This post is to show how the hijra to Abyssinia demonstrated the connection between the message brought by Prophet Muhammad and that of Eesa (Jesus) May Peace be upon them both.
Muslims were persecuted late in the fourth year of Prophethood , slowly at first, but worsened day by day and month by month until no longer tolerable in the middle of the fifth year, that the muslims began to seriously think of solutions to avert these extreme tortures. Allah revealed Surah Kahf during this time which included highly suggestive parables for the true believers and Surah Az Zumar which directly pointed out to migrate as the earth of Allah is spacious enough for migration.
Negus the King of Abayssinia was a upright man who had the similar belief which the muslims had that Jesus is the servant and prophet of Allah and he had good knowledge about Allah. The Prophet Sallallahu wa alayhi wa sallam had already known Negus was a fair ruler and he never wronged any of his subordinates so permitted some of the muslims to migrate to Abyssinia. This included a group of twelve man and four women, among them where Uthman Bin Affan and his wife Ruqaiyah (daughter of the Prophet Sallallahu wa alayhi wa sallam). A false news that the pagans of makkah have accepted Islam and persecution had ended reached these emigrants which caused them to return from Abyssinia. However, the reality was that the idolaters were just increasing their persecution with muslims. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu wa alayhi wa sallam permitted for the second time to migrate to Abyssinia and this time it was a group of eighty three men and nineteen or eighteen women.
Quraish could not tolerate the hospitality and good treatment the muslim emigrants received in Abyssinia, so they dispatched two strong envoys to demand the release of the so called muslim refugees. They were Amr Bin Al As and Abdullah bin Abi Rabia – before embracing Islam who went to meet the Negus seeking the release with valuable gifts to the king. The envoys claimed that Muslim refugees should be expelled and hand over to them because 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 Negus called the muslims to the court and asked them the teachings of Islam. Ja’far bin Abi Talib stood up and addressed the King the teachings of Islam which were similar to the teachings of Negus’ belief and the teachings of the sect of Christianity he followed: “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 Allah raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty and purity we were aware; and he called to the Oneness of Allah, 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 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 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 impressed by the words of Jafar and requested him to recite some of Allah’s revelation. Jafar recited the verses of Surah Maryam which includes the story of the birth of John (Yahya) and Jesus Christ (Eesa) alayhi Salaam. The verses of Quran made tears flow from his eyes and even wet his beard and Negus exclaimed: “It seems as if these words and those which are revealed to Jesus are the rays of the light which have radiated from the same source”. This clearly indicated that the message both Muhammad Sallallahu wa alayhi wa sallam and Jesus alayhi salaam brought was the same teachings to worship Allah alone without no partners and similar other teachings. This incident alone can be an evidence for the Christians to comprehend the real teachings of Christianity. The Christians of old differed over the nature of Eesa (Jesus) and split into several sects. There was one sect which considered him to be a man and a prophet of God and not a god or partner of God. King Negus is assumed to be of this sect. King Negus allowed the muslims to live freely in his land and worship as they pleased.
Further to the refusal of King Negus approval to hand over the muslim refugees the two envoys went to the king next day and said that the muslims blasphemed Jesus Christ. The muslims were called again in front of King Negus and asked what they thought of Jesus. Jafar again stood up and replied “We speak about Jesus as we have been taught by our Prophet Sallallahu wa alayhi wa sallam, that is he is the servant of Allah, His Messenger, His spirit and His Word breathed into Virgin Mary’. The king then remarked “Even so do we believe. Blessed by 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 that what Jafar has said about him.” He then assured muslims full protection to live as long as they require. This incident further confirms that the true Christian faith had the same belief the muslims had and the king Negus confirms that by saying “Even so do we believe, Jesus is nothing more than what Jafar said”.
The hijra to Abyssinia demonstrates clearly the similarities in belief between Islam and Christianity that the message was the same to worship the One True God and not to associate partners with Him, from the same source but via two individuals Prophet Muhammad Sallahuwalayhi wa sallam and Prophet Eesa (Jesus Christ) alayhi salaam.
Source: Information were acquired from the following books of Seerah:
a) The Sealed Nectar – Saifur Rahman Al Mubarakpuri
b) Fiqh Us Seerah – Muhammad Al Ghazzali