in category Seerah

Why did the Prophet Muhammad (saw) write letters to rulers?

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Islamic Researcher based in Pakistan. Masters Graduate in Islamic Studies.
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In a Nutshell: Late in the sixth year AH, on his return from Hudaybiyyah, the Messenger (saw) began to send messages to the kings and rulers beyond Arabia. Envoys were sent to the rulers and emperors of neighboring countries to call them to change their way of life to Islam, submitting themselves fully to Allah in all their social affairs.

Envoys that were chosen on the basis of their experience and knowledge and sent on their errands in Muharram in the year 7 AH, a few days before heading for Khaybar.

Some of the letters which Muhammad (saw) wrote to the head of the states are still extant and are discussed below.

1. Letter to ‘Negus’, King of Abyssinia

From the early days of Islam when Muslims were tortured, persecuted, and humiliated in many ways, and it appeared Quraysh would not accept Islam few Muslims emigrated to take refuge in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) that was ruled by Negus (also known as al-Najashi), a Christian king. The Messenger (saw) had known him as a fair ruler and thus had permitted the followers of Islam to take refuge in his kingdom. Quraysh, who at that time were amongst the foremost in persecuting the new Muslims could not tolerate the Muslims living peacefully in the Christian kingdom. Hence, they made a last-ditch effort to get those Muslims extradited to Mecca and sent two of their strongest envoys to demand their extradition.

Those envoys were Amr bin al-As and Abdullah bin Abi Rabi’a (the two embraced Islam a few years later). The two envoys took valuable gifts for the king and his clergy in the hopes of convincing the king to return the new Muslims. The pagan envoys demanded the Muslims’ extradition on grounds that they had abandoned the religion of their forefathers, and their leader (Muhammad) was preaching a religion different from theirs and from that of the king.

On hearing the claims against Muslims that the envoys had presented, the Christian king summoned the Muslims to his court. The Muslims selected Jafar bin Abi Talib (ra) to speak on their behalf. He (ra) then a stood up and addressed the king in the following words:

“In our recent past we were ignorant people: we worshipped idols, ate carrion, committed all sorts of sins, attached little value to maintaining good relations with our kinsfolk and behaved badly to our neighbors. Our overruling maxim was that might be right. This continued to be our situation until Allah sent us, from among ourselves, a Messenger whose good name, honesty, sincerity and integrity were well known to us. He called on us to believe in Allah, the one and only God, and to stop worshipping all idols which we and our forefathers used to worship alongside Him. He commanded us always to speak the truth and be honest, to be good to our relatives and neighbors, to preserve life and shed no blood, to refrain from sin, perjury, robbing the property of orphans entrusted to our care, and making false accusations against honorable women. He also commanded us to devote our worship to Allah Alone, ascribing to Him no partners of any sort. He further commanded us to pray regularly, to give away certain purifying alms and to fast, etc. We gave him a favorable response, believed in him and gave him our full support. We followed these Divine commandments he conveyed to us. We began to worship Allah alone, refraining from what He forbade us and accepting what He made lawful for us. Our people, however, assaulted us and subjected us to physical torture to compel us to revert to idolatrous worship and to indulge in the sinful practices we used to indulge in. Having been overpowered, oppressed and denied the freedom to choose our faith and practice it, we sought refuge in your country, choosing you in preference to all other rulers, hoping that in your refuge we would suffer no injustice.”

Negus asked Jafar to read him a passage of the Qur’an. Jafar chose the opening of Surah 19, entitled Mary, which speaks about Messenger Zakariya and his son Yahya before it goes on to relate the story of the virgin birth of Jesus. Negus and his patriarchs were in tears. Then he said: “What I have just heard comes from the same source as Jesus’s revelations.” He then dismissed the Quraysh delegation and assured the Muslims that they would have his full protection.

Having failed in their attempt to overcome Negus’s sense of justice by offering precious, personal gifts to him and his patriarchs, Quraysh began to think of some other, more devious way to achieve their purpose. As they left Negus’s court, Amr bin al-As, the more cunning of the two-man delegation, said to his colleague Abdullah bin Abi Rabi’ah:

“I will come back to him tomorrow with something which would make him exterminate them all.”

The following day Amr went back to Negus and said to him:

“These people make a very wild claim about Jesus. You may wish to question them on that.”

Jafar, the Muslims’ spokesman, answered Negus’s question about their view of Jesus without hesitation:

“Our view is that Jesus is Allah’s servant and messenger. He is His spirit and His word delivered unto Virgin Mary.” Negus picked a little stick from the floor and said: “What you have just said about Jesus does not go beyond the truth by the width of this stick.” (Seerat Ibn Hisham)

Negus, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), his name was Ashama bin al-Abjar, received the Messenger’s message, dispatched by Amr bin Umayyah ad-Damari (ra), which Tabari referred to, either late in the sixth year or early in the seventh year AH Deep scrutiny into the letter shows that it was not the one sent after Hudaybiyyah event. Wording of the letter rather indicates that it was sent to that king when Jafar (ra) and his companions immigrated to Abyssinia during the Meccan period.

The entire text of the letter was as follows:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم من محمد رسول الله إلى النجاشي عظيم الحبشة

سلام على من اتبع الهدى أما بعد؛ فإني احمد إليك الله الذي لا إله إلا هو الملك القدوس السلام المؤمن المهيمن؛ واشهد أن عيسى بن مريم روح الله وكلمته ألقاها إلى مريم البتول الطيبة الحصينة فحملت بعيسى من روحه ونفخه كما خلق آدم بيده واتي أدعوك إلى الله وحده لا شريك له والموالاة على طاعته وان تتبعني وتؤمن بالذي جاءني فإتي رسول الله واني أدعوك وجتودك إلى الله عز وجل وقد بلغت ونصحت فاقبلوا نصيحتي والسلام، على من اتبع الهدى

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

From Muhammad (saw) the Messenger of Allah to Negus, king of Abyssinia. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Salutations, I entertain Allah’s praise, there is no God but He, the Sovereign, the Holy, the Source of peace, the Giver of peace, the Guardian of faith, the Preserver of safety. I bear witness that Jesus, the son of Mary, is the spirit of Allah and His Word which He cast into Mary, the virgin, the good, the pure, so that she conceived Jesus. Allah created him from His spirit and His breathing as He created Adam by His Hand. I call you to Allah Alone with no associate and to His obedience and to follow me and to believe in that which came to me, for I am the Messenger of Allah. I invite you and your men to Allah, the Glorious, and the All-Mighty. I hereby bear witness that I have communicated my message and advice. I invite you to listen and accept my advice. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance." (Ibn Qayyim, Za'd Al-Ma’ad)

When Amr bin Umayyah ad-Damari communicated the Apostolic letter to Negus, the latter took the parchment and placed it on his eye, descended to the floor and confessed his faith in Islam and wrote the following reply to the Messenger:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

From Negus Ashama to Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah. Peace be upon you. O Messenger of Allah! And mercy and blessing from Allah beside Whom there is no God. I have received your letter in which you have mentioned about Jesus and by the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus is not more than what you say. We fully acknowledge that with which you have been sent to us and we have entertained your cousin and his companions. I bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allah, true and confirming (those who have gone before you), I pledge to you through your cousin and surrender myself through him to the Lord of the worlds.”(Za'd al-Ma'ad)

2. Letter to the Vicegerent of Egypt, called Muqawqas

The Messenger (saw) wrote to Juraij bin Matta called Muqawqas, vicegerent of Egypt and Alexandria. The letter was dispatched by Hatib bin Abi Balta. It stated:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم من محمد عبد الله ورسوله إلى المقوقس عظيم القبط

سلام علی من اتبع الهدى وأما بعد فإني أدعوك بدعاية الإسلام أسلم تسلم يؤتك اللہ اجرک مرتین فان تولیت فعلیک إثم القبط و "يا أهل الكتاب تعالوا إلى كلمة سوا ء بيتنا وبيتكم ألا تعيد إلا الله ولا نشرك به شيئا ولا يتخذ بعضنا بعضاً أ رباباً من دون الله فإن تولوا فقولوا اشهدوا بأنا مسلمون"

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad (saw), slave of Allah and His Messenger to Muqawqas, vicegerent of Egypt. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Thereafter, I invite you to accept Islam. Therefore, if you want security, accept Islam. If you accept Islam, Allah, the Sublime shall reward you doubly. But if you refuse to do so, you will bear the burden of the transgression of all the Copts.

“Say (O Muhammad) : ‘O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords besides Allah.’ Then, if they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’” (Qur'an 3:64)

Hatib bin Abi Balta, who was chosen to communicate the message, requested an audience with Muqawqas before imparting the contents of the letter. He addressed Egypt’s vicegerent saying:

"There used to be someone before you who had arrogated the status of the Supreme Lord, so Allah punished him and made an example of him in the Hereafter, and in this life; therefore, take warning and never set a bad example to others."

Muqawqas answered: "We are in no position to relinquish our religion except for a better one."

Hatib resumed: "We invite you to embrace Islam, which will suffice you all that you may lose. Our Messenger has called people to profess this Faith, Quraysh and the Jews stood against him as bitter enemies, whereas Christians stood closest to his Call. Upon my life, Moses’s news about Christ is identical to the latter’s good tidings about the advent of Muhammad; likewise, this invitation of ours to you to embrace Islam is similar to your invitation to the people of Torah to accept the New Testament. Once a Messenger rises in a nation, he is eligible for positive response, hence you are subject to the same Divine Law. Bear in mind that we have not come to dissuade you from religion of Christ but rather bidding you to adhere to its tenets."

Muqawqas meditated over the contents of the letter and said:

"I have come to the conviction that this Messenger bids nothing abominable; he is neither a straying magician nor a lying soothsayer. He bears the true manifest seeds of Messengerhood, and so I will consider the affair deeply."

Muqawqas put the Messenger’s letter in a box made of ivory and sealed it. He called in someone and wrote this reply:

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

From Muqawqas to Muhammad bin Abdullah.

Peace be upon you. I have read your letter and understood its contents, and what you are calling for. I already know that the coming of a Messenger is still due, but I used to believe he would be born in Syria. I am sending you as presents two maids, who come from noble Coptic families; clothing and a steed for riding on. Peace be upon you."

Muqawqas did not accept Islam, although he described to Hatib certain features which he knew to be applicable to the remaining Messenger and which Hatib confirmed were true of Muhammad. Muqawqas explained that his people would not accept his advice, should he give it, to follow the Messenger Muhammad and become Muslims. When Hatib went back to Medina and told the Messenger of his conversation with Muqawqas, the Messenger said the man feared for his authority, which would not last. (Ibn Sayyid, Uyun al-Athar)

A Letter to Chosroes (Khusru), Emperor of Persia

Khusru II was one of the most powerful emperors of Persia. In his reign, the Persian Empire reached the pinnacle of its affluence. He even claimed that he was a god in the shape of a man. The Messenger (saw) sent his companion Abdullah bin Huzaifa with a message to Khusru. The Messenger’s letter ran as follows:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم من محمد رسول الله إلى كسرى عظيم فارس سلام على من اتبع الهدى وامن بالله ورسوله وشهد أن لا اله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وان محمداً عبده ورسوله وأدعوك بدعاء الله فإني انا رسول الله إلى الناس كافة لأنذر من كان حياً ويحق القول على الكافرين فاسلم تسلم فان ابيت فان إثم المجوس عليك

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah to Khusru, king of Persia. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance, believes in Allah and His Messenger and testifies that there is no god but Allah Alone with no associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger. I invite you to accept the deen of Allah. I am the Messenger of Allah sent to all people (qawm) that I may infuse fear of Allah in every living person, and the charge may be proved against those who reject the Truth. Accept Islam as your deen so that you may live in security, otherwise, you will be responsible for all the sins of the Magians."

When Khusru read the Messenger’s letter, he tore it to pieces, saying: “How dare he write this sort of letter to me when he is my slave?” Khusru then wrote to Bazan who was governor of Yemen, a Persian province. He ordered him to send two soldiers to arrest the Messenger and take him to Persia. Immediately Bazan sent Abadhaweih, one of his assistants, and a Persian officer called Kharkharah, with a warrant which required the Messenger to surrender himself to them and go with them to Khusru. Bazan, however, asked his assistant to find out the truth about the Messenger.

Abadhaweih and his companion travelled from Yemen until they arrived in Ta’if, around 100 km from Mecca. Its people told them the Messenger was now in Medina. The people of Ta’if were not Muslims at the time. Quraysh were pleased when they learnt the Persian Emperor had ordered the arrest of Muhammad feeling he was now facing his most difficult test. Clean-shaven but with large moustaches, the two officers from Yemen came to the Messenger in Medina. Abadhaweih said to him:

Khusru, the king of kings, has written to Bazan, the king of Yemen, commanding him to send us to take you to him. If you comply, Bazan will write to the king of kings interceding on your behalf. This will spare you a great deal of trouble. If you reject his order, you know how powerful he is. He is sure to destroy you and your people as well as your country.”

The Messenger did not like their appearance. He asked them who ordered them to shave their beards and their reply was: “Our Lord”, meaning Khusru. The Messenger said: “But my Lord has ordered I grow a beard and trim my moustache.” He also asked them to wait till the following day when he was to meet them again. In the meantime, the Messenger (saw) was told by Gabriel that Allah had caused Khusru to be killed by Sherweih, his own son, giving him the exact time of night and the date when Khusru was killed.

The Messenger called in the Persian messengers and told them of the killing of their emperor. They said to him:

“Do you realize what you are saying? Your arrest has been ordered for something much more trivial than this. Do you still wish us to write this down and inform king Bazan of what you have just said?” The Messenger replied: “Yes. Tell him also on my behalf that my deen and my kingdom will replace that of Khusru and will sweep all before it. Tell him also that if he accepts Islam, I will give him what he has now under his authority and will make him a ruler in the area he now governs.”

The Messenger also gave Kharkharah a sack of gold and silver which was sent to him as a present by another king. The two envoys left and went back to Yemen where they told Bazan what the Messenger had said.

“This is not the sort of thing a king would say. To my mind, the man is a Messenger, as he claims. If he is, what he has just told you will come to pass. If it is true that Khusru has been killed, the man is a Messenger. If not, we will make up our mind about what to do with him.”

In the meantime, Bazan received a message from Sherweih informing him that he had killed his father after he had adopted despotic measures against the Persian nobility. He also commanded him to ask his commanders to swear allegiance to him as the new emperor. He further asked him not to disturb the Messenger until he had received further instructions.

Bazan then called Abadhaweih in and questioned him further about the Messenger. The latter told him the Messenger did not keep any guard to protect him from his people or from anyone else. “Nevertheless, I have never spoken to a man who has inspired me with awe as much as he does.” Bazan certain Muhammad (saw) was a Messenger of Allah communicated his conviction to his advisers and counsellors declaring he wished to become a Muslim and they all joined him in accepting the message of the Messenger (saw). (Asqalani, Fath al-Bari)

3. The Envoy to Caesar, King of Rome

The Muslim envoy, Dihyah bin Khalifah al-Kalbi, was ordered to hand the letter over to king of Busra, who would in turn, send it to Caesar.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم من محمد عبد الله ورسوله إلى هرقل عظيم الروم سلام على من اتبع الهدى أما بعد فإني أدعوك بدعاية الإسلام اسلم تسلم يؤتك الله أجرك مرتين فإن توليت فعليك إثم الأريسيين و(ياأهل الكتاب تعالوا إلى كلمة سواء بيننا وبيتكم ألا تعبد إلا الله ولا نشرك به شيئاً ولا يتخذ بعضنا بعضاً آرياباً من دون الله فإن تولوا فقولوا اشهدوا بأنا مسلمون

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, the slave of Allah and His Messenger to Hercules, king of the Byzantines.Blessed are those who follow true guidance. I invite you to submit Islam so that you may live in security. If you come within the fold of Islam, Allah will give you double reward, but in case you turn your back upon it, then the burden of the sins of all your people shall fall on your shoulders:

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords besides Allah.’ Then, if they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’” (Qur’an 3:64)" (Bukhari)

Hercules received the Messenger’s envoy well but wanted to establish for himself the Messenger’s true nature. He ordered his aides to find any person from Arabia who happened to be in the area, so that he could question him about the Messenger. It so happened that Abu Sufyan, the Quraysh leader, was in Gaza and was brought to Hercules with a number of his compatriots. Hercules, through his interpreter, asked them first, “Who is the closest relative among you to this man who claims to be a Messenger?” Abu Sufyan told him that he was. Hercules asked him to come forward. He also placed the other Arabs just behind Abu Sufyan and told them that he was about to put some questions to him. Abu Sufyan’s testimony went as follows:

"Muhammad descends from a noble family. No one of his family happened to assume kingship. His followers are those deemed weak with numbers ever growing. He neither tells lies nor betrays others, we fight him and he fights us but with alternate victory. He bids people to worship Allah Alone with no associate, and abandon our forefathers’ beliefs. He orders us to observe prayer, honesty and abstinence and maintain strong family ties."

Hercules, on hearing this testimony, turned to his translator bidding him to communicate to us his following impression which reveals full conviction in the truthfulness of Muhammad’s messengerhood:

‘I fully realize Messengers come from noble families; he does not affect any previous example of Messengerhood. Since none of his ancestors was a monarch, we cannot then allege that he is a man trying to reclaim his father’s monarchy. So long as he does not tell lies to people, he is for the more reason, immune to telling lies as regards Allah. Concerning his followers being those deemed weak with numbers ever growing, it is something that goes in agreement with questions of faith until this latter assumes its full dimensions geographically and demographically. I have understood that no instance of apostasy has as yet appeared among his followers, and this points to the bliss of faith that finds its abode in the human heart. Betrayal, as I see, is alien to him because true messengers hold betrayal in abhorrence. Bidding worship of Allah with no associates, observance of prayer, honesty and abstinence and prohibition of paganism are traits bound to subject to him all my possessions. I already knew a Messenger must arise but it never occurred to me he will be an Arab from among you. If I was sure I would be faithful to him, I might hope to meet him, and if I were with him, I would wash his feet.’

Hercules then requested the Messenger’s letter to be read out aloud. The observations of the emperor and finally the definite and clear-cut exposition of the Islamic message could not but create a tense atmosphere amongst the clergy present at the court. Abu Sufyan said

We were ordered to go out and while coming out, I said to my companions, ‘The matter of Ibn Abi Kabshah (i.e.,Muhammad) has become so prominent that even the king of Banu al-Asfar (i.e., the Romans) is afraid of him.’ So, I continued to believe Allah’s Messenger would be victorious, till Allah made me embrace Islam." (Muslim)

This is the most authentic report of Hercules’ reaction when he received the message. There are other reports, less authentic, suggesting Hercules tried to persuade his bishops and his advisers to embrace Islam, but they were all unanimous (with one exception) in opposing him. One report suggests the exception was the Archbishop, who was killed when he declared he believed in the new Messenger. Whatever the truth about these reports, the fact remains Hercules did not adopt Islam, perhaps due to his fear he would lose his throne as a result. (Ibn Qayyim, Za’ad al-Ma’ad)

4. A Letter to Mundhir bin Sawa, Governor of Bahrain

The Messenger sent al-Ala bin al-Hadrami to carry his message to Mundhir bin Sawa, the governor of Bahrain. In reply, Mundhir bin Sawa wrote the following letter:

"Allah’s Messenger! I received your injunctions. Prior to this, I read your letter, which you wrote to the people of Bahrain extending to them an invitation to Islam. Islam appealed to some of them and they entered the fold of Islam, while others did not find it appealing. In my country, there live Magians and Jews, and therefore you may inform me of the treatment to be extended to them."

The Messenger (saw) wrote the following letter in reply to his:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم من محمد رسول الله إلى المنذر بن ساوي سلام عليك فإني احمد الله إليك الذي لا اله غيره واشهد أن لا اله إلا الله وان محمداً عبده ورسوله أما بعد فإني أذكرك الله عز وجل فانه من ينصح فإنما ينصح النفسه ومن يطع رسلي ويتبع أمرهم فقد أطاعني ومن نصح لهم فقد نصح لي وان رسلي قد اثتوا عليك خيراً لله واني قد شفعتك ل قومك فاترك للمسلمين ما اسلموا عليه وعفوت عن أهل الذنوب فاقبل منهم وانك مهما تصلح فلن نعزلك عن عملك ومن اقام على يهوديته أو مجوسيته فعليه الجزية

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah to Mundhir bin Sawa. Peace be on you! I praise Allah with no associate, and I bear witness Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Thereafter, I remind you of Allah, the Mighty, and the Glorious. Whoever accepts admonition, does it for his own good. Whoever follows my envoys and acts in accordance with their guidance, he, in fact, accepts my advice.

My envoys have highly praised your behavior. You shall continue in your present office. Give the new Muslims full chance to practice their deen. I accept your recommendation regarding the people of Bahrain, and I pardon the offences of the offenders; therefore, you may also forgive them. Of the people of Bahrain whoever wants to go on in their Jewish or Magian faith, should be made to pay jizya (poll-tax)." (Ibn Qayyim, Za'd al-Ma'ad)

Thus, the ruler of Bahrain gave a reply of total acceptance and remained a good Muslim until his death a few years later.

5. A Letter to Haudha bin Ali, Governor of Yamama dispatched by Sulait bin Amr al-Amiri

The letter sent to Haudha bin Ali ran as follows:

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah to Haudha bin Ali.

Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Be informed that mydeen shall prevail everywhere. You should accept Islam, and whatever under your command shall remain yours."

The envoy chosen was Sulait bin Amr al-Amiri, who after communicating his message, carried back the following reply to the Messenger:

"The deen to which you invite me, is very good. I am a famous orator and poet; the Arabs highly respect me and I am of account among them. If you include me in your government, I am prepared to follow you."

The Messenger did not accept Haudha’s demand. He (saw) usually turned down such peremptory tone, and would say that the whole matter was in the Hand of Allah, who gave his land to whoever He desired.

Gabriel later came with the revelation that Haudha had died. The Messenger (saw), in the context of his comment on this news, said:

"Yamama is bound to give rise to a liar who will arrogate Messengerhood to himself but he will subsequently be killed." In reply to a question relating to the identity of the killer, the Messenger said "It is one of you, followers of Islam."(Za’ad al-Ma’ad)

A Christian scholar who was there advised Haudha to accept Islam and told him the Arab Messenger would not have deprived him of his. He had informed him Isa (as) had given the good news in the Bible, a Messenger would come. Haudha, however, could not overcome the fear of losing his territories and did not accept Islam. (al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi)

6. A Letter to Harith bin Abi Shamir al-Ghassani, King of Damascus

The Messenger (saw) sent the following letter to Harith bin Abi Shamir al-Ghassani, King of Damascus:

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah to Harith bin Abi Shamir.

Peace be upon him who follows true guidance, believes in it and regards it as true. I invite you to believe in Allah Alone with no associate, thence after your kingdom will remain yours."

Shuja bin Wahab, the Messenger’s companion, carried his message to Harith who upon hearing the letter was madly infuriated. He threw the letter on the floor and uttered:

“Who can take my kingdom away from me? I will march to him (i.e., fight him) even if he is in the Yemen.”

He immediately started to mobilize his forces. Harith was no more than a governor whose jurisdiction extended only over his Arabian tribe, which was subjugated by the Byzantine rulers. Nevertheless, he was so boastful that he did not think anyone could take his kingdom from him. Therefore, his attitude was far more arrogant than his master Hercules. He wrote to Hercules, making known his intention to march with his forces against the Messenger (saw). Hercules wrote back from Jerusalem ordering him not to proceed with his intention calling him to join him in Jerusalem.

Shuja bin Wahab reported to the Messenger (saw) that Harith had a Byzantine commander of his palace guard named Marri, a Christian. He questioned Shuja about the Messenger and his message. When Shuja explained that to him, his eyes were full of tears, he said: “I have read plain references to this Messenger in the Bible, but I thought that he would appear in Syria. However, I believe in him as Allah’s Messenger, but I fear that I shall be killed by Harith if I were to declare my belief.” He asked Shuja to convey his respects to the Messenger (saw) and to tell him that he was a believer in him and his message. (Ibn Qayyim, Za’ad al-Ma’ad)

7. A Letter to the King of Oman, ‘Jaifer’ and his Brother Abd al-Jalandi

The Messenger (saw) sent the following letter to Jaifer and his brother:

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

From Muhammad bin Abdullah to Jaifer and Abd al-Jalandi.

Peace be upon him who follows true guidance; thereafter I invite both of you to the Call of Islam. Embrace Islam. Allah has sent me as a Messenger (saw) to all His creatures in order that I may instil fear of Allah in the hearts of His disobedient creatures so that there may be left no excuse for those who deny Allah. If you two accept Islam, you will remain in command of your country; but if you refuse my call, you’ve got to remember that all your possessions are perishable. My horsemen will appropriate your land, and my messengerhood will assume preponderance over your kingship."

Amr bin al-As, who was chosen to carry the letter, narrated the following story that happened before he was admitted into the audience of Jaifer. He narrated:

"When I arrived in Oman, I contacted Abd, who was known to be more mild-tempered than his brother:

Amr: I am the envoy of Allah’s Messenger coming to see both, you and your brother.

Abd: You have to see my brother and read to him the letter you are carrying. He is my senior in both age and kingship. While we're on the subject, what is the purport of your mission?

Amr: The Messenger calls upon you to believe in Allah Alone with no associate, discard any other deities and testify to the slavehood and messengerhood of Muhammad.

Abd: O Amr! You come from a noble family, but first of all, tell me what was your father’s attitude concerning this faith? You know, we used to follow his steps.

Amr: Death overtook him before believing in Muhammad’s deen; I wish now he had embraced Islam and been truthful to it before his death. I myself had adopted the same attitude until Allah guided me towards Islam.

Abd: When did you embrace Islam?

Amr: When I was at Negus’s court. By the way, the latter did also enter into the fold of Islam.

Abd: What was his people’s reaction?

Amr: They approved of him and followed his steps.

Abd: The bishop?

Amr: They did the same.

Abd: Beware Amr of lying, for this soon betrays man.

Amr: I never tell lies; moreover, our deen never allows it.

Abd: Has Hercules been informed of the Islamisation of Negus?

Amr: Yes, of course.

Abd: How did you happen to know that?

Amr: Negus used to pay land tax to Hercules, but when the former embraced Islam, he swore he would discontinue that tax. When this news reached Hercules, his courtiers urged him to take action against Negus but he refused and added he himself would do the same if he were not sparing of his kingship.

Abd: What does your Messenger exhort you to do?

Amr: He exhorts us to obey Allah, the All-Mighty, and All-Glorious, be pious and maintain good ties with family kin; he forbids disobedience, aggression, adultery, wine, idolatry and devotion to the cross.

Abd: Fair words and fair beliefs are those you are calling for. I wish my brother would follow me to believe in Muhammad (saw) and profess his religion, but my brother is too sparing of his kingship to become a subordinate.

Amr: Should your brother surrender himself to Islam, the Messenger (saw) would give him authority over his people and take alms tax from the wealthy people to be given to the needy.

Abd: That is fair behavior. But what is this alms tax you have mentioned?

Amr: It is a Divine injunction that alms tax be taken from the well-to-do people who have surplus wealth and be distributed to the poor.

Abd: I doubt if this can work among our people.

Amr stayed for some days to be admitted into Jaifer’s court until he was finally granted this permit.

"He asked me to hand him the letter to read it. After that he asked me how Quraysh reacted and I answered that they had followed him, some out of their own freewill and others overpowered by military fighting. Now, people have chosen Islam in preference to other creeds, and have realized through their mental insight that they had been straying in darkness. None, except you, is now out of the domain of Islam, so I advise you to embrace Islam so that you can provide security to yourself and your country."

Here, he asked me to call on him the following day. The following day he showed some reluctance in receiving me but his brother ‘Abd’ interceded and I was given the chance to see him again but this time to address me in a threatening arrogant tone. However, after a private talk with his brother and reconsidering the whole situation, both brothers embraced Islam and proved to be true to Islam that had begun to make its way into this new area.

The context of this story reveals that this letter was sent at a much later date than the others, most likely after the conquest of Mecca.


Through his letters, the Messenger (saw) managed to communicate his call of collective submission to Allah to most monarchs of his time. Some replied cordially, others sent him presents whilst others, such as Negus of Abyssinia, Mundhir of Bahrain and the ruler of Yemen became Muslims. Others however remained stubborn and persisted in their disbelief.

However, the idea of accepting Islam as a new system of rule, social organisation and law based on revelation and the arrival of the final Messenger preoccupied all of them.


Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari
Ibn Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah
Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi
Ibn Kathir, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah
Ibn Qayyim, Za’ad al-Ma’ad
Ibn Saad, Tabaqat ibn Saad
Ibn Sayyid, Uyun al-Athar
Waqidi, al-Maghazi

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