Although the Holy Prophet remained protected by his loyal uncle, other Muslims were not so safe. The Holy Prophet advised them to migrate to neighboring area of Abyssinia. It was Christian kingdom which was ruled by Negus. Negus was famous for his kind-heartedness.
Upon the advice, 15 Muslims (11 men & 4 women) migrated to Abyssinia. The migrants included the Holy Prophet’s daughter Ruqqaya and her husband Usman. It also included Ja’far, son of Abu Talib.
But the Quraish would not let this go so easily. They had established trade ties with Abyssinia. They persuaded the King Negus to return the migrants, over which the King called all of the migrants to his court.
Ja’far acting as a spokesperson replied,
“O King, we were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we worshipped idols, practiced immorality, ate dead bodies, and spoke abomination; we disregarded every feeling of humanity, and the duties of hospitality and neighborhood; our law was the law of the strong and our government was the government of the tyrants. At last God raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we know fully well; and he called un to the unity of God and taught us not to associate anything with Him; he forbade us the worship of idols; and enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trust, to be merciful, and to regard the rights of neighbors. He forbade us to speak evil of women or take property of the orphans. He ordered us to fly from vices and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms and to observe the fast. We have believed in him and accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship God and not to associate anything with Him. For this reason our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forgo the worship of God and return to the worship of idols of wood and stone 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 their oppression.”
It is also said the Ja’far recited a verse from Surah Maryam in front of him.
The speech isn’t just a plea to save the migrants from the oppression of the Quraish. It also outlines the basic faith over which Muslims must act. It repeatedly talks about One God, justice, abstaining from evil etc.
Impressed by the speech and their courage, Negus allowed them to stay. He rejected the Quraish’s demand of returning the fugitives.
Encouraged by the first party’s migration, 101 more Muslims migrated to Abyssinia during the year 616. The first migration took place in 615.
It must also be noted that Negus was so kind because he himself was a Christian. He believed in Jesus. He knew a prophet would come.
Why they or the Holy Prophet chose Abyssinia? It is assumed that King Negus was know for just attitude. Moreover places like Yemen and Syria had very close ties with Quraish due to trade. Few of these places were also pretty far.
After the conquest, we know the Holy Prophet sent letters to leaders of countries. He sent one to Negus too, thanking him for providing Muslims with shelter in 615/616. He also invited him into the fold of Islam. Without any reluctance, Negus (Nijashi) accepted Islam and wrote back to the Holy prophet.
The episode also teaches us that migration is necessary when one cannot practice his/her religion freely. This was further reinforced after migration to Madinah.
Subsequently, it also depicts how Muslims should leave their land not just in hard times but also to emanate and spread the message of Islam.
Consequently, when Negus refused to return the refugees, the Quraish intensified their persecution. They knew Banu Hashim protected the Holy Prophet. They cut all relation with the clan at least for 3 years. They were made to live in outskirts of Makkah.
For complete Islamic history notes click here.