Prophet Muhammadís Encounters with the Christians of His Time - II
Just as Waraqah ibn Nawfal had anticipated, the polytheists of Makkah turned harshly against the Prophet, , as soon as he began to declare his message openly. Many of the new Muslims were mistreated, the weaker amongst them more so. The tiny Muslim community, though it grew, faced fierce and unyielding opposition from the Quraysh. There were many Muslims who had no protection from the severe persecution.
The Prophet, , decided to send some of the Muslims to Abyssinia, especially those who had no effective protection. At the time, Abyssinia was ruled by a just and fair Christian kind called An-Najaashi, who would not tolerate oppression in his kingdom.
The Muslims, men and women, began to immigrate from Makkah to Abyssinia in groups. Among the emigrants were ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan, may Allah be pleased with him, the son-in-law of the Prophet, , and the Prophet’s, , daughter Ruqayyah, may Allah be pleased with her. An-Najaashi welcomed them there and promised to protect them from their enemies. The Muslims were allowed the freedom to live in Abyssinia for as long as they pleased.
However, the Quraysh sent ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas, a shrewd man who later embraced Islam, to try and coax An-Najaashi into returning the Muslims into the hands of the Quraysh. ‘Amr cleverly asked An-Najaashi to inquire of the Muslims what they thought of ‘Eesa (Jesus), may Allah exalt his mention. Thereupon, Ja’far ibn Abi Taalib, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Concerning Jesus we can only say what our Prophet has taught us: Jesus is the servant and messenger of Allah, the spirit and word of Allah, whom Allah entrusted to the Virgin Mary.” At this, An-Najaashi concurred heartily, and ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas was obliged to return to Makkah empty-handed.
Another most important interaction between the Christians and the Prophet, , was when a delegation came from Najraan to Madeenah. The Prophet, , had been sending official letters to different countries and their rulers, inviting them to Islam. Among these were two different invitations that had been sent to Najraan with Khalid ibn Al-Waleed and ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, may Allah be pleased with them both.
At the time the Christians of Najraan had a highly organized religious life. Very few of them had converted to Islam; the majority of them chose to continue to adhere to Christianity. The Prophet, , sent a representative to them, a man called Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah, may Allah be pleased with him, who set about discussing Islam and its teachings with the
Christians in Najraan. After these discussions with Mugheerah, the Christians decided to send a group of learned people from their community to visit the Prophet, . The aim was to learn more about the nature of the revelations that the Prophet, , was receiving.
However, the Najraan delegation and the Prophet, , were not able to reach a clear solution; the Christians did not embrace Islam. At the end of the exchanges, they told the Prophet, , “O Abul-Qaasim, we decided to leave you as you are and you leave us as we are. But send with us a man who can adjudicate things on our properties, because we accept you.” The delegation was granted their request and a written assurance was provided by the Prophet, , that their lives, property, and religion would be protected. He made witnesses sign this undertaking. The Christians of Najraan were the first Christian community with whom the Prophet, , had a Jizyah agreement (the Jizyah is a tax levied on non-Muslims who are under Muslim rule).
At the beginning of the meeting, the Christians of Najraan had disagreements with the Prophet, , about the concept of the Trinity. In Islam, it is not acceptable to raise ‘Eesa, may Allah exalt his mention, above his status of messenger by according him the position of ‘Son of God’, etc. Allah The Almighty is one, and He alone is to be worshipped.
Allah The Almighty Himself declares that He has no wife, nor does He have children. He was not born, and He will never die. In exaggerating the position of ‘Eesa, may Allah exalt his mention, and his status, the Christians fall into Shirk (polytheism).