"There was for Saba, aforetime, a sign in their homeland [Yemen] two gardens to the right and to the left . . . be grateful to Him[Allah] . . .But they turned away, and We sent against them the flood released from the Dams [Maarib dam]" (Qur'an. Saba:15-16)
When the Muslims migrated to Abyssinia at the time of the Prophet (saw) and ‘Amr ibn Al ‘As Abdullah Ibn-Abi-Rabee’a [before their acceptance to Islam] were sent by the leaders of Quraysh to bring them back. He made his case to the Negus who said he could not deport the Muslims from his land before their side of the story. So accordingly the Muslims were were summoned to appear before the Negus and make their case, or face the threat of deportation. Ja’far bin Abi Talib [the uncle of the Messenger of Allah (saw)], and the representative of the Muslim community in Abyssinia said:
O King, we were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshipping idols and eating the flesh of dead animals, committing all sorts of abomination and shameful deeds, 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 our own people whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity were 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 besides Allah.
He commanded us to speak the truth, to honor our promises, 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, not to appropriate an orphan’s property nor slander chaste women.
He ordered us to worship Allah alone and not to associate anything with him, to uphold Salat [prayer], to give Zakat [almsgiving] and fast in the month of Ramadan.
We believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah and we follow him in what he has asked us to do and we keep away from what he forbade us from doing.
Thereupon, O King, our people attacked us, visited the severest punishment on us to make us renounce our religion and take us back to the old immorality and the worship of idols.
They oppressed us, made life intolerable for us and obstructed us from observing our religion. So we left for your country, choosing you before anyone else, desiring your protection and hoping to live in Justice and in peace in your midst.
Ja’far (raa) speaks to the Negus about what they were before Islam came into their lives. He actually draws for the Negus the ‘before’ and ‘after’ Islam picture of themselves . Islam has heaped favor after favor on them, as it does still on every person it touches. That is why Allah [SWT] asks the Prophet (saw) to tell those who believe that their acceptance of Islam is a favor in and of itself:
They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say, ‘Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful.’ [49:17]
A teaching moment in which the Prophet (saw) addressed the Bedouins who came to express to him their favors of supporting Islam and that was the response that they got from Allah [SWT] Himself through revelation. It was a reminder to them, that Islam’s greatness is not affected by its supporters–for it’s a perfect religion as Allah [SWT] says in Surat Al Maidah: ” This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion” [5:3]. Rather Islam lends greatness as a favor to those who support it. Remember the words of the Prophet (saw) to the Ansar on the Day of Hunayn when he said:
O People of Al Ansar,
Did I not find you lost and Allah guided you through me?
And you were divided and Allah united you through me?
. . . to all of the questions the Prophet (saw) asked, the Ansar answered that they owe it all to Allah [SWT] and His Messenger .
So, remember you and the Ummah, if you are contributing, reap the rewards of your Islam and not the other way round. Islam will go on with our without you, that’s the hard truth. But Allah [SWT] out of His Mercy is inviting you to join Islam and its cause, and naturally you will benefit and attain greatness through the process:
Say, ‘O humankind, the truth has come to you from your Lord, so whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul, and whoever goes astray only goes astray [in violation] against it. And I am not over you a Wakil (disposer of affairs to oblige you for guidance) [10:108]
It’s an invitation to success in this life and the hereafter ! Umar ibn Al Khattab was so right when he said, “We were the lowliest of people but Allah gave us might and glory through Islam. If we seek glory through other than what Allah gave us glory through, He will abase us (again).”