the peace which the treaty of hudaybiyah guaranteed for ten years meant people could travel from all over arabia to visit the prophet (pbuh) and a great many came to declare their islam. also, during this period the prophet (pbuh) decided that the time had come for his message to be taken to other countries, so he sent trusted companions with letters, telling of his message, to the leaders of the most powerful nations of the day.
it is recorded that he said, allah has sent me as a mercy to all men, so take the message from me that allah has mercy on you.' it is also recorded that some time before, when the prophet (pbuh) was digging before the battle of the trench, three flashes of lightning had blared forth from a rock he had been striving to remove. these flashes had shown him the fortresses of the civilizations to the south, east, and west which were soon to come into islam.
now at the time the prophet (pbuh) sent out his message. abu sufyan and some other members of quraysh were trading in syria, a province of the eastern roman empire (later to be called byzantium). also, at about this time the emperor heraclius, ruler of this empire, had a dream, and sadly told visitors to his court in syria: 'i saw our empire fall and victory go to a people who do not follow our religion.' at first he thought this must refer to the jews and he even had it in mind to kill all the jews living under his rule but then an envoy from the governor of basra arrived with a message for the emperor: 0 emperor heraclius.
there are some arabs in the city who are speaking of wonderful happenings in their country', and he then told of what he had heard about the prophet (pbuh).
on hearing this heraclius commanded his soldiers: go and find me someone who can tell me more about this.' the soldiers, however, did not find those who had been talking about the prophet (pbuh), but instead found abu sufyan and some of his companions and brought them before the emperor.
heraclius asked, 'is there anyone among you who is a close relative of the prophet muhammad (pbuh)?' abu sufyan replied, 'i am.' so the emperor addressed all the questions to him, thinking he would know the prophet (pbuh) best. he said, 'tell me what is the prophet's position in your tribe" abu sufyan said, 'he is a member of our most respected family. did anyone before him say the kinds of things he says?' the emperor went on. 'no.' was the reply.' and was he ever accused of lying or cheating?
never. and then the emperor asked: 'and what about his ideas and opinions, and his powers of reasoning?' 'no one has ever had cause to doubt him or find fault with his reasoning', replied abu sufyan. 'who follows him, the proud or the humble?' 'the humble.' 'do his followers increase or decrease?' 'they increase', said abu sufyan, 'none of his followers leave him.' the emperor then turned to other matters and asked: 'if he makes a treaty, does he keep it?' 'yes', abu sufyan replied. 'did you ever fight against him?' inquired the emperor. to which abu sufyan answered: 'yes. sometimes we won, sometimes he won, but he never broke his word in any agreement.' the emperor then asked: 'what does he say people must do?' 'to worship one god', said abu sufyan. 'he forbids people to worship as their fathers worshipped, and says they must pray to allah alone, give alms, keep their word, and fulfil their duties and responsibilities.' abu sufyan had spoken the truth even though he was an enemy of the prophet (pbuh), and did not become a muslim until the very end of his life. but he was afraid to lie before the members of his caravan who were also there with him. the meeting ended with these words from the emperor: 'i see from this that he is indeed a prophet. you said that his followers do not leave him which proves they have true faith, for faith does not enter the heart and then go away. i knew he was coming and if what you say is true, he will surely conquer me. if i were with him now, i would wash his feet. you may leave now.'
it was not long after this that the messenger, dihyah, arrived at the syrian court bearing the prophet mohammed's letter which said, 'if you accept islam you will be safe and allah will give you a double reward. if you do not, you will have to live with results of your decision.' heraclius grabbed the letter. he was so upset he could hardly control himself. he said to dihyah, 'i know your master is a true prophet of allah. our books tell of his coming.
if i were not afraid that the romans would kill me, i would join islam. you must visit bishop daghatir and tell him every thing. his word is more respected among the people than mine.' so dihyah related the message to the bishop and when he heard it, daghatir said, 'yes, your master whom we call ahmed is mentioned in our scriptures.' he then changed from his black ropes into white ones and went and spoke to the people gathered in the church. 'o romans, a letter has come to us from ahmed, in which he calls us to allah. i bear witness that there is no divinity but allah and that ahmed is his slave and messenger.' (ahmed is another name for the prophet muhammad (pbuh).) but on hearing this the crowd grew angry and attacked daghatir, beating him until he was dead.
heraclius was afraid that the same thing would happen to him, so he spoke to his generals from a balcony saying, 'o romans! a man has written to me calling me to his religion i believe he is truly the prophet we have been told to expect. let us follow him so that we can be happy in this world and the next.
' the romans cried out in anger when they heard this, so heraclius quickly said, 'i was only pretending; i wanted to see how strong your faith was. i am pleased to see that you are true to your religion.' heraclius then suggested that they attack or give land to the muslims in order to maintain peace, but the romans refused. realizing that he could do no more, and knowing that one day islam would conquer syria, heraclius left the province and returned to constantinople, the capital of eastern roman empire.
as he rode away he turned around to look back and said, 'goodbye for the last time, o land of syria!' meanwhile, another of the prophet's messengers arrived at the palace of chosroes, the shah (or king) of persia, where he was told by the royal guard: 'when you see the shah, you must bow and not lift your head until he speaks to you.' to this the prophet's messenger replied, `i will never do that. i bow only to allah.' 'then the shah will not accept the letter you bring', they said. and when the time came for the messenger to see him, the shah was indeed very surprised to see the man holding his head high and refusing to kneel respectfully before him like everyone else. nonetheless, the shah still read out the letter:
in the name of allah, the beneficent, the most merciful
"from muhammad, messenger of allah to chosroes, shah of persia. peace be upon those who follow the truth, who believe in allah and his prophet and who testify that there is no divinity but allah and that muhammad is his messenger. i ask you in the name of allah, because i am his messenger, to warn your people that if they do not accept his message, they must live with the consequences. become muslim and you will be safe. if you refuse to tell them you will be to blame for the ignorance of your subjects".
the shah was furious when he read this and tore the letter into little pieces. when the messenger returned to arabia and told the prophet (pbuh) what chosroes had done, the prophet (pbuh) said, 'may allah also tear his kingdom into little pieces.' and several years later it happened just as the prophet (pbuh) had said it would. as with syria and persia, a messenger was also sent to the negus (or king) of abyssinia, with the following letter:
"peace. praise be to allah, the king, the all-holy, the peacemaker, the keeper of faith, the watcher. "he is allah, there is no divinity but he, the sovereign lord, the holy one, the all-peaceable, the keeper of faith, the guardian, the majestic, the compeller, the all-sublime. glorified be allah from all that they associate with him".(koran lix.23)
and i testify that jesus, son of mary, is the spirit of allah and his word which he cast to mary the virgin, the good, the pure, so that she conceived jesus. allah created him from his spirit and his breath as he created adam by his hand and his breath. i call you to allah, the unique, without partner, to his obedience, and to follow me and to believe in that which came to me, for i am the messenger of allah. peace be upon all those who follow true guidance.
the king of abyssinia was a very wise man, and was thought by the world to be a good christian. he had, of course, already heard of the prophet (pbuh) and his religion from the muslims who had sought refuge in his country years before. he was deeply moved by the letter and when he came down from his throne it was not just to show his respect but also to declare that he was already a muslim. he answered the prophet's letter with one of his own. "to muhammad the prophet of allah from the negus al-asham, king of abyssinia. assalamu aleikum 0 prophet of allah wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu.
there is none like him who has guided me to islam. i received your letter, o messenger of allah. some of your followers, as well as your cousin ja'far, still live here. i believe you are truly the messenger of god and reaffirm the pledge of allegiance i made to you some time ago before your cousin ja'far, at whose hand i joined islam and surrendered to the lord of the worlds.
a fourth messenger had, in the meantime, traveled by boat to alexandria to meet the muqawqis, the ruler of egypt, who was a coptic christian. in his letter, the prophet (pbuh) invited the muqawqis to accept islam, because christian who believed in the message of jesus should also believe in him, for he had come with the same message from allah. it read:
in the name of allah, the beneficent, the most merciful,
"from muhammad, son of 'abd allah to the great copt.
peace be upon whoever follows the truth. i beseech you to accept islam. become a muslim. allah will reward you twice.
if you refuse, you will carry the blame for not allowing your people to share in this blessing". the muqawqis showed respect for what the letter said. he treated the messenger well, and sent many presents with him for the prophet (pbuh), but he did not become a muslim. although only abyssinia responded to the prophet's call to islam, all was not lost, for a few years later persia, syria and egypt all became muslim countries.