How Christianity Shifted from Monotheism to Pagan Trinity

Introduction

Controversy rages between Christians and non-Christians, including Muslims and the followers of the other faiths, and among Christians themselves over the issues of monotheism and the  Trinity.

Though the Trinity has become a prevalent Christian doctrine recently and the monotheists have become a minority compared to the other Christian denominations, history tells us that the doctrine of the  Trinity was not the prevalent Christian doctrine in the past, but it was rather such a doctrine which found favor with the idolatrous Roman Empire which newly converted to Christianity.

Pure monotheism had been and remained the very basis of the Christian creed until it was overshadowed by the doctrine of the Trinity which was supported by the idolatrous authority. However, monotheism continued to exist and be professed by considerable fellowship until Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) came up with the final monotheistic message of Islam and asserted monotheism as the doctrine explicitly preached by Jesus [‘Eesa Masih (alayhissalaam)], and disowned all forms of Trinity, polytheism, and paganism which were introduced into the genuine Christian faith.

Therefore, monotheistic Christians embraced Islam for they found out that it is exactly identical to the previous Divine messages of both Moses (Musa alayhissalaam) and Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) as well as the revelations sent down to them.

Monotheism during Jesus’ (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) Prophetic Mission

The Qur’an often harmonizes with the Bible, especially the New  Testament, over the reported statements and acts of Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam), as well as the incidents which took place, the quotations which were cited and the controversy which broke out during the period of time Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) was sent.

The Qur’an tells us that the disciples believed in Allah (God) as the Deity, as well as in the revelation He sent down and in Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) as the prophet and messenger of God. For example, God says:

But when Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam]felt [persistence in] disbelief from them, he said,  “Who are my supporters for [the cause of] God?”  The disciples said,”  We are supporters for God.  We have believed in God and testify that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]. Our Lord, we have believed in what  You revealed and have followed the messenger [Jesus], so register us among the witnesses [to truth].”( Surah Aal `Imran 3:52-53)

God also says:

And [remember] when I inspired to the disciples, “Believe in Me and in My messenger [Jesus].”  They said,  “We have believed, so bear witness that indeed we are Muslims [in submission to God].” (Surah Al-Ma’idah  5:111)

The verses of the New Testament concur with those of the Qur’an in this regard. Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) is unequivocally described as “God’s messenger” in the New Testament. We read: “And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be  God’s messenger  and High Priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.” (Hebrews 3:1-2)

The  Qur’an  quotes Jesus [‘Eesa (alayhissalaam)] as  asserting  that  God  is his  lord  and God  and  as commanding the worship of God alone. For example, we read:

They have certainly disbelieved who say,  “God is the Messiah, the son of Mary” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” Indeed, he who associates others with God – God has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.  (Al-Ma’idah  5:72)

The verses of the New Testament also concur with those of the Qur’an in this regard.  There are several positions in the New  Testament quoting Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) as asserting that God is his God and as commanding the worship of God alone.

For  example,  in  the  New Testament,  we  read:  Jesus  [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] said, “Do  not  hold  on  to  me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

We also read:  “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

We  further  read:  “Then  saith  Jesus  unto  him,  Get  thee  hence,  Satan:  for  it  is written,  Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10)

According to the above verses from the Qur’an and the Bible, it becomes crystal clear that Jesus [‘Eesa alqyhissalaam] admitted that God is his God and he commanded His worship and that the followers of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] believed in God as the Lord and the Deity and in Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] as a prophet and messenger of God.

That is the pure monotheism which Muslims have professed up to date. That is to say, the message of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] was preaching monotheism like all other messages conveyed by all other prophets and messengers of God.

Ascension of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] & Its Impact on Monotheism

Someone may wonder:  Where have the divinity and worship of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] along with God come from?  Where has the alleged  Trinity come from?  What are its historical origins?

It is quite safe to say that the Ascension of Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) was not less controversial than his miraculous birth. Just as people disagreed over his birth, they also disagreed over his Ascension.  The verses of both the Qur’an and the Bible indicate how considerable and bitter was the controversy over the Ascension of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] and consequently his very nature. For example, in the Qur’an, we read:

That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute. It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it,  “Be,”  and it is. [Jesus said], “And indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him.  That is a straight path.” Then the factions differed [concerning Jesus] from among them, so woe to those who disbelieved – from the scene of a tremendous Day.  (Surah Maryam  19:34-37)

The Bible conveys to us the disagreement over the Ascension of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] and highlights the state of doubt and uncertainty which prevailed among even his disciples following his Ascension. In the Gospel of Mark, we read:  “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” (Mark 16:14)

In the Gospel of Luke, we read: As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them,  “Peace to you!”  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why  are  you  troubled,  and  why  do  doubts  arise  in  your  hearts?  See  my  hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. And when he had said this, he showed them his  hands  and  his  feet. And  while  they  still  disbelieved  for  joy  and  were  marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:36-41)

In the Gospel of John, we read: Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them  when  Jesus  came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen  the  Lord.”  But  he  said  to  them,  “Unless  I  see  in  his  hands  the  mark  of  the nails, and  place my finger  into the mark of the  nails, and place  my hand into his side, I will never believe.

Eight  days  later,  his  disciples  were  inside  again,  and  Thomas  was  with  them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to  Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:24-27)

Thus, it has become quite evident now that the Ascension, not to mention the miraculous birth of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam], led to bitter controversy over his very nature.  Therefore, history proves to us that the few centuries following the Ascension of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] marked an atmosphere of deep and sharp division in the Christian circles between monotheists who believed in God as the Only One God, polytheists who believed in Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) as God and worshiped him along with God and other factions that were somewhere in between.

First Council of  Nicaea & Establishment of  the Doctrine of  Trinity

The above-mentioned division  lasted even  after the  Roman Emperor  Constantine’s conversion to and profession of Christianity as the official faith of the Roman Empire.

Such division impelled Emperor Constantine to convene the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. to discuss the disagreements within the Church of Alexandria, settle dogmatic differences and unify the Christian creed. This was the first ecumenical council.

This council was attended by about 318 bishops, including 16 bishops supporting Bishop Arius and 22 bishops supporting St. Alexander of Alexandria.  The other bishops had not made up their mind yet.

Presbyter Arius argued for the supremacy of God, the Father, and maintained that the Son of God was created as an act of the Father’s will, and therefore, that the Son was a creature made by God.

It is noteworthy that when Arius got up to explain his belief, loud noise was made and a deaf ear was turned so that his argument would not be heard.

It is also reported that Emperor Constantine allowed Athanasius, the 25-yearold assistant of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, to speak, though he was not entitled to do. He was just a young deacon at the time.

It  is also  reported  that reaching  a resolution  by the  Council was  not something easy, but rather required considerable effort. At the conclusion, the Council formulated the (Nicene) Creed from: “We believe in one God” to “and his kingdom will have no end”.

At the same council, the feast of Easter was set to a Sunday in the lunar month of Nisan. The Easter computation was separated from the Jewish calendar.

The attending bishops pronounced clerical judgment by excommunicating Arius and his followers from the Church. Seeing the threat of continued unrest, Constantine  also pronounced  civil judgment, banishing  Arius and  his followers into exile.

The works of Arius were ordered to be confiscated and consigned to the flames while all persons found possessing them were to be executed. Nevertheless, the controversy continued in various parts of the Empire.

Bishop Alexander had already convened a synod of about a hundred Egyptian and Libyan bishops at Alexandria, which excommunicated and defrocked Arius and his followers.

Questions

How did Emperor Constantine profess Christianity though he could not ascertain the nature of Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) and if he was a just prophet or God? How can there be difference within a  certain faith  among the  clergy over  the nature  of  God Himself, Who He should be and if He is only one or three?

How can any such difference last without resolution for more than three centuries? If  the  Council  of  Nicaea  was  actually  attended  by  318  bishops,  how  could  there  be difference between 16 bishops on the one hand and 22 bishops on the other hand? How come “the other bishops had not made up their mind yet?”

Were they (numbering 318-38=280) ignorant of their faith and their God and if Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) was  a  prophet  or  God?  If  the  clergy  were  so  ignorant  like  that,  what  about  the  public at the time?

Was there not a sort of equilibrium between the two sides: 16 vs 22 though the latter included the bishop of Alexandria himself? Is it not logical that the supporters of the bishop  of  Alexandria  should  have  been  much  larger  in  the  face  of  an  ordinary  bishop who was  excommunicated  and defrocked  like Arius? Did the attending  bishops  wait to know the side which the Emperor would choose and then they joined it?

All of those questions need convincing answers!

First Council of Constantinople

The  most conclusive  evidence  for the  fact that  monotheism  existed,  had  strong  presence and was even widespread since the dawn of Christianity is its multiform re-emergence shortly after the bishop of Alexandria supported by the pagan Roman Empire stood up to Arius’ teachings which were closer to monotheism.

After Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, had fought against Arius’  teachings for many years, other similar beliefs emerged towards the end of the fourth century of the Christian era, specifically during the reign of the Roman Emperor  Theodosius I. Therefore, the second ecumenical council was convened in Constantinople in 381 A.D.

Those beliefs included that of the Macedonians or the Pneumatomachi.  They denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, hence the Greek name “Pneumatomachi” or “Combators against the Spirit”.

They also regarded the substance of Jesus Christ [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] as being of  “similar substance”  (homoiousios) but not of the “same essence” (homoousious) as that of God the Father.

The Pneumatomachi were denounced in 374 by Pope Damasus I. In 381 A.D., the Pneumatomachian concept that the Holy Spirit was a creation of the Son, and a servant of the Father and the Son, prompted the First Council of Constantinople (also termed the Second Ecumenical Council) to add, “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,  Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is equally worshipped and glorified,  Who spake by the Prophets,” into the Nicene Creed. As a result of the Second Ecumenical Council, homoousios has become the accepted definition of Christian orthodoxy.  Thereafter, the Macedonians were suppressed by the emperor Theodosius I.

Another belief is that of Apollinaris. It appeared to him that the union of complete God with complete man could not be more than a juxtaposition or collocation. Two perfect beings with all their attributes, he argued, cannot be one.  They are at most an incongruous compound, not unlike the monsters of mythology. In as much as  the Nicene faith forbade him to belittle the Logos, as Arius had done, he forthwith proceeded to maim the humanity of Christ [‘Eesa alayhissalaam], and divest it of its presumably noblest attribute, and this, he claimed, is for the sake of true Unity and veritable Incarnation.

He failed to submit even to the more solemn condemnation of the Council of Constantinople, 381, whose first canon entered Apollinarianism on the list of heresies.

At the close of this council Emperor Theodosius issued an imperial decree (30 July) declaring that the churches should be restored to those bishops who confessed the equal Divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and who held communion with Nectarius of Constantinople and other important Oriental prelates whom he named.

First Council of  Ephesus

Only a few years after the convention of the Council of Constantinople, the Council of Ephesus was convened in 431 A.D.  This third ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, confirmed the original Nicene Creed, and condemned the teachings  of  Nestorius,  Patriarch  of  Constantinople  that  the  Virgin  Mary  may be called the Christotokos,  “Birth Giver of Christ” but not the  Theotokos, “Birth Giver of God”.

Nestorius’  doctrine, Nestorianism, which emphasized the distinction between Christ’s [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] human and divine natures and argued that Mary should be called Christokos  (Christ-bearer)  but not Theotokos  (God-bearer),  had  brought him into conflict with other church leaders, most notably Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria. Nestorius himself had requested that the Emperor convene council, hoping to prove his orthodoxy, but in the end his teachings were condemned by the council as heresy. The council declared Mary as Theotokos (God-bearer).

Nestorius was requested to recant his position or face excommunication. Nestorius was removed from his see, and his teachings were officially anathematized.

This precipitated the Nestorian Schism, by which churches supportive of Nestorius, especially in Persia, were severed from the rest of Christendom and became known as Nestorian Christianity, the Persian Church, or the Church of the East, whose present-day representatives are the Assyrian Church of the East, the  Chaldean  Syrian  Church,  the  Ancient  Church  of  the  East,  and  the  Chaldean Catholic Church. Nestorius himself retired to a monastery, always asserting his orthodoxy.

Questions

Had the doctrine of the Trinity been the predominant belief since of the dawn of Christianity and had monotheism not been a deep-rooted belief which had strong presence, would such bitter controversy have taken place over the very nature of God in Christianity??

Had the  Trinity been a clear-cut, evident and generally accepted in the sight of all Christians from the very beginning, is it logical that the greatest patriarchs and bishops would have disagreed over it throughout history as we have just read??

The Early Monotheistic Christian Denominations

Ebionitism

It is a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian era.  They regarded Jesus of Nazareth [‘Eesa alayhissalaam] as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites.  The Ebionites used only one of the Jewish Gospels, revered James the Just, and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law.

There is possible reference to Ebionite communities, existing some time around the 11th century, in northwestern Arabia, in Sefer Ha’masaot, the “Book of the Travels” of Rabbi Benjamin of  Tudela, a rabbi from Spain. These communities were located in two cities:  Tayma and Tilmas, possibly Sa`dah in  Yemen.

The majority of Church Fathers agree that the Ebionites rejected many of the precepts central to Nicene orthodoxy, such as Jesus’ (alayhissalaam) pre-existence, divinity, and atoning death.

The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam), who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the messianic  “prophet like Moses (Musa alayhissalaam)”  (foretold in Deuteronomy 18:14–22) when he was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism.
Paulianism

It is a 3rd-century belief concerning the nature of Christ, denying his divinity by asserting that he was inspired by God and was not a person in the  Trinity. It is ascribed  to Paul of Samosata (not to confused with Paul of Tarsus, the apostate) who  denied  a  distinction  of  persons  in  God  and maintained that Christ was a mere man raised above other men by the indwelling Logos.

Monarchianism

Monarchianism is a set of beliefs that emphasize God as being one person, in direct contrast to  Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons co-existing consubstantially as one in being.

Various models of resolving the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God were proposed in the 2nd century, but later rejected in favor of the doctrine of the  Trinity as expounded at the First Council of Constantinople, which  confirmed  the  concept  of  God  as  one  being  consisting  of  three  persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Two models of Monarchianism have been propounded:

• Modalism (or Modalistic Monarchianism) considers  God to  be one  person appearing and working in the different  “modes”  of the Father, the Son, and the Holy  Spirit.  The  chief  proponent of  modalism  was Sabellius,  hence  the  view  is commonly  called  Sabellianism.  It  has  also  been  rhetorically  labeled  Patripassianism by its opponents, because according to them it purports that the Person of God the Heavenly Father suffered on the cross.

• Dynamic Monarchianism holds that God is one being, above all else, wholly indivisible, and of one nature. It reconciles the  “problem”  of the  Trinity (or at least Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam)) by holding that the Son was not co-eternal with the Father.

Arianism

Arianism in Christianity is the Christological (concerning the doctrine of Christ (‘Eesa alayhissalaam)) position that Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam), as the Son of God, was created by God. It was proposed early in the 4th century by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius and was popular throughout much of the Eastern and Western Roman empires, even after it was denounced as a ‘heresy’ by the Council of Nicaea (325).

Arianism  is  often  considered  to  be  a  form  of  Unitarian  theology  in  that  it  stresses God’s unity at the expense of the notion of the  Trinity, the doctrine that three distinct persons are united in one Godhead. Arius’  basic premise was the  uniqueness  of  God,  who  is  alone  Self-existent  (not  dependent  for  its  existence on anything else) and immutable; the Son, who is not self-existent, can not therefore be the self-existent and immutable God. Because the Godhead is unique, it cannot be shared or communicated. Because the Godhead  is immutable, the Son, who is mutable, must, therefore, be deemed a creature who has been called into existence out of nothing and has had a beginning. Moreover, the Son can have no direct knowledge of the Father, since the Son is finite and of a different order of existence.

The  Council of  Nicaea,  which condemned  Arius  as a heretic and  issued a  creed to  safeguard “orthodox” Christian  belief,  was  convened  to  settle  the  controversy.  The creed  adopted at Nicaea states that  the Son is  homoousionPatri  (“of one substance with the Father”), thus declaring him to be all that the Father is: he is completely divine. In fact, however, this was only the beginning of a long-protracted dispute.

Monotheistic Christians & Profession of  Islam upon the Advent of  Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)

An-Najashi (Negus) An-Najashi was the title of the king of Abyssinia. One Najashi, namely As-hamah ibn Abjar, who was contemporary with Prophet  Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) embraced Islam, became a good Muslim and was counted as a grand Companion of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  though  he  did  not  migrate  to  Madinah  or  even  meet  Prophet  Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).  He  died  during  the  lifetime  of  Prophet  Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  who  offered  funeral prayer for him in absentia. It is not reported that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) offered funeral prayer for an absent deceased except An-Najashi.

In  Siyar A`lam An-Nubala’, Adh-Dhahabi (rahimahullah) reported that when `Amr ibn Al-`As and `Abdullah ibn Abi Rabia`h (or `Imarah bn Al-Walid) asked An-Najashi to extradite the Companions who migrated to Abyssinia, the following conversation took place between An-Najashi and the grand Companion Ja`far ibn Abi Talib (radhiyallahu anhu):

An-Najashi wondered:  “Do you memorize some revelation he (Prophet Muhammad) received from God?”  Ja`far replied:  “Yes.”  An-Najashi said:  “Read it to me!” Then Ja`far read to him the opening verses of Surah Maryam (Mary). Thereupon, An-Najashi  kept  crying until  he moistened  his beard  and his bishops also kept crying until they moistened their scriptures. Then, An-Najashi said: “Indeed, this (Qur’an) and the revelation conveyed by Moses get out of the same lantern. Go where you like. By God, I will not, and even may not extradite you!”

On the next day, at Amr ibn Al-`As’  request, An-Najashi summoned the Companions  and wondered: “What do you  believe about  Jesus?” Ja`far replied: “We have the same belief which our Prophet affirmed.  We believe that he is God’s servant, messenger, spirit and word which He communicated to Mary, the  Virgin.”  Then, An-Najashi struck the ground, picked up a rod and said:  “Jesus did not come out with as much as this rod more than what you said.” Then, patriarchs around him kept snorting. Then, he said: “Even though you snort, by God! Go where you like. You are safe in my land.

Ibn Ishaq reported: Ja`far ibn Muhammad quoted his father as saying: “The Abyssinians rebelled and revolted against An-Najashi whom they accused of the renunciation of their faith. So he prepared ships for Ja`far and his comrades and told them:  “Board the ships! If I am defeated, go away. If I clinch victory, stay here.” Then,  he  had a piece of writing in which he bore witness that there is no god but God, Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) is God’s servant and messenger and Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) is God’s servant,  messenger,  spirit  and  word  which  He  communicated  to  Mary.  Then, he kept this piece of writing in his garment.

Thereupon, he went out to the Abyssinians who lined up for him.  Then he wondered:  “O people of Abyssinia, am I not the worthiest one to rule over you?”  They said:  “Yes.”  He asked:  “How have you found my rule?”  They answered: “It  is  the  best  rule.” Then,  he  asked: “So  what  is  wrong with  you?” They replied: “You  have  renounced  our  faith,  alleging  that  Jesus  is  just  a  servant  (of God).” Then, he asked: “What do you believe about Jesus?” They replied: “He is the  son  of  God.” Then  he  made  a  signal  at  his  chest  towards  the  piece  of  writing, indicating his belief in the piece of writing. But, the Abyssinians thought that he meant by this signal that he agreed with them.  Then, they became pleased with him and dispersed. When An-Najashi died, Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) offered funeral prayer for him and prayed to God for his forgiveness.

Heracle (Heraclius)

Al-Bukhari,  Muslim,  Abu  Dawud,  Imam  Ahmad,  and  other  hadith  compilers reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Abbas (radhiyallahu anhi) that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahi alayhi wasallam) wrote to Caesar and invited him to Islam …  When the letter of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) reached Caesar, he said after reading it,  “Seek for me anyone of his people (Arabs from Quraish tribe) if present here, in order to ask him about Muhammad.” At that time, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb was in the Levant with some men from Quraish who had come (to the Levant) as merchants … Abu Sufyan said, “Caesar’s messenger found us somewhere in the Levant so he took me and my companions to Jerusalem and we were admitted into Caesar’s court.”

Heracle kept asking Abu Sufyan about Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and Abu Sufyan kept answering his questions.  Then, Heracle said to Abu Sufyan: “These are really the qualities of a prophet who, I knew (from the previous Scriptures) would appear, but I did not know that he would be from amongst you. If what you say should be true, he will very soon occupy the earth under my feet, and if I knew that I would reach him definitely, I would go immediately to meet Him; and were I with him, then I would certainly wash his feet.”  Abu Sufyan added, “Caesar then asked for the letter of the Messenger of God and it was read. It read:  “In the name of God, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful, (This letter is) from Muhammad, the servant and messenger of God to Heraclius, the Roman  Emperor. Peace be  upon the  followers  of guidance.  Now  then, I  invite you to Islam, so embrace Islam and you will be safe; embrace Islam and God  will bestow on you a double reward. But if you reject this invitation of Islam, you shall be responsible for misguiding the peasants (i.e. your nation). O people of the Scriptures! Come to a word common to us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate nothing in worship with Him; and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.  Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him) (3:64)

Abu Sufyan added,  “When Heraclius had finished reading, there was a great hue and cry caused by the Byzantine royalties surrounding him, and there was so much noise that I did not understand what they said. So, we were turned out of the court.  When I went out with my companions and we were alone, I said to them, ‘Verily, Ibn Abi Kabsha’s (i.e. the Prophet’s) affair has gained power. This is the King  of Bani Al-Asfar fearing him.’” Abu Sufyan added, “By  Allah, I remained low and was sure that his religion would be victorious till God converted me to Islam, though I disliked it.”

Al-Mundhir Ibn Sawa

Al-Mundhir ibn Sawa was the King of the Persian Gulf during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). He was a Christian as his people, namely `Abd Shams, were Christians. Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) wrote him a letter in which he invited him to Islam.

Then, Al-Mundhir embraced Islam but he was not a member of the delegation who  attended  from  Bahrain  to  meet  Prophet  Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).  Instead,  he  wrote Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) a letter affirming his profession of Islam.

Al-Mundhir’s letter to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) read:  “O Messenger of God, I read your letter, which you wrote to the people of Bahrain extending to them an invitation to Islam. Islam appealed to some of them and they entered the fold of Islam, while others did not find it appealing. In my country, there live Magians and Jews; therefore, you may inform me of the treatment to be extended to them.”

In  reply  to  Al-Mundhir’s  letter,  Prophet  Muhammad  (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) wrote: “In  the  name  of  God, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful, (This letter is) from Muhammad, the Messenger of God to Al-Mundhir ibn Sawa. May peace be on you! I praise God, Who is One  and  there is  none  to be  worshipped  except  Him.  I bear  witness  that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is a servant and messenger of God. Thereafter I remind you of God.  Whoever accepts admonition does it for his own good.  Whoever followed my messengers and acted in accordance with their guidance; he, in fact, accepted my advice. My messengers have highly praised  your behavior. I  authorize you  to deal  with your people. So let  Muslims follow Islam. I forgive the offences of the offenders. Therefore, you may also forgive them.  Whoever wants to continue in their Jewish or Magian faith should be made to pay tribute.”

Waraqah ibn Nawfal

Waraqah ibn Nawfal was the cousin of Prophet  Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) first wife, Lady Khadijah (radhiyallahu anha), the Mother of the Believers. He was a Christian before Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) prophethood, but he embraced Islam at the outset of Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) prophethood.

In his Sahih, under the Chapter of the Outset of Revelation, Al-Bukhari (rahimahullah) reported on the authority of `Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) that Khadija (rashiyallahu anha) accompanied Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) to her cousin  Waraqah  ibn  Naufal ibn  Asad ibn `Abdul `Uzza, who, during the pre-Islamic period, became a Christian and used to write writings with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as God wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija (radhiyallahu anha) said to  Waraqah, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqah asked, “O my nephew!  What have you seen?” The Messenger of God described whatever he had seen. Waraqah said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (Angel Gabriel) whom God had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would drive you out.”  The Messenger of God asked,  “Will they drive me out?” Waraqah replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone who came out with something similar to what you will come out with was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be driven out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days  Waraqah died.

It is noteworthy that  Waraqah ibn Nawfal was the first person to bring Lady Khadijah (radhiyallahu anha) glad tidings about Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) prophethood after she had told him about what happened during Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) journey with her slave Maysarah along with her caravan travelling to the Levant, especially the cloud which was shading him until he came back to Makkah.

It is reported that he said to her: “If this is true, O Khadijah, Muhammad will be the  prophet  of  this  nation.  I  have  known  that  this  nation  waits  for  a  prophet who is about to appear.” (Ar-Rawd Al-Unuf: vol. 2, p. 161)   Waraqah  composed  a  poem apparently after this conversation, given the mention of Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) journey with Khadijah’s (radhiyallahu anha) caravan, the glad tidings about Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) prophethood and the promise to follow him.

In his Musnad, At-Tayalisi reported that  Waraqah ibn Nawfal and Zayd ibn `Amr ibn Nufayl went out in quest of the true religion. So they went to a monk at Mosul.  The monk said to Zayd ibn `Amr ibn Nufayl:  “Where have you come from, O camel rider?” He replied: “From Abraham’s household.” The monk wondered: “What do you seek after?” He replied:  “I seek after the true religion.”  He said to him:  “Come back for the one you seek after is about to appear at your homeland.

Nestorian Monk: Bahira

At-Tirmidhi and Al-Hakim reported on the authority of Abu Bakr ibn Abu Musa Al-Asha`ri on the authority of his father that Abu  Talib traveled  to the Levant, and the Prophet left with him, along with some older men from Quraish. When they came across the monk they stopped there and began setting up their camp, and the monk came out to them. Before that they used to pass by him and he wouldn’t come out nor pay attention to them.  They were setting up their camp when the monk was walking amidst them, until he came and took the hand of the Messenger of Allah.  Then he said:  “This is the master of men and jinn, this is the Messenger of the Lord of the  Worlds. God will send him as mercy to men and jinn.” So some of the older people from Quraish said:  “How do  you  know  that?”  He  said:  “When  you  came  along  from  the  road,  neither  a rock nor a tree was left, except that it prostrated, and they do not prostrate except for a prophet. And I can recognize him by the seal of prophethood which is below his shoulder blade, like an apple.” Then he went back, and made them some food, and when he brought it to them, he [Prophet Muhammad] was tending camels. So he said: “Summon him.” So he came, and there was a cloud over him that was shading him.  When he came close to the people, he found that they had sat down under the tree’s shade before he came. So when he sat down, the shade of the tree leaned towards him. He (the monk) said: “Look at the  shade of  the tree  leaning  towards him.’” While  he was  standing  with them, telling  them  not  to  take  him  to  the  Romans  –  because  if  the  Romans  were  to see him, they would recognize him by description, and they would kill him – he turned, and there were seven people who had come from among the Romans. So  he  received  them  and  said: “Why  have  you  come?” They  said: “We  came  because a prophet is going to appear during this month, and there isn’t a road left except that people have been sent to it, and we have been informed of him, and we have been sent to this road of yours.” So he said: “Is there anyone better than you behind you?” They said: “We only have news of him from this road of yours.” He said: “Do you think that if there is a matter which God wishes to bring about, there is anyone among people who can prevent it?” They said:  “No.” So they gave him their pledge, and they stayed with him. And he said:  “I ask you by God, which of you is his guardian?” They said: “Abu Talib.” So he kept adjuring him until Abu  Talib returned him (back to Makkah).

Salman Al-Faarisi (radhiyallahu anhu)

In his  Musnad, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahimahullah) reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) that Salman Al-Farisi (radhiyallahu anhu) had a long conversation with him, in which he said: “I was a Persian man … I strove hard in the Magian religion … I passed by one of the Christian churches, where I could hear their voices as they were praying …  When I saw them, I was impressed with their prayer … I said to them: ‘Where did this religion originate?’ They said: ‘In the Levant’ … I sent word to the Christians saying: ‘If any Christian merchants come to you from the Levant, tell me about them.’ He said: ‘Some Christian merchants came to them from the Levant … and I went out with them, until I came to the Levant …

Salman (radhiyallahu anhu) kept serving monks, one after another, from the Levant through Mosul and Nusaybin to Amorium.  When the monk of Amorium was about to die, and Salman asked him to tell him about the next monk to serve, he said to him: ‘O my son, by God, I do not know of anyone who follows our way to whom I can advise you to go. But there has come the time of a prophet, who will be sent with the religion of Abraham. He will appear in the land of the Arabs and will migrate  to  a  land  between  two  harrahs  (lands  with  black  rocks),  between  which there  are palm  trees. He  will  have characteristics that  will not  be  hidden. He will  eat  of  what  is  given  as  a  gift  but  he  will  not  eat  of  what  is  given  as  charity. Between his shoulder blades is the seal of prophethood. If you can go to that land then do so.’

Then, Salman (radhiyallahu anhu) traveled to Arabia and stayed in Madinah.  When he knew that the people of Madinah were gathering in Quba’  to receive a man whom they believed to be a prophet, he went to him.

Salman said:  “I had something that I had collected, and when evening came, I went to the Messenger of God when he was in Quba’, and I entered to him and said to  him: ‘I have  heard that you  are a righteous  man and that  you have companions  who  are strangers and  are in  need. This is  something  that  I have  to give in charity, and I see that you are more in need of it than anyone else.’

I brought it near to him and the Messenger of God (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said to his companions: “Eat,” but he refrained from eating. I said to myself: ‘This is one.’ Then I went away and collected some more. The Messenger of God (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) settled in Madinah, then I came to him and said: ‘I see that you do not eat (food given in) charity; this is a gift with which I wish to honor you.’ The Messenger of God (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) then ate some of it and told his companions to eat too. I said to myself: ‘This is two.’

Then I came to the Messenger of God (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) when he was in Baqi` Al-Gharqad, where he had attended the funeral of one of his companions and he was wearing two shawls and was sitting down among his companions. I greeted him, then I moved behind him, trying to look at his back to see the seal that my companion had described to me.  When the Messenger of God (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) saw me going behind him, he realized that I was trying to ascertain something that had been described to me, so he let his garment drop from his back, and I saw the seal and recognized it.  Then I embraced and kissed him, while weeping …  Then, Salman (radhiyallahu anhu) embraced Islam and became a good Muslim.

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