The rulers of Makkah were cruelly oppressing and persecuting the emerging Muslim minority. It was a very critical moment. Jafar ibn Abi Taleb, the elder brother of Ali ibn Abi Taleb, who after embracing Islam escaped the persecution of Makkans and led a delegation of over 80 Muslim refugees to Habesha, was standing in the court of Christian King Najashi to defend right of conscience and defend their beliefs. He had full faith in Almighty Allah and so he spoke fearlessly.
After the second emigration of Muslims to Habesha (Abyssinia), Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan, the two warlords of pagans of Makkah, sent a delegation to Najashi asking him to expel the Muslims. The delegation brought many precious gifts for the king and his courtiers. They presented their claim in the court saying:
“O king, there is a group of evil persons from among our youth who have escaped to your kingdom. They practice a religion, which neither we, nor you know. They have forsaken our religion and have not embraced your religion. The respected leaders of their people — from among their own parents and uncles and from their own clans — have sent us to you to request you to return them.”
The king looked toward his bishops, who had already been bribed, they said: “O king, they speak the truth. Their own people know them better and are better acquainted with what they have done. Send them back so that they themselves might judge them.”
On hearing the claims against the Muslims that the envoys had presented, the Christian king summoned the Muslims to his court. The Muslims selected Jafar bin Abi Talib to speak on their behalf. With silence in the court, Jafar bin Abi Talib stood up and addressed the king in the following words:
“O King, we were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshipping idols and eating the flesh of dead animals, committing all sorts of abomination and shameful deeds, breaking the ties of kinship, treating guests badly, and the strong among us exploited the weak. We remained in this state until Allah sent us a Prophet, one of our own people, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity were well-known to us.
He called us to worship Allah alone, and to renounce the stones and the idols which we and our ancestors used to worship besides Allah.
He commanded us to speak the truth, to honor our promises, to be kind to our relations, to be helpful to our neighbors, to cease all forbidden acts, to abstain from bloodshed, to avoid obscenities and false witness, and not to appropriate an orphan’s property nor slander chaste women.
He ordered us to worship Allah alone and not to associate anything with him, to uphold Salat, to give Zakaah, and fast in the month of Ramadan.
We believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah, and we follow him in what he has asked us to do and we keep away from what he forbade us from.
Thereupon, O King, our people attacked us, visited the severest punishment on us, to make us renounce our religion and take us back to the old immorality and the worship of idols.
They oppressed us, made life intolerable for us, and obstructed us from observing our religion. So we left for your country, choosing you before anyone else, desiring your protection and hoping to live in Justice and in peace in your midst.”
It is quite obvious from the speech that it has stood the test of time and delivers the message of Islam today just as effectively as it did more than 1400 years ago. The eloquence of the speech leaves no doubt regarding the strength of the faith and clarity of the new Muslims’ understanding of Islam and the message brought by Allah’s messenger.
Najashi was impressed and was eager to hear more. He asked Jafar: “Do you have with you something of what your Prophet brought from God? Please read to me:” Jafar, in his rich, melodious voice recited for him a portion of Surah Maryam from Verses 19 to 32.
The pagan delegation returned to Makkah with their gifts in despair.