The unbelievers of Makkah had made life very difficult for the Muslims. The Holy Prophet (S) was worried and concerned about the condition of the Muslims, so he advised a group of his followers to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), which was ruled by a kind Christian king whose name was Negus.
This was the first Hijrat in Islam and 10 people took part in it. It happened in the fifth year of Prophethood. A second, larger group of Muslims also migrated soon afterwards, under the leadership of Ja'far bin Abu Talib, the brother of Imam Ali (A). The Muslims were welcomed with much kindness in Abyssinia and found the life there very pleasant and comfortable.
When the chiefs of Makkah found out that the Muslims had migrated and were living peacefully in Abyssinia, they became worried that the Muslims might turn Negus, the king of Abyssinia, towards Islam. They decided to send some gifts to the king and his ministers, and try to convince him to send the Muslims back to Makkah. They sent two men after the Muslims.
When the two men reached Abyssinia, they first met the ministers and gave them expensive gifts. They convinced the greedy ministers to support their mission by backing them in the court of the king. On the following day, they met Negus, and after presenting him with gifts, they said: "A group of our young men have gone against the beliefs of our forefathers and have invented a new religion. These people have now run to your country. I request you to hand them over to us so that we can take them back to Arabia."
As soon as this speech was over, the ministers loudly declared their support for this request. However, Negus took no notice of them and asked whether the Muslim refugees had killed anyone, or stolen anybody's property or had committed any crimes in Makkah. They replied that their only crime was inventing a new religion.
The king then announced, "I cannot hand over the people who are living under my protection without a proper investigation."
He sent a message to the Muslims that their leader should come to the court. Ja'far bin Abu Talib came to present the case for the Muslims.
The king turned to Ja'far and asked, "Why have you given up the beliefs of your forefathers and started a new religion?"
Ja'far replied, "We used to be ignorant people who worshipped idols. We ate dead bodies and committed bad deeds. We had no respect for our neighbours and fought amongst ourselves. The weak and helpless were bullied by the strong. We spent a long time in this manner, until a person from amongst us, who had a faultless character, invited us to worship One God.
He taught us to respect other people's property, to behave well with our relatives, to respect our neighbours and women and to avoid lying. He ordered us to offer prayers, to fast and to pay religious tax on our wealth. We have believed in him and worship Allah. However, the Quraish have behaved very cruelly towards us. We resisted them for some time, but now we have come to live here to save our beliefs. The fame of your kindness has brought us to your country and we have perfect faith in your justice."
The king was very impressed with the sincere speech of Ja'far, and he asked him to recite something from the Heavenly Book of the Muslims. Ja'far recited and explained some verses from Surah Maryam of the Holy Qur'an.
When the king and bishops heard the words of Allah about the virtues of Bibi Maryam (A) and Prophet Isa (A), tears came to their eyes as they recognised the truth. King Negus declared that he would never surrender the Muslims to the Quraish and asked them to leave his court.
One of the Makkans, who was a very cunning man, decided to try another approach. He knew that the Christians believed that Prophet Isa (A) was the son of God.
The next day he went to the king and said that the Muslims had special beliefs about Prophet Isa (A) that were totally different to the basic belief of the Christians, and so they were a danger to the official religion of Abyssinia.
King Negus again called Ja'far and asked him what the Muslims thought about Isa (A). Ja'far replied, "Our belief regarding Isa (A) is that which has been taught to us by the Holy Prophet (S). He was the servant and Prophet of Allah, and the Spirit of Allah with which He blessed Bibi Maryam (A)."
The king was pleased with this answer, and he praised the beliefs of the Muslims and allowed them full freedom to practise their religion in his country.
He returned the presents of the Quraish back to them and said, "God has not taken any bribe from me while giving me authority over the people. It is not right that I should gather wealth by means of your bribes." The two men had no choice but to return to Makkah, having totally failed in their attempt to bring back the Muslims.
The Muslims continued to live in Abyssinia peacefully for a long time and only returned after the Holy Prophet (S) had migrated to Madinah.
(Courtesy of:- Shia Ithna asheri Madressa)