What Can We Learn From the Treaty of Hudaibiyya: Flexibility of Thought?

Epigraph:

Indeed, you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model, for him who fears Allah and the Last Day and who remembers Allah much. (Al Quran 33:21/22)

Hudaibiyya well

Hudaibiyya well: If you know of early Muslim history, to appreciate the title of this article, you could choose to bypass the details and go to the last segment of the article and comments

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The Treaty of Hudaibiyya (Arabic: صلح الحديبية) was an important event that took place during the formation of Islam. It was a pivotal treaty between Muhammad, representing the state of Medina, and the Quraish tribe of Mecca in March 628 (corresponding to Dhu al-Qi’dah, 6 AH). It helped to decrease tension between the two cities, affirmed a 10-year peace, and authorized Muhammad’s followers to return the following year in a peaceful pilgrimage, the First Pilgrimage.[1][2][3]

“Indeed, we have granted thee 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.” (Al Quran 48:2-4)

Background:

The Ka’ba (Bait-ul-Haram) has a very special place in the history of religion, as the Holy Quran says, “Surely, the first House founded for mankind is that at Bakkah (valley of Makkah), abounding in blessings and a guidance for all peoples” (3:97).  Later, under the deleterious influence of time it got demolished.  2500 years after the Prophet Adam (may peace of Allah be upon him) God instructed the prophet Abraham (may peace of Allah be upon him) to reconstruct Ka’ba, “And call to mind when We assigned to Abraham the site of the House and said, ‘Associate not anything with Me and keep My house clean for those who perform the circuits, and those who stand up and those who bow and prostrate themselves in prayer” (22:27).  Of course, the prophet Abraham and his son the prophet Ishmael (may peace of Allah be upon them) completely abided by the commands of Allah, “And remember the time when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House, praying, ‘Our lord, accept this from us; for thou art the All-Hearing, the All Knowing” (2:128).  Pilgrimage of Ka’ba was ordained and its success prophesied, “In it are manifest Signs; it is the place of Abraham; and whoso enters it, enters peace.  And pilgrimage to the House is a duty which men – those who can find a way thither – owe to Allah” (3:98).  “And proclaim unto men the pilgrimage.  They will come to thee on foot, and on every lean camel, coming by every distant, deep track, That they may witness the benefits provided for them may mention the name of Allah, during the appointed days, over the quadrupeds of class of cattle that He has provided for them”(22:28-29).  The complete fulfillment of the prophecy has been witnessed by the believers and non-believers alike for thousands of years.  It was in the time of the prophet Abraham (may peace of Allah be upon him) that it was promised by Allah that this ancient house will remain secure from any attack intended to annihilate the House of Allah (52:5-6).  The truth of this promise was demonstrated by Allah just a little before the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s time. This was when Abraha had come with a big army to destroy the Ka’ba.  His army by divine command was overtaken by an aggravated form of small pox and his mission was completely defeated (105:2-6).  The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and those who had emigrated with him to Madinah, had not seen their native city, or worshipped at Bait-ul-Haram or performed Umrah (circuit of Ka’ba in days other than specified for Hajj) for the last six years.  Since the change of Qibla from Jerusalem to Makkah in the first year after Hijra (2:143-46, 2:150-151), the attention of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims had been concentrated on Makkah.  They longed to revisit the scenes of their childhood and perform the circuits of Ka’ba.

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It so happened that about this time the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw in a vision that he has gone to Makkah with his companions and is performing Umrah.  Prophet’s visions in general are a type of revelation and are always true and the Holy Quran specifically testified to the truth of this particular vision, on a later date, “Surely has Allah in truth fulfilled for His Messenger the vision.  You will, certainly, enter the Sacred Mosque (Ka’ba), if Allah will, in security, some having their heads shaven, and others having their hair cut short; and you will have no fear” (48:28).

The Prophet sets out to Makkah:

This was the sixth year after Hijra (migration to Madinah). More so during these six years but even before the Quraish (Makkans) had hindered the Muslims from the Bait-ul-Haram (2:218, 8:35, 22:26). The Muslims had been in a state of defensive war against the Makkans for the last five years. However, one of the four sacred months was approaching during which all fighting and conflict was forbidden by established Arab custom and teachings of Islam (2:195,2:218). The Holy Prophet told his vision to his companions and every one longed for its realization. The vision did not foretell any fighting or contest; the entrance was to be peaceful and unopposed (48:28). Arab tradition had established the circuit of Ka’ba as a universal right for every one.  So if the Holy Prophet and the Muslims approached Ka’ba at this time of the year wearing Ahram (the peaceful garments specified for the pilgrims), the Quraish would be bound by national tradition to leave them unmolested. On the other hand, if the Quraish opposed their entrance, they would be blamed for this. Some means of security were also available if a large pilgrim band could be formed, but, the inherent risks were also obvious. However, Allah’s command had to be fulfilled regardless of other considerations. So the Prophet put his full trust in Allah and told all the Emigrants and the Ansar to get ready. The Arab tribes around Madinah who had entered into friendly relations with the Holy Prophet were also invited to join, but few responded to the call. The hypocrites in Madinah and many of the neighboring Arab Bedouins, whose eyes were on apparent means and risks thought that the Prophet and the believers would not come back to their families, and many of them in their hearts of hearts rejoiced over this thought (48:13). Later, they put forward lame excuses to the Holy Prophet: “Our possessions and our families kept us occupied, so ask forgiveness for us” (48:12). However, little did they realize that Allah is the root cause of all causes and he has all the means in the heavens and the earth under his command and He is Mighty and Wise (48:8). These hypocrites and some of the Arab Bedouins did not appreciate that nothing could save them if Allah chose to bring any harm to them and nobody could withhold if God chose to bestow something on them (48:12).

Finally, a body of about 1500 pilgrims was formed[i], it consisted of only those who had joined out of totally free volition.  When the preparations for the journey were completed, the Holy Prophet mounted his camel, Qaswa, and led the body of pilgrims to Dhul Haleefah, six miles from Madinah on way to Makkah.  Here a stop was made and the Holy Prophet directed that all of them put on Ahram[ii] and call out the pilgrims[iii] slogan (‘Here am I, O Lord! Here am I!’). Seventy camels, were then set apart and garlands were hung in their necks[iv] and a mark was put on their right flank to signify that these are sacrificial animals. The Holy Prophet despatched a scout to Makkah to find out intelligence regarding the reactions of the Quraish.  The pilgrims moved forward by ordinary stages. They did not carry any significant arms except what was customary for the travelers to keep with them. They had sheathed swords, bows and arrows.

The response of the Makkans:

Tidings of the Holy Prophet’s approach soon reached Makkah.  Not withstanding the pious object and peaceful attitude of the pilgrims, the Quraish (the Makkans) got very excited.  They faced a serious dilemma.  The sacred months had been held in great esteem in Arab because of Hajj and Umrah for many centuries.  During these months, according to established Arab tradition, nobody had a right to stop a group of pilgrims who were wearing Ahram, even if they had deep rooted enmity with each other.  The Quraish were faced with the issue that if they stop the band from Madinah from entering Makkah, this will give rise to serious protest from different Arab tribes.  These tribes will get deeply concerned that tomorrow the Quraish could choose to do this to any other tribe.  Such an action could possibly offend the whole of Arab.  On the other hand, their enmity against the Muslims incited them to stop the Muslims.  They also feared that if they let the party of the Holy Prophet enter their city and perform Umrah, it may create an impression on other Arab tribes that they had been intimidated by the Holy Prophet.  Moreover, the performance of Umrah would serve to make the new faith more attractive and confirm its claim to be the religion of Abraham.  In the final analysis, their egotistic attitude got better of them and they resolved to die rather than permit the Muslims to enter Makkah, this is mentioned in the Holy Quran: “When those who disbelieved harbored in their hearts prideful indignation, the indignation of the Days of Ignorance” (48:27).  They fully armed themselves, moved out of Makkah and camped at Dhu Towa on the Route from Madinah to Makkah.  They were clad in tiger skins, this was a sign of absolute determination to fight. A body of 200 horsemen, under the able leadership of Khalid bin Waleed and Ikramah bin Abu Jahl, was despatched forward immediately, to stop and instigate the Holy Prophet’s band of pilgrims.  Their conspiracy was to provoke and incite the Holy Prophet’s band to physical conflict and then spread the rumor in whole of Arab, that the Holy Prophet had actually come to fight and Umrah was only an excuse and Ahram a disguise.

The Holy Prophet’s commitment to peace:

The Holy Prophet’s intentions were clear, he had come to perform the Umrah and his resolve to peace was strong.  When he learnt from the scout he had despatched earlier, about the Quraish’s encampment and cavalry, in order to avoid confrontation, he employed a guide to show him an alternate route, he turned to the right and took a longish detour to avoid enemy’s horses.  After a fatiguing march he reached Hudaibiyya, an open space on the verge of the Sacred Territory encircling Makkah.  Here his camel stopped and refused to move forwards.  “She is tired”, said the companions as they tried to make her move.  “No”, said the Holy Prophet, “She is not tired, but the same hand has restrained her that had held back the elephant before” – he was alluding to the invasion of Abraha.  He continued, “By Lord, no request of the Quraish will be denied by me for the honor of Bait-ul-Haram.  He then urged his camel forward and she obeyed his gesture now.  He directed her towards the wells and dismounted there.

The wells were, however, choked with sand and there was very little water in them.  The sand was scraped off the walls, and by the grace of Allah, very soon abundance of water accumulated.  The same night there was plentiful rain and all anxiety about the water supply was removed.  On this the Holy Prophet said that some of his followers had welcome the morning with increased faith whereas others had made their faith doubtful.  Those who said that that rain was Allah’s mercy had confirmed the depth of their faith.  On the other hand those who said it was result of such and such factors, endorsed their faith in those factors and ignored the ultimate Cause of all causes, the Almighty Allah1.  The Holy Prophet always emphasized that even though there were systems of cause and effect behind every phenomenon, yet the Unity of Allah demanded that a believer should always primarily direct his attention to Allah Who is the ultimate Cause of all causes.

The Makkan army at this time was out of the city on the other side, if the Holy Prophet wanted he could take the town without any resistance.  But, his intentions were very clear, he only wanted to peacefully perform the Umrah.  He would have fought the Makkans only if they had struck first and there was no way out.

Negotiations begin:

When the Quraish learnt that the Muslims had taken the alternate route, they fell back to the city for its defense.  They also started sending deputations to the Holy Prophet to discuss the matters.  Hudaibiyya only being nine miles away, the communications were rapid and frequent.  First emissary from the Quraish to the Muslims was Budail bin Warqa.  He explained to the Holy Prophet the excited and agitated state of the Quraish.  The Holy Prophet in turn put forward his peaceful intentions.  He added, “I am keen that the Quraishite should stop fighting with me and leave me alone to deal with others.  If I am wiped out the Quraish will not have to worry about me, but if I prevail by the grace of Allah, then they should not have any hesitation in accepting me.  I have not come here to fight and I will not take up sword unless they force me into it.  I shall grant them time to take their precautions and leave the way for us for Umrah”.  Budail was much impressed by the Holy Prophet’s sincerity and said that he will go back and try to bring about an agreement.

In Makkah Budail told the Quraish that the Holy Prophet had made a suggestions, which he would like to mention to them.  On this Ikrimah the son of Abu Jahl said that they are not prepared to hear any suggestions from Muhammad.  Urwah bin Masood found this attitude absurd and said so.  Abu Sufayan intervened at this point and finally Budail was able to narrate what the Holy Prophet had said.  After this Urwah said, “Muhammad has made a good suggestion, I think, you should accept it.  If you would agree I will go to him and pursue the matters further”.  The idea was in a way condoned, as every one remained silent.

Urwah came to the Muslim camp.  During the discussion he said to the Holy Prophet, “Muhammad, if it comes to fighting and you destroyed your own people, you shall be the first Arab to perpetrate such a wrong, but if Quraish overcome you all those who are with you will soon desert you”.  Hazrat Abu Bakr resented this and started saying something, but, Urwah ignored him and became more involved and enthusiastic in his speech.  According to the familiar Arab custom of frank discussion he stretched forth his hand to hold the Holy Prophet’s beard.  But, Mughaira bin Shu’bah who was standing near by, gently rapped Urwah’s arm with the back of his sword.  Urwah withdrew his hand.  A few moments later, he ventured to do that again, Mughaira struck him more firmly this time and said, “Keep your hand off the Holy Prophet’s beard”.  Urwah was offended, but could not recognize Mughaira.  He asked, “Who is he”? He was told, “He is your nephew’s son”.  On hearing this, Urwah exclaimed, “O Ungrateful one! it was only yesterday that I saved your life”.  However, the incident also made a positive impression on Urwah’s mind.  He stayed in the Muslim camp for some time after the discussion.  What he observed he had never seen the like of it.  When he went to Makkah he told them, “O people! I have seen the courts of Caesar, Chosroes and the Negus – and I have not seen a king whose men so honor him as the companions of Muhammad honor and revere Muhammad.  When he speaks their voices are hushed in his presence.  When he commands them something they almost outstrip his word in performing that.  They even do not look at him full in the face, but lower their eyes in reverence for him.  I think, he has made a good suggestion to you, therefore, take it from him”.

In the mean time, the Holy Prophet decided to send a representative to the Quraish, to put the Muslims’ point of view to them intelligently and sympathetically.  For this purpose he chose Kharash bin Umayya and gave him one of his camels for the ride.  When he reached Makkah some young Quraishites got very aroused and Ikramah bin Abu Jahl hamstrung his camel, and even threatened his life.  However, the older section intervened and the envoy was able to return.

Moreover, while the negotiations were in progress, the Quraish despatched a party of fifty men to Hudaibiyya to watch around the Islamic camp and to take advantage of any opportunity to inflict damage to the Muslims.  The Muslims were, however, on their guard and the whole party was taken captive.  But the Holy Prophet released them so that the negotiations are not badly influenced.  This incident is referred in the Holy Quran: “And He it is Who withheld their hands from you and your hands from them in the valley of Makkah, after He had given you victory over them” (48:25).  Time and again the Quraish spoiled the peaceful atmosphere of negotiation, by the abusive language used by their emissaries and actual acts of violence, but through a special grace of Allah the Holy Prophet and his companions were able to maintain patience and steadfastness, “Allah sent down His tranquillity on His Messenger and on the believers, and made them adhere firmly to the principle of righteousness” (48:27).

Bai’at-al-Rizwan:

Some allies of the Makkans urged them to let the Muslims perform the circuit.  “The Muslims are not asking for anything major, they only want to perform Umrah, let us not deprive them of this right”, the allies advised.  But, their admonition fell on deaf ears.  Seeing such adamant behavior, the tribal allies were fed up with the Makkans.  They said that the Makkans did not want peace and they threatened to dissociate themselves from the Makkans.  This softened the Makkan’s attitude.  On learning about these developments, the Holy Prophet decided to send another emissary, to the Makkans, to directly put across to them his peaceful intentions.  To ensure the security of the emissary he wanted to send someone who would be well connected in Makkah.  He chose Hazrat Uthman (who later became the third Caliph of Islam).  Hazrat Uthman belonged to a resourceful family of Makkah, and this would shield him from any danger that propped up.  The Holy Prophet also gave a letter to him for the Quraish.  He also instructed him to try to contact the poor Muslims left behind in Makkah, in order to reassure them that Allah would soon open some way for them and that they should continue to be patient and steadfast.  Hazrat Uthman received protection from his relatives and conveyed the message to the Quraish.  The Quraish received the message and because of Hazrat Uthman’s ties with some of the influential people they offered him to perform the circuit if he so willed.  But, the faithful Hazrat Uthman declined, “No, thank you, I will not perform the circuit unless it is in company of my master”.  Hazrat Uthman repeatedly tried to persuade the Makkan leaders to pay heed to the Holy Prophet’s suggestions.  But, the Makkans were insistent that they will not let Muslim’s perform circuit this year.  So Hazrat Uthman finally decided to return, at that point a section of the Quraishites decided to detain him, in order to negotiate better terms from the Muslims.  Meanwhile, rumor spread in the Muslim camp that he had been murdered.  Anxiety and alarm spread through out the camp.  The Holy Prophet himself began to suspect deceit.  He assembled the companions and addressed them very passionately, “The life of an envoy is held sacred among all nations.  I have heard that the Makkans have murdered Uthman.  If this be true, then equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for us.  We will undertake that no matter what the consequences are”.  The companions were hearing him spell bound, the Holy Prophet continued: “Those of you who will solemnly promise that if they have to go further, they will not turn back except as victors, should come forth to take a pledge on my hand”.  The Holy Prophet had hardly finished speaking when all companions rushed forward enthusiastically to take the pledge.  All those who could fit in close to the Holy Prophet put their hands together and the Holy Prophet put his right hand on top of them.  Those who could not squeeze in close to the Holy Prophet put their hands on the shoulders of those ahead of them.  When every body was assembled, the Holy Prophet put his left hand on other hands and said: “This is for Uthman, for if he had been here, he would not have hesitated in making this holy pact, but, he is busy with the work of Allah and His messenger.  Of the fifteen hundred present that day all took the pledge except one hypocrite who held back.  They all sedately promised that if the Muslim envoy had been murdered, they would not go back.  They would either take Makkah by dusk or they would all die fighting.

This pledge has a special importance in the history of Islam and is known as ‘Bai’at-al-Rizwan’ (Covenant of the pleasure of Allah).  Everyone of those who took the oath remained proud of it to the end of his days.  The full import of this pledge can be realized only if we imagine the circumstances of the Muslim party.  They were very minimally armed, there was no hope of any succor as they were two hundred and fifty miles away from their center.  The Makkans were very well entrenched in their city, had all the resources available to them and had support of their allies.  This was indeed a supreme demonstration by the Muslims of conviction, bravery, dedication and above all trust in Allah.  No wonder Allah looked at it with such love and compassion: “Surely Allah was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing allegiance to thee under the tree, and He appreciated the surge of faith in their hearts, and He sent down tranquillity on them, and He rewarded them with a victory near at hand” (48:19).

The treaty signed:

When the Quraish heard about this pledge they became apprehensive.  They let Hazrat Uthman go free, and decided to come to terms with the Muslims on the condition that they will go back this year and come back next year for Umrah.  They sent Suhail bin Amr and few others with him to the Muslim camp to decide on the details of the treaty.  After the terms had been decided between the Quraish representatives and the Holy Prophet, he summoned Hazrat Ali (who later became the fourth Caliph of Islam), to write down the details.  The Holy Prophet started dictating the phraseology of the treaty.  “Write” he said, “In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.” Suhail immediately objected: “Allah we know and believe in, but what is this ‘The Gracious, the Merciful?’ This agreement is between two parties, therefore, the religious beliefs of both parties will have to be respected”.  The Holy Prophet agreed immediately and said to his scribe, “Only write, ‘In the name of Allah.’ ” The Holy Prophet then proceeded to dictate the terms of the treaty: “These are the conditions of peace between Muhammad the Messenger of Allah, and….”, “Stop, stop”, Suhail interrupted again, “If we thought you a prophet of God, we would not have fought you.  Write as the custom is, your own name and your father’s name.” “Write, then”, the Holy Prophet continued the dictation, “Between Muhammad son of Abdullah, and Suhail ibn Amr.” On this Hazrat Ali politely protested that having already written the words ‘The Messenger of Allah’, he felt it would be a profanation to delete those words.  Thereupon the Holy Prophet himself deleted those words3.  As the Holy Prophet was agreeing to every thing the Makkans were proposing, the companions took it as a humiliation and became very upset.  Hazrat Umar the most agitated of all, could not restrain himself, he asked the Holy Prophet, “Are you not the Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet replied, “Most certainly I am”.  Then Hazrat Umar asked, “Are we not in the right?” “That is so”, said the Holy Prophet.  “Then why should we submit to such humiliation.” The Holy Prophet pointed out, “Umar, I am only the Messenger of Allah, I cannot go against what he desires, and he alone is my helper.” Hazrat Umar was still not completely satisfied and asked, “And were we not told by Allah that we would perform the circuit of Ka’ba?” The Holy Prophet replied, “Allah did foretell that, but he did not say when.  I did judge as though it was going to be this year.  But I could be wrong.  Must it be this year?” Hazrat Umar was silenced.  He subsequently confessed that in his momentary excitement he had made the mistake of saying all this to the Holy Prophet.  He later repented this weakness through prayer and alms-giving.

The inscribing of the treaty was completed and it was signed.  A copy was made for Suhail bin Amr, who scrutinized this and returned with it to Makkah.  The original was retained by the Holy Prophet.

The treaty read as follows: “In the name of Allah.  These are the conditions of peace between Muhammad, son of Abdullah, and Suhail ibn Amr, the envoy of Makkah.  There will be no fighting for ten years.  Anyone who wishes to join Muhammad and to enter into any agreement with him is free to do so.  Anyone who wishes to join the Quraish and to enter into an agreement with them is also free to do so.  A young man whose father is alive, if he goes to Muhammad without permission from his father or guardian, will be returned to his father or guardian.  But should anyone go to the Quraish, he will not be returned.  This year Muhammad will go back without entering Makkah.  But next year he and his followers can enter Makkah, spend three days and perform circuit.  During these three days the Quraish will withdraw to the surrounding hills.  When Muhammad and his followers enter into Makkah, they will be unarmed except for the sheathed swords which wayfarers in Arabia always have with them”3.

Later some companions had raised some other questions about the treaty.  Some asked why they had agreed to return new converts to Makkans, should they come to Madinah, without obtaining similar condition for the Muslims.  The Holy Prophet explained, “Every one who becomes a Muslim, does so because he accepts the beliefs and practices inculcated by Islam.  Such a man will propagate the message of Islam wherever he goes, and serve as an instrument in the spread of Islam.  But a man who gives up Islam is useless to us.  It is better he should go else where.” This satisfied those who had raised this issue.  Today it should also satisfy those who wrongly think that the punishment of apostasy in Islam is death.  Had that been so, the Holy Prophet would have insisted on the return and punishment of those who gave up Islam.

This treaty was a glorious gift from Allah.  When we think about how under repeated verbal and physical instigations by the Quraishites the Muslims were able to maintain their poise and finally a treaty was signed and all the advantages Muslims received from this agreement we are bound to conclude that all this was under divine command: “It is they who disbelieved and hindered you from the Sacred Mosque and the offerings (sacrificial animals) which were prevented from their place of sacrifice.  And had it not been for the believing men and the believing women whom you knew not and whom you might have trampled down so that harm might have come to you on their account unknowingly, He would have permitted you to fight, but He did not do so that He might admit into His mercy whom He will.  If they had been separated from the disbelievers, We would have surely punished those of them who disbelieved with a grievous punishment” (48:26).

The Prophet sets standard for keeping promises:

Soon after the treaty was signed, Abu Jandal, Suhail’s son staggered into the Muslim camp where the treaty had just been signed.  He was wearing handcuffs, wounded and exhausted.  He said, “O Prophet of God, I have embraced Islam, and because of my faith I am tortured by my father, as he is here today I got a chance to escape and managed to come here”.  The Prophet had not spoken when Suhail intervened and said that the agreement had been signed and he would have to go back with him.  The Muslims saw this young convert, a brother of brothers, wounded, driven to desperation because of the ill treatment by his father; they could not endure to send him back.  They unsheathed their swords and seemed determined to die or save this brother.  Abu Jandal himself also implored the Prophet in a very moving manner not to hand him back to the tyrants.  The Holy Prophet was very distressed by his plight and pleaded repeatedly with Suhail to let Abu Jandal stay, but Suhail was adamant.  As Abu Jandal was dragged away, the Holy Prophet said to him in a distressed tone, “O my dear Abu Jandal, have patience and do not loose your composure.  Put your trust in Allah, He will provide a way out for you and other victims.  We are unable to help you as the treaty has been signed and prophets do not go back on their words”.  He beautifully demonstrated how he was Holy Quran personified.  He had done justice to the teaching of the Quran: “And break not your oaths after making them firm, while you have made Allah your surety.  Certainly, Allah knows what you do” (16:92); and, “Fulfill the covenant; for the covenant shall be questioned about” (17:35, also see 70:33).

The sacrifices offered:

God was so pleased with this Hajj that could not be done that he revealed….that not only your previous shortcomings are forgiven but future shortcomings are also forgiven, quote the verse, this is in contrast to ordinary Hajj when only past sins are forgiven.  This was because this good deed was forgiven to seek pleasure of God.

After Suhail had departed, the Holy Prophet directed the Muslims to have their heads shaved and offer the sacrifices.  They were dumbfounded over what they considered a humiliating treaty for the them and over the misery of Abu Jandal, and in their distress they paid no attention to the Holy Prophet.  He repeated his directions a few times, but they were as if they had not even heard him.  The Holy Prophet was very distressed by this and retreated into his tent.  His wife, Um Salma who had observed all this and noticed the signs of concern on his expression, said, “Messenger of Allah, do not be depressed.  Your companions are not disobedient, they are only overwhelmed by sorrow.  I suggest that you need not say anything to them, but slaughter your own animal, they will follow your example.” As soon as the Muslims saw the Holy Prophet offer his sacrifice, they rushed forth, crying and weeping with emotion, to follow his example.

The Prophet’s Wisdom:

After the treaty some women reached Madinah from Makkah, they had recently accepted Islam.  The details of this are very eloquently described by Sir Zafarullah Khan in his book ‘ Muhammad: seal of the Prophets’: “A short while after some Muslim women managed to escape from Makkah and arrived in Madinah.  The first of these was Um Kulthum, daughter of a pagan chief, Uqbah bin Abi Mueet, who had perished at Badr.  On her mother side she was closely related to Uthman bin Affan.  She had the courage and endurance to travel from Makkah to Madinah on foot, and on arrival at Madinah she presented herself before the Holy Prophet and announced her acceptance of Islam.  She was soon followed by her two brothers who claimed that she be handed over to them.  They urged that though the words of the treaty specifically mentioned that every male (Rajul) from among Quraish who might go over to the Holy Prophet must be returned to them, the purport of the treaty was general and applied to both men and women.  In opposition to them Um Kulthum relied both on the language of the treaty and on the consideration that women were weak and occupied a subordinate position to men and that therefore returning a woman who had embraced Islam to Quraish would amount to imposing spiritual death on her. She therefore urged that exemption of women from the operation of the treaty was not only in accord with its language, but was reasonable, just and necessary.  The Holy Prophet pronounced in favor of Um Kulthum and rejected the claim of her brothers.  In this context, it must be remembered that Suhail bin Amr, envoy of Quraish at Hudaibiyya, had minutely scrutinized every word of the treaty before he agreed to it.  Indeed, the terms of the treaty were expressed in the language proposed by him.  The literal translation of this particular clause of the treaty, as reported by Bukhari, is: ‘No one of our men, though he may belong to thy faith, shall come to thee, but that thou shall be bound to return him to us’.  It is thus clear that this clause of the treaty was specifically confined to men.  This is easily understandable, as neither side contemplated that a woman would have the opportunity or courage and the endurance to escape from Makkah to Madinah and declare herself a Muslim.  Another very strong factor in the support of the position adopted by the Holy Prophet was that Quraish at no time raised the objection that in refusing to return women back to the custody of Quraish the Holy Prophet had been guilty of a breach of the terms of the treaty.  Besides, it is well recognized principle that a party making a claim under a treaty or engagement must establish its claim beyond doubt”.

This just and wise decision of the Holy Prophet was clearly prompted or condoned by the following verse of the Holy Quran, which was revealed around this period: “O ye who believe! when believing women come to thee as Refuges, examine them.  Allah knows best their faith.  Then, if you find them true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers.  These women are not lawful for them, nor are they lawful for these women.  But give their disbelieving husbands what they have spent on them” (60:11)[v].  As such the Holy Prophet demonstrated his shrewdness and in depth understanding of the subject of the treaty.

The Quraish request to change a clause:

Soon after the Holy Prophet returned to Madinah, another young convert Abu Baseer reached Madinah, and the distressing scenario of Abu Jandal’s case was repeated.  But in accordance with the terms of the agreement, he also was handed over to the Makkans by the Holy Prophet.  Abu Baseer rode back with the guards, on his way he had distressing recollection of his past sufferings at the hands of the Quraish.  He also had grave apprehension of future torture and suffering.  Amidst all this he found a God given opportunity of getting rid of one of the guards and escaped.  The Makkan’s made a representation again to the Holy Prophet.  “But,” said the Prophet, “we handed over your man to you, he then escaped out of your hands.  It is no longer our responsibility to find him for you”.

Abu Baseer settled down in Siefal Bahr, by the sea shore on the caravan route to Syria.  When this news reached Makkah, Abu Jandal and other young converts, who dared not profess their religion in Makkah, for fear of oppression, gradually managed to escape from Makkah and join Abu Baseer.  In due course of time seventy men gathered there.  They were now not under the influence of the Makkans or the Holy Prophet.  They started looting Makkan caravans to Syria.  This put Makkans in a difficult situation, and they suggested to waive this clause of the treaty on the condition that the activities of this group be restrained.  The Holy Prophet agreed to this suggestion and advised this group to come to Madinah.  Incidentally it is worthy of note that if Abu Baseer on leaving Makkah had not gone to Madinah at all and had proceeded to Siefal Bahr, as he eventually did, his case would not have been covered by the terms of the treaty.Aftermath of the treaty:

On way back to Madinah, after the treaty was signed, some of the other companions were still upset about the apparent uneven treaty and other events as they had unfolded.  Hazrat Umar was also worried, but his worries were of a different nature, he related: “On the way back from Hudaibiyya, I approached the Holy Prophet and tried to talk with him but he did not respond.  I tried three times but he remained silent.  I was much grieved over this and admonished myself that the Holy Prophet’s silence was an indication that I had ruined my soul.  I withdrew from my fellows and was overcome by the fear that I might be condemned by God through some revelation to the Holy Prophet.  While I was thus perplexed I heard someone call: ‘The Holy Prophet calls Umar bin Khattab’.  I imagined that my fear was about to be confirmed.  I hastened to the Holy Prophet.  But my fears were put aside when I saw the Holy Prophet’s face radiant with joy.  He told me that a Sura had been revealed to him that was dearer to him than any thing else in the world, he then recited few verses of the Sura Fateh: “Verily, we have granted thee 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).Hazrat Umar asked in a conceding tone, “Messenger of Allah, is this treaty truly a victory for Islam?” The Holy Prophet responded, “Most certainly it is”.

This Sura also mentioned that because of lack of proper realization of the import of the Treaty of Hudaibiyya the believers were downcast, God would send down solace and tranquillity on them and their faith would increase, and it was also prophesied that the false satisfaction and delight of the disbelievers would be short lived (48:5-8).  The believers were also told that they should not have doubted the wisdom of the Holy Prophet’s decision in signing the Treaty, since he was God’s Messenger and all his actions were done under His direction and guidance.  Their duty was, “To believe in him, help him, and honor him (48:9-10).  The Holy Prophet explained the import of the treaty to his companions, “If you will reflect, this truce is indeed a great victory for us.  Quraish, who were committed to hostilities against us, have agreed to put an end to them and have made a covenant of peace with us.  They have promised to open the gates of Makkah to us next year.  We are returning in peace and security, safeguarded against the mischief of the Makkans and breathing the fragrance of further victories.  Have you forgotten Uhad and Ahzab when Quraish invaded you, and the earth, despite its vast expanse, was straitened for you. and your eyes became distracted, and your hearts rose to your throats? Today the same Quraish have made a treaty of peace with you”.  The believers quickly saw the point.  However it took others some time to realize that it was a masterly stroke of strategy which opened the gate of whole of Arabia for Islam.

Sir William Muir writes in his book ‘Life of Muhammad’ on page 360: “The people, led by the vision to anticipate an unopposed visit to the Ka’aba, were crestfallen at the abortive result of their long journey.  But, in truth, a great step had been gained by Muhammad.  His political status, as an equal and independent power, was acknowledged by the treaty: The ten years’ truce would afford opportunity and time for the new religion to expand, and to force its claims on the conviction of Quraish; while conquest, material as well as spiritual, might be pursued on every other side.  The stipulation that no one under the protection of a guardian should leave Quraish without his guardian’s consent, though unpopular at Madinah, was in accordance with the Arab society; and the Prophet had sufficient confidence in the in the loyalty of his people and the superior attraction of Islam, to fear no ill effect from the counter clause that none should be delivered up who might desert his standard.  Above all, it was a great and a manifest success that free permission was conceded to visit Makkah in the following year, and for three days occupy the city undisturbed”.

With the treaty the struggle between The Holy Prophet and the Quraish came to an end.  This conflict had continued for nineteen years and after migration had assumed the character of armed contest.  The major hindrance in the way of spread of Islam in Arabia had been removed, and it quickly spread in length and breadth of Arabia.  This was a God given gift: “He restrained the hands of men from you, that it may be a sign for the believers, and that He may guide you on right path” (48:21).  The benefits drawn from this time of peace were enormous.  Whereas, only 1,500 companions had accompanied the Prophet to Hudaibiyya, 10,000 devotees were marching with him when he peacefully entered Makkah two years later.  This is ample proof that the power of Islam lies in its superior teachings and spirituality and not in physical supremacy or armed conflict.  The extreme concern of the Holy Prophet to secure a treaty at Hudaibiyya and his acceptance of apparently unequal terms confirms his very strong commitment to peace.

The vision that the Holy Prophet saw about the Umrah was fulfilled the following year (48:28).  The great outcome of this treaty was prophesied and realized within two years (48:2-4).  Another victory was promised by Allah soon after the treaty at Hudaibiyya, and the promise was fulfilled, in the conquest of Khaiber, within a very short period (48:19-20). It was at the same time that fall of Makkah and other victories for Islam were promised which materialized in due course of time (48:22).  After one has witnessed all this, what doubt can there be in the decree that Islam, being the last divine message, will prevail over all religions and mankind will worship one God and follow one prophet.  “He it is Who has sent His Messenger, with guidance and the Religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all religions.  And sufficient is Allah as a Witness” (48:29, 9:33, 61:10).  This promise will certainly be fulfilled in near future, there is nothing preventing that: “Such is the law of Allah that has been in operation before; and thou shalt not find any change in the law of Allah” (48:24).

Evaluation of the Treaty by non-Muslim Writers:

The key message of flexibility of thought and being always open to peace and negotiation, in this treaty, has been nicely captured by two non-Muslim biographers of the Prophet Muhammad.

Francesco Gabrieli writes in Muhammad and the Conquests of Islam:

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.[vi]

RVC Bodley writes in his biography of the Prophet Muhammad, The Messenger:

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 be­fore 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, Muham­mad 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 impor­tant enough to break off negotiations.

What was important was to have free access to Makkah. Mu­hammad 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 per­manently. …..

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. [vii]

 References

[i]Sahih Bukhari: Hadith 752, in volume II.   As in the translation published by Dar.    Al Madinah, Beirut, Lebanon.

[ii]Sahih Bukhari: Hadith 752, in volume II.   As in the translation published by Dar.    Al Madinah, Beirut, Lebanon.

[iii]Sahih Bukhari: Hadith 807, in volume I.   As in the translation published by Dar.    Al Madinah, Beirut, Lebanon.

[iv]Sahih Bukhari: Hadith 752, in volume II.   As in the translation published by Dar.    Al Madinah, Beirut, Lebanon.

[v]Sahih Bukhari: Hadith 874, in volume III.   As in the translation published by Dar.    Al Madinah, Beirut, Lebanon.

[vi]Francesco Gabrieli; Muhammad and the Conquests of Islam.

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

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3 replies

  1. Flexibility of human thought also means that human rights take precedence over religious rights and to save a human life one can bypass a religious injunction. For example the holy Quran says:

    Say, ‘I find not in what has been revealed to me aught forbidden to an eater who wishes to eat it, except it be that which dies of itself, or blood poured forth, or the flesh of swine — for all that is unclean — or what is profane, on which is invoked the name of other than Allah. But whoso is driven by necessity, being neither disobedient nor exceeding the limit, then surely thy Lord is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Al Quran 4:146)

    • You are lying man,Religion takes precedent over human thought in Islam.What the verse means is for a person who is in a condition and in circumstance without any other alternative than eating the flesh of the swine is permissible at that juncture. But if there are other available food that can save him, then he is forbidden to eat the swine. In Islam when Allah and His Messenger says anything, we say “WE HEAR AND WE OBEY”.

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