Truce of Hudaibiyah: A Grand victory in Islamic history


“Indeed, we have granted thee (Muhammad) a clear victory, That Allah may cover up for thee thy shortcomings, past and future, and that He may complete His favor upon thee, and may guide thee on a right path; And Allah may help thee with a mighty help” (48:2-4).

Image (1) Mosque-of-Medina1-e1365918171199.jpg for post 140682

Mosque of Medina, built in 1 AH (After Hijra).  What Can We Learn From the Treaty of Hudaibiyah: Flexibility of Thought?

By Abu Tariq Hijazi


THE name Hudaibiyah denotes a grand victory for the Muslim nation. Though the Muslims in 6 AH (which corresponds to 628 AD) were by no means strong militarily, morale remained high at Hudaibiyah.

It had been six years since the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his supporters had left Makkah. The pagans of Makkah had tried to crush the rising power of Islam and attacked Muslims at Madinah three times, first at the battle of Badr, then at the battle of Ohud and finally at the battle of Khandaq. The Muslims were not strong enough to launch a counterattack on such a large force at Makkah.

The Prophet would declare his plan to visit Makkah to perform the Umrah later that year. A large caravan of 1400 pilgrims and 70 sacrificial camels consequently headed for Makkah. The leaders of Quraish at Makkah were alarmed at this congregation, and despite the fact that Makkans were bound to allow any unarmed pilgrims to perform Umrah, they prevented the Muslims from entering the city and sent their commander Khaled bin Walid with 200 fighters to stop them. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) changed his route to avoid confrontation and traveled to a lesser known place called Hudaibiyah on the western edge of the Harem territory. A battle was out of question as it was a sacred month and they were already in a state of consecration called “ihram.”

From there, the Prophet (peace be upon him) then sent a message to the leadership of Makkah but they mistreated the emissary. Hulais bin Alqama, the chief of Ahabeesh, visited the Muslim camp and advised the Makkan tribe of Quraish that there was nothing to fear but his advice was ignored. Subsequently, they sent Urwah bin Masud to negotiate, who then relayed that “I have visited the royal courts of emperors Caesar, Kisra and Najashi (the Persian, Roman and Ethiopian courts) but I have never witnessed such respect and high esteem from followers like those of Muhammad. They have come purely for worship.” Still, the Makkan leaders were bent on preventing the Muslims from entering.
As a last resort, the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Uthman bin Affan, who was well-connected in Makkah, but he was detained and a rumor was spread that Uthman had been killed. Though 400 km away from his city and possessing no proper arms to fight, the Prophet (peace be upon him) called on his followers to prepare for war. People rushed to pledge allegiance to the Prophet and the Makkans were soon informed that 1400 volunteers were ready to fight alongside him. Fearing them, the Makkans agreed to discuss new terms of peace with him.

The Makkans released Uthman bin Affan and sent Sohail bin Amr Al-Thaqafi to negotiate the terms of a peace treaty. Though tough in his dealings, Al-Thaqafi later embraced Islam at their return to Makkah. Terms were agreed and documented, including an armistice between the two parties for the following ten years and the liberty for any person to join the opposing side if they so wished. In addition, they had stipulated that a Makkan traveling to Madinah would be sent back to Makkah but that migrants from Madinah would be allowed into Makkah to join Quraish. This depicted the Prophet’s absolute tolerance to those rejecting his teachings and his support for freedom of choice (even where sending back converts to Makkah was concerned, the Prophet had accepted this on the basis that the convert would attempt to spread Islam within his tribe).

Furthermore, a minor whose father is still alive would not be able to join Muhammad without the consent of his guardian but that anyone from Madinah who joins the Quraish tribe would not be sent back. Finally, they had agreed that the Muslims would return to Madinah without entering Makkah but that they would enter Makkah the following year and perform the “Umrah” ritual for a period of 3 days.

The Makkans attempted to deliberately provoke the Prophet through rigorous terms, but the Prophet accepted the terms in spite of that in order to maintain peace and stability. This treaty, known as the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, proved to be a turning point in the history of Islam.

Very few people could visualize the longterm benefits of the treaty. The first advantage of the treaty was that a hostile Makkan leadership recognized the Prophet Muhammad as the head of state at Madinah. Secondly, the treaty curtailed the hostile behavior of the Quraish against Muslims. They were now allowed to move freely and talk openly about Islam. Third, Muslims were allowed to make alliances with other tribes. Finally, the 10-year armistice with Quraish provided Muslims with a unique opportunity to preach Islam and to deal with their rivals in other parts of the peninsula. They would consequently go on to conquer the Jewish stronghold of Khaiber and the tribe of Quraish could do nothing to stop this acquisition.

Following the peaceful armistice at Hudaibiyah, Islam increased by leaps and bounds. Quraish had lost three battles against the Muslims and people were now beginning to foresee the eventual triumph of Islam. Thus began the conversion to Islam in the thousands. The Prophet (peace be upon him) entered Makkah the following year with 2000 pilgrims alongside him, an increase of 600 from the previous year. The treaty is referred to in the 48th “surah”, or chapter, of the Qur’an.

Quraish would later request that the clause stipulating that converts to Islam be returned to Makkah be abrogated, as runaways did not emigrate to Madinah knowing they would be returned but instead hid at the Red Sea coast and fought the trade caravans of Quraish as they passed.

The treaty at Hudaibiyah proved to be a prelude to the conquest of Makkah. As per the agreement, the tribe of Banu Bakr joined forces with Quraish and Banu Khaza’a entered into alliance with the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Owing to a long history of enmity between the two tribes, Banu Bakr attacked Banu Khaza’a just 20 months later in the 8th year AH. Many people were killed and Quraish supported their allies with manpower and arms.

Amr bin Salem of Banu Khaza’a, along with twenty men, rushed to Madina and told the Prophet of the situation on the ground. He consequently sent word to Quraish to pay blood money for those killed and terminate their alliance with the Banu Bakr tribe or consider the Hudaibiyah Treaty void.

Quraish refused to pay nor break their alliance with Banu Bakr and voiced their approval to nullify the terms of the treaty. Wishing to avoid bloodshed, the Prophet would devise a secret strategy to surround Makkah with a large force so that Makkans could surrender without a fight. Indeed, the Prophet had declared his preparation for war without specifying a location.

The Muslim tribes rushed to Madina in the month of Ramadan of the 8th year AH. Various northern tribes had entered the fold of Islam in these 20 months following the conquest of Khaiber and Taima. Muslim volunteers came in the thousands. The famous tribes of Aslam, Sulaim, Ghifar, Muzaina, Ashjaa and Juhaina joined the Islamic forces. Muslim forces marched towards Makkah and camped at Marr Zahran. They then surrounded the holy city. The Quraish were perplexed by this sudden attack. The Muslims had also sealed all possible routes of escape. The Prophet had declared a general amnesty and the entire city surrendered to him on the 10th day of Ramadan.
It is of great significance that the arch enemies of Islam grasped the situation and embraced Islam after the Hudaibiyah treaty and prior to the conquest of Makkah. These included Abbas bin Abdul Muttaleb, the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Sufyan of Quraish, Khalid bin Waleed and Amr ibn al Aas, the would-be conqueror of Egypt. Later, Ikrema bin Abu Jehal, Uteba bin Abi Lahab, Safwan bin Umayyah, Kaab bin Zuhair, Sohail bin Amr, Hakim bin Hizam and Hindah bint Rabiea embraced Islam.

Practically, there remained virtually no enemies to Islam in Makkah. The Makkan leadership, which had previously banned his entry to the city in the sixth year following his immigration, welcomed him as their head within 22 months, thus highlighting the great achievement of the Hudaibiyah treaty.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had thus achieved his divine mission. While he embraced slaves such as Bilal bin Rabah, Zaid bin Hartha and Wahshi, he was also able to cultivate the ruling elite. He addressed nine important letters to the rulers of leading empires and prominent kingdoms including King Najashi, ruler of Abyssinia, Emperor Heraclius of Rome, Emperor Chosroes of Persia, King Makawkas of Egypt, Hauza bin Ali, the ruler of Yamamah in Yemen, the ruler of Busra in Jordon, Harith bin Shammar, ruler of Damascus, Manzar bin Sawi, ruler of Bahrain and Jeefar, ruler of Oman.

All these letters were received with great ovation except for the Persian emperor, who is said to have torn it up. The empire itself disintegrated when the emperor was killed by his own son as predicted by Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Such was the significance of the events that took place at Hudaibiyah near Makkah. People were to visit this historical place and a mosque was to be erected at the place where the Prophet offered prayers during his stay. This mosque, near Shumaisi, lies about 20 km away from Makkah on the old road leading up to Jeddah.


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3 replies

  1. Marvelous description, true in all respects. The Prophet s.a.w.s. in Makkah in early days wanted to say something. The enemies did not allow him. The prophet said, “You people say what you like and let me say what I like.”
    The enemies said, “We will say what we like but we will not let you say anything.” That was the start of all trouble.
    The prophet s.a.w.s. with his followers was patient and peaceful. At Hudaibiyah, the enemies had finally to admit the freedom of speech and to allow peace in the country.
    That was indeed a miracle. The holy city was liberated without bloodshed. Bloodshed would have been sin and harmful. It was necessary to bring the arrogant people of Makkah to the negotiations. That is what the prophet s.a.w.s. did and gave up everything for the sake of Peace. That resulted in victory very soon.

  2. Quoting Francesco Gabrieli about Hudaibiya

    The struggle with Makkah, after the unsuccessful siege of the “war of the ditch”, moved into a new and surprising phase with the episode of Hudaibiya, which shows us a pliant, opportunist Muhammad, open to negotiation and compromise. . . At the edge of the sacred ground of Makkah, the Prophet halted his armed advance and stooped to bargain with his enemies, to the astonishment and discomfiture of his own companions . . . This episode will serve to give the measure of the Prophet’s tactical ability, of the absolute obedience he was able to command from his followers, and of the situation, by now seriously weakened, of the Quraysh.

    Francesco Gabrieli; Muhammad and the Conquests of Islam.

  3. Quoting RVC Bodley

    In point of fact, that treaty was Mohammed’s masterpiece of diplomacy. It was a triumph. No one, except perhaps Soheil, had thought back as had Mohammed when the Koreishite stood be¬fore him. No one, except those two, recollected the beatings, the stonings, the escape by night, the hiding in the cave. No one thought of the hazardous exile with the seventy followers. The contrast between now and then was unbelievable, miraculous. That the Quraishites were willing to treat with Mohammed at all, to recognize him as someone worthy of their attention, to admit him as the ruler of an Arab community, was beyond the bounds of all expectations. But, apart from his personal triumph over men who had vowed to capture him, alive or dead, Muham¬mad saw what no other Muslim did, the far reaching effects of the treaty.
    He was not a man to quibble over small details. …… If Soheil’s limited mentality could not reconcile itself to calling someone who had been a traveling salesman by a grandiloquent title, it did not really matter. If a Muslim phrase in referring to God was upsetting to a Quraish ear, it was not impor¬tant enough to break off negotiations.
    What was important was to have free access to Makkah. Mu¬hammad knew that the day he and his men could set foot in the Holy City, it would not be long before they would be there per¬manently. …..
    What, however, Muhammad chiefly saw in having this peace treaty with Makkah was the effect it would produce on the local tribes. He was right in this too. Within a few days of signing the document which had caused so much stir among his own people, chiefs from all around were coming to swear allegiance.
    Umar was confounded. During the space of one week there had been more converts to Islam than in the six preceding years.

    RVC Bodley. The Messenger. Double Day and Company Inc, 1946. Page 257-258.

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