Heraklius is Invited to Islam

(7th Year of the Migration, the month of Muharram)

The Messenger of God sent Dihya b. Khalifa al-Kalbi to the Byzantine Kaiser Heraklius in order to invite him to Islam with the following letter:

“In the name of God, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate!

May peace be upon the guided the ones who follow the way of the Messenger of God! May peace be upon the guided ones!

O leader of Byzantines! I invite you to Islam. Embrace Islam so that you will be saved. Embrace Islam so that God will reward you twofold. If you do not accept my call, all of the sins of the poor farmers and your people will belong to you. 

“Say: ‘O people of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from among ourselves Lords and patrons other than God." If then they turn back, say: ye! "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to God's will).’” (Aal-i Imran, 64)[1]

Dihya took the letter of the Messenger of God to Heraklius, the Byzantine Kaiser, in a short time.

While the letter was being read, the Byzantine Kaiser sweated buckets. After saying, “I have not seen a letter like this beginning with ‘Bis­milla­hir­rah­ma­nir­rahim!’ since the Prophet Solomon!”, he kissed the letter and showed respect to it. He did not say anything else at that time; he decided to search about it later. 

Abu Sufyan Encounters Heraklius

Deciding to search about the issue, Heraklius asked the people around him, “Is there not anybody from the tribe of that person who claims to be a prophet here?”

Meanwhile, Abu Sufyan was in Damascus together with some friends from the Quraysh on business. They took him and his friends to the presence of the Byzantine Kaiser, who was in Damascus, then. Abu Sufyan narrated what happened after that as follows:

“We went to the presence of Heraklius. He made us sit before him and asked us through an interpreter, ‘Who, among you, is the closest relative of the person who claims to be a prophet?’

I said, ‘I am his closest relative.’

They made me sit at the front and my friends behind me.

He said to my friends, ‘I will ask you some questions about the person who claims to be a prophet; Correct him if he tells any lies.’

Abu Sufyan later said, ‘By God! If I had not feared that my lies would be heard about everybody through my friends, I would definitely have told lies about him.’

The following conversation took place between Abu Sufyan and the Byzantine Kaiser:

‘What is his pedigree like?’

‘He has the greatest pedigree among us.’

‘Are there any kings among his ancestors?’

‘No, there aren’t’

‘Have you ever accused him of lying before his prophethood?’

‘No, we haven’t’

‘Who are his followers in general? Do the notables or the poor follow him?’

‘The poor generally follow him.’

‘Are his followers increasing or decreasing in number?’

‘They are not decreasing; conversely, they are increasing.’

‘Is there anyone that converted after accepting his religion?’

‘No, there isn’t.’

‘Have you ever seen him break his promise?’

‘No, we haven’t. However, we have signed a treaty with him and ceased fire for a certain period now. We do not know what he will do now. We are worried that he will violate the treaty.’

(Abu Sufyan said,

‘By God, I could not add anything else to my answers.’)

‘Have you ever fought a war against him?’

‘Yes, we have.’

‘How did your wars end?’

‘The results of the wars changed. Sometimes he defeated us and sometimes we defeated him.’

‘Is there anybody among you who claimed to be a prophet before him?’

‘No, there isn’t.’

‘What does he order you to do?’

‘He orders us to worship God, who is one, and prohibits us from associating partners with Him. He also prohibits us from worshipping the things that our ancestors worshipped. He orders us to perform prayers, to be honest, to give money to the poor, to avoid forbidden things, to keep our promise, to give the entrusted things to their owners, to care for our relatives and to help them.’

After that Heraklius said to Abu Sufyan through his interpreter,

‘I asked about his pedigree and you said that he had the greatest pedigree among you. Prophets are chosen among the noblest ones of their tribes.  

I asked if there were any kings among his ancestors and you said there were not. If there had been a king among them, I would have said, ‘He is a person who wants the property of his ancestors back.’

I asked if there was anybody among you who claimed to be a prophet before him and you said there was not. If there had been anybody like that, I would have said, ‘He is a person who wants to follow the thought proclaimed before him.’

I asked you who followed him. You said, ‘The poor followed him.’ In fact, the poor follow the prophets.

I asked you if he had ever told any lies before he claimed his prophethood. You said, ‘No!’ I definitely know that a person who does not lie to people will never lie to God.

I asked you, ‘Is there anyone that converted after accepting his religion?’ You said, ‘No!’. Belief is like that. When peace and happiness, which are the necessities of belief, settle in the heart of a person, they remain there.

I asked, ‘Are his followers increasing or decreasing in number?’ You answered, ‘They are increasing.’ It goes on like that until the quality of belief is completed.

I asked, ‘Have you ever fought a war against him?’. You said you did and that the results of the wars changed. You said sometimes he defeated you and sometimes you defeated him. That is the case with prophets. They sometimes suffer but in the end, they attain good and satisfactory results. 

I asked, “Has he ever broken his promise?’ You said, He has never broken his promise.’ That is the case with prophets. They never break their promises.

I asked, ‘What does he order you to do?’ You said, ‘He orders us to worship God, who is one, and prohibits us from associating partners with Him, etc.’

They are all characteristics of prophets. If what you say about that person is true, he is definitely a prophet. I knew that a prophet was going to be sent but I did not think that he was going to emerge from among you.[2]

After this conversation, Heraklius clearly said, “If I knew I could reach him, I would do anything to meet him; if I were near him, I would serve him and wash his feet. I swear by God that his sovereignty will reach this place, where my feet are standing on.”[3]

When Abu Sufyan heard what Heraklius said, he felt frightened and panicked; he left the place and said to his friends, “By God, the cause of Ibn Abi Kabsha[4]is getting bigger and bigger. It is clear that even the King of the Byzantines is afraid of him.”[5]

Belief of Heraklius

Heraklius, the king of the Byzantines, definitely believed that the prophet that had been expected to come was  Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). He said to his nation, “Let us believe in him and follow him so that we will reach salvation both in the world and in the hereafter.” However, this call of Heraklius was not successful; it even infuriated the Byzantines.

Thereupon, Heraklius kept it a secret that he had believed in Muhammad (pbuh) due to his worldly sovereignty.

 Dihya Goes to Daghatir

Heraklius, who feared that he would be killed and he would be overthrown, could not declare that he had become a Muslim; he advised Dihya, the envoy of the Prophet, to go to Us­kuf Daghatir, a great Christian scholar; he also wrote a letter addressing Daghatir and gave it to Dihya.

Dihya took the letter and left Heraklius.

The Prophet had also written a letter to be given to Daghatir through Dihya. The Prophet addressed  Uskuf Daghatir as follows: in the letter:

“Peace be upon those who believe!

There is no doubt that Jesus, the son of Mary, is the spirit and word of God that He blew into Mary, who is chaste and decent. 

I believe, in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord we make no difference between one and another of them and we bow to God (in Islam).

May peace be upon the guided ones!”[6]

Dihya went to Daghatir and invited him to Islam.

Daghatir, the great Christian scholar said, “By God, your friend is a true prophet sent by God. We know his properties; we saw his name in our books.”[7]Then, he became a Muslim; he asked Dihya to tell the Messenger of God that he had become a Muslim. 

Daghatir is Martyred

Uskuf Daghatir used to tell stories to the Christians and preach on Sundays and then go home.

After he talked to Dihya, the Christians waited for him to come and preach on Sunday. However, Daghatir did not want to go out saying that he was ill. The Christians said, “Either he will come out or we will go in. We do not like your state since that Arab came.”

Thereupon, Daghatir entered his room. He took off the black garment he was wearing and put on a snow-white garment. Then, he took his staff (rod) and went to the church to see the Christians that had gathered there. He said recklessly, “O Byzantines! A letter was sent to us by the Prophet Ahmad; he invites us to believe in God. I witness that there is no god but Allah;  Ahmad is God’s slave and Messenger.”

When Daghatir declared the prophethood of the Messenger of God recklessly like that, the Byzantines beat him severely and martyred him.[8]

Dihya Returns to Madinah

After that, Dihya set off for Madinah with the letter written by Heraklius to the Prophet and several presents. However, he was captured by some highwaymen on the way to Madinah; the presents were confiscated.

When Dihya arrived in Madinah, he went to the presence of the Messenger of God and narrated him what had happened. Then, he gave the Prophet the letter of Heraklius.

The following was written in the letter:

“From Kaiser, the king of the Byzantines to Muhammad, the Messenger of God, whose advent was informed by Jesus!

Your envoy came to me with your letter.

I witness that you are the Messenger of God! We found your name written in the Bible. Jesus, son of Mary, had given the glad tidings about you.

I invited the Byzantines to believe in you but they avoided it. If they had obeyed me, it would definitely have been better for them.

I wanted so much to be near you, to serve you and to wash your feet. ”[9]

When the letter was read and ended, the Messenger of God said, “Their sovereignty will go on as long as my letter is with them.”[10]

Heraklius Hides the Letter

The Byzantine King Heraklius, who welcomed the envoy of the Messenger of God, wrapped his letter of invitation to Islam in silk satin and put it in a golden pipe as an indication of his respect and hid it.  

Byzantine kings maintained that holy letter until Ferdinand Alfonso attacked Tu­lay­tu­la (Toledo) and captured many Andalusian cities (H: 464). Then, it was transferred to his grandson.

Sey­füd­din Kılıç states that he saw the same letter near the King of Europe. He reports that the King of Europe said to him,

“This is the letter your Prophet sent to my grandfather Kaiser. We have kept legating it up to now. We were informed by our grandfathers and fathers that the sovereignty would remain with us as long as we kept it. Therefore, we show great respect to it and hide it. We keep it as a secret and not tell the Christians that we keep it with us with the intention of maintaining our sovereignty.”[11]


[1]Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Vol. 1, p. 263; Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 3, p. 87; Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, Vol. 3, p. 71; Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 287.

[2]Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Vol. 1, p. 262-263; Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 4, p. 3-4; Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 3, p. 1395.

[3]Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 263; Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 4; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 1395.

[4]Abu Kabsha was a man who abandoned worshipping idols and who worshipped the star Shi’ra’l-Ubur; he was from the tribe of Huzaa. He likened the Prophet to this man because the Prophet also avoided worshipping idols; by calling the Prophet “Ibn Abi Kabsha” Abu Sufyan wanted to imply that he took after this grandfather of his.

[5]Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 263.

[6]Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, Vol. 1, p. 276.

[7]Ibn Kathir, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 504.

[8]Ibn Kathir, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 504.

[9]Yaqubi, Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 77-78.

[10]Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 289.

[11]Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 289.

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