16. Kings and Courts

The unbelievers of Quraish surrounded Mecca. They spoke to travelers coming in from every direction. Every single one of them had seen the moon split into two parts. And it had stayed so until it set! Still the unbelievers of Quraish refused to believe. This made Prophet Muhammad (s) sad. He wanted to save people. He wanted them to choose the right path. It was clear to him now that some of them knew the truth but just didn’t want to believe.

Six years had passed. Six years since Muhammad (s) had received the first revelation, in the cave of Hira’. This was the seventh year and the Muslims were increasing day by day; and Quraish was increasing its harm to the Muslims day by day.  After trying to stop the spread of Islam in so many ways, they now began to discuss a new method. Perhaps if they punished all of Bani Hashim, Muhammad’s own tribe would turn against him. Prophet Muhammad (s) realizing things would be getting worse, recommended that his companions emigrate once again to Abyssinia. 

Not everyone could leave Mecca. Some people had families they needed to care for, some people didn’t have the strength to make the trip or the money. Still, around 100 Muslims started packing to leave. This second migration to Abyssinia was more difficult than the first. It was very painful for the companions of the Prophet (s) to leave him; “Shall we leave Mecca, yet again, without you?” they asked sadly. Still 83 men and 18 women sailed in secret to Abyssinia.

As soon as Quraish found out, they were enraged. How did so many Muslims get away? Many of those who left had no one to protect them and had by emigrating, escaped the torture of Quraish. By the time people from Quraish found out and followed them the ships had left. 

When Prophet Muhammad told the Muslims to go to Abyssinia, he told them that its king – the Negus – was a fair ruler and that no one would be oppressed in his country. But some of the unbelievers of Quraish also knew the Negus and were friends with him. They decided to go to him and ask him to send these ‘rebels’ back. Amr bin al-Aas knew the King well, and so he was chosen to head the delegation. He took gifts with him and made sure there were many animal skins, which were a favorite of the King, then he set off. 

 Amr bin al-Aas first gave presents to the important men in the King’s court. He asked them to help him convince the King that the Muslims that came to their country should be returned. The next day, he stood before the King and explained to him that those who had come to him from Mecca were bad people. They had left their forefathers’ religion and had not accepted the King’s religion of Christianity. They were rebels that must be returned to their homeland and not protected. The King refused to do so until he heard their side of the story. He sent for the Muslims to come before him. The Muslims chose Ja’far – the Prophet’s uncle – to be their spokesperson; and many of them went along to see what would happen. 

     “What is this religion that has separated you from your people, yet you have not chosen my religion or any religion I have heard of?” asked the King. Ja’far first explained to the King, and all who were present, what their life had been like before Prophet Muhammad (s). He told them that the strong used to hurt the weak and that people worshiped idols made of stone; that they ate dead animals and were not kind to their neighbors. Next, he explained to the King who Prophet Muhammad (s) was; that he was someone honest, upright, and trustworthy, that everyone liked and respected. Then he said, “Muhammad told us that he was a Messenger to us from God. He asked us to believe God is one, and to worship Him not the idols. He ordered us to speak the truth, to be good to our relatives and neighbors, to feed the poor, and to fast. So, we believed in him and followed him. But our people got mad and started to harm us. When the torture became so great, we came to your country, and chose it over others for we hoped that we would not be oppressed in your land, Oh King.”

The King asked if Ja’far could recite any Quran to him, and Ja’far recited the beginning of Surah Maryam. The King wept until his beard was wet and his cardinals wept, too. The King said, “Indeed, this and what Isa taught, come from the same source.” Then he turned to the men of Quraish and said, “Leave! I will not hand them over to you, and they are safe here.” To the Muslims he said, “Go back to wherever you wish to stay in my land. You will not be harmed or handed in.”

Amr was very upset.  He swore he would go back the next day and tell the King something that would uproot the Muslims from this land. So, the next day he went to the King and said to him, “Oh King, they say about Isa son of Maryam bad words, send for them and ask them what they say.” So, the King called for them. And the Muslims were frightened and worried, but they decided to say what was in the Quran. Again, Jafar was the spokesperson and he said, “We say that Isa son of Maryam is the servant of God and His prophet, His spirit and His word, which he sent to Maryam the Pure.”

The King listened carefully; then he said, “There is no difference between what you say and what we believe. Go – you are safe in my land; not for a mountain of gold would I see any of you hurt.” Then he asked the cardinals to return the gifts that Amr gave them.  And so, the Muslims lived there in peace. 

But the people of Abyssinia started to whisper to one another. The King has left our religion and believes in another. They planned to fight a war against him. So, the King sent word to the Muslims, and he prepared ships for them and told them to board the ships but to stay close by. He told them to return if all was safe, but to sail to somewhere else, if he was defeated.

The Abyssinians believed Isa to be the son of God, and they wanted the King to say the same or they would remove him by force. But, look! The King was writing, “I bear witness there is no God but Allah and Isa son of Maryam is His Servant and Messenger”. And he has put this parchment under his robes beneath his right shoulder. And he now has gone out to the people that want to kill him!