The First Migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
The series of persecutions started late in the fourth year of Prophethood, slowly at first, but steadily accelerated and worsened day by day and month by month until the situation got so extremely grave and no longer tolerable in
the middle of the fifth year, that the Muslims began to seriously think of feasible ways liable to avert the painful tortures meted out to them. It was at that gloomy and desperate time that Sûrah Al-Kahf (Chapter 18 — The Cave) was revealed comprising definite answers to the questions with which the polytheists of Makkah constantly pestered the Prophet (Peace be upon him). It comprises three stories that include highly suggestive parables for the true believers to assimilate. The story of the Companions of the Cave implies implicit guidance for the believers to evacuate the hot spots of disbelief and aggression pregnant with the peril of enticement away from the true religion:
The young men said to one another): And when you withdraw from them, and that which they worship, except Allâh, then seek refuge in the Cave, your Lord will open a way for you from His Mercy and will make easy for you your affair (i.e. will give you what you will need of provision, dwelling, etc.)18:16].
Next, there is the story of Al-Khidr (The Teacher of Arabia) and Moses (Peace be upon him) in a clear and delicate reference to the vicissitudes of life. Future circumstances of life are not necessarily the products of the prevalent conditions, they might be categorically the opposite. In other words, the war waged against the Muslims would in the future assume a different turn, and the tyrannous oppressors would one day come to suffer and be subjected to the same tortures to which the Muslims were then put. Furthermore, there is the story of Dhul-Qarnain (The Two Horned One), the powerful ruler of west and east. This story says explicitly that Allâh takes His righteous servants to inherit the earth and whatever in it. It also speaks that Allâh raises a righteous man every now and then to protect the weak against the strong.
Sûrah Az-Zumar (Chapter 39 — The Crowds) was then revealed pointing directly to migration and stating that the earth is spacious enough and the believers must not consider themselves constrained by the forces of tyranny and evil:
“Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world, and Allâh’s earth is spacious (so if you cannot worship Allâh at a place, then go to another)! Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full without reckoning.” [39:10].
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) had already known that Ashamah Negus, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), was a fair ruler who would not wrong any of his subordinates, so he permitted some of his followers to seek asylum there in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
In Rajab of the fifth year of Prophethood, a group of twelve men and four women left for Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Among the emigrants were ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan and his wife Ruqaiyah [the daughter of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)]. With respect to these two emigrants, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“They are the first people to migrate in the cause of Allâh after Abraham and Lot (Peace be upon them) .”
They sneaked out of Makkah under the heavy curtain of a dark night and headed for the sea where two boats happened to be sailing for Abyssinia (Ethiopia), their destination. News of their intended departure reached the ears of Quraish, so some men were despatched in their pursuit, but the believers had already left Shuaibah Port towards their secure haven where they were received warmly and accorded due hospitality.
In Ramadan of the same year, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) went into the Holy Sanctuary where there was a large host of Quraish polytheists, including some notables and celebrities. Suddenly he began reciting Sûrah An-Najm (Chapter 41 — The Star). The awe-inspiring Words of Allâh descended unawares upon them and they immediately got stunned by them. It was the first time for them to be shocked by the truthful Revelation. It had formerly been the favourite trick of those people who wished to dishonour Revelation, not only not to listen to it themselves but also to talk loudly and insolently when it was being read, so that even the true listeners may not be able to hear. They used to think that they were drowning the Voice of Allâh; in fact, they were piling up misery for themselves, for Allâh’s Voice can never be silenced, “And those who disbelieve say:
“Listen not to this Qur’ân, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation) that you may overcome.” [41:26].
When the unspeakably fascinating Words of Allâh came into direct contact with their hearts, they were entranced and got oblivious of the materialistic world around them and were caught in a state of full attentiveness to the Divine Words to such an extent that when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) reached the stormy heart-beating ending:
“So fall you down in prostration to Allâh and worship Him (Alone).” [53:62]
The idolaters, unconsciously and with full compliance, prostrated themselves in absolute god-fearing and stainless devotion. It was in fact the wonderful moment of the Truth that cleaved through the obdurate souls of the haughty and the attitude of the scoffers. They stood aghast when they perceived that Allâh’s Words had conquered their hearts and done the same thing that they had been trying hard to annihilate and exterminate. Their co-polytheists who had not been present on the scene reproached and blamed them severely; consequently they began to fabricate lies and calumniate the Prophet (Peace be upon him) alleging that he had attached to their idols great veneration and ascribed to them the power of desirable intercession. All of these were desperate attempts made to establish an excusable justification for their prostrating themselves with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) on that day. Of course, this foolish and iniquitous slanderous behaviour was in line with their life-consecrated practice of telling lies and plot hatching.
News of this incident was misreported to the Muslim emigrants in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). They were informed that the whole of Quraish had embraced Islam so they made their way back home. They arrived in Makkah in Shawwal of the same year. When they were only an hour’s travel from Makkah, the reality of the situation was discovered. Some of them returned to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), others sneaked secretly into the city or went in publicly but under the tutelage of a local notable. However, due to the news that transpired to the Makkans about the good hospitality and warm welcome that the Muslims were accorded in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), the polytheists got terribly indignant and started to mete out severer and more horrible maltreatment andtortures to the Muslims. Thereupon the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) deemed it imperative to permit the helpless creatures to seek asylum in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for the second time. Migration this time was not as easy as it was the previous time, for Quraish was on the alert to the least suspicious moves of the Muslims. In due course, however, the Muslims managed their affairs too fast for the Quraishites to thwart their attempt of escape. The group of emigrants this time comprised eighty three men and nineteen or, in some versions, eighteen women. Whether or not ‘Ammar was included is still a matter of doubt.
Quraish could not tolerate the prospect of a secure haven available for the Muslims in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), so they despatched two staunch envoys to demand their extradition. They were ‘Amr bin Al-‘As and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Rabi’a — before embracing Islam. They had taken with them valuable gifts to the king and his clergy, and had been able to win some of the courtiers over to their side. The pagan envoys claimed that the Muslim refugees should be expelled from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and made over to them, on the ground that they had abandoned the religion of their forefathers, and their leader was preaching a religion different from theirs and from that of the king.
The king summoned the Muslims to the court and asked them to explain the teachings of their religion. The Muslim emigrants had decided to tell the whole truth whatever the consequences were. Ja’far bin Abi Talib stood up and addressed the king in the following words: “O king! we were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we adored idols, we lived in unchastity, we ate the dead bodies, and we spoke abominations, we disregarded every feeling of humanity, and the duties of hospitality and neighbourhood were neglected; we knew no law but that of the strong, when Allâh raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware; and he called to the Oneness of Allâh, and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbours and kith and kin; he forbade us to speak evil of women, or to eat the substance of orphans; he ordered us to fly from the vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fast. We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allâh, and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and prohibited what He has prohibited. For this reason, our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of Allâh and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and injured us, until finding no safety among them, we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression.”
The king was very much impressed by these words and asked the Muslims to recite some of Allâh’s Revelation. Ja’far recited the opening verses of Sûrah Maryam (Chapter 19 — Mary) wherein is told the story of the birth of both John and Jesus Christ, down to the account of Mary having been fed with the food miraculously. Thereupon the king, along with the bishops of his realm, was moved to tears that rolled down his cheeks and even wet his beard. Here, the Negus exclaimed: “It seems as if these words and those which were revealed to Jesus are the rays of the light which have radiated from the same source.” Turning to the crest-fallen envoys of Quraish, he said, “I am afraid, I cannot give you back these refugees. They are free to live and worship in my realm as they please.”
On the morrow, the two envoys again went to the king and said that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his followers blasphemed Jesus Christ. Again the Muslims were summoned and asked what they thought of Jesus. Ja’far again stood up and replied: “We speak about Jesus as we have been taught by our Prophet (Peace be upon him) , that is, he is the servant of Allâh, His Messenger, His spirit and His Word breathed into Virgin Mary.” The king at once remarked, “Even so do we believe. Blessed be you, and blessed be your master.” Then turning to the frowning envoys and to his bishops who got angry, he said: “You may fret and fume as you like but Jesus is nothing more than what Ja’far has said about him.” He then assured the Muslims of full protection. He returned to the envoys of Quraish, the gifts they had brought with them and sent them away. The Muslims lived in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) unmolested for a number of years till they returned to Madinah.
In this way Quraish’s malicious intentions recoiled on them and their machination met with utter failure. They came to fully realize that the grudge they nursed against he Muslims would not operate but within their realm of Makkah. They consequently began to entertain a horrible idea of silencing the advocate of the new Call once and for all, through various channels of brutality, or else killing him. An obstinate difficulty, however, used to curtail any move in this direction embodied by the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib and the powerful social standing he used to enjoy as well as the full protection and support he used to lend to his nephew. The pagans of Makkah therefore decided to approach Abu Talib for the second time and insisted that he put a stop to his nephew’s activities, which if allowed unchecked, they said, would involve him into severe hostility. Abu Talib was deeply distressed at this open threat and the breach with his people and their enmity, but he could not afford to desert the Messenger too. He sent for his nephew and told him what the people had said, “Spare me and yourself and put not burden on me that I can’t bear.” Upon this the Prophet (Peace be upon him) thought that his uncle would let him down and would no longer support him, so he replied:
“O my uncle! by Allâh if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, until Allâh has made me victorious, or I perish therein, I would not abandon it.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) got up, and as he turned away, his uncle called him and said, “Come back, my nephew,” and when he came back, he said, “Go and preach what you please, for by Allâh I will never forsake you.”
He then recited two lines of verse pregnant with meanings of full support to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and absolute gratification by the course that his nephew had chalked out in Arabia.
Source: Raheequl Makhtoom