Ethiopian Islamic History began as early as sixth century from the time of Propeht hood of the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) and before Hijra (Islamic calander) 1430 hijra.
Untold stories of world history
The fourth year of the prophet hood Mohammed Ibn Abdulaha (p.b.u.h) was the year of great prosecution. The prophet brought a message of (tewhid) the oneness of God Almighty. He thought his people not to bow down to idols not to disrespect the parents not to torture and harm the innocent not to bias peoples up on nationalism but they refuse not to accept this message and they began to torched him and his followers in the most horrible fashion.
By the fifth year the prophet (p.b.u.h.) said if you were to go to Abyssinia it would be better for you. The king will not tolerate injustice and it is a land of truth goes there until Allah relieves you from distress. After this permission was given a group of 12 men and 4 women left for Abyssinia among them was Osman Ibn Afan (r.a.a) and his daughter of the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) Rukia after having reached Abyssinia and staying for few months then, they received the false report from Mecca the entire Mecca’s had embraced Islam. When they heard this they over joys to return to Mecca to find that the prosecution had intensified. So the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) again sent his endangered sehaba (Apostles) to the land of Ethiopia. This time another group of 83 men and 19 women left and crossed the red see. They left Mecca in secret and they crossed into the red see and into Ethiopia.
When they reached the land of Ethiopia they found the people who stick in the original believes of Christianity they found the land of justice and they found the righteousness king. Who was this righteousness emperor? and what was this land? It is reported that the land of Ethiopia was a land with ancient history and the leader who were inherited the power this ancient society was Asehama Ibn Abijar. The title given was Al-Nejashi or Negus he was the king and inheritor of to a greater empire called Axum. This empire was founded long before Christ but by the year and by the centuries the third to the sixth century it became the greatest market in north east Africa. Merchants were trading with Axum from all the way north on the Nile from the Indian Ocean. the city of Axum also claim to contain the arc of the covenant which had comes from the prophet Suleyman (king Solomon) and from Sheba and was brought according to their legends to Ethiopians by his son Minilik.
When the sahabas the (apostles) safely living in Axum (kurysh) sent two people Amr Ibn Asre whom became a famous Muslim and Abdulah Ibn Arabi they come representing the Mushrik (idol worshipers) of Mecca and they brought expensive gifts in order to bribe the Generals and the army also the king. They sought and audience with the king and they by stated these people when you have given shelter to have saken their religion and they have not accepted yours. But Nejash replied to them and said no by God I will not surrender them no people who have sought my protection settled in my country and asked for my protection will not be let lose. If they are, they are I will send them back to their people but if what they said id false I will protect them and see if they receive proper hospitality well under my protection.
The Nejashi then summon the Muslims and he asked them to represent them selves what do they stand for, what is the basics teaching of their prophet? and one of the famous companion of the prophet Mohammed(p.b.u.h.) Ja’afar Ibnu Abutalib (r.a.a) he stood up and he addressed the king in the following words.
“O’ king we were pledged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism, we worshiped idols we lived unclean life, we eat dead meat, we spook abomination and we don’t respect our parents and we don’t respect our neighbor, we knew no laws but judged to the strongest among us. Allah raise up among us a man who’s birth, truth fullness and honesty were known to us, he called us to the oneness of Allah, he thought us to speak the truth to be faithful to our trust, to be merciful, to regard the rights of our neighbor, our keen. He forbid us from speaking evils to woman and from eating the substances the wealth of the orphans he ordered us to stay away from evils and abstain from evils in all forms. He thought us to offer prayers giving charity and to observe fasting. We believed in him and we accept his teachings. He thoughts us not to associate partners with Allah and he thought us we should live a good life. For this we have been tortured and injured and not finding safety amongst our own peoples. We have come to your country seeking protection from oppression”… The Negus (king) then asked Ja’afar Ibnnu Abutalib (r.a.a.) to read something from the book of Allah read something from the scriptures and Ja’afar Ibnu Abutalib (r.a.a.) very intelligent and well trained companion of the phrophet read from suretul Mariem (merry) when he reads from this beautiful chapter that told the story of Merriam (Merry) may Allah be pleased with her and the birth of (Issa) Jesus and the miracles happening at this time Nejashi recognize the presence of the creator and wiped. His Bishops wiped and in the court also wiped and Nejashi stated of the truth this and what Jesus brought comes from the same source.
“You Two may” go he sent away Quraish he said by God I will never give them up. They shall not be betrayed and Nejashi gave a strong representation over the righteousness king. But Ibnu Asar very cunning at that point in his life didn’t give up the next day he returned to the Nejashi and he stated this people they say Jesus the son of Merry is a creation he is not a God he is not a son of God. Ja’afar Ibnu Abutalib (r.a.a) was brought and answered we say a bout him that which our prophet has brought us that Jesus the slave of God his apostle, his sprite, and his word, which was cast into merry womb the blessed virgin. When Nejashi heard the words he pick up the stick and he said by God Jesus the son of marry doesn’t exceed what you have said by the length of a stick. Then Nejshi said he who curses you will be fined, not for a mountain of gold will I allow you a man to heart you. Go free and live within my land and so Nejashi in accordance with the revelation that had comes to the prophet (p.b.u.h) who has guided by the creator of the heaven and the earth was the righteousness person he would not allow anyone to be oppressed within his country. His land was a land of truth and Muslims be able to enjoy sanctuary in a Christian land.
This is an important aspect of history that needs to be brought out with misunderstanding concerning the entrance of Islam into Africa. This was the first contact Muslims did not come as conquerors they didn’t come as imperialistic army but they came as a refugee seeking the help the righteous Christian king.
After this rebellion broke out the SEHABA heard and sent Azubair Ibn Alawam (r.a.a.) to see what has happened but by the will of Allah Nejashi prevailed. Ibn Ishak the great biographer of the prophet (p.b.u.h) reports he speaks about the Sahabas this is the very interesting report because he shows the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) making a prayer for the Christian emperor and he writes that the Sahaba said we prayed to Allah to give Nejashi victory over his enemies to establish in his country as they making their du’a (prayer) while they were praying Azubr Ibnu Alawam (r.a.a.) return with the news of the victory of Nejashi and so they stayed in Al-Habaesha until the second hijra (the major migration) that was made from Mecca to medina. This is a powerful story, this is a powerful coming togetherness of monotheism with the teaching comes to Jesus (Isa) Gods blessing up on him And the teaching comes to Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) manifest them selves within their followers and the followers gone beyond the fact they where from different tribes and they where under the oneness of God.
Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) sent a very important letter to his companion in this he stated the following
“In the name of Allah the magnificent, the most merciful.
From Mohammed the messenger of Allah to the Great Nejashi of Abyssinia
Peace be upon he who follows the guidance. Verily for you I praised Allah the one there is no deity, except him the sole king, the holy, the source of peace, the protector and the guardian.
I bare witness that Jesus the son of merry the sprite belong to Allah and his word which he cast into the chaste and excellent virgin merry she thus becomes pregnant by means of sprite and his inspiration. With Jesus she becomes pregnant in the same manner as he created Adam with his hands. Verily I invited you to Allah the one who has no partner to a friendship continuity and government in obedience to him.
I invite you to follow me and to have absolute certainty with I have come. Verily I am the messenger of Allah and I invite you and your government force to Allah the mighty the imagistic. That I have delivered the message and given you council therefore, accept my council peace be upon he who follow the guidance”.
This is a very important letter because not only does it express the message of Islam and conveys the prophet hood. But you don’t find other letters written by the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) to the great kings in such a format it was a brotherly letter, it was a letter in which the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) gives proof of the scripture be speaks to the emperor in the language that he could understand. He shows him the message of Islam is a consistent message and it is a message of all the prophets. Later Nejashi wrote back to the prophet (p.b.u.h) in the book of Isra (the biography of the prophet) recorded the Nejashi replay.
“ From Nigus Nejashi Ibn Ajer
- Peace be up on you the prophet of Allah mercy and blessings. In the name of Allah besides whom there is no god who guided me to Islam. I have received your letter in which you mention the mother of Jesus the Lord and the heaven of the earth he is not one bit of more than what you says, we know that with which you sent to us and we are entertain your cousin and his companions, I testify you are the last apostle and confirming those before you I have given my pledge to you and your cousin and I have surrendered myself through him to the Lord of the world. I have sent to you my son Arha I have controlled only myself and if you wish me to come I will do so. I bare witness that what you say is true”
Nejashi testify to the oneness of God. Nejashi showed his relationship with the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) from that time his relationship with the creator of the heaven and the earth changed. But the great rebellion broke out within his land the sahabas at that point took especial hiding place they were prepared to leave the country but Nejashi held out and he was able to put down rebellion as they come up with his country and he was able to continue his believes, and history a crucial history to Muslims and to those who believe in one God.
The prophet Mohamed (p.b.u.h.) was the seal of the prophets and messengers and his love for his companion continue through out his life. It is reported that when the Nejashi passed away the word comes to the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) he prayed especial funeral prayer this is now known us “selatul jenaza ga’ebia” the first time in history that jena’aza prayer was made for an absent person. And through the example of Nejashi this especial salatal jena’aza was established. If the person who died is not within your location and it appear no body to pray up on that person then you are compelled to perform jenaza salat. The prophet (p.b.u.h) made especial dua especial prayer to the creator of the heaven and the earth he prayed for Nejashi and he pray Islam will spread in his land this story shows us the closeness between the teaching of the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) and the teaching of Jesus (a.s.w) which still existing along the Nile. It also showed that Nejashi had accepted Islam and it shows strong solidarity between believers. Islam itself is not confined only to the Arabian Peninsula but it is the religion of all of the prophets.
It confirms the fact that the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) comes as a seal of the prophets and the messengers. It is reported by Othwa Ibnu Zubair on the authority of Aysha (r.a.a.) that she said when Nejashi died it used to be said that a light constantly seen over his grave. This is an important statement and Ibn Ishak the great biographer the life of the prophet Mohammed ( p.b.u.h.) reported the name of at list 50 the companion of the of the prophet (p.b.u.h.) who died in Abyssinia there graves are located today in the high mountain of Tigray province in Ethiopia. Here we find the grave of the sahaba and the grave of the Armaha “Nejashi” it is a peaceful place and it is a peaceful people remembered the relationship between believers. It is a place of greater importance to the history of Islam and Africa itself. What this shown us also the important for us to reflect up on this what it shown us the relationship between the Arabian Peninsula and what is now known to us as the African continent.
In actuality the red sea was not really a barrier between the two. In actuality there was always connection between the peoples. And the peoples of Ethiopia migrating to Yemen to the northern part of Arabia from the earliest time also we know in study of language that the Semitic languages were spoken by the people not only in Arabaia but Semitic languages were spoken all over Ethiopia and so a strong relationship existed between these countries and for peoples who really look at the history this part of the world. We need to reflect up on the whole concept of nations, states, does Asia begin from the right of red sea and Africa from the left.
What is the real reality from the Islamic prospective it is all part of the same territory. From Islamic prospective and looking at history itself we find that this contact was part of long serious of relationship that developed between peoples of Arabian peninsula and those living in the mountains and valleys of the Ethiopia. Another aspect that comes out the life of Nejashi is that the relationship between Muslims and African peoples as always one of solidarity. From the beginning Islam didn’t enter the African continent as imperialistic force there were no solders forcing peoples to accept Islam taking slaves in Africa and bring them back in the name of Islam. Yes slavery did exist and many of the companion prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.)including the famous Ethiopian Muazin Bilala were all slaves but these slaves comes from Europe, Persia, Arabia, Ethiopia and from all part of the neighboring countries. So slavery was an institution not particularly to the Arabian Peninsula but slavery was an institution that was practiced by the people all over the planet. and the contact came with Islam opened up a new chapter. Muslims were able to brake the brand of slavery that slavery should not be to human beings but slavery should be to the creator of the heaven and earth and so the contact that was made initially between the companion of the prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the people of the Al-Habasha Abyssinian the modern day Ethiopia and Eritrea was one of solidarity.
The Arabian Muslims came to Abyssinia not as conquerors they came as refugee they found sanctuary they found friendship and brotherhood from a Christian king. This is a lesson from the ancient time but it is a lesson that is most important today in the world when tension have developed between the great monotheistic religions. If we turn to the people who follow the original teaching of the great messengers we find that the message is fundamentally the same. And I believe Jesus, Mosses, Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) all were here today they would embrace one another and not look for differences between each other. Such it was the followers of the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) who went to Ethiopia. The Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) stated to his followers go to Ethiopia it is a land wherein the king will not tolerate injustice it is a land of truth “ardul sidiqa” go there until Allah decide for you relieves from distress so the companion of the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) went forward across the red sea and they met loves and friendship and solidarity.
This is important story to the relationship of Islam and to the rest of the world.