By Senol Tibet
We live in a world where some of us have become hateful towards other faiths and beliefs, with the assumption that our personal belief is the “right one”.
This is no more prominent than those from Abrahamic religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this article, we will explore why this is the case- is it the requirement of respective religion? Or is it the ill perception of people?
To explore the relationship between early Christians and Muslims, one could take a look at the compassion between the Christian king Negus and the Prophet Muhammad
Negus, King of Ethiopia was known as the Protector of the Earliest Muslim immigrants. A letter from the late Prophet Muhammed to the King read:
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. From Muhammad, Prophet of Allah to Negus King of Ethiopia.
“I praise Allah, except Whom there is none to be worshipped, who is the Ruler of the world. He is innocent and pure free from all blemishes, defects, flaws, or shortcomings). He gives refuge and sustains all. I do admit that Isa (Jesus) son of Mariam (Mary), was the soul from Allah and His word (Order), he was infused to Mariam, who was clean and proof against evil. And Isa (peace be upon him) was born of Mariam. Allah created him from His soul and breath in the same manner as He created Adam with His own hand. I invite you towards Allah the One who has no associate. Believe in Him and join me in obedience to Him. Follow me and accept my prophet hood because I am the Messenger of Allah. I have wished you well in conveying the message of Allah in all sincerity. It is up you to accept my sympathetic advice. Extend the same invitation to your subjects. I am sending my cousin Jaffer with the other Muslims. When they reach you, treat them hospitably, by setting aside the vanity and pride of a ruler.
Peace be on him, who followed the right path.”
After the Holy Prophet began to preach Islam, the Quraish (Arab people of which Prophet Muhammad was a member) became the bitterest enemies of Islam. In the beginning they taunted, teased and mistreated the Muslims. Their treatment of the Muslims, particularly of the poorer ones was so brutal, that they felt extremely unsafe in Mecca and feared annihilation at the hands of the Quraish. At that stage, the Holy Prophet allowed the Muslims to temporarily migrate to Ethiopia, as he expected a good treatment by the King of Ethiopia. The Muslims began to migrate to the neighbouring country of Ethiopia. This continued till the famous Migration of the Holy Prophet, after which the migrants began to return to Medina.
The Quraish could not tolerate that the Muslims should live in peace even in Ethiopia. They sent a delegation to Negus and pointed out to him that the Muslims had a strange faith which was altogether new and requested that the Muslims should be sent back. On that occasion Jaffar made a very impressive speech, saying.
“They were an extremely ignorant and pagan nation who worshipped self-made idols. Debauchery, cruelty and eating the dead was their way of life, but Allah sent a Prophet who changed their lives altogether. He admonished them to worship Allah only and to regard Him as their Master. He preached to them always to be truthful; and not to misappropriate a trust, treat neighbors kindly, avoid bloodshed and all that Allah has prohibited. Worship Allah, the One observe fasts and pay Zakat (charity)”.
The King of Ethiopia was highly moved by the speech and clearly announced that he would not allow such pious people to be tyrannized.
The Muslims, thereafter, always had a deep regard for Ethiopia and never did they think of attacking the country. They conquered big countries like Iran, but never touched the neighboring Ethiopia.
The Jews and Muslims
Many Jews also supported Muhammad when he arrived in Medina. Rabbi Mukhayriq, a learned leader of the tribe of Tha’labah, fought and died alongside Prophet Muhammad in the battle of Uhud on March 19, 625 CE. That day was a Saturday; the Jewish Sabbath. Rabbi Mukhayriq asked his congregation to join him in support of Prophet Muhammad, but they declined because it was the Sabbath. Mukhayriq announced to his congregation that he was going to fight alongside Muhammad and if he died in the battle his wealth should go to Muhammad to be distributed as charity. And so it happened. But why were the majority of the Jews in the three Jewish tribes living in Medina, who did support Muhammad, were hesitant to fight for him?
It was because they were afraid that after his death, the majority of Muhammad’s ex-polytheist followers would return to polytheism, and turn Muhammad into a son of God, just as the majority of the ex-polytheist, non-Jewish followers of Prophet Jesus had done. The Christians then persecuted Jews for not accepting Jesus as the Son of God for centuries to come. No Jews wanted to see that happen again.
Rabbi Mukhayriq clearly believed that this would happen again, because he hoped that Prophet Muhammad was not only a Prophet, but also God’s Anointed (Messiah); and that he and his followers would enable the Jewish people to return to the land of Israel, just as the Persian King Cyrus the Great (who is called God’s Anointed by Prophet Isaiah 45:1) had done eleven centuries earlier. The fact that the Persian Empire had just a few years previously (614 CE) captured the Land of Israel from the Eastern Roman Empire (where Jews had been oppressed and persecuted for many centuries) may, in the rabbi’s mind, have stimulated his belief that the Messianic Age was coming closer and closer.
Prior to the invasion of Palestine, King Khosrau made an agreement with the Exilarch-official head of Babylonian Jewry, that Jews would provide 20,000 soldiers for the Persian army to participate in the capture of Jerusalem. King Khosrau appointed Nehemiah ben Hushiel, the son of the Exilarch, as symbolic leader of Persian troops. Since Nehemiah was a known mystic, Khosrau was certain he would not interfere in military or political affairs. The united forces took Jerusalem by storm after a 21 day siege (July, 614 CE). This event is referred to in the Qur’an: “The Romans (Byzantines) have been defeated in the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome within three to nine years. To Allah belongs the command before and after.” (30:2-4)
Indeed, perhaps because the Persians feared Nehemiah’s messianic pretensions, or thought support from a larger Christian population was more valuable than the much smaller number of Jews; three years after Nehemiah was appointed, the Persians executed the Jewish governor of Jerusalem with his sixteen top supporters in 617.
Of course, when Rabbi Mukhayriq made the decision to risk his life fighting alongside Muhammad at the battle of Uhud, much of the Qur’an had not yet been revealed.
But since the chapter Al-A’raf had already been revealed in Makka, this unorthodox rabbi may also have been inspired by the Qur’an’s statement. So as you can see the love and true brotherhood between the prophet Muhammad and his Christian and Jewish friends, may we have more tolerance for each other like him and his friends did for each other and spread the message of love and respect in this festive period.
Sorces: the Morrocan times, Muslims for Jesus