7.10 Emigration to Abyssinia
Emigration to Abyssinia
Many Muslims had to hide and pray secretly whereas what they needed was to pray in peace and freedom and to be able to learn more about their religion without fear or worry. So Mohamed counseled these vulnerable Muslims to flee for the sake of their religion, to leave Mecca and go to Abyssinia. He said that in Abyssinia there was a king in whose realm no one was wronged. They slipped quietly out of Mecca, fourteen men and one woman. Through the king's hospitality, they lived for some time in peace and plenty until they heard that Quraysh were no longer torturing the Muslims. They returned to find matters worse than ever so they went back to Abyssinia. This time there were eighty men with their women and children.
They had left Arabia to escape the Quraysh but Quraysh would not leave them in peace with their religion. They sent emissaries to the Negus of Abyssinia bearing precious gifts. They said to him,
"Great King, some of the rabble of our land have come to your country. They have deserted the religion of their forefathers and have not entered into your religion (the king was a Christian). We have sent their masters, their uncles and their fathers, the heads of their people who know them best, and we beg that they be handed over to them."
The Qurayshis had given precious gifts to the patriarchs of the Negus and begged them to deliver the Muslims to them without their having to meet the Negus. But the Negus, against the patriarchs' counsel, insisted on hearing what the Muslims had to say for themselves. He called them and said,
"What is this that has made you forsake the religion of your forefathers yet not enter into any of the known creeds."
The man who spoke for the Muslims was Jafar ibn Abi Talib, Mohamed 's cousin. He said,
"Great king, we were an ignorant people. We worshipped idols, ate dead things, committed abominations, rejected our kindred, were bad neighbors, and the strong among us tyrannized the weak. We remained thus until Allah sent us a messenger, one of us, whose lineage and integrity we all know. He called us to worship Allah alone, and reject the idols and sacred stones our fathers had worshipped. He commands us to be true to our word, to return a trust to its owner, to be good to our kindred, to our neighbor, and to stop sin and bloodshed. He forbids us abominations and perjury; he forbids us to eat the money of the fatherless or to slander innocent women. He commands us to prayer, charity, and fasting. So we believe in him and follow what he has brought us from Allah. Now we worship Allah alone, forbid ourselves what He forbids us, and allow ourselves what He allows us."
"However our people have aggressively assaulted us, persecuted us, tortured us in order to compel us to return to the worship of idols and the evils we used to do."
"When they overpowered us, wronged us, coerced us, and tried to stand between us and our religion, we came to your land and chose you from all other kings to seek your protection, hoping that in your land we should not be wronged."
"And have you anything of what he has brought from Allah to read to me?"
said the Negus.
"Yes," said Jafar, and he read him the verses in Surat Maryam which describe Maryam and Jesus.
"So she pointed to him. They said, 'How can we speak to a baby in the cradle?' Me said, 'I am the slave of Allah. He gave me the Book and made me a prophet. And Me blessed wherever I be, and charged me with prayers and charity so long as I live. Benevolent to my mother, Me has not made me a miserable tyrant. Peace unto me the day I was born, the day I die and the day I am resurrected." (19:29-33)
When the patriarchs heard these words, they were appalled and said,
"These words come from the same source as the words of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Negus said,
"This and what Moses brought come from the same niche. No, I shall never deliver you to them."
So the Muslims lived in peace and hospitality in Abyssinia until the Prophet settled in Medina, then they joined their fellow Muslims there.
Many years later, after the whole of the Arabian Peninsula came under Mohamed's domination, a delegation was sent to him by the Negus of Abyssinia. Mohamed insisted on serving them himself. When asked why he, rather than any of his followers or servants, should serve them, he said,
"They were good to my people."