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What is the Hijrah?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hijrah means migration. The term refers specifically to Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina, which occurred in 622 CE. Muhammad’s teachings were not well received in Mecca, which ironically became the most holy of cities to the religion of Islam.

With his followers, Muhammad fled to Medina, called Yathrib at the time, and the Islamic religion likely owes its survival to the Hijrah. In Medina, the teachings of Muhammad gained a larger, and much more receptive audience. Therefore, this migration is to many the time at which Islam becomes an established religion.

Medina did allow the fledgling Islamic adherents to raise their children in relative peace, and to develop the principles that would govern their society. Further, Medina allowed Islam to mature and gain strength as a community. This resulted in a mature and active Islam that would soon be an extremely strong force in the area now called Saudi Arabia.

For this reason, the Hijrah marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar each year. The Muslim calendar is based on lunar cycles, which makes it difficult to correspond with traditional Gregorian calendars. Thus, the date for the beginning of the first month of the year changes annually.

In fact, the calendar of Islam is often called the Hijrah calendar, because of its legendary start. Muslims do not technically celebrate the “New Year” as it is done in the Western world. However, the beginning of the calendar is a time of reflection on the strength of Islam, and on one’s own life.

Today, the term may not only refer to “the Hijrah” but also to any migration that allows one to raise one’s family in a more Islamic-centered culture. Hijrah can also signify striking off on a new path that allows one to become a better person. A person who has committed acts considered sinful might make the Hijrah to a life free of sin. Thus, it can be either a physical or spiritual migration.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon280633 — On Jul 18, 2012

@Rajah1121: That is Hajj, not Hijrah.

By anon156791 — On Feb 28, 2011

This was very helpful. Thanks!

By anon149982 — On Feb 06, 2011

To the first comment: I think you are getting confused with Hijrah and Hajj. Hajj is what you do when you go on pilgrimage to Mecca.

By Rajah1121 — On Mar 29, 2010

brothers and sisters, Hijrah is an awesome thing to do as muslims. i plan on visiting there, inshallah, to be more close to Allah, and hopefully i will go to paradise.

By anon57247 — On Dec 21, 2009

thanks for that, aprilluv. actually, anon45112, some of us haven't brushed up on our Islamic history lately and that was really helpful.

By anon45112 — On Sep 13, 2009

I don't know why aprilluv would say that the migration to Abyssinia is "rarely mentioned." This is in fact well known among Muslims and is frequently told when relating early Islamic history.

By aprilluv — On Jun 23, 2007

What is rarely mentioned is that the First Hijrah was to Abyssinia (Ethopia). The Muslims who were being prosecuted in Mecca were given permission by Prophet Muhammad to migrate to Abyssinia. Those Muslims who migrated were pursued and it was asked of the Negus to force the return of the Muslims. After questioning the Muslims, the Negus gave protection to the Muslims for as long as they stayed.

Some time later, permission was granted for others to migrate to Yathrib (Medina) and the Abyssinian Muslim migrated to Medina to be with their brothers and sisters in Faith.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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