The Holy Prophet's Messenger in the Roman Territory
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
Kaiser, the Roman King, had vowed to God that if he was victorious in the war against Iran he would, as a mark of thanksgiving for this great victory, go from his capital (Constantinople) to Jerusalem on foot to perform pilgrimage of the Holy place. After gaining victory he acted according to his vow and proceeded to Jerusalem on foot.
Dihyah bin Kalbi was deputed by the Prophet to carry his letter to Kaiser. He had performed many journeys to Syria and was fully acquainted with the various places of that region. His impressive appearance, and sublime morals made him fully eligible for carrying out this important duty. Before leaving Syria for Constantinople he came to know at one of the towns of Syria called Busra[Busra was the capital of the governor of Horan Province. This province was treated to be a colony of Kaiser and Harith bin Abi Shimar and generally the rulers of the family of Ghassan ruled it as satellites of Kaiser] that Kaiser had proceeded to Jerusalem. He, therefore, immediately contacted Harith bin Abi Shamir, the Governor of Busra and informed him of his important assignment.
The author of Tabaqat-i Kubra writes: [Tabaqat-i Kubra, vol. I, page 259]"The Prophet had ordered Dihyah to give the letter to the Ruler of Busra so that he might deliver it to Kaiser. Possibly this order was given in view of the fact that the Prophet was personally aware of the journey of Kaiser or because the conditions and possibilities of Dihyah were limited and his journey to Constantinople was not free from difficulties and hardships. However the ambassador of the Prophet of Islam contacted the Ruler of Busra. The governor called for Addi bin Hatim and ordered him to accompany the ambassador of the Prophet to Jerusalem and deliver the letter of the Prophet to Kaiser.
The ambassador was to see Kaiser in the city of Hams. He sought an audience with Kaiser and requested that a time might be fixed for it. The officers concerned said to him: "You will have to prostrate before Kaiser thrice, because otherwise he will not attend to you and will not accept your letter". Dihyah, the wise ambassador of the Prophet of Islam said: "I have taken all this trouble in coming here to put an end to these wrong customs. I have been directed by the Prophet of Islam to tell Kaiser that the worship of man should cease and none except the Almighty Allah should be worshipped. How can I, with this assignment and belief, accept your viewpoint and prostrate before anyone except Allah?"
The firmness, steadfastness and strong logic of the ambassador was admired very much by the employees of the royal court. A benevolent courtier said to Dihyah: "You should leave the letter on the special table of the Emperor and return. None except Kaiser touches the letters lying on that table. As and when Kaiser reads the letter he will call you". Dihyah thanked that man for the guidance, left the letter on that table, and returned.
Kaiser opened the letter. The opening words of the Ietter, Bismillah (In the name of Allah) attracted his attention and he said: "I have not so far seen such a letter except that of Solomon. Then he called his interpreter so that he might read the letter and translate it for him. He translated the Prophet's letter as under: "(This is a letter) from Muhammad bin Abdullah to the great Hercules of Rome. Peace be upon the followers of guidance. I invite you to the religion of Islam. Embrace Islam so that you may be safe. Allah will give you two rewards (reward for your own faith as well as reward for the faith of those who are your subordinates). In case, however, you turn away your face from Islam you will be responsible for the sins of the Arisiyans[There is a difference of opinion between the scholars about the meaning of this word. Ibn Athir writes in Nihayah, vol. I, page 31: "It means the employees of the court". Others say that it means the farmers, because in those days the majority of the people were farmers. This view is supported by the fact that in some copies (Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 145) the word Akarin has been used instead of the above word and Akar means a farmer. It is also considered probable that Aris was the name of a community which resided in the Roman Empire.] as well. O people of the Scriptures! We invite you to a common basis i.e.: we should not worship anyone except Allah. We should not treat anyone to be His partner. Some of us too should not accept others as their gods. And (O Muhammad! As and when) they recalcitrate against the true religion say: "Be witness to the fact that we are Muslims".
KAISER MAKES INVESTIGATIONS ABOUT THE HOLY PROPHET
The wise Roman Ruler considered it probable that the writer of the letter was the same Promised Prophet Muhammad, as referred to in the Evangel and the Taurat. Hence, he decided to collect detailed information about him. He, therefore, called for the head of administrative department and said to him: "Make a thorough search throughout Syria. It is possible that you may be able to find out some relatives or kinsmen of Muhammad or some other persons who may be aware of his antecedents so that I may get some information from them. By chance, in those very days Abu Sufyan and some other persons from amongst Quraysh had come to Syria for trade. The representative of Kaiser contacted them and took all of them to Jerusalem. They were received in audience by Kaiser who said to them: "Is there anyone amongst you who may be related with Muhammad?" Abu Sufyan pointed to himself and said: "He and I belong to the same tribe and our fourth grand-parent (Abd-i Munaf) was common. Kaiser ordered that Abu Sufyan should stand facing him and others should stand behind his back so that if he was partial in his replies they should at once point out his mistake or falsehood. Having made these arrangements Kaiser asked Abu Sufyan the following questions to which the latter gave replies seriatim:
Kaiser: What do you know about the descent of Muhammad?
Abu Sufyan: He belongs to a noble family.
Kaiser: Was there any one amongst his ancestors who ruled over the people?
Abu Sufyan replied in the negative.
Kaiser: Did he refrain from falsehood or not, before claiming to be a prophet?
Abu Sufyan: No doubt Muhammad was a truthful person.
Kaiser: Which class of people supports him and believes in him?
Abu Sufyan: The nobility is against him and the common and middle class people are his earnest supporters.
Kaiser: Are his followers increasing?
Abu Sufyan: Yes.
Kaiser: Has anyone of his followers turned apostate so far?
Abu Sufyan: No.
Kaiser: Has he been victorious while fighting or has he been defeated?
Abu Sufyan: On some occasions he has been victorious and on others he has been defeated.
Kaiser asked the interpreter to tell Abu Sufyan and his companions that if this account was correct he (Muhammad was definitely the last Promised Prophet. Then he added: "I have information that such a Prophet would appear, but I didn't think that he would belong to the tribe of Quraysh. However, I am ready to pay homage to him and to wash his feet as a mark of respect and in the near future his power and glory will capture the Roman territories".
Kaiser's nephew said: "In the letter Muhammad has written his own name above yours, but he has not been punished for this sedition". Kaiser angrily said: "lt is appropriate that the name of the person on whom the Archangel Gabriel descends should precede mine".
Abu Sufyan says: "Kaiser's keen partiality for Muhammad created a murmur in the court and I felt very uneasy on account of this development lest the position of Muhammad should become so high that the Roman nation should be afraid of him. Although, when questioning commenced, I tried to belittle Muhammad in the eyes of Kaiser and told him that Muhammad was smaller as compared with what he had heard about him, but Kaiser did not pay any heed to my derogatory remarks and said: "Only give replies to the questions which I ask you."[ Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. II, p. 290; Biharul Anwar, vol. XX, pp. 378 - 380]
THE PROPHET'S LETTER IMPRESSES KAISER
Kaiser did not content himself with the information gained from Abu Sufyan but he wrote a letter about the matter to one of the sages of Rome. The sage wrote in reply: "He is the very Prophet who is awaited by the world". Kaiser arranged for a big gathering in one of the monasteries to find out the way of thinking of the Roman chiefs and, after reading out the Prophet's letter before them, said: "Do you agree that I should accept his religion?" Immediately a great convulsion took place in the meeting, so much so that the opposition of the people frightened Kaiser out of his life. He at once rose from his place which was at an elevated point and spoke to the people thus: By making this proposal I wished to test you. Your firmness and steadfastness in the religion of Prophet 'Isa has aroused my admiration and appreciation for you".
Kaiser called Dihyah and honoured him. He wrote a reply to the Prophet's letter and also sent some presents through Dihyah. In his letter he showed his faith and devotion to him.[ Tabaqat-i Kubra, vol. I, page 259; Seerah-i Halabi, vol. II, page 277; Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 44 and Biharul Anwar, vol. XX, page 379.]