Second Hijra to Abyssinia

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The troubles that the Muslims faced grew with each passing day and at last the noble Messenger said that the solution might be in migrating to Abyssinia once again. He had received news about how those who had gone before were treated and that is why the Messenger of Allah was encouraging his followers to go to Abyssinia to experience a peace that had not yet been instated in Mecca. But those leaving wanted to see the Messenger among them. That is why Uthman said the following: “O Messenger of Allah! We went with the first group and here we are going to Najashi once again! We wish you were coming with us!”

“You thus migrate to both Allah and me, thus you’ll get the reward of two hijras.”

“This suffices for us, O Messenger of Allah.”

Now it was time to set off. But this was a road that the polytheists also knew, and they had taken their precautions this time to be careful to not let them escape. This time, a bigger group was planning to go, so they had to be extra careful in order for people to not learn about their plan and they had to move very cautiously without leaving things to chance.

Then one evening they set on the road again and the journey towards the shore started. This time there were a hundred people, eighteen of them women.

Despite all the precaution, the Quraysh were worried to hear that the Muslims had left. They knew the result of Muslims’ migration last time and the way Najashi had treated them. This time the number of people going was much greater. The Quraysh were thus facing a big problem, for an issue they had not been able to solve by themselves had now taken on an international dimension, becoming harder to solve! The whole thing was spiraling out of their control. Their backs had already broken by having lost both Hamza and Umar, for the two of them had given much strength to the other front. Now the issue was also developing on grounds that were totally removed from them. They gathered together to discuss the issue in a way to find a permanent solution. They agreed that it was essential that they should convince Najashi to turn the Muslims over to them. They chose two men from among themselves to see to this business. These were Amr ibnu’l-As and Abdullah ibn Abi Rabia. Both of them were men who knew how to speak in front of kings and who knew Najashi well. The Quraysh did not want to leave things to chance so they kept explaining to the two men about how they should behave. They were also preparing very special gifts for Najashi and the influential people around him. They were even making plans as to how these gifts should be offered. They suggested that first gifts should be given to the king’s men, they should be won over and then Najashi’s gift should be given so that he may be persuaded to turn over the Muslims to them.

According to the plan, first the circles around the king, the viziers and clerics would be persuaded and then these men would support the plea of the men of Quraysh. Then Najashi would agree with the general sentiment and hand the Muslims over to them.

Meanwhile, the Messenger of Allah sent a letter to Najashi with Amr ibn Umayya and requested him to provide protection for Jafar ibn Abi Talib and his friends who had gone to seek refuge in Abyssinia. This meant that the relations between the Muslims and Abyssinia were not only superficial, but that there was correspondence based on knowledge between the two parties. There was continuous flow of information, and the Messenger of Allah was trying to prevent any risks that the migrating Muslims may face. The letter read:

“In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, to Najashi of Asham.

May Allah’s peace be upon you! This letter occasions me to give thanks to Allah who is Mu’min, The Supreme Author of safety and security Who bestows faith and removes doubt, and Muhaymin, the All-Watchful Guardian. I bear witness that Jesus, son of Mary is a soul and word from Allah that He has given to Pure and virtuous Mary. He the Almighty created Jesus who Mary was pregnant with, from His own soul and breath, just as He created Adam with the power of His own Hand, and exalted breath. I invite you to Allah and the friendship of Allah Who is One, and has no likeness; I invite you to follow me and believe in what I bring from Truth, for I am the Messenger of Allah. I send you my cousin Jafar ibn Abi Talib and a group of Muslims with him. When they come to you, show them your hospitality and let them stay in your land, do not make things harder for them. Verily I invite you and your army to Allah. I have done my duty and have communicated the Word of Allah to you, given you my advice; accept this from me!”

After he took and read the letter of the Messenger of Allah Najashi wrote a letter back expressing his feelings and sent it to Mecca. The letter contained the following:

“To Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, from Najashi of Ashama ibn al-Abjar.

May Allah’s peace, bounty and grace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah! There is no deity but He, and He has shown me the right way with Islam! Your letter and what you say about Jesus has reached me O Messenger of Allah! I swear by the Lord of the heaven and earth that Jesus did not say anything other than what you yourself say. We have benefited much from what you have sent us and what your cousin and those in his company have told us. I bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allah, truthful and consolidating what has come before you. I am now your follower; I have submitted to the Lord of the universes in the presence of your cousin. I send you my son Ariha ibn Asham ibn al-Abjar. I am king of myself only; and if you decree that I should come to you, I will do that, too, O Messenger of Allah! I know that all that you say is true.”

As can be understood from Najashi’s letter, he had responded to the call of the Messenger of Allah saying that he would offer protection to the Muslims that came to his land, and what’s more was that he was saying he was ready to leave his throne if the Messenger decreed it so. This correspondence alone, as a multifaceted strategy, is precedent for people who want to walk along the same path.

Sending the two men was a propaganda campaign on the part of the Quraysh in order to create an atmosphere that would be favorable to their claims. It seemed probable that their campaign would yield results. When he heard this campaign of the Quraysh, the heart of a loving uncle, Abu Talib, was moved again. But this time he was going to act not only for the sake of his nephew Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, but also those who were in Abyssinia who had put faith in him, including his own son Jafar. Using the power of poetry, the following is the poem that Abu Talib wrote to Najashi in Abyssinia expressing his concerns:

“I wish I’d known.

Why does Amr act in enmity towards my son Jafar although they are relatives?

Will Najashi receive Jafar and his friends with goodness?

Or will his hospitality be prevented by something that encourages evil?

I wish I’d known.

But I know, O King!

I know that you are a man wary of evil, an honorable and generous man.

I know those who seek refuge with you always find peace in your presence.

I know that Allah has given you great worldly and spiritual wealth; you are also the possessor of all the routes of goodness.

And I know that you are a generous man who likes to give.

So don’t let these aggressive relatives of ours take advantage of your virtue and do evil against you!”

As can be seen, it wasn’t only his nephew Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, or his son Jafar that Abu Talib was trying to protect; he was also thinking of those who had put faith in him, and he was hoping to reach beyond the seas with his voice. While the Meccans were trying to make those who had migrated come back, Abu Talib was thinking that his son would be safer in Abyssinia, and leaving aside a father’s longing for his son, he wanted him to stay there. He was letting his wishes be known through poetry, the most effective means of communication at the time, trying to influence Najashi before he would make his decision.

At last the Muslims had arrived in Abyssinia once again and they had started to perform their Prayers in peace, reading their Qur’an to their heart’s content. Before long the two envoys of the Quraysh arrived with their hands full of gifts. First they started to give presents to the clerics and influential people in the palace, just like the elders of Mecca had advised them to. To everyone they spoke to, they asked them to support them with their cause in persuading the king to send the Muslims back to their country. This is what they were saying: “Certain runaway youths from our country are now in the country of the king; these are people who have abandoned their religion and yet not adopted your religion either, they have a new religion neither you, nor I, know of. We will go to the king and ask him to hand them over to us. What we ask of you is that when we bring up the subject you should support us, and to let him hand these people over to us without letting them speak. The whole of Mecca is waiting to see how this business will develop.”

They were approaching the matter rather stealthily, making themselves appear innocent. They were also provoking the listeners against Muslims by saying things like: “These are people who have caused chaos in their homeland and have set people against each other; now they have come here to cause anarchy in your land. They will deceive your children and will degenerate your religion, they will shake your authority,” posing as concerned people who had come to warn them. That is why all the people they spoke to said: “Ok, we will help you.”

They had thus visited every important personage in the kingdom and now it was time to go to Najashi, give him his presents and approach the subject. The necessary appointments had been made and Najashi accepted the representatives of Mecca for a hearing.

After salutations and the usual well-wishes, Amr ibnu’l-As and Abdullah ibn Abi Rabia came to the point. They were saying: “O King! We heard that some runaway youths from our land have left the religion of their tribe and come and sought refuge in your country. The truth is they have not accepted your religion either; they follow a religion neither you, nor I, know of! In due respect for our grandfathers and glorious forefathers, we ask you to hand them over to us, for the eyes of our ancestors are upon these youths; they know what these youths are doing; they see where this business is going.”

As they said these to Najashi, the eyes of Amr and Abdullah were searching for the faces of those who were present to see their expressions and how their preplanned pitch was going. They did not like what they saw on Najashi’s face; they could see that he was not listening to them wholeheartedly, as if he viewed the matter differently. But since they had taken the matter so far, they did not want to return empty handed. That is why they were making eye contact with the clerics and the viziers and trying to gain their support before the king said a final “No.” They were also planning to provide the king with certain information about the Muslims to prejudice the king against them before the possibility of the King summoning them to his presence. They said that the Muslims did not greet people like others, that they would not recognize the authority of the king and would not prostrate before him. This was when one of their supporters, a priest, came to their aid, and said: “O King! They tell the truth! The eyes and ears of their tribe are upon these people; it would be best if we hand these people to them so that they settle their own accounts.”

Najashi, who had been silent till that point, was now angry. Matters of state required seriousness. It would not be in keeping with the principles of justice to judge according to the claims of a couple of people without giving those accused to speak for themselves. If he had not cared for the principles of justice, his land would not have become one where innocent people sought refuge in. With these in mind, he started to say the following: “No, it cannot be! I swear I will never hand them over to you. These are people who have chosen to come to this country among others, and they have preferred my justice so I cannot hand them over to these two men listening solely to what they have said. I have to listen to them; if the situation is as these two men say, then I will hand them over. But if the situation is different, then I will not hand them over, instead, I will provide them with more opportunities to stay in my land and help them live their according to their belief.”

Dead silence ensued. This was much different from what the representatives of Mecca had hoped for. They had played so many tricks in order to put pressure on Najashi and yet none of them had worked, for the king was acting only as it pleased him. But they were not going to give up so easily.

Meanwhile, Najashi had summoned the Muslims living in his land to his presence as he wanted to hear them speak their piece as well. When the invitation from Najashi came to them, the believers who were informed about the situation started to talk among themselves: “What will we say to this man when we go to his presence?”

“I swear by Allah that we will say what we know; we will say what the Messenger of Allah has told us beforehand having already seen what will come to pass!”

At last they came to the court of the king and started to wait. There was a difference even in their entrance and this had not escaped the attention of those present; they were saluting people, but unlike others, they were not prostrating themselves in front of the king! Najashi turned to them and started to ask the following: “Tell me, O people, why have you come here, what is your situation and why have you chosen me? You are not men of trade, and you do not bring a petition either in the name of your country or for yourselves. Who is this Messenger of yours who has appeared, and what is the truth of this matter? Why have you not saluted me like other people? What is your view of Jesus, son of Mary? What is this religion of yours for whose sake you have abandoned the religion of your tribe and not entered mine or any other religion that you may have encountered here?”

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