Rabi’ Al-Awwal is the month in which the Prophet peace be upon him was born, and the month in which he made the migration to Madina. There is a misconception that the migration of the Prophet peace be upon him took place in Muharram, since that is the first month of the Hijri calendar. However, most authorities agree that the Hijra was in the month of Rabi AlAwwal, the current month of the Islamic calendar.
Truly observing the birth of the Prophet peace be upon him or an event like the Hijra means pausing to absorb the lessons of those events to help us re-orient ourselves to our own reality.
The lessons of the hijra are many and I want to consider only one small aspect of the vast number of lessons the Hijra teaches us and that is the clear divine assistance throughout the journey. The Prophet peace be upon him and Abu Bakr took significant precautions to secure their trip. Despite those significant precautions, the entire endeavour could have failed at multiple times.
And at multiple times, the Prophet peace be upon him and his companion, were protected by measures that had no worldly business serving as protectors. The most memorable of those occasions was during the flight to the cave of Thawr. As Abu Bakr said to the prophet peace upon him, regarding the Quraishites pursuing them, “if one of them were to look under his feet, we would be discovered.”
The books of seerah report that a pigeon built a nest and a spider weaved a web at the entrance of the cave, giving the impression the cave is as undisturbed. The “protection” of the Prophet peace be upon him and his companion was afforded by the weakest and least plausible of defenses. The lesson for us seems to be that God does His will whenever He wills and however He wills without regard to what we would consider possible or plausible.
وقاية الله أغنت عن مضاعفة من الدروع و عن عال من الأطم
“God’s protection was better than multiplied shields and high walled fortresses.”
But reading the story of the Hijra and seeing only this sequence of divine interventions in support of the Prophet peace be upon him is a misreading of the seerah altogether. This event – the physical migration of the Prophet peace be upon him – took place against a background of extensive preparation and planning. There was a plan A, a plan B, a Plan C and even a Plan D.
The prophet had already sent a group of Muslims to Abyssinia as a place of sanctuary to which Muslims may retreat if they were eventually forced to. He sought out support in AlTa’if and sought to migrate there first. He undertook extensive preparations over two years for Madina to become a sanctuary. And finally, he had laid the ground work for entire tribes to enter into Islam such as the tribe of Ghifar.
For the event of the Hijra itself he took extensive precautions including heading south rather than north, employing a scout familiar with the terrain and so on. And so the Prophet peace be upon him did not rely on divine assistance as his “strategy”. But when he had done everything humanly possible, he had confidence in Allah’s help. And so, in the Cave of Thawr, when Abu Bakr turned to the Prophet and said, “if one of them were to look under his feet, we would be discovered”, the Prophet’s response was simple but supremely confident: “Allah is with us”.