Jafar Ibn Abi Talib

The Negus summoned the Muslims once more and Jafar acted as their spokesman. The Negus put the question: “What do you say about Jesus, the son of Mary?”

“Regarding him, we only say what has been revealed to our Prophet ,” replied Jaffar. “And what is that?” enquired the Negus.

“Our Prophet says that Jesus is the servant of God and His Prophet. His spirit and His word which He cast into Mary the Virgin.”

The Negus was obviously excited by this reply and exclaimed: “By God, Jesus the son of Mary was exactly as your Prophet has described him”

The bishops around the Negus grunted in disgust at what they had heard and were reprimanded by the Negus. He turned to the Muslims and said:

“Go, for you are safe and secure. Whoever obstructs you will pay for it and whoever opposes you will be punished. For, by God, I would rather not have a mountain of gold than that anyone of you should come to any harm.”

Turning to Amr and his companion, he instructed his attendants: “Return their gifts to these two men. I have no need of them.” Amr and his companion left broken and frustrated. The Muslims stayed on in the land of the Negus who proved to be most generous and kind to his guests.

Jafar and his wife Asma spent about ten years in Abyssinia which became a second home for them. There, Asma gave birth to three children whom they named Abdullah, Muhammad and Awn. Their second child was possibly the first child in the history of the Muslim Ummah to be given the name Muhammad after the noble Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace.

In the seventh year of the hijrah, Jafar and his family left Abyssinia with a group of Muslims and headed for Madinah. When they arrived the Prophet was just returning from the successful conquest of Khaybar. He was so overjoyed at meeting Jafar that he said: “I do not know what fills me with more happiness, the conquest of Khaybar or the coming of Jafar.”

Muslims in general and the poor among them especially were just as happy with the return of Jafar as the Prophet was. Jafar quickly became known as a person who was much concerned for the welfare of the poor and indigent. For this he was nicknamed, the “Father of the Poor”. Abu Hurayrah said of him: “The best of men towards us indigent folk was Jafar ibn Abi Talib. He would pass by us on his way home and give us whatever food he had. Even if his own food had run out, he would send us a pot in which he had placed some butterfat and nothing more. We would open it and lick it clean…”

Jafar’s stay in Madinah was not long. At the beginning of the eighth year of the hijrah, the Prophet mobilized an army to confront Byzantine forces in Syria because one of his emissaries who had gone in peace had been treacherously killed by a Byzantine governor. He appointed Zayd ibn Harithah as commander of the army and gave the following instructions: “If Zayd is wounded or killed, Jafar ibn Abi Talib would take over the command. If Jafar is killed or wounded, then your commander would be Abdullah ibn Rawahah. If Abdullah ibn Rawahah is killed, then let the Muslims choose for themselves a commander.”

The Prophet had never given such instructions to an army before and the Muslims took this as an indication that he expected the battle to be tough and that they would even suffer major losses.

When the Muslim army reached Mutah, a small village situated among hills in Jordan, they discovered that the Byzantines had amassed a hundred thousand men backed up by a massive number of Christian Arabs from the tribes of Lakhm, Judham, Qudaah and others. The Muslim army only numbered three thousand.

Despite the great odds against them, the Muslim forces engaged the Byzantines in battle. Zayd ibn al-Harithah, the beloved companion of the Prophet, was among the first to fall. Jafar ibn Abi Talib then assumed command. Mounted on his ruddy-complexioned horse, he penetrated deep into the Byzantine ranks. As he spurred his horse on, he called out: “How wonderful is Paradise as it draws near! How pleasant and cool is its drink! Punishment for the Byzantines is not far away!” Jafar continued to fight vigorously but was eventually slain. The third in command, Abdullah ibn Rawahah, also fell. Khalid ibn al-Walid, the inveterate fighter who had recently accepted Islam, was then chosen as the commander. He made a tactical withdrawal, redeployed the Muslims and renewed the attack from several directions. Eventually, the bulk of the Byzantine forces fled in disarray.

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