Ahmad: Heraclius evaluates the claim of Prophet Muhammad

Syed Sajid Ahmad

During the period of peace treaty between Prophet Muhammad and his Meccan adversaries, Abu Sufyan, a Meccan chief, was on a trade expedition to the Levant. Heraclius, the emperor of the Byzantine Empire (A.D. 610-641) at the time, had received a letter from Prophet Muhammad. In his letter, the Arabian Prophet invited the emperor to accept Islam, citing a verse from the Holy Quran to come together on commonalities between the two faiths (3:63/64). The emperor summoned the Meccan trade group to his court in Jerusalem (A.D. 629) and questioned the Meccan chief about the Prophet. After questioning the chief, Heraclius summarized and analyzed his conversation with the chief as follows:

I asked you about his lineage. You responded that he comes from a very noble family among you. So are the messengers raised from the noble families among their people.

I asked you whether anybody else among you made a similar claim. You responded in the negative. If someone else had made a similar claim before him, I could have deduced that he was copying him.

I asked you whether anyone from his ancestors was a ruler. Your responded in the negative. If there had been a ruler among his ancestors, I would have considered that he wanted to win back the empire of his ancestors.

I asked whether you ever accused him of telling lies before his current claim. You replied in the negative. From this, I recognize that it cannot be that he would not tell a lie when it comes to people but tell a lie when it comes to God.


I asked you whether the noblemen from people followed him or the weak of them. You replied that it was the weak of them who followed him; indeed, such follow the messengers.

I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing in numbers. You replied that they were increasing in numbers. In fact, this is the way of the faith until it reaches its peak.

I asked you whether after entering his faith anyone reverted becoming displeased with his religion. Your reply was in the negative. Indeed, this is the condition of faith as its delight mingles with the hearts.

I asked you whether he had ever betrayed. You replied in the negative. That is how messengers are. They do not betray.

I asked you what he ordered you. You mentioned that he ordered you to worship God, and do not set equals to him, and forbade you to worship idols, and ordered you to establish worship, to speak the truth, and to be chaste.

If what you have said is true, he will very soon rule the place where these my feet are. I have known that he was to appear but I did not think that he was to be from you. If I knew that I could reach him, I would have proceeded in the face of hardship. If I were with him, I would certainly have washed his feet.

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