The Year of the Deputations
During the ninth year of the Hijra, a large number of deputations from far-flung non-Muslim tribes came to the Prophet to accept Islam. They had been impressed by the record of the Muslims, and the news of his being a true prophet was fast spreading. Among these tribes were the people of Ta'if who had once driven the Prophet out of their city and whose siege after the battle of Hunain had been lifted by the Muslims.
In order to preach the doctrines of Islam, teachers were sent to different provinces. They were directed by the Prophet to "deal gently with the people, and not to be harsh, cheer them, and condemn them not. And you will meet with many People of the Book who will question you: 'What is the key to heaven?' Tell them that it (the key to heaven) is to testify to the Unity of God, and to do good deeds."
The tribe of Tay was, however, creating some obstacles. 'Ali was deputed with a small force to discipline them. The chief of the tribe, 'Adi son of Hatim, fled but his sister and some of his principal clansmen fell into 'Ali's hands. Having had regard for the great benevolence and generosity of her father, Hatim, the Prophet set the daughter free, along with all the captives, giving them many gifts. They were so touched by this generous treatment that the entire tribe, including its chief 'Adi, accepted Islam.
Pagans Forbidden from Visiting the Ka'bah
Towards the end of that year, an order was issued prohibiting non-believers from entering the Ka'bah or performing idolatrous rites and degrading ceremonies of their cults within its sacred precincts.
It is recorded that first Abu Bakr was sent with Chapter AlBara'ah to proclaim it before the pagans. But Gabriel said to the Holy Prophet:
"Except for the person who is from thy own house, nobody can ably preach it."
So he called 'Ali and charged him with the duty of preaching the relevant ayats of Al-Bara'ah. Abu Bakr, therefore, returned to the Prophet and asked him:
"O Messenger of Allah! Did you receive any decree from Allah against me?"
The Prophet replied by saying:
"No, but the Lord ordered that either I or someone from my own house should preach it."
At the time of the pilgrimage, this proclamation was read out by'Ali:
"No idolater shall after this year perform the pilgrimage; no one shall circle (the Ka'bah) naked. Whoever has a treaty with the Prophet, it shall continue to be binding till its termination. For the rest, four months are allowed to everyone to return to his territories. Thereafter, there will be no obligation on the Prophet except towards those with whom treaties have been concluded."
In the same year, an envoy was sent to Najran to invite that Christian tribe to Islam. They consulted among themselves and selected a committee of fourteen persons to go and study the life and habits of the Prophet and make a report. Out of them, three were considered to be leaders in all affairs. One of the latter was named 'Abdul-Masih 'Aqib. Another was called Sayyid and the third was named Abul-Harith. When the deputation reached Medina, they dressed themselves in silk garments, put on gold rings; then went to the mosque. All of them greeted the Prophet traditionally, but the Prophet did not respond, turning his face away from them. They left the mosque and approached 'Uthman and 'Abdur Rahman ibn 'Awf complaining: "Your Prophet wrote us inviting us here, but when we came to him and greeted him, he neither reciprocated our greeting nor said a word to us. Now what do you advise us to do? Should we go back or wait here?" 'Uthman and 'Abdur Rahman ibn 'Awf sought 'Ali's advice. 'Ali said, "These people should first remove the silk clothes and gold rings. Then they should go and see the Prophet." When they did as they were advised, the Prophet responded to their greetings and said, "By the Lord Who has appointed me as His own Messenger, when they first came to me, they were accompanied by Satan." Thereafter, the Prophet preached to them and invited them to accept Islam. They asked him: "What is your opinion about Jesus?" The Prophet said, "You may rest today in this city and, after being refreshed, you will receive the reply to all of your questions from me."
The next day, the Prophet recited before them these Qur'anic verse:
Surely the likeness of Isa (Jesus) with Allah is as the likeness ofAdam: He created him from dust then said to him, 'Be, and he was. The truth is from your Lord, so be not of the doubters. (Qur'an, 3:59-60)
They did not accept the words of the Lord and insisted on their own belief. Then the following verse was revealed:
But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of the knowledge, say: Come! Let us call our sons and your sons, and your women and our women, and ourselves and yourselves, then let us pray earnestly and bring about the curse of Allah on the liars. (Qur'an, 3:61)
They sought a day's respite and privately solicited 'Aqib's advice. He said:
"By God! You know that Muhammad is the Messenger of the Lord and that he has given a clear and appreciable verdict. Do not enter into a maledictory trial with him or else you should be destroyed. If you wish to remain adhering to your religion, accept to pay the jizyah and make a pact."
On the next day, therefore, they came out on one side and on the other the Prophet came out of his house carrying Husain in his arms as Hasan was walking by his side holding his finger. Behind him was Fatimah and behind her 'Ali. Praise be to Allah! What a time it was! What an atmosphere! How good a witness and how glorious the witnessed!
In short, the Prophet confronted the Christian delegates and said to Hasan, Husain, Fatimah and'Ali:
"When I curse them, you say Amen'together."
When the Christians saw the five holy Purified ones, they were awe-struck. Abul-Harith, who was the wisest of them all, said:
"My people! At this moment, we are looking at such personalities that if they pray to God, they can move mountains. Abstain from this maledictory conflict (Mubahalah) or else you should be destroyed and no Christian will remain on the face of the earth."
They pleaded to the Prophet:
"O Abul-Qasim! We shall not have a malediction with you."
The Prophet invited them to accept Islam. They declined and said that they were prepared for a treaty that they would present two thousand pieces of garments each costing 40 dirhams every year. According to another tradition, it is stated that they also agreed to give 30 horses, 30 camels, 30 coats of mail and 30 lances every year. Thus, a settlement was made.
When the Christians of Najran refrained from entering into a maledictory conflict against the Prophet, he said:
"By the Lord who has appointed me as his Messenger in truth, had they chosen the malediction, there would have been a shower of fire upon them in this very field."
"The verse (Chap. 3, verse 61) was revealed in reference to this contest. In this verse, the word "selves" refers to the Prophet and 'Ali; the word "sons" refers to Hasan and Husain, and the word "women" refers to Fatimah."
In the Tarikh of Tabari, it is stated that during the 10th year of Hijrah, the Prophet sent 'Ali to Yemen. Prior to that, he had sent Khalid ibn al-Walid in order to call the people of Yemen to Islam, but nobody accepted Islam. Then the Prophet sent 'Ali and authorized him that he might, if he so desired, dismiss Khalid or anyone else from his party. So, 'Ali went to Yemen and read the Prophet's statement to the people there. As a result, in one day, all members of the clan of Hamadan were converted to Islam. 'Ali informed the Prophet of this success whereupon the Prophet said, "Peace be upon the Hamdanites!" Thereafter, all Yemenites entered into the folds of Islam. 'Ali again informed the Prophet of the progress which he had made. The Prophet was so overjoyed; he offered a sajdah (prostration) to thank Allah.
During this year, the Prophet deputed 'Ali to go to receive the jizya from the Najranites. 'Ali obeyed the orders and joined the Prophet only during the Farewell Hajj (pilgrimage) as, on the 25th of Dhul-'qadah, the Prophet had left Medina for Hajj.