Hegira (from the Arabic hijra, which means breaking off relations, abandoning one's tribe, or migrating) refers to the departure of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca in AD 622. His criticism of the polytheism of the Meccan religion had angered the merchants of Mecca, who were reaping large profits from pilgrims. Forced into exile, Muhammad went to Yathrib (later renamed Medina) and became its ruler. The caliph Umar I (d. 664) proclaimed the start of the Muslim era (dated AH, annus hegirae) from the first day (July 16, 622, by the Julian calendar) of the lunar year in which the hegira occurred. The term is also applied to any Muslim emigration.
Hegira or Hejira (Arabic hijrah,"flight"), specifically, flight in AD622 of Muhammad from Mecca to Yathrib (now Medina), both in what is now Saudi Arabia; by extension, the term is applied to any similar flight or emigration. Caliph Umar I selected the year of the Hegira as the first year of the Muslim era. Hence, AD622 became 1 AH (anno hegirae) in the Muslim calendar, which Umar systematized in 639.
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Muhammad's position in Mecca was becoming more and more unsupportable (due to his insistence on one god rather than the many that the Meccans worshipped). He sought to establish himself in Taif without success.
Muhammad met a group of people from the oases of Yathrib (or Medina, as it later came to be known), who realized that Muhammad might help them with their domestic political problems. They absorbed Islam from Muhammad and returned to Medina to preach the new religion. In 622, a larger group of Medinese pledged their support and agreed to grant him protection.
Muhammad urged his Meccan supporters to emigrate to Medina, while he himself became the last to leave the town. The migration (or Hijra) of the Prophet was later taken as the starting point of Muslim chronology. (According to tradition, the Hijra took place in September 622; however, the Muslim era starts at the beginning of the Arab year in which the Hijra took place, i.e. 16 July 622.)
Medina at the time of Muhammad's arrival was inhabited by eight large clans of Arabs and three major clans of Jews. For years there had been feuding between the clans, culminating in a great battle in 618, in which many were slaughtered. With the aim of creating political stability, Muhammad established a community of people (umma) made up of his followers from Mecca and the people of Medina. All important problems were to be laid before him and God. All the new arrangements are contained in a document called the Constitution of Medina, and as [author Michael] Cook puts it, "[one of the major interests] of the parties of the document is the waging of war."
Unfortunately, we are not aware of any more scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.
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