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King Tubba' I

Tubbaʻ the First[1] and His Love for the Prophet Muammad e

 

It was narrated by Muammad ibn Isḥāq[2] who said:

 

Tubbaʻ[3] the First[4], one of those five men who ruled the entire world, marched towards the Kaʻbah intending to demolish it. [Here is the story:]

 

He had many ministers, one of whom, named ʻAmārīsā, he left with, in order to see the extent of his kingdom. He took with him 133,000 men on horseback and 113,000 men on foot. He would enter every city and they would honour him. He would then select 10 wise men from each city and take them with him, until he reached the city of Makkah with 4,000 wise men and scholars whom he had chosen from various cities.

 

(Upon reaching Makkah,) the Makkans did not even flinch and nor did they honour him. He became furious and called upon ʻAmārīsā and said to him, “What are the people of this city like who do not fear me or respect me and nor do they fear or respect my army!? Who are they and what is their nature?”

The minister ʻAmārīsā replied, “Your Majesty. They are Arab people, ignorant. They do not know anything. They have a building they call the Kaʻbah that they revere, they prostrate to idols and entities other than Allāh.”

The King (Tubbaʻ Asʻad Abū Karb) asked, “They pay homage to this building?”

The minister replied, “Yes.”

 

(Tubbaʻ) dismounted and laid camp in the Baṭḥā’ region of Makkah. Without consulting the minister or his army, he decided to give the order to demolish that building (i.e. the Kaʻbah), and that which is known as the Kaʻbah (i.e. Cuboid) would be renamed Kharbah (Ruins), that he would kill the men (of Makkah) and imprison their women and children. Thus, Allāh I inflicted him with such a headache that his eyes, his ears, his mouth and his nose leaked pungent stinky fluid; no one could bear to stand next to him for even a moment due to the stench. Because of that, the King was unable to sleep, and so he said to his minister, “Bring together the scholars and the medicine experts, and seek their advice regarding this affair of mine.”

 

(The minister) brought together the medicine experts in the presence (of Tubbaʻ), but none of them could bear to stand a moment near him due to the stench (emitting from the stinky fluid discharging from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth), and so they were unable to treat him.

He said (out of frustration), “I have accumulated wise men from various lands and I suffer this illness but there is none to treat me?!”

They replied, “We are a people whose affair is mundane, but this is an affair that is divine; we are unable to repel divine doings.”

 

The suffering for Tubbaʻ became worse and the people began to disperse (away from him). Each moment his anguish would increase until night fell.

 

One man from amongst the scholars approached the minister and said, “Let us keep a secret between us, and that is, I will treat the King, Tubbaʻ, on the condition that he tells me the truth regarding what he had intended.”

The minister was overjoyed (to hear) that. He then took the scholar by the hand and presented him to the King, to whom he said, “A man from the scholars says, ‘If the King tells me the truth as to what he had intended in his heart, and he does not keep anything from me, I will treat him’.”

The King was happy to hear that and so he permitted him to enter, who came in and said, “There must be secrecy amongst the two of us for which I seek solitude (with you).”

The King, Tubbaʻ assumed solitude with him, who then asked him, “Did you intend to do anything to this Building?”

The King replied, “Yes. I wanted to destroy this Building and kill its men.”

The scholar replied, “That is the cause of your pain and suffering. You should know that the owner of this Building is Powerful, He knows all secrets. Remove from your heart whatever harm you had planned to do to it and you shall have the best of this world and of the next.”

The King then said, “I shall do that. You have removed all wrongful thoughts from my heart, and I (now) intend to do all things that are good and praiseworthy.”

 

He (i.e. the narrator) said, “The scholar had not yet left the King that he was cured from the illness. Allāh I had forgiven him, given him the sanctuary of His leave and he left his residence as a healthy man, and (as a convert) to the faith of Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm u. He then covered the Kaʻbah in 7 cloths – he was the first to place a covering on the Kaʻbah.

 

He then called out to the people of his kingdom and commanded them to protect the Kaʻbah, after which he departed for Yathrib (Madīnah).

 

Yathrib was then a small area in the midst of which there was some water (i.e. an oasis); there was no building, no vegetation and no person. The King dismounted with his army at the peak of the lake. He called together the scholars and the wise men he had with him, those whom he had amassed from various lands, and the chief of the scholars was a the preaching scholar who was sympathetic to the religion of Allāh I and the one who had informed the King of the stature of the Kaʻbah and relieved him of his anguish by (advising him of adopting) his good intention regarding the Kaʻbah.

 

They all (i.e. the scholars and wise men) gathered together and held a consultation. Of the 4,000 scholars, 400, including the chief scholar, broke away and would not leave that particular place, (resolving that) even if the King was to beat them, kill them, torture them or put them to fire. All of them came to the door of the King and said, “We have left our lands and marched for a long time with the King until we have now reached this place – we will die here, for we have sworn not to leave it even if we were to be killed or set fire to.”

 

The King said to the minister, “What is wrong with them? Why do they not want to leave with me when I need them and cannot do without them? What is their logic behind settling here and adopting this place?”

 

The minister went out and gathered them together and presented to them the King’s query. They reiterated to the minister what they had said to the King, regarding which the minister then asked, “What is the reason behind that?”

 

They said, “Mr. Minister. You should know that the honour of this building (i.e. the Kaʻbah in Makkah) and the honour of this land (i.e. Yathrib) is by virtue of the man who emerges here – he is known as Muammad. (He is) the Imām of Truth, the One Who carries the Staff and Mounts the Camel, the One Who has the Crown and the Rod, the One Who has the Qur’an and Faces the Qiblah, the One Who Bears the Standard and Occupies the Prayer-Niche (minbar), the One Who Proclaims the Statement ‘lā ilāha illa’Llāh (There is no god but Allāh)’, he shall be born in Makkah and will migrate to this place, he is blessed and peaceful to the one who encounters him – and we are of those who hope to encounter him or our children meet him.”

 

When the minister heard this saying of theirs, he himself prepared to settle down with them. Thus, when came the command of the King to move on, they all said, “We are not moving. We have told the minister of the reason behind our settling down in this place.”

 

The King then summoned the minister and asked him, “Why did you not tell me of what (these) people had said?”

He replied, “I have also resolved to remain behind with them but I feared that you would not leave me behind, whereas I am convinced that they were not going to leave.”

 

Upon hearing that from the minister, the King thought he himself ought to reside with them for a year in the hope that he may encounter Muammad e. Therefore, he gave the order (to his army) to build 400 houses; one house for each of those scholars. He then bought for each of them a slave-woman, whom he manumitted and then married to them. He also gave them an abundance (of wealth) and told them to remain at that very location until the time came for Muammad e (to arrive). He wrote a letter that he sealed with gold and submitted it to that scholar who had advised him about the (lofty) status of Kaʻbah (and subsequently cured him of his illness) and ordered him to give that letter to Muammad e should he meet him. If, however, he does not meet him, he should pass that letter on to his children and advise them likewise, and then to the children of his children, (and so on and so forth, generation after generation,) forever as far as they would descend (in lineage) until the Messenger of Allāh e emerges.

 

The contents of the letter were:

أما بعد، يا محمد – صلى الله عليك – إني آمنت بك، وبكتابك الذي أنزل الله عليك، وأنا على دينك و سنتك، وآمنت بربك ورب كل شيء، وبكل ما جاء من ربك من شرائع الإيمان والإسلام، وأنا قبلت ذلك،

فإن أدركتك فبها ونعمت، وإن لم أدركك فاشفع لي يوم القيامة ولا تنسني فإني من أمتك الأولين، وبايعتك قبل مجيئك، وقبل إرسال الله إياك، وأنا على ملتك وملة إبراهيم أبيك خليل الله – عليه السلام .

 

As for what follows, O Muammad, may Allāh bless you, I have certainly believed in you, in the Scripture that Allāh has revealed to you, for I am (a believer) in your religion (dīn)  and your way (sunnah), and I have believed in your Lord and the Lord of every thing, in all that comes from your Lord in terms of the commandments of faith (īmān) and practise (islām) – I accept (all of) that.

If I meet you, then it will be (good) and I will be fortunate, but if I do not meet you, then (I beseech you) to intercede for me on the Day of Judgement (yawm al-qiyāmah) and to not forget me, for I am amongst your early followers; I have sworn my solemn pledge with you prior to your advent and prior to Allāh’s sending you (to us) – I am therefore (an adherent) of your faith and the faith of Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm u, who was your ancestor and the intimate friend (khalīl) of Allāh.[5]

 

He sealed the letter with gold and inscribed it with the words:

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The decision is with Allāh of the matter, before and after (these events take place), and on that day, the believers will rejoice, with the aid of Allāh.[6]

 

He transcribed the title of the letter:

إلى محمد بن عبد الله خاتم النبيين، ورسول رب العالمين صلوات الله عليه،

من تُبَّع الأوّل حمير بن وردع أمانة الله فى يد من وقع إليه أن يوصله إلى صاحبه .

 

To Muammad the son of ʻAbdullāh, Seal of the Prophets and Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds – the blessings of Allāh be upon him.

From Tubbaʻ the First, the Himyarite, entrusted to the hands of one who bears it (i.e. the fiduciary) in order so he may give it to its (intended) recipient.

 

He submitted the letter to the scholarly man who had advised him of the status of the Kaʻbah, and he ordered him to preserve it.

 

Tubbaʻ then left Yathrib – this Yathrib is that place where those scholars had settled; it is the City of the Prophet e (Madīnat ar-Rasūl). Tubbaʻ then left and marched on until he died in Ghilsān (or Ghalsān), a province of India. The day Tubbaʻ died was exactly 1,000 years[7] prior to the day when the Messenger of Allāh e was born, not a day more and not a day less.

 

Thereafter, the people of Madīnah who assisted the Messenger of Allāh e[8] were the descendants of those 400 scholars who had taken up residence in the houses (built by) Tubbaʻ the First, until the advent of Muammad e.

 

Thus, when the Messenger of Allāh e migrated (to Madīnah) and they heard about him that he had left (Makkah for to migrate to Madīnah), they consulted amongst themselves regarding the conveyance of the letter to him. ‘Abdurramān ibn ʻAwf t advised them to choose a reliable man, and so they selected a man named Abū Laylā, who was from the Anṣār (the Helpers) and handed him the letter.

 

He left Madīnah in the direction of Makkah and he found Muammad in the settlement of Banū Sulaym[9]. The Messenger of Allāh e  recognised him, called him over and said, “Are you Abū Laylā?”

He replied, “Yes.”

(The Messenger of Allāh e asked), “Do you have with you the letter of Tubbaʻ the First?”

That man (i.e. Abū Laylā) was left (surprised and) thinking to himself, ‘This is strange. [How does this man know me?]’, and he could not understand it. He then asked, “Who are you? I do not see signs of bewitchment in your face.” (Abū Laylā) had thought this man might be a sorcerer.

(The Messenger of Allāh e) replied, “No. I am Muammad, the Messenger of Allāh. Give the letter to me.”

 

The man opened his packsaddle – he had kept the letter hidden – he took it out and handed it over to the Messenger of Allāh e, who in turn gave it to ʻAlī ibn ʻAbū Tālib t[10], who read it out to him.

 

When the Messenger of Allāh e heard the statement of Tubbaʻ, he said three times, “Welcome, O righteous brother.”

 

He then ordered Abū Laylā back to Madīnah, who returned and broke the glad tidings to the people. Everyone rewarded him individually for that good news.

 

The Messenger of Allāh e arrived (in Madīnah) and the people of the different tribes asked him to stay with them and they clung on to his she-camel. He told them, “Let her be for she is instructed (by Allāh)”.

 

(The she-camel proceeded) until she arrived at the house of Abū Ayyūb (al-Anṣārī) t where she kneeled down, and thus the Messenger of Allāh e  resided in the home of Abū Ayyūb. Abū Ayyūb was one of the descendants of that scholar who had advised Tubbaʻ of the status of the Kaʻbah.

 

They had been awaiting the (Messenger of Allāh e) for they were the descendants of those scholars who had inhabited Yathrib, living in the houses that Tubbaʻ had built for them, and the house wherein resided the Messenger of Allāh e was that very house that Tubbaʻ had built for the Messenger of Allāh e.



[1] Translated and excerpted from an-Nīsābūrī, Abū Saʻīd ʻAbdulmalik al-Kharkūshī (d. 406 AH). Sharf al-Muṣṭafā’. Makkah Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia: Dār al-Bashā’ir al-Islāmiyyah , 1424AH/2003CE. Vol.1, p.96-105.

also mentioned in Ta’rīkh Abu’l-Walīd in a context varying from this one.

 

[2] Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq ibn Yasār (85AH – 150AH) was a Successor (Tābiʻī), and a Muslim historian and hagiographer.  He is reported to have met the Companion (Ṣaḥābī)  Anas ibn Mālik t.

 

[3] Spelt in Arabic تُبَّع

 

[4] It is said his name was Tubbaʻ Asʻad Abū Karb. It is also said he was Alexander the great or a descendant of his.

Tubbaʻ was the title given to the kings of Yemen, like Caesar to the kings of Rome, Negus to the Kings of Abyssinia, etc.

[5] Referenced from Ibn ‘Asākir, by al-Wāqidī from a ḥadīth of Ibn ʻAbbās t from Ubayy ibn Kaʻb t who said, “When Tubbaʻ arrived in Madīnah and dismounted in the Qunāt Valley, he sent [a message] to the Jewish Rabbis saying, “I am about to destroy this land and no Jew will remain therein. The religion will return to that of the Arabs.”

Samuel the Jew, the most learned of the contemporary Jews responded by telling him, “Dear King, this land is that to which a prophet from the Children of Sayyidunā Ismāʻīl (Banū Ismāʻīl) u will migrate. He will be born in Makkah and his name will be Aḥmad. This is the place where he will migrate to. This place where you stand will witness [many] episodes of killings and woundings of many of his companions.”

Tubbaʻ asked, “Who will fight against them when, as you believe, he will be a prophet?”

[The Rabbi] replied, “A people will march against him and they will battle here.”

[Tubbaʻ] asked, “And where will his grave be?”

“In this city.”

“Who will come after him when he is killed?”

“There will be [succession] for him once and against him once. It may be similar to as you are. His companions will fight with him in a great battle and they will not be killed in their homeland. Then, the Hereafter will be theirs. Evidently, no one opposes this view.”

“What is his description?”

“He is a man neither too short and nor too tall. His eyes have a redness in them. He mounts a camel, wears a turban, (hangs) a sword from his shoulder and he does not oppose those who support him, be they a brother, paternal or maternal – so long as his affair is fulfilled.

Tubbaʻ then said, “This city has no way [of being destroyed], and it will [certainly] not be destroyed at my hands.”

He then left, returning to Yemen.” Ibn Saʻd, Tabaqāt, Vol.1, p.158-159.

 

[6] Holy Qur’ān, Sūrat ar-Rūm (30), verses 4-5.

 

[7] Also mentioned is 700 years.

 

[8] They are the Anṣār.

 

[9] The Banū Sulaym (or Banū Salīm) are a branch of the Qays tribe and they lived in Eastern ijāz until the 7th century CE. They were distinguished for the fine horsemanship.

 

[10] Also mentioned in one narration is that it was Abū Bakr t who read out the letter.


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