Letters to rulers

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Could you give further information on the prophet's conveying his message?

An important point to take note of, regarding communication of the Message by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, is that he set an excellent example of ardour in the duty of guiding people. Like him, also his Companions, following his way, tried their hardest to convey the Message. For example, as stated above, Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr represented the Message in Madina so competently and communicated it so sincerely that even the most stubborn of the people of Madina like Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh became Muslims. At first, Sa‘d reacted to Mus‘ab harshly, but when Mus‘ab said to him mildly, ‘First sit and listen. If you are not pleased with what I will tell you, do not hesitate to cut off my head with the sword in your hand.’ Sa‘d’s anger subsided, and he parted from Mus‘ab a Muslim.

God’s Messenger continued to dispatch his Companions to neighbouring cities. He sent Talha to Duwmat al-Jandal, and Bara’ ibn A’dhib to the Yemen. If a Companion was not successful in this duty – although this was rare – he sent another in his place. When Khalid and Bara’ could not capture the hearts of the people of the Yemen, God’s Messenger sent ‘Ali and, as a result, almost all of them became Muslims in a very short time.9

Another important point to note regarding the communication of the Message by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, is his use of the period following the treaty of Hudaybiya. The conditions of this treaty had seemed to some of the Companions, at first sight, dishonourable (to the Muslims). However, in the peaceful atmosphere that followed the treaty, coming as it did after the years of disruptions and fighting, many of the enemies of Islam found the opportunity to reconsider the Message of Islam. Consequently, many leading figures, among them Khalid and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, accepted Islam.10

God’s Messenger welcomed Khalid with the compliment, I was wondering how a sensible man like Khalid could remain an unbeliever; I had a strong conviction that you would one day accept Islam.11

He comforted ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, who asked him to pray for God’s forgiveness of him, and said: Do you not know that a man is cleansed of all his previous sins when he accepts Islam.12

Letters to neighbouring rulers

After the treaty of Hudaybiya, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, sent letters to the rulers of all of the neighbouring countries. He wrote in the letter to the Negus, the king of Abyssinia:

From Muhammad, God’s Messenger, to the Negus Asham, the King of Abyssinia;

Peace be upon you! On this occasion, I praise God, the Sovereign, the Holy One free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures, and I bear witness that Jesus is a spirit from God, and a word from Him, whom He bestowed upon Mary, who was chaste, pure and virgin. I call you to God, One with no partner.13

The Prince of the Two Worlds urged the conversion of the Negus by beginning the letter with the greeting of peace for him. Second, since the Negus was a Christian, God’s Messenger expressed his belief in the Prophethood of Jesus, and affirmed the virginity and purity of Mary, thus emphasizing the point of agreement between them.

The Negus received the letter, and, kissing it, put it to his head as a sign of respect. After reading the letter, the Negus accepted Islam without hesitation and dictated to his secretary the following answer:

To Muhammad, God’s Messenger, from the Negus,

I bear witness that you are the Messenger of God. If you command me to come to you, I will do it, but I am not in a position to make my subjects Muslim. O God’s Messenger, I testify that what you say is all true.14

The Negus was so sincere in his belief that he said one day to his confidants: ‘I would rather be a servant of Muhammad than a king.’

When he died, God’s Messenger performed the funeral prayer for him in absentia.15

The following letter was sent to Heraclius, the emperor of Byzantium:

From Muhammad, the servant of God and His Messenger, to Heraclius, the greatest of the Byzantines,

Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. After that, I invite you to Islam; be a Muslim and secure salvation, that God may give you a double reward. If you turn away, you will be burned with, besides your own, the sins of all those who turn away (among your people).

Say: ‘O people of the Book. Come to a word common between us and you that we worship none but God, that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. If they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ (Al ‘Imran, 3.64)16

The Emperor was moved by the letter. He summoned Abu Sufyan, who was then in Syria leading a Makkan trade caravan. The following dialogue took place between them:

– What is the family status of this person?

– A noble one.

– Did any of his ancestors claim Prophethood?

– No!

– Was there a king among his ancestors?

– No, there wasn’t.

– Do the elite or the weak mostly follow him?'

– The weak do.

– Has any apostatized after conversion to his religion?

– So far, nobody has.

– Do his followers increase or decrease?

– They are increasing day by day.

– Have you ever heard him tell a lie?

– No, never.

– Has he ever broken his promise?

– So far he hasn’t but I don’t know whether he will in the future.

Although Abu Sufyan was then a most ruthless enemy of God’s Messenger, he told the truth about him except in his last words which might cause doubts as to the future trustworthiness of the Prophet. The Emperor showed an inclination to acknowledge the faith but in the face of the reaction from the priests beside him, he only concluded: ‘In the very near future, all these lands I am resting upon now will be his.’17

However, according to Imam Bukhari’s narration, the bishop of the area accepted Islam.18

God’s Messenger sent letters to some other kings, among whom was Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt, who responded with some presents.19 Nevertheless, the Chosroes of Persia tore up the letter, an incident predicting the end of the Persian Sassanid Empire, which took place during the caliphate of ‘Umar, may God be pleased with him.20

When, in the Qur’an, God ordered Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to communicate the Message, He addresses him, ‘O Messenger’, to show that his is the highest rank among the Prophets. While all the other Prophets are addressed by name, this form of address to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, demonstrates that he is the foremost in fulfilling Divine Messengership, in other words, in conveying the Message. The civilization based upon the principles he conveyed over a remarkably short period of time has attracted and astounded many – so much so that, as recorded in Mizanci Murad Tarihi (History by Mizanci Murad), Auguste Comte, the atheist French philosopher, after visiting the remains of the Islamic civilization of Andalusia, made a brief study of Islam. When he learned that the Prophet Muhammad was unlettered, he said: ‘Muhammad was not a god, but he was not just a human being either.’

However, quoting al-Busiri, we say: The conclusion which we draw after all the information we have gathered about him is that he is a human being, but the best among God’s creation.

9. Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, 5.120–1.

10. ibid., 4.272.

11. ibid., 4.273.

12. ibid., 4.271.

13. ibid., 3.104.

14. ibid., 3.105.

15. Bukhari, Jana’iz, 4.65; Muslim, Jana’iz, 62–7.

16. Bukhari, Bad’u l-Wahy, 6.

17. Bukhari, Bad’u l-Wahy, 6.

18. ibid.

19. Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, 5.324.

20. Bukhari, ‘Ilm, 7.1; I. Hanbal, 1.243.

 

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