Salaam and Greetings of Peace:
In the beginning of Islam, the Quraysh tribe of Mecca persecuted the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers. The Prophet therefore allowed eighty of his followers, together with their small children, to emigrate to Abyssinia in 615 CE. The emigrants were well received in Abyssinia, and were allowed complete freedom of worship. The leaders of Quraysh, however, sent two emissaries to the Nagus, with rich presents for the Negus of Abyssinia and bribes for his generals. The two emissaries told the generals:
“Some foolish young men and women of our people have taken refuge in this kingdom. They have left their own religion, not for yours, but for one they have invented, one that is unknown to us and to yourselves. The nobles of their people have sent us to your king on their account, that he may send them home. So when we speak to him about them, counsel him to deliver them into our hands and have no words with them.”
The generals all agreed, and the two men of Quraysh took their presents to the Negus, asking that the emigrants should be given into their hands and explaining the reason as they had done to the generals, and finally adding: “The nobles of their people, who are their fathers, their uncles and their’ kinsmen, beg thee to restore them unto them.” The generals were present at the audience, and now with one voice they urged the Negus to comply with their request and give up the refugees, inasmuch as kinsmen are the best judges of the affairs of their kinsmen. But the Negus was displeased and said:
“Nay, by God, they shall not be betrayed – a people that have sought my protection and made my country their abode and chosen me above all others! Give them up I will not, until I have summoned them and questioned them concerning what these men say of them. If it be as they have said, then will I deliver them unto them, that they may restore them to their own people. But if not, then will I be their good protector so long as they seek my protection.”
Then he sent for the companions of the Prophet, and at the same time assembled his bishops, who brought with them their sacred books and spread them open round about the throne. The Abyssinians were Christians, many of them devout; they had been baptized, and they worshiped the One God.
A couple very pleasing to look upon of the Muslims were Ja’far (ra) and his wife Asma’ (ra). They were well protected by Abu Talib; but the refugees needed a spokesman and Ja’far was an eloquent speaker. He was also most winning in his person, and the Prophet said to him on one occasion: “Thou art like me in looks and character.” It was Ja’far he had chosen to preside over the community of exiles.
When they were all assembled, the Negus spoke to them and said:
“What is this religion wherein ye have become separate from your people, though ye have not entered my religion nor that of any other of the folk that surround us?”
Ja’far answered him saying:
“O King, we were people steeped in ignorance, worshiping idols, eating unsacrificed carrion, committing abominations, and the strong would devour the weak. Thus we were, until Allah sent us a Messenger from out of our midst, one whose lineage we knew, and his veracity and his worthiness of trust and his integrity. He called us unto God, that we should testify to His Oneness and worship Him and renounce what we and our fathers had worshiped in the way of stones and idols; and he commanded us to speak truly, to fulfil our promises, to respect the ties of kinship and the rights of our neighbors, and to refrain from crimes and from bloodshed. So we worship God alone, setting naught beside Him, counting as forbidden what He hath forbidden and as licit what He hath allowed. For these reasons have our people turned against us, and have persecuted us to make us forsake our religion and revert from the worship of God to the worship of idols. That is why we have come to thy country, having chosen thee above all others; and we have been happy in thy protection, and it is our hope, O King, that here with thee we shall not suffer wrong.”
The royal interpreters translated all that he had said. The Negus then asked if they had with them any Revelation that their Prophet had brought them from God and, when Ja’far answered that they had, he said: “Then recite it to me,” whereupon Ja’far recited a passage from the Surah of Mary, which had been revealed shortly before their departure:
And make mention of Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her people unto a place towards the east, and secluded herself from them; and We sent unto her Our Spirit, and it appeared unto her in the likeness of a perfect man. She said: I take refuge from thee in the Infinitely Good, if any piety thou hast. He said: I am none other than a messenger from thy Lord that I may bestow on thee a son most pure. She said: How can there be for me a son, when no man hath touched me, nor am I unchaste? He said: Even so shall it be; thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. That We may make him a sign for mankind and a mercy from Us; and it is a thing ordained. (Qur’an 19:16-21)
The Negus wept, and his bishops wept also, when they heard him recite, and when it was translated they wept again, and the Negus said:
“This hath truly come from the same source as that which Jesus brought.”
Then he turned to the two envoys of Quraysh and said:
“Ye may go, for by God I will not deliver them unto you; they shall not be betrayed.”
But the next morning, the emissaries went to the Negus and said:
“O King, they utter an enormous lie about Jesus the son of Mary. Do but send to them, and ask them what they say of him.”
So he sent them word to come to him again and to tell him what they said of Jesus. They consulted together as to what they should reply when the question was put to them, though they all knew that they had no choice but to say what God had said.
So when they entered the royal presence, and it was said to them: “What say ye of Jesus, the son of Mary?” Ja’far answered:
“We say of him what our Prophet brought unto us, that he is the slave of God and His Messenger and His Spirit and His Word which He cast unto Mary the blessed virgin.”
The Negus took up a piece of wood and said:
“Jesus the son of Mary exceedeth not what thou hast said by the length of this stick.”
And so it is, even unto this Christmas Holiday. In your prayers, dear Brothers and Sisters, remember your Christian brethren also.