35 – Many Emigrations

The Prophet now encouraged his followers in Mecca to emigrate to Yathrib. But one of them had already done so. The death of Abu Talib had deprived his nephew Abu Salamah of a protector, and he felt compelled to take refuge from his own clan. So he set off for the north, mounting his wife on a camel with their young son Salamah in her arms and himself leading the camel. But Umm Salamah was of the other branch of Makhzum, the Bani l-Mughirah, and first cousin to Abu Jahl; and some of her family went after them and snatched the camel’s rope from Abu Salamah’s hand. He was far outnumbered and knew it would be useless to resist so he told her to return with them. He would find a way for her to join him. But when his branch of Makhzum heard of it they were angry with the Bani l-Mughirah and made matters worse by claiming custody of the boy. So the three of them were cruelly separated until the whole clan took pity on her and allowed her to take her son and join her husband. She set off on a camel entirely alone except for Salamah, but after almost six miles she met a man of ‘Abd ad-Dar, ‘Uthman ibn Talhah, not yet a believer, who insisted on escorting her to the end of her journey. They had heard that Abu Salamah was in Quba’, a village at the most southerly point of Yathrib where the oasis juts out into the lava tract which is one of “the two tracts of black stones”; so when they came within sight of the palm groves ‘Uthman said to her: “Thy husband is in this village, so enter it with God’s blessing,” and he himself turned back again towards Mecca. Umm Salamah never forgot his kindness, and never ceased to praise him for his nobility.

After the pledge of the Second ‘Aqabah, the Muslims of Quraysh began to emigrate in considerable numbers. Amongst the first to go were some others of the Prophet’s cousins, sons and daughters of Jahsh and Umaymah, ‘Abd Allah and his blind brother Abu Ahmad, and their two sisters Zaynab and Hamnah. With them went many others of the Bani Asad who had long been confederates of ‘Abdu Shams. Hamzah and Zayd went, leaving their wives in Mecca for he moment, but ‘Uthman took Ruqayyah with him, and ‘Umar took his wife Zaynab, their daughter Hafsah and their young son ‘Abd Allah. Hafsah’s husband, Khunays of Sahm, was also with them. Abu Salamah’s half-brother, Abu Sabrah, took with him his wife Umm Kulthum, Suhayl’s daughter; and other young cousins of the Prophet who now went were Zubayr and Tulayb.

It was not long before all his closest Companions had left Mecca except Abu Bakr and ‘Ali. Abu Bakr had asked the Prophet’s permission to emigrate, but he had said: “Hasten not away, for it may be that God will give thee a companion.” So Abu Bakr understood that he must wait for the Prophet, and he gave orders for two of his camels to be fed on gum acacia leaves in preparation for their journey to Yathrib.

Quraysh did what they could to stop the emigrations. Suhayl’s other daughter had now gone with her husband Abu Hudhayfah, just as they had previously gone to Abyssinia, but Suhayl was determined that this time his son ‘Abd Allah should not escape him, so he kept a close watch on him. Much the same happened to the son of the Sahmite leader ‘As, Hisham, who likewise had been among the emigrants to Abyssinia. It was his half-brother ‘Amr who had been sent to Quraysh to turn the Negus against the Muslim refugees, and Hisham had witnessed his failure and discomfiture. ‘Umar, who was Hisham’s cousin -their mothers were sisters- had arranged that they should now travel to Yathrib together, leaving Mecca separately and meeting at the thorn-trees of Adat about ten miles north of the city. ‘Ayyash of Makhzum was also to travel with them; but at the appointed hour and place there was no sign of Hisham, so ‘Umar and his family went on their way with ‘Ayyash, for they had agreed that they would not wait for each other. Hisham’s father and brother had heard of his plan and held him back by force; and they put so much pressure on him that after some days they even persuaded him to renounce Islam.

As to ‘Ayyash, he reached Yathrib with ‘Umar, but his two half-brothers, Abu Jahl and Harith, followed him and told him that their mother, who was also his mother, had sworn not to comb her hair or take shelter from the sun until she set eyes on him again. ‘Ayyash was very troubled by this, but ‘Umar said to him: “They want nothing better than to seduce thee from thy religion; for by God, if lice troubled thy mother, she would use her comb; and if the heat of Mecca oppressed her, she would take shelter.” But ‘Ayyash would not listen: he insisted on returning to Mecca in order to release his mother from her oath. He also intended to retrieve some money he had left behind. But when they were half-way there Abu Jahl and Harith fell upon him, bound him hand and foot, brought him home as a prisoner, saying as they entered the city: “O people of Mecca, do with your fools as we have done with this fool of ours.” Like Hisham, ‘Ayyash was prevailed upon to renounce Islam, but in neither case was this final. After a while they were conscience-stricken to the point of supposing that no atonement was possible for so great a sin, and that was ‘Umar’s opinion also. But later there came the Revelation: O My slaves who have acted unwisely against yourselves, despair not of God’s Mercy. Verily God forgiveth sins in their entirety. He is the All-Forgiving, the All-Merciful. And turn unto your Lord in repentance and surrender unto Him before there come unto you the punishment, when ye shall not be helped.[1] ‘Umar wrote down these words and found a way of sending the inscription to Hisham, who said: “When it came to me I raised it close to my eyes and lowered it away from them, but I could not understand it, until I said: ‘O God, make me understand it.’ Then God put into my heart that it had been revealed for our very sakes with regard to what we were saying of ourselves and what was being said of us.” Hisham showed it to ‘Ayyash and they renewed their Islam and waited for their opportunity to escape.


[1] Qur’an 39 : 53 – 54

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