There are many journeys that made history. Think Musa crossing the Red Sea, Hannibal crossing the Alps or Caesar crossing the Rubicon. But there’s one journey that irrevocably altered the course of human civilisation more than any other and it was made when two friends crossed the Arabian desert taking them from oppression in Makkah to the incubation of a nation-state in Madina.
The Hijrah – a journey so epic that Umar and the great companions of the Prophet who were alive at the time, chose it as the epoch of the age and the start of the Muslim Calendar.
Most of us are aware that the journey took place, but the actual route is one that is not as widely known. It is this route, with all its twists and turns, that Dr Abdullah Al-Kadi spent years of his life studying and researching. He did not just limit himself to dusty books and venerable scholars. Like any good scientist, he spent time out in the field and traversed the route of the hijrah many times over so that he could be familiar with even certain oddly shaped rocks that were used as milestones along the way.
To give you an idea of how much painstaking time and effort he put in, by the time his book was published, Dr Al Kadi had traversed a cumulative total of over 30,000 miles. The distance between Makkah and Madinah is only 275 miles.
Dr Al-Kadi was accompanied at various stages of his travels by his family and Peter Sanders – the renowned British photographer. The fruit of this collaboration can be seen in the gorgeously detailed scenes captured throughout the book.
This book is filled with locations and stories that even the most well read of us will find interesting. A well, a scribbled name on a rock face and an almost lunar looking passage way are just some of the features that remind us that this was not just a journey, but a dramatic escape.
Sometimes we are in danger of thinking that the life of the Prophet has been so well documented that there is nothing new left to discover. Through his painstaking research and publishing this beautiful book, Dr Al-Kadi proves that even more than 14 centuries later, there is still so much more to learn.
To me, that is one of the greatest discoveries of all.