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Abyssinia Before the Birth of Islam

About one century before the birth of Islam, Abyssinia played a significant role in the region of Arabia, more influencing than that of the other neighbours. Two centuries before Islam, namely at the end of the fourth century A.D., the king of Yemen embraced Judaism, and thereby Judaism became the state religion of that land. Then a man named Dhunuvas in Yemen decided to put pressure upon everyone who did not follow the Jewish faith. Then reports reached him that in Najran, a city in neighbouring Hejaz Christianity was spreading. Dhunuvas launched a campaign against Najran, and started persecuting and killing people. He had trenches filled with fire and cast the Christians of Najran into those. One of the Christians of Najran fled to the court of the Roman emperor, and said to him "You call yourself the emperor of Christians, see what are they doing to us Christians there." The Emperor answered that he was too far from that land, but "We have a coreligionist in the Emperor of Abyssinia to whom I will write to come to your assistance."

This incident has been recorded in Islamic as well as European sources in an identical manner. The Emperor of Abyssinia dispatched an army to Yemen under a commander named Eryat. among whose officers was a man called Abraha. The army entered Yemen and Dhunuvas was defeated, who in his flight jumped into the sea with his horse and met his end. In this way Yemen became a colony of Abyssinia, and Eryat. its governor. They tried to propagate Christianity in Yemen which led to an incident between Eryat. and Abraha which we will proceed to recount in the following.

Adapted from the book: "Background of the Birth of Islam" by: "S. T. H. Khwarazmi"

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