The Flight to Abyssinia
The hardships and sufferings borne by the Muslims were ever on the increase. The Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) at last permitted them to emigrate to some other place.
Abyssinia at that time was ruled by a Christian King (who later on embraced Islam), famous for his mercy and equity.
In Rajab of the fifth year of the Mission, the first group emigrated to Abyssinia. The group comprised about twelve men and five women.
The Qureysh pursued them to the port to capture them, but their vessels had left the shore. When the group reached Abyssinia, they heard the rumour that the whole tribe of the Qureysh had accepted Islam.
They were naturally very much pleased at the news and returned to their country. On approaching Mecca, they learnt that the rumour was false and the persecutions were going on unabated.
Some of them decided to return to Abyssinia and the rest entered Mecca, seeking the protection of a few influential people. This is known as the first migration to Abyssinia.
Later on, a bigger group of eighty-three men and eighteen women emigrated to Abyssinia (separately). This is called the second emigration to that country. Some Sahabah took part in both the migrations.
The Qureysh did not like the emigrations, and the thought of peace enjoyed by the fugitives gave them no rest. They sent a delegation to Abyssinia with handsome presents for the king, his courtiers and the clergy.
The delegation first met the chiefs and the priests and, by offering them presents, succeeded in winning the court officials to their side. Having thus made their way to the royal court, they prostrated themselves before the king and then presenting the gifts put their case before him.
"0, king! A few foolish lads of our community have renounced their ancestral faith, and have joined an absolutely new religion, which is opposed to our as well as your religions. They have come and settled in your country. The nobility of Mecca, their own parents and kith and kin have sent us to take them back to their country. We beseech you to make them over to us."
The king replied:
"We cannot make over the people who have sought our shelter, without proper investigation. Let us call them to our presence, and hear them out. If your charge of apostasy against them is genuine, we shall make them over to you."
The king thereupon summoned the Muslims to his court. They were at first greatly distressed and did not know what to do, but Allah gave them courage, and they decided to go and place the true facts before the king.
On appearing before him, they greeted him with 'Salaam'. Someone from the courtiers objected that they had not prostrated before the king according to the rules of the land. They explained:
"Our Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) has forbidden us from prostrating before any one except Allah."
The king then asked them to submit what defense they could make to the charges brought against them. Ja'far (Radhiyallaho anho) rose and addressed the king thus:
"0, king! we were an ignorant people. We neither knew Allah nor His Prophets A.S. We worshipped stones. We used to eat carrion and commit all sorts of undesirable and disgraceful acts. We did not make good our obligations to our relatives. The strong among us would thrive at the expense of the weak. Till at last, Allah raised a Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) for our reformation. His noble descent, up right conduct, integrity of purpose, and pure life are only too well known amongst us. He called upon us to worship Allah, and exhorted us to give up idolatry and stone-worship. He enjoined upon us right conduct, and forbade us from indecency. He taught us to tell the truth, to make good our trust, to have regard for our kith and kin, and to do good to our neighbours. From him we learnt to observe Salaat, Fasting, Zakaat and good conduct; and to shun everything foul, and to avoid bloodshed.
He forbade adultery, lewdness telling of lies, misappropriating the orphan's heritage, bringing false accusations against others, and all other indecent things of that sort. He taught us the Qur'an, the wonderful book of Allah. So we believed in him, followed him and acted up to his teachings. Thereupon our people began to persecute us, and to subject us to tortures, thinking that we might abjure our faith and revert to idolatry. When, however, their cruelties exceeded all bounds, we took shelter in your country by the permission of our Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)."
The king said:
"Let us hear something of the Qur'an that your Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) has taught you."
Hadhrat Ja'far (Radhiyallaho anho) recited a few verses from the beginning of Surah "Maryam", which touched the hearts of the king and the priestly class so much that tears flowed down their cheeks and wetted their beards. The king remarked:
"By Allah, these words and the words revealed to Moosa ('Alayhis Salam) are the rays of one and the same light," and he told the Qureysh embassy that he would by no means hand over the refugees to them. Then, disappointed and disgraced, they held a counsel. One of them said:
"I have hit upon a plan that is sure to draw the king's wrath upon their heads."
Although the others did not agree to such a drastic step (for after all they were their own flesh and blood), yet he would not listen. The next day, they excited the king by telling him that those heretics denounced 'Isa ('Alayhis Salam) and did not believe in his Divinity. The Muslims were again summoned to the court. They were much more distressed this time. When the king inquired about their belief in 'Isa ('Alayhis Salam), they said:
"We believe in what Allah has revealed about him to our Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam), i.e. he is a servant and Prophet of Allah, and is His word, which He conveyed to the virgin and pure Maryam."
Negus said: '"Isa ('Alayhis Salam) himself does not say anything beyond that."
The priests then began to murmur in protest, but the king would not listen to them. He returned to the delegation the presents they had brought for him, and said to the Muslims:
"Go and live in peace. If anybody ill-treats you, he will have to pay heavily for it."
A royal declaration was also issued to that effect. This enhanced the prestige of the Muslims in the country, and the Qureysh delegation had to return crestfallen.