Hijrah and Civilisation Building
The Hijrah undertaken by the Prophet Muhammad in the month of Safar (agreeing with July 622 AD) changed the map of the world with the establishment of al-Madinah which, according to the contemporary profound thinker, Tan Sri Professor Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, in his work, Islam and Secularism (1978), is the city where the nascent Muslim community then implemented al-Din, that is, Islam as a way of life encompassing the ordinances of the religion.
For 1,445 years, al-Madinah has been the model from which arose the Muslim civilisations. According to the scholar of Islamic law, the late Professor Muhammad Hamidullah (1908–2002), as the first written constitution in the world, the Madinah Charter, drawn up by the Prophet Muhammad is the template from which the constitutions of modern nation-states are developed.
Hijrah, which has the root word hajara, has several meanings. From a linguistic point of view based on the Arabic lexicons such as Kitab al-‘Ayn by al-Farahidi (d. 791 AD) and Sihah al-Arabiyyah by al-Jawhari (d. 1009 AD), hajara means to move from one place to another.
The Prophet Muhammad says, “The person who migrates is the one who refrains from what Allah has forbidden” (authentic hadith narrated by Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim).
In an interview published on 15 November 1979, Professor al-Attas explained that hijrah was to break ties with nonsensical, wrong, or bad customs that had grown out of man-made culture in order to migrate to the customs of the Prophets, which are based on divine Revelation, and al-ma‘ruf, which are actions or deeds known to be good.
According to the Muslim historian Imam al-Tabari (d. 923 AD) in his Ta’rikh, the Prophet Muhammad’s ancestor, Hajar, emigrated from her place of origin in Avaris, ancient Egypt, following her husband Prophet Ibrahim and his first wife Sarah, in order to save themselves from the wicked governor of Avaris and return to Prophet Ibrahim’s dwelling in Shechem (now the city of Nablus in Palestine).
After giving birth to Isma‘il, Hajar then followed Prophet Ibrahim to Hijaz (now Makkah) in the Arabian Peninsula to be left there along with their child upon the directive of God Almighty Whom she firmly believed would guide and take care of them.
Since the whole journey undertaken by Hajar was based on Prophetic customs,it was hijrah in all but name, by which virtue the Prophets Ibrahim and Isma‘il became the progenitors of the believers in true monotheism (al-hunafa’) out of whose noble and purified descendent lineage came the Prophet Muhammad.
Three things preconditioned the Prophetic Hijrah from Makkah to pre-Madinah Yathrib. First, the actions of the Quraysh polytheists in ostracising Bani Hashim, the extended family of the Prophet Muhammad, in addition to behaving unjustly in oppressing, mistreating, and torturing people who embraced Islam, had created a custom that was nonsensical, wrong, and bad.
Second, the acceptance by the Ansar, which consisted of Bani Aws and Bani Khazraj on the terms set by the Prophet Muhammad in the Pledges of ‘Aqabah for them to appoint him as their leader and arbitrator in Madinah, including accepting his authority as a Prophet and Messenger; worshipping none but God; and desisting from among others slander, theft, illicit sex, and murder, indicated that the plural society of al-Madinah was breaking its ties with nonsensical, wrong, and bad customs. Thus, they were joined by the Emigrants, the Muhajirin, who shared their worldview of Islam.
Third, although the first and second preconditions can be considered sufficient for anyone to migrate or escape from their place of origin, the Prophet Muhammad started his journey only after having received the directive from Allah. Therefore, his migration was based on Revelation and al-ma‘ruf.
Hijrah paves the way for true, correct, and good customs. For the sake of unity, it is incumbent upon members of the society to experience their individual hijrah, that is, personally breaking ties with bad habits, evil practices, and ill-conceived customs.
In conclusion, understanding Islam as al-Din, Madinah as the place where al-Din was implemented, and tamaddun as the embodiment of superstructures that support religious life prevent the religion from being reduced to become merely a set of beliefs or rituals. Rather, it gives rise to a civilisation that calls for a truly madani society that is united in the implementation of the religious ordinances.