Asmaha Najjashi - Emperor Of Ethiopia (1)
When the persecutions reached their highest point, the Holy Prophet advised some of his followers to take refuge in Abyssinia. In the fifth year of his preaching, 11 men and 14 women departed from Mecca to Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia) and lived a peaceful life there under Emperor Asmaha's shelter. (The Emperor's actual name was Asmaha and his title was Najashi, which in English is often written 'Negus').
After some time, they returned to Mecca. But on their return, the polytheists of Mecca increased their persecutions and tortured the new converts to Islam. The Holy Prophet advised them to take refuge in Ethiopia once again. A group of 85 men and 11 women from the tribe of Quraysh and 7 people from other tribes took shelter in Ethiopia where they led a peaceful and safe life.
When the polytheists of Makaah learnt of this, they sent two representatives, 'Amr son of 'As and 'Amr son of Walid, with gifts for the Emperor and a request that the Muslims be returned to Makaah from his empire.
On gaining access to the Emperor, they presented the gifts and requested him to return the Muslims as they claimed they were trouble makers. Emperor Najjashi replied that he could not do so until he had investigated the matter himself. He therefore called Ja'far son of Abu Talib, brother of Imam Ali, who was the leader of the refugees, to his court and asked him to explain their new faith. Ja'far delivered a lengthy speech explaining the position they were in before accepting Islam and what Islam had taught them. He then recited from Surah Maryam (Chapter - 19) of the Holy Qur'an which contains the following verses about the birth of Prophet 'Id (Jesus Christ):
"And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East And had chosen seclusion from them. Then we sent unto her our spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said, 'I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from you, if you are God-fearing."
He said: 'I am only a messenger of your Lord, that I may bestow on you an infallible son.', She mid: 'How can I have a son when no mortal has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?', He said: 'So (it will be).' Your Lord said: 'It is easy for me.
And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.'
And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place And the pangs of childbirth drove her near the trunk of the palm tree. She said: 'Oh, would that I had died of this and had become a thing forgotten.'
The (one) cried unto her from below her; saying: 'Grieve not! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you. And shake the trunk of the palm-tree toward you, you will cause ripe dates to tall upon you.
So eat and drink and be consoled. And if you meet any mortal, say: I have vowed a fast upon the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal'
Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: 'O Mary! You have come with an amazing thing O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a wicked man nor was your mother a harlot'
Then she pointed to him. They said: 'How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy?'
He spoke: '1 am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and has appointed me a Prophet And has made me blessed where so ever 1 may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and alms-giving so long as I remain alive. And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and has not made me arrogant, unblessed. Peace on me the day I was born and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive.'
Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt ' (Surah Maryam, 19:1-34)
On hearing the speech of Ja'far and these Divine verses of the Holy Qur'an from the chapter named 'Maryam' (Mary), the Emperor was moved and he said, 'By the Great God, the truth is that this verdict and what was revealed to Moses and Jesus have sprung from the same source.
Then, turning to the two representatives of the polytheists, he said: 'I take a vow that I shall never hand these people over to you and I shall help them to the extent I can. The two representatives of the polytheists also told Emperor Najjashi that the Muslims considered Jesus Christ a Messenger of God and not a God Himself as believed by the Christians.
The leader of the Muslim refugees, Ja'far bin Abi Talib, replied that the Muslims believed Jesus Christ to be a 'Servant of God and His Messenger’. Emperor Najjashi was convinced by the arguments presented by Ja'far and after Ja'far's speech, he said, 'There is little difference between the facts we know about Christ and what has been narrated by you Muslims, blessed be you and the person who has sent you, I bear testimony to the fact that he (Muhammad peace be on him) is a Messenger of God.'
Then turning to the polytheists he returned the presents they had given him and bade them leave his country. They left disappointed and returned to Arabia empty-handed whilst Ja'far and his companions continued to live in Abyssinia peacefully.
Having realised the truthfulness of Islam through the preaching of Ja'far son of Abti Talib, the Emperor became a Muslim and as a consequence a number of Christians in his empire embraced Islam too.
Forty of these new converts sought permission from the Emperor to visit Arabia to meet the Holy Prophet of Islam. The Emperor permitted this and gave them presents for the Holy Prophet. The leaders of this group have been mentioned in History as (i) Abraha, (II) Idris, (ill) Ashraf (iv) Ayman (v) Buhaira (vi) Tamin (vii) Tameem and (viil) Nile. It is to these people that the following verse of the Holy Qur'an refers:
'Those to whom We revealed the Scriptures before it, they believe in it '
(Surah al-Qasas, 28:52)
They reached Madina where they met the Holy Prophet and eventually took part with him in the Battle of Uhud. Emperor Najashi himself died a Muslim in his kingdom before the conquest of Mecca (8 A.H.) by the Prophet. The Holy Prophet said Salatul Mayyit (prayers for the dead) for him. (2)
1. Bilal of Africa, pages 116-120, Husayn Malika Ashtiyani
2. Tarikh-e-Bagdad vol. I, by Khatib Baghdadi