Chapter VI: The Peace Dividend: Hudaybiyah
The Statesman Par Excellence and Teacher
After four years marked by the three major conflicts, Muhammad's (S) mission took another unexpected and peaceful turn. It is remembered in biographical books as the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. The events that led to this treaty were anything but promising. It was now six years after the Muslim Migration to Madinah and the verses establishing the central role of the Ka'bah in Makkah had been revealed.
... Now shall we turn thee to a Qiblah that shall please thee
Turn then thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque (Qur'an 2: 144)
Many Muslims were nostalgic for the streets of Makkah and pined to return to it for a visit. They were the only group denied the privilege of pilgrimage by the Quraysh. The Qur'an alludes to this Qurayshi intransigence in these verses.
But what plea have they that Allah should not punish them,
when they try to keep (men) from the Sacred mosque-
They are not fit as its guardians.
No men can be its guardians except the righteous.
But most of them do not understand.
Their prayer at the House (of Allah) is nothing but whistling and clapping of hands (its only answer can be)
"Taste ye the Penalty because ye blasphemed."(Qur'an 8: 34-35)
Muhammad (S) had a dream in which he saw himself performing the pilgrimage. He joyfully announced a date for departing on the lesser pilgrimage ('Umrah) and invited everyone, including the surrounding tribes, to join him. It appeared to many like a death wish, so very few of the tribes accepted his invitation to join in the pilgrimage. The Qur'an chides those who excused themselves from the pilgrimage.
"The desert Arabs who lagged behind will say to thee:
'We were engaged in (looking after) our flocks and herds, and our families.
Do thou then ask forgiveness for us.'
They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts.
Say! 'Who then has any power at all (to intervene) on your behalf with Allah.
If His will is to give you some loss, or to give you some profit, but Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do.'
Nay, ye thought that the Apostle and the Believers would never return to their families.
This seemed pleasing in your hearts, and ye conceived an evil thought, for ye are a people lost (in wickedness)." (Qur'an 48: 11-12)
The general reaction of the people in Madinah was surprise. The Prophet was relying on the Quraysh to adhere to the old Arab practice of not engaging in warfare during the four sacred months. Nevertheless the Prophet and his close followers left for pilgrimage essentially unarmed, dressed in traditional pilgrimage garb, and with the sacrificial camels in tow. There would be no doubt in anyone's mind about the peaceful intent of this group of pilgrims.
The Quraysh in Makkah were also surprised and became suspicious of this move. They were certain subterfuge was involved. They quickly gathered a cavalry of 200 and set out to intercept the Muslims. This force was led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, the same military leader who later accepted Islam and became the famous Muslim general. When the Prophet learned of this impending cavalry attack, he changed his route to avoid confrontation, camping at a place called Hudaybiyah.
"Woe to the Quraysh," said the Prophet in frustration. "Why should they object to letting me finish this affair (pilgrimage)..." However, he still hoped for a peaceful resolution. "If the Quraysh would ask us for a guarantee of Muslim intentions based upon our blood relationship to them," said Muhammad (S), "we should be happy to give it to them."
There were several days of reconnaissance, negotiations and patient waiting but nothing seemed to go right. Local inhabitants attacked the Muslim camp one night. Many amongst the Muslims wished to retaliate, but Muhammad (S) counseled patience. One reason for avoiding conflict was the fear that some of the Makkans who had accepted Islam but had not declared themselves openly would be inadvertently hurt.
And He it is who held back their hands from you and your hands from them in the valley of Makkah, After He had given you victory over them, And Allah seeth what ye do. It is they who have disbelieved who kept you away from the sacred mosque and prevented the offering from reaching its destination (or the place of sacrifice). Had there not been such believing men and women (among the Makkans), not knowing who were believers you might have trampled them. And thus committed an offense in ignorance, (though) Allah admits to His mercy whom He will, the unbelievers would (have been punished).
And (on the other hand), had the believers and the unbelievers been clearly separated, We would have surely hastened a grievous chastisement on the unbelievers. (Qur'an 48: 24, 25)
During the negotiation process, Muslims sent Uthman ibn Affan to Makkah as an emissary. He did not return for a while, which raised fears among the Muslims that he may have been murdered. The Prophet gathered his followers under a tree and asked them to renew their pledge to be faithful to Allah, and remain steadfast under all circumstances.
Allah's good pleasure was on the believers when they swore fealty to thee under the tree.
He knows what was in their hearts and He sent down tranquillity to them.
And He rewarded them with a speedy victory. And they who have pledged fealty to thee (O Muhammad) have in truth pledged fealty to Allah. And the hand of Allah (so to speak) rests on their hands (to symbolize the sanctity of the pledge given).
So whosoever shall break his pledge shall break it to his own hurl, And whosoever is true to his pledges given to Allah, to him will He assuredly grant a high reward. (Qur'an 48: 18- 10)
This pledge of fealty is remembered as Bay'at ar- Ridwan (Fealty of Allah's Good Pleasure). The Muslims demonstrated nonpareil courage and moral strength on this occasion. These 1400 to 1500 men and women with Muhammad (S) in Hudaybiyah were unarmed and faced the possibility of a massacre at the hands of the Quraysh. Soon thereafter however Uthman returned safely and a treaty was negotiated with the Quraysh. The terms of the treaty with the Quraysh appeared to decidedly favor the Quraysh. Muhammad (S) offered to compromise on every issue, even the signing of his name on the treaty as Muhammad (S), son of Abdullah, rather than Muhammad (S), the Messenger of Allah.
The treaty of Hudaybiyah, as it is known, called for Muslims to return to Madinah without performing the rites of pilgrimage. They would be allowed to come back the next year to perform the pilgrimage. All hostilities would cease for a period of two to ten years. Either side could form alliances with any of the tribes in Arabia. (The full text of the treaty is in the appendix.)
Many among the Muslims were disappointed at the whole affair, which looked like a humiliating defeat. It must have perplexed them when Muhammad (S) received a revelation calling Hudaybiyah a "manifest victory." However events over the next few years proved how beneficial this seemingly one-sided treaty was to the Muslims. The Qur'anic description of this event as a manifest victory was proven correct.
We granted thee (O Muhammad) a striking victory. That Allah might compensate thee for the earlier and the later lapses (in war strategy) and consummate His blessings on thee, and direct thee to a right course of action (to follow hereafter).
Allah hath indeed fulfilled for His Apostle (in every detail) his dream (wherein he had heard Allah saying to him) "Ye shall assuredly enter the sacred mosque if Allah wills, in full security, with your heads shaved and your hair properly trimmed, fearing nothing, For He knoweth what ye know not. And besides this, He hath granted you an early victory." (Qur'an 48: 2, 27)
The two to three years of peace allowed freedom of movement for people across Arabia. Many tribal representatives visited Madinah and heard the Islamic message. More important they saw the practical application of the Qur'anic message in the metamorphosis of entire communities. The Muslims were able to send proselytizers to all parts of Arabia. The net result was an exponential increase in the numbers of Muslims in the peninsula. Muslims soon had the numbers and the momentum.
When the Help of Allah cometh and (as a result of it cometh) victory. And thou (O Muhammad!) shouldst see men accepting the way of Allah in large numbers. (Qur'an 110: 1- 2)
Muhammad (S) as a Statesman
In the sixth and seventh years after the migration, the Prophet sent letters to a number of neighboring monarchs and rulers inviting them to Islam. He told his companions "Allah has sent me as a mercy for all humankind (and not just for Muslims). Do not differ amongst yourself like 'Isa's (Jesus) disciples. Take this message of truth to everyone." The rulers of Rome, Persia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Sudan all received Muslim emissaries.
The Caesar of Rome received the message with a sympathetic ear, but did not convert to Islam. The king of Persia considered the message to be an insult and tore up the letter. The ruler of Ethiopia sent back a courteous note stating that he considered Muhammad (S) a true Prophet. The monarch of Egypt sent the envoy back with gifts including two slave girls. One of them, Maria (the Copt) embraced Islam and the Prophet married her as a sign of respect to the Egyptian monarch. The Yemeni ruler wrote back saying that the message was wonderful but he would only accept Muhammad's (S) sovereignty if he had a share in Muhammad's (S) power. The most hostile response came from the king of Sudan, who asked his army to get ready to prepare for an invasion. The message Muhammad's (S) emissaries took with them was a non-confrontational attempt at gaining adherents by persuasion. He had a clear message and none of what he was proposing was for personal or national aggrandizement. He was clearly pursuing high universal ideals and not narrow personal, tribal or national interests. His attempts to change minds were not mere rhetoric, but based on his own personal example and the model society he had established in Arabia. This theme of bringing change by inviting people to ponder the truth runs through all of the actions in his life's undertaking.
There shall be no compulsion in religion. (Qur'an 2:256)
This was merely one of many examples of statesmanship exhibited by the Prophet.
A statesman may be defined as someone who has the wisdom and vision to inspire policies and actions with long-term goals in mind; someone with breadth of view and idealism; someone who has the capacity to compromise with dignity, allowing all parties in a dispute to feel they are victorious; and someone who is not short sighted, partisan or opportunistic.
In addition to the manner in which he invited the neighboring monarchs to Islam, at least 5 other incidents illustrate his statesmanship. These are the rebuilding of the Ka'bah, the covenant of Madinah, the treaty of Hudaybiyah, the victory over Makkah and the quelling of unrest amongst the Ansar at his alleged favoritism toward the Muhajiunr.
As I have already mentioned briefly, historians record an early incident that illustrates Muhammad's (S) capacity to resolve potential conflict with all parties involved coming away satisfied. The Ka'bah had suffered damage over time and was being rebuilt. It was time for the Black Stone (al- Hajar al- Aswad) to be returned to its original position. Because of the importance attached to this stone, the representatives of all of the tribes present wanted the privilege to replacing the stone. Muhammad (S) happened upon this scene and was asked to mediate this potentially serious dispute. His solution was to place the stone on his cloak, and ask all of the of the tribe members to lift the cloak, thus sharing equally in the glory and privilege of replacing it. Another lesson from this incident appears to be about sharing a burden as well as sharing the glory. Lifting the stone after placing it on the cloak allowed one equal share in the privilege but also made the burden lighter. This deft handling of the situation may provide an insight into Muhammad's (S) being chosen as a Messenger of Allah.
The covenant of Madinah and the treaty of Hudaybiyah, both great examples of statesmanship, are discussed above. The humility, compassion and forgiveness he demonstrated at the victory of Makkah is discussed later in this essay. There is another incident worth scrutinizing in some detail.
Following the Ta'if expedition, Muhammad (S) distributed the war booty, with a larger share going to some of the Muhajirun. This caused dismay among the Ansars, and talk of favoritism. The Prophet resolved the tense situation by giving an emotional speech to the Ansar that is recorded in Bukhari. In part he said, "Would you not prefer that others may take cattle and material goods home with them and that you would take home the Prophet".
As illustrated by these incidents from his life, the Prophet proved an exemplary statesman. He mediated disputes, defused potentially explosive situations with ease, allowing the parties to the conflict to walk away as friends and allies. He set yet unheard of standards in pluralism and tolerance. He was unafraid to take risks and compromise for the sake of peace. His emissaries to other nations brought with them a message of cooperation and seeking common grounds. When he gave a pledge, he always kept it. If the other party broke it, he would not flinch from measures that were appropriate to maintain the sanctity of the pledge. He was humble in victory, compassionate, and forgiving to even his most intractable opponents.
Events Leading Up To the Conquest of Makkah
The seventh year of the Hijrah saw the neutralization of the Jews at Khaybar. The Jewish tribes who had been expelled from Madinah had settled in Khaybar and were constantly instigating other tribes to fight against the Muslims. When the Muslims learned that the Jews were organizing an army to attack them, Muhammad (S) decided to besiege them in their fortress in Khaybar, and soon the Jews were defeated. The same year saw Muhammad (S) return to Makkah to perform the lesser pilgrimage ('Umrah).
One of the causes of the treaty of Hudaybiyah was that the Quraysh and the Muslims would consider an attack on their allies as an attack on themselves and a breach of the treaty. The eighth year of the Hijrah saw precisely that type of a breach. The tribe of Banu Bakr, who was allied with the Quraysh, attacked the tribe of Khuza'h, who had been the first tribe to ally themselves with the Muslims. The Quraysh brazenly supported the Banu Bakr, and the tribe of Khuza'h was defeated. The Quraysh were informed that the treaty signed at Hudaybiyah would be invalidated by this action unless they paid the conventional just recompense (Qisas) for those members of the Khuza'h tribe who were killed in the war, and that they immediately cease supporting the Banu Bakr. The Quraysh ignored the demand for just recompense leaving the Muslims no other choice but retaliation to maintain the sanctity of the pledge. This incident led to the invasion and conquest of Makkah by the Muslims, which began the last and final phase of the Prophet's mission. The overwhelming forces the Muslims had gathered for the invasion proved so intimidating that the Quraysh surrendered without offering any resistance. This action resulted in the nearly bloodless conquest of Makkah.