king of Yemen, ruling from 515-525 A.D. Yemen was known as Himayar
during this period. According to Arab
historians, Dhu Nuwas was given this name on account of his curly hair.
Arab history writers tell us that Dhu Nuwas was not a Jew by birth, but embraced Judaism after taking the throne, using the name of Yusuf Dhu Nuwas. Having killed corrupt king Khani'ah Yanuf Dhu Shanatir
, Dhu Nuwas spread Judaism in Yemen.
Dhu Nuwas zeal
brought his downfall. Offended by Byzantine
Emperors maltreatment of Jews, he put Christian merchants passing through Himayar to death. This act harmed trade between Yemen and Europe and ignited a war with heathen
because his commercial interests were damaged. Dhu Nuwas was defeated in 521.
The kingdom was reestablished and Dhu Nuwas was in a new war against the Christian city of Najran
(Presently in Saudi Arabia
), Najran was a great dependency for his kingdom. On Najran's surrender, he would offer protection from punishment on the condition of embracing Judaism or punishment to death. When the inhabitants refused to renounce their faith, he executed Harith ibn Kaleb
, their chief, and 340 selected men.
Versions differ on the date of the massacre, but one source claims it to be November 25, 523. The Quran states in Surah 80: "Cursed be the diggers of the trench, who lighted the consuming fire and sat around it to watch the faithful being put to the torture!". Some people link the event to this verse, but it is inconclusive among commentators.
The event at Najran provoked Christians. Justin I, Roman
Emperor, appealed to Negus Eletbaa
to war against the Jewish king. Following this request, an ethopian army was dispatched by crossing the Red Sea
. Dhu Nuwas unsuccessfully prevented its landing. The engagement defeated Dhu Nuwas. His city Zafora
, his queen and treasures fell into the enemy. Prefering death to capture, Dhu Nuwas rode to the sea and drowned him self in suicide
1: (Ibn Khaldun