Second Caravan of Muslims Migrate to Abyssinia

7th Year of the prophethood (Year 616)

The king of Abyssinia welcomed the first procession of Muslims in a very fine manner. The Muslims finally had the opportunity to freely worship in a state of peace.

When the Master of the Universe (PBUH) heard this, he suggested that the remaining Muslims in Mecca emigrate as well.

The second procession that set off headed by Hazrat Jafar, the son of our Holy Prophet’s uncle, Abu Talib, was much more crowded than the first one. A group of 92 people, ten of them being women, left Mecca for Abyssinia for the purpose of safeguarding their faith and being able to worship in peace.

While the Muslims emigrated, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) remained in Mecca despite everything. He continued to stand up against the torture and persecution that were continuously committed by the polytheists. He pursued his holy and sublime duty under God’s protection and grace. (1)

Polytheists in search of Muhajirs!

The polytheists of Quraysh panicked when the Muslims migrated to Abyssinia in succession. They did not intend to stop following the Muslims who were living abroad. They worried about the spread of Islam in these kinds of countries and about this glorious faith coming to a state in which it would be insurmountable. Nevertheless, for as long as the Muslims were under the asylum of the King of Abyssinia, it would be much easier for Arabia to be under Islam’s bosom. In this way, the barriers they attempted to place before Islam would be razed to the ground.

The dissatisfied and worried polytheists spoke among themselves and decided to request from the King of Abyssinia that he return the Muslims who had migrated. (2)

They assigned Amr bin As and Abdullah bin Abi Rabia as their envoys. Their plan was this:

They were going to take valuable gifts to Najashi (the King of Abyssinia) and the other leading figures. The gifts would first be given to the government officials and the polytheists’ wishes would be presented. Afterwards, they would present their gift to the King.

Their purpose behind their plan was this:

By presenting their gifts to the government officials first, they would receive support from the government officials; thus, no chance would be given to the King to talk to the Muslim refugees.

When the envoys went to Abyssinia, they applied their plan.

As they presented their gifts to the government officials, they said:

“Some members of our youth have separated from the path of their forefathers. They have not converted to your faith; they have emerged with a brand new religion. Currently, they are under the sanctuary of your King. We were sent by our tribe to request their return. When we convey our wish to the King, help us by not allowing a chance for the King to speak with the Muslims. Support us in the matter of their surrendering and say: “They obviously know more about and are better acquainted with those who are from among them. They can see their faults better than anyone else.”

The courtiers were deceived by the valuable gifts and promised to support the polytheists.

The envoys went to the presence of the King and expressed their wish:

“O, King! These people, who have left us and have ruined our working order, have come here to damage your religion, country, and society. We came to warn you regarding this matter. They do not recognize Jesus, the Son of Mary, as God’s son. They do not bow down before you when they are in your presence. Return them to us and we will deal with them.” (3)

As is seen, the envoys expressed their wish in a very sly manner. They knew the King was a Christian and for that reason, they tried to win the King over through this point by saying, “They do not recognize Jesus, the Son of Mary, as God’s son” so that he would be angered.

The courtiers supported what the emissaries said in accordance with plan: “O King, they speak the truth. Of course, they are better acquainted and know them better than anyone else. They can see what faults they have more clearly. Let us surrender the Muslims to them so that they can take them back to their own homeland and tribe.”

While the government officials were sanguinely expecting the King to say, “yes” to their request, Najashi angrily said, “By God, no. I will not surrender those who are helpless, who have settled in my country, and have preferred me to others. I will not make my decision without first talking to them. If the matter is as the envoys say it is, then, I will surrender them and have them return to their homeland. If it is just the opposite, then I will protect and look after them in the best manner.” (4)

Later, Najashi invited the Muslims to come by sending an inviter. The refugees chose Hazrat Jafar as their representative and went to the palace all together.

The priests that Najashi had invited were inside along with the representatives of the Quraysh.

Hazrat Jafar greeted Najashi when he went amid his presence; however, he did not prostrate before him.

When the courtiers asked Hazrat Jafar, “Why did you not bow down before the King?” he answered,

“We only bow before God.”

“Why?” they asked again.

“God has sent His Messenger to us and His Messenger has prohibited us from bowing down before anyone other than God.”

Upon this, the representatives said, “O King, had we not explained their condition to you?”

Najashi turned to the Muslims and asked, “Why did you come to my country? What state are you in? You are not merchants and you do not seem to want anything. In that case, why did you come to my country? What kind of state is your Prophet in? Explain me why you do not greet me like your countrymen do.”

Before answering these questions, Hazrat Jafar said, “O King, I am going to say three things. If I speak the truth, then affirm what I say; and if I lie, then disaffirm my words. Firstly, command one of these representatives to speak and the other to remain silent!”

Amr bin As was the representative who chose to speak. Upon this, Hazrat Jafar addressed Najashi, “Ask this man if we are slaves who are to be returned to our masters?”

Najashi asked, “O Amr, are they slaves?”

Amr replied, “No, they are dignified free men.”

This time, Hazrat Jafar said, “Ask this man whether we have shed anyone’s blood unjustly and if we are to be given back to those whose blood we have shed?”

“O Amr, have they shed anyone’s blood unjustly?” asked Najashi.

Amr responded, “No, they have not shed a single drop of blood.”

Hazrat Jafar turned towards Najashi once more, “Have we taken goods from the community unjustly, do we have any goods that we are obliged to pay for?”

Najashi said, “O Amr, if these poor men have any debt amounting to one qantar (about 50 kg) of gold then I will pay it off.”

Amr replied, “No, they do not have a carat’s worth of debt!”

Upon this, Najashi asked, “In that case, what do you want from these men?”

Amr responded, “We used to follow the same religion. They left our faith and have submitted to Muhammad’s religion.”

This time Najashi turned to Hazrat Jafar and asked, “Why did you leave a thing that you were committed to for another? Considering that you have separated from the religion of your tribe and do not follow my religion or that of another people’s, what is this religion that you have joined?”

Hazrat Jafar deemed it more suitable to start explaining from the beginning, “O King, we were an ignorant people. We used to worship idols and eat carrion. We used to commit any kind of wrong deed that comes to the mind. We would break off ties with our parents and relatives, harm our neighbors, and oppress the weak. While we were in this state, God sent us a Prophet from among ourselves. A prophet whose progeny, integrity, trustworthiness, honor, and purity we knew of. He called us to believe in the existence and oneness of God, to worship Him, and to abandon the idols that both we and our forefathers worshipped. He commanded us to be forthright, to deliver all that has been entrusted to us to their rightful places, to protect the rights of our relatives, to get along with our neighbors, and to avoid sins and bloodshed. He prohibited us from fornication, lies, encroaching upon the rights of orphans, and slandering honorable women. We have testified to him and his cause. We have submitted to what he brings from God and makes known to us. For that reason, our tribe has treated us like an enemy and has tortured us. They inflicted all kinds of torture and persecution to dissuade us from our religion, hinder us from worshipping God, and to make us worship their idols. Due to all of these reasons, we abandoned our homeland and homes and came to your country. We sought shelter from you and preferred you to others. We hope not to face torture and injustice in your presence.” (5)

Afterwards, Hazrat Jafar responded to the King’s question as to why he did not bow down before him:

“When it comes to the matter of greeting you, we have greeted you with the greeting of God’s Apostle. We always greet one another in this manner. We learned from our Prophet (PBUH) that those who will enter Paradise will greet one another in this fashion. For that reason, we have greeted you in this way. When it comes to the matter of prostration, we prostrate before God and we take refuge in God from bowing down before anyone else.” (6)

Hazrat Jafar’s words had a very deep impact on Najashi. The polytheists just stood there in silence.

After thinking for some time, Najashi turned to Hazrat Jafar and said, “Do you have anything with you with regards to what you have mentioned?”

“Yes, we do” replied Hazrat Jafar and he followed by reciting the first portion of Surah Maryam: Kaf. Ha. Ya. `Ayn. Sad. (This is) a recital of the Mercy of thy Lord to His Servant Zakariya. Behold! He cried to his Lord in secret. Praying: "O my Lord! Infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head doth glisten with grey: but never am I unblest O my Lord, in my prayer to Thee!” (7)

The verses that follow explain how Hazrat Maryam became pregnant to Hazrat Isa (Jesus), how Hazrat Isa came into this world, one of his miracles in which he spoke in his cradle, and how he was sent as a Prophet by God.

The verses that were read had enough influence over Najashi’s inner world to cause tears to fall from his eyes. In fact, his falling tears ended up soaking his beard. The priests who were present could not help crying, either.

After Najashi’s spirit, which had been affected by the spiritual charm of the Holy Quran, soothed, he said, “By God, this is a Light that emanates from the same lamp with which Moses and Jesus came.” (8)

After making this truthful confession, he turned to the polytheists, “By God, I will not submit them to you nor will I think badly about them in anyway.” (9)

The representatives did not have any choice in the face of Najashi’s unexpected decision but to leave the palace in a state of disappointment.

Despite this, the representatives, Amr bin As in particular, said they were not going to give up and decided to apply new tactics.

The next day, he came to Najashi’s presence and explained that the Muslims had said strange things about Hazrat Isa.

The King once again deemed it suitable to talk to the Muslims and invited them to his presence. He asked Hazrat Jafar, “What do you think of Hazrat Isa?”

Thus he replied:

“We say whatever our Prophet (PBUH) has brought from God and made known to us regarding Hazrat Isa. He is a servant of God, a Messenger, and a soul that God has sent. He is one of God’s words given to Mary, a virtuous virgin who renounced men (meaning that he was born through God’s command, “Kun.”)The glory and state of Jesus, the Son of Mary, consists of this.” (10)

The knowledge the Muslims had on Hazrat Isa made Najashi very happy. He took a stick in his hands, drew a line on the ground, and said, “The difference between your religion and ours is as much as this line. Besides, we do not view the matter any differently than what you say.” (11)

The deputies were left bitterly disappointed as they had been expecting Najashi to retract his asylum.

Najashi turned to the Muslims and said, “I congratulate you and the individual whom you follow for he is God’s Messenger. Besides, we had read about his qualities in the Bible. Mary’s son, Jesus, had also given good tidings about this Messenger to humanity. I swear to God that if he was found in my country that I would carry his shoes and wash his feet.” (12)

After his words that accepted the prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh), the Negus, who saw and understood the truth, stated the following about his attitude toward Muslims from then on as follows: 

“Go! Live peacefully and safely in the area of my country that remains untouched and is secure from invasion. Whoever harms you will be perished. (He repeated this three times.) Even if I knew that I could attain a mountain’s worth of gold for hurting the feelings of one of you, I still would not make such an attempt.” (13)

The deputies did not have any other choice but to return to Mecca after Najashi’s decisive and conclusive words. In fact, the King even returned the gifts they had brought.

When the polytheists of the Quraysh heard this, they were greatly distressed. It could be considered that their fears came true!

Muhajirs Return to Makkah

Despite the fact that Muslims were saved from the persecution and torture of the polytheists and attained the opportunity to freely fulfill their religious duties, they were still living in a foreign place that was far from their motherland in which they were born and raised. This situation saddened them.

About three months after the last procession, they received news that a few of the leading figures from the Quraysh had become Muslims. The conversion of the leading figures meant that the polytheists had submitted to Islam as a whole.

Upon hearing the news, with the assumption that Mecca was no longer a place in which they would be persecuted and insulted, a procession of 39 individuals, six of them being women, set off to return to their motherland. However, when they neared Mecca, they learned that this news was groundless. However, turning back would be very difficult.

In order to enter Mecca, they would have to be under the protection of their polytheist relatives and friends or they would have to ensure that no one could see them. Openly entering the city meant being submitted to the hands of the merciless enemy. Taking this into consideration, some of them preferred being under the sanctuary of their relatives and friends temporarily whereas some others entered the city in secrecy without the need to seek refuge.

Some of them returned to Abyssinia and remained there until the other Muslims migrated to Madina. Some joined the Muslims in Madina after the Hijra while the other Muslims remained in Abyssinia for a long period of time.

Those who returned to Mecca did not leave Mecca until the Hijra to Madina occurred; their faithful hearts shielded them, and helped them zealously persevere with the polytheists’ persecution and torture. (14)

[1] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 345-346; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 207; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 222.

[2] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 356; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2. p. 225.

[3] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 358.

[4] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 359.

[5] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 359-360; Ibn Kathir, Sirah, V. 2, p. 20-21.

[6] Ibn Kathir, ibid, V. 2, p. 19.

[7] Maryam, 1-4.

[8] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 360; Ibn Kathir, Sirah, V. 2, p. 21.

[9] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, 360; Ibn Kathir, ibid, V. 2, p. 21.

[10] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 261.

[11] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 261.

[12] Isfahani, Dalail, p. 207; Insanu’l-Uyun, V. 1, p. 341.

[13] Ibn Kathir, ibid, V. 2, p. 22.

[14] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 2, p. 3; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 207.

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