The Holy Prophet's Envoy Enters Ethiopia
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
Ethiopia is situated at the far end of Eastern Africa. Its area is 18,000 sq. kilometres and its present capital is the city of Addis Ababa.
The orientals were acquainted with this country for more than a century before Islam. The acquaintance commenced with the attack of the Iranian army during the Rule of Anushirwan and was matured with the migration of Muslims from Makkah to Ethiopia.
When the Prophet decided to send six distinguished and brave delegates to far-off places as envoys for making his universal prophethood known to the people of the world he appointed 'Amr bin Umayyah to proceed to Ethiopia with his letter and to convey his message to the Negus, the just ruler of that country. This was not the first letter which the Prophet wrote to the Ruler of Ethiopia. He had written a letter earlier also about the Muhajirs asking the Negus to be kind to them. The text of that letter is recorded in history.[ Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. II, page 294] Some times confusion takes place between the two letters (i.e. between the one making recommendations for the Muhajirs, and the other written to communicate the Prophet's universal prophethood) and the text of both of them is mixed up.
When the Prophet sent his envoy to Ethiopia with a letter some Muslim Muhajirs were still residing there whereas others had come over to Madina and had praised the justice of the great ruler of that country and his kindness to his subjects. In case, therefore, we find a sort of inclination, kindness and softness in the tone of the letter written by the Prophet to that ruler, it is, because he was aware of the mentality of the Negus.
In letters addressed to other rulers he warned them of the time of Divine wrath and told them that if they did not express their faith in Islam the sins of those who refrained from embracing Islam owing to fear would also be recorded in their account. However, no such thing has been said in the following letter to the Negus: "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
This is a letter from Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah to the Negus, the King of Ethiopia. Peace be upon you! I praise Allah except Whom there is no god. He is Allah who is free from all defects and faults; and His obedient servants are safe from His wrath. He sees and witnesses the conditions of His servants.
I testify that Prophet 'Isa bin Maryam is a spirit of Allah and a 'word' (of Allah) which settled in the womb of pious Maryam. Allah created him in the womb of his mother without a father with the same Power with which He created Adam without parents.
I invite you to the One Allah Who has no partner, and require you to obey Him and to follow my religion. Profess faith in Allah Who has appointed me to the prophetic mission.
The King of Ethiopia should know that I am the Prophet of Allah. I invite you and all your soldiers to the Almighty Allah and I have, by sending this letter and my envoy, discharged the onerous responsibility which devolved upon me and have given you advice. Peace be upon those who follow guidance".[ Seerah-i Halabi, vol. III, page 279 and Tabaqat, vol. I, page 259]
The Prophet commenced his letter with the Islamic salutation of Salamun Alayk and sent personal greetings to the King of Ethiopia. In other letters (sent to the Kisra, the Kaiser and the Maqauqis, the Rulers of Iran, Rome and Egypt respectively), however he began with a general salutation (Peace be upon the followers of guidance). In this letter he sent personal greetings to the Ruler of Ethiopia and thus accorded him superiority over other contemporary rulers of the world.
In this letter a reference has been made to a number of salient attributes of the Almighty, which indicate His Oneness and Greatness. Thereafter the Prophet propounded the question of 'Divinity' (Prophet 'Isa being god) which is the creation of decayed thinking of the Church and refuted it by arguments inferred from the Holy Qur'an. As regards Prophet 'Isa being born without a father he explained this event by making a comparison with the birth of Adam and proved that if birth without father be an argument for one's being the son of God the same argument should apply to Adam, whereas the Christians hold no such belief about him.
At the close of the letter he offered advice to him and thus manifested his own status.
CONVERSATION OF THE ENVOY WITH THE NEGUS
When the necessary formalities ended the ambassador of Islam was received in audience by the Ruler of Ethiopia. He spoke to the ruler thus: "It is my duty to convey the message of the Prophet to you, and your pure nature also demands that you should kindly listen to my submission.
O Just Ruler of Ethiopia! Your sympathy for the Muslim migrants cannot be forgotten and these sentiments of yours have pleased us so much that we consider you as one of us and have a great confidence in you, as if we were your friends. Your Heavenly Scripture is a firm and indisputable witness. This Book is the best judge which doesn't do injustice and this just judge clearly testifies to the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam. If you follow this universal Messenger and the Last Prophet of Allah you will acquire great blessings; otherwise you will be like the Jews who did not accept the religion of Prophet 'Isa which superseded the religion of Prophet Musa and continued to follow the superseded religion. And the religion of Islam supersedes earlier religions like the religion of 'Isa and in a sense completes them".
The Ruler of Ethiopia replied to the envoy of the Prophet of Islam in these words: "I testify that he is the same Prophet who is awaited by the people of the Scriptures and believe that just as Prophet Musa informed the people about the prophethood of 'Isa, the latter also specified the signs of the Last Prophet. I am prepared to proclaim his prophethood before the public. However, as the environment is not yet ready for such a proclamation and my strength is also insufficient, it is necessary that the requisite ground should be prepared so that the hearts of the people might be attracted towards Islam. If it had been possible for me I would have hastened to reach your Prophet at once''.[ Seerah-i Halabi, vol. III, p. 279; Tabaqat-i Ibn Sa'd, vol. I, p. 259] Then he wrote a letter in reply to the Prophet.
THE NEGUS WRITES TO THE HOLY PROPHET
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
It is a letter to Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah from the Negus. The blessings of One except Whom there is no god and the greetings of One Who guided me towards Islam be upon you. I have read your letter pertaining to the prophethood and human attributes of 'Isa. I swear by the Lord of the heavens and the earth that whatever you have said is absolutely correct and I do not have the least difference with this belief. I have also become acquainted with the reality of your religion and have rendered such services to the Muslim migrants as were expedient. I testify by means of this letter that you are the Messenger of Allah and a truthful person whose prophethood has been confirmed by the Heavenly Scriptures. I have performed the ceremonies of embracement of Islam and allegiance to you in the presence of your cousin (Ja'far bin Abu Talib).
I am sending my son, Rarha, to your sacred presence to communicate my message and embracement of Islam. And I state clearly that I am not responsible for anyone except myself. In case, therefore, you order me I shall present myself to your august presence. Peace be upon you O Prophet of Allah.[ Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. I and Biharul Anwar, vol. XX, page 392]
The Negus sent special presents to the Prophet and later two more letters were also sent to him by the Prophet.