Seerah – Life of the Prophet: The Migration to Abyssinia
Episode 41: The Migration to Abyssinia
Welcome to Seerah Pearls, which aims to highlight some tantalising learning points from each episode of the Seerah- Life of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
The First Migration to Abyssinia
This episode talks about the first migration to Abyssinia. There were about 100 believers in Makkah now, giving the group strength and solidarity. In spite of this, the safety of the believers was of great importance to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had heard the Negus, the King of Abyssinia, also followed a monotheistic religion (Christianity) and he was well known for his religious tolerance. Thus for their own safety, he advised those who felt under threat to migrate to that land. The journey would not be easy.
In this first group of migrants, there were reported to have been 15 or 16 people: 11 or 12 men and 4 women, who were wives. It included people like Uthman bin Affan, his wife Ruqayyah (the daughter of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)), Abu Salamah and Umm Salamah. The Quraysh were not happy about this and sent out a search party for the group. However, the group managed to board a boat to Africa from a port. They arrived quietly in Abyssinia, as instructed by the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), choosing residence outside a major city.
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) heard about someone coming from Abyssinia and asked him about the welfare of the migrants. He received news that they were well and he prayed ‘May Allah be with them’. He said that Uthman had revived a great tradition of the Prophets of the past- he was the first to migrate with his family for the sake of his faith since Lut (AS). Thus, there is no credibility in accusations that those who emigrated were weaker than those who remained behind in Makkah.
Two months after, a very interesting incident occurs. In Ramadan, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was standing praying in the Haram. He was reciting out aloud and initially, people became irritated. But then, they came closer and he started to raise his voice. Everyone was quiet and listening to him, from surah 53 ayah 19.
53:19 So have you considered al-Lat and al-‘Uzza?
53:20 And Manat, the third – the other one?
53:21 Is the male for you and for Him the female?
53:22 That, then, is an unjust division.
53:23 They are not but [mere] names you have named them – you and your forefathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow not except assumption and what [their] souls desire, and there has already come to them from their Lord guidance.
53:24 Or is there for man whatever he wishes?
53:25 Rather, to Allah belongs the Hereafter and the first [life].
53:26 And how many angels there are in the heavens whose intercession will not avail at all except [only] after Allah has permitted [it] to whom He wills and approves.
53:27 Indeed, those who do not believe in the Hereafter name the angels female names,
53:28 And they have thereof no knowledge. They follow not except assumption, and indeed, assumption avails not against the truth at all.
53:29 So turn away from whoever turns his back on Our message and desires not except the worldly life.
53:30 That is their sum of knowledge. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who strays from His way, and He is most knowing of who is guided.
53:31 And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth – that He may recompense those who do evil with [the penalty of] what they have done and recompense those who do good with the best [reward] –
53:32 Those who avoid the major sins and immoralities, only [committing] slight ones. Indeed, your Lord is vast in forgiveness. He was most knowing of you when He produced you from the earth and when you were fetuses in the wombs of your mothers. So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him.
Now the verses become more powerful…
53:33 Have you seen the one who turned away
53:34 And gave a little and [then] refrained?
53:35 Does he have knowledge of the unseen, so he sees?
53:36 Or has he not been informed of what was in the scriptures of Moses
53:37 And [of] Abraham, who fulfilled [his obligations] –
53:38 That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another
53:39 And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives
53:40 And that his effort is going to be seen –
53:41 Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense
53:42 And that to your Lord is the finality
53:43 And that it is He who makes [one] laugh and weep
53:44 And that it is He who causes death and gives life
53: 45 And that He creates the two mates – the male and female –
53:46 From a sperm-drop when it is emitted
53: 47 And that [incumbent] upon Him is the next creation
53:48 And that it is He who enriches and suffices
53:49 And that it is He who is the Lord of Sirius
53:50 And that He destroyed the first [people of] ‘Aad
53:51 And Thamud – and He did not spare [them] –
53:52 And the people of Noah before. Indeed, it was they who were [even] more unjust and oppressing.
53:53 And the overturned towns He hurled down
53:54 And covered them by that which He covered.
53:55 Then which of the favors of your Lord do you doubt?
53:56 This [Prophet] is a warner like the former warners.
53:57 The Approaching Day has approached.
53:58 Of it, [from those] besides Allah , there is no remover.
53:59 Then at this statement do you wonder?
53:60 And you laugh and do not weep
53:61 While you are proudly sporting?
53:62 So prostrate to Allah and worship [Him].
As soon as the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said these final words, he fell into Sajdah and everyone was on the edge of their seats dumbfounded: they all fell instinctively into Sajdah as well. Even Walid bin Mughirah reached for the dirt and put it on his forehead. People dispersed confused at what just happened. The Quraysh decided to say this happened because the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was reciting magical incantations and possessed everyone.
The people in Abyssinia heard what had happened and thought the Quraysh had accepted Islam. Most decided to come back to Makkah. However, they met some people a little outside Makkah and they were informed that this was not the case. The returning Muslims were heartbroken and unsure what to do. A few came back to Makkah, but most, about 10, returned back to Abyssinia. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) asked why they returned and they explained the rumours.
Dozens of Muslims start to leave for Abyssinia in waves of small groups: about 80 people left Makkah over the next few weeks. Thus, the total number in Abyssinia reaches about 100: 82 or 83 men and 16 women, who are wives. The Quraysh look around and notice that Makkah is emptying of Muslims: they decide to take action.