Allah (SWT) bestowed His (SWT) favor upon and gave protection to the early Muslims through a black man by the name of Ashama (RH). In Islamic texts, Ashama is commonly known by his title of An-Najashi meaning emperor in the language of Abyssinian people.
An-Najashi was the leader of the Aksum Empire after Abraha, whose army had conquered Yemen and Oman to be later driven out of the Arabian Peninsula. Allah (SWT) makes reference to the defeat of Abraha’s army in Surah Al-Fil.
An-Najashi as well as the men and women of the Aksum Empire were Christians at the time of the first revelation coming to the Prophet (SAWS). He was known by the Hijazi Arabs for being a fair and just man despite tensions that existed between Abyssinians and them.
When the early companions were being tortured in Makkah, the Prophet (SAWS) sent two different groups of Muslims to migrate to Abyssinia where they would find protection from the just An-Najashi. The second group of those was led by the cousin of the Prophet (SAWS), Ja’far bin Abi Talib (RA). In poem sent to An-Najashi, Ja’far’s father praised him by saying “You are a glorious and honorably generous man.”
Upon Quraysh learning that Muslims traveled to Abyssinia, they sent ‘Amr bin al-‘As and Umarah bin Al-Walid with gifts in hopes of wooing over An-Najashi to hand the Muslims over into their custody. ‘Amr bin ‘As portrayed the Muslims as confederates who were committing corruption and treason back in Makkah. An-Najashi being a just man would not turn the Muslims over into the custody of ‘Amr bin al-‘As without hearing the Muslims side of the story. What proceeded was an epic exchange between Ja’far bin Abi Talib with An-Najashi.
A portion of what Ja’far said was the following:
Oh An-Najashi! We were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshipping idols, eating carrion, committing all sorts of abomination and lewdness, breaking the ties of kinship, treating guests badly, and the strong among us exploited the weak. We remained in this state until Allah sent us a Prophet, one of from among us, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity are well-known to us.
He called us to worship Allah alone and to renounce the stones and the idols which we and our ancestors used to worship with Allah.
He commanded us to speak the truth, to keep our trusts, to be kind to our relations, to be helpful to our neighbors, to cease all forbidden acts, to abstain from bloodshed, to avoid obscenities and false witness, and not to devour an orphan’s property nor slander chaste ladies.
When ‘Amr bin al-‘As heard such eloquence, he sought to put rancor between the Muslims and An-Najashi by informing him that Muslims only see ‘Isa (AS) as a slave and do not worship him. An-Najashi then inquired as to what the Qur’an says about ‘Isa (AS). Ja’far then recited to him the beginning portion of Surah Maryam which speaks of the immaculate conception of ‘Isa (AS). After hearing the Qur’an and coming to tears, An-Najashi told the Muslims, “This and what came to ‘Isa comes from one niche of light (Mishkat Wahidah).” An-Najashi then refused to turn the Muslims over and told them that they could stay in Abyssinia as long as they wished.
The Prophet (SAWS) had also written An-Najashi a letter telling him that he (SAWS) was a Messenger of Allah (SWT) and to treat his (SAWS) cousin Ja’far respectfully. An-Najashi later replied to the letter declaring his belief in Islam. He also sent gifts to the Prophet (SAWS) along with the letter.
After the companions left Abyssinia for Al-Madinah, An-Najashi passed away. Upon the Prophet (SAWS) hearing the news of his passing, he (SAWS) performed janazah prayer in his absence. The honorable companion Jabir bin Abdillah (RA) narrates that he was in the ranks of the companions when the Prophet (SAWS) prayed for An-Najashi, which was a testimony to his Islam.