From the incident of the Satanic Verses, we learn that the Muslims who had migrated to Abyssinia made a return journey just 3 months later back to Mecca, based upon a rumour that they had heard which was that the Quraish had accepted Islam. When they were just outside of Mecca, they found out that this was false, and so began to debate whether to turn around then and there and make the return journey to Abyssinia, or to see the situation inside of Mecca themselves. Naturally, the urge to return to their homeland overtook them, and they made the decision to enter its walls.

As the returning migrants found out, the situation in Mecca was the same as it had even been and Muslims were still being persecuted for their beliefs. And so they came back together and reinstated the plan to migrate to Abyssinia. However, news of how good Abyssinia had been to the Muslims spread, and so this time instead of 15 people making the journey, 40-50% of the Muslims – more than 80 people – came for the second migration, led by Ja'far ibn Abi Talib (RA).

Now back in those times, Mecca could not have been more than 800 hundred inhabitants strong, so for the Muslims to migrate that was at least 10% of the population gone. And this was a huge embarrassment for the Quraish, who were considered the strongest tribe of Arabia. Thus, they decided that they could not allow this emigration, and sent two emissaries to the Najashi of Abyssinia bearing gifts, to ask for the Muslims back. And one of these people was Amr ibn Al-As, who would later convert to Islam and was known to have a very shrewd and political mind. So first they went to the ministers of the Najashi, and gave to them many expensive gifts and said, ‘You have in your midst a group of rebels, and we want to take them back and we want you to support us in this cause. When we give the Negus (Najashi) his gifts, remember our gifts to you.’ So essentially they bribed them.

The next day they went to the Najashi and did the same thing, giving him many fine gifts before proclaiming, ‘Some foolish youth from amongst our nation are in your country, and they've invented a new religion. They've left ours and neither embraced yours, and our leaders have sent us to you so you can hand these young foolish people back to us.’ After this was said, the viziers stood up and agreed with the two delegates, advising the Najashi that they should let the Quraish deal with their own people. However the Najashi was a just king, and so did not immediately hand the Muslims over but instead said, ‘Know by Allah, I cannot hand them back after they have chosen my land. They have chosen me and asked for my protection – the least I can do is to listen to their side of their story.’ So he sent a messenger to Ja'far ibn Abi Talib, summoning the Muslims to the palace to explain why they had taken refuge in his country.

So the Muslims arrived at the palace, with Ja’far as their spokesmen. Amr ibn Al-As walked in first, and prostrated in front of the Najashi as was the custom, however Ja’far walked in firm and did not lower his head one inch. And the ministers became outraged, but despite the fact that the Muslims were in a position of weakness here, Ja’far simply explained, ‘Our prophet has told us that we can only prostrate to our lord.’

Now the Najashi was intrigued, and asked, ‘Tell me what is this new religion? Why have you forsaken the religion of the people, and not become Christians or Jews?’ And so Ja’far gave a response that was considered one of the most beautiful speeches ever delivered, after the Quran:

“O King! We were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we adored idols,

we lived in unchastity,

we ate the dead bodies,

and we spoke abominations,

we disregarded every feeling of humanity,

and the duties of hospitality and neighborhood were neglected;

we knew no law but that of the strong,

when Allah raised among us a man,

of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware;

and he called to the Oneness of Allah ,

and taught us not to associate anything with Him.

“He forbade us the worship of idols;

and he enjoined us to speak the truth,

to be faithful to our trusts,

to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbors and kith and kin;

he forbade us to speak evil of women,

or to eat the substance of orphans;

he ordered us to flee from the vices,

and to abstain from evil;

to offer prayers,

to render alms, and to observe fasts.

“We have believed in him,

we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allah, and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and prohibited what He has prohibited.

“For this reason, our people have risen against us,

have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of Allah and return to the worship of idols and other abominations.

They have tortured and injured us, until finding no safety among them; we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression.” 

 Now this speech was incredibly powerful, and immediately swayed the Najashi to the side of the Muslims. And he asked if they had any revelation, to which Ja’far began to recite Surah Maryam. And this choice was no accident, as Surah Maryam spoke of Isa (AS) and directly related to what the Abyssinians knew, and so when he was finished and the recitation had been translated for them, the Najashi and all of his viziers were moved to tears. And he declared, ‘I swear by God, this recitation and the messages of Moses and Jesus are from the same fountain. (Turning to the emissaries) Go away from me, because I am not going to hand these people over to you, and I will not even think of it.’

However the story does not end here, as Amr ibn al-As was very clever and had a final trick. And so the next day he returned to the court and told the Najashi, ‘Oh holy emperor, we forgot to mention to you one thing. The Muslims say something blasphemous about your God, Jesus Christ.’ And so the Najashi demanded the presence of the Muslims in his palace once again, and this time he asked them about their beliefs on Isa (AS). And Ja’far replied, ‘We say exactly what the prophet has told us, which is that Jesus was the slave and prophet of Allah, and that he was given to Maryam, the chaste and virgin.’ Now, he does not attack any of the Christian beliefs here, but the Najashi gets the point that the Muslims do not believe that Isa (AS) was the son of God. And it is from here that we can infer that the Najashi himself was not a believer of the Trinitarian version of Christianity, as when Jaf’ar spoke the truth about Isa (AS) he was even more impressed. And he picked up a twig in front of him and declared, ‘By Allah, what you have just said does not exceed what Jesus Christ himself said by this much of a branch,’ and then he turned to the emissaries, ‘Begone from here, and take your gifts with you.’

Now after this incident, rumour spread that the Najashi had become a heretic and there came the possibility of a coup d’état. And one day, the Najashi decided to confront the batch of instigators who he knew had been privately circulating these rumours. So he wrote on a parchment ‘I bear witness there is only one God, and that Jesus is the prophet and slave of Allah,’ and tucked it into his robe above his heart. And he summoned the instigators and asked them what their problem was with him. After some coercing, they finally came out with it, and accused the Najashi of having heretical beliefs. Now as a response, the Najashi did something clever; he asked the instigators what they believed, to which they replied with the basis of their Christianity, such as Jesus Christ being the son of God and the third of the trinity etc… And then the Najashi declared, ‘I swear by Allah,’ and he pointed to the piece of paper hidden under his robe, ‘that this is exactly what I believe.’ And thus the accusers, who thought he had just agreed with them, were satisfied.

Now the Najashi actually became a Muslim later on, when the prophet sent him a letter inviting him to Islam and he responded, ‘O RasulAllah, I am a Muslim, and if you command me now I will come to Yathrib and serve you.’ Unfortunately, a number of years later he died, and the prophet came out in middle of Yathrib and said, ‘Jibrael has come and informed me that a pious brother of yours had died in a neighbouring land.’ And he commanded the sahaba to come and pray his funeral salah. In fact, this was the only time in the entire Seerah that he did the funeral prayer without the body being present, and from this we derive fiqq as to when it is permissible.

Now from these stories of Abyssinia we can take much wisdom. As we previously mentioned, the Muslim’s living in Abyssinia are a model for us as modern Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim lands. And what we learn from this is that it is perfectly permissible to use the systems of a non-Muslim land to fight your battles, as Ja’far ibn Abu Talib did. As well as that, it is allowed for you to take political sides in non-Muslim land, as once the Najashi was fighting a civil war against a pretender to the throne, and the Muslims living there prayed and made du’a for him despite not being of the country. There are also some other morals we can take from these stories: When the two dignitaries from the Quraish came to persuade the court of the Najashi, they brought with them many gifts to bribe and coax him and his ministers. And the prophet Muhammad has strictly forbidden us from doing this, and from this incident we can see why as it is an immoral and unfaithful way for servants of state to behave.



Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 017,

Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum