Diplomatic career of Muhammad

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Part of a series on

Muhammad (c. 22 April, 571–11 June, 632) is documented as having engaged as a diplomat during his propagation of Islam and leadership over the growing Muslim Ummah (community). He established a method of communication with other tribal or national leaders through letters,[1] assigned envoys,[2] or by visiting them personally, such as at Ta’if.[3] Instances of written correspondence include letters to Heraclius, the Negus and Khosrau. Although it is likely that Muhammad had initiated contact with other leaders within the Arabian Peninsula, some have questioned whether letters had been sent beyond these boundaries.[4]

When Muhammad arrived in Medina in 622, local tribes, mainly the Banu Aus and Banu Khazraj, had been feuding for several decades.[5] Muhammad addressed this by establishing the Constitution of Medina: a document which regulated interactions between the different factions, to which the respective parties agreed. This was a different role for him, as he had remained only a religious figure during his time in Mecca. The result was the eventual formation of a united community in Medina, as well as the political supremacy of Muhammad.[6][7]

Muhammad also participated in agreements and pledges such as "Pledges of al-`Aqaba", the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, and the "Pledge of the Tree". He reportedly used a silver seal on letters sent to other notable leaders who were requested to convert to Islam.[2][6][8]

Hilf al-Fudul

Hilf al-Fudul was an alliance created by Muhammad in the pre-Islamic era.

Muslim migration to Axum (615)

Muhammad's commencement of public preaching brought him stiff opposition from the leading tribe of Mecca, the Quraysh. Although Muhammad himself was safe from persecution due to protection from his uncle, Abu Talib ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (a leader of the Banu Hashim), some of his followers were not in such a position. A number of Muslims were mistreated by the Quraysh, some reportedly beaten, imprisoned, or starved.[9] It was then, in 615, that Muhammad resolved to send fifteen Muslims to emigrate to Axum to receive protection under the Christian ruler, the Negus, Aṣḥama ibn Abjar.[10] Emigration was a means through which some of the Muslims could escape the difficulties and persecution faced at the hands of the Quraysh,[6] it also opened up new trading prospects.[11]

The Quraysh, on hearing the attempted emigration, dispatched a group led by 'Amr ibn al-'As and Abdullah ibn Abi Rabia ibn Mughira in order to pursue the fleeing Muslims. They were unsuccessful in their chase however as the Muslims had already reached safe territory, and so approached the Negus, appealing to him to return the Muslim migrants. Summoned to an audience with the Negus and his bishops as a representative of Muhammad and the Muslims, Ja`far ibn Abī Tālib spoke of Muhammad's achievements and quoted Qur'anic verses related to Islam and Christianity, including some from Surah Maryam.[12] Ja`far ibn Abī Tālib is quoted according to Islamic tradition as follows:

O king! We were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we adored idols, we lived in unchastity, we ate the dead bodies, and we spoke abominations, we disregarded every feeling of humanity, and the duties of hospitality and neighbourhood were neglected; we knew no law but that of the strong, when Allah raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware; and he called to the Oneness of Allah and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbours and kith and kin; he forbade us to speak evil of women, or to eat the substance of orphans; he ordered us to fly from the vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fast.

We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allah and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and prohibited what He has prohibited. For this reason, our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of Allah and return to the worship of idols 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 oppression.[13][14]

The Negus, seemingly impressed, consequently allowed the migrants to stay, sending back the emissaries of Quraysh.[12] It is also thought that the Negus may have converted to Islam.[15] The Christian subjects of the Negus were displeased with his actions, accusing him of leaving Christianity, although the Negus managed to appease them in a way which, according to Ibn Ishaq, could be described as favourable towards Islam.[12] Having established friendly relations with the Negus, it became possible for Muhammad to send another group of migrants, such that the number of Muslims living in Abyssinia totalled around one hundred.[10]

Journey to Ta'if (619)

In early June 619, Muhammad set out from Mecca to travel to the town of Ta'if in order to convene with its chieftains, and mainly those of Banu Thaqif (such as Abd-Ya-Layl ibn Amr).[16] The main dialogue during this visit is thought to have been the invitation by Muhammad for them to accept Islam, while contemporary historian Montgomery Watt observes the plausibility of an additional discussion about wresting Ta'if trade routes from Meccan control.[3] The reason for Muhammad directing his efforts towards Ta'if may have been due to the lack of positive response from the people of Mecca to his message until then.[6]

Road to Ta'if in the foreground, mountains of Ta'if in the background (Saudi Arabia).

In rejection of his message, and fearing that there would be reprisals from Mecca for having hosted Muhammad, the groups involved in meeting with Muhammad began to incite townfolk to pelt him with stones.[3] Having been beset and pursued out of Ta'if, the wounded Muhammad sought refuge in a nearby orchard.[17] Resting under a grape vine, it is here that he invoked God, seeking comfort and protection.[18][19]

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad on his way back to Mecca was met by the angel Gabriel and the angels of the mountains surrounding Ta'if, and was told by them that if he willed, Ta'if would be crushed between the mountains in revenge for his mistreatment. Muhammad is said to have rejected the proposition, saying that he would pray in the hopes of succeeding generations of Ta'if coming to accept Islamic monotheism.[18][20]

al-`Aqaba pledges (620—621)

In the summer of 620 during the pilgrimage season, six men travelling from Medina came into contact with Muhammad. Having been impressed by his message and character, and thinking that he could help bring resolution to the problems being faced in Medina, five of the six men returned to Mecca the following year bringing seven others. Following their conversion to Islam and attested belief in Muhammad as the messenger of God, the twelve men pledged to obey him and to stay away from a number of Islamically sinful acts. This was known as the "First Pledge of al-`Aqaba."[21]

Following the pledge, Muhammad decided to send a Muslim "ambassador", Mus`ab ibn `Umair, to Medina in order to teach people about Islam and invite them to it.[22]

Converts to Islam came from nearly all Arab tribes present in Medina, such that by June of the subsequent year there were seventy-five Muslims coming to Mecca for pilgrimage and to meet Muhammad. Meeting him secretly by night, the group made what was known as the "Second Pledge of al-`Aqaba", or the "Pledge of War".[21] Conditions of the pledge, many of which similar to the first, included obedience to Muhammad, "enjoining good and forbidding evil" as well as responding to the call to arms when required.[23]

Some western academics are noted to have questioned whether or not a second pledge had taken place, although Watt argues that there must have been several meetings between the pilgrims and Muhammad on which the basis of his move to Medina could be agreed upon.[24]

Reformation of Medina (622—)

Medinan society prior to Muslim migration

The demography of Medina before Muslim migration consisted mainly of two pagan Arab tribes; the Banu Aus and the Banu Khazraj; and at least three Jewish tribes: Qaynuqa, Nadir, and Qurayza.[6] Medinan society, for perhaps decades, had been scarred by feuds between the two main Arab tribes and their sub-clans. The Jewish tribes had at times formed their own alliances with either one of the Arab tribes. The oppressive policy of the Khazraj who at the time had assumed control over Medina, forced the Jewish tribes, Nadir and Qurayza into an alliance with the Aus who had been significantly weakened. The culmination of this was the Battle of Bu'ath in 617, in which the Khazraj and their allies, Qaynuqa, has been soundly defeated by the coalition of Aus and its supporters.[5][25]

Although formal combat between the two clans had ended, hostilities between them continued even up until Muhammad's arrival in Medina. Muhammad had been invited by some Medinans, who had been impressed by his religious preaching and manifest trustworthiness, as an arbitrator to help reduce the prevailing factional discord.[26] Muhammad's task would thus be to form a united community out of these heterogeneous elements, not only as a religious preacher, but as a political and diplomatic leader who could help resolve the ongoing disputes.[6]

Constitution of Medina

By 622, Muhammad had migrated to Medina with a group of his followers, having escaped the forces of Quraysh. They were given shelter by members of the indigenous community known as the Ansar. After having established the first mosque in Medina and obtaining residence with Abu Ayyub al-Ansari,[27] he then set about the establishment of a pact known as the Constitution of Medina. This document was a unilateral declaration by Muhammad, and deals almost exclusively with the civil and political relations of the citizens among themselves and with the outside.[28]

The source of authority was transferred from public opinion to God.[28] Bernard Lewis writes the community at Medina became a new kind of tribe with Muhammad as its sheikh, while at the same time having a religious character.[29] Watt argues that Muhammad's authority had not extended over the entirety of Medina at this time, such that in reality he was only the religious leader of Medina, and his political influence would only become significant after the Battle of Badr in 624.[30] Lewis opines that Muhammad's assumption of the role of statesman was a means through which the objectives of prophethood could be achieved.[31] The constitution, although recently signed, was soon to be rendered obsolete due to the rapidly changing conditions in Medina,[6] with certain tribes having been accused of breaching the terms of agreement.


The signing of the constitution could be seen as indicating the formation of a united community, in ways similar to a federation of nomadic clans and tribes, as the signatories were bound together by solemn agreement. The community, however, now also had a religious basis.[32] Extending this analogy, Watt argues that the functioning of the community resembled that of a tribe, such that it would not be incorrect to call the community a kind of "super-tribe".[32] The signing of the constitution itself displayed a degree of diplomacy by Muhammad, as although he envisioned a society eventually based upon a religious outlook, practical consideration was needed to be inclusive instead of exclusive of the varying social elements.[6]

Both the Aus and Khazraj had progressively converted to Islam, although the latter had been more enthusiastic than the former: at the second pledge of al-`Aqaba, the numbers of Khazraj to Aus present was 62:3; and at the Battle of Badr, 175:63.[33] Subsequently, the hostility between the Aus and Khazraj gradually diminished and became unheard of after Muhammad's death.[5] According to Muslim scholar al-Mubarakpuri, the 'spirit of brotherhood' as insisted by Muhammad amongst Muslims was the means through which a new society would be shaped.[34]

The result was Muhammad's increasing influence in Medina, although he was most probably only considered a political force after the Battle of Badr, more so after the Battle of Uhud where he was clearly in political ascendency.[35] To attain complete control over Medina, Muhammad would have to exercise considerable political and military skills, as well as religious skills over the coming years.[26]

Events at Hudaybiyya (628)

In March 628, Muhammad saw himself in a dream performing the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage[36]), and so prepared to travel with his followers to Mecca in the hopes of fulfilling this vision. He set out with a group of around 1,400 pilgrims (in the traditional Ihram garb[37]), although it was not soon until Mecca had discovered these arrangements.[clarification needed] On hearing of the Muslims travelling to Mecca for pilgrimage, the Quraysh sent out a force of 200 fighters in order to halt the approaching party. In no position to fight, Muhammad evaded the cavalry by taking a more difficult route, thereby reaching al-Hudaybiyya, just outside Mecca.[38]

It was at Hudaybiyya that a number of envoys went to and fro in order to negotiate with the Quraysh. During the negotiations, Uthman ibn Affan was chosen as an envoy to convene with the leaders in Mecca, on account of his high regard amongst the Quraysh.[39] On his entry into Mecca, rumours ignited that Uthman had subsequently been murdered by the Quraysh. Muhammad responded by calling upon the pilgrims to make a pledge not to flee (or to stick with Muhammad, whatever decision he made) if the situation descended into war with Mecca. This pledge became known as the "Pledge of Good Pleasure" (Arabic: بيعة الرضوان, bay'at al-ridhwān) or the "Pledge under the Tree".[38]

The incident was mentioned in the Qur'an as follows:[38]

Allah's Good Pleasure was on the Believers when they swore Fealty to thee under the Tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down Tranquillity to them; and He rewarded them with a speedy Victory;

— Translated by Yusuf Ali, Sura 48 (Al-Fath), ayah 18[40]


Soon afterwards, with the rumour of Uthman's slaying proven untrue, negotiations continued and a treaty was eventually signed between the Muslims and Quraysh. Conditions of the treaty included the Muslims' postponement of the lesser pilgrimage until the following year, a pact of mutual non-aggression between the parties, and a promise by Muhammad to return any member of Quraysh (presumably a minor or woman) fleeing from Mecca without the permission of their parent or guardian, even if they be Muslim.[41] Some of Muhammad's followers were upset by this agreement, as they had insisted that they should complete the pilgrimage they had set out for. Following the signing of the treaty, Muhammad and the pilgrims sacrificed the animals they had brought for it, and proceeded to return to Medina.[38] It was only later that Muhammad's followers would realise the benefit behind this treaty.[6] These benefits, according to Islamic historian Buhl, included the inducing of the Meccans to recognise Muhammad as an equal; a cessation of military activity, boding well for the future; and gaining the admiration of Meccans who were impressed by the incorporation of the pilgrimage rituals.[6]

The treaty was set to expire after 10 years, but was broken after only 10 months.[38] According to the terms of the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Arab tribes were given the option to join either of the parties, the Muslims or Quraish. Should any of these tribes face aggression, the party to which it was allied would have the right to retaliate. As a consequence, Banu Bakr joined Quraish, and Khuza‘ah joined Muhammed. They thus lived in peace for sometime but ulterior motives stretching back to pre-Islamic period ignited by unabated fire of revenge triggered fresh hostilities. Banu Bakr, without caring a bit for the provisions of the treaty, attacked Banu Khuza'a in a place called Al-Wateer in Sha‘ban, 8 A.H. Quraish helped Banu Bakr with men and arms taking advantage of the dark night. Pressed by their enemies, the tribesmen of Khuza‘ah sought the Holy Sanctuary, but here too, their lives were not spared, and, contrary to all accepted traditions, Nawfal, the chief of Banu Bakr, chasing them in the sanctified area — where no blood should be shed — massacred his adversaries.

Correspondence with other leaders

There are instances according to Islamic tradition where Muhammad is thought to have sent letters to other heads of state during the Medinan phase of his life. Personalities, amongst others, included the Negus of Axum, Heraclius (emperor of the Byzantine Empire), the Muqawqis of Egypt, Khosrau, Sassanid King of Persia (Iran). There has been great controversy amongst academic scholars as to their authenticity.[42] According to Forward, academics have treated some reports with scepticism, although he argues that it is likely that Muhammad had assumed correspondence with leaders within the Arabian Peninsula.[4] R.B. Serjeant opines that the letters are forgeries and were designed to promote both the 'notion that Muhammad conceived of Islam as a universal religion and to strengthen the Islamic position against Christian polemic.' He further argues the unlikelihood of Muhammad sending such letters when he had not yet mastered Arabia.[43][44] Irfan Shahid, professor of Arabic and Islamic literature at Georgetown University, contends that dismissing the letters sent by Muhammad as forgeries is "unjustified", pointing to recent research establishing the historicity of the letter to Heraclius as an example.[1]

Letter to Heraclius

A letter was sent from Muhammad to the emperor of Byzantium, Heraclius, through the Muslim envoy Dihyah Kalbi, although Shahid suggests that Heraclius may never have received it.[1] He also advances that more positive sub-narratives surrounding the letter contain little credence. According to El-Cheikh, Arab historians and chroniclers generally did not doubt the authenticity of Heraclius' letter due to the documentation of such letters in the majority of both early and later sources.[45] Furthermore, she notes that the formulation and the wordings of different sources are very close and the differences are ones of detail: They concern the date on which the letter was sent and its exact phrasing.[45] Muhammad Hamidullah, an Islamic research scholar, argues for the authenticity of the letter sent to Heraclius, and in a later work reproduces what is claimed to be the original letter.[45][46] The account as transmitted by Muslim historians reads as follows:[45]

Purported letter sent by Muhammad to Heraclius, emperor of Byzantium

In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful

(This letter is) from Muhammad the slave of Allah and His Apostle to Heraclius the ruler of Roman.

I call you to Islam message. Accept Islam you’ll be safe, and ALLAH will give you your reward twice, but If you forsake [the message of God] you will carry the sin of all Arians (Arisiyn).

Peace be upon him, who follows the right path. I call you to Islam message. Accept Islam you’ll be safe, and ALLAH will give you your reward twice, but If you forsake [the message of God] you will carry the sin of all Arians (Arisiyn). (And I recite to you Allah's Statement:)

"Say (O Muhammad): 'O people of the scripture! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah.' Then, if they turn away, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims' (those who have surrendered to Allah)." (3:64)[45][47]

Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, at the time an adversary to Muhammad but a signatory to the, then recent, Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, was trading in Greater Syria when he was summoned to the court of Heraclius. Asked by Heraclius about the man claiming to be a prophet, Abu Sufyan responded, speaking favorably of Muhammad's character and lineage and outlining some directives of Islam. Heraclius was seemingly impressed by what he was told of Muhammad, and felt that Muhammad's claim to prophethood was valid.[45][47][48] Despite this incident, it seems that Heraclius was more concerned with the current rift between the various Christian churches within his empire, and as a result did not convert to Islam.[45][49]

Abu Sufyan and Heraclius

Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Abbaas narrates that Hadhrat Abu Sufyaan told him that he went to Shaam with a trade caravan of the Quraysh during the period when Rasulullaah (Muhammad) had extended a peace treaty to Abu Sufyaan and the Kuffaar (non-believers) of the Quraysh. When they were at a place called Ilyia (Baytul Maqdas / Jerusalem) when Heraclius summoned them. When they appeared in his court in the presence of the Roman ministers, Heraclius called for an interpreter.

Heraclius then asked, "Which of you is closest in lineage to the person who claims to be a prophet?"

Abu Sufyaan replied, "I am closest to him in lineage."

Heraclius then ordered that Abu Sufyaan be brought close to him while the others should be made to sit behind him. He then addressed the others through the interpreter saying, "I shall ask this man about that person (Muhammad, Rasulullaah).Point out his lies if he lies to me."

Abu Sufyaan thought to himself, "By Allaah! I would have certainly lied had I not feared being called a liar."

The first question Heraclius posed was: "How is his lineage amongst you?"

"He is of extremely high lineage amongst us," was the reply.

Heraclius asked further, "Has anyone from amongst you made such a claim before?"

When Abu Sufyaan replied in the negative, the next question was, "Were there any kings amongst his forefathers?"

"No," replied Abu Sufyaan.

"Is it the nobles among people who follow him or the weak ones?"

Abu Sufyaan replied, "The weak ones."

"Are his followers increasing or decreasing?" Heraclius asked.

"They are increasing," replied Abu Sufyaan.

Heraclius then asked, "Have any of them turned back to their religion out of displeasure for his religion after entering it?"

When Abu Sufyaan replied in the negative, the next question was,

"Have any of you accused him of lying before he made his claim?"

"No," came the reply.

"And has he ever broken a treaty?" came the question.

"No," replied Abu Sufyaan, "But we are presently bound by a treaty with him and do not know what he will do."

Abu Sufyaan says, "Besides this, there was nothing else I could add."

Heraclius continued, "Have you ever fought against him?"

"Yes," replied Abu Sufyaan.

"Then how did you fare?" the emperor asked.

Abu Sufyaan said, "Wars are like the bucket of a well between us. Sometimes he defeats us and sometimes we defeat him."

Heraclius asked, "What does he command you to do?"

"He commands us to worship the One Allaah without ascribing partners to Him and to forsake what our forefathers said. He also commands us to perform salaah, to be truthful, to remain chaste and to join family ties."

Heraclius then instructed the interpreter saying, "Tell him that when I asked about his (Muhammad's) lineage, he maintained that he is of extremely high lineage. Such are the prophets who are of high birth. Then I asked you if anyone had made such a claim (of prophethood) before him and you replied in the negative. Had anyone made such a claim before him, I would have said that he is a man aping what was said before him. You again replied in the negative when I asked whether. any of his forefathers were kings. Had there been kings amongst his forefathers, I would have said that he is a man seeking the kingdom of his father. Then I asked you whether any of you had ever accused him of lying before and you said that none had done so. I do realise that it is impossible for a person to abstain from lying about people and then lie about Allaah. I then asked you whether it is the nobles among people who follow him or the weak and you replied that they were the weak ones. These havp. always been the followers of the prophets. I also asked you whether his followers are increasing or decreasing and you said that they were increaing. Such is the case with Imaan (faith) until it is completed. Thereafter I asked you whether anyone had returned to his former religion out of displeasure after entering into his religion and you informed me that none had done so. Such is the condition of Imaan (faith) when it penetrates the depths of the heart. When I asked you whether he ever broke a treaty, you said that he had not. Such are the prophets. They never break their pledges. I then asked you what he cornminded and you said that he commanded you to worship the One Allaah without ascribing partners to Him, that he forbade you from worshipping idols and that he commanded you to perform salaah, to speak the truth and to remain chaste. If whatever you say is true then he shall seize control of the ground I stand on. Although I was expecting his appearance, I had no idea that he would appear among you people. If I knew that I could reach him, I would have burdened myself to do so and had I been in his presence, I would have washed his feet."

He then called for the letter that Muhammad sent with Dihya to the chief of Busra, which the chief of Busra has subsequently forwarded to Heraclius.

Abu Sufyaan narrates further, "After Heraclius had spoken and read the letter, there was a lot of noise about and people started speaking at the top of their voices. It was then that they.kent us out. When we were sent out, I said to one of my companions, 'The affair of Ibn Abi Kabsha (Muhammad) has grown so powerful that even the king of the yellow skins (the Romans) have begun to fear him.' Thereafter, I remained convinced that Rasulullaah (Prophet of Allah) would dominate until Allaah blessed me with Islaam."

A person by the name of Ibn Naatoor was the governor of Ilyia, a good friend of Heraclius and the high priest of the Christians in Shaam (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine). He narrates that once when Heraclius was visiting Ilyia (Baytul Maqdas) when he appeared extremely unwell and restless one morning. In fact, some of his pastors even told him that he did not seem himself. Heraclius was an astrologer and could read the stars so when they asked him (about the reason for his ill disposition) he said to them, 'When I gazed into the stars, I saw that the king of the circumcised people had made his appearance. Which nation practices circumcision?" They told him, "It is only the Jews who practise circumcision, but you have nothing to fear from them. Simply circulate a command throughout your kingdom calling for all Jews to be killed."

They were still busy discussing this when an envoy arrived from the governor of Ghassaan, informing them about Rasulullaah (Prophet of Allah). When Heraclius had questioned the envoy, he instructed the pastors to investigate whether the envoy was circumcised. When they determined that he had been circumcised, he was asked whether the Arabs practiced circumcision. When he informed them that circumcision was customary amongst the Arabs, Heraclius said, "It is the king of this nation who has made his appearance." Heraclius then wrote a letter to a friend in Rome who was also an expert in astrology as he was. He then left for Hims. He had not yet reached Hims when a reply came from his friend which corresponded with the opinion of Heraclius that Rasulullaah (Prophet of Allah) had made his appearance and that he was a Nabi (Prophet).

Heraclius then invited the leading people of Rome to his castle in Hims and had all the doors locked. He then made an appearance and addressed them saying, "O leaders of the Roman people! Do you want to achieve success, good fortune and keep your kingdom? Simply follow this Nabi (Prophet)." When they heaid this, everyone present started to flee like wild camels and headed for the doors, which they found locked. When Heraclius noticed their derision and lost hope in their accepting Imaan, he instructed his men to bring everyone back. He then said to them, "I told you this only to test your steadfastness in adhering to your religion. I have now witnessed it." They all prostrated before him and were satisfied with him. This was the final stand of Heraclius (he never accepted Islam)[50][51][better source needed][52] .

Imaam Bukhari has narrates this incident in several places in his Saheeh Al Bukhari in different words. The other authors of the six most authentic Hadith compilations with the exception of Ibn Majah have also reported this narration from Zuhri who in turn narrates from Abaydullaah bin Abdullaah bin Utba bin Mas'ood from Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Abbaas - Al Bidaaya wan Nihaaya (Vol.4 p. 266). Ibn Is'haaq has also narrated from Zuhri as mentioned in Al Bidaaya wan Nihaaya (Vol.4 p. 262). Also narrating from Zuhri are Abu Nu'aym in Dalaa'l (p. 119) and Bayhaqi (Vol.9 p. 178).

Deputation to Axum

The letter inviting the Negus to Islam had been sent by Amr bin Omayah ad-Damari, although it is not known if the letter had been sent with Ja'far on migration to Abyssinia or at a later date following the Treaty of Hudaibiyya. According to Hamidullah, the former may be more likely.[2] The letter reads:

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

From Muhammad the Messenger of Allah to Negus, king of Axum.

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, 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.[53][54]

Having received the letter, the Negus was purported to accept Islam in a reply he wrote to Muhammad. According to Islamic tradition, the Muslims in Medina prayed the funeral prayer in absentia for the Negus on his death.[55] It is possible that a further letter was sent to the successor of the late Negus.[2]

Letter to Muqawqis

There has been conflict amongst scholars about the authenticity of aspects concerning the letter sent by Muhammad to Muqawqis. Some scholars such as Nöldeke consider the currently preserved copy to be a forgery, and Öhrnberg considers the whole narrative concerning the Muqawqis to be "devoid of any historical value".[56] Muslim historians, in contrast, generally affirm the historicity of the reports. The purported text of the letter (sent by Hatib bin Abi Balta'a) according to Islamic tradition is as follows:

Purported letter sent by Muhammad to Muqawqis, preserved in the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul

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

From Muhammad slave of Allah and His Messenger to Muqawqis, 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! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah.' Then, if they turn away, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims' (those who have surrendered to Allah)." (3:64)[57]

The Muqawqis responded by sending gifts to Muhammad, including two female slaves, Maria al-Qibtiyya and Sirin. Maria became the concubine of Muhammad,[58] with some sources reporting that she was later freed and married. The Muqawqis is reported in Islamic tradition as having presided over the contents of the parchment and storing it in an ivory casket, although he did not convert to Islam.[59]

Letter to Khosrau

The letter written by Muhammad addressing the Khosrau of Persia was carried by Abdullah ibn Hudhafah as-Sahmi who, through the governor of Bahrain, delivered it to the Khosrau.[60] The account as transmitted by Muslim historians reads:

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.[61]

On receival, the Khosrau reportedly tore up the letter in outrage.[62] This reaction of enmity contrasts with the responses of the other leaders, and was supposedly due to Muhammad having placed his own name before that of the Khosrau.[60]

Other personalities

Apart from the aforementioned personalities, there are other reported instances of correspondence. Munzir ibn Sawa Al Tamimi, the governor of Bahrain was apparently an addressee, with a letter having been delivered to him through Al-Ala'a Al-Hadrami. Some subjects of the governor reportedly converted to Islam, whereas others did not.[63] A similar letter was sent to Hauda bin Ali, the governor of Al-Yamama, who replied that he would only convert if he were given a position of authority within Muhammad's government, a proposition which Muhammad was unwilling to accept.[63] The then ruler of Damascus, Harith ibn Abi Shamir al-Ghassani, reportedly reacted less than favourably to Muhammad's correspondence, viewing it as an insult.[63]

Jayfar and Abd, princes of the powerful ruling Azd tribe which ruled Oman in collaboration with Persian governance, were sons of the client king Juland (frequently Al Julandā based on the Perso-Arabic pronunciation).[64] They embraced Islam peacefully on 630 AD upon receiving the letter sent from Muhammad through 'Amr ibn al-'As.[65] The Azd subsequently played a major role in the ensuant Islamic conquests. They were one of the five tribal contingents that settled in the newly founded garrison city of Basra at the head of the Persian Gulf; under their great general Al Muhallab ibn Abi Suffrah and also took part in the conquest of Khurasan and Transoxania.[66]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Irfan Shahid, Arabic literature to the end of the Umayyad period, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol 106, No. 3, p.531
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 al-Mubarakpuri(2002) p. 412
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Watt (1974) p. 81
  4. 4.0 4.1 Forward (1998) pp. 28—29
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Watt. al-Aus; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 Buhl; Welch. Muhammad; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  7. Watt (1974) pp. 93—96
  8. Haykal (1993) Section: "The Prophet's Delegates"
  9. Forward (1998) p. 14
  10. 10.0 10.1 Forward (1998) p. 15
  11. Watt (1974) pp. 67—68
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 van Donzel. al-Nadjāshī; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  13. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 121
  14. Ibn Hisham, as-Seerat an-Nabawiyyah, Vol. I, pp. 334—338
  15. Vaglieri. Dja'far b. Abī Tālib; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  16. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 162
  17. Muir (1861) Vol. II p. 200
  18. 18.0 18.1 al-Mubarakpuri (2002) pp. 163—166
  19. Muir (1861) Vol. II p. 202
  20. Sahih al-Bukhari 4.54.454, Sahih Muslim 19.4425
  21. 21.0 21.1 Watt (1974) p. 83
  22. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 187
  23. Ibn Hisham, as-Seerat an-Nabawiyyah, Vol. I p. 454
  24. Watt (1974) p. 84
  25. Bosworth. Bu'āth; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  26. 26.0 26.1 Forward (1998) p. 19
  27. Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaayah wa an-Nihaayah, Vol. II, p. 279.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, page 43.
  29. Lewis, page 44.
  30. Watt (1974) pp. 95, 96
  31. Lewis (1984) p. 12
  32. 32.0 32.1 Watt (1974) p. 94—95
  33. Watt. Khazradj; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  34. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 227—229
  35. Watt (1974) p. 96
  36. Journey to Mecca performed by Muslims during which they perform rites such as circumambulation (tawaf) of the Kaaba and briskly walking back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa. The "Umrah" is not to be confused with "Hajj", which is regarded as the greater pilgrimage.
  37. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 398
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 Watt. al-Hudaybiya; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  39. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 402
  40. Quran 48:18
  41. Forward (1998) p. 28
  42. El-Cheikh (1999) pp. 5—21
  43. Footnote of the El-Cheikh(1999) reads: "Opposed to its authenticity is R. B. Sejeant "Early Arabic Prose: in Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period, ed. A. E L. Beeston et a1 ... (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 141–2. Suhaila aljaburi also doubts the authenticity of the document; "Ridlat al-nabi ila hiraql malik al-~m,H" amdard Islamicus 1 (1978) no. 3, pp. 15–49"
  44. Serjeant also drAus the attention to anachronisms such as the mention of the payment of the poll tax. Loc cit.
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 45.4 45.5 45.6 Muhammad and Heraclius: A Study in Legitimacy, Nadia Maria El-Cheikh, Studia Islamica, No. 89. (1999), pp. 5–21.
  46. Footnote of the El-Cheikh(1999) reads: "Hamidullah discussed this controversy and tried to prove the authenticity of Heraclius' letter in his "La lettre du Prophete P Heraclius et le sort de I'original: Arabica 2(1955), pp. 97–1 10, and more recently, in Sir originaw des lettms du prophbte de I'lslam (Paris, 1985), pp. 149.172, in which he reproduces what purports to be the original letter."
  47. 47.0 47.1 Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:1:6
  48. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 420
  49. Rogerson (2003) p. 200
  50. Kandhelvi, Muhammad Yusuf. Maulana. Islamic Book Service. pp. 153–5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  51. Al-Bukhari, Muhammad ibn Ismail. "Imam". Missing or empty |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  52. "Sahih Al Bukhari". SalafiPublications.Com. SalafiPublications.Com. Retrieved 13 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  53. Ibn al-Qayyim, Za'ad al-Ma'ad, Vol. III p. 60
  54. Ibn Sa'd, Kitab at-Tabaqat, Vol. III p. 15
  55. Sahih al-Bukhari 5.58.220
  56. Öhrnberg; Mukawkis. Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  57. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 415
  58. Buhl. Māriya; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  59. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 416
  60. 60.0 60.1 al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 417
  61. at-Tabari, at-Tareekh, Vol. III p. 90
  62. Morony. Kisrā; Encyclopaedia of Islam
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 al-Mubarakpuri (2002) pp. 421—424
  64. Wilkinson, Arab-persian Land relationships p. 40
  65. Rogerson (2003) p. 202
  66. A. Abu Ezzah, The political situation in Eastern Arabia at the Advent of Islam" p. 55


Further reading

  • Al-Ismail, Tahia (1998). The Life of Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources. Ta-Ha publishers Ltd, United Kingdom. ISBN 0-907461-64-6.
  • Hamidullah, Muhammad (1985). Six originaux des lettres du Prophète de l'islam: étude paléographique et historique des lettres. Paris: Tougui. ISBN 2-7363-0005-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Watt, M Montgomery (1981). Muhammad at Medina. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-577307-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links