Is Hijrah (migration) a flight or an ordinary migration? If not, what is it?
In the land of the Muslims, time is divided into two as before the Hijrah and after the Hijrah.
The extistance of a calendar as Hijri Calendar (which starts with the Hijrah) is by itself enough to show the importance of the migration of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) from Makkah to Madinah.
The twelve-day hijrah of Hazrat Muhammad which took place in the thirteenth year of Islam is indeed such an important milestone in history that it is definitely correct for the Muslim society to count the years with a reference to it.
At first glance, hijrah looks like two Makkans migration leaving Makkah to Madinah. However, that migration contains such deep mysteries, such large and fundamental realities and such obvious miracles that, that twelve-day journey gives its color to the following years and centuries.
That two people from Makkah were not just any two people from Makkah. In the words of the Quran the second of the two (see surah/chapter at-Tawbah/Repentance, 9:40) he was the Messenger of Allah, the last of the prophets, the beloved for Allah and mercy for the worlds. With him was the one who is honored with the title of loyalty, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (loyal Abu Bakr), who became a symbol for the top of the submission to the truth brought by a prophet through his thirteen-year life in Makkah.
Makkah in Hijra
The hijrah journey of Prophet Muhammad with his closest companion Abu Bakr contains big lessons in terms of both the place they left and the place they went to. The place they left, Makkah, was a place that was praised by Allah in the Quran. It is the city in which the Kaaba is located. That structure, also called the house of Allah, is known to be the first building built on the way to gain the approval of Allah. And Makkah, which contains the memories of Hazrat Abraham and Ismael and many more prophets, in which killing and shedding blood is prohibited for the sake of the Kaaba, in which many miracles took place, is the forbidden city.
However, that holiest place on the earth, as Hazrat Muhammad said when leaving the most beloved place on Allahs earth, was now under the dominance of the polytheism. The truth of tawheed (Oneness of God), the heritage of Prophet Abraham and Ismael was polluted by polytheism; belief in only one Allah was gradually replaced by a hierarchy of gods, that is polytheism, in which Allah was accepted to be in the highest grade but many idols were regarded as gods. Although the holiness of Makkah was stained at that state, it was still a holy place and the people of Makkah used it financially with the hundreds of idols they placed in Makkah.
The wall of status quo in Makkah
Therefore, when the message (revelation) coming to Hazrat Muhammad in Makkah invited people to the tawheed and truth, Makkah showed the highest resistance. Even though Hazrat Muhammad said, I turned my face to the creator of the skies and the earth. I am not one of the deniers like Hazrat Abraham did; only a few hundred people out of thousands in Makkah accepted his invitation in thirteen years. The Quran, being the most beautiful of the words, came across with the wall of status quo that deniers of Makkah built through hundreds of years. People of Makkah even dared to make a plan to kill the messenger of the divine revelation, to drown that voice that they were sure that would impress every mind and every heart if released. And the hijrah began right on the day that plan was to be realized.
Yathrib (Madinah) welcomes him
When compared to Makkah, forbidden and holy, having the house of Allah in the center, the destination -Madinah- presents just the opposite. Madinah, then called Yathrib, was just a moderate and ordinary city compared to Makkah, which was holy due to the Kaaba. It had neither a speciality to call it holy, nor a position by means of trade, geopolitics, science or culture. On the contrary, it was in a weak state being the place of two sibling tribes Aws and Khazraj, which were having destructive wars between them
However, that Yathrib reached the most honorable state for a city after Makkah opening its doors and heart to Hazrat Muhammad despite the fact that the believers knew that the world would be against them. From then on, being the new land of Hazrat Muhammad, Yathrib was called al-Madinah an-Nabi (the city of the prophet), it has been called that way for centuries; and whenever Madinah is mentioned Hazrat Muhammad will be remembered too. That Yathrib became a holy place by opening its doors and heart to the prophet.
Hijrah is a certificate to reach holiness
Hijrah is important in terms of both the place that is left and the place that is reached. While the situation of Makkah which forced Hazrat Muhammad and the believers to migration is a certificate that shows how even such a holy place can undergo such a collapse when it is in the hands of people whose heart and mind are dirty, the situation of Madinah is a certificate that shows how such an ordinary place can rise and reach holiness by welcoming the Messenger of Allah and the believers who leave their own land for their faith.
Hijrah is a miracle
Another lesson hijrah teaches us is about its time and way. As it is told in the surah (chapter) an-Najm (The Star) which was sent down in Makkah, Hazrat Muhammad did not speak of his own will: Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than Inspiration sent down to him. So, he does not decide to migrate and its time on his own either. Hijrah is not a migration Hazrat Muhammad decided and put into practice by himself. Its place and time was revealed by Allah. Because it was carried out by the Messenger of Allah in the name of Him and on the date and in the way He ordered, it contained miracles from the start.
The fact that the people of Makkah who had surrounded Hazrat Muhammads house to kill him could not see him when he went out of his door, that a fistful of sand that he threw at them hit each one of their eyes, that Hazrat Muhammad and Hazrat Abu Bakr were protected by a pigeon and a spider in the cave they took shelter that the horse of Suraka who tried to seize Hazrat Muhammad on the way to Madinah was stuck in the the sand every time he tried to ride towards them thatUmm Mabads thin and milkless sheep was filled with milk when her teats were patted... shows Allahs miracles. That twelve-day journey shows how Allah bestows miracles to people who leave their own land for Him and how Allah puts the universe under the command of people who leave everything for Him.
Hijrah is sacrifice
Hijra teaches critical lessons in terms of both people migrating and people welcoming them. For the seed of truth to crack its shell in Makkah and to take root and yield fruit in Madinah, the sacrifice and devotion of both parties have great importance and share. What the Muhajirs (migrants) did during hijrah is not something easy.
Makkan believers, who cried out their belief in Makkah risking all kinds of difficulties and tortures for years, migrated to Madinah when it became impossible to live in Makkah upon the divine permission by leaving their land, homes, belongings, relatives and everything. As for the Ansar (helpers) of Madinah, they shared everything with Makkan Muhajirs and worked for their living too. The tree of Islam grew up in such a soil of mutual sacrifice.
As the Quran praised, the togetherness of all the believers who preferred their brothers wishes over theirs brought such a moderate city, Yathrib, to the position of Madinah Munawwara (Enlightened Madinah) and with the faithful lives lead in that bright city, many countries, communities and centuries became enlightened.
Hijra is a milestone
That is the secret that made the hijrah a milestone and dividing the time as before the Hijra and after the Hijra.
In addition, hijrah contains many more lessons. So much so that every moment, aspect and frame of it is instructive and bright. Such a detail like Hazrat Muhammads not accepting the camel as a gift that Hazrat Ebu Bakr fed for that purpose and buying it on condition of paying for it in Madinah consolidates the secret of sacrificing yourself, not depending on the sacrifice of others. For example, the fact that Hazrat Ali slept in Hazrat Muhammads bed while Hazrat Muhammad was getting out of his door without being seen to the unbelievers miraculously that night was the acceptance of being killed by Hazrat Ali instead of Hazrat Muhammad and it was a big sacrifice.
Being the guide in the hijrah journey,Abdullah Ibn Uraiqit was a trustworthy person even though he did not have faith yet. That should give a lesson too. While the tribe of Quraish, which was dominant and respectable, showed such a big opposition to Islam, the tribe of Aslam, which was not so much respected, welcomed Hazrat Muhammad on the journey and accepted Islam easily.
Hijrah is the most critical journey on the way of the prophethood
Hijrah is a great journey every moment of which is full of exemplary lessons. It is the biggest journey that took place and that will take place in this world because it is the most critical journey of the most honorable of the mankind -Hazrat Muhammad, Allahs mercy for all worlds- on the way of the prophethood.
The biggest lesson that journey teaches is hidden in Hazrat Muhammads word Do not worry, Allah is with us that he told to Hazrat Abu Bakr when he was worried about the unbelievers waiting in front of the cave they were in.
That word he said when there was no hope seemingly shows the certainty of his faith. So much so that the Quranic verse in which that word is praised (Surah at-Tawbah/Repentance 9:40) teaches us this lesson afterwards:
So Allah sent down His tranquillity upon him and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see, and made lowest the word of those who disbelieved; and the word of Allah, that is the highest; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Yes, that is the truth and indeed Allah is always with the one who devotes his life to His way.