Today is the 1st of the month of Rabi al-Awwal, on the eve of which Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) was commanded by God Almighty to leave his hometown Mecca and migrate to Medina.
This marks the start of the universal phase of Islam. Later on the suggestion of Imam Ali (AS), who had risked his life in sleeping on the bed of the place to allow him migrate, undetected by the Arab assassin lurking around the house, the beginning of the Islamic calendar was fixed on this auspicious event, although for some unexplained reasons, the 2nd caliph, instead of the 1st of Rabi al-Awwal, kept the pre-Islamic pagan date of Moharram 1st as the beginning of the year.
When despite the intense persecution, the number of Muslims began to increase, and many people of the northern city of Yathreb started embracing the truth of Islam, the pagan Arabs of Mecca, like Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan, became alarmed that this would pose a threat to their commercial interests in Syria. They, therefore, convened a meeting in which after some debate, they agreed that the only way of averting this new peril, was by killing Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). This decision raised a few other questions such as who would kill him, how, when and where, since retaliation by the Bani Hashem would be severe. They further debated these questions, considered numerous options, and finally decided that one warrior from each clan of each tribe of Mecca and its environs would be selected; and all of them would attack the Prophet's house simultaneously, and kill him, just before dawn. Such concerted action, they felt confident, would "immobilize" the Bani Hashem who would be unable to fight against all the clans at the same time in retaliation for the murder. The Prophet, however, was ready to meet an exigency like this. As ordered by God, he called his devout ward and cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), disclosed to him the plan of the Quraysh, and his own plan to outwit them. His plan was to put Ali in his own bed, and then to slip out of the house at an opportune moment. The Quraysh, seeing Ali covered in a mantle, would imagine that the Prophet was sleeping, he explained. He also asked Ali to restore all the deposits of the pagans to their owners, and then to leave Mecca and meet him in Yathrib. Ali understood everything, and the Apostle commended him to God's protection.
The men whom the Quraysh had prepared for assassinating the Prophet had blockaded his house during the night, unknown to them the plans the Prophet had already made. The Arab polytheists surrounded the abode of divine revelation. They peeked inside and beheld a recumbent figure covered in a blanket, and were satisfied that their "quarry" was there. The Prophet meanwhile, sometime after midnight when the pickets had dozed off, silently walked through them and out of the precincts of his house. The pagan pickets had been caught off-guard, and the Messenger of God had succeeded in eluding their surveillance! Imam Ali (AS) slept on the bed of the Prophet all night. Just before daybreak, the pagans stormed into the house with drawn sabers for the kill. But to their surprise and dismay it was the brave Ali who got up from the bed. They knew they could not overcome him and moreover, they were in a hurry to locate the Prophet lest he get away. But was Ali ever afraid of death? The answer is a big "NO". He risked his life and God Almighty rewarded him through revelation of ayah 207 of Surah Baqarah to the Prophet, which reads:
"And among men there is one who sells his life to win the pleasure of Allah. Allah is very kind to His devotees."
If the Hijra highlights the unquestioning loyalty of Imam Ali (AS0 to Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), it also demonstrates his incredible courage. For him no risk was too great if he could save the life of the Messenger of God. It was this devotion and this courage that won for him the accolades from God Almighty. Ali had actually sold the "merchandise" of his life to Allah. Now freed from "anxiety" for the safety of that "merchandise," he could sleep very calmly on that Night of Destiny. He had thus become immortal! The pagans thought that if they killed the Prophet, Islam would be destroyed. But they didn't know that Allah had a plan of His own – a Counter-Plan – ready for this occasion. It was Allah's Counter-Plan that checkmated the Quraysh by saving the life of His Messengers. As ayah 3 Surah al-Qamar, reads:
"And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah."
Imam Ali (AS) was the "key component" in the Counter-Plan of Allah. In other words Ali's role guaranteed the success of the Hijra and made the birth of the political state of Medina possible. If Hijra had failed, the State of Medina would never have come into existence. Allah made His sincere servant, Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), the Instrument for the success and glory of Islam. This is the reason the pagan Arabs began to hate Ali, and even after becoming Muslims they harboured this hate in their hearts. After the passing away of the Prophet these so-called Muslims deprived Imam Ali of his right of political leadership, and in later generations, persecuted and killed his descendents who were the legal, religious, and divinely-decreed airs of the Prophet himself.
When the Prophet was out of the perimeter of his house and going toward Yathreb, he heard footsteps following him. When he turned and saw it was Abu Bakr, he immediately asked him to accompany him, realizing the danger of leaving behind someone who had by chance seen him leaving. That night, since they had no time to linger, they immediately left the city, and went to a cave called Thaur in the south of Mecca. They were in the cave when, a few hours later, the head-hunters also arrived in their pursuit. According to tradition, a spider had spun its web across the entrance to the cave, and a bird had laid an egg at it. The head-hunters argued that if anyone had entered the cave, the web and the egg would be broken, but since both were intact, no one had entered it. Thus convinced that the fugitives were not in the cave, they gave up the hunt and returned to Mecca. While the head-hunters were debating the point whether or not they should enter the cave to capture the fugitives who might be hiding in it, Abu Bakr was seized with panic, and he said to the Prophet: "We are only two and our enemies are so many. What chance we have of saving our lives if they enter the cave?" The latter said: "No. We are not two. There is a Third One with us, and He is Allah." This incident has been referred to in ayah 40 of Surah Towba, which reads:
"And God helped His Apostle when the unbelievers banished him. And when they were in the cave, he said to the second of the two: "do not be grief-stricken. God is with us." And God bestowed His peace upon him (upon the Prophet)."
The two travelers covered the distance between Mecca and Yathreb in nine days and on the tenth day arrived in Quba, a place two miles south of Yatheb. Before entering the city, the Prophet decided to await the arrival of Imam Ali (AS) from Mecca after handing over the deposits to their owners. In the meantime, he laid the foundations of a mosque in Quba. It was a rough structure the completion of which is said to have taken fourteen days. The Messenger of God arrived in Quba on Monday. On Thursday, Imam Ali (AS) also arrived. When he finally entered Yathreb which later became known as Medinat an-Nabi or the City of the Prophet, the route was lined with multitudes of the people wearing their best clothes and welcoming him. Women and children were watching the whole scene from the rooftops of their houses. Every citizen of Yathreb was eager to become the host of the Prophet of Islam who was entering the city as a guest. But not wishing to disappoint even the humblest citizen, the Prophet dropped the reins of his camel, and declared that he would stay wherever it would halt. The camel ambled past many houses, and then halted in front of the house of Abu Ayyub, whereupon he became the proud host of the Prophet. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari was a faithful man, who after the Prophet followed the path of Imam Ali (AS). Thus the Hijra is the crucial turn in the history of mankind that led to the establishment of the realm of God on earth in Medina by the Prophet, and would later lead to the establishment of the only instance of the government of social justice in history by Imam Ali (AS).