(Thou wilt find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe (to be) the Jews) up to His words (But those who disbelieve and deny Our revelations, they are owners of hell-fire) [5:82-86].
These verses were revealed about the Negus and his followers. Said Ibn ‘Abbas: “When he was in Mecca, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to fear the idolaters’ persecution of his Companions. He therefore sent Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib and ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, at the head of a group of his Companions, to the Negus. He said: ‘The Negus is a righteous man; he is not an oppressor and none is oppressed in his dominion. So head toward him and remain there until Allah creates relief for the Muslims’. When they went to him, the Negus honoured them and then asked them: ‘Do you memorise anything of that which was revealed to you?’ They answered in the affirmative and then recited to him [some Qur’an,] with monks and priests surrounding him. Whenever they read a verse, the tears rolled down their cheeks due to the truth which they recognized. Allah, exalted is He, says: (That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud)”.
Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Farisi informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun ibn al-Fadl> Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan> Muhammad ibn Yahya> Abu Salih, the scribe of al-Layth> al-Layth> Yunus> Ibn Shihab> Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab and ‘Urwah ibn al-Zubayr as well as others who said: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent ‘Amr ibn Umayyah al-Damri with a message to the Negus. The latter read the message of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and then called Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib and all the Emigrants with him and he also invited priests and monks to the assembly. He ordered Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib to recite to them from the Qur’an, and he read Surah Maryam, peace be upon her. They believed in the Qur’an and tears flowed from their eyes. It is about them that Allah, exalted is He, revealed (And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians) up to His words (Inscribe us as among the witnesses)”.
Other commentators said: “Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib and his companions came from Abyssinia accompanied by a delegation from the Negus to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. The delegation included seventy men, all wearing wool. There were sixty-two from Abyssinia and eight from Syria: Bahirah the monk, Abrahah, Idris, Ashraf, Tammam, Quthaym, Durayd and Ayman. When the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, recited to them Surah Yasin, they wept and believed. They commented: ‘How similar is this to what used to be revealed to Jesus’. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed about them these verses”.
Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-‘Adl informed us> Zahir ibn Ahmad> Abu’l-Qasim al-Baghawi> ‘Ali ibn al-Ja‘d> Sharik> Salim> Sa‘id ibn Jubayr who, commenting on Allah’s words (That is because there are among them priests and monks), said: “The Negus sent thirty men among his best subjects to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. When the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, recited to them Surah Yasin, they wept, and so this verse was revealed”.
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou