Medina was still a city with a non-Muslim majority as the total number of Muslims in Medina some 1440 years ago was not more than 75. Yet, at the command of God, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companion Abdu Bakr (rta) traveled to this city to implement the divine guidance for a better society.
Why did God choose Medina to be the city to establish a society based on divine ideals? Why was this not done in Makkah, the city where the House of Allah was built by the patriarch of monotheism, Ibrahim (pbuh). A simple answer that is often given by many is that the Prophet was persecuted in Makkah and the political climate there was not ripe enough to grow Islam, hence the Prophet moved to a city that was more open to his ideals.
Messengers and Prophets never turn their back on people they are sent to guide nor do they run away from persecution. They endure and stay their ground. So it was not persecution that led the Prophet to Medina. It was primarily to prove that the divine guidance is not limited to a particular place or a particular town. It can be lived anywhere in the world regardless of the number of people who adhere to the message.
In fact, the migration demolished several practices and myths that the world had entertained for ages and has been entertaining even today. It demolished the false division between the house of peace (Dar al-Amn) and house of war (Dar al-Harb). It demolished the division between Land of Islam and Land of Kufr (unbelief). It proved the idea that everything that exists was created by God and He is in control of everything. He is the owner of everything that is out there in our universe. It also proved the point that regardless of the number, the divine guidance needs to be shared with everyone.
Medina promoted the idea of a plural society with respect to all. What happened in Medina after the arrival of the Prophet was something unique and unheard of in a society that was divided on tribal lines. Upon his arrival in Medina, The Prophet invited the major tribes to come together and sign a covenant to ensure the interests of all. The covenant also known as the constitution of Medina promoted the idea of common citizenship for the people living in Medina, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. All were referred to as one umma or nation.
The Prophet made the security of the people of Medina a top priority and the signatories were asked to participate in the defense of the city as one people. Moreover, they were assured that if one of them were killed while defending the city, the entire population would take care of the family of the fallen. This is what one calls insurance in modern terminology.
The covenant also ensured that each religious community was given autonomy in dealing with its affairs according to its religious ideals and traditions. Each was guaranteed the freedom to practice its own religious, family and personal law provided it did not infringe upon the rights of others.
The Prophet also ensured that the rights of women and weaker sections of society were secured. Additionally, he accepted the right to dissent with the covenant when four tribes of Awas refused to sign the treaty. The process of formulating the covenant was lengthy, the tribes discussed it among themselves and then all of the tribes had discourse on its salient features. It was democracy in action at the grassroots level.
So what are the lessons of Hijrah?
- The distinction between darul harb and darul Islam is false. Every land belongs to the Creator.
- The divine guidance can be lived anywhere.
- Muslims must not isolate themselves from the society in which they live.
- Muslims should get involved in societies they live in.
- Muslims must ensure the safety and security of all citizens and should join the system to protect all.
- Muslims should respect the personal and family laws of others.
- Muslims must follow a system that secures the participation of each member of society in the decision making process.
- Muslims must not be entrapped by the false divisions people create on the basis of ethnicity and religion.
- Monotheism means that humanity should be treated as one.
It was this society that was created by the Prophet and for this he was asked to leave his birth place that was also the center of monotheism and the place where the ﬁrst house of God was built.