By Zakarya Mitiche
Everyone knows the story of the Ansar (Helpers) and the Muhajirun (Emigrants). The Muhajirun were the exiles, the original companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ (peace be upon him) who risked life and limb to stand for truth and justice; who left homes, families, loved ones and the sacred city itself to avoid persecution at the hands of the enemies of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). These are individuals who broke ties of kinship in a society where kinship was all that mattered, and who chose Allah (swt) and His Messenger ﷺ over the material world.
And of course the Ansar were the ‘Helpers’, the country folk of Yathrib, many of whom accepted the Prophet of Allah ﷺ while not having yet seen him. They were the magnanimous hosts of the Prophet ﷺ and the Emigrants, giving away not just portions of their annual income, but swathes of farm land—sources of income—to their new brothers and sisters. They gave away the shirts on their backs, and displayed the genuine love that comes with true hospitality. They were the people of the City of the Prophet ﷺ, medinatun-nabi.
Praise for the Muhajirun and the Ansar is easy to come by, and so it is only natural for us to seek lessons from these beautiful people.
Who might today’s Muhajirun be? Obviously there is no hijra, or emigration, in the technical sense. However, there is a population among us who might resemble, to perhaps a lesser degree, the experience of ‘exile’ of those elect among the early Muslims. In our own cities, be it at university or the local masjid (mosque), we meet new reverts every day. We hear their stories of the spiritual struggle that comes with the pursuit of Islam, or ‘submission’. We hear of the family ties that may have been strained or severed, of the friends that were lost and of the Islamophobic insults that became their new reality. We shed a tear, laugh and cry with joy, hug them, welcome them and kiss them. We teach them how to pray, how to say Arabic phrases, and even how to make wudhu (ablution). We tell them that if they need anything, to “please let us know!” But after a while, a new convert is not so new anymore. They are forgotten, and often left to get by alone. We don’t see them at the (insert: Arab, Pakistani, Indian) ______ mosque anymore. “I wonder why? Must be down to weak iman (faith). Oh well.”
Compare this to the response of the Ansar.
These helpers welcomed in the truest sense of welcoming, for as the Ansar teach us, welcoming does not end after the ‘shahadah’ (declaration of faith) ceremony. Welcoming is not this initial easy part—anyone can teach a new Muslim how to make wudhu (we have a thing called the internet now!). Anyone can hound a new Muslimah with “hey, you’ve been Muslim for two months now – isn’t it time you put on a hijab?” Nay, this is the easy part. What is difficult, what is truly ‘Ansar-like’, is to open up our homes—nay, our hearts, to a new revert. Some people say, ‘Hey, they’re part of the community now. They’ll fit right in in no time!’ This tragic response doesn’t account for the hijra many new Muslims have just made. It doesn’t account for the breaking of long-established relationships with unaccepting family members, or the breaking of old habits. Our Muhajirun don’t need religious advice, they need human support and friendship for human problems and struggles. Next time a new Muslim enters Islam, don’t just hug them and usher them in, swallowing this newest justification for your wavering faith in Islam. Be a true Ansari by welcoming them into your life: invite them to your home, invite them to your gatherings, invite them into your circles.
Maybe we too can be among our spiritual forbearers!
“And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct—Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.” (Qur’an 9:100)