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Abu Sufyan’s meeting with Hiraql

Question

There is a famous Hadith where Abu Sufyan was essentially giving da’wah from a king after asking him a series of questions regarding Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Can you cite this Hadith, and comment whether it is sahih?

 

Answer

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiyallahu ‘anhuma) narrates that Abu Sufyan ibn Harb (radiyallahu ‘anhu) informed him:

Hiraql [the then ruler of Rome] sent for me and a group of the Quraysh who were doing business in Sham. This was during the peace treaty that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had facilitated between the Muslims and Abu Sufyan together with the disbelieving Quraysh.

[Note: Abu Sufyan was still a non believer at this time.]

They met him in Jerusalem, and were invited into his royal court, where the leaders of Rome surrounded him. He beckoned them closer and called for his translator, then asked: “Which of you has the closest blood relationship with this man who claims to be a Nabi?”

Abu Sufyan answered: “Out of all of them [my companions], I am his closest relative.”

Hiraql instructed him to come closer and gathered his companions around him, then said to his interpreter: “Tell them that I am going to ask [Abu Sufyan] about this man [Rasulullah -sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam-], if he lies to me then inform me of his lie.”

Abu Sufyan says: “If it wasn’t for the shame of being called out on my lie, I would have lied.”

The first question that Hiraql asked about Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was: “What is his [social] standing amongst your people?”

I replied: “He is of great [social] standing.”

Hiraql then asked: “Has anyone in the past said the kinds of things that he is saying?”

I replied in the negative.

“Were any of his forefathers kings?”

“No.”

“Who are his followers? Are they people of stature or are they the underprivileged?”

“They are definitely the underprivileged.”

“Are their numbers increasing or decreasing?”

“Their numbers are increasing.”

“Has any one of them [these new Muslims] left the fold [of Islam] because they disliked their religion?”

“No.”

“Did any of you [the Quraysh] ever suspect him [Rasulullah -sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam-] of lying before he started propagating his message [of Islam]?”

“No.”

“Has he ever acted treacherously?”

“No, we are currently in a treaty, and we are unsure what his next move will be.”

Abu Sufyan admits, at this point, that he couldn’t bring himself to say anything further on the subject.

“Have you [the Quraysh] fought him?”

“Yes.”

“And how does that usually go?”

“It depends, sometimes they get us and sometimes we get them.”

“What message does he spread?”

“He tells us to worship Allah Ta’ala alone and not to ascribe any partners to him, and to disregard what our forefathers did [in terms of polytheism]. He encourages Salah, truthfulness, decency and the joining of family ties.”

Hiraql then beckons to his interpreter and instructs him to pass on the wisdom behind his line of questioning: “I asked about his social standing, and you’ve mentioned that he is of good standing amongst your people. This is in accordance to the previous Messengers as they have all been from families of good standing from amongst their people.

“I asked about whether anyone before him had made the same claims [of prophethood] that he makes, and you said no. Had you said yes, I would have surmised that he [Rasulullah -sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam-] is just latching onto something that had happened in the past.

“I then asked whether anyone of his forefathers were kings, and you said no. Had you said yes, I would have surmised that he is just trying to re-establish the rule of his forefathers.

“I asked whether or not your people ever suspected him of lying before this, and you said no. I realise that he would not avoid lying about people, only to lie about Allah Ta’ala.

“I asked whether his followers were noble or underprivileged, and you said that the underprivileged follow him.

They are the followers of the Messengers.

“I asked whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing, and you said that they are increasing.

That is how Iman will take over.

“I asked if any of these new believers left [their Din] out of dislike for the religion, and you said no.

That is what happens when the joy of Iman mixes the hearts.

“I asked if he [Rasulullah -sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam-] ever acted treacherously, and you said no.

Messengers do not act treacherously.

“I asked about his teachings, and you mentioned that he instructs people to worship Allah alone, and not to ascribe any partners to Him. He prohibits idol worship, and encourages Salah, truthfulness and decency.

“If all that you said is true, he [Rasulullah -sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam-] will soon take over [the land on which] my feet now stand [Jerusalem]. I knew that he would come, but I did not that he would be from your people. If I had known, I would have tried to meet him. If I was with him, I would have washed his feet.”

Hiraql then called for the letter of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), which was delivered to him by Dihya (radiyallahu ‘anhu) via the Governor of Busra, and read it:

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,

From Muhammad, the servant and Messenger of Allah, to Hiraql, the ruler of Rome.

Peace be unto he who follows the right path. I invite you to Islam, if you accept, you will attain salvation and Allah Ta’ala will reward you twofold. If you refuse, then upon you will be the sin of the peasants [that follow you].”

“Say: ‘O People of the Book, come to a word that is agreeable 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.” [Surah Aal ‘Imran, verse: 64]

Abu Sufyan says: “After Hiraql made these statements and read the letter, voices were raised and a commotion broke out. While we were being escorted out of the royal court, I said to my companions: “Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)’s matter [Din] has certainly gained momentum, as the Ruler of the Caucasians now fears him.”

I continued believing in his cause until eventually Allah Ta’ala entered me into the fold of Islam.”

Ibn Nathur, who was a minister of Hiraql in Jerusalem, and a priest of the Christians in Sham, tells of the events that transpired in Jerusalem: “Hiraql appeared very perturbed one morning, and his confidantes informed him that his appearance concerned them. He was someone who believed that the movements of the stars and planets affected human affairs, so he explained: “When I looked to the skies last night, I saw that the leader of a circumcised nation had taken over. Who in this day and age still circumcises?” His confidantes informed him that it is only the Jewish people that still practice circumcision. They said: “The Jews should not worry you. Write to the various cities in your kingdom and command them to kill all the Jews that they find.”

“While they were still discussing this, the man whom the Gassani King had sent to inform Hiraql about Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was brought forward. When Hiraql was done questioning him, he instructed that they check whether this man was circumcised. When it was confirmed that he was indeed circumcised, Hiraql asked him about the Arabs, and he confirmed that they too practiced circumcision. Hiraql said: “This [Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)] is the leader of the people that will take over.”

“Hiraql wrote a letter to his contemporary in Rome, who was his intellectual equal. He then travelled to Homs and stayed there until the reply from his contemporary in Rome arrived, confirming his suspicions that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was indeed a Messenger of Allah Ta’ala. He invited the Byzantine nobility to his villa in Homs, and after locking the doors, turned to them and said: “Oh Romans, if you wish any measure of success and guidance, and you wish to maintain your empire, then you should all swear allegiance to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).” Hearing this, the nobility stampeded towards the doors in a panic, and found the doors barred.

“Seeing their hatred, and their attitude towards this idea, Hiraql lost all hope of his people accepting Iman. He consoled them saying: “I have only made this suggestion to test your faith, and you all have passed.” As a result, they were pleased, and bowed to him. This was the story of Hiraql.”

(Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 7)

 

And Allah Ta’ala Knows best.

 

Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar

 

Checked by: Moulana Haroon Abasoomar