Jafar ibn Abi Talib Takes Word

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Meanwhile Najashi had called his clergy near him and had made them lay basic texts of religion open before him. It was clear that he was going to compare the novelties that Islam was bringing in the name of religion with what his own understanding was, and then reach a conclusion. That is why a very appropriate reply had to be given to him to cover all his questions and hesitations. After a brief pause, Jafar ibn Abi Talib stepped forward and said: “O King! We saluted you with the salutation of the Messenger of Allah. This is the salutation of the inhabitants of heaven; with it we find new life in our inner worlds. We only go down to sajda in prostration before Allah, we seek refuge in Him from having to prostrate to others,” thus clarifying two of the points Najashi had raised.

Then he changed the direction of the conversation and said to the King: “I beseech you to ask these men of Quraysh the following three questions.”

“Ask,” said Najashi.

“Are we slaves who have fled their masters that they are here to hand us back to our masters?”

This was an unexpected question indeed and Najashi turned to the Qurayshis: “Were these slaves, O Amr?” he asked.

Although they wanted to kill the Muslims, there and then, they had no choice but to tell the truth. Unwillingly and rather forcefully, they said: “No, in fact they are generous people.”

The first round was over. Jafar asked the second question: “Will you ask them, O King, whether we are people who have shed blood unlawfully and then fled, and whether by asking you to hand us over, they are seeking the implementation of justice?”

It was clear that Jafar was now engaged in a real fight with words. Spoken word had a magical power and he wanted to make use of that. Words were transforming into effective weapons and the castles that the men of Quraysh were trying to build in the name of kufr, disbelief, were collapsing one by one. Najashi once again turned to the envoys and asked: “Have they killed unlawfully?”

“No they have not shed a single drop of blood,” answered Amr.

Wasn’t real virtue the virtue even your enemies would have to acknowledge? Now it was time for the last question.

“Can you ask them, O king, whether we stole people’s goods and that it is for that reason they come to interrogate us, to ask for the goods we’ve stolen?”

The king turned to the envoys once again. They had not killed anyone, they had not degraded the honor of anyone, and they had not rebelled against their masters—what could anyone possibly want from these people? That is why Najashi changed his attitude as he was asking the last question: “If these people owe you money, then you can collect it from me.”

The meeting was spiraling out of control for the Qurayshi envoys from the very beginning: “They do not owe us anything,” they replied.

Now it was the King’s turn to ask the questions: “Then what is it that you want from these people?”

This was a question that made the silence even more aggressive. There was only one thing they could say: “We used to believe in the same religion and would be united around the same belief, but these people have left that unity and we have come looking for them.”

Now they had come to the point. The king turned to Jafar and asked: “What was the understanding of religion that you used to subscribe to, and what religion are you following now?”

“O King! We used to be a community that was ignorant and a plaything in the hands of the devil, we used to worship idols and eat the flesh of the dead! We used to engage in all kinds of debauchery, we did not care about family ties or neighborly rights. Whoever was strong among us would oppress the weak. Then Allah sent a Prophet from among us whose family we all knew very well, and whose truthfulness and trustworthiness was already praised among us. He invited us to know Allah as the Unique One of Absolute Unity, not to worship anyone but Him, and to leave our ancestral habit of worshipping idols that we had made with our own hands from stones and clay. He also invited us to speak the truth, to keep our promises, to strengthen the ties between relatives by visiting each other, to have good and warm relations with our neighbors. Equally he warned us against all things haram, or prohibited, against shedding blood, debauchery, gossip and lies, against exploiting the rights and assets of the orphans and against slandering women who live virtuously. He also invited us to worship Allah, who is the Unique One of Absolute Unity, and not to worship any other god beside Him, to perform the Prayers, to give zakah, the prescribed purifying alms, and we have accepted what he said and we have submitted to him in faith. We have devoted ourselves to doing what he has brought to us from Allah, to worship Allah who is One, and not to hold anything equal to Him. Now we consider what he says haram as unlawful and what he has allowed halal as permitted. But our tribe started to become hostile to us, and they subjected us to all sorts of torture. They tried to make us recant our faith, to prevent us from turning our faces towards Allah and pushed us to engage in all the said debauchery. They did everything in their power so we should go after these hand-made idols once again, and they thought it fair to resort to any means in their efforts. When their torture became too much to bear and they tried to get between us and our religion, we sought refuge in your land. We preferred your country among others, we hoped we would not be subjected to any oppression under your rule, O King,” said Jafar elaborately.

Right after this eloquent speech, Najashi said: “Do you have anything with you from what Allah has sent?”

It looked like the words of Jafar had been effective and Najashi had given the first sign.

Jafar stepped forward and said: “Yes, we do.”

When he asked: “Will you read it to me?”

Jafar started to read from the beginning of chapter Maryam, Mary.

This was a Divine voice that delved deep into the bone… Such that before long, tears started to come down from Najashi’s cheeks… People started to look at each other; even the clergy were shedding tears along with Najashi. Beards had been watered with the tears, and blessed drops from the wells in the eyes were now falling onto the pages of the books that had been opened in front of them. When Jafar reached a certain point, Najashi intervened: “I swear that these are part of the same light that came to Jesus, it is clear they come from the same lamp. What you say is all true, you are right, your Messenger is Trustworthy.” He then turned to the two envoys of Quraysh and said: “You can now go back to where you came from; I will never hand these men over to you.”

The envoys were experiencing a great shock, so were the clerics and viziers who were present. The Qurayshis left the court with their heads held down. But they were not ready to give up, and it did not prove difficult to find other discontent people who would support them. Amr ibnu’l-As assessed the situation and turned to his friend and said: “I swear tomorrow I will bring forth such things that I will give them a run for their money.”

Abdullah ibn Abi Rabia, however, was more cautious.

“There is no need! Do not do such a thing! Even though they may have acted in opposition to us, they are our relatives,” he urged.

They spoke for a while more and then decided to go to the king again the next day. The same ritual salutations started the next day and the two envoys were now in the presence of the king. Amr ibnu’l-As came forward: “O King! Undoubtedly they say many things about Jesus, the son of Mary.”

 Jesus was everything to them and these words of Amr brought to mind many questions. What were these things that the Muslims were saying? Now the people present had to know what it was that the Muslims were saying. So Najashi sent word to the Muslims and summoned them to his presence. When they came, he asked immediately: “What is it that you say about Jesus, the son of Mary?”

This was again a job for Jafar ibn Abi Talib, he came forward and said: “We say what the Messenger of Allah told us; verily Jesus is the servant of Allah, and a Messenger that He has sent to the people. He is a part from His own soul, a word of His that He sent to Mary, possessor of good morals and virtue.”

This was the reply that Najashi was expecting. He stood up in excitement, took a staff into his hand, drew a line on the ground, and then said: “I swear that the difference between what you say about Jesus, the son of Mary, and what we know about him is even less than this line that I have drawn here.”

Some of the clergy that heard these words started to mumble and tried to voice their discontent. As if he could not hear the mumbling around him, Najashi turned to Jafar and said: “I swear that you can stay in my land safe from those who plot against you and mean you harm. Those who try to harm you will find me in front of them! I swear that I would refuse mountains of gold should it cost anyone of you even a headache!”

After saying these inspirational and touching words, Najashi turned to his viziers. His looks seemed to say “While these envoys are here, they impose on me and I cannot judge fairly” and then said: “Give back the gifts that these men brought, I don’t need them! When Allah gave me my power, he did not ask for ransom, so how can I accept the ransom that these men offer?”

This was a great defeat for the Quraysh. As the defeated were leaving the courtroom, their frustration could be read from their demeanor—it was as though their backs had been broken by this treatment. What had they expected, and what had they found! From then on Abyssinia would be a land where Muslims could perform the Prayers in peace, where they could read the Qur’an out loud, where the new messages of Islam could be shared with ease. Soon after however, Najashi’s country would be attacked and the Muslims would be worried. In that period, the Muslims would lift their hands up to the skies for Najashi, providing him with spiritual support so that Najashi would come victorious over his enemies and the peaceful environment of the country would continue. When the Muslim migrants found out that Najashi had beaten his enemies, there was great joy among them and they would thank Allah who had given them the opportunity of a peaceful life once again.


Kesmez, Umit. “The Luminous Life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)” Tughra Books Press. December 2014.