Ismaili History 309 - Migration to Abyssinia
When the sufferings and tribulations of the Muslims at the hands of the Meccans reached to its extreme in 615 A.D., Muhammad directed that those of them who could afford it should migrate to Abyssinia across the Red Sea, whose kings were known as the Negus (Najashi). As-Hama, the then Negus was a Christian king. Under the direction of Muhammad, eleven men and four women from among the Muslims migrated to Abyssinia. When the Meccans came to know of their migration, they were much upset and sent some men after them in pursuit, but the Muslims had a long start and could not be overtaken. This infuriated the malicious ones among the Meccans. They formed a deputation under Abdullah bin Rabi and Amr bin A'as, who went to Abyssinia with handsome presents to persuade the king to deliver the emigrants into their hands. In due course, this deputation stood in the presence of the king and listened to their representation. Then he sent for the refugees and asked them what they had to say.
Jafar, nick-named Taiyar (the flying), the son of Abu Talib and brother of Ali, acting as spokesman for the Muslims, stood forth and made reply, 'O'king, we belong to a people steeped in ignorance. Our fathers and grandfathers worshipped idols. They ate carrion and other things unclean. They gambled and fornicated and indulged in other sins. They knew no pity, nor compassion nor human sympathy. They oppressed and persecuted the weak and the helpless. They robbed and killed without compunction. For centuries our people lived thus and then God in His mercy sent us the light. From among these cruel and headstrong people, He deputed a man to be His prophet and His messenger. This man was already known to his people as the trusted one and everyone bore testimony to the purity of his conduct, the goodness of his ways and the nobility of his birth. This man spoke to us of One God and appealed to us to worship no one but Him. We listened to his appeal and accepted it. We vowed that we would renounce all false deities and idols and worship the One True God. He taught us to be honest, kind, compassionate and just, and we obeyed his teachings. This so angered our countrymen that they persecuted and tortured us in many fearful ways. These people demanded that we should renounce our new faith and once again revert to idolatry. We refused to give up our new faith and our enemies refused to give up their persecutions. When their brutalities exceeded all limits and our lives were in peril, reluctantly, we bade farewell to our mother land, and decided to emigrate.'
The king was greatly impressed, and returned the gifts brought by the leaders of Mecca, and said, 'I will not hand over to you these innocent men and women who have come to me for shelter.' Nevertheless, the disappointed Meccans hit upon another plan. Next day, they tried to incite the king, by telling him that the heretics did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. But in this too their hopes were frustrated. The Muslims confessed on the basis of Koranic verse that they did not look upon Jesus as God but as a prophet of God. The king picked up a straw and pointing to it said, 'Jesus is in fact not even this much more than the Muslims have described him to be.' Empty-handed and humbled the deputation from Mecca returned home and the leaders of Qoraish gnashed their teeth in anger.
Gradually, the number of emigrants increased in Abyssinia. Only a few days had passed in peace, when a rumour reached them that the Meccans had finally embraced Islam. On hearing this, most of the Muslims decided to return to Mecca. When they reached the city, they came to know that the report was false. The Meccans began to persecute even more severely those persons who had returned from Abyssinia. In spite of this, however, about a hundred Muslims managed to leave Mecca and settled in Abyssinia. The Meccans however did their utmost to check the tide of emigration, but all in vain.
The Abyssinian emigration gave the Meccans a conclusive proof that the Muslims were ready to run all risks, and undergo every form of hardship in the cause of Islam. They would shrink from no danger in the path of God. The Meccans did their utmost to check this tide of emigration, but all in vain. It was not until seven years after Muhammad's flight from Mecca that they rejoined their Muslim brethren at Medina.