The apparent apostasies of Hisham and ‘Ayyash were but small triumphs for Quraysh, heavily outweighed by the steady stream of emigrants which they were unable to control. Some of the larger houses in Mecca were now tenantless; others, which had been full, were now empty save for one or two old people. In the city which had seemed so prosperous and harmonious only ten years ago everything had changed, thanks to this one man. But while these feelings of sadness and melancholy came and went, there was the persistent consciousness of a growing danger from that city to the north where so many potential enemies were now gathering together – men who cared nothing for the ties of kinship if they came into conflict with their religion. Those who had heard the Prophet say “Quraysh, I bring you slaughter” had never forgotten it, though at the time there seemed to be nothing to fear. But if he now eluded them, despite the perpetual watch they kept upon his movements and made his way to Yathrib, those words might prove to be more than a mere threat.
The death of Mut’im seemed to clear the way for action; and to clear it still further, Abu Lahab deliberately absented himself from the meeting which the leaders of Quraysh now held in the Assembly. After a long discussion, when various suggestions had been made and rejected, they agreed – some of them with reluctance – to the plan put forward by Abu jahl as being the only effective solution to their problem. Every clan was to nominate a strong, reliable, and well-connected young man, and at a given moment all these chosen men together should fall upon Muhammad, each striking him a mortal blow, so that his blood would be on all the clans. The Bani Hashim would not be able to fight the whole tribe of Quraysh; they would have to accept blood money – which would be offered them – in place of revenge; and so, at last, the community would be rid of a man who, as long as he lived, would give them no peace.
Gabriel now came to the Prophet and told him what he should do. It was noon,· an unusual time for visiting, but the Prophet went straight to the house of Abu Bakr who knew at once, as soon as he saw him at that hour, that something important had happened. ‘A’ishah and her elder sister Asma’ were with their father when the Prophet came in. “God hath allowed me to leave the city and to emigrate,” he said. “Together with me?” said Abu Bakr. “Together with thee,” said the Prophet. ‘A’ishah was at that time in her seventh year. She used to say afterward: “I knew not before that day that one could weep for joy until I saw Abu Bakr weep at those words.”
When they had made their plans, the Prophet returned to his house and told ‘Ali: that he was about to leave for Yathrib, bidding him stay behind in Mecca until he had given back to their owners all the goods which had been deposited in their house for safekeeping. The Prophet had never ceased to be known as al-Amin, and there were still many disbelievers who would trust him with their property as they would trust no one else. He also told ‘Ali what Gabriel had told him about the plot Quraysh had made against him. The young men chosen to kill him had agreed to meet outside his gate after nightfall. But while they were waiting until their numbers were complete, they heard the sound of women’s voices coming from the house, the voices of Sawdah, Umm Kulthum, Fatimah, and Umm Ayman. That gave them cause to think, and one of the men said that if they climbed over the wall and broke into the house their names would be forever held in dishonor among the Arabs because they had violated the privacy of women. So they decided to wait until their intended victim came out, as it was his wont to do in the early morning if he came not out before.
The Prophet and ‘Ali were soon aware of their presence; and the Prophet took up a cloak in which he used to sleep and gave it to ‘Ali, saying: “Sleep thou on my bed, and wrap thyself in this green Hadrami cloak of mine. Sleep in it, and no harm shall come to thee from them.” Then he began to recite the Surah that is named after its opening letters, Ya-Si”n; and, when he came to the words: And We have enshrouded them so that they see not, I he went out of the house, and God took away their sight so that they did not see him, and he passed through their midst and went on his way.
A man was coming in the opposite direction, and their paths crossed, and he recognized the Prophet. A little later his path took him not far from the Prophet’s house, and seeing men at its gate, he called out to them that if it was Muhammad they wanted he was not there but had gone out not long since. “How could that be?” they thought. One of the conspirators had been watching the house and had seen the Prophet enter it before the others had arrived, and they were certain that no one had left it while they had been there. But now they began to be uneasy, until one of them who knew where the Prophet slept went to a point from which he could see through the window, just enough to make sure that someone was sleeping on the Prophet’s bed, wrapped in a cloak, so he reassured his fellows that their man was still there. But when it was dawn ‘Ali rose and went to the door of the house, still wrapped in the cloak; and they saw who it was, and began to think they had been somehow outwitted. They waited a little longer; the thinnest of crescents, all that was left of the waning moon of the month of Safar, had risen over the eastern hills, and now it began to pale as the light increased. There was still no sign of the Prophet, and with a sudden impulse they decided to go, each one to his chief of the clan, to give the alarm.