A gift from the ruler of Egypt

Adil Salahi | Arab News
Publication Date: 
Fri, 2009-09-11 03:00

Events developed very fast during the 10 years the Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed in Madinah. The city developed from a small town receiving a few hundred immigrants who only wanted to practice their faith and present it to others into the capital of the first Muslim state spreading over the entire area of the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the sixth year the Prophet concluded the Al-Hudaybiyah peace treaty with the Quraysh, the major Arab tribe that opposed Islam and tried every tactic to suppress it. The treaty allowed the Muslim community to move forward in advocating Islam and presenting the divine message to people.

The Prophet understood that his message is addressed to all mankind. Therefore, he had to present it to all people, at both the individual and community levels. The peace treaty gave him a chance to do so. In the following year he sent messages to the rulers, kings and emperors of nearby countries. Among the addresses were the emperors of Persia and Byzantium, the two superpowers of the time. Another of the Prophet’s envoys, Hatib ibn Abi Baltaah, carried a message to Al-Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt. Egypt was a province of the Byzantine Empire, enjoying considerable autonomy. Al-Muqawqis combined both religious and political authority.

The Prophet’s message said: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent. From Muhammad ibn Abdullah to Al-Muqawqis, the chief of the Copts. Peace be to those who follow right guidance. I wish to convey to you the message of Islam. Accept Islam and you will be safe. Accept it and God will double your reward. Should you turn your back on it, you will bear the responsibility for the Copts. People of earlier revelations, let us all come to a fair agreement among ourselves that we shall not worship anyone but God, and that we will never ascribe divinity to anyone else, and that none of us will give others the status of Lord alongside God. If they refuse, say to them: bear witness that we submit ourselves to God.”

Al-Muqawqis put the Prophet’s letter in a box made of ivory and sealed it. He called in someone who could write Arabic from among his people and wrote this reply: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent. To Muhammad ibn Abdullah from Al-Muqawqis. Peace, I have read your letter and understood its contents and what you have called on me to do. I certainly know that one more Prophet is to be sent, but I thought that he would appear in Syria. I have extended my hospitality to your messenger and I am sending you two maids who enjoy great respect among the Copts, and I am presenting you with clothes and a mule for you to ride. Peace be to you.”

Al-Muqawqis did not accept Islam, although he described to Hatib certain features which he knew to be applicable to the remaining Prophet and which Hatib confirmed were true of Muhammad. Al-Muqawqis explained that his people would not accept his advice, should he give it, to follow the Prophet Muhammad and become Muslims. He also told him not to tell anybody about his discussion with him because he found it difficult to relinquish his kingdom. Al-Muqawqis also said that Islam was sure to spread into Egypt. He gave some gold and clothes to Hatib as personal gift.

When Hatib went back to Madinah and told the Prophet of his interview with Al-Muqawqis and the gifts he sent him, the Prophet said the man feared for his authority, which would not last.

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