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Pledge of Allegiance: Holding onto the Prophet

That year Afra of the Hazrec tribe was traveling to Mecca with 12 members of her own tribe. In the quarrelsome city of Yathrib which they left behind, it was thought that they had set out for a pilgrimage. However, there was another power attracting Afra to Mecca. It was a power embodied in a name that was spreading from house to house and ear to ear: Muhammad (pbuh). Her steps speeded up as she approached Mecca even though they would not shorten the time remaining until the agreed upon day. Afra was marching towards Aqaba with a profound yearning that she had nurtured during the transformation she had undergone during the last year.

She thought about the previous year. She scanned before her eyes one by one all the reasons and events that had led to this journey of yearning. First she remembered their traveling to Mecca to seek a solution to the problem that had led to deep hostility between her relatives from the Hazrec tribe and members of another prominent tribe in Yathrib, the Aws. She remembered the moment described by the six Hazrec members who had set out to find support for their tribe. They had described that great meeting which would change the destiny of Yathrib and the awe they had experienced when the verses of the Quran had fallen from the lips of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the blessed master of mankind. She could not forget the expressions of joy and enthusiasm beaming from their faces as they spoke about the meeting to take place one year later with the blessed Prophet from Mecca. She felt great pleasure in being a partner to this wonderful meeting and she had begun to feel a deep sense of gratitude and indebtedness to the six members of the Hazrec tribe walking beside her.

Afra was shaking herself. Her excitement was mounting. She was turning over the duty of calming her yearning to the calendar. For she knew that the Prophet, who had experienced great difficulty in explaining this invitation, had long since gone to Aqaba to light a candle for the spirit of each person who had come there from various districts. He was coming to Aqaba to untiringly breathe the eternal call to the flood of people who had come to the region to make pilgrimage and attend the fairs that had been set up there. He had come to this valley 3 kilometers from the Masjid-i Haram to present people the fruit of eleven years of knowing Gabriel.

At Aqaba at the appointed time and place the Prophet met with those coming from the Hazrec tribe who had also brought two members of the Aws tribe. The core of Muslim Medina was formed here with all its illuminated being. The Prophet wants a promise from the crowd surrounding him that they will not take partners with Allah, not steal or fornicate, not kill their children, not slander each other and that they will obey his commands. All hands race to rise in the air to hold onto the light of mankind and not to fall forever. The skies over Aqaba lock the alliance with the hands of volunteers. The Aqaba Agreement drops silently onto the pages of history, but in bold letters that will change the flow of history. In this illuminated atmosphere the ancient trouble between the Aws and Hazrec tribes is sentenced to darkness.  While Islam burns the heart of Medina, Medina becomes the heart of Islam.

 While the Prophet gets the promise of those from Medina with the pledge of allegiance at Aqaba, in return they are given a religion with which they can save this world and the next. Thus, the agreement that describes in Arabic the operation of trade takes its place in Islamic culture with the tradition of hand-shaking which confirms the business agreement.

The next year a much larger crowd meets the Prophet at Aqaba. This time they wait there to invite the master of mankind to Medina. Their aim is to end the oppression and persecution that is deemed suitable to the Prophet and his companions in Mecca. Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet who is accompanying him, warns the delegates from Medina. He points out the difficulties that will be created by the Prophet's immigration to Medina, and he recommends that they attempt this only if they can protect him until the end.  The people from Medina are determined. They guarantee that they will give a pledge to the Prophet under whatever conditions he wants. The Messenger of Allah asks that if he emigrates, they should protect him as they protect their own lives, property and families; that they obey him in good times and bad; that they give financial assistance in times of scarcity and plenty; that they command the good and prohibit evil; and that they insist on justice without fearing anyone. Aqaba becomes Medina's voice. The robust replies to the Prophet's call rise to the heavens. All hands race in the air to hold onto the light of mankind and not to fall forever. The skies over Aqaba again lock the alliance to the hands of volunteers. And thus are taken the first steps of the blessed migration.

At the same time, a mutual guarantee is made with the pledge. While Yathrib becomes the "Enlightened City" in exchange for the allegiance it gave, the Prophet's eternal home gains the honor of becoming Islam's capital.

While Islam develops and thrives with this pledge, darkness almost imprisons Mecca. The Prophet and his companions take to the roads of Mecca. Only six years after the second pledge of allegiance Muslims have gained enough confidence to return to Mecca for the small pilgrimage. They stop to rest next to the Hudaybiya well one day's distance from Mecca. News arrives to the effect that the Quraish have set up a military unit. Intending to make umra, not war, the Prophet first sends Hirash and then his son-in-law Uthman to Mecca as a deputy. Just as the Quraish are not agreeable, they also detain Uthman there.

Those waiting anxiously at Hudaybiya get the news that Uthman has been murdered. The Prophet calls out to his companions from underneath a tree there. This time he asks for a pledge that they will not escape from death or, according to one narration, from "war." More than one thousand companions present their lives to the Prophet by raising their hands. The Meccans are very impressed by this pledge that shows their commitment to the Prophet and that they are willing to die on his path.  The Hudaybiya Pact becomes mandatory for them. While returning to Medina, the Muslims receive two verses of the Fath Surah in return for the pledge that appears to be gratuitous: "My Messenger! Undoubtedly those who gave a pledge to you actually gave a pledge to Allah. Allah's hand is upon their hands." "I swear that Allah was pleased with those believers who made a pledge to you under the tree."

Those who pledge allegiance to the Prophet can hope to hold fast to him and walk to the Truth under his guidance, to hold fast to him and give account in his shade and remain on their feet eternally.

However, after his death the pledge takes on a political identity. Even if it has the quality of being a vote of approval confirming the election of a new caliph during the first periods, when the caliphate turned into sultanate, it took on the nature of blind obedience. While aiming to consolidate a verbal vote of approval, on the one hand, it attempted to draw the caliph closer to his subjects, on the other hand.

Centuries have passed; the Prophet remains far from mankind now. Hands can no longer touch him. However, now hearts race with one another in the air to hold onto him and not fall forever. And the heavens lock together the Prophet and those who pledge allegiance to him.

 

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