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The Trip to Yathrib

3229 2008/08/08 2024/06/14

on the third day, when they felt certain that the quraysh had called off the hunt for them in the vicinity, muhammad and abu bakr commanded their servant to bring them their camels for escape. the servant managed to bring a third camel for himself. asma', daughter of abu bakr, brought them provisions. as they mounted, they could not find ropes with which to tie their provisions of food and water. asma' cut her robe in two and used one hall' of it for the purpose while covering herself with the other half. for this reason she was called "the woman with the two half robes." their provisions taken care of, the three men went forth. abu bakr carried five thousand dirhims, [the word is originally the greek "drachme," a silver coin of varying value. -tr.] which was all that was left of his wealth. lest the quraysh should find them, they cautiously took an untrodden path toward their destination. their servant and guide, `abdullah ibn urayqit, from the tribe of banu al du'il, headed south of makkah and then to the mountain range of tihamat close by the shore of the red sea. from there he took an unknown path northward parallel to the shore but far removed from it. his purpose was always to remain off the beaten track. all night and most of the day the riders pressed forth unaffected by fatigue or hardship, for every hardship was preferable indeed easy by comparison to what the quraysh was prepared to do to destroy them and their cause! muhammad never doubted that god would come to his help, but god had also commanded man not to expose himself to open risks. god had counseled that he would assist man only as long as man helped himself and his brother. the two men were successful in their hiding in the cave. however, the quraysh's announcement of an hundred camel prize to whoever would bring them back or furnish information which would lead to their capture was sufficient to mobilize the wealth seeking makkans for the search, even if it was a criminal one. still, the arabs of quraysh had additional motivation to conduct such a search, for they regarded muhammad as their enemy par excellence; and they were so revengeful and passionate in their hate that no consideration could stop them from exploiting the weak and injuring the harmless. therefore, they redoubled their attentiveness and renewed their vigor for the search.


the story of suraqah

their intuition did not fail them. a man soon arrived at makkah to report that on his way he met three riders whom he thought were muhammad and his companions. upon hearing this report, suraqah ibn malik ibn ju'shum immediately said, "those are the sons of so and so." his purpose was to lead his companions into disregarding the report so that he might capture muhammad single-handed and win the prize of the hundred camels. a moment later, he returned home, loaded himself with arms, and ordered his servant to take his horse to the outskirts of the city so that no one would see him go. there, he arrayed himself for battle, mounted his horse, and galloped toward the spot where muhammad was reported to have been seen. muhammad and his two companions had at that time repaired to a tree to rest a little under its shade, to eat a meal and to replenish their energies.

the time was close to evening. muhammad and abu bakr began to ready their beasts to resume their ride. suraqah was still as far from them as the eye could see. exhausted with fatigue from all its galloping, suraqah's horse fell twice on the way. when the travelers came into his sight, and he realized he could now capture or kill them, suraqah forgot that his horse had fallen twice already. he spurred it once more and hurried it toward them. the horse fell to the ground with its rider. at this turn, suraqah felt very apprehensive that the gods were against the execution of his scheme and that he might be exposing himself to grave danger should he spur his horse forward for the fourth time. after stopping, he called to the travelers: "i am suraqah ibn ju'shum. wait for me so that i may talk to you. by god, i shall do you neither harm or injury." when he arrived, he asked muhammad to write him a note with which to prove his present encounter. at the prophet's command, abu bakr wrote a note to this effect which suraqah took and returned home. made contrite by his unfortunate venture, he spread the news that the riders were not muhammad and his party at all!


the hardships of the road

muhammad and his two companions set forth toward yathrib across mountains, hills, and deserts whose sands were glowing with heat. since they were off the beaten track, they found hardly anything with which to alleviate the hardships of sun and thirst. furthermore, they were ever apprehensive that the quraysh or some other people might surprise and overtake them. their only consolation was their patient trust in god and the truth revealed to his prophet. for seven consecutive days they traveled, lying low during the heat of day and moving with great haste under cover of night. in the stillness of night and the brilliance of its stars lay their only security and assurance. when they reached the quarters of the tribe of banu sabin, where elder chieftain buraydah came over to greet them, their fears lessened, and for the first time, their hearts palpitated with the hope and assurance of victory. they had almost reached their destination.


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