The peaceful conditions following the Treaty naturally gave a boost to the missionary activities which kept on advancing day-by-day. Islam grew like an avalanche and showed the signs of assuming vast proportions. The Apostle then sent several letters to the rulers outside Arabia and the tribal chiefs (1) within the country inviting them to accept Islam. The letters were not couched judiciously by the Apostle but he also took care to select the envoys of different kings keeping in view the station and dignity of the different potentates. The envoys were conversant with the languages spoken as well as with political conditions of the countries to which they were deputed. (2)
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) expressed his desire to send letters to the kings of the Arabs and non-Arabs, the companions advised him to affix his seal on the letter for the kings usually refuse to entertain the unsealed ones. The Prophet (peace be upon him) accordingly stamped his letters to them with a silver seal on which was engraved:
"Muhammad the Messenger of Allah." (Al-Bukhaari, Kitab-ul-Jihad and Shamail At-Tirmidhi).
LETTERS OF THE PROPHET (peace be upon him)
Of the many letters sent by the Prophet (peace be upon him), those written to Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantine empire, Chosroes II, the Emperor of Iran, Negus, the king of Abyssinia and Muqauqis, the ruler of Egypt, are remarkably significant.
Dihya b. Khalifa al-kalbi, who was assigned to deliver the letter to Heraclius, got it forwarded to the Emperor through the ruler of Busra. The Prophet (peace be upon him) wrote in this letter(3):
"In the name of Allah, the beneficient, the Merciful, this letter is from Muhammad, the slave and Messenger of God, To Heraclius, the great King of Rome. Blessed are those who follow the guidance"
"After this, verily I call you to Islam. Embrace Islam that you may find peace, and God will give you a double reward. If you reject then on you shall rest the sin of your subjects and followers.(4)
" O people of the Book come to that, which is common between you and us; that we will serve none but Allah, nor associate aught with him, nor take others for lords besides God. But if you turn away, then say: bear witness that we are Muslims." (5)
The letter sent to the Chosroes II with Abdullah bin Hudhafa read:
"In the name of Allah, the beneficient, the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Kisra, the great King of Persia.
"Peace be upon him who follows the guidance, believes in Allah and His Prophet, bears witness that there is no God but Allah and that I am the Prophet of Allah for the entire humanity so that every man alive is warned of the awe of God. Embrace Islam that you may find peace; otherwise on you shall rest the sin of the Magis." (Al-Tabari, Vol. III, p. 90)
In the letter (6) addressed to Negus, with'Amr ibn Umayya Al-Damri the Prophet (peace be upon him) had written that:
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to Negus, the great King of Abyssinia.
"Peace be upon him who follows the guidance."
"After this, Glory be to Allah besides whom there is no God, the Sovereign, the Holy, the Peace, the Faithful, the Protector. I bear witness that Jesus, the son of Mary, is the Spirit of God, and His Word that He cast unto Mary, the Virgin, the good, the pure, so that she conceived Jesus. God created him from His Spirit and His breathing as He created Adam by His hand and His breathing. I call you to God, the Unique, without any associate, and to His obedience and to follow me and to believe in that, which came to me, for I am the Messenger of God. I invite you and your men to the Great Lord. I have accomplished my task and my admonitions, so receive my advice. Peace be upon him who follows the Guidance."(Tabaqat Ibn S'ad, Vol. III, p. 15).
The Letter sent to Muqauqis, the chief of the Copts of Egypt, with Hatib ibn Abi Balta'a said:
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to Muqauqis, the Chief of the Copts."
"Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. "
"After this, I call you to Islam that you may find peace, and God will give you a double reward. If you reject, then on you shall be the sin of your countrymen. O people of the Book, come to that which is common between you and us; that we will serve none but Allah, nor associate aught with him, nor take others for lords besides God. But if you turn away, then say: bear witness that we are Muslims." (Mawahib Landuniyah, Vol. III. Pp. 247-48)
WHO WERE THESE KINGS ?
We cannot appreciate the solemnity and significance of the memorable step taken by the Prophet (peace be upon him) unless we realize who Heraclius, Chosroes, Negus and Muqauqis were, the extent of their dominion, prestige, splendour and might in the world during the seventh centtury. Anyone who is not well-aware with the political history at the time might have taken them as local rulers for so many of them are found in every country. But one who is mindful of the political state of the world in the seventh century and the power and splendor of the ambitious monarchs who had divided the world among themselves, would but arrive at one conclusion. That only a man sent by God on a mission could dare summon the imperious autocrats to put their trust in his Prophethood. Such a man should be devoid of the least doubt in the success of his sacred task, or of a speck of fear in his heart. He had to possess such a glowing conviction in the glory and majesty of God that the proudest sovereign was to him not any more than an illusory puppet going through the motions of regality. For all these reasons, it would be worthwhile to give a brief sketch of the monarchs to whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) had sent his epistle.
The Byzantine empire, then calling itself " New Rome", had along with its Iranian counterpart, kept a tight hand over the civilized world for several hundred years. Its emperors ruled in direct succession to the Roman Emperors over vast and populous lands in Europe, Asia and Africa.(8)? The empire was enormously rich while its phenomenally good armies and navies had compiled a successful military record. Coming from a Greek family, Heraclius was born in Cappadocia but was brought up in Carthage where his father was the Exarches of Africa. In his early years he never made any illusion to his fire of genius, avarice for power or qualities of leadership. When Phocus killed the tyrant Emperor Maurice, in 602 A.D., and usurped the throne, the Chosroes of Persia declared himself the avenger of his former benefactor. The Byzantine Empire absorbed heavy losses as the Iranians reduced Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem and took away the True Cross in triumph. Soon afterwards they entered Alexandria, and Egypt too was gone. It seemed to be the end of the great Roman Empire in the East.(9) It was then that the secret emissaries of the Senate prevailed upon the Exarches of Africa to send his son from Carthage to Constantinople. Heraclius was crowned in 610 A.D., when the Empire, afflicted by famine and pestilence, was incapable of resistance and hopeless of relief against the enemy laying a siege to the capital. Heraclius spent the first few years of his reign beseeching the clemency of Persians and suing out peace, but in 621 A.D. he was suddenly awakened from his sloth. This was the year in which the prediction of Roman Victory, something most "distant of its accomplishment",(10) was made by the Qur'an. In a sudden, displaying the courage of a hero, Heraclius exchanged his purple for the simple garb of a penitent and warrior and decided to become the deliverer of Christendom and restorer of the greatness of the Eastern Empire. He began a great counter offensive and defeating the Persians of their own territory, brought his victorious arms to the capital of Iranian Empire. Amidst the triumph of hsucceeding campaigns, Heraclius avenged the honor of Byzantium, crushed the arms as well as the glory of Iranian Empire until it seemed to be nearing its end. Heraclius returned to Constantinople in 625 A.D. and then, in 629 marched in triumph to Jerusalem for restoring the True Cross to the holy sepulchre. The people went forth to meet the victor, with tears and thunderous applauses, spreading carpets and spraying aromatic herbs on his path. (11) The glorious event was celebrated with the tumult of public joy. While the emperor triumphed at Jerusalem, he was conveyed the letter of the Apostle of God inviting him to embrace Islam. (12) By that time, Heraclius seemed to have exhausted himself. He became the "slave of sloth, of pleasure, or of superstition, the careless and impotent spectator of the public calamities," (13) as he had been in the beginning, until the new movement of Islam exploded out of Arabia and took away the very provinces Heraclius had recaptured from the Persians. The boundaries of the Byzantine Empire again shrunk to the Asia Minor and the coastal regions of the Mediterranean Sea in Europe. The work of Heraclius was undone, but he was decidedly one of the most extraordinary and inconsistent Emperors who assumed the charge of the Byzantine Empire. Great were his exploits and adventurous campaigns and he ruled the greatest empire of the day. In the magnitude of his dominions, wealth and military prowess, he could be compared only with Chosroes II, the Emperor of Persia. Heraclius died at Constantinople in 641 A.D. and was buried there.
Known as Khusro Parvez to the Arabs, he was the fourth son of Hormouz and the grandson of Chosroes I, Anushirvan the Just. Murder of Hormouz in 590 A.D. was succeeded by enthronement of Chosroes II, but after suffering a defeat at the hands of a rebel chief, Bahram, he had to solicit the protection of Maurice, the Byzantine Emperor. The fugitive prince was helped by Maurice with a powerful army which restored his kingdom after two fierce battles on the banks of Zab and the confines of Mada'in. While the majesty of the Persian Emperor was revived, Phocas, who promoted himself to the vacant purple, killed his adopted father, Maurice. Chosroes II decided to avenge the death of Maurice and invaded the Byzantine dominions in 604 A.D. Chosroes II continued to extend his triumphant march to Constantinople, even after the death of Phocas, rolling in the dust all the Byzantine provinces, Syria , Egypt and Asia Minor, in the rapid tide of his success. By 616 A.D. Chosroes II had reached the summit of his victorious campaign for he seemed to announce the approaching dissolution of the Byzantine Empire. But his insolent demands at last animated the dormant valor of Heraclius who put the Iranians to rout and penetrated into the heart of Persia. Chosroes II, had to ultimately leave his country and seek refuge in some far off place and thus the battle between the two empires came to an end in 628 A.D. Chosroes II was, according to the unanimous verdict of historians, the greatest Emperor of Iran. In the East, his writ ran up to the northwestern parts of India.(Iran ba 'Ahad Sasanian, p. 602) During his rule, the glory and magnificence of royal court had surpassed the limits of fancy. Iran was, during this period, more than a match to any country of the world in its ostentatious living, luxury of its nobles and the splendid workmanship of its artisans. Writing about the attainments of Chosroes II, the noted Arab historian Tabri says: "Made of a sterner stuff, he was the most prudent far-sighted Emperor of Persia. Deeds of valor, exploits of victory, abundance of wealth, stroke of luck and favorable circumstances had so bunched up during his reign as never before. It was for these reasons that he came to be known as Pervez which meant victorious in Arabic." (Tarikh Tabri, Vol. II, (Egypt), p. 137). In the arts of civilization and ever-new innovations of edibles and drink, Iran was without any parallel. (Tarikh Tabri, Vol. II, (Egypt), p. 995) In the manufacture of perfumes it had attained perfection. The people had developed a taste for savory preparation, luscious liquors and the finest perfumes. Love of music had grown into craze, which had stipulated its development in the reign of Chosroes II. He was so fond of amassing wealth and artifacts that when his treasures was transferred from an old building to a new one at Ctesiphon in 607-8 A.D., it consisted of 468 million Mithqals of Gold valued at 375 million gold sovereigns. In the thirteenth year of his reign, Chosroes II had 830 million Mithqals of gold in his exchequer. The reign of Chosroes II lasted up to 37 years, afterwhich his son Sherveh took over.
He was the Prefect as well as Patriarch of Alexandria acting as the Governor of Egypt on behalf of the Byzantine Emperor. The Arab historians normally mentioned him by his title 'Muqauqis' but they hotly dispute his personal identity. Abu Salih who wrote in the sixth century after Hijrah (12 century A.D.) gives his name as Juraid b. Mina al Muqauqis (which is corruption of George, son of Mina). Ibn Khaldun says that the then Muqauqis was a Copt while al-Maqrizi asserts that he was a Roman. When the Persians conquered Egypt in 616 A.D., the Byzantine Prefect and patriarch was John the Almoner who fled from Egypt to Cyprus and died there. George was appointed in his place as the Archbishop of Merkite church who remained in office from 621 A.D. till his death in 630 A.D. Known to the Arab historians as Juraij, they give the year of his appointment as 621 A.D. Alfred j. Butler is of the opinion that practically seized all the Arab historians about a person by the title of Muqauqis, appointed by the Byzantine Emperor Herculius after the recovery of Egypt from the Persians, who was both its Patriarch and Governor. They have, therefore, identified George as Muqauqis. But he also says that Muqauqis was only a title of the Patriarch since it was applied to the governor in the early Coptic manuscripts.(14) It is also possible that some Coptic Patriarch might have assumed the ecclesiastical and political powers after the conquest of Egypt by the Persians. However, as the treaty of peace between the Romans and the Persians was executed in the year 628 A.D., the letter of the Prophet was more probably received by the Patriarch of Egypt when he was more or less independent. This is why, it appears, that the Apostle addressed him as the chief of the Copts. Egypt was the most fertile dominion of the Byzantine Empire, far exceeding other provinces in population as well as in resources. It was also the granary of the Byzantine capital. When 'Amr b. al-'as entered Egypt at the head of the conquering Arab force, fourteen years after the Apostle had sent his letter to Muqauqis, he wrote to Caliph 'Umar b. al-Khattab about that land: "The country is exceedingly fertile and green. Its length covers a journey of one month and its breadth is of about ten days."(15) A census of Egypt taken by 'Amr b. al-As in 20 A.H./640 A.D. to find out the number of persons on whom jizya could be levied, showed that the population exceeded six million (16), one hundred thousand of which being Romans. 'Amr b. Al- As also wrote to the Caliph: "I have taken a city of which I can but say that it contains 4,000 palaces, 4,000 baths, 40, 000 Jews and 400 theatres for the entertainment of the nobles." (Husn-ul-Muhadra by Suyuti)
Ethiopia is an ancient country in the eastern part of Africa lying along the coast of the Red Sea which came to be known as Abyssinia since the distant past. Its boundaries, as they existed in the seventh century, are not easy to define now. The kingdom of Abyssinia was also one of the oldest in the world. The Jewish sources denote that the queen Sheba belonged to Abyssinia and her progeny by Solomon ever ruled the country. The Jews started migrating to the country from the sixth century B.C. after the destruction of Solomon's Temple but Christianity became the dominant faith of the people by the fourth century. When the Jewish monarch of Yemen persecuted the Christians of his land, Emperor Justin I wrote to the Negus of Abyssinia to help the Christians.(17) Negus of Abyssinia is said to have compile with by sending an army which captured Yemen in 525 A.D. and retained the hold of Abyssinia over it for about fifty years. Abraha was the viceroy of Abyssinian King in Yemen who led an army to destroy the House of God in Mecca whence came off the memorable event of 'Am al-fil or the year of the elephant. The capital of Abyssinia was at Axum. Being a sovereign state, it was neither dependent nor a tributary to any alien power. Of course, as a Christian country, it had friendly relations with Byzantium which was then regarded as the protector of Christendom. The Byzantine Emperor respected the independence of Abyssinia for Justinian had sent his Ambassador by the name of Julian, to the count of Axum.(18) De lacy O'Leary writes in the "Arabia before Muhammad"that "from 522 to the rise of Islam, the Abyssinians controlled the southern end of the Red Sea including trade with Africa, perhaps that with India as well.(19) The official title of the King of Abyssinia was Nagusa Nagasht or King of Kings of Ethiopia.(20) But, the name of the King to whom the Apostle sent his letter inviting him to embrace Islam has been variously mentioned in different sources. However, we have before us two kings of Abyssinia. One of these is the king during whose reign the Muslim migrated from Mecca to Abyssinia under the leadership J'afar b. Abi Talib, in the fifth year of the apostleship of Muhammad peace be upon him. But it is highly improbable that the Apostle wrote any letter to Negus at that time. The circumstances prevailing with the Prophet at Mecca then were unfavorable for addressing such a letter to any ruler. And in any case, it was neither an appropriate time for inviting any noble or king from a foreign land to accept Islam nor did he send any such letter, according to the Traditions, to any foreign dignitary. All that the Traditions suggest is that the Apostle had requested the then Negus to afford protection to the Muslims in his country for they were being severely persecuted by the Quraysh. Similarly, the writings of Ibn Hisham and others imply that the Negus had admitted the truth of divine revelation and accepted that Jesus was a Prophet and word of God cast by Him unto Mary, the mother of Jesus. In so far as the Negus to whom the Apostle had sent his letter is concerned, he was, according to Ibn Kathir, the King who succeeded the Negus who had been given asylum to J'afar b. Abi Talib. Ibn Kathir maintains that the letter inviting him to accept Islam was written to the Negus before the conquest of Mecca along with other monarchs. 'Ibn Kathir's view appears to be preferable for this second Negus accepted Islam, and of whose death the Prophet informed the Muslims and prayed for his salvation. Waqidi and some other biographers of the Prophet have stated that the Prophet had prayed for the Negus after a return from Tabuk in Rajab 09, A.H. (Sahi Muslim, Vol. V, p. 166) The consequential circumstances of the event suggest that Waqidi is correct in holding this view and in its dating.