We saw earlier how Muhammad (pbuh) as a child had visited the city of Yathrib with his mother. Yathrib was a wealthy city, and in it lived two important tribes, the Aws and Khazraj. A certain number of Jewish tribes also lived in Yathrib. They were people with a holy book, fiercely proud of their religion, and would boast to the Arabs of their knowledge and learning. Their religious leaders, the rabbis, preached the coming of a new prophet, though they believed that he would be a member of their community
Now at a certain time each year, the Arab tribes would come in large numbers from all over the peninsula to Makkah in order to perform the pilgrimage and to visit the Kaba. News of the teachings of Muhammad (pbuh) reached the city of Yathrib through a number of returning pilgrims. And so it was that a party from the tribe of Khazraj decided to make the journey to Makkah to see and hear Muhammad s for themselves. All the while, they had in mind the stories that the Jews of Yathrib used to tell about the coming of a new prophet.
This group with Muhammad (pbuh), listened to what he had to say and were convinced that his mission was true. When they returned home, they related to their kinsmen all that they had been told and many who heard them were persuaded of the truth of Muhammad’s (pbuh) mission.
The following year, more than seventy men left Yathrib and journeyed to Makkah. They met Muhammad s in secret, outside the city, and pledged themselves to protect and defend him should he chose to come and live with them in Yathrib. This the Prophet (pbuh) decided to do. The oath which the men of Yathrib took became known as the Treaty of Aqaba. It was the very first in Islam, the name given to the new religion.
Muhammad (pbuh) returned to Makkah and urged his followers to leave for Yathrib where they would be free to practice their religion. Those Muslims who were able to travel took this opportunity and, one by one or in groups, stole away from Makkah and from Quraysh who had been ill-treating them for so many years.
When Quraysh discovered that many of the Muslims had escaped, they feared that the Muslims would turn people against them, and that people would no longer come to visit the Kaba. Quraysh’s wealth depended on the pilgrims who came every year to perform the pilgrimage. Knowing that Muhammad (pbuh) must surely intend to follow those who had already fled, Quraysh now resolved to kill him. One night, a group of them surrounded Muhammad’s (pbuh) house waiting for the right moment to enter and kill him.
But, God blinded Quraysh, and Muhammad (pbuh) was able to slip away without their ever seeing him leave. Muhammad (pbuh) was joined by his friend Abu Bakr ti, and together they left for Yathrib.
When Quraysh realised that Muhammad (pbuh) had escaped them, they sent out parties to search for him and to bring him back to Makkah. One party found the tracks of Muhammad (pbuh) and Abu Bakr and were about to catch up with them, but God guided His Prophet (pbuh) to a cave in the side of a mountain. After Muhammad s and Abu Bakr t, had entered, a bird quickly came and built a nest just outside the cave and a spider spun a web across the cave entrance. The party from Quraysh came up to the cave, but seeing the nesting bird and the spider’s web, thought that no one could have entered the cave without disturbing these two; they decided that Muhammad (pbuh) could not be inside and so went to look for him elsewhere. When the search party was gone Muhammad (pbuh) and Abu Bakr were able to continue on to Yathrib.
The journey of Muhammad (pbuh) to Yathrib became known as the Hijra, and the year it took place became the year one of the Muslim calendar. Muhammad (pbuh) settled down to live in Yathrib which became known as the City of the Messenger of God, in Arabic Madinat Rasal Allah, or simply the City, Madina. A mosque was built in which Muhammad s could meet with the Muslims for prayer. He settled what disputes there were between the inhabitants of Madina, and made an agreement with the Jews which allowed them to live in peace and harmony with the Muslims and still abide by their own religion.
But Quraysh would not leave the Muslims in peace, and over a period of several years the Muslims had to go to battle a number of times against Quraysh and their allies. But, finally, the Muslims grew in number to such a degree that Quraysh were obliged to sign a peace treaty with them. This treaty stated that all hostilities between the two sides should cease, and that the peace should remain unbroken for ten years. The Muslims were also granted free movement in Makkah for three days every year in order to perform the pilgrimage.
The Muslims were able to perform the pilgrimage in the first year of the peace treaty. But before the time for the second pilgrimage had come round, they heard that Quraysh had broken the terms of the treaty by attacking a tribe that was allied to the Muslims. Muhammad (pbuh) immediately gathered together an army of ten thousand men and marched on Makkah. When the Makkans saw such a huge Muslim army coming over the hills around Makkah, they were overwhelmed by fear. Muhamma (pbuh) then sent word to the Makkans that if they did not fight against him and the Muslims and remained in their homes, their lives would be spared. The Makkans agreed. Muhammad (pbuh) entered Makkah victorious and made directly for the Kaba. There he knelt in grateful prayer to God, and circled around the Holy House with the Muslims following close behind him.
After performing the rites, Muhammad (pbuh) ordered the destruction of the idols that surrounded the Kaba. Thus once more the Kaba was restored to its proper role, as it had been when Abraham a first built it, namely, a place for the worship of God alone.
And say, “The Truth has arrived, and falsehood has perished; for falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.”
The people of Makkah then came to Muhammad (pbuh) to declare their acceptance of Islam. Fearfully, they wondered what he would do to them. But Muhammad (pbuh) treated them with kindness and pardoned them for all they had done.
Muhammad (pbuh) decided not to remain in Makkah but to return to Madina. He preferred to go back with those people who had been his loyal Helpers throughout his mission. The people of Madina, known as the Ansar or Helpers, were overjoyed at this decision for they had feared that Muhammad (pbuh) would remain in Makkah, the city of his birth.
Now, when the time for the pilgrimage came round again, set off on his camel for Makkah and with him went a rong of thirty thousand pilgrims. Those who had become Muslims in the early days now thought back how they had fled, in ones and twos, from the tyranny of Quraysh. By the grace of God, they were returning, a mighty host, to Makkah, no longer afraid or persecuted.
Once again, Muhammad (pbuh) made directly for the Kaeba and circled around it seven times, the Muslims following. in his footteps. Then he led them just outside Makkah to the mountain at ‘Arafa, where they were to spend the day. Here, Muhammad (pbuh) gave his Farewell Sermon. In it he counselled the Muslims to hold fast to the Book of God, the Quran, and to follow his example, the Sunnah, for in the two lay the way to salvation. He instructed them to abandon what they used to practice before the coming of Islam. Lastly, he recited a verse from the Quran in which God says:
This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favour onto you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.
Many Muslims wept when they heard these words from the Quran, for they understood that if the Prophet’s message on earth was complete, then the time of his death must certainly be near at hand.
Back in Madina, Muhammad (pbuh) began to feel weak and faint. He, nonetheless, continued to lead the Muslims in prayer. But he soon came down with a fever and Abu Bakr, his old friend and Companion, was asked to lead the Muslims in prayer in place of Muhammad (pbuh).
A few days into his illness, Muhammad (pbuh) appeared at the mosque while the prayers were in progress. The Muslims were overjoyed to see him, and Abu Bakr stepped back for Muhammad (pbuh) to take his place. But Muhammad (pbuh) signaled for him to continue, and himself prayed sitting by Abü Bakr’s side.
Afterward, Muhammad (pbuh) returned to the house of his wife Aisha r. There he lay with his head on her lap, half asleep. Suddenly, ‘Aisha heard him utter faintly the Quranic verse:
With those upon whom God has showered His Favour, the prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the good, and they are the best of companions.
Form this ‘Aisha understood that Muhammad (pbuh) had chosen to remain no longer on earth, but to return to his Maker. And so the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) peacefully passed away after having fulfilled his mission to the end.