(Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet…) [3:68].
Said Ibn 'Abbas: “The leaders of the Jews said: 'By Allah, O Muhammad, you know that we have the better claim to Abraham's religion than you or anybody else; and you know that he was a Jew. You are only resentfully envious!' And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”.
Al-Kalbi also related from Abu Salih that Ibn 'Abbas said - and the same is reported by 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghanm from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and this was also mentioned by Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar, such that the wordings of their narrations are mixed up with each other - : “When Ja'far ibn Abi Talib and his fellow companions migrated to Abyssinia and settled there and the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, migrated to Medina which was followed by the Battle of Badr, the Quraysh called for a meeting in Dar al-Nadwah and said: 'We have to exact revenge for those of us who were killed at Badr from the Companions of Muhammad who are with the Negus. Collect, therefore, some money and gift it to the Negus and he will give you in exchange your people who are staying with him. For this mission, select two of your men who are known for their good judgement'. And so they sent 'Amr ibn al-'As and 'Umarah ibn Abi Mu'ayt with gifts, tanned skins and other things. They sailed across the sea to Abyssinia. When they entered in on the Negus, they prostrated themselves and greeted him. They said: 'Our people are grateful to you and want to give you sincere advice for they wish you good. They have sent us to you to warn you about the people who came to you because they represent a liar who has emerged amongst us, claiming he is Allah's Messenger. None of us, except fools, followed him. We had made it very hard on them and drove them away to the canyons of our land. No one was allowed to go to them, and none of them was allowed to leave; they were destroyed by hunger and thirst. When things got tough, he sent you his cousin to corrupt your religion, kingdom and subjects. So beware of them and hand them over to us to suffice you their matter'. They also said to him: 'The proof for what we say is that they will not prostrate to you or greet you with the greeting with which people greet you, out of repulsion from your religion and way of life'. The Negus summoned them, and when they came, Ja'far shouted at the door: 'The party of Allah asks your permission to enter'. Upon hearing them, the Negus said: 'Order the crier to repeat what he said'. When Ja'far repeated what he said, the Negus said: 'Indeed, let them enter with Allah's assurance and safety'. 'Amr ibn al-'As looked at his companion and said: 'Do you not see how they refer unintelligently to the party of Allah?' They did not like at all what they had heard. The Companions entered but did not prostrate themselves to the Negus. 'Amr ibn al-'As said: 'Do you not see how too proud they are to prostrate themselves before you?' The Negus asked them: 'What prevents you from prostrating yourselves before me and greeting me with the greeting with which I am greeted by people from all over the world?' They said: 'We only prostrate ourselves to Allah Who created and made you king. What you mentioned was our salutation when we used to worship idols. Allah then sent among us a true Prophet who commanded us to greet by means of a greeting which is pleasing to Allah, the greeting of peace, the greeting of the inhabitants of Paradise'. The Negus knew that what he said was the truth and that it was mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel. He said: 'Who is the caller who was seeking permission for the party of Allah to enter?' Ja'far identified himself and then spoke. He said: 'You are a king among the kings of the people of this earth, as you are of the people of the Book. Abundant talk and injustice will not do with you, and I would like to answer you on behalf of my companions. Command one of these men to speak and let the other one listen so that you can hear our dialogue'. 'Amr said to Ja'far: 'You speak!' Ja'far said to the Negus: 'Ask this man: are we slaves or freemen? If we are runaway slaves, then by all means do return us to our masters'. The Negus asked: 'Are they slaves or freemen?' He said: 'They are respected freemen!' The Negus said: 'They have escaped from slavery'. Ja'far said: 'Ask them: have we shed any blood without any legitimate right for retaliation to be exacted from us?' 'Amr said: 'They have not shed even a single drop of blood'. Ja'far added: 'Ask them: have we wrongfully taken the property of any people which we are now asked to give back?' The Negus said: 'O 'Amr! I will pay it back even if it is a kantar'. 'Amr said: 'They have not taken even one kerat'. The Negus said: 'In that case, what do you want from them?' 'Amr said: 'We were all following one religion, the religion of our forefathers, but they left that and followed a different religion while we continue to follow it. Their people have therefore sent us so that you hand them over to us'. The Negus asked: 'What is the religion which you had previously followed and the one you are following now? Tell me the truth!' Ja'far said: 'The religion which we used to follow and which we have now abandoned is the religion and matter of Satan; we used to disbelieve in Allah, glorious and majestic is He, and worship stones. As for the religion to which we have reverted, it is Allah's religion, Islam, which was brought to us by a Messenger from Allah who also brought a Scripture like the Scripture brought by Jesus; in fact both Scriptures agree with one another'. The Negus said: 'O Ja'far! You have mentioned a very serious matter; be deliberate!' The Negus then ordered that the bells be rang by which he summoned all his priests and monks. When they all gathered, he said: 'I implore you by Allah Who revealed the Gospel to Jesus: is there any mention of a prophet sent by Allah in the interval between the advent of Jesus and the Day of Judgement?' They said: 'Yes, by Allah! Jesus has given the good news of his advent. He said: whoever believes in this prophet believes in him and whoever disbelieves in this prophet disbelieves in him'. The Negus turned to Ja'far and said: 'What does this man say, command and forbid you?' Ja'far said: 'He recites unto us the Book of Allah, enjoins good, forbids evil, commands good treatment of one's neighbours, keeping ties with one's kin, showing goodness toward orphans and he also commands us to worship Allah alone without any associate'. The Negus said: 'Recite to us some of what he used to recite to you'. Ja'far recited to Him Surah the Spider and Surah the Byzantines. The eyes of the Negus and those with him [among his subjects] overflowed with tears. They said: 'O Ja'far, give us more of this wholesome speech'. Ja'far read Surah the Cave. At this point, 'Amr wanted to provoke the Negus. He said: 'They slander Jesus and his mother!' The Negus asked: 'What do they say about Jesus and his mother?' Ja'far read to them Surah Mary and when he recited the section which mentions Jesus and his mother, the Negus picked up a fragment from a tooth pick (Siwak) - so small that it could get into one's eye-and said: 'By Allah! Jesus did not add to what you have said more than this [i.e. the fragment that he picked]'. He then turned toward Ja'far and his companions and said: 'Go wherever you want in my land. You are safe. Whoever insults or harms you will face a penalty. Receive the good news and do not be afraid. Today, no harm shall ever befall the party of Abraham'. 'Amr asked: 'And who are the party of Abraham?' He said: 'They are these people and the leader who sent them here as well as all those who follow them'. The idolaters denied this and claimed that it was them who were following the religion of Abraham. The Negus returned the money that 'Amr and his companion had gifted him, saying: 'Your gift is a bribe, so take it back. Allah has appointed me as a king and did not take a bribe from me'. Ja'far said: 'And we left. We lived in a good land with honourable neighbours'. Allah, glorious and majestic is He, revealed to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, in Medina about their dispute regarding Abraham (Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him) i.e. those who follow his religion and way, (and this Prophet) i.e. Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, (and those who believe (with him) and Allah is the Protecting Guardian of the believers)”.
Abu Hamid Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Warraq informed us> Abu Ahmad Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Jazari> 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Hatim> Abu Sa'id al-Ashajj> Waki'> Sufyan ibn Sa'id> his father> Abu'l-Duha> 'Abd Allah who reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give peace, said: “Every prophet has supporters from among other prophets, and my support is my forefather and my Lord's intimate friend Abraham”. He then recited: (Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet).
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou