Pledging of Allegiance
Six men of Khazraj delivered the message of Islam to as many of their people as would listen to them: and the next summer, that is, in AD 621, five of them repeated their Pilgrimage, bringing with them seven others, two of whom were of Aws. At ‘Aqabah, these twelve men pledged themselves to the Prophet (peace be upon Him), and this pledge is known as the First ‘Aqabah. In the words of one of them:
“We pledged our allegiance to the Messenger of Allah on the night of the First ‘Aqabah, that we would associate nothing with Allah, that we would neither steal, nor commit fornication, nor slay our offspring (in reference to the practice that had developed in Arabia among the indigent Bedouin, especially in time of famine, of burying unwanted female infants.) nor utter slanders; and that we would not disobey him in that which was right.
And he said to us: ‘If ye fulfill this pledge, then Paradise is yours; and if ye commit one these sins and then receive punishment for it in this world, that shall serve as expiation.
And if ye conceal it until the Day of the Resurrection, then it is for Allah to punish or forgive, even as He will.’ ”
Some of the Muslims of Yathrib set out upon the Pilgrimage in all seventy-three men and two women, hoping to make contact with the Prophet (peace be upon Him).
Their journey to Mecca had been in a caravan together with the polytheist pilgrims of Yathrib, one of whom entered Islam in the valley Mina, an eminent Khazrajite, Abu Jabir ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Amr, a leader of the Bani Salimah and a man of great influence. It was agreed that they should secretly meet the Prophet (peace be upon Him) as before at ‘Aqabah on the second of the nights immediately following the Pilgrimage.
In the words of one of them: “We slept that night with our people in the caravan until when a third of the night had passed we crept out from amongst the sleepers to our appointed meeting with the Messenger of Allah, stealing as stealthily as sound-grouse, until we were all assembled in the gully near ‘Aqabah.
There we waited until the Messenger came, and with him came his uncle ‘Abbas who was at that time still of the religion of his people, albeit that he wished to be present at his nephew’s transaction and to make sure that the promises made to him were reliable. When the Prophet (peace be upon Him) was seated, ‘Abbas was the first to speak:
‘People of Khazraj’ – for so the Arabs were wont to address Khazraj and Aws – ‘ye know the esteem in which we hold Muhammad (peace be upon Him), and we have protected him from his people so that he is honored in his clan and safe in his country. Yet hath he resolved to turn unto you and join himself with you.
So if ye think that ye will keep to what ye promise him, and that ye will protect him against all that shall oppose him, yours be that burden which ye have taken upon yourselves. But if ye think ye will betray him and fail him after he hath gone out unto you, then leave him now.’ ‘We have heard what thou sayest,’ they answered, ‘but speak thou, O Messenger of Allah, and choose for thyself and for thy Lord what thou wilt.’ ”
After reciting from the Qur’an and pronouncing a summons to Allah and to Islam, the Prophet (peace be upon Him) said: “I make with you this pact on condition that the allegiance ye pledge me shall bond you to protect me even as ye protect your women and your children.” Bara’ rose and took his hand and said: “By Him who sent thee with the truth, we will protect thee as we protect them. So accept the pledge of our allegiance, O Messenger of Allah, for we are men of war, possessed of arms that have been handed down from father to son.”
A man of Aws then broke in upon him and said: “O Messenger of Allah, there are ties between us and other men” –he meant the Jews- “and we are willing to sever them. But might it not be that if we do this and if then Allah gives thee victory, thou wilt return to thy people and leave us?” The Prophet smiled and said: “Nay, I am yours and ye are mine. Whom ye war against, him I war against. Whom ye make peace with, him I make peace with.”
Then he said: “Bring out to me twelve of your men as leaders that they may look to the affairs of their people.” So they brought out to him twelve leaders, nine from Khazraj and three from Aws, since sixty two of the men were of Khazraj and also the two women, whereas only eleven were from Aws. Amongst the nine leaders of Khazraj were As’ad and Bara’; amongst the three of Aws was Usayd whom Sa’d ibn Muadh had sent to represent him.
When the people were about to pledge themselves, one by one, to the Prophet(peace be upon Him), a man of Khazraj, one of the twelve who had pledged himself the previous year, made a sign that they should wait, and he addressed them saying :
“Men of Khazraj, know ye what it means to pledge yourselves to this man?” “We know,” they said, but he disregarded them. : Ye pledge yourselves,” he continued, “to war against all men, the red and the black. (That is, all men whatsoever. After this second pledge at ‘Aqabah , that of the First ‘Aqabah came to be called the “pledge of the women.” It continued to be used, but for women only, because it contained no mention of the duties of war.)