The Position of the Rabbis and Priests towards Prophet Muhammad

The Priests and Rabbis who had heard of the Message of Prophet Muhammad knew that it was the truth. Details of the life of Prophet Muhammad are mentioned in the previous scriptures. God, the Exalted, says: Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him - it is those who will be the successful. (Qur’an 7:157)

Safiyah, the daughter of the Jewish Noble Ka’b, said: “My father and my uncle, Abu Yasir, went to visit the Messenger of Allah and returned towards the end of that day, exhausted and tired. I tried to cheer them up, but they didn’t look at me. I heard my uncle ask my father, ‘Is it him?’ I heard him say: ‘By the Lord of Moses, it is!’ My uncle then asked, ‘What shall we do?’ He said: ‘I will be an enemy to him till death.’

ted the Message of Islam, and amongst them was the King of Habesha (Ethiopia), an-Najashi. He was a Christian and was very knowledgeable regarding the Scripture. He knew that a Prophet would come after Jesus. Umm Salamah said: “When we arrived in the land of Habesha, an-Najashi was very kind to us, he gave us protection and allowed us freedom to worship Allah alone. We were not harmed in any way.”

Quraish could not tolerate the prospect of a secure haven available for the Muslims in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), so they dispatched two envoys to demand the extradition of the Muslims. 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 be handed 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, with no regard to the possible consequences. 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 unchastely, we ate carrion, and we spoke in a most vile manner. We disregarded ties of mutual respect and the duties of hospitality and neighborhood. We knew no law but that of the strong. Allah then raised from among us a man, whose truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were well aware of. He called us to the Oneness of Allah, and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us from the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to uphold the rights of the neighbors and the kith and kin. He forbade us to speak evil of women, or to steal the wealth of orphans; he ordered us to refrain from all evil. He ordered us to offer prayers, to give charity to the poor and needy, and to observe fasting. We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allah, 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 Allah and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and harmed us, so we came to your country so that we would be safe."

The king was very impressed by these words and asked the Muslims to recite some of Allah’s Revelation. Ja‘far recited the opening verses of Surah Maryam (Chapter 19 — Mary). In this chapter Allah speaks of the birth of Prophet Jesus. Thereupon the king along with the bishops were moved to tears. An-Najashi (the Negus) exclaimed: "It seems as if these words and those which were revealed to Jesus are rays of light that have radiated from the same source." Turning to the envoys of Quraish, he said, "I will not give them up! They are free to live and worship in my kingdom as they please."

The next day, the envoys went to the king and said that Muhammad and his followers claimed that Jesus was not the son of God. Again the Muslims were summoned and asked what their belief in Jesus was. Ja‘far again stood up and replied: "We speak about Jesus as we have been taught by our Prophetthat is, he is the slave of Allah, His Messenger, and that he was created by the command of God." The king at once remarked, "We believe the same! Blessed be you, and blessed be your master." Some of the ministers became upset so he said to them, "You may 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 the gifts he had been given by Quraish. The Muslims lived in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for a number of years till they returned to Madinah.

Another inspiring story is one that took place between some of the Quraish traders and the King Heraclius of Rome.

Abdullah b. Abbas, the nephew of the Prophet, reported that the Messenger of God wrote to Heraclius and invited him to Islam though a letter he sent with a companion of his named Dihya al-Kalbi. Dihya handed this letter to the Governor of Busra who then forwarded it to Heraclius.

Heraclius, as a sign of gratitude to God, had walked from Hims to Ilya (i.e. Jerusalem) when God had granted Him victory over the Persian forces. When the letter of the Messenger of God reached Heraclius, he said after reading it, ”Seek for me anyone of his people, (Arabs of the Quraish tribe) if present here, in order to ask him about the Messenger of God!” At that time Abu Sufyan bin Harb was in Shaam (the Greater Syria Area) with some men from Quraish who had come as merchants during the truce that had been concluded between the Messenger of God and the pagans of Quraish. Abu Sufyan said,

"Heraclius’ messenger found us somewhere in the Greater Syria area, so he took me and my companions to Ilya and we were admitted into Heraclius’ presence. We found him sitting in his royal court wearing a crown, surrounded by the senior Byzantine dignitaries. He said to his translator. ‘Ask them whom amongst them is a close relation to the man who claims to be a prophet.’ ”

Abu Sufyan added, “I replied: ’I am the nearest relative to him.’ He asked, ’What degree of relationship do you have with him?’ I replied, ’He is my cousin,’ and there was none from the tribe of Abd Manaf in the caravan except myself. Heraclius said, ’Let him come nearer.’ He then ordered that my companions stand behind me near my shoulder and said to his translator, ’Tell his companions that I am going to ask this man about the one who claims to be a prophet. If he tells a lie, they should contradict him immediately.’ ”

Abu Sufyan added, “By Allah! Had it not been for shame that my companions brand me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about him when he asked me. But I considered it shameful to be called a liar by my companions, so I told the truth.”

“He then said to his translator, ’Ask him what kind of family he belongs to.’ I replied, ‘He belongs to a noble family amongst us.’ He asked, ’Has anybody else amongst you ever claimed the same before him?’ I replied, ‘No.’ He asked, ‘Have you ever blamed him for telling lies before he claimed what he claimed?’ I replied, ’No.’ He asked, ’Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?’ I replied, ’No.’ He asked, ’Do the noble or the poor follow him?’ I replied, ’It is the poor who follow him.’ He asked, ’Are they increasing or decreasing (daily)?’ I replied, ’They are increasing.’ He asked, ’Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased and then discard his religion?’ I replied, ’No.’ He asked, ‘Does he break his promises?’ I replied, ’No, but we are now at truce with him and we are afraid that he may betray us.’

Abu Sufyan added, “Other than the last sentence, I could not say anything against him.”

”Heraclius then asked, ’Have you ever had a war with him?’ I replied, ’Yes.’ He asked, ’What was the outcome of your battles with him?’ I replied, ’Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we.’ He asked, ’What does he order you to do?’ I said, ’He tells us to worship God alone, and not to worship others along with Him, and to leave all that our fore-fathers used to worship. He orders us to pray, give in charity, be chaste, keep promises and return what is entrusted to us.’ ”

”When I had said that, Heraclius said to his translator, ’Say to him: I asked you about his lineage and your reply was that he belonged to a noble family. In fact, all the Messengers came from the noblest lineage of their nations. Then I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you had claimed such a thing, and your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following a claim that had been said before him. When I asked you whether he was ever blamed for telling lies, your reply was in the negative, so I took it for granted that a person who did not tell a lie to people could never tell a lie about God. Then I asked you whether any of his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom. When I asked you whether the rich or the poor people followed him, you replied that it was the poor who followed him. In fact, such are the followers of the Messengers. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing. In fact, this is the result of true faith till it is complete [in all respects]. I asked you whether there was anybody who, after embracing his religion, became displeased and discarded his religion; your reply was in the negative. In fact, this is the sign of true faith, for when its pleasure enters and mixes in the hearts completely; nobody will be displeased with it. I asked you whether he had ever broken his promise. You replied in the negative. And such are the Messengers; they never break their promises. When I asked you whether you fought with him and he fought with you, you replied that he did and that sometimes he was victorious and sometimes you. Indeed, such are the Messengers; they are put to trials and the final victory is always theirs. Then I asked you what he ordered you. You replied that he ordered you to worship God alone and not to worship others along with Him, to leave all that your fore-fathers used to worship, to offer prayers, to speak the truth, to be chaste, to keep promises, and to return what is entrusted to you. These are really the qualities of a prophet who, I knew [from the previous Scriptures] would appear, but I did not know that he would be from amongst you. If what you say is true, he will very soon occupy the earth under my feet, and if I knew that I would reach him definitely, I would go immediately to meet him; and were I with him, then I would certainly wash his feet.’”

Abu Sufyan added, “Heraclius then asked for the letter of the Messenger of God and it was read. Its contents were the following: I begin with the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful [This letter is]from Muhammad, the slave of God, and His Messenger, to Heraclius, the Ruler of the Byzantine. Peace be upon the followers of guidance. I invite you to Islam [i.e. surrender to God]). Accept Islam and you will be safe; accept Islam and God will bestow on you a double reward. But if you reject this invitation of Islam, you shall be responsible for misguiding the peasants [i.e. your nation]. O people of the Scriptures! Come to a word common between you and us, that we worship God, and that we associate nothing in worship with Him; and that none of us shall take others as Gods besides God. Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered [unto Him].(Qur’an 3:64)

Abu Sufyan added, “When Heraclius had finished his speech, there was a great hue and cry caused by the Byzantine dignitaries surrounding him, and there was so much noise that I did not understand what they said. So, we were ordered out of the court.”

“When I went out with my companions and we were alone, I said to them, ‘Verily, Ibn Abi Kabsha’s (i.e. the Prophet’s) affair has gained power. This is the King of the Romans fearing him.’”

Abu Sufyan added: “By God, I became surer and surer that his religion would be victorious till I ultimately accepted Islam.” (Bukhari #2782)

Prophet Muhammad invited the Christians of Najran to embrace Islam. The Christians counseled among themselves and decided to send a group of their scholars to meet the Prophet; they were Abdul Maseeh Aaquib, Saiyed and Abdul Haris.When they reached Madinah, they changed their clothes, which they had worn on the journey, dressed themselves in silken garments, put rings of gold on their fingers, and went to greet the Prophet . All of them greeted the Prophet traditionally, but the Prophet of Allah did not respond and turned his face away from them. They left the Mosque and approached the Companion Uthman and Abdurrahman bin Auf, complaining "your Messenger wrote to us and invited us, but when we went to see him he did not reply to us! Now what do you advise us to do? Should we go back or wait for another opportunity?" Uthman and Abdurrahmann could not comprehend the situation. At last they took the disputes to Ali, who advised them to remove the clothes of silk and the rings of gold that they were wearing and to put on their priestly robes. The Prophet would then willingly see them. Thereupon the Christian delegates changed into humble garments and presented themselves to the Prophet who then responded to their salutations and said, "By Allah, when they first came to me they were accompanied by Satan".

Thereafter the Prophet preached to them and requested them to accept Islam. They asked, "What is your opinion about Jesus Christ?" The Prophet said, "Take a rest today and you will receive the replies to all your questions." The Prophet was awaiting a revelation in this matter, and the next day the verses 59-60 from the third chapter were revealed to him. Surely the likeness of Jesus is with Allah as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him 'Be', and he was. (This is) the truth from your Lord, so be not of the disputers. (Qur’an 3:59-60)

The next day, when the Christians came before the Prophet he recited to them the verses that were revealed to him. Despite what they heard they refused to accept the truth; thus verse 61 was revealed from the same chapter. But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves, then let us be earnest in prayer, and invoke the curse of Allah on the liars. (Qur’an 3:61)

With this the Prophet challenged them to 'Mubahala', which means to invoke a curse upon the lying party. The Christian delegation consulted each other and ultimately announced their acceptance of the challenge. Early next morning the Prophet sent Salman al Farsi to an open place, fixed outside the city for the historic event. When the Christians of Najran saw the Prophet they were awestruck and spellbound. Abdul Haris, the greatest scholar among them, addressed his people saying: "Verily I see a divine light on the face of our opponents; if they were to supplicate God for the mountains to move from their spots it would have materialized. Beware! Do not continue with this curse, otherwise you will perish and the entire nation of Christians will succumb to extinction!"

Thereupon the Prophet said, "By Allah! Had the Christians of Najran engaged in Mubahala they would have been destroyed!"

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