Elephant, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Why did the Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab’s administration decide on the Hegira as beginning of the Islamic calendar? What was so profound about the flight from Mecca to Medina? Why wasn’t it the year of Badr, or the year of Hajj, or the year of the prophet’s ascension (Isra’ Mi’raj)?

Quick answer? It was when the depression began to lift.


Depression at Initiation seems common amongst the prophets. Who could blame them? Buddha went through that depression with every disappointing teacher and method of achieving enlightenment. Jesus went through that too, ever so briefly, in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36).

In the case of Muhammad, the Hegira occurred on 622 A.D; about three years after the death of Lady Khadija and Abu Talib. More than anyone else, his wife and uncle were the Prophet’s earthly sources of consolation. Being stripped from their company, did not just test his integrity and sanity and character. It also straightened his mind about the job he was doing.

“Man is stupid…”

The fact that man is stupid was one of the things that the prophets needed to learn from their depression before starting to do their job.

The road that Buddha’s dharma began with accepting that life is suffering (can’t change that) and the renouncement (letting go) of worldly dependence. The path to the Christian salvation started with Jesus’ arrest (can’t change that) and the long, terrible walk to Golgotha; leaving behind a bloody testament on man’s stupidity, and the pricey cost of being dedicated to the job.

In a way, the grief and depression from the death of his wife and uncle (can’t change that, no siree) and the end of his natural resources, brought him to the greatest mystical experience in his life: Muhammad’s ascension to heaven - the Isra’ & Mi’raj.

“… still, the job needs to be done.”

When the prophets accepted what they could not change, was when the prophecy started taking its symbolic form: The four noble truths, the cross and the hegira.

Physically, the hegira was a move from one geographical location to another. A total reshuffling of social identities, homes, traditions, hangout places – comfort zones.

Yet, more than just a physical, the hegira is a forced, day-to-day mental shift. From want and craving, to renouncement of worldly dependence. From anguish and sadness, to the unquestioning acceptance of job demands. From fear and self-doubt, to courageous resolution and “doing the job for the job’s sake”.

No matter how ludicrous and futile the job seems. No matter how ungrateful and stubbornly stupid man can be.

A humble process that is acknowledged every day on the Hijri calendar.

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