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Immigration to Abyssinia

When things in Mecca were brought to a head, the Prophet (s.a.w.) allowed some of his followers to immigrate to Abyssinia, where they could find a refuge and safe haven.

The number of the first batch of immigrants was 11 men and four women. They stole out of Mecca secretly. When they reached the coast of the sea, they found ships owned by merchants. They chartered them and sailed to Abyssinia.

The Quraish got word that some of the Muslims had set out for the sea. They sent a group of men to pursue them, but they found that the Muslims had already sailed to Abyssinia.

The new converts arrived in Abyssinia. For three months they remained there, but soon they returned to Mecca after they heard that the whole of the Quraish had entered Islam. But, to their disappointment, that was only a rumour. The Quraish did not cease torturing and persecuting them.

Once again, the Prophet (s.a.w.) ordered them to immigrate t o Abyssinia. They were 80 men and 18 women. At the head of them were Ja'far bin Abi-Talib and Asma' his wife. The negus, the ruler of Abyssinia, received them with hospitality. They felt comfortable and secure there after the long period of harassment in Mecca.

The Quraish felt the danger of the migration of the Muslims. The consequences might be grave for the idolaters. As a measure to preempt the Muslims' future plans, the Quraish sent Amru bin al-Aas and 'Imara bin al-Walid, loaded with precious gifts to the Negus and his courtiers. This was a bid to persuade him to withdraw his protection from the converts and return them to Mecca.

When the two envoys arrived at the Negus's court they said to him,

These are among our ignorant people who have parted with the faith of their people and did not enter your faith.. They brought forth a newly created faith, neither we know it nor you. The honourable chiefs of their people have sent us to return them.

A true Christian at heart, and a just and noble man, the Negus thought it was unjust to listen to one party only. He sent for the immigrants to examine the matter closely.

When the immigrants were admitted into the court, Ja'far bin Abi-Talib talked on behalf of them:

O King! For centuries we were living in blind ignorance. We worshipped idols, ate carrion, did the most vicious of deeds, broke off relations with our relatives, troubled our neighbours and the strong among us ruled over the weak...until one day, Allah sent us a Prophet from among us, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness and chastity we know. He called us to acknowledge the unity of Allah and not to set any god parallel to Him and to renounce what we used to worship of stones and idols. He enjoined us to pray, pay the poor-rate and fast. He exhorted us to be truthful, return the things trusts entrusted to us by other people, keep our relations warm with our relatives, be kind with our neighbours, refrain from doing what is forbidden by Allah, and from shedding blood. He forbade us to do evil and, speak falsehoods, to swallow the property of the orphans and kept us from charging chaste women of committing adultery. We believed in him and in his message. Our people, as a result, turned against us to force us to the worship of idols and the doing of evils. When they harassed us and wronged us, we set out for your country. We chose you, from among the others, hoping that we will not be wronged under your rule.

Do you remember, said the Negus, any of the sayings your Prophet brought? Will you recite some of them?

Yes, replied Ja'far and he recited the chapter of Maryam (Mary), when he read out the part of the chapter dealing with Jesus (a.s.) the Prophet of Allah, the Negus and his courtiers were greatly moved and tears coursed down their cheeks.

'This, said the Negus, and what Jesus had brought emerge from one niche.

Seeing that the matter had slipped out of their hands, the envoys of the Quraish resorted to another scheme, trying to divide the Negus and the Muslims.

The next day Ibn al-Aas returned to the court of the Negus and told him that the Muslims had said something about Jesus slanderous and degrading.

The Negus sent for the Muslims and asked for an explanation.

Ja'far in reply said, We say about him what our Prophet says about him. He is the slave of Allah and His Messenger and Spirit, and the word He implanted in Maryam, the Virgin and the Chaste.

The Negus picked up a stick and drew a line on the ground. He looked up at Ja'far and said, Between our faith and yours, there is a difference no thicker than this line. 36

The Negus, then, dismissed the envoys of the Quraish and handed them back their gifts.

The plan of the Quraish was thus brought to naught. The immigrants remained in Abyssinia. They were secure and kindly treated as a result of the high-mindedness and the morality they showed to the Abyssinians.

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36. Suwar min Hayat Muhammad, p.185. Sirat al-Rasul, pp. 44-45.

Adapted from the book: "Muhammad The Messenger of Allah"