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The Unlettered Prophet (21)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


The Second Pledge of ‘Aqbah

In the 13th year of prophethood, a group of 62 people from the tribe of Khazraj and 11 from that of Aws came for hajj. These 73 men and two women among them were evidence of Yathrab being a fertile and appropriate ground for the spread of Islam. It is obvious that not all those who had been influenced by the teachings of Islam had come for hajj; this showed that the group that did come had left behind a sizeable number of likeminded people. This was the period when the enmity of the Quraysh for the Prophet (sws) was at its peak and this news was also spreading to Yathrab. The connection between Yathrab and the Prophet (sws) was that one of the earliest companions, Mus‘ab bin ‘Umayr (rta) had been assigned to teach the Qur’an to people in Yathrab. Occasionally, people would come from Yathrab to meet the Prophet (sws), accept Islam at his hands and to learn more, as recorded by Ibn Kathir with reference to Musnad of Ahmad.1 Thus, they were well aware of the conditions in Makkah and the problems faced by the Prophet (sws) and his companions. They also knew that the Prophet (sws) no longer had the protection of his tribe, Banu Hashim, and was living under the protection of others in Makkah. In Yathrab, they consulted amongst themselves: how much longer could the Prophet (sws) live under these dangerous conditions without any help and support? They decided to take him under their protection. The group of 75 had already accepted Islam. They had not gone to meet the Prophet (sws) to accept Islam, but as per details of the meeting, wished to bring the Prophet (sws) to Yathrab for this. Hence, biographies of the Prophet (sws) do not indicate any activity of theirs related to their acceptance of Islam. On the contrary, the time of meeting with the Prophet (sws) was decided during their stay in Mina and was kept a secret. Further care was taken in deciding that people would arrive in twos and threes to the assigned hill, and if anyone went to sleep or was left behind, he would be ignored so as to ensure that the Quraysh would get no inkling of the meeting.

According to Ibn Hisham, the Prophet (sws) came to the meeting place, accompanied by his uncle ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Mattalib, who had not accepted Islam until then. He started the discussion by saying: “O’ group from Khazraj! The status of Muhammad (sws) amongst us is well known to you. We have kept him protected from our nation so that he may not be harmed by those who hold different opinions from his. If he now wishes to go with you, and if you will abide by the promises which you make and can protect him from his enemies, then accept this responsibility. But if you believe that after he goes with you, you will forsake him, then, end this matter here and now, because he is safe amongst his people and in his city.” The group said that they understood his stance, and requested the Prophet (sws) to speak and take action according to what he thought would be best for himself and his God. 

Ibn Kathir has quoted Jabir (rta) with reference to Imam Ahmad, saying that ‘Abbas was present at that time, and that when the Prophet (sws) was taking promises of allegiance, he was holding his arm.2 Upon reflection, it appears that some difficulties arise in accepting the presence of ‘Abbas ibn Muttalib. For example, no role of ‘Abbas is seen from the time of the beginning of prophethood until this moment, in demonstrating any concern for his nephew; whereas his other uncle, Hamzah (rta) accepted Islam as a point of honour and stood against its enemies openly at all times. ‘Abbas was also present in the meeting in which the Quraysh had decided to kill the Prophet (sws). When the Battle of Badr took place, ‘Abbas not only participated in it, but also promised to feed the entire army for a day. He was involved in all battles of the Quraysh against the Prophet (sws) and accepted Islam only close to the time of Islam’s conquest of Makkah. Secondly, Abbas was, at that time, a non Muslim, and this meeting was being held secretively. What could have been the wisdom of having him present? An appropriate person would have been Abu Bakr (rta) or Hamzah (rta), who had accepted Islam at the Prophet’s hand and were very loyal to him. Thirdly, ‘Abbas addressed the Khazraj, whereas those present included people from both the tribes of Khazraj and Aws. If he was addressing all people of Yathrab, why did he distinguish between Aws and Khazraj? It was also not true that Banu Hashim gave protection to the Prophet (sws) in those times. It has been stated above that the Prophet (sws) no longer had their protection but was living in Makkah with protection from Mut‘am ibn ‘Adi. The speech as quoted seems to indicate as if all matters related to migration had been settled and the Prophet (sws) had agreed to go to Yathrab, and that all this was known to ‘Abbas.

The fact was that the group from Yathrab had come to invite him. It was discussed and the Prophet (sws) gave his views, but did not agree until the end; he could not have done so without a decision from God. Messengers do not take decisions to migrate without God’s approval. The Prophet (sws) had already been instructed to wait for God’s instructions with patience and not to be hasty like the Fish Prophet (Yunus (sws)). In view of all these considerations, the narrative quoted above is doubtful. ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib was neither present at the occasion of the allegiance of ‘Aqbah, nor did he make any speech. There was a gentleman named ‘Abbas bin ‘Ubadah (rta) amongst the Yathrab group, who may have made this speech, which was attributed to ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib due to an error. The former’s speech is mentioned later, and it is similar in content to the speech quoted earlier. This ‘Abbas belonged to the tribe of Khazraj and it is understandable that he may have addressed his tribe in his speech.

When members of the group requested the Prophet (sws) to address them and to tell them what his expectations from them were, he answered that he called them towards God. They were to worship Him only and not attribute anyone as a partner to Him. He recited the Qur’an and asked them to follow its teachings.

When the members invited him to come to Yathrab, he said that if they were to protect him and his family in the same way as they did their wives and sons, he would take them up on their promise. This was the time when other migrant Muslims could have been included, but narratives do not indicate any references to this. However, the manner in which the people of Yathrab (Ansar) welcomed them, appears to be a fulfillment of the promise made in ‘Aqbah. The fact is that a messenger of God does not migrate alone: he is accompanied by other followers of his faith when he moves to another place. Bara’ ibn al-Ma‘rur took hold of the Prophet’s hand and said that they were brought up in the midst of battles; they knew well the arts of archery and fencing. They had been taught by their elders and would take all measures to protect him.

At that moment, relationships between the Aws and the Khazraj and the Jews also came under discussion. Abu al-Haytham ibn al-Tahyan said: “O’ Prophet, we have existing agreements between the Jews and us. We will need to end these and cut off our relations with the Jews. If we do this and God grants you victory, would there be a possibility that you return to your people and leave us?” The Prophet (sws) smiled and said: “No. This shall not be the case. This shall be a friendly agreement. We shall be one entity, whether in taking revenge for blood, or forgiving it. Our responsibility shall be combined. I shall be from you, and you shall be from me. Whoever fights with you will have to fight with me. Whoever you reconcile with, I shall be reconciled with them.”

The Jewish tribes with whom the Aws and the Khazraj had agreements were: the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qurayzah and the Banu Qaynuq‘a. They were ready to cancel their agreements. Other Jews were those who belonged to the tribes of Aws and Khazraj themselves. The manner in which the Prophet’s response has been quoted in narratives shows that the issue of combined responsibility may have referred to the second category of Jews. Thus, they might have discussed a policy to deal with those Jews and to accept their separate identity. The Prophet (sws) may have reassured them that they would be considered along with the Muslims of Aws and Khazraj. It is possible that the narratives have not retained all the points of his speech.

Banu Salim’s ‘Abbas ibn ‘Ubadah al-Khazraji informed his people about the inherent dangers of the future in very clear terms. He said: “O! Khazraj; do you know what the reality of this allegiance is? As a consequence of this, you will be required to fight with all people, white or black. In this struggle, if you can remain committed to your promise despite losing your wealth and possessions and your honourable men, only then take this step; and if you do so, it will be good for you both in this world and the next. But, if you start thinking that the loss of your wealth is a hardship and the killing of your good men a great loss, and that it would be better that you leave the Prophet (sws), then it would be better if you do not take this oath now, because the other option will be a great disgrace for you, both in this world and the next.”

The speeches of several representatives from Yathrab and their request of clarity from the Prophet (sws) show that the consequences of their invitation must have been thoroughly debated and the members of the group declared it to be their unanimous desire. Possibilities of battles after the Prophet’s migration were discussed and the Aws and the Khazraj both promised their firm commitment to defend him with their lives. Their relations with the Jews were also discussed. The Prophet (sws) gave his promise that these would be respected and he would accept the decisions taken by the Aws and the Khazraj. He further vowed not to leave them. At the end, they left the final decision to him. The Prophet (sws) asked them to listen to and obey him under all conditions: happiness or sorrow; prosperity or hardships; poverty or well being. The group asked about the benefits to them if they were to follow his instructions. He said: Paradise. The group agreed and asked him to hold out his hand to take the oath. He took their allegiance to listen to and obey him, but did not promise to migrate at this stage. This oath of allegiance is called the second allegiance of ‘Aqbah.

After this, in order to organize matters in Yathrab, the Prophet (sws) set up a group of 12 men as its leaders. Their assigned responsibilities included explaining the obligations of their faith to the rest; correcting their day to day matters and ensuring that they adhered to the allegiance. The people of Yathrab had accepted the Prophet (sws) not only as their religious, but also as their political leader. They returned after promising to obey him at all costs.

Of the 12 leaders, nine were from the Khazraj and three from the Aws. These were:

The Tribe of Khazraj: As‘ad ibn Zurarah (rta); Sa‘d ibn al-Rabi‘ (rta); ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah (rta); Rafay‘ ibn Malik (rta); Abu Jabir ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (rta); Bara’ ibn al-Ma‘rur (rta); Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubadah (rta); Mundhir ibn ‘Amr (rta); ‘Ubadah ibn Samit (rta).

The Tribe of Aws: Usayd ibn Hudayr (rta); Sa‘d ibn Khaythamah (rta); Rafa‘ah ibn ‘Abd al-Mundhir (rta).

After taking the oath, all of them went to their tents. The Quraysh heard of the meeting and tried to extract information from the people inside the tents. All of them expressed their ignorance. When they were returning to Yathrab, the Quraysh got hold of Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubadah (rta) and brought him to Makkah. He was threatened and bullied and told that if they protected the Prophet (sws), they would earn the enmity of the Quraysh and would be responsible for the consequences.

The Prophet (sws) and his companions had found a strong sense of relief in this allegiance. Here was a land that was offering them a warm welcome. Many people there were of their own faith and now held the same hopes and aspirations. The Prophet (sws) would not face the resistance there, which he had experienced in Makkah. Thus there were definite indications for the spread of Islam there.

The Prophet’s maternal relations also lived in Yathrab. The Dar al-Hijrah, which had been shown to him in his dream had saline soil, was located between two rocky places and had tall plenty of date palm trees. Yathrab met these signs far more than either Yamamah or Hijr. Yathrab’s selection at the time of the taking of the oath of ‘Aqbah, as a definite alternative to Makkah, greatly lightened the burden on the Prophet’s heart.


Permission to People of the Faith to Migrate

After the oath was taken in ‘Aqbah, the Quraysh made life for Muslims even more difficult. Worried, the latter would come to the Prophet (sws) and ask for permission to leave Makkah . He would ask them to be patient and to wait for instructions from God. One day, he met his companions with happiness on his face and told them that he had been told definitively that the signs he had seen in his dream about the Dar al-Hijrah were those of Yathrab. Hence they should prepare to migrate and, as they become ready, they should go and meet their Muslim brethren of the Aus and the Khazraj who would be waiting to welcome them. Muslims, in singles or in groups began to migrate as per this instruction. In general, the Quraysh did not bar them from migrating, since they thought it would be better if they were rid of these thorns which were giving them so much trouble. There were occasional incidents of Muslims being hassled due to the mistaken sense of honour of the Quraysh.

According to biographers, the first person to migrate was Abu Salamah ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Asad Makhzumi (rta). He was the same courageous man who had migrated first to Abyssinia. When he had returned to Makkah, he was disowned by his tribe. When he searched for protection, Abu Ṭalib agreed, but Abu Lahab was angered by his brother taking responsibility for a Muslim from another family, at which Abu Ṭalib told him that he was his nephew. Things changed after Abu Ṭalib’s death and Abu Salamah again looked for protection. As soon as he became aware of the allegiance of ‘Aqbah, and of the fact that conditions were favourable for Muslims in Yathrab, he packed up and put his son Salamah and his mother on a camel. He was stopped by his wife’s family, the Banu Mughirah who refused to allow their daughter to leave. When the Banu Makhzum came to know of this, they also arrived to claim Salamah. Umm Salamah’s husband left on his own; the child was taken into the Banu Makhzum’s custody and Umm Salamah (rta) was left alone. She would shed tears for her son and husband and wait for the latter to return. One year passed in this suffering. Then one of her relatives took pity on her and he sorted out matters between the two families. The child was returned to the mother and they were given permission to leave Makkah. She mounted a camel and started her journey to Makkah alone. She was met on the way by ‘Uthman ibn Ṭalhah, who expressed surprise at her traveling by herself. He accompanied her all the way to her husband in Yathrab and then went back to Makkah.

‘Umar (rta) made a plan with Abu Jahal’s brother, ‘Ayyash bin Abi Rabi‘ah (rta) and Hisham ibn Abi al-A‘la’s (rta) to migrate. Hisham (rta) was locked up in his house by his family and he could not reach the meeting place. ‘Umar (rta) and ‘Ayyash (rta) travelled together and reached Yathrab. Abu Jahal and his brother Harith ibn Hisham went after them immediately and told ‘Ayyash (rta) that his mother had vowed that she would not comb her hair and would sit in the sun continuously, until he returned. As the love for his mother rekindled in his heart, ‘Ayyash (rta) got ready to leave with his brothers. ‘Umar (rta) tried to convince him that this was a mere ruse to get him back, but he did not agree. On the way, his brothers bound him with ropes, took him to Makkah and locked him in a house. Abu Jahal told the people in Makkah to give the same treatment to their stupid family members, as he had to his silly brother.

After the Prophet (sws) migrated, he placed the matter of ensuring the release of the two companions who were incarcerated in Makkah, before his other companions. Walid ibn Walid ibn Mughirah (rta) offered his services. He went to Makkah, located the whereabouts of then two companions and brought them to Yathrab.

When Suhayb ibn Sanan (rta) started on his journey to Yathrab, he was stopped. The idolaters told him that when he had come to Makkah, his hands were empty; Now that he was leaving, he had a lot of goods. They would not allow him to leave. He asked if they would let him go if he were to return all the wealth. They answered in the affirmative. He gave up whatever he was carrying and migrated empty handed.

Throughout this period, the Prophet (sws) remained in Makkah and continued to pray:

And say: “My Lord! Cause me to enter a sound entrance and to exit a sound exit and grant me from Yourself a supporting authority.” (17:80)

When Abu Bakr (rta) requested for permission to migrate, he said: “Wait. Let me also get instructions to migrate.” He asked if he would travel with him and was answered in the affirmative. Thus, Abu Bakr (rta), too, started to prepare for migration.



(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)








1. Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 1, 432.

2. Ibid., 433.

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