11.3 The Second Oath of AI-Aqaba
That year many pilgrims came from Yathrib, among them those who came on business, for it was the season when much trade was done, and those who came to offer sacrifices to the gods of Quraysh, but there were also seventy-five Muslims - seventy three men and two women. They had a secret appointment with the Messenger on the third day of Al-Tashriq, that is the third day after the great feast. In the dead of night they rose, left their tents, climbed the mountain to the place of rendezvous and waited there for the Prophet.
He came accompanied by his uncle, Al-Abbas, who had become the head of Banu Hashim and Banu Abdu Manaf after the death of Abu Talib. Banu Hashim and Banu Abdu Manaf had sworn to protect Mohamed, and Al-Abbas came to demand a solemn oath from the people of Yathrib to protect Mohamed should he decide to live among them, so that Banu Abdu Manaf and Banu Hashim would not be embroiled in a war they were unequal to in the event of the people of Yathrib deserting him.
"People of Al-Khazraj!" he said,
"Mohamed, as you know, is one of us and we have protected him from our people who do not share our opinion concerning his religion. He is here immune among his people and powerful in his land, but he insists on joining you and becoming one of you. If you are sure you will fulfill what you have called him for and that you will protect him from all who differ from him then you are free to carry this responsibility, but if you are going to desert him and betray him after he has gone to you, then it is better to leave him now."
The people of Yathrib said,
"We have heard your words. Speak, Messenger of Allah, demand what you will for yourself and your Lord."
The Messenger recited from the Koran to them and spoke of Islam. Then he said,
"Swear to protect me from what you would protect your women and children."
Al-Bara ibn Amr , who was the head of his people and their greatest man, had sworn allegiance the year before at Al-Aqaba and observed all the rites required of a Muslim. Now he spoke,
"We swear, Messenger of Allah. We are a people with knowledge of war that we have inherited from father to son."
"Prophet of Allah," one of them said,
"there are treaties between us and the Jews that we shall break. If Allah gives you victory, will you return to your people, leaving us?"
The Prophet smiled and said,
"My blood is your blood, my ruin is your ruin. I am of you and you are of me. I fight those you fight and befriend those you befriend."
After many years and many victories, after Mecca lay open under his feet, after all the peninsula was under his dominion, Mohamed still held those words dear and binding. In his farewell speech before he left this world, he charged those who would come in power after him to be good to the people of Yathrib.
They rose to swear allegiance, but AI-Abbas ibn Ubada stopped them, saying,
"People of AI-Khazraj, do you know what you are swearing allegiance to this man about? You are swearing to fight the red and black of people (that is all peoples, all races). If you think that the loss of your money and the death of your leaders would make you deliver him to the enemy, better leave him now. But if you do so, by Allah, it is ignominy in this world and the next. If you are certain you will fulfill your vow to him, even in loss and death, then take him for he is the good of this world and the next."
"We take him," they answered,
"accepting loss of our money and the death of our leaders. What will be our reward, Messenger of Allah, if we fulfill our obligations?"
"Paradise will be yours," answered the Messenger.
They gave their hands to him and swore allegiance. Then he said to them,
"Choose twelve deputies from you who will stand surety for your people!"
They chose nine men from Khazraj and three from Al-Aws. Then the Messenger said to them,
"You are deputies for your people as the disciples were to Jesus, son of Maryam, and I am deputy for my people."
The deputies then swore to follow and obey in wealth and in poverty, in sickness and in health, to tell the truth always and fear the attacks of no one for the sake of Allah.
On a mountainside under the stars they swore this oath and felt that Allah was their witness. They swore with hearts that yearned for the right and souls that hungered for the truth. It was an oath that oriented the fate of mankind and changed the history of the earth. Millions came after them, generation after generation, in all the lands to swear with pure hearts that Allah is One and that Mohamed is His Messenger.
Suddenly they heard a loud cry that disturbed the solemn stillness of the night. They were brought down from the world of lofty ideals to the world of mean, petty strife. The cry came from a man who had gone out on an errand and overheard some of their words.
"People of Quraysh," he cried at the top of his voice,
"Mohamed and the defectors are conspiring to fight you."
This was a test from Allah for those Muslims so new in faith. They were a minority in the land of Quraysh but they proved true to their Lord and His Prophet. They neither faltered nor turned back but stood firm awaiting his orders. Al-Abbas ibn Ubada said,
"By Allah who has sent you with the truth, if you wish we could fall upon the people of Mina tomorrow with our swords."
"We were not ordered to do so," said the Prophet.
"Let each return to his tent."
They returned and slept peacefully until morning.
Before dawn broke on the dark valleys of Mecca Quraysh had heard the news. They went to the tents of the people of Yathrib to question, torture, or kill, but on reaching the first of those Yathribis who were polytheists and had slept soundly throughout the night, they were met with innocent stares, followed by oaths of protest and indignation. They could see that the people before them were telling the truth. The Muslims who had sworn an oath to tell the truth remained silent.
The Quraysh returned, not knowing whether to believe or disbelieve what they had heard. By the time they found out the truth and went after the people of Yathrib, the latter had a head start and were out of reach. They were able to catch one man, however, who had tarried behind on business. They tortured him until two of their nobles whose trade he used to protect on the summer journey to Al-Sham offered him their protection and saved him from their clutches.