Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded (QS Ibrahim: 24-25)
Our Prophet SAW has written a very eloquent letter to the Emperor of Byzantine (Rome), Heracles:
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. مِنْ مُحَمَّدٍ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى هِرَقْلَ عَظِيمِ الرُّومِ. سَلاَمٌ عَلَى مَنِ اتَّبَعَ الْهُدَى، أَمَّا بَعْدُ فَإِنِّي أَدْعُوكَ بِدِعَايَةِ الإِسْلاَمِ، أَسْلِمْ تَسْلَمْ، يُؤْتِكَ اللَّهُ أَجْرَكَ مَرَّتَيْنِ، فَإِنْ تَوَلَّيْتَ فَإِنَّ عَلَيْكَ إِثْمَ الأَرِيسِيِّينَ
In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad the slave of Allah and His Apostle to Heraclius the ruler of Byzantine. Peace be upon him, who follows the right path. Furthermore I invite you to Islam, and if you become a Muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of Islam then upon you will be sin of the Arians.
My Muslim brothers! Do you know who Arian is? Do you know why they are so important that the Prophet SAW mention them explicitly to the letter he SAW sent to Heracles, the emperor of the two biggest kingdom of the earth at that time? In fact, in a lot of translation, you will find that Arians are wrongly translated to peasant, while in reality, they are a group of people that stand upon the truth and an important bridge of Islam between Jesus AS and our Prophet Muhammad SAW.
So, who are the Arians?
Arians is a group of Christian that is considered heretic by mainstream Christianity. However, a group that is branded error by the one who does not stand on truth might be the one who is upon the truth. Arians actually refer to a group of Christianity who belief that God is only One. Arians attribute its name to a bishop named Arius. So, now we turn to other question, “who is Arius?”
History of Arius
Arius lived between 256 and 336 AD. He is a bishop of Amazigh origin. He went to Antioch to study the teachings of Jesus under Saint Lucian. Here we must understand that Jesus actually brought the same religion of our prophet Muhammad SAW. That there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. One of the other student of Saint Lucian is bishop Eusebius. Remember this name because he will have important role in this story.
Around that time a conflict arose in Alexandria, Egypt. The conflict was between two groups. One group was led by Pope Alexander I of Alexandria, who wants to introduce new concept to Jesus religion, which is to worship Jesus! The other group was led by Arius, who stated that Jesus is merely the Messenger of God. Arius’ monotheistic call started to gain favor of Alexandria people. Numerous bishops and priest from the East also preferred his teachings.
Feeling cornered, Pope Alexander exiled Arius. When he was exiled, Arius wrote letter to his friend who also studied under Saint Lucian, Eusebius, to support his monotheistic call. Eusebius agreed and responded to the call. The other students of Lucian, who heard also of this dispute, also supported Arius’ call to monotheistic religion.
Constantine the Great, who was emperor of Byzantine at that time, felt that the dispute has disrupted the social peace between many of Byzantium cities. Note that Constantine was an idolater at this time. Therefore, he called all the priests to a conference, dated 325 AD, that was later called, “the council of Nicaea.” This council saw the debate between monotheistic group, which was led by Arius and Eusebius, versus a group led by Athanasius, Pope Alexander foster child, who supported idolizing Jesus.
Finally, after long debate, emperor Constantine decided that the result of this council should be determined by voting. At this time, the majority of bishops were already in favor of Arius monotheistic call. However, the emperor sent threats to all the bishops. Terrified at the threat, a lot of bishops decided to sign for idolizing Jesus, naively thinking that this is merely a document, and they can come back to their cities to spread monotheism. Thus, the famous “doctrine of Nicaea” in which Jesus was elevated to God came into being. Na’udzubillah min dzalik. Despite that, Arius was among the only three priests who refused to sign the document.
After this document was signed, the monotheistic priests were exiled from their respective churches, and were labelled “Arian priests.” While the ones who supported the Nicaean doctrine consider themselves, “Orthodox” or “The original.” At this time, it seemed that the true message of Jesus, monotheism, will diminish and die.
The good word, Laa ilaaha illallah, bloom its seed from a very unexpected place, which is from the palace of Byzantine itself. Constantine mother, Saint Helena, embraced monotheistic call, or Arian Christianity you would say, and brought back Eusebius to the capital from his exile, three years after the council of Nicaea. Through Eusebius wise words, emperor Constantine start to favor monotheism, and he fought against the Nicaean priests who supported idolizing Jesus, and finally succeed in dismissing Athanasius, leader of Arius’ opposition back in the Nicaea council, at 335 AD. After Athanasius was dismissed, Arius was called to the palace by the emperor himself, at 336 AD. The capital of Rome at that time was Constantinople, a city that was named after emperor Constantine. However, when Arius and Eusebius walked to greet the people in the capital, suddenly he felt and had intense bleeding. Although not yet proved, there was strong evidence that he was poisoned by his church opponents. Thus, our hero Arius died at 336 AD. May Allah grant mercy on him.
The seed of good word that Arius planted, which was also watered by his friend Eusebius, finally blooms beautifully with great victory. At 337 AD, the same year as his death, emperor Constantine I, may Allah grant mercy on him, declared embracing monotheism, or Islam you may call it. He officially became the first Muslim emperor in the world. Perhaps by this account as well our Prophet Muhammad SAW prophesied the conquest of Constantinople. Allah knows best.
Fruit of Arius good seed
The good word bloomed in various places in the world. Successor of Constantine, Constantius the Second and his wife, Empress Eusebia, continued to spread monotheistic call throughout Byzantine empire.
Eusebius also taught many students. One of Eusebius student was a young man who come from Maldives, beautiful archipelago at the south of India, named Theophilus. Later, he was sent by the emperor, Constantius the Second, to spread Islam at India. On his route, he stopped by Abyssinia, or Ethiopia, to spread Islam there. This might explain why King of Najasyi, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, understood Islam and considered the message of Jesus the same as the message of Islam brought by the companions (RA) who migrated there. Next, Theophilus moved again to Yemen, to spread Islam among the Himyarites. Some scholars mentioned that the Himyarites muslim were the muslim mentioned by Allah in the beginning of surat Al-Buruj, also famous as “Ashabul Ukhdud” – the ones who were burnt in ditches because of their monotheism. After that, Theophilus went again to his destination, India, and spread Islam there. Also, this might explain why people of Maldives are muslim, up until today, because Theophilus was from Maldives!
While Teophilus planted the good word in the east, another seed of good word bloomed in the West. Before Eusebius death, he taught a student named Ulfilas, who was of Gothic Germanic origin. Ulfilas devised the first Gothic alphabet, thus turning the Gothic language from oral to written, and he also translated the bible into Gothic. The message of Jesus, monotheism, brought by Ulfilas, started to be accepted by various Germanic tribes. Later, those Germanic tribes established monotheistic European Kingdom that spans across Central Europe, Western Europe and North Africa, such as Kingdom of Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Suebi, and Vandals. The name of Spain at that time up until now, Andalusia, came from Vandalusia, the land of Vandals. These Gothic kingdom hold strong their monotheism, against numerous battles with the Roman empire. Until finally, the last of the Kingdom, Visigoths, fall with the conversion of its king to Christianity, at 586 AD. Now the message of monotheism seemed to be withering away.
Note that when the last Arian kingdom, Visigoths, fall at 586 AD, our Prophet Muhammad SAW had born into this world. Soon he SAW will restore the monotheism call to the whole world. In just about 100 years after the decline of Visigoths, Islam came back to Spain. And in fact, most cities in Andalusia merely opened the gate to Tarek bin Ziyad, without any resistance. Perhaps those cities still inhabited by Muslim people who were waiting for Muslim conqueror. Remember that Spain was a Muslim land for over 800 years! When Islam came to North Africa, it was very well welcomed by its people, perhaps by the remnants of Vandal people, as well as the Amazigh, who had become Muslim since long time ago. In fact, most of the area occupied by the Germanic tribe are Muslim land right now, except Spain whose Muslim was massacred in the Conquistador.
Just as the Muslim Kingdom declined at 1500 AD at Spain, a new capital of Islam emerged at the other city, in which Arius and Eusebius planted the good word there. Constantinople, a city that was established by first Muslim emperor, Constantine, now had been reclaimed by Muhammad al-Fatih. This city then became the great capital of Islam until the fall of Ottoman empire at 1920, only less than one hundred years from us today!
Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? (QS Ibrahim: 24)
Planting good seed in our life
Some of you might bring up argumentation about who Arius is, or how much is the accuracy of the information I have just spoken. However, the wise will know that my point in bringing up the story of Arius is to remind all of us, me and you, of the importance of planting the seed of good word. Majority of scholars agree that the good word I just mentioned from Surah Ibrahim, it means laa ilaaha illallah. There is no God except Allah, in more comprehensive meaning, There is no Deity worthy of worship except Allah. In simple layman language, there is nothing worthy of devoting your life for, except Allah. Let me repeat, the meaning of laa ilaaha illallah, in its deepest sense is, there is nothing worthy of devoting your life for, except Allah.
I also remind all of us to always plant this good word deeply in our heart. Make every one of our action sincerely for Him. Being pious doesn’t mean always praying or always reading Quran. Being pious means even if you study, you eat, you go to toilet, you have intercourse with your wife, you remember Allah and you offer those deeds for Allah.
I also remind all of us, and perhaps this is the most important, to plant this good word deeply in our family. Our wives, our children, they are our direct responsibility. Who knows my brothers, that through our children good deeds, our status in the eye of Allah will be elevated.
Also plant this good words in your friend, in your colleague. Perhaps they may say, “I don’t care”, or “I don’t believe in God”. But really, you will never know what is going on in their head. You will never know if perhaps Allah will bloom these seeds one day, with His permission. A lot of the harvest of Arius call to Islam happened after his death.
Finally I would like to close my speech with the best of speech, the words of Allah in surah Ibrahim, who was among the first man who planted the good seeds that reached us today.
Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills. (QS Ibrahim: 24)