The Second `Aqabah Pledge

The next year, the thirteenth year of Prophethood, June 622 C.E., during the pilgrimage season, over seventy converts from Madinah came along with the polytheists to perform the rituals of pilgrimage in Makkah. The oftrepeated question among them was “Is it not high time for us to protect Muhammad instead of leaving him abandoned, deserted and stumbling in the hillocks of Makkah?”

Shortly after their arrival, they secretly contacted the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and agreed to meet him at night during the middle of the Tashreeq Days (the 11th, 12th and 13th days of Dhul-Hijjah) in a hillock at Al-`Aqabah, the previous year’s meeting place.

One of the leaders of the Ansar (Helpers), Ka`b bin Malik Al-Ansari, gave an account of the historic meeting which changed the whole course of the struggle between Islam and paganism, and said:

“We set out for pilgrimage and had planned a meeting with Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the midst of the Days of Tashreeq. The night of our planned meeting with Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) arrived. We were accompanied by `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Haram, one the most notable and respected among our people. We said to him, ‘O Abu Jabir! You are certainly one of our most respected and one of the most noble of our nobility. We do not want you to be fuel for the Fire tomorrow.’ Then we invited him to accept Islam and informed of the meeting we had planned with Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at Al-`Aqabah. He accepted Islam and attended Al-`Aqabah, and he was our chief representative.’’

Ka`b said: “That very night we slept with our people in our camps. After a third of the night had elapsed, we began to leave quietly and met at a hillock nearby. We were seventy-three men plus two women, Nusaibah bint Ka`b — Umm `Umarah — from the Bani Mazin bin Najjar and Asma’ bint `Amr — Umm Muni’ from Bani Salamah. We gathered in the hillocks waiting for Allah’s Messenger until he came in the company of his uncle Al-`Abbas bin `Abdul-Muttalib who was at that time still following the religion of his people. Yet he liked to be present for the affairs of his nephew. He was the first to speak:

’O you people of the Khazraj — the Arabs used to call the Ansar (Helpers) Khazraj, whether from Khazraj or Aws — all of you know the position that Muhammad holds among us. We have protected him from our people as much as we could. He is honored and respected among his people. He refuses to join any party except you. So, if you think you can carry out what you promise while inviting him to your town, and if you can defend him against the enemies, then assume the burden that you have taken. But if you are going to surrender him and betray him after having taken him away with you, you had better leave him now because he is respected and well defended in his own place.’’’

Ka`b replied: “We have heard your words, and now, O Messenger of Allah, it is for you to speak and take from us any pledge that you wish regarding your Lord and yourself.’’

It was a confident response showing complete determination, courage and deep faith to shoulder the great responsibility and bear its serious consequences. Allah’s Messenger then preached the Faith, and the pledge was taken.

The Articles of the Pledge

Al-Imam Ahmad recorded that Jabir narrated: “We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! To what shall we pledge?’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) answered:

‘1. To listen and obey in every difficulty and ease.

  1. To spend in plenty as well as in scarcity.
  2. To enjoin good and forbid evil.
  3. In Allah’s service, you will fear the censure of none.
  4. To aid me when I come to you, and protect me from anything you protectyourself, your spouses and children from.

Then Paradise is in store for you.’’’

In another version reported by Ibn Ishaq, Ka`b said:

“The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) began to speak, recited some Qur’anic Verses, called people unto Allah, encouraged them to enter the fold of Islam and concluded by saying:

‘I give you my pledge that you protect me from whatever you protect your women and children from.’

Here Al-Bara’ bin Ma’rur caught him by hand, and said: `Oh yes, we swear by Allah, Who sent you as a Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in Truth, that we will protect you from whatever we protect our women from. Have confidence in us, O Messenger of Allah. By Allah, we are genuine fighters and quite reliable in war, it is a characteristic passed down to us from our ancestors.’

Then `Abul-Haitham bin At-Taihan interrupted and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Between us and the Jews, there are agreements which we would then sever. If Allah grants you power and victory, should we expect that you would not leave us, and join the ranks of your people (meaning the Quraish)?’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) smiled and replied:

`Nay, it would never be; your blood will be my blood. In life and death I will be with you and you with me. I will fight whom you fight and I will make peace with those with whom you make peace.’’’

Stressing the Gravity of the Pledge

After the conditions of allegiance were decided and the gathering had unanimously agreed to endorse it, two men from the foremost converts to Islam rose to their feet to explain the implications of the serious step they were about to take, so that they could give their pledge fully aware of the whole affair, and consequently be ready for the sacrifices they were expected to make.

Ibn Ishaq said: “When they gathered for the pledge, Al-`Abbas bin `Ubadah bin Nadlah, said: `Do you know the significance of the pact that you are entering into with this man? You are in fact affirming that you will fight against various people. If you fear that your property will be at risk or the lives of your nobles will be in danger, then leave him now, because if you do this after the pledge, it will be degrading for you both in this world and the world to come. But if you think that you can carry out what you are called upon to do in spite of the loss of precious lives and property, then undertake this heavy responsibility, and I swear by Allah, that herein lies the good of this world and that of the next.’ They replied, `We have already considered the loss of property and the murder of our notables, yet we pay him allegiance. But what is our reward if we observe all the items of this pact?’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied:

`Paradise is in store for you.’

They said, `Extend your hand,’ then he extended his hand and they pledged to him.’’

In the narration of Jabir, he said: “When we started to pledge allegiance, As`ad bin Zurarah took his hand and said: `Take it easy O people of Yathrib! We have not covered this long distance except because we have deep belief that he (Muhammad) is the Messenger of Allah. We are already convinced that following him entails departure from the pagan Arabs even if it were at the risk of our life. Should you enter in this course, hold fast to it, and your great reward is placed in the Hand of Allah, but if you are caught in fear, I advise you to give it up just now, and that would be more excusable by Allah.’’’

Taking the Pledge

After approving of the articles of the pledge, clarification and emphasis, the process of actual pledging began by touching hands. Jabir said, after mentioning the saying of As`ad bin Zurarah : “They said, ‘O As`ad! Stretch your hand out for us, for by Allah! We will never breach or cheat this pledge.’’’

It was then that As`ad realized their surety in this cause, and he along with Mus`ab bin `Umair was the primary person inviting to this pledge and the first to take it.

Ibn Ishaq said, “Banu An-Najjar claimed that Abu Umamah As`ad bin Zurarah was the first person to put out his hand.’’

After that everyone else began to give the pledge. Jabir said, “So man by man we stood before him taking the pledge so that by that we would be granted Paradise.’’

With regard to the two women, the pledge was taken orally for the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) never shook hands with an unrelated woman.

Twelve Representatives

The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then asked the group to appoint twelve people to represent their people, and to be responsible regarding the articles of the pledge. He said:

“Let twelve men come to me as representatives among you, so that they are responsible over their people.’’

The representatives were nine from Al-Khazraj: As`ad bin Zurarah bin

`Ads, Sa`d bin Ar-Rabi` bin `Amr, `Abdullah bin Rawahah bin Tha’labah, Rafi’ bin Malik bin Al-`Ajlan, Al-Bara’ bin Ma`rur bin Sakhr, `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Haram, `Ubadah bin As-Samit bin Qais, Sa`d bin `Ubadah bin Dulaim and Al-Mundhir bin `Amr bin Khunais. Three others were from AlAws: Usaid bin Hudair bin Samak, Sa`d bin Khaithamah bin Al-Harith and Rifa`ah bin `Abdul-Mundhir bin Zubair.

After their appointment, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took another oath from these twelve representatives that they would hold the position of answerability. He said to them:

“You are responsible over your people in matters among them, a responsibility like that of the disciples of `Isa bin Maryam, and I am the one responsible over my people — meaning the Muslims.’’ They agreed to this.

A Devil Exposes the Meeting

After the people had finished the pledge and the covenant was complete, one of the devils exposed them. At the very last moment, hoping to get the Quraish to gather and witness this congregation firsthand at the location, that devil stood on the highest ground shouting so that everyone could hear, “O people of the dwellings, Muhammad and his youth have conspired for war against you!’’ Allah’s Messenger said:

“This is Azab (the Jinn) of Al-`Aqabah. O enemy of Allah! We are leaving you now.’’

Then he ordered them to go to their camps.

The Ansar Prepare to Strike the Quraish

On hearing the voice of this devil, Al-`Abbas bin `Ubadah bin Nadlah said: “By Allah, Who has sent you in Truth, we are powerful enough to put the people of Mina (the Quraishites) to our swords tomorrow, if you desire.’’ The Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“We have not been commanded to follow that course. Now, go back to your camps.’’

They went back to sleep till morning.

The Quraish Arrive to Argue With the Leaders of Yathrib

No sooner did the Quraish hear of this treaty than a tumultuous uproar began to spread in all directions. They realized quite fully that an allegiance of this sort was bound to produce far-reaching consequences of direct impact on their lives and wealth. The following day, a large delegation comprising the leaders and arch-criminals of Makkah set out for the camp of the Madinese to protest severely against the treaty. They addressed the Madinese: “O people of Khazraj, it has been conveyed to us that you have come here to conclude a treaty with this man (Muhammad) and evacuate him out of Makkah. By Allah, we would hate fighting to break out between us.’’

The Madinese polytheists having known nothing about the secret pledge, began to swear by Allah and answered in good faith that there was no truth in the report. `Abdullah bin Ubai Ibn Salul, a Madinese polytheist, refuted their allegations denouncing them as null and void, claiming that his people would never initiate anything unless he gave them clear orders.

The Madinese Muslims, however, remained silent neither negating nor confirming. The Quraishite leaders seemed to be convinced by the arguments presented by the polytheists, and went back home frustrated.

The Quraish Become Convinced of the Previous Reports

However, they were not fully satisfied with the words they heard. They began to scrutinize the smallest details, and trace the minutest news till it was established beyond a shadow of doubt that the pact did take place, but that was after the Madinese pilgrims had left Makkah. In a fit of rage, they pursued the pilgrims but did not succeed in catching any of them except Sa`d bin `Ubadah. They subjected him to unspeakable torture, but he was later rescued by Al-Mut`im bin `Adi and Harith bin Harb bin Umaiyah with whom he had trade relations.

That is the story of the Second `Aqabah Pledge, later known as the Great `Aqabah Pledge, affected in an atmosphere of love, allegiance and mutual support between Madinese believers and weak Makkan Muslims. This new spirit of affection and cooperation could not be attributed to a fleeting desire, on the contrary, it derived completely from an already deeplyestablished approach: belief in Allah, His Messenger and His Book. It was a belief so deeply rooted in the soul that it managed to stand immune to all the powers of injustice and aggression, and could spawn miracles in the practical aspects of action and ideological pursuit. This sort of belief was the real instrument that enabled Muslims to record unprecedented breakthroughs in the annals of history. We are also sure that the future will always remain wanting with regard to the great achievements carried out by those great men.

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