam as an Ideology was transformed from idea to practice.
Hitherto, the people of Medinah accepted Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم only as a Prophet. However, after the transfer of power (Nusrah), when he صلى الله عليه وسلم arrived in Medinah, they were receiving him صلى الله عليه وسلم as a ruler and a Prophet. Before the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم made the Hijrah, he صلى الله عليه وسلم was a Prophet with the new laws revealed to him صلى الله عليه وسلم by Allah سبحانه وتعالى. After the Hijrah, he صلى الله عليه وسلم was the one who implemented this law. Islam had gone from addressing and pointing out the problems and issues to tackling the problems and issues and providing solutions for them. It was at this point that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was able to apply the rules and systems of Islam into real life.
The Hijrah, a part of the Seerah, is something that must be studied in depth to gain a full understanding of its implications and meaning. It is not simply a series of bedtime stories to be told and remembered like fairy tales of how the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم took Abu Bakr (ra) with him and went on a journey, and at the end of it the people received him صلى الله عليه وسلم by singing merry melodies.
This is not to say that the small details of the Hijrah, like how the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had to get 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) to sleep in his bed, or how he صلى الله عليه وسلم had to hide in a cave, are not significant. These details are important because they remind us that the techniques and tactics used by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم were human and not superhuman. They were not tactics which required miracles to be carried out.
We cannot claim that since he صلى الله عليه وسلم was a Prophet, and since we are not Prophets, we are unable to exactly follow his صلى الله عليه وسلم footsteps when it comes to the manner in which he صلى الله عليه وسلم carried the Da'wah. We must remember that these steps, or phases, in the Da'wah mission were meant for us to follow, and to not follow them is a disobedience to Allah سبحانه وتعالى.