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In the Pre-Islamic era in Arabia there was a system of clan protection, and a people without a clan would stand without protection. Such a person could request for Istijarah (asylum) from a person already having a clan association in order to receive protection from that person. This was a common practice in Arabia, this was used by some Muslims who returned from the first Migration to Abyssinia, and Prophet Muhammad himself requested Istijarah from Mut`im ibn `Uday after his return to Mecca from the visit to Ta'if.
The term is also used in the Qur'an: