Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon Him: The Night at Aqaba

I am in Mina standing in line waiting my turn for wudu.  Magrib is over and isha has not yet set in.  The dark, thick and velvety cover of night is falling rapidly over the desert. I shiver in my day clothes as the cool desert night ushers in a chill.

I look up and beyond, at the mountain and I see the tents on the incline. Is that Aqaba? I wonder. The white tents have lost their color in the night and look like grey ghosts with the torches lighting their entrance.

The wait is long for wudu and my mind flies onto the mountain and into the pages of Martin Ling and MH Haykal and their descriptions of the second covenant of Aqaba. Suddenly it comes to life as I look up at the torch lighted tents with sudden excitement, and realize that it took place up there on the mountain somewhere…………..

One by one they enter the darkened tent, their surefootedness is a sign of men of war, they have seen it and done it in the dark. Their arms do not clatter but occasionally gleam in the torchlight. There are seventy-three men. Two dark cloaked women follow, their swords gleaming in the folds of their abayas.

Twelve of them had met like this thirteen years ago, and made the first covenant with him (pbuh) but this is different…………..each can sense the change in him (pbuh) and in their own selves.

This pact is a huge step. It is a serious pact of commitment: he (pbuh) is committing himself to them and Yathrib forever as long as he lives, and they are committing themselves and Yathrib to him (pbuh) as long as he lives. It is a pact of a lifetime from both sides.

I can feel a sense of finality in him….. …………..Only a few miles away from home, he is saying goodbye forever to his hometown, never to go back to live there again, to walk the streets, to laugh and to relive the memories of his beloved wife and children, friends and loved ones……….never again will he call Mecca home……. he is leaving Mecca behind…………and with this covenant he will pledge himself irreversibly to the people of Yathrib. I feel him relinquishing his desire for his dearest Mecca his home in obedience to his Lord.

Mina is a place where the pilgrims reside outside Mecca during Hajj. It is a retreat to remember their Lord, the one who owns The Kaaba. There are no arms, no fighting, no disagreements, here.

I look around the modern day Mina is not too different, the rich have luxurious tents, and the poor have the basic minimum.

The torchlights wink at me reminding me of the night of the second Covenant of Aqaba………….

The seventy-three are young men, full of verve and vigor. For thirteen years they have been preaching Islam and its tenets of gentleness, forbearance and sacrifice even while under attack.

Haykal describes the need of the moment:

“ The times and their present dangers called for an alliance by which the Muslims would help one another to prevent as well as to repel injury and aggression”

The hush of  night has fallen. All the pilgrims have retired to their tents. The general hubbub has ceased and the mountain is sprinkled with torchlights each representing an individual tent…….

It is in one such tent that the men and women of Yathrib have gathered after ascending the mountain to meet him (pbuh).

They talk discuss, question and agree and the Covenant is completed. Suddenly there is a loud cry…………..someone reports to the Quraish in a loud voice :

“Muhammad (pbuh) and the apostates have covenanted to make war against you”

…….. It is Shaitaan in a Criers body or in his own Shaitaani self, Only Allah knows………..

Silence falls in the tent as all those present absorb the enormous significance of this night crier’s announcement in the silent night.

……………..And then comes the act that requires the strength of steel, a heart purified with the love of Allah, and the absolute obedience to Allah and his Messenger. Once again the men and women of Yathrib come through on all three, and the Messenger of Allah bows his head awaiting the command of His Lord.

Haykal describes this…………..

“Abbas Ibn Ubaydah says to Prophet Muhammad pbuh immediately after hearing the cry decrying their presence”

”By God who has sent you with the truth, if you order us to pounce on Mina tomorrow morning with our swords, we shall do so”

Muhammad pbuh answers:

“God has not commanded us to fight. Return to your quarters”

…… and they did.

I wonder at the difference between then and now. The immense self discipline, faith and reliance on the word of God as relayed by His (Subhanawataala) Prophet (pbuh).

If these armed men had been unleashed on the Quraish in Mina there would have been a bloody massacre as none of the Quraish were armed, and history would have taken a different turn.

There is a poignant and complex lesson here in both the character of our Rasool (pbuh) and in the behavior of the brave men and women of Yathrib.

When to leash one’s strength and when to release it, should be determined by the command of Allah, not at a knee jerk response to incited anger at what someone says or does. The decision to unleash ones power be it endowed in physical prowess on intellectual effectiveness, should lie in the obedience of Allah Subhanawataala and His Prophet (pbuh)

Thus  as a Muslim one has to know when to give in and when to hold it……….in anger, in a fight against oppression and in the hand of friendship. All acts have to be based on the obedience of Allah and His Rasool pbuh.

One wonders at the people who casually draw a face that they think represents him (pbuh)………. do they know him?

It is like drawing a vague similitude of a speck of sand in the depth of the ocean and saying this represents all the mysteries of the ocean.

My turn has come, the open air wudu area is now deserted, I have been in a reverie with the mountain and the stars in full shine. I take one last look at the mountain, which beckons me with its mysteries of the past and I wonder which tent it was……..

I turn to the faucet and  turn the water on to begin my ablution for the Isha prayer and my personal time with my Lord.

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