Hadith 7

‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas informed that Abu Sufyan bin Harb informed him that Heraclius had sent for him while he was in a camel-caravan (from Quraish). They were merchants doing business in Al-Sham (area comprising preset-day Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan), at the time when Allah’s Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم had a truce with Abu Sufyan and the infidels of Quraish. So they went to Heraclius at Ilya (Jerusalem). Heraclius called them in the court and he had Roman governors around him. Then he called for them and his translator  (translating Heraclius’ questions) said:

  • “Whom amongst you is the most closely related to this man who claims to be a Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ?”

-Abu Sufyan replied, “I am the nearest relative to him (amongst the group).”

Heraclius said, “Bring him (Abu Sufyan) close to me and let his companions come forward and make them stand behind his back.” He then told his translator, “Tell them (Abu Sufyan’s companions) that I will ask him (Abu Sufyan) about this man (the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ) so if he lies to me deny what he says.” Abu Sufyan added, “By Allah! Had I not been afraid of my companions exposing my lies, I would have lied about him. The first question he asked me was:

  • ‘What is his family status amongst you?’

-I replied, ‘He belongs to a good (noble) family amongst us.’

  • Heraclius further asked: ‘Has anybody amongst you ever claimed the same (i.e. to be a Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ) before him?’

-I replied, ‘No.’

  • He said, ‘Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?’

-I replied, ‘No.’

  • Heraclius asked, ‘Do the nobles or the weak (and poor) follow him?’

-I replied, ‘It is the weak who follow him.’

  • He said, ‘Are his followers increasing decreasing?’

-I replied, ‘They are increasing.’

  • He then asked, ‘Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased with the religion and renounce it?’

-I replied, ‘No.’

  • Heraclius said, ‘Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم )?’

-I replied, ‘No. ‘

  • Heraclius said, ‘Does he betray (break his promises)?’

-I replied, ‘No. We are in a truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it.’ I could not find opportunity to insert anything (against the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  صلى الله عليه و سلم) except that.

  • Heraclius asked, ‘Have you ever had a war with him?’

-I replied, ‘Yes.’

  • Then he said, ‘What was the outcome of the battles?’

-I replied, ‘Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we.’

  • Heraclius said, ‘What does he order you to do?’

-I said, ‘He tells us to worship Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to pray, to speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep up the ties with our relatives.’

Heraclius said to his translator:,

  • “Tell him, I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact all the Prophets صلى الله عليه و سلم come from noble families amongst their respective peoples.

  • I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you claimed such a thing, your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s statement.

  • Then I asked you whether anyone of his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom.

  • I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he said what he said, and your reply was in the negative. So I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah.

  • I then asked you whether the noble people followed him or the weak. You replied that it was the weak who followed him. And in fact all the Prophets have been followed by this very class of people.

  • Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and in fact such is the way of true faith, until it is complete in all respects.

  • I furher asked you whether there was anybody who, after embracing his religion, became displeased with his religion and discarded his religion. Your reply was in the negative, and in fact this is (the sign of) true faith, when its delight enters the heart and mixes with it completely.

  • I asked you whether he had ever betrayed. You replied in the negative and likewise the Apostles never betray.

  • Then I asked you what he ordered you to do. You replied that he ordered you to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship any thing along with Him and forbade you to worship idols and ordered you to pray, to speak the truth and to be chaste.

  • If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy this place underneath my feet and I knew (from the scriptures) that he was going to appear but I did not expect that he would be from you (your people), and if I knew I could reach him, I would go out of my way to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet.’

Heraclius then asked for the letter sent by Allah’s Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم which was delivered by Dihya to the Governor of Busra, who forwarded it to Heraclius. He read the letter, which said:

باسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

(In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful).

From Muhammad, the slave of Allah and His Prophet, to Heraclius the ruler of the Romans. Salaam (Peace) be upon him, who follows guidance (to the right path). I invite you to Islam, and if you become a Muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this (invitation of Islam) you will also cary the sin of (misguiding your) subjects. And (Allah said in the Quran):

Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah.” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].’ (3:64).

Abu Sufyan then added, “When Heraclius had finished his speech and had read the letter, there was a great hue and cry (in the Royal Court) and people raised their voices and we were turned out of the court.

Then I told my companions: “The matter of Ibn Abi Kabsha (the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم) has become so great that even the King of Sons of Yellow (i.e. Romans) is afraid of him”. Then I remained sure that he (the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم) would be the conqueror in the near future until I embraced Islam (i.e. Allah guided me to it).”

(The sub narrator Al-Zuhri adds) “And Ibn An-Natuur – the Governor of llya’ (Jerusalem) and a friend of Heraclius- was the head of the Christians of Al-Sham. Ibn An-Natuur said that once while Heraclius was visiting ilya’ (Jerusalem), he got up in the morning with a sad mood. Some of the dignitaries of the Roman state asked him why he was in that mood? Heraclius was a foreteller and an astrologer. He replied, ‘At night when I looked at the stars, I saw that the King of those who practice circumcision has become the conqueror. Who are they who practice circumcision?’ The people replied, ‘Except the Jews nobody practices circumcision and you should not worry about them (the Jews). Just issue orders to kill every Jew present in the country.’ While they were discussing it, a messenger sent by the king of Ghassan to convey the news of Allah’s Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم to Heraclius was brought in. After having questioned this messenger, he (Heraclius) ordered his men to go and see whether the messenger of Ghassan was circumcised. The people, after seeing him, told Heraclius that he was circumcised. Heraclius then asked him about the Arabs. The messenger replied, ‘Arabs also practice circumcision.’ (After hearing that) Heraclius remarked that, “The kingdom of these people has appeared”. Heraclius then wrote a letter to his friend in Rome who was as strong as Heraclius in knowledge. Heraclius then left for Hims (a city in Syria) and stayed there until he received the reply to his letter from his friend who agreed with his opinion about the emergence of the Prophet  صلى الله عليه و سلم and the fact that it was Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم . On that Heraclius invited all the heads of the Romans to assemble in his palace at Hims. When they assembled, he ordered that all the doors of his palace be closed. Then he came out and said, ‘O Romans! If success is your desire and if you seek right guidance and want your empire to remain then give a pledge of allegiance to this Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  (i.e. embrace Islam).’

(Upon hearing the views of Heraclius) the people ran towards the gates of the palace like wild donkeys but found the doors closed. Heraclius realized their hatred towards Islam and when he lost the hope of their embracing Islam, he ordered that they should be brought back in his audience. (When they returned) he said, ‘What I said just now was only to test your steadfastness upon your religion, and I have seen it.’ The people prostrated before him and became pleased with him, and this was the end of Heraclius’s story (in connection with his being called to Islam).

This was narrated by Salih bin Kaisan, Yoonus and Ma’mar from Al-Zuhri.

Ibn Hajar’s explanation:

Heraclius was the name of the Roman King and his title was Ceaser, just as the Persian king was titled Kisra.

His saying: while he was in a camel-caravan

They were 30 men in all, as Al-Hakim narrated in Al-Ikleel. Ibn Al-Sakan narrated about 20. In some narrations, one of the members of the caravan is named to be Al-Mughirah bin Shu’bah. Although some narrations indicated one of the members of the caravan as being Al-Mugheerah bin Shu’bah, this point is debatable due to the fact that Al-Mugheerah was Muslim at that time.  It could mean that Al-Mughera went to Ceaser at that time, and then came to Al-Medina as a Muslim

His saying: at the time when Allah’s Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم had a truce

This is in reference to the truce of Al-Hudaibiya, and it will be discussed when we come to the ‘Book of Military Expeditions’ (Al-Maghazi). This peace treaty occurred in the 6th year after the Hijrah to Medina and the treaty was supposed to be in effect for 10 years, however the infidels broke the treaty so the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم fought them and Mecca was conquered by the Muslims as a result.

His saying: So they went to Heraclius at Ilya (Jerusalem)

In Al-Maghazi by Ibn Ishaq it is narrated that Abu Sufyan said, “We (Quraish) were a trade-faring people, and the wars (with Muslims) had consumed us. So when the truce (of Al-Hudaibya) was in effect, I set out as a merchant to Al-Shaam with a group of other Quraishis. By Allah, I don’t know of any man or woman in Mecca, except that they sent me with their goods (for trade)……So Heraclius said to his police-chief, ‘Turn Al-Shaam upside down, until you bring a man from his (the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ) people, so that I may enquire about him.’ By Allah! I and my group were at Gaza (in Palestine), when the police-chief caught us and took us all (to the royal court).”

His saying: Ilya

It is said that Ilya means “House of Allah” (Bait Al-Maqdis in Jerusalem). In Kitab Al-Jihad of Sahih Al-Bukhari, it is narrated that when Allah removed the (danger of the) Persian army from the Romans, Heraclius walked from Hims (in Syria) to Ilya (Jerusalem) to show his gratitude to Allah. Ibn Ishaq and Ahmed added that a carpet covered with fragrant herbs used to be rolled out for him and Heraclius would walk on it. The reason for his walk to Ilya as was narrated by Al-Tabari and Ibn Abdil-Hakam with different chains (which collectively add strength to the narration) which can be summarized as:

Kisra (title of Persian ruler) attacked and destroyed many of Heraclius’ cities. Then Kisra decided to execute his army leader and make another man, named Farhan, chief of the armies. The army leader got knowledge of this beforehand and made a secret peace with Heraclius and fled away along with the Persian troops. So Heraclius walked from Hims to Ilya to show his gratitude to Allah.

His saying: He had Roman Governors around him

In Kitab Al-Jihad of Sahih Al-Bukhari, it is narrated that, “We entered upon him (Heraclius) while he was sitting in his royal court, wearing a crown”. In the narration of Ibn Al-Sakan, “He had his state-dignitaries, religious scholars and ascetics (saints) near him”. Romans are originally descendants of ‘Ees, the son of Prophet  Ishaq according to the correct opinion.

Abu Sufyan saying, “I am the nearest relative to him (amongst the group).”

In the narration of Ibn Al-Sakan, it is mentioned that other people in the group said, “He (Abu Sufyan) is the most closely related amongst us to him (the Prophet Muhammad). He is the son of his uncle ( his father’s brother).” This is because Abu Sufyan, like the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم , was also from the Banu Abdul-Manaf, the sub clan of Quraish. It is mentioned in Kitab Al-Jihad in Sahih Al-Bukhari that Heraclius asked, “How is he related to you?” Abu Sufyan replied, “He is my paternal uncle’s son”, and added “There was no one in the group that day who was from Banu Abdu-Manaf, except me.”

Abdu-Manaf is the 4th ancestor of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  and also the 4th ancestor of Abu Sufyan. Heraclius chose a close relative who would be more likely to have information about the private and public affairs of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم . Another reason was that a far-off relative may be more likely to speak ill of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ’s lineage, while a close relative would not do so as he would in turn be speaking negatively about his own lineage.

Heraclius saying, “….this man who claims to be a Prophet”

This shows that Heraclius had doubt about the prophet hood.

Heraclius saying: let his companions come forward and make them stand behind his back

This was done so that they would not feel embarrassed to contradict Abu Sufyan if he lied, as is explicit another narration.

Abu Sufyan saying: By Allah! Had I not been afraid of my companions exposing my lies, I would have lied about him.

This is evidence that they (Quraish or Arabs) used to think that telling lies was cowardly, either due to earlier Divine law or as lying being against their customs. He didn’t say “Had I not been afraid that they would contradict me,” since he trusted that they would not contradict his lies because of the enmity they had for the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم . He did not lie out of shame that, if anyone heard about it, they would consider him a liar. This is explicit in the narration of Ibn Ishaq, where he said “By Allah! Had I lied, they would not have contradicted me, but I was a chief (amongst them), consciously avoiding lying out of nobility. I knew that it was very likely that if I lied to him, they would remember it and recall the incident elsewhere, so I didn’t lie to him.”

Ibn Ishaq added in his narration: Abu Sufyan said: “By Allah! I have never seen a more cunning man than that un-circumcised man (i.e. Heraclius, since Romans did not practice circumcision)!”

Heraclius saying: ‘Has anybody amongst you ever claimed the same (i.e. to be a Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ) before him?

Here “amongst you” means ‘from your people i.e. Quraish or Arabs’.

Heraclius saying: ‘Do the nobles or the weak (and poor) follow him?’

In Abu Sufyan’s answer to this question, ‘nobles’ means the people of arrogance and showiness from the Qurashi nobility, not every noble. This is because people like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar bin Khattaab were from the Qurashi nobility. In Ibn Ishaq’s narration, Abu Sufyan replied, “The weak and the poor amongst us follow him. As for the people of high family status and nobility, then none of them follow him”. In this case, ‘nobles’ may mean that the majority of the noble class does not follow him.

Heraclius saying: ‘Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased with the religion and renounce it?’

The question doesn’t include those that reneged from Islam due to force by the disbelievers, or the one who left Islam due to worldly greed, as in the case of ‘Ubaidullah bin Jahsh.

Heraclius saying, ‘Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم )?’

Abu Sufyan saying: I could not find an opportunity to insert anything (against the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم) except this.

Meaning he couldn’t find an opportunity to say anything to dent the Prophet’s character except for his statement (We are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it) This is apart from the fact that they knew from their experience of the past life of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  that he never betrayed.

Abu Sufyan saying: “We are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it”

He said this to weaken the character of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم . He made the statement with regards to the future so none could ascribe a lie to him. Ibn Ishaq narrates that Abu Sufyan said, “By Allah, he (Heraclius) did not pay any attention to this”.

Heraclius saying, ‘What does he order you to do?’

This shows that a Prophet’s صلى الله عليه و سلم status entails him commanding his people.

Abu Sufyan said: “’He tells us to worship Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to pray (perform Salaah), to speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep up the ties with our relatives.”

“Renounce what your ancestors had said” is an all encompassing command to leave everything that they used to do in the pre-Islamic days. Abu Sufyan mentioned this specifically to gain Heraclius’ sympathy, because blindly following the forefathers was the common reason for polytheism between the idol-worshipers of Mecca and the Roman Christians.

In another narration in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the words “He orders us to pray and to speak the truth” are replaced by “to pray and give charity (sadaqah)” and in yet another narration in Sahih Al-Bukhari “to pray and to give obligatory alms (zakaah)”. All three words are combined in another narration in Kitaab Al-Jihad in Sahih Al-Bukhari as: “He orders us to pray, to speak the truth and to give charity (sadaqah)”.

Heraclius saying: I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact all the Prophets come from noble families amongst their respective peoples.

He said this with conviction which shows that this reply was based upon specific knowledge that he had from the previous scriptures.

Heraclius saying, “I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you claimed such a thing, your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s claim. Then I asked you whether anyone of his ancestors was a king…. if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom.”

Since these statements were based upon Heraclius’ personal observations and deductions, he said them with less surety “I would have thought” than his earlier statement “in fact” which was based upon the previous scriptures.

Heraclius saying: I then asked you whether the noble people followed him or the weak. You replied that it was the weak that followed him. And in fact all the Prophets have been followed by this very class of people.

That is, the majority of the followers of the prophets are people who show humility and not the arrogant ones who oppose the truth out of bigotry and jealousy, like Abu Jahl and his party.

Heraclius saying: I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and in fact such is the way of true faith, until it is complete in all respects.

True faith (Eeman) begins as a light which keeps increasing until it becomes complete in all respects like prayers (salaah), charity (zakaah), fasting etc. That is why Allah revealed, near the end of the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  hood, “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, and completed My favor upon you” (5:3) and similarly Allah said “Allah will not allow except that His Light should be perfected” (9:92). So this was the situation of the prophets companions, they continued to increase until they were blessed with the completion of Allah’s favor and victory of Islam.

Heraclius saying: I asked you whether there was anybody, who, after embracing his religion, became displeased with his religion and discarded his religion. Your reply was in the negative, and in fact this is (the sign of) true faith, when its pleasure enters the hearts and mixes with them completely.

In the Book of Faith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Heraclius is reported as saying:

“When its delight enters the heart and mixes with it completely, nobody can be displeased with it.” In Ibn Ishaq’s narration, Heraclius said, “Such is the sweetness of faith. It does not enter a heart and then leave it.”

Heraclius saying: “…the Apostles (of Allah) never betray”

This is because they do not desire worldly gains. A person whose aim is nothing but worldly gains may easily betray others; whereas a person who seeks the reward of the hereafter will not.  This is why Heraclius paid no attention to Abu Sufyan’s saying: “We are at truce with him but we don’t know what he will do in it”, as we explained earlier.

In this narration of the event, Heraclius’s explanation to Abu Sufyan’s responses to his 10th (‘Have you ever had a war with him?’) and 11th question (‘What was the outcome of the battles?’) are not mentioned.

However they are explained in the Book of Jihad in Sahih Al-Bukhari,

As follows “Heraclius said, “I asked you about the outcome of your battles with him and you told me that you fought each other with alternate success. So the Apostles are tested in this way but the ultimate victory is always theirs.” I (Ibn Hajar, the author) will give my explanation of this part in the Book of Jihad of Sahih Al-Bukhari.

These questions that Heraclius asked are not enough to prove the prophet  hood. However as Heraclius himself said later, “I knew that he was going to appear but I did not expect that he would be from you(the arabs)”, indicating that he already had proof of the emergence of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم

Heraclius saying: “(The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ) forbids you from worshiping idols”

However, Abu Sufyan had only said “He tells us to worship Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said.”  Heraclius was able to deduce from this that their ancestors had asked them to worship idols.

Heraclius saying: “If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy this place underneath my feet”

He was either referring to Bait Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), which was the source of his kingdom’s stability and a holy site for them as Christians, or he intended the entire area of Sham (comprising of preset-day Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan), because Hims (Syria) was his capital.

Heraclius saying: “if I knew I could reach him, I would go out of my way to meet him”

This indicates that Heraclius feared being killed had he emigrated to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم , as happened in the case of Dhughatir (which will be mentioned in detail later) who openly embraced Islam and was therefore killed by the Romans. Heraclius should have understood the saying of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم , “If you submit (accept Islam) you will be secure” to mean safety in this world from all that he feared and safety in the hereafter, however guidance is in the hands of Allah.

Heraclius saying: “If I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet”

This shows extreme humility and servitude. Abdullah Bin Shaddad in his narration from Abu Sufyan added that Heraclius said “If I knew that it was really him (the awaited prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ), I would walk until I reach him so that I can kiss his feet.”  This narration indicates that he still had some doubt. This was also indicated in Abu Sufyan’s statement “And indeed I saw his (Heraclius’s) forehead dripping with perspiration from the magnitude of the letter (being read to him).” He didn’t mention anything other than his desire to wash the Prophet’s feet, meaning that he would not have sought authority or rank other than the blessings from the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم .

What gives strength to the notion that Heraclius preferred his kingdom over embracing Islam and continued in his state of misguidance are the following evidences:

1. Within two years of this event he fought the Muslims in the Battle of Mu’tah, during the 8th year after the Hijrah. Ibn Ishaq narrated in ‘Al-Maghazi’ that when the Muslims reached Ma’an (in Jordan) they learned that Heraclius was there to contest them with one hundred thousand polytheist soldiers.

2. In ‘Sahih Ibn Hibban’ it is narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  wrote a second letter to Heraclius inviting him to Islam.  Heraclius did not reply although he came close to entering Islam.

3. It is possible to assume that Heraclius entered Islam and concealed his faith while committing this wrongdoing (fighting the Muslims) to save his rule and his life. Yet this assumption is weak due to the fact that Imam Ahmed in his musnad that Heraclius wrote to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم , “I am a Muslim” and the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  said, “He has lied, he is still upon his Christianity.”  Ibn Abd Al-Barr said that Heraclius embraced Islam but did not remain a Muslim nor did he act upon what Islam requires of its adherants.   He remained greedy for his kingdom and preferred the temporary worldly life over the eternal hereafter.

Abu Sufyan saying: Heraclius then asked for the letter sent by Allah’s Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم

The letter was delivered by Dihya to the Governor of Busra (Al-Harith Al-Ghassani), who then forwarded it to Heraclius (Dihya who embraced Islam early was known to have a very handsome face and died during the caliphate of Mu’aawiyyah). The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  sent him with the letter to Heraclius towards the end of the 6th year after the Hijrah.  Dihya reached Heraclius in the month of Al-Muharram in the beginning of the year 7 H.  Busra was a city between Al-Medina and Damascus (not the present day Basra in Iraq).  Al-Harith bin Shamir Al-Ghassani, the governor of Busra, forwarded the letter to Heraclius.  It is recorded in the Musnad of Al-Bazzar that Dihya handed the letter to Heraclius himself.

The letter said: “In the name of Allah, the entirely merciful, the especially merciful From Muhammad….”

The majority of scholars say that it is the sunnah to start a letter with one’s own name as the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  did here, An-Nahhas considered it (إجماع) consensus of the companions (of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم ), although there is difference of opinion about whether that is true. It is also narrated that when Heraclius was presented with the letter, his nephew was also present. This nephew mocked the letter when he heard it and said, “Don’t read it, because he started the letter with his own name,” but Heraclius emphatically rejected this suggestion.

The letter said: “To Heraclius, the ruler of the Romans”

The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  avoided addressing him as “King,” because Islamic law essentially deposes him from his rule. However, he did not deprive him of all respect, in order to soften his heart to Islam. In some narrations, it is mentioned that Heraclius’ nephew objected to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  not addressing Heraclius as “The King of the Romans.”

The letter said: “Peace be upon him, who follows the guidance (to the right path)”.

This is similar to the words of Allah regarding Musa and Haroon amid (what took place with) Fur’awn (Pharaoh) in the Quraan: “…indeed, we have come with a sign from your Lord! And peace will be upon him who follows the guidance! (Ta-Ha 20:47)”.

If it is asked, how can a disbeliever be greeted with the Islamic greeting of salaam, the answer is that the correct meaning of Peace here is salvation from the punishment of Allah upon whomsoever submits (to correct guidance).” That is why the verse above is immediately followed by: “’Truly, it has been revealed to us that the torment will be for him who denies [believes not in Islam], and turns away (from the truth and obedience of Allah)” (Ta-Ha 20:48)”

The meaning is clarified in a later part of the letter, “if you reject this (invitation of Islam) you will also carry the sin (of misguiding your) subjects.”

And since Heraclius did not “follow the guidance (to the right path),” he has no peace from the torment of Allah.

The letter said: “I invite you to Islam. Embrace Islam and you will be safe; Allah will double your reward, I invite you to testify that there is no deity worthy of being worshipped except Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم 

In the narration recorded by Muslim, “I invite you with the call to Islam.”  Meaning with the word that identifies with Islam, which is bearing witness that there is no deity worthy of worship other than Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

In the Book of Jihad in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the author has narrated that the letter said: “Embrace Islam, embrace Islam; your reward will be doubled.” The command to embrace Islam was repeated possibly for emphasis, or the first was a command to enter Islam and the second to remain steadfast, as Allah said in the Quraan, “O you who believe! Believe in Allah, and His Messenger….” (Al-Nisaa 4:136).

The letter said: “Allah will double your reward”

This is in accordance with what Allah said in the Quraan “Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it, – they believe in it (the Quraan). And when it is recited to them, they say: “We believe in it. Verily, it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed even before it we have been from those who submit themselves to Allâh in Islâm as Muslims. These will be given their reward twice over, because they are patient, and repel evil with good, and spend (in charity) out of what we have provided them.” (Al-Qisas 28:52-54).

He would receive a double reward either due to the fact that he already believed in his own Prophet (Jesus ‘alaihi salam) and would go on to believe in the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  Muhammad, or he would receive a double reward for becoming a Muslim and leading his subjects to Islam.  The 2nd possibility will be expounded upon in the hadith of Al-Sha’bi in the Book of Knowledge in Sahih Al-Bukhari.

Our Sheikh Ul-Islam (Al-Baqillani ) derived from this hadith the ruling that whoever believes in the religion of the People of the Scripture (i.e. Judaism or Christianity) is to be considered as one of them in the legal rulings of marriage and eating their slaughtered animals even if they entered the religion after it was corrupted.  The proof is that Heraclius and his people (the Romans) were not from Banu Israel, rather they had accepted Christianity after it had been corrupted and distorted (to the extent that it bore little resemblance to the original monotheistic message of Jesus).  Despite this, the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم addressed them as people of the scripture, signifying that they should be considered as such.  This negates the notion that ‘People of the Scripture’ is a term specific to the Children of Israel or those whose ancestors embraced Christianity before its distortion.

The letter said: “…and if you reject this (invitation of Islam) you will carry the sin of (misguiding your) subjects”

In the original Arabic the word used is ‘upon you would be the sin of the peasants, but as the scholars pointed out, ‘peasants’ here is an expression used to mean ‘subjects of the kingdom’ or ‘the weak, who follow those higher in status and power’. This means that ‘you will carry along with your sin, the sin of the subjects’. This does not contradict the words of Allah,

{وَلا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى}

“and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another”

Because the burden of one person will not be carried by another person, however the one who not only does evil but causes others to follow him in that evil carries two parts of the burden.  One for the sinful act itself and the other for causing others to sin as well.

The letter said: “And (Allah said in the Quraan): {يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ} ‘O people of the scripture! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to Allah).’ (3:64).

The ‘And’ here, before the verse of the Quraan, could imply that it is a continuation of the previous contents of the letter, as if the author of the letter wished to say: ‘I invite you to Islam, and I say to you and your followers in accordance with the saying of Allah ‘O people of the scripture! Come to a word….. (3:64).’ It is also possible that this ‘and’ is not from the letter at all. It may well be an addition from Abu Sufyan, not specifically remembering the contents of the letter.  He may have only remembered the first part of the letter and the verse that was that was mentioned, as if he was saying, ‘the letter started with Bismillah… from Muhammad… and it contained, “Oh people of the Scripture…”  In this case the ‘and’ would be the addition of Abu Sufyan.

It was also said that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  wrote the letter before the verse was revealed, then the verse was revealed matching the wording of the letter the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم.  The reason behind this is that the verse was revealed regarding the incident of the delegation of the Christians of Najraan, which occurred during the ‘year of the Delegations’ (9 H), while the incident of Heraclius occurred in the year 6H. This will be clarified in the explanation of the Book of Military Expiditions.  Some scholars even went as far as to say that this verse was revealed twice, but this is far-fetched.

The letter has also been used as proof for sending part of the Quran to the land of the enemy and as proof for travelling with the Quran. It was also used by some as proof for reading the Quran while in a state of janabah (major impurity), this may be acceptable for a person who doesn’t actually intend recitation of the Quran but quotes a verse or more for the sake of propagation or warning as in this narration.  However, this example could not be considered as basis for the general permissibility of reciting the Quran while in a state of major impurity.

Abu Sufyan saying, “So I remained certain”

In another narration recorded by At-Tabarani, “So I remained afraid of Muhammad until I entered Islam.”

Abu Sufyan saying, “Until Allah caused me to enter Islam”

Meaning I remained certain that Islam was the truth until I expressed my belief.

His (The sub narrator) saying, “When He (Heracles) approached Ilya’ (Jerusalem)

He approached Jerusalem when his army defeated the Byzantine army and expelled them, which happened during the same year that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  Muhammad performed the Umrah known as the Umrah of Hudaibiyah.  The Muslims received word that the Romans had defeated the Byzantines and they rejoiced, At-Tirmithi and others recorded this occurrence with the tafseer of Allah’s words,

{وَيَوْمَئِذٍ يَفْرَحُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ- بِنَصْرِ اللَّهِ}

And that day the believers will rejoice – In the victory of Allah.

And it is also explained in the author’s (Al-Bukhari) first hadith about Jihad.

His saying, “he got up in the morning with an evil-minded mood”

Meaning a spiteful mood, anxious and worried as was made clear in Ibn Ishaaq’s narration, “You have awoken worried (anxious).”

His saying, “Heraclius was a foreteller and an astrologer.”

When Allah revealed Islam the foretellers and astrologers were disparaged as the Shariah renounced reliance upon foretelling and astrology.

His saying, “He replied, ‘at night when I looked at the stars, I saw that the leader of those who practice circumcision had appeared (become the conqueror).”

He said this according to astrological calculations,  alleging that the birth of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم occurred with a marriage of celestial bodies in a ‘scorpion tower’ His mention of ‘those who practice circumcision’ was indication of the transfer of rule to the Arabs. The only other group of people that were known to practice circumcision was the Jews, however they did not gain any power or authority rather it was taken away from them.

So why would Imam Bukhari relay this information that would seem to strengthen or support the position of the astrologers and foretellers?  In reality he didn’t intend in any way to support what they were upon, rather he wanted to show that different types of people were signaling at a coming prophet hood, regardless of whether they were priests or astrologers, human or jinn.

His saying, “Heraclius then left for Hims (a city in Syria)”

During that time Hims was greater than Damascus, it was opened up to Islam ten years later by Abu ‘Ubayda Ibn Jarrah.

His saying, “And he (Heraclius) stayed there till he received the reply to his letter from his friend who agreed with him in his opinion about the emergence of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم.”

Heraclius and his friend agreed to the truthfulness of the Prophet hood of Muhammad, however Heraclius did not remain upon his faith while his friend did.

His saying, “On that Heraclius invited all the heads of the Romans to assemble in his palace at Hims. When they assembled, he ordered that all the doors of his palace be closed. Then he came out and said, ‘O Romans! If success is your desire and if you seek right guidance and want your empire to remain then give a pledge of allegiance to this Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  (i.e. embrace Islam). Upon hearing the views of Heraclius) the people ran towards the gates of the palace like wild donkeys but found the doors closed. Heraclius realized their hatred towards Islam and when he lost the hope of their embracing Islam, he ordered that they should be brought back in his audience. (When they returned) he said, ‘What I said just now was only to test your steadfastness upon your religion, and I have seen it.’

Heraclius could not tolerate losing his kingdom. He hoped that his people would follow him by accepting Islam, allowing him to accept the faith and retain his kingdom.  When this condition wasn’t meet he refused to accept the faith, otherwise he could have just left his people and his position seeking what was with Allah.

His saying, “The people prostrated before him and became pleased with him, and this was the end of Heraclius’s story (in connection with his being called to Islam).”

His statement, “This was the end of his story”, either means that Heraclius died shortly after this event or that he no longer called to faith after this event.  The 2nd possibility is accurate because Heraclius was known to have prepared armies that engaged the Muslims later in Mu’ta and Tabook.  The Prophet Muhammad  صلى الله عليه و سلمalso wrote him again after this letter, and Heraclius sent gold back which the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  divided amongst his companions, as was reported by Ibn Hibban.

Imam Bukhari began the chapter with the hadith of ‘actions by intentions’ and ended it with this narration, as if to say had Heraclius’ intention been correct it would have guided him and if it wasn’t correct then he failed and lost.  Another reason this narration was brought in the first chapter titled, ‘Beginning of Revelation’ is because it lends insight into the way the people first reacted to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم .

It was also narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  Muhammad sent letters to Kasra and Qaisar.  Kasra tore the letter apart, while Qaisar read it, folded it, and honored it.  So the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  Muhammad said, “As for those (who tore the letter apart) they will be torn apart, and as for those (who read and raised the letter) they will continue on.  In another narration, when the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم  heard Kasra’s reaction, he said, “May Allah tear apart his kingdom,” and when he heard Qaisar’s reaction he said, “May Allah preserve his kingdom.”



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