Reem Shraiky, UK
Did you know that Islam spread in Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) in Africa seven years before it spread in Medina? And did you know that the Christian King of Abyssinia, Negus, whose land the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, advised his companions to seek refuge in, embraced Islam and became a loyal follower of the Holy Prophetsa?
After persecution intensified in Mecca, Muslims sought protection in his land because he was a just king who did not oppress anyone. When the message of Islam was conveyed to him, he said:
“I bear witness that he is the Messenger of Allah, about whom Jesus, son of Mary, gave glad tidings. If I were not in the land which I am, I would come to him and carry his shoes.”
Not only that, but Negusra was the representative of the Messengersa of Allah when he married his cousin, Hazrat Umm-e-Habibara. Hazrat Umm-e-Habibara, whose name was Ramla bint Abi Sufyan, became widowed in Abyssinia and was left alone with her daughter in the country of exile.
On the other hand, her father, Abu Sufyan, the leader of Mecca, was one of the fiercest enemies of Islam. Thus, the thought of going back there was a dangerous one whereby her fate would have been unknown. It was a dead end for her and she had no refuge except with Allah the Almighty.
Indeed, Allah comforted her in the most beautiful way as in a dream, she saw someone calling her, “O Mother of the Believers.” She woke up frightened and interpreted it that the Messengersa of Allah would marry her.
What happened after is that when Umm-e-Habiba’sra iddah (the waiting period after the demise of one’s husband) finished, the Holy Prophetsa sent a message to Negusra, King of Abyssinia, asking him to ask on his behalf for the hand of Umm-e-Habibara.
Negusra sent to Umm-e-Habibara his maid, Abraha, to tell her that Allah’s Messengersa requested her hand and if she accepted, then she should appoint someone to give her in marriage.
When Umm-e-Habibara heard this happy news, she gave Abraha some jewellery as a gift and told her to inform the king that she would appoint Khalidra bin Saeed bin al-Aas as her representative.
The marriage took place, with Negusra as the representative of the the Holy Prophetsa and Khalidra bin Saeed bin al-Aas the representative of Umm-e-Habibara.
On behalf of the Holy Prophetsa, Negusra gave Umm-e-Habibara a dowry of 400 dirhams. When Umm-e-Habibara received the money through the maid Abraha, she gave her 50 golden coins and said:
“Last time, I gave you something simply because I had nothing, but now Allah has given me this so please take this money and benefit from it.”
Here, this loyal Abyssinian Muslim girl, Abraha, was deeply touched and uttered the following words:
“The king has commanded me not to take anything from you and to give back what I took before, but please listen: I believe that Muhammadsa is the Messenger of Allah and I follow him. Therefore, I have only one favour to request from you: convey my greetings to him and tell him that I accept his religion.”
Hazrat Umm-e-Habibara promised her to do so, yet Abraha remained anxious lest Umm-e-Habibara forgot, so she kept reminding her of her request till her last day in Abyssinia.
In the marriage ceremony of the Holy Prophetsa and Umm-e-Habibara, Negusra delivered the marriage sermon and said:
“God be praised – the King, the Holy, the Source of Peace, the Guardian of faith, the Protector, the Mighty, the Compeller.
“I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His servant and messenger. He is the one whose coming was prophesied by Jesus, son of Mary.
“The Messenger of Allah wrote to me asking that I give Umm-e-Habiba, daughter of Abu Sufyan, in marriage to him; I hereby comply with the Prophet’s wish and give 400 dirhams for her dowry.”
Subsequently he gave the money to her representative Hazrat Khalidra bin Saeed, who then said:
“God be praised! I praise Him and ask His help and assistance and testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His servant and messenger. He is the one Who has sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth that He may make it prevail over [every other] religion, even though the idolaters may dislike [it]. I comply with the Prophet’s wish and give him Umm-e-Habiba in marriage. May Allah bless His messenger!”
After the marriage announcement, people stood up to leave, but Negusra said, “Sit down, for it is the custom of prophets to serve food upon marriage.”
Then he ordered for food to be served. The king provided for Umm-e-Habibara out of his own wealth, sending her with Abraha a big quantity of clothes, saffron, ambergris and perfume. Abraha prepared Umm-e-Habibara for the journey and reminded her again, “Do not forget the favour I asked of you.”
When Umm-e-Habibara arrived and met the Holy Prophetsa, she told him about the marriage ceremony and about Abraha. She greeted him on her behalf and upon this, the Holy Prophetsa smiled and replied, “May peace and blessings of Allah be with her too.”
When Negusra passed away, the Holy Prophetsa was informed about it by the angel Gabriel. He told his Companionsra, “Today, a pious man has died. Rise and offer the funeral prayer for your brother Ashama.”
This was the only funeral prayer in absentia that the Holy Prophetsa led.
Hazrat Aishara (may Allah be pleased with her) once said, “When Negus died, we were told that a light would be seen perpetually at his grave.”