Quraish’s Machination Against the Emigrants
quraish could not tolerate the prospect of a secure haven available for the muslims in abyssinia (ethiopia), so they despatched two staunch envoys to demand their extradition. they were ‘amr bin al-‘as and ‘abdullah bin abi rabi‘a — before embracing islam. they had taken with them valuable gifts to the king and his clergy, and had been able to win some of the courtiers over to their side. the pagan envoys claimed that the muslim refugees should be expelled from abyssinia (ethiopia) and made over to them, on the ground that they had abandoned the religion of their forefathers, and their leader was preaching a religion different from theirs and from that of the king.
the king summoned the muslims to the court and asked them to explain the teachings of their religion. the muslim emigrants had decided to tell the whole truth whatever the consequences were. ja‘far bin abi talib stood up and addressed the king in the following words: "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 neighbourhood were neglected; we knew no law but that of the strong, when allâh raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware; and he called to the oneness of allâh, 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 neighbours and kith and kin; he forbade us to speak evil of women, or to eat the substance of orphans; he ordered us to fly from the vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fast. we have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship allâh, 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 allâh 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."
the king was very much impressed by these words and asked the muslims to recite some of allâh’s revelation. ja‘far recited the opening verses of sûrah maryam (chapter 19 — mary) wherein is told the story of the birth of both john and jesus christ, down to the account of mary having been fed with the food miraculously. thereupon the king, along with the bishops of his realm, was moved to tears that rolled down his cheeks and even wet his beard. here, the negus exclaimed: "it seems as if these words and those which were revealed to jesus are the rays of the light which have radiated from the same source." turning to the crest-fallen envoys of quraish, he said, "i am afraid, i cannot give you back these refugees. they are free to live and worship in my realm as they please."
on the morrow, the two envoys again went to the king and said that muhammad [pbuh] and his followers blasphemed jesus christ. again the muslims were summoned and asked what they thought of jesus. ja‘far again stood up and replied: "we speak about jesus as we have been taught by our prophet [pbuh] , that is, he is the servant of allâh, his messenger, his spirit and his word breathed into virgin mary." the king at once remarked, "even so do we believe. blessed be you, and blessed be your master." then turning to the frowning envoys and to his bishops who got angry, he said: "you may fret and fume as you like but jesus is nothing more than what ja‘far has said about him." he then assured the muslims of full protection. he returned to the envoys of quraish, the gifts they had brought with them and sent them away. the muslims lived in abyssinia (ethiopia) unmolested for a number of years till they returned to madinah. [ibn hisham 1/334-338]
in this way quraish’s malicious intentions recoiled on them and their machination met with utter failure. they came to fully realize that the grudge they nursed against he muslims would not operate but within their realm of makkah. they consequently began to entertain a horrible idea of silencing the advocate of the new call once and for all, through various channels of brutality, or else killing him. an obstinate difficulty, however, used to curtail any move in this direction embodied by the prophet’s uncle abu talib and the powerful social standing he used to enjoy as well as the full protection and support he used to lend to his nephew. the pagans of makkah therefore decided to approach abu talib for the second time and insisted that he put a stop to his nephew’s activities, which if allowed unchecked, they said, would involve him into severe hostility. abu talib was deeply distressed at this open threat and the breach with his people and their enmity, but he could not afford to desert the messenger too. he sent for his nephew and told him what the people had said, "spare me and yourself and put not burden on me that i can’t bear." upon this the prophet [pbuh] thought that his uncle would let him down and would no longer support him, so he replied:
"o my uncle! by allâh if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that i abandon this course, until allâh has made me victorious, or i perish therein, i would not abandon it." the prophet [pbuh] got up, and as he turned away, his uncle called him and said, "come back, my nephew," and when he came back, he said, "go and preach what you please, for by allâh i will never forsake you."
he then recited two lines of verse pregnant with meanings of full support to the prophet [pbuh] and absolute gratification by the course that his nephew had chalked out in arabia. [ibn hisham 1/265]