Authenticity of the Messenger's letter to Heraclius

Q: Mr. M. M. Zaman from Bangladesh says that an Arab lady who lives in London claims that she has a letter stamped by the seal of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that was sent to Heraclius. The Committee studied the following questions included in the letter of Mr. M. M. Zaman: 1- How can we verify for sure whether or not that letter belongs to the Prophet (peace be upon him)? 2- How did the Prophet sign the letter though he (peace be upon him) was illiterate? 3- How did this Arab lady get this letter? Did she inherit it or attain it in any other way?

A: It is not permissible to ascribe any word or act to anyone unless there is certain or near certain indication that such a word or an act really belongs to them. This is all the more serious when it comes to Messengers (peace be upon them all) for ascribing a religious affair to them is tantamount to ascribing the same to Allah (Exalted be He) and declaring that it is a part of Shari‘ah (Islamic law) that should be followed. Allah (Exalted be He) says (what means): And follow not (O man i.e., say not, or do not or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those one will be questioned (by Allâh). And He (Exalted be He) says: (Part No. 4; Page No. 378)  Then who does more wrong than one who invents a lie against Allâh, to lead mankind astray without knowledge. Certainly, Allâh guides not the people who are Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers). Moreover, it is authentically reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Ascribing falsehood to me is not like ascribing falsehood to anyone else. Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, let him take his place in Hellfire. (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim and this is the wording of Muslim). Consequently, on the basis of this rule the claim made by the concerned Arab lady that the letter she has is the very same letter that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent to Heraclius is a false claim because it is based on guessing and conjecture. This is emphasized for the following reasons: Firstly: There is a long period of more than fourteen centuries between today and the time of writing that letter. During this period great events and fierce wars took place between the Christians and Muslims provoked by religious enmity and doctrinal conflict between the two sides; such circumstances make it difficult for the original copy of the letter to survive. Secondly: The people of Hercules shouted boisterously and their voices raised loudly when he finished reading the letter of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a sign of their discontent and denial of what they heard. They fled like zebras and turned to the palace’s doors when Heraclius called them to believe in our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as they hated to do so and were fanatical about their false religion. However, Heraclius was cautious and had expected this reaction; he closed the doors and tightened the siege so that his people could not go out. (Part No. 4; Page No. 379) He then ordered that they should be brought back to him, and preferred to remain Christian to maintain his sovereignty, and told them that he was just testing their devotion to their religion and that he was pleased by their firm adherence to their religion. Such religious enmity and doctrinal conflict must have incited them to destroy that letter either at the time of Heraclius or after his death, once they had a chance to get rid of the letter that aroused their anger and revoked their ‘Aqidah (creed) lest someone should come at anytime who might raise the issue again and call to belief in its content. Thirdly: nothing is known about the uprightness, honesty, and eligibility of the anonymous mentioned lady for such a matter. Nobody knows anything about the different successive generations of people through whom the letter was passed on until it reached us; such doubt and suspicion invalidate ascribing this letter to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and claiming that it is the original one sent by him to Heraclius. These are the requisites of the rule that must be followed in ascribing words and deeds to people. Whoever craves more information and verification can show this letter to experts in handwriting comparison and identification. They may also show it to experts in manuscript analysis or in leather parchments for determining its age and to compare between the letter in question and earlier verified manuscripts, to learn for sure the truth or falsity of such an ascription. (Part No. 4; Page No. 380) Nevertheless, time estimation, handwriting comparison and manuscript analysis are matters that are subject to guessing and errors. Moreover, the handwriting on this letter cannot be verified unless it is known who was the Sahaby (Companion of the Prophet) that wrote it down for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and what his handwriting looked like, but how can we find this out today? It is thus impossible to identify the handwriting on this letter. Fourthly: It is mentioned that the word “Muhammad” is written in the seal that is stamped on that letter while it is well-known that the seal of the Prophet (peace be upon him contained three words: “Muhammad Rasul Allah” [lit. Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah]. This ascertains that the letter in question is forged and absolutely baseless. In addition, the content of the letter that was sent by the Prophet to Heraclius has been, beyond all doubts, conveyed correctly by trustworthy Muslim scholars. Therefore, we are not in any need for a doubted letter which evidence indicates that it is more likely to be a lie than a reality. Moreover, approving such a letter and considering it may open the door to evil, for someone’s soul may tempt him to forge a letter and seal imitating the handwriting and seal of the letter in question.We must not pay attention to this letter and we should not regard it as a vestige. We should be satisfied with the authentic texts and Hadith that are related by trustworthy scholars that Allah has enriched us with. This will block the means to evil and forgery of letters and messages. It will protect the Din (Religion) of Allah against abusers and liars. (Part No. 4; Page No. 381) May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.