Dhu Nuwas And The Najran Massacre

Himyarite Kingdom

As  Muslims we read in the Prophetic tradition about story of the Christians of Najran. According to Muslim sources in the year 630 C.E. a delegation of Christians from Najran came to visit Medinah.

They arrived after the Prophet of Islam wrote to Abdul Haris Ibn Alqamah, the  Bishop of Najran, inviting him to enter into Islam.  The Christians stayed in Medinah for three days and the Prophet allowed them to pray in his mosque. They enquired about Islam’s views concerning Jesus, when the Prophet refused to affirm his divinity they refused to enter into Islam:

“Their arrival was in the year 9 A.H. The delegation comprised sixty men. Twenty-four of them were of noble families. Three out of twenty-four were at one time leaders of Najran. Al-‘Aqib, i.e. who was in charge of princehood and government affairs. His name was ‘Abdul Maseeh. The second was As-Saiyid (the Master) under whose supervision were the educational and political affairs; his name was Al-Aiham or Sharhabeel. Abu Haritha bin ‘Alqamah was the third. He was a bishop to whom all religious presidency and spiritual leadership belonged and were his charge.

When that group of delegates arrived in Madinah, they met the Prophet [pbuh], exchanged inquiries with him; but when he called them to Islam and recited the Qur’ân to them, they refused. They asked him what he thought about ‘Isa (i.e. Jesus), [AWS], he [pbuh] tarried a whole day till the following Qur’ânic reply was revealed to him:

“Verily, the likeness of Jesus before Allâh is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: ‘Be!’ — and he was. (This is) the truth from your Lord, so be not of those who doubt. Then whoever disputes with you concerning him (Jesus) after (all this) knowledge that has come to you, (i.e. Jesus being a slave of Allâh, and having no share in Divinity) say: (O Muhammad [pbuh]) ‘Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves — then we pray and invoke (sincerely) the Curse of Allâh upon those who lie.” [Al-Qur’an 3:59-61] “{Source: Rasoulallah}

The story of the Christians of Najran is interesting, for the Christians refused to accept Islam and still lived. If anti-Islam  propaganda is to be believed such an occurrence is unbelievable.  For the bigots, Islam is blood thirsty and hell-bent on conversion of all non-Muslims at the point of a sword no matter what.

As the case of the Christians of Najran shows one should not always believe what learns from anti-Islam sources.

Speaking of blood curdling conversion on the pain death. The Christians of Najran experienced such an incident but unfortunately for the bigots it was a long time before Islam was even on the scene.

As stated earlier Najran lies in southern Arabian. From the 2nd century B.C. to the 6th century AD southern Arabia was ruled by the Himyarite kingdom. A number of the Himyarite kings converted to Judaism (according to Arab historiographers), one such ruler was Zur’ah Yūsuf ibn Tuban As’ad Abi Karib, also known as Dhu Nuwas.

Dhu Nuwas ruled the Himyarite kingdom from 515-525 AD. He invaded Najran in 524 AD  and demanded that it’s Christians convert to Judaism. When they refused  Dhu Nuwas had them killed:

“Dhu Nuwas hoped to create, in the rich lands of Southern Arabia, a “Davidic” kingship which was independent of the Christian powers. He also considered Najran to be a Byzantine base that controlled the Red Sea trade route, and badly affected the economic situation of Himyar.

When Dhu Nuwas invaded Najran in 524, he called upon its people to abandon Christianity and embrace Judaism. When they refused, he had them slaughtered and thrown into burning ditches.Estimates of the death toll from this event range up to 20,000 in some sources, whereas some sources put it as low as 700. Some sources say that Dus Dhu Tha’laban from the Saba tribe was the only man able to escape the massacre of Najran, who fled to Constantinople to seek help and promptly reported everything. This brought about the wrath of emperor of Byzantium, Justin I who, as protector of Christianity encouraged his ally, the Abyssinian king Ella-Asbeha of Aksum, to invade the country, kill Dhu-Nuwas and annex Himyar in 525.” {Source: Christian Community of Najran}

For many the story of how and why the Christians of Najran were massacred may be ancient history. But as we see from this recent television  programme about the frankincense trail, Dhu Nuwas’s actions still have reverberation in today’s world:

“…The Board of Deputies complained to the BBC over perceived inaccuracies and lack of context in The Frankincense Trail, in which presenter Kate Humble followed the trade route which first connected the Arab world with the West.

In an episode shown on BBC2 on September 3, she referred to an incident in 524CE. She said the Yemeni Jewish Himyar tribe, led by King Dhu Nuwas, set upon Christian residents of a village in Saudi Arabia.

Ms Humble said the Jews had offered the villagers the choice between conversion to Judaism or death and that 20,000 Christians had then been massacred.But the Board said its initial research — conducted after viewers’ complaints — suggested the king was a “renegade convert” and that not putting his actions in context could confuse non-Jewish viewers into believing Judaism is a proselytising religion….

….But one expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who asked not to be named, said: “He [the king] did massacre many Christians. The volume of knowledge on the subject is growing. The tribe did convert at the end of the fourth century and Judaism was considered missionary in those days. It’s a sensitive matter from a Jewish point of view.”

Professor Dan Shapira, of Bar-Ilan University, said: “It seems to me there is nothing to complain about. There is a street in Jerusalem named after Joseph Dhu Nuwas. People from the Jewish Kingdom of Himyar are among those buried at Beit-She’arim in Israel.” {Source: Jewish Chronicle}

image by yom.

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