Calling The Negus of Abyssinia to Islam

It was the month of Muharram in the 7th year of the Migration.

First, the Prophet gave the following letter to Umayya and sent him to Ashama, the Negus of Abyssinia:

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

From Muhammad, the Messenger of God to the Negus of Abyssinia!

O king! I want you to be a Muslim.

I praise Allah, except whom there is no god, who is the Absolute Ruler, the Pure One, the Source of Peace, the Inspirer of Faith and the Guardian, on behalf of you.

I witness that Jesus, son of Mary, is the slave and word of God.  God breathed that word —which is the word “Kun!” (be)— and that spirit into Maryam, who was very clean and chaste and who had left the worldly life completely. She became pregnant to Jesus. Thus, God created Jesus. Similarly, God had created Adam with His hand of power (as a miracle).

O King! I invite you to believe in God, to worship him, to obey me and to believe in what was sent to me by God; I am the Messenger of God appointed to convey them to people. I invite you and your people to believe in God, who is mighty and glorious. 

I conveyed you the principles of Islam and advised you; accept my advice.

May peace be upon the guided ones!”[1]

Amr, who set off from Madinah in order to go to Abyssinia, was also assigned the following tasks:

a) To ask the Negus to send the Muslims that had migrated there to Madinah,

b) To ask the Negus to marry Umm Habiba, who was a widow among the mujahids, off to the Prophet.

Amr, the envoy of the Prophet, who arrived in Abyssinia, handed the letter of the Prophet to the Negus.

The Negus held the letter of the Prophet with respect, rubbed it on his eyes, kissed it and put it on his head; then, he made his men read it.  After the letter was read, he came down from his throne and sat on the ground with modesty. Then, he declared his Islam by uttering kalima ash-shahada and said, “If it was possible, I would go and visit him.”[2]Then, he added, “He is the illiterate prophet that Jews and Christians have been waiting for. Moses gave the good news about the emergence of Jesus by saying, ‘he rides a donkey’; similarly, Jesus gave the good news about the emergence of Muhammad by saying, ‘he rides a camel’.[3]I wish I were in Muhammad's service rather than being a sovereign king.”[4]

The Letter is Put in a box

Ashama, the Negus, asked for a box made of elephant bone and put the letter of the Prophet in it. He said, “Abyssinians will not lack goodness and abundance as long as they have this letter.”[5]

It is mentioned that a man in Damascus has a letter resembling this letter of the Messenger of God. That person said he bought the letter from a market Abyssinia.

According to the information given, the letter is about 23x33 cm and it is written on a piece of leather in brown ink.  

At the end of the 17th line of letter, there is a mark of a round seal. This seal is 2,5 cm in diameter. It is in the form of three lines; from top to bottom: “Muhammad” in one line, “Messenger” in one line and “God” in one line.[6]

The Demand of Amr b. As from the Negus

Amr b. As, who was a genius of politics from the Quraysh, was in Abyssinia at that time. He saw that Amr b. Umayya frequently went to the presence of the Negus. He was very angry when he saw it; he even thought of killing Amr b. Umayya. Once he went to the presence of the Negus and said,  “O Negus! I see someone often comes to your presence; he is the envoy of a man who is our enemy. Surrender him to me so that I will kill him!”

The Negus got very furious when he heard this suggestion. He hit Amr on the nose with the back side of his hand. Amr thought his nose was broken.

Then, the Negus said furiously, “You demand a person whom Gabriel (Jibril), who had brought revelation to the Prophet Moses, brought revelation to in order to kill him; is that right?”

Amr said, “O Negus! Is he really a prophet?”

The Negus answered as follows:

“Woe on you, O Amr! Listen to me and obey him at once! I swear by God that he is on the right path and will defeat those who oppose him just like Moses, who defeated the Pharaoh and his army.”

It was time for Amr to embrace the true path. He said to the Negus, “Will you accept my allegiance to him and witness my being a Muslim?”

The Negus accepted his offer. Amr became a Muslim and offered his allegiance to the Prophet through the Negus. However, he did not tell his friends that he had become a Muslim. Amr b. As, who embraced Islam in Abyssinia in the 7th year of the Migration, revealed that he had become a Muslim in Madinah in the 8th year of the Migration in the presence of the Messenger of God one year later.   

The Negus of Abyssinia, Ashama, who declared recklessly that he had become a Muslim, gave a letter to Amr b. Umayya, the envoy of the Prophet. He stated in the letter that he fulfilled what the Prophet had demanded. He also stated that he was sending him some valuable presents and that he himself would go and visit the Prophet in Madinah if the Prophet asked him to do so.[7]

Umm Habiba is Married off to the Prophet

Umm Habiba was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraysh. She had migrated to Abyssinia from Makkah with her husband Ubaydul­lah b. Jahsh in order to be able to practice her religion freely. Ubaydullah became a Christian later but she maintained her religion. When Ubaydullah died, she became a widow. Meanwhile, she saw in her dream Ubaydullah calling her as , ”O Mother of Believers!”. She interpreted it as, “the Messenger of God will marry her.”[8]

As it is known, the Arab women would not marry unless they found someone equal. Umm Habiba could not find anyone equal to her in a land that she was not familiar with; she was in a difficult situation. It was necessary to reward such an honorable woman who was alone and away from her relatives in a land far away from her country. Therefore, the Messenger of God wanted to marry her.  

The Prophet had asked the Negus to marry her off to him. The Negus fulfilled the wish of the Prophet and married her off to him.[9]

Muslim Muhajirs are Sent to Madinah

Another demand of the Messenger of God from Ashama was “to send the Muslim muhajirs to Madinah”. As­hama fulfilled this demand, too. He embarked the muhajirs on a ship and sent them to Madinah under the command of Hazrat Jafar.[10]

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[1]Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 3, p. 89; Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, Vol. 3, p. 71; Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 293.

[2]Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, Vol. 1, p. 258.

[3]Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Mektûbat, p. 159.

[4]Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, Vol. 2, p. 71; Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 294.

[5]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 258; Halabi, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 293.

[6]Prof. Dr. Muhammed Hamidullah, İslam Peygamberi, Vol. 1, p. 201.

[7]Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 3, p. 89; Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, Vol. 2, p. 71-72.

[8]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 97.

[9]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 97-98.

[10]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 259; Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 3, p. 89-90.

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