Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Abu Sufyan ibn Harb informed me that Heraclius had sent a messenger to him while he had been accompanying a caravan from Quraish. They were merchants doing business in sham (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan) at the time when Allah’s messenger had a truce with Abu Sufyan and Quraish infidels. So Abu Sufyan and his companions went to Heraclius at Ilya (Jerusalem).
Heraclius called them in a court and he had all the senior Roman dignitaries around him. He called for his translator who, translating Heraclius’s question, said to them:
“Who among you is closely related to that man who claims to be a prophet?”
Abu Sufyan replied: “I am the nearest relative to him(amongst the group).”
Heraclius said: “Bring him (Abu Sufyan) close to me and make his companions stand behind him.”
Abu Sufyan added in the narration:“Heraclius told his translator to tell my companions that he wanted to put some questions to me regarding that man (Prophet Muhammed) and that if i told a lie they (my companions) should contradict me. By Allah! Had i not been afraid of my companions labeling me a liar, i would not have spoken the truth about the prophet.”
Abu Sufyan’s narration continues:
“The first question he(Heraclius) asked me about him(Prophet Muhammed PBUH) was:
“What is his family status among you?”
I replied: “He belongs to a good(noble) family amongst us.”
Heraclius further asked: “Has anybody among you ever claimed the same (i.e to be a prophet) before him?”
I replied: “No.”
He said: “Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?”
I replied: “No.”
Heraclius asked: “Do the nobles or the poor follow him?”
I replied: “It is the poor who follow him.”
He said: “Are his followers increasing or decreasing(day by day)?”
I replied: “They are increasing.”
He then asked: “Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased and renounce the religion afterwards?”
I replied: “No.”
Heraclius said: “Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim( to be a prophet)?”
I replied: “No.”
Heraclius said: “Does he break his promise?”
I replied: ” No. We are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it.” I could not find an opportunity to say anything against him except that.
Heraclius asked: “Have you ever had a war with him?”
I replied: “Yes.”
Then he said: ” What was the outcome of the battle?”
I replied: “Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we.”
Heraclius said: ” What does he order you to do?”
I said: ” He tells us to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to pray, to speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep good relations with our kith and kin.”
Heraclius asked the translator to convey to me the following:
” I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belonged to a very noble family. Infact, all Messengers come from noble families among their respective people. I questioned you whether anybody else among you claimed such a thing; your relpy was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, i would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s statement. Then i asked you whether anyone of his ancestors was a king, your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, i would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom. I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he proclaimed that he was a prophet, and your reply was in the negative. So I wondered how a person who does not tell lie about others could ever tell a lie about God! I then asked you whether the rich people followed him or the poor, you replied that it was the poor who followed him. And infact all the messengers have been followed by this very class of people. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and infact this is the way of true faith, till it is complete in all respects. I further asked you whether there was anybody after embracing his religion became displeased and discarded his religion, your reply was in the negative, and infact this is (the sign of) true faith, when its delight enters the heart and mixes with them completely. I asked you whether he had ever betrayed anyone, you replied in the negative and likewise the messengers never betray. Then I asked you what he ordered you to do, you replied that he ordered you to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship idols and ordered you to pray, to speak the truth and to be chaste.
If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy this place underneath my feet and I knew it(from the scriptures) that he was going to appear but I did not know that he would be from you, and if I could reach him definitely i would go immediately to meet him and if i were with him, i would certainly wash his feet”
Heraclius then asked for the letter addressed by Allah’s messenger which had been delivered by Dihya to the Governor of Busra, who forwarded it to Heracluis to read. The contents of the letter were as follows:
“In the name of Allah the Beneficient, the merciful. (This letter is) from Muhammed the slave and messenger of Allah to Heracluis the ruler of Byzantine. Peace be upon him who follows the right path. Furthermore i invite you to islam, and if you become a muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of islam, you will be committing a sin by misguiding your subjects(peolpe).
And I recite to you Allah’s statement: *Say (O Muhammed): ‘O people of the scripture ( Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah.’ Then, if they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are muslims.’
Abu Sufyan then added: ” When Heraclius had finished his speech and had read the letter, there was a great hue and cry in the Royal Court. So we turned out of the court. I told my companions that the question of ibn Abi Kabsha(prophet Muhammed) had become so prominent that even the king of Bani Al-Asfar (Byzantine) was afraid of him. Then i started. To become sure that he ( Prophet Muhammed) would be the conqueror in the near future till i embraced islam(i.e. Allah guided me to it).