In the Hajj season in the thirteenth year of the call, delegations of one or two men started to go to the Prophet (peace be upon him), until eventually seventy men and two women went to him in Al-Aqabah valley. They were upset about the harm Quraysh had inflicted on the Prophet and those with him. When Al-Ansar approached Mecca, they used to communicate with the Prophet (peace be upon him) in secret, which resulted in the two groups agreeing to meet during the days of Tashreeq (11th, 12th and 13th Dhul-Hijjah) in the valley of Al-Aqabah (near) the first stoning pillar at Mina. This gathering would be completely secret in the middle of the night.
We will let one of the leaders of Al-Ansar describe this historical meeting, which changed the course of events in the struggle between idolatry and Islam. Ka’ab ibn Malik Al-Ansar (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
“We left to perform Hajj, and we promised to meet the Prophet (peace be upon him) at Al-Aqabah during the days of Tashreeq. The night we promised to meet the Prophet arrived, and Abdullah ibn Omar ibn Haram was with us. He was one of our masters, and one of the honorable ones among us. We took him with us (to the meeting), although we had not told any of the disbelievers from our people who were with us about our dealings with the Prophet (peace be upon him). Later, we talked to him and said to him, ‘Oh Abu Jabir, you are one of our masters and an honorable one among us. We fear for you, because of your state, that tomorrow you will be firewood for the fire.’ Then we called him to Islam and told him about the appointment with the Prophet at Al-Aqabah. So he embraced Islam and was present at Al-Aqabah with us. And he was one of the Naqeebah who witnessed the pledge of Aqabah.”
Ka’ab continued, “We slept that night among our people who were with us on the trip until one third of the night had passed, when we left the group to meet the Prophet (peace be upon him). We crept out, small groups at a time, until we gathered in the valley at Al-Aqabah. We were seventy three men with two of our women: Nusaybah bint Ka’ab, Um Umarah from Banu Mazin ibn An-Najjar, and Asma bint Amr, Um Manee’ from Banu Salamah.
We gathered in the valley, waiting for the Prophet until he came. His uncle Al-Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib was with him. At that time, Al-Abbas still practiced his tribe’s religion, but he wanted to be present at his nephew’s meeting to be a witness for him. When everyone had arrived, we started to talk about swearing religious and military allegiances. The first one to speak was Al-Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle. He spoke to explain clearly to them the dangers of the responsibility that have to be fulfilled due to swearing allegiance to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Ibn Al-Abbas said,
“Oh Al-Khazraj (the Arabs used to call Al-Ansar by the name Khazraj, both Al-Khazraj and Al-Aws are from Al-Ansar), you are well aware of Muhammad’s lineage. We have prevented our people from abusing him. He lives here protected and supported by his people and in his own city, yet he prefers to accompany you and emigrate (to Madinah). If you think that you will fulfill what he calls you to do, and you will protect him from his enemies, then accepted this pledge and carry out this responsibility. But if you think that you may give him to his enemies and act treacherously with him after he has left to go to you, then leave him now, because he is safer with his people and in his own city.”
Ka’ab said, “We told him, ‘We have heard what you have said, so speak, Oh Prophet, and choose for yourself and your Lord what you like (about this).’”
This answer indicates their determination, resoluteness, bravery and sincerity to carry this great responsibility, and to being prepared to withstand the dangerous consequences.
After that, the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke, and then everyone took the pledge [adapted from The Sealed Nectar].
Concerning the conditions of that plegde and the events that happened at that time, Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) related to us the details. He said, <We said to ourselves, ‘How long will we leave the Prophet to be expelled (by his townsfolk) in the mountains around Mecca, living in fear?’ So seventy of our men travelled to him, arriving (at Mecca) during the Hajj season, to take a pledge with him in the valley of Al-Aqabah. We left, one or two men at a time, until we all reached the place we agreed to meet. We then said, ‘Oh Prophet, we will swear allegiance to you.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Take a pledge with me to listen and obey, when active (and healthy) and when inactive (i.e. in all conditions), spend during times of difficulties and ease, advise others to do good and to forbid what is wrong, not invent lies about Allah, and not fear the criticism of any critic (when you do things for Allah). And [pledge] to support me and protect me like you protect yourself, your wives and children. [If you do this] you will have paradise.’ Consequently, we stood up and swore allegiance to him> [related by Ahmed and ibn Haban].
Ka’ab related, from Ibn Is-haq, the final part of this meeting. Ka’ab said, < The Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke, reciting Quran, supplicating Allah, encouraging the people to enter Islam, and then said,
‘I will take a pledge from you for you to protect me like you protect your womenfolk and children.’ Then Al-Baraa ibn Maroor took the Prophet’s hand and said,
‘Yes, by Him Who sent you with the truth (as a Prophet), we will protect you like we protect ourselves and families.’ Therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) took his pledge. Al-Baraa continued, ‘By Allah, we are sons of war, and the weapons of war are like toys in our hands; we have inherited this from our forefathers.’
Abu Al-Haythem ibn Al-Tayhan interrupted, when Al-Baraa was speaking to the Prophet, saying,
‘Oh Prophet, we have ties with other men (the Jews). And if we sever them, perhaps when we have done that and Allah will have given you victory, you will return to your people and leave us?’
The Prophet (peace be upon him) smiled and then said, ‘No, truly, your blood is my blood, and what is sacred to you is sacred to me. I am one of you and you are part of me. I will fight those who fight you, and be at peace with those who are at peace with you.’ Ka’ab related that the Prophet said, ‘Twelve of you should come to me, for them to represent their people.’ So twelve of us went forward: nine from Al-Khazraj and three from Al-Aws>
After that pledge, Al-Abbas ibn Ubadah ibn Nadla said to the Prophet (peace be upon him), <‘By Allah Who has sent you with the truth, if you wish, we will attack the people of Mina tomorrow with our swords.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘We have not been ordered to do this, but return to the group you are travelling with.’> Consequently, they returned to their travelling companions.
In the morning of the next day, a group of the elders of Quraysh went to them to ask about what they had heard about a pledge taken with the Prophet (peace be upon him), offering him to immigrate to them. The disbelievers of Al-Khazraj and Al-Aws swore that nothing had happened, and the Muslims just kept looking at each other. In this way, this difficult situation passed by without any problems, and the Ansar returned to Yathrib (Medinah) to earnestly wait for the Prophet (peace be upon him) to immigrate to them.
After the Ansar had gathered to meet the Prophet (peace be upon him) and discuss the conditions of the pledge, and they started to take the pledge, one of two men from the group from Yathrib who had embraced Islam during the Hajj season at the end of the eleventh and beginning of the twelfth year of the call, stood up to talk, and the other man stood behind him waiting to talk as well. Both of them reminded the others of the dangerous responsibility the pledge entails. This was so that Al-Ansar would not take the pledge until they were fully aware of the responsibilities involved, and for the two men to be sure to what extent their people would sacrifice themselves for the call.
Ibn Is-haq said, <When they (Al-Ansar) gathered to take the pledge, Al-Abbas ibn Ubadah ibn Nadla said, ‘Do you understand the consequences of taking a plegde with this man?’ They replied, ‘Yes.’ He continued, ‘You are taking a pledge with him to enter very difficult wars with others. So if you think you cannot withstand loosing part of your money and the noble among you being killed, then leave him now. By Allah, the result of breaking a promise after it has been given is humiliation in this world and the next. But if you think you can fulfill what he has called you to perform, although it means you will loose your money and the noble among you will be killed, take him with you. By Allah, it [such a course] is good for you in this life and the next.’
They replied, ‘We will take the pledge, although it means we will loose our money and the noble ones among us will be killed. Oh Prophet, what will we have if we fulfill this (pledge)?’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Paradise.’ They then said, ‘Open your hand.’ So the Prophet opened his hand and they all took the pledge with him.>
In Jabir’s narration, it states, “We stood up to take the pledge with the Prophet. Therefore, Asad ibn Zurarah, the youngest of the seventy men, took the Prophet’s hand and said, ‘Wait, Oh people of Yathrib! We did not cover that long distance except because we have deep belief that he is the Messenger of Allâh. We are already convinced that following him entails the pagan Arabs severing ties with us, and it will result in the best of you being killed and swords hitting you. If you will be steadfast during such difficulties, take the pledge, and your reward will be with Allah. But if you fear for yourselves [and the losses], do not take the pledge. I admonish you to give it up right now, and then you would be more excusable in front of Allah.” After agreeing to withstand the terms of the pledge, and after the responsibilities involved being stressed to them, Al-Ansar started to take the pledge by shaking hands with the Prophet (peace be upon him). Jabir continued to tell us what happened next. Al-Ansar said, “Oh Asad, give me your hand. By Allah, we refuse to not take this pledge or to leave it.” After that, everyone started to take the pledge. Jabir said, “We stood up anad went to the Prophet, one at a time, to take the pledge in order to receive paradise through it.”
As for the two women who were present at Al-Aqabah, they took the pledge verbally. The Prophet (peace be upon him) never shook hands with a non-Mahram lady [adapted from The Sealed Nectar].
The pledges of Al-Aqabah (first and second pledges) represent the foundation and start of the spread of Islam and the support of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when the Arab tribes had abandoned him.