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Hegira (Arabic: الهجرة‎) is a medieval Latin transliteration of the Arabic word meaning "departure" or "migration," among other definitions. Alternative transliterations of the word include Hijra or Hijrah.[1] The word is commonly used to refer to the journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in the year 622.[2][3] The Hijrah is also identified as the epoch of the Islamic calendar, which is also known as the Hijri calendar, set to 16 July 622 in the Julian calendar or 19 July 622 in the Gregorian calendar.

Early in Muhammad's preaching of Islam, his followers only included his close friends and relatives. Following the spread of his religion, Muhammad and his small faction of Muslims faced several challenges including a boycott of Muhammad's clan, torture, killing and other forms of religious persecution by the Meccans. In May 622, after having convened twice with members of the Medinan tribes of Aws and Khazraj at al-'Aqabah near Mina, Muhammad secretly left his home in Mecca to emigrate to the city, along with his friend, father-in-law and companion Abu Bakr.[4] Muhammad's arrival at Medina resulted in the renaming of the city from Yathrib to Madīnat an-Nabī (Arabic: مَدينة النّبي‎, lit. 'City of the Prophet'), but the grammatic object an-Nabī was dropped after Muhammad's death, rendering the current name, Medina (Arabic: المدينة‎; lit. 'the City').[5]

While the word is commonly used to explicitly refer to Muhammad's Hegira, it may be used to refer to any of the two major migrations that were undertaken during Muhammad's lifetime, the other being Migration to Abyssinia.


The word is a medieval Latin transliteration of the Arabic noun هجرة meaning departure, derived from the verb هجر meaning emigrate.[6] The first recorded use of the word is in the late 15th-century;[6] while the first usage of the word to refer to an exodus was in 1753.[7]


Medina was inhabited by both Arabs and Jews. The Arabs consisted of two tribes–the Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj. The Aws and Khazraj were constantly at war with each other, and this made traditional rules for maintaining law and order become dysfunctional, and, without a neutral man with considerable authority over things, stability seemed unlikely.[8] It is also accepted by modern historians of Arabia that the Arabs of Medina had heard from their Jewish fellow citizens of the coming of a prophet.[9][10]

During Dhu al-Hijjah of the year 620 CE, Muhammad convened with some members of the Banu Khazraj tribe from Medina near the al-'Aqabah Hill in Mina just outside of Mecca, propounded to them the doctrines of Islam, and recited portions of the Quran.[11][12] Impressed by this, they embraced Islam,[9] and during the pilgrimage of 621, five of them brought seven others with them. These twelve informed Muhammad of the beginning of gradual development of Islam in Medina, and took a formal pledge of allegiance at Muhammad's hand, promising to accept him as a prophet, to worship none but one God, and to renounce sins including theft, adultery, and murder, in what is now known as the First Pledge of al-'Aqabah.[13][14][15] At their request, Muhammad sent with them Mus‘ab ibn 'Umair to teach them the instructions of Islam.[16] The following year, in 622, a delegation of around 75 Muslims conisting of members of both the Aws and Khazraj from Medina restated the terms of the First Pledge and also assured Muhammad of their full support and protection if the latter would migrate to Medina as an arbitrator to reconcile among the Aws and Khazraj.[17] This is known as the Second Pledge at al-Aqabah,[10][18] and was a religiopolitical success that paved the way for the Medinan Hegira.[19] Following the pledges, Muhammad encouraged his followers to migrate to Medina, and in a span of two months, nearly all the Muslims of Mecca migrated to the city.


Muhammad built the Masjid Qubā’ upon his arrival at Medina. Qubā’ was not part of Medina at that time.

Muslims believe Muhammad waited until he received divine direction to depart from Mecca. In anticipation of receiving this direction, Muhammad began making preparations and informed Abu Bakr. On the night of his departure, Muhammad's house was besieged by men of the Quraysh, who had seen large numbers of the Muslims leave the city and had planned to kill him as soon as he left. Muhammad, who was renowned for his trustworthiness, was in possession of various properties of members the Quraysh entrusted to him and he asked Ali to stay behind to return them and to fulfill his obligations on his behalf. Muhammad asked Ali to wear his cloak and to lie down on his bed assuring him of God's protection. Ali had worn Muhammad's cloak, leading the assassins to think Muhammad had not yet departed. Ali risked his life by staying in Mecca, but ultimately survived the plot. He would later leave for Medina with his mother, Fatima bint Asad, Muhammed's daughters Fatimah and Umm Kulthum as well as two other women, Muhammad's wife, Sawda, and wetnurse, Umm Ayman.[20][21]

Muhammad and Abu Bakr left the city and took shelter in a cave atop the Thawr mountain south of Mecca before continuing their journey, in order to delude the Quraysh. They stayed in the cave for three days before resuming their journey and being pursued by Suraqa bin Malik. However, everytime Suraqa neared Muhammad and Abu Bakr, Suraqa's horse stumbled, and he finally gave up on the desire of capturing Muhammad.[21] Muhammad and Abu Bakr turned to the Red Sea, following the coastline up to Medina, arriving at Quba' on a Monday. He stopped at Quba' and established a mosque there. After a four-day stay at Quba', Muhammad and Abu Bakr continued to Medina, participated in their first Friday prayer on the way, and upon reaching the city, were greeted cordially by its people.

Aftermath and legacyEdit

Muhammad's followers suffered from poverty after fleeing persecution in Mecca and migrating with Muhammad to Medina. Their Meccan persecutors seized their wealth and belongings left behind in Mecca.[22] Beginning in January 623, Muhammad led several raids against Meccan caravans travelling along the eastern coast of the Red Sea. Members of different tribes was thus encouraged by the need to act as a unit. This unity was primarily based on the bonds of kinship.[22][23][24]

The second Rashidun Caliph, Omar, designated the Muslim year during which the Hegira occurred the first year of the Islamic calendar in 638 or the 17th year of the Hegira. This was later Latinized to Anno hegirae, the abbreviation of which is still used to denote Hijri dates today.[5] Burnaby states that: "Historians in general assert that Muhammad fled from Mecca at the commencement of the third month of the Arabian year, Rabi 'u-l-awwal. They do not agree as to the precise day. According to Ibn-Ishak it was on the first or second day of the month;"[25]

Several Islamic historians and scholars, including Al Biruni, Ibn Sa'd and Ibn Hisham. have discussed these dates in depth.[26] The hypothetical dates of the major milestones of the Hegira are calculated by retrocalculating the dates in the current Islamic calendar. When the tabular Islamic calendar was invented by Muslim astronomers, it changed all the known dates by about 118 days or four lunar months. The Muslim dates of the Hijrah are those recorded in an original lunisolar pre-Islamic Arabian calendar that was never converted into the purely lunar calendar to account for the four intercalary months inserted during the next nine years until intercalary months (nasī') were prohibited during the year of the Farewell Pilgrimage (10 AH).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tesch, Noah; Afsaruddin, Asma (12 March 2018). Hijrah. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  2. ^ Shaikh, Fazlur Rehman (2001). Chronology of Prophetic Events. London: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd. pp. 51–52.
  3. ^ Marom, Roy (Fall 2017). "Approaches to the Research of Early Islam: The Hijrah in Western Historiography". Jama'a. 23: vii.
  4. ^ Moojan Momen (1985), An Introduction to Shi'i Islam: History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi'ism, Yale University Press, New edition 1987, p. 5.
  5. ^ a b F.A. Shamsi, "The Date of Hijrah", Islamic Studies 23 (1984): 189–224, 289–323 (JSTOR link 1 + JSTOR link 2).
  6. ^ a b "hegira | Origin and meaning of hegira by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Definition of HEGIRA". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  8. ^ Holt, et al (2000), pp. 39–40.
  9. ^ a b Shibli Nomani. Sirat-un-Nabi. Vol 1. Lahore.
  10. ^ a b Holt, et al (2000), p. 40.
  11. ^ Sell, Edward (1913). The Life of Muhammad (PDF). Madras: The Christian Literary Society for India. p. 70. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  12. ^ Holt, P. M.; Lambton, Ann K. S.; Lewis, Bernard (2000). The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0521219464.
  13. ^ Khan, Muhammad Zafra (1980). Muhammad, seal of the prophets. London. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-85525-992-1.
  14. ^ Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K S Lambton, and Bernard Lewis, The Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 1, The Central Islamic Lands, Cambridge, 2000, p. 40. ISBN 978-0-85525-992-1
  15. ^ Sell (1913), p. 71.
  16. ^ Murad, Khurram. (1998). Who is Muhammad, peace be upon him. Islamic Foundation (Great Britain). Leicester: Islamic Foundation. ISBN 978-0-86037-290-5. OCLC 41621132.
  17. ^ Hitti, Philip Khuri (1946). History of the Arabs. London: Macmillan and Co. p. 116.
  18. ^ Khan (1980), p. 73.
  19. ^ Sell (1913), p. 76.
  20. ^ Muir, William (1861). The life of Mahomet Volume 2. pp. 258–59.
  21. ^ a b Al Mubarakpuri, Safi ur Rahman (2002). "On the Road to Madina". Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum – The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet. Darussalam. ISBN 9960899551. Retrieved 11 November 2011.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  22. ^ a b John Esposito, Islam, Expanded edition, Oxford University Press, pp. 4–5.
  23. ^ William Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford, 1953, pp. 16–18.
  24. ^ Rue, Loyal D. (2005). Religion is Not about God: How Spiritual Traditions Nurture Our Biological Nature and what to Expect when They Fail. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813535111.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) p. 224.
  25. ^ Sherrard Beaumont Burnaby, Elements of the Jewish and Muhammadan calendars (1901).
  26. ^ Caussin de Perceval writing in 1847 as reported in 1901 by Sherrard Beaumont Burnaby, Elements of the Jewish and Muhammadan calendars (London: 1901) 374–75.

External linksEdit