Migration to Abyssinia

5th year of the prophethood, the month of Rajab (A.D. 615).

The severity of the persecution, insults, and torturous acts the polytheists inflicted upon the Muslims continued to increase and worsen each day. As a result, Mecca became an unbearable city for the Muslims to live in. The torture and hardship that increased daily had eliminated the possibility for the Muslims to worship in a state of peace.

The polytheists did not intend to forgo their cruel and inhumane behavior, either.

For that reason, one day our Holy Prophet (PBUH) told the Muslims, “You might as well spread on the face of the Earth. Allah will bring you together once again.”

When the companions asked, “O Allah’s Apostle, where shall we go?”  Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) pointed in the direction of Abyssinia and said, “It will be good if you go to the country of Abyssinia. Nobody is tortured near the Abyssinian King. It is a righteous country. Hopefully Allah will allow you to attain peace there.”

Upon our Holy Prophet ‘s (PBUH) advice and permission, the Muslim procession that constituted ten men and five women left their homeland, parents, relatives, neighbors, properties, and gardens with the blessed aim of protecting their religion, and secretly set forth in the direction of a foreign country. The individuals who constituted the first Muslim procession to Abyssinia by way of the Red Sea and who were greeted very positively by the Ruler of Abyssinia were:

Hazrat Uthman and his wife, Hazrat Ruqiyyah,

Zubair bin Awwam,

Abu Huzaifa bin Utba and his wife Sahla,

Mus’ab bin Umair,

Abdurrahman bin Awf,

Abu Salama and his wife Ummi Salama,

Uthman bin Mazun (the head of the procession),

Amir bin Rabia and his wife Layla,

Suhail bin Bayda,

Abu Sabra bin Abi Ruhm and his wife Ummu Kulthum. (1)

Hazrat Uthman took his wife, Hazrat Ruqiyyah by his side and proceeded on the journey before everyone else. When our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was notified, he said, “The first person to follow Prophet Lut in taking his family and migrating in the way of Allah is Uthman.” (2)

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) preferred Abyssinia for a few reasons: Before everything else, it was well known by the Meccans since it had been having trade relations with them for a long time. Najashi, the just Abyssinian king was the second reason. Of course, Najashi, who was renowned for his justice, would not treat an oppressed group unfairly. Another reason was that the community of Abyssinia was predominantly Christian, also meaning that it consisted of the “People of the Book.” Since they were the People of the Book, their conduct and attitude towards the Muslims would undoubtedly differ from that of the polytheists.

In fact, the Sahaba (the Companions) who had left Mecca in secrecy, were greeted wonderfully by King Najashi and his people. After settling in Abyssinia, the Muslims did not encounter any obstacles or difficulty in practicing their religious beliefs and fulfilling their religious duties. The Muslims said, “We saw good neighborliness and inviolability towards our religion. We were not mistreated. We did not hear any words that we disliked. We worshipped our Lord in peace.” (3)

It is really striking that our Holy Prophet (PBUH) chose Abyssinia for the Muslims to migrate to and not another country. It is impossible for the souls of a Muslim and a polytheist to unite. However, it is possible for a Muslim and a Christian, both considered as being the “People of the Book”, at least to agree on some commonalities that are found in faith. As a matter of fact, the kind conduct and the strong tolerance of which the Abyssinian community showed towards the Muslims in fulfilling their religious practices confirm this reality.

Along with all this, the migration caused many other more important positive aspects to be born. In this way, Islam was heard in the surrounding areas. As a result, the polytheists were greatly alarmed and uneasy about the handful of Muslims taking shelter in Abyssinia. They did not want the Muslims to live in peace even though they had escaped to a distant country.

Hazrat Hamza in the ranks of Muslims

(The 6th year of the prophethood)

The voice of Islam was becoming more and more resonant as it passed from ear to ear. The establishment of this divine atmosphere that freshened the hearts unsettled the polytheists. None of their applied schemes or plans could get in the way of this waterfall of faith that gushed happiness; the polytheists were withering in a state of hopelessness and devastation.

Their spiritual aches doubled due to Hamza, who was included in the circle of happiness.

Hazrat Hamza, who was our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) paternal uncle as well as his foster brother, was a hero who could not tolerate injustice no matter where it came from. He possessed a high esteem among the Quraysh.

It is never apparent where and how one will attain the blessings of faith. Hazrat Hamza attained the blessings of faith at an unexpected time.

One day, he was returning from a hunting trip (it was what he liked to do best). While he was walking towards the Kaaba from Mount Safa, he came across Abdullah bin Juda’s freed handmaiden who said, “Oh Umara’s father, if you had seen what happened, you would not have been able to bear what Abul-Hakam bin Hisham (Abu Jjahl) and his friends did to your brother’s son, Muhammad!”

Staring solemnly at the handmaid, Hazrat Hamza asked her, “What did Abul Hakam bin Hisham do to him?”

“He tortured Muhammad in a variety of ways and insulted him. He left afterwards. Muhammad did not say anything to him.”

Hazrat Hamza asked, “Did you see what you have told me with your own eyes?”

The freed handmaiden replied, “Yes, I did!”

Without stopping at his house, Hazrat Hamza, who had become immensely furious, was carrying his bow, arrow, bag, and hunting supplies with him as he went straight towards Abu Jahl and his friends, who were sitting around the Kaaba. Without asking any questions, Hazrat Hamza severely wounded Abu Jahl’s head by whopping an arrow on it amid the assembly. He spoke afterwards, “Are you the one that swore at Muhammad? I am from his religion, too. I say what he says. If you have enough strength, then try doing whatever it is that you have done to him.”

Abu Jahl began to defend himself so as to justify the actions that he had committed: “But he regarded us as stupid. He insulted our idols and chose a separate path from what our fathers chose.”

Hazrat Hamza gave a decisive and firm answer: “You worship something other than Allah by calling it a deity. Who is more stupid than you? I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger!” (4)

Abu Jahl and those around him did not respond nor act in the face of Hazrat Hamza’s decision. In fact, Abu Jahl even admitted to his guilt, “The truth is that I swore at our brother’s son in a very ugly manner. I deserve it.”

The Whisperings of Shaytan

When Hazrat Hamza, who had suddenly and unexpectedly entered the circle of happiness, returned to his home, he was left to deal with the shaytan’s whisperings in his mind: “You are a reputable person among the Quraysh. You have forsaken your religion by following Muhammad. You did not act wisely!”

When Hazrat Hamzah sensed that he was being exposed to the inculcations of shaytan in both his mind and heart, he went straight to the Kaaba and prayed, “O Allah, if this road that I have chosen is correct then have my heart affirm it; please provide me a solution in this matter!”

After a day passed, he went to our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) presence and explained what he had experienced;

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) then gave him advice.

Hazrat Hamza’s heart then found the confidence and level of faith it had been searching for, “I testify to your truthfulness, oh my brother’s son, explain your religion to me.”

While Hazrat Hamza’s conversion to Islam made our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims immensely happy, it instilled a great sense of sadness and fear in the polytheists’ hearts. They were also obliged to forgo committing a portion of the cruel and tortuous acts that they used to inflict upon our Holy Prophet (PBUH).

New Proposals From Polytheists

The circle of guidance was expanding. The lights of faith and of the Quran were continuing to enlighten souls with their majesty and brightness.

The state of panic and worry that the polytheists were in was at a critical measure. They were completely bewildered by Hazrat Hamza’s unexpected conversion to Islam since they deemed him as a hero. The newer and gretaer losses in the castle of the polytheists led them to make new and different plans and schemes with each passing day.

One day, Utba bin Rabia, one of the leading figures from the tribe of Quraysh, said to a group of polytheists, “O, Qurayshis!  How would it be if I were to go to Muhammad and make some offers to him? Hopefully, he will accept those offers and we will fulfill his wish. In this way, he might quit what he has been doing to us.”

The group accepted the offer.

Upon this, Utba went to the Masjid al–Haram, where our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was alone and began to speak:

O my Brother’s Son! You know that you are much more fortunate and advanced than all of us in terms of honor and ancestry. However, you brought a great trouble to your tribe. You have separated their unity with this cause and have told them that they were stupid. You have decried their idols and religion and have considered their forefathers as unbelievers. If you listen to me, then I will have a few offers for you. I want you to consider them and perhaps you will accept some of them!”

When our Holy Prophet (PBUH) replied, “Explain, O Walid’s Father! I’m listening to you”, Utba began to list his offers: If your purpose is to acquire wealth and property through this cause that you propose, then we will allot our wealth so that you will be the wealthiest of us all. If you are in the pursuit of fame, then we will make you our chief. If the condition that has befallen upon you is a delusion that you do not have enough strength to overcome or if it is an illness or spell that came from your fairies and jinn, then let us bring a doctor and treat you. We will not avoid spending our wealth and property until you are saved.”

Utba made his offers and then became silent. It was our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) turn to speak, “O Walid’s Father, have you finished speaking?”

When the Messenger of Allah received the answer “yes” from Utba, he said, “Now, you listen to me.” He uttered basmala and recited verses 1-36 of the chapter Fussilat solemnly:

“Ha Mim. A Revelation from (Allah) Most Gracious, Most Merciful―A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail― a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand―Giving Good News and Admonition: yet most of them turn away, and so they hear not.”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) recited the Surah until its verse of prostration and then prostrated. Afterwards, he turned to Utba and said, “O Walid’s Father, you heard what I have read. Now, think about the rest!”

The concision of the Quranic verse and the sweetness in its meaning suddenly changed Utba’s sour face causing the Qurayshis to notice it. They told one another “By God, Abu-Walid is returning with a change in his countenance!”

When he came near them they asked, “What have you brought?”

Utba replied, “By God, I heard an utterance that is not similar to what I have heard before in my life. I swear that is not a poem, a spell, or a prophecy!” And he continued to say:

“Oh the Community of Quraysh! Listen to me, stop pursuing this task and leave this man alone for my sake! Stay far away from him and do not touch him! I swear that the words I have heard from him is great news. It will be much better if you leave him to the Arab tribes who are not from among you so they can hinder him. If he prevails over those Arabs, it means that his sovereignty and glory is yours as well. You will be the happiest and most fortunate of all people.”

Utba’s speech displeased the Qurayshis; thus they reacted by saying, “Oh Walid’s Father, he has casted a spell on your tongue.”

Walid saw that they were not listening and said; “In that case do as you please!” then distanced himself from them. (5)

Thus, the polytheists were facing defeat upon defeat against our Holy Prophet (PBUH). Their solutions and measures against Islam were running out one by one. Every plan and measure they applied was going against their favor since Allah had promised:

“I will complete My light even if the nonbelievers and polytheists don’t want for it to happen.”  His order to His Messenger was this:

“O Messenger! proclaim the (Message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His Mission: and Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith.” (6)

For this reason, Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) was continuing his duty to invite the community to Islam without fear, weariness, and hesitation. He was doing his best to wave the Flag of Tawhid over the hearts of the people. As a result, the ranks of Muslims were increasing and becoming much stronger.

Polytheists Ask Him to Turn Safa Hill to Gold!

The polytheists of Mecca now understood that torturous acts, persecution, as well as offers for high stations, status, and wealth could not cause our Holy Prophet (PBUH) to waver in his cause for the slightest moment. For that reason, new options were beginning to sprout.

One day, they said to our Holy Prophet (PBUH), “Pray to your Lord to convert Mount Safa to gold so that we can testify to you!”

Of course, the fulfillment of such a wish is beyond the powers and strength of ordinary men. However, it is a simple phenomenon for Allah’s power.

The polytheists were trying to console themselves by making requests that no ordinary man could accomplish. They wanted to say, “Here you go, he was unable to fulfill our wish. Why should we testify then?”

Despite our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) response to the other requests and offers made by the polytheists was that accomplishing such things was not amid his duties and that they could only be realized through the will of Allah, he did not answer them in the same way; he said, “Will you really do it if your wish is fulfilled?”

In unison, they all replied, “Yes, we will.”

Upon this our Holy Prophet (PBUH) opened his hands and began to beg Allah, Whose powers are infinite.

Of course, the prayers of the Master of the Universe (PBUH) would not be left unanswered. Jabrail (AS) immediately appeared and said, “Allah greets you and says, ‘if you want, I can turn Mount Safa into gold for them. However, if any of them disaffirms, then I will inflict a kind of punishment that I have never before bestowed upon any of my creatures. Now, if you would like, I can open the doors of repentance and compassion for them.”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH), who was sent to the universe as the means of compassion, was left with two options to choose from. Despite Allah’s promise to do whatever His Messenger (PBUH) wanted, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) felt compassion for his tribe that distressed him, he said:

No, my Lord! Do not fulfill their wish. Leave the doors of compassion and repentance open for them.” (7)

Yes, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was sent as a mercy to the whole universe. His heart and conscience was the source of compassion, and mercy. He even forgave and felt sympathy for those who tortured, persecuted, and insulted him. He never sought revenge for his own sake. He always wished for those who tortured him to attain the guidance and bliss that came with faith.

He captured the hearts of the people with his immense compassion, mercy, profound level of forgiveness and tolerance and had these hearts encircle around his heavenly light like a fan.

A Different proposal of polytheists

Despite our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) rejection of every offer that was placed before him, the polytheists continued to make new requests.

One day the leading figures went to our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and said “Let us provide you with an amount of wealth that will result in you becoming the wealthiest man among us. Let us marry you to whichever woman you want as long as you forgo decrying our idols. Then, they spoke as follows:

If you do not accept and do what we say, then we have another offer for you. It is auspicious for both you and us.”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked, “What is that auspicious offer?”

The polytheists replied, “Worship our idols, Lat and Uzza for one year, and we will also worship your God for a year.” (8)

This was both a game and a trap. They figured they could trick our Holy Prophet (PBUH) with such an offer. However, the Master of the Universe (PBUH), whose life purpose was to strive against polytheism and unbelief, would not fall for such a trap. Thus, Allah directly sent down the chapter al-Kafiroon upon this incident:

“Say: O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine.”

When our Holy Prophet (PBUH) recited this Surah to them, the polytheists understood that these offers were also in vain and lost all hope in attempting such tactics.

The three questions of the polytheists

The polytheists who had been withering in a state of hopelessness in the face of our Holy Prophet ‘s (PBUH) cause came up with a new idea: To learn about our Holy Prophet (PBUH) from the Jewish scholars.

With this purpose in mind, their representatives set off to Madina to speak with the Jewish scholars.. When they arrived, they described our Holy Prophet ‘s (PBUH) words and actions. Afterwards, they said, “You are a people that hold the Torah in your hands. We have consulted you so that you can inform us of this man.”

The Jewish scholars answered:

“Ask him, “What amazing adventures did a group of young men experience in the past? Who is the individual that went back and forth from the east to the west on the face of the Earth and what is his tale? What is the essence of the soul?” If he answers these questions, then be assured that he is a Prophet of God and submit to him. If he can not answer them, then, that man is a liar and you can do whatever you want to him.” (9)

The representatives went back to Mecca and explained the situation to the other polytheists.

The happy and hopeful polytheists ran to our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and asked these three questions.

The Master of the Universe (PBUH) requested a respite by saying, “I will let you know tomorrow.”

However, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) forgot to say “Inshallah”(Allah-willing( when saying those words). According to one narration, a revelation was not sent for three days while it was 15 according to another. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) could not stay put as he was so discomforted. The polytheists began to gossip, “Muhammad requested a respite for one day. Much time has passed and he still has not informed us of anything.” Thus, our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) level of discomfort increased so much that he could not speak to anyone.

However, the distress of Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) did not last for much longer and a revelation finally arrived. An answer was given to the questions posed by the polytheists:

“Or dost thou reflect that the Companions of the Cave and of the Inscription were wonders among Our Signs? Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave: they said "Our Lord! Bestow on us Mercy from Thyself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!” (10)

These verses answered the first question asked by the polytheists and stated that the group of young men was the Ashab al-Kahf and the following verses explained their adventures. (11)

This next verse was the response to their second question:

They ask thee concerning Dhul Qarnayn. Say "I will rehearse to you something of his story." (12)

The verses of this chapter that followed indicate that Allah gave Dhul Qarnayn power, provided him with many resources with which he advanced towards the west, that he encountered a tribe during his journey and invited them to commit good deeds. Afterwards, he proceeded towards the west again and met with another tribe once more. They state that he encouraged them to commit auspicious deeds as well. (13)

An answer to the third question posed by the polytheists was given with this following verse:

“They ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you (O men!)” (14)

The polytheists received the perfect answers to their questions.

Instead of testifying to our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) cause, they distanced themselves from following him and continued to live in a state of excessive unbelief.

However, by turning their faces away from the truth and reality, they were only dragging themselves towards disaster. As they resisted, the Islamic cause was continuing to capture even more hearts with its glory and exaltedness.

Allah warns our Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the same Surah as follows:

“Nor say of anything, "I shall be sure to do so and so tomorrow"― Without adding, "So please Allah!" And call thy Lord to mind when thou forgettest, and say "I hope that my Lord will guide me ever closer (even) than this to the right road." (15)

After this warning, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) made it a principle to say “Inshallah” throughout his entire life after everything that he planned to do.

[1] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1. p. 344-345; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 203-204; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2. p. 222.

[2] Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 1. p. 203.

[3] Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 1, p. 204; Tabari, ibid, V. 2, p. 222.

[4] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1. p. 311; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3, p. 9-12; Ibn Abdi’l-Barr, al-Istiab, V. 1, p. 270.

[5] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 313-314; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2. p. 225.

[6] al-Maida, 67.

[7] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 2, p. 35-36.

[8] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 368; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 225-226.

[9] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 321-322.

[10] al-Kahf, 9-10.

[11] al-Kahf, 9-26.

[12] al-Kahf, 83.

[13] al-Kahf, 84-98.

[14] al-Isra, 85.

[15] al-Kahf, 23-24.