After the treaty of Hudaybiah, people all over Arabia could travel and visit the Prophet ( peace be upon him). A great number of people came to Medina to declare their conversion to Islam. The Prophet (PBUH ) sent trusted companions with letters; telling his message to the leaders of the most powerful nations of the day. It is recorded that he said: Allah has sent me as a mercy to all people, so take the message from me so that Allah (SWT) has mercy on you. Here is the story of the message of the Messenger of Allah to Heraclius; the Roman emperor and Abu Sufian’s speech with the emperor.
Why Did the Roman Emperor Summon Abu Sufian?
At that time, an envoy from the governor of Busra arrived with a message for the emperor: ” O emperor Heraclius, there are some Arabs in the city speaking of wonderful happenings in their country.” Then he told of what he had heard about the Prophet (PBUH).
On hearing this, Heraclius commanded his soldiers: go and find someone who can tell me more about this. The soldiers, however, did not find those who had been talking about the Prophet (PBUH), but instead found Abu Sufian ibn Harb and some of his companions and brought them before the emperor.
In Sahih al-Bukhari, The Book of Revelation, chapter 7:
Abdullah ibn Abbas narrated that Sufian ibn Harb was called to meet the Roman emperor. He said:
Abu Sufian informed me that Heraclius had sent a messenger to him while he was accompanying a caravan from Quraish. They were merchants doing business in As -Sham ( What’s known now as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan), at the time when Allah’s Messenger ( PBUH) had a truce with Aby Sufian and Quraish infidels. So Abu Sufian and his companions went to Heraclius at ‘llia ( Jerusalem or Quds now).
Questions of the Emperor about Messenger Muhammad
Heraclius called them in the court and he had all the senior dignitaries around him. He called for the translator who, translating Heraclius’ question, said to them:
Heraclius: Who among you is closely related to the man who claims to be a prophet?
Abu Sufian: I am the nearest relative to him ( among the group).
Heraclius: Bring him ( Aby Sufian) close to me and make his companions stand near behind him.
Abu Sufian added:
Heraclius told his translator to tell my companions that he wanted to put some questions to me regarding the man ( the Prophet) and if I told a lie, they ( my companions) should contradict me.
Then Abu Sufian added:
By Allah! Had I not been ashamed of labeling me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about the Prophet (PBUH).
The first question Heraclius asked me about him was:
Heraclius: What’s his family status among you?
Abu Sufian: He belongs to a good noble family among us.
Heraclius: Has anybody else among you ever claimed the same? (be a prophet)
Abu Sufian: No. Heraclius: Was anybody among his ancestors a king?
Abu Sufian: No. Heraclius: Do the nobles or the poor follow him?
Abu Sufian: It’s the poor who follow him.
Heraclius: Are his followers increasing or decreasing?
Abu Sufian: They are increasing ( day by day).
Heraclius: Does anybody who among those, who embrace his religion, become displeased and
renounce the religion afterwards?
Abu Sufian: No
Heraclius: Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim to be a prophet?
Abu Sufian: No.
Heraclius: Does he ever betray or prove treacherous to his covenants?
Abu Sufian: No. We are at truce with him, but we do not know what he will do in it.
Abu Sufian added :
I could not find an opportunity to say anything against him except that word.
Heraclius: Have you ever had a war with him?
Abu Sufian: Yes. Heraclius: What was the outcome of the battles?
Abu Sufian: Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we.
What Did Messenger Muhammad Call for?
Heraclius: What does he order you to do?
Abu Sufian: He tells us to worship Allah Alone, and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said and done. He orders us to pray, to tell the truth, to be chaste, and to keep good relations with our kith and kin.
The Roman Emperor’s Reflections on Abu Sufian’s Replies
Heraclius asked the translator to convey to me the following:
* I asked you about his family and you replied that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact, all the Messengers came from noble families among their respective peoples.
*l asked you if anybody else among 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.
* I asked you whether any of his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative. If it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom.
* I asked you whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he said what he said. Your reply was in the negative .So I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others, could tell a lie about Allah.
* I asked you whether the rich or the poor followed him. You replied that it was the poor, who were always the followers of the Messengers.
*I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing. In fact, this is the way of true faith, till it is complete.
* 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. In fact, this is the ( the sign of) true faith, when its delight enters the hearts and mixes with them completely.
* I asked you whether he had betrayed. You replied in the negative
and likewise, the Messengers never betray.
* 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 he forbade you to worship idols and ordered you to pray, to tell the truth, and to be chaste.
The Roman Emperor’s Prophecy according to the Scriptures
If what you had said is true, he will very soon occupy this place ( which is underneath my feet now).
I know it from the Scriptures that he was going to appear, but I did not know that he would be from you. If I am sure (1) to reach him, I would certainly wash his feet.
Heraclius then asked for the letter addressed by Allah’s Messenger; Mohammad (PBUH) which was delivered by Dihya to the governor of Busra, who forwarded it to Heraclius to read.
The Message of Allah’s Messenger to Roman Emperor
The contents of the letter were as follows:
“In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad the servant of Allah and His Apostle to Heraclius the ruler of Byzantine. Peace be upon him, who follows the right path. Furthermore, 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 of Arisiyin (tillers, farmers i.e. your people). And (Allah’s Statement:)
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.”1 But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].” [Qur’an, 3: 64] (2)
Abu Sufian then added:
When Heraclius finished his speech and 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 Kapsha (3) ( Prophet Mohammad ‘PBUH’) has become so prominent that even the King of Bani Al-Asfar (Byzantine) is afraid of him. Then I started to become sure that he (the Prophet) would be the conqueror in the near future till I embraced Islam (i.e. Allah guided me to it).
How Did the Roman Emperor Check Truth of Prophethood?
Ibn An-Natur narrates that once while Heraclius was visiting ‘Llya ( Jerusalem), and Heraclius was the head of the Christians of Sham, he got up in the morning in 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 priests told him that they are the Jews. So he should not be afraid of them. They said,” 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 Messenger ( PBUH) to Heraclius was brought in.
Having heard the news, he (Heraclius) ordered the people 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 sovereignty of this nation ( the 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 to his letter from his friend who agreed with him in his opinion about the emergence of the Prophet ( PBUH), and the fact that he is indeed a prophet. Then 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:
O Byzantines! If success is your desire and if you seek the right guidance and want your empire to remain, then give the Bai’a (pledge) to this Prophet ( PBUH), that is, embrace Islam.
Why Did the Roman Emperor Reject the Truth after Knowing It?
After hearing the views of Heraclius, the people ran towards the gates of the palace like onagers but found the doors closed. Heraclius realized that their hatred towards Islam. When he lost 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.
This was the end of Heraclius’ story. (4)
To conclude, this was the story of Heraclius, the Roman emperor with the truth. It is clear that he was too close to accept Islam. However, his fear of the reaction of the people around him made him reluctant. What is your opinion on this action? Do you agree that the person may deny the truth and escape from his salvation in the hereafter under pressure? Or the firm belief in the true religion must be stronger as the survival and tranquility deserve? Be a Muslim now! Start a chat with our team if you have any questions.
Footnotes & References:
(1) This means that (Heraclius) was afraid of his people to meet him (PBUH)
(3) Abi Kabsha was not the father of the Prophet (PBUH), but it was a mockery done by Abu Sufian out of hostility against the Prophet (PBUH)