It is an integral part of prophecy to migrate. Abraham’s moves are legendary: from Ur (in present day Iraq) to Palestine, and from Palestine’s sown fields to the uncultivable hollow of Makkah. We recall Moses’s flight from Egypt to Madyan after striking dead one of Pharaoh’s henchman molesting a Israelite; and then from Madyan to the Valley of Tuwa where he received his calling, then back to Egypt and out again (not to mention his travels with Khidr). For the Prophet of Islam, it would be from his beloved city of Makkah to Yathrib, later named Madina. Before entering Yathrib, however, the Prophet stayed for some days in Quba, not far away. He did not rush his entrance into Yathrib whose complications, alliances, and general élan were still not fully clear to him. The Prophet was assiduous in his affairs, and to rush into something was not of his character. But there was more. The Prophet of Mercy would never discount the realities of the people around him nor find them trivial. What was important to people was something to acknowledge and regard. To forge a firm bond of brotherhood, the ligature that was not to break, had its demands—had parts to be studied and understood, parts to be honored—parts of a new whole. The Prophet met with delegations and learned what he needed to learn before making the short trip between Quba and Yathrib. What a Messenger of God must do in his mission goes between what he receives from God by way of Revealtion, but also what must be learned through more conventional means. This man who was taken on a Night Journey from his thin straw mattress in Makkah to the Holy House in Jerusalem, then to the magnificent realms of Heaven, to the outermost region itself, had to travel on the back of a camel some 150 miles to Yathrib; this man who learned through Revelation of tidings of the past and secrets of lands far away and of events of things to come, needed to learn the vagaries of new life contexts through more ordinary methods.
We’ve come across this interesting mix between the miraculous and the ordinary. Mary mother of Jesus, for example, conceived of her son through extraordinary means of God’s single command, “Be” and “So it was.” The matter was done: a boy, a human being of flesh and intelligence, of insight and mission, would grow in her, though no man had ever touched her. Though the conception of her son was miraculous, the normal trials and pains of delivery would not bypass her. In time, the contractions bore down on the young woman, driving her to take shelter beneath a date-palm. Right there, beneath the withered tree, did she give birth to Jesus. Grief-stricken and depleted, Mary heard a voice calling out to her, telling her not to sorrow or desire annihilation. A streamlet appeared before her with fresh and pure water. She was then told to shake the trunk of the date-palm. She managed to shake the tree with her trembling arms; she worked with ordinary forces of nature to have dropped upon her a miraculous bunch of ripened dates as if the date-palm had been the most fertile plant on earth.