7. Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Abu Sufyan bin Harb informed me that Heraclius had sent a messenger to him while he had been accompanying a caravan from Quraish. They were merchants doing business in Sham (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan), at the time when Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, had truce with Abu Sufyan and Quraish non believers. So Abu Sufyan and his companions went to Heraclius at ‘Ilya (Jerusalem) . Heraclius called them in the court and he had all the senior Roman dignitaries around him. He called for his translator who, translating Heraclius’ question said to them, “Who amongst you is closely related to that man who claims to be a Prophet?” Abu Sufyan replied, “I am the nearest relative to him (amongst the group).”
Heraclius said, “Bring him (Abu Sufyan) close to me and make his companions stand behind him.” Abu Sufyan added, “Heraclius told his translator to tell my companions that he wanted to put some questions to me regarding that man (the Prophet) and that if I told a lie they (my companions) should contradict me.” Abu Sufyan added, “By Allah! Had I not been afraid of my companions labelling me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about the Prophet, peace be upon him.
The first question he asked me about him was: ‘What is his family status amongst you?’ I replied, ‘He belongs to a noble family amongst us.’ Heraclius further asked, ‘Has anybody else amongst you ever claimed the same (i.e. to be a Prophet) before his (claim)?’ I replied, ‘No.’ He asked, ‘Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?’ I replied, ‘No.’
Heraclius asked, ‘Do the nobles or the poor follow him?’ I replied, ‘It is the poor who follow him.’ He said, ‘Are his followers increasing or decreasing (day by day)?’ I replied, ‘They are increasing.’ He then asked, ‘Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased and renounce the religion afterwards?’ I replied, ‘No.’ Heraclius said, ‘Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a Prophet)?’ I replied, ‘No.’ Heraclius said, ‘Does he ever betray or prove treacherous to his covenants?’ I replied, ‘No. We are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it.’ I could not find opportunity to say anything against him except that word. Heraclius asked, ‘Have you ever had a fight with him?’ I replied ‘Yes.’ Then he said , ‘What was the outcome of your battles with him?’ I replied, ‘The fighting between us and him was undecided and victory was shared between us and him by turns.’ 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 good relations with our kith and kin.’
Heraclius asked the translator to convey to me the following, ‘I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belongs to a noble family amongst you. In fact all the Messengers 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 rich people followed him or the poor. You replied that it was the poor who followed him. And in fact these (poor always) are the followers of the Messengers. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and in fact this is the way of true faith, till it is complete in all respects. I further asked you whether there was anybody, who, after embracing his religion, became displeased 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 hearts and mixes with them completely. I asked you whether he had ever betrayed. You replied in the negative and likewise the Messengers 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 anything 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 [which is underneath my feet (now)] and I knew it (from the Scriptures) that he was going to appear but I did not know that he would be from you, and if I am sure to reach him, I would go immediately to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet.’
Heraclius then asked for the letter addressed by Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him,.which was delivered by Diya to the governor of Busra, who forwarded it to Heraclius to read. The contents of the letter were as follows:
In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
(This letter is) from Muhammad, the slave of Allah and His Messenger,peace be upon him, to Heraclius the ruler of Byzantines. Peace be upon him who follows the right path. Then after: 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 be committing a sin by misguiding your Arisiyin (peasants). And (I recite to you Allah’s Statement:) ‘0 people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.” (Quran 3:64).
Abü 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. So we were turned out of the court. I told my companions that the question of Ibn Abi Kabsha (Prophet Muhammad) has become so prominent that even the king of Bani Al-Asfar (Byzantines) is afraid of him. Thenceforth I became sure that he (the Prophet) would be the conqueror in the near future till I embraced Islam (i.e. Allah guided me to it) .” (The sub-narrator adds), Ibn An- NatUr was the governor of Ilya’ (Jerusalem),and Heraclius was the head of the Christians of Sham.
Ibn An-NätUr narrates that once while Heraclius was visiting ‘Ilya’ (Jerusalem), he got up in the morning with a sad mood. Some of his priests 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 leader of those who practice circumcision had appeared (become the conqueror), (and asked) who are they who practice circumcision?” The people replied, “Except the Jews nobody practices circumcision, so you should not be afraid of them (Jews). Just issue orders to kill every Jew present in the country.” While they were discussing it, a messenger sent by the king of Ghassãn to convey the news of Allah’s Messenger to Heraclius was brought in.
Having heard the news, he (Heraclius) ordered the people to go and see whether the messenger of Ghassãn 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 sovereignty of this nation (Arabs) had appeared. Heraclius then wrote a letter to his friend in Rome who was as good as Heraclius in knowledge. Heraclius then left for Homs (a town in Syria) and stayed there till he received the reply of his letter from his friend who agreed with him in his opinion about the emergence of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the fact that he is indeed a Prophet. On that, Heraclius invited all the heads of the Byzantines to assemble in his palace at Homs. When they assembled, he ordered that all the doors of his palace be closed. Then he came out and said, “0 Byzantines! If success is your desire and if you seek right guidance and want your empire to remain, then give the Bai’ah (pledge) to this Prophet, peace be upon him, (i.e. embrace Islam).
(On hearing the views of Heraclius) the people ran towards the gates of the palace like onagers but found the doors closed. Heraclius realized their hatred towards Islam and when he lost the hope of their embracing Islam, (he ordered): “Bring them back to me.” (When they returned) he said, “What I already said was just to test the strength of your conviction and I have seen it.” The people prostrated before him and became pleased with him, and this was the end of Heraclius’ story (in connection with his faith).