The first migration to Abyssinia and King Najashi

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There were two migrations which took place to Abyssinia during the time of the Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ). Following the continuous threat of persecution and the torture of the Quraysh upon the Muslims, the Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) commanded some Muslims to immigrate to Abyssinia. These emigrants included Ruqayyah (ra), the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)’s daughter and her husband Uthman (ra). The purpose of this first migration was to escape persecution and be able to practice Islam freely. 

Abyssinia is now known as Ethiopia, a country which is in Africa. The Arabic word for Abyssinia is Habashah [1]. The Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) had advised the emigrants to go to Abyssinia because the ruler at that time, Najashi, was known to be a just King. All the Kings in Abyssinia held the title of Najashi (Negus) but his actual name was Ashama Ibn Abjar [2]. King Najashi was initially Christian and later converted to Islam. He gave refuge to the Muslim emigrants who were escaping persecution in their homes in Makkah.

When the Muslims arrived in Abyssinia, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib (ra) addressed King Najashi saying,

“O king! We were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism. We adored idols, we lived in immorality, we ate dead bodies, and we spoke abominations. We disregarded every feeling of humanity and the duties of hospitality and neighborliness were neglected. We knew no law but that of the strong, but 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 Allah. 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 regard the rights of the neighbors and family members. He forbade us from speaking evil of women or consuming the wealth of orphans. He ordered us to avoid vices, to refrain from evil, to offer prayers, to give charity, and to observe fasting. We have faith in him and we have accepted his teachings and his command to worship Allah and not to associate anything with Him. We have allowed what he has allowed and prohibited what he has prohibited. For this reason, our people have risen against us. They have persecuted us in order to make us abandon the worship of Allah and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and harmed us until we found no safety among them, so we have come to your country and we hope you will protect us from oppression.”

The Negus (Najashi) said to them, “Do you have anything with you from Allah?” 

Ja’far said yes. 

The Negus said, “Then recite it to us.” Ja’far recited from memory the verses of Surat Maryam. The Negus, along with the bishops in his realm, were moved to tears due to what was recited to them until their beards became wet. 

The Negus said, “Verily, this what has come from Moses have emerged from the same lamp. You are released. By Allah, I will never surrender them to the Quraysh.” (Musnad Aḥmad 21992)

Meanwhile, the Quraysh sent a delegation to the King and attempted to bribe him with gifts with the aim of taking the Muslims back to Makkah. King Najashi in response refused to allow the Quraysh to take the Muslims. He also ensured that they could live in his Kingdom as long as they wanted to [3]. 

When King Najashi passed away, the Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) informed his companions and said; ‘’Ask Allah’s forgiveness for your brother.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 3880) The Prophet (ﷺ) prayed his janaza, and instructed his companions to do the same in the following words: ‘’Today a pious man has died. So get up and offer the funeral prayer for your brother Ashama.’’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 3877)

This beautiful story can be reflected upon in many ways. We can appreciate how quickly King Najashi recognised the truth of Islam and how humble he was to have accepted it at once. We can also reflect on his qualities of justice and fairness that he did not let the bribery of the Quraysh sway him but instead ensured the safety and protection of the Muslim emigrants in his land. For Allah has promised that of those who will be under His shade on the day of Judgement, when there will be no other shade except His Shade, one of them will be a just ruler. (Sahih Al Bukhari 660)

Sources Used:

[1] https://emca.org.uk/al-negashi-the-abyssinia-king/

[2] https://muslimhands.org.uk/latest/2020/12/the-islamic-significance-of-ethiopia-in-the-seerah

[3] Yasir Qahdi’s YouTube video: (EP11) When The Muslims Migrated To Abyssinia – Story Of Muhammad (ﷺ) – #SeerahSeries – Yasir Qadhi

The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet – Safiur-Rahman and Al Mubarakpuri.

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