in category Seerah

What was in the letter the Messenger (saw) sent to Muqawqas the ruler of Egypt?

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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. (Uyun al-Athar, Ibn Sayyid)

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