When the Hajj was drawing near, the Quresh had a new fear, the fear that the tribes coming to Mecca from outside would learn of the Prophet. They would want to know about him and his new religion. After a long debate among themselves, the Quresh decided to tell them that Muhammad was a sorcerer. Every child of Mecca was taught to repeat this lie. At the same time, the Quresh set ruffians upon the Prophet, to hurl abuse at him and say dirty things to his face. At times they would stone his house. Once the Prophet was praying in the Holy Kaaba, when Utba bin Abi Moit took off his mantle and tried to garrote the Prophet. Abu Bakr intervened. He said to Quresh,
“Would you kill a man because he says Allah is the only God?”
At another time, when the Quresh got around the Prophet in the Holy Kaaba with the intent to do him bodily harm, Harith bin Abi Halla came to his help. Harith was killed instantly.
In short, Muslims were shown no mercy. The Quresh were after their blood. This was too much for the believers. Once Abdur Rahman bin Auf and a few others requested the Prophet to permit them to fight back the Quresh. The Prophet said,
“I have been commanded to forgive. Fight not therefore.”
Dutiful companions of the good Prophet obeyed and remained patient as before.
But the Prophet was in deep grief. He was distressed on account of the sad plight of Muslims. He advised some to depart for Abyssinia. The Prophet told them that they would find peace there. Many Muslims left Mecca. Among them were Jafar bin Abi Talib, Uthman bin Affan and his wife Rukkiya, a daughter of the Prophet, Zubair bin al-Awam, Abdur Rahman bin Auf, Mazhar bin Umair, Abu Salma bin Abdul Asad, Abu Hazifa, Abu Salma bin and Uthman bin Mazoon. Most of them commanded respect among the Meccans before joining the ranks of Islam. But now things had changed. They lived happily in Abyssinia. Soon some more followed them.
In all one hundred Muslims went over to seek asylum with the Negus. The Quresh of Mecca were angry at this. They sent two men, Amar bin Alas and Abdullah bin Rabi, with presents to the King of Abyssinia. Addressing the monarch, they said,
“O King, some fools of our town have given up the religion of their fathers. They have started a new faith, which is also against your faith. They have made trouble in their own land. Some of them have come to your country. We beg of you to send them back with us.”
The Negus summoned the Muslims to his court and asked them what they had to say. Jafar, their leader, said,
“O King, we were ignorant. We worshipped idols. We had evil ways. We were bad to our relations and neighbours. The hand of the strong among us was heavy on the weak. God raised a Prophet among us. We knew well that he was a honest and a man of truth. He taught us to worship one God, to give up idols, to speak the truth, to be honest, to be kind to neighbours, to give up evil ways and not to eat the property of the orphans. We believed in him and obeyed him. But our people were cruel to us and used force against us. We left our homes and are now refugees in your land. We hope, O King, that we would not come to any harm under you.”
The Negus then asked Jafar to read to him the Quran. He read out a part of Sura Maryam. The Negus was deeply moved. He ordered the Quresh back to their homes and returned to them their presents.