This is the month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, and the month of the Hijri new year. The story of the Hijrah, from where the Islamic calendar got its name, goes as follows:
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, found it impossible for him to continue his mission of inviting people to the True religion, Islam, in Makkah; and that his own life and that of other fellow Muslims were at risk. So, he started looking at nearby populations that would accept his message and provide him a base to establish a model Islamic society. After hearing about the message of Islam and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, the people of the nearby city of Yathrib, later to be known as Madinatunnabi (the city of the Prophet) or Madina, invited the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to migrate to their city. They offered him submission and unconditional support, and graciously accepted to accommodate all fellow Muslims with them.
After a couple of years of careful planning, the time had finally come when Allah ordered the Prophet to leave Makkah for Madina. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, made the journey with Abu Bakr as his companion. Despite the fact that Allah was `the third with the two of them', the whole journey of Hijrah was scrupulously planned and executed with extreme care and caution. When they finally reached their destination, the people of Madina were filled with joy at having the greatest of man as their fellow citizen, and sang the famous song 'tala`al badru `alaina' while welcoming him.
Years later, this important event of Hijrah was chosen by Caliph Umar and his counsel to mark the beginning of the Islamic Calendar.
Why Hijrah to mark the Islamic Calendar?
1. Hijrah is a major milestone in the mission of Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. It marks the beginning of establishment of Islam as the complete way of life.
2. It is a very special occasion for Muslims as it highlights the importance of submission of one self to Allah the Almighty.
3. It reminds us of the sufferings of early Muslims in Makkah, and how they left all worldly pleasures to please Allah the Almighty. It is only because of their sufferings and sacrifices that Islam is what it is today.
Lessons from Hijrah
1. If something is not working out as planned, look for alternatives (Prophet`s seeking alternative land for establishing the deen when efforts at Makkah failed)
2. Don`t do anything hastily. Proper planning is the key. (The Prophet took few years seeking alternatives to Makkah. He went to taif, and had contacted other nearby tribal leaders. He migrated more than two years after people in Madina started accepting Islam and opened their doors to him)
3. Rely on Allah, only after diligent planning. (The Prophet and Abu Bakr (r) journey was not a straightforward trip along the regular route. It was very well planned and well executed)
4. There is no fault in taking help from experts (Prophet had a trusted non-Muslim bedouin who knew the area well as a guide)
Finally here is an excerpt from an article on onislam.net about attaining true Hijrah
Five Important Areas for a True Hijrah: To attain true Hijrah, here are the five areas we have to work on
1. Faith: We should work on strengthening our faith to be able to pull away from what God has forbidden.
2. Knowledge: Only with good knowledge could our faith see us through the trials and tests of staying on the straight path. (Knowledge is not limited to religious information only)
3. Acts of worship: Migrating away from what God has forbidden to worship, which not only brings us closer to God and supplies us with essential strength, resolve and tranquility, but also humbles us enough to see we’re only creatures like the rest of the creation, and that we have to maintain an ethical relationship with the universe and other people.
4. Desire: Controlling one’s urges and desires is prerequisite to how much success in this life one achieves as a migrant to God.
5. Ethics : A person who is full of great concepts and no deeds to prove it is a loser. Unless our Islamic ethical system is apparent through our everyday behaviors and manners, there is no hope for us to be true Muslims and a true migrant in the way of Allah.
In short, a true immigrant is an ethical, well-mannered and pious Muslim, and that is what we should all strive to be everyday of our lives. Allahumma Ameen.