Al-Hudaibiyah Treaty

Al-Hudaibiyah Treaty
(Dhul Qa‘dah 6 A.H.)

When Arabia began to witness the large impressive sweep in favour of the Muslims, the forerunners of the great conquest and success of the Islamic Call started gradually to loom on the demographic horizon, and the true believers restored their undisputed right to observe worship in the sacred sanctuary.

It was about the sixth year Hijri when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saw in a dream, while he was still in Madinah, that he had entered the sacred sanctuary in Makkah in security with his followers, and was performing the ceremonies of ‘Umrah (lesser pilgrimage). Their heads were being shaved and hair cut off. As soon as he informed some of his Companions the contents of his dream, their hearts leapt up with joy since they found in it the actualization of their deep longing to take part in pilgrimage and its hallowed rites after an exile of six years.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had his clothes washed, mounted his camel and marched out towards Makkah at the head of fifteen hundred Muslims including his wife Umm Salamah. Some desert bedouins whose Faith was lukewarm hung back and made excuses. They carried no weapons with them except sheathed swords because they had no intention of fighting. Ibn Umm Maktum was mandated to dispose the affairs of Madinah during the Prophet’s absence. As they approached Makkah, and in a place called Dhi Hulaifa, he ordered that the sacrificial animals be garlanded, and all believers donned Al-Ihrâm, the pilgrim’s garb. He despatched a reconnoiterer to hunt around for news of the enemy. The man came back to tell the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that a large number of slaves, as well as a huge army, were gathered to oppose him, and that the road to Makkah was completely blocked. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) consulted his Companions, who were of the opinion that they would fight none unless they were debarred from performing their pilgrimage.

The Quraishites, on their part, held a meeting during which they considered the whole situation and decided to resist the Prophet’s mission at all costs. Two hundred horsemen led by Khalid bin Al-Waleed were despatched to take the Muslims by surprise during Zuhr (the afternoon) prayer. However, the rules of prayer of fear were revealed meanwhile and thus Khalid and his men missed the chance. The Muslims avoided marching on that way and decided to follow a rugged rocky one. Here, Khalid ran back to Quraish to brief them on the latest situation.

When the Muslims reached a spot called Thaniyat Al-Marar, the Prophet’s camel stumbled and knelt down and was too stubborn to move. Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) swore he would willingly accede to any plan they put forward that would glorify Allâh’s sanctities. He then reprovingly spurred his camel and it leapt up. They resumed their march and came to pitch their tents at the furthest part of Al-Hudaibiyah beside a well of scanty water. The Muslims reported thirst to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who took an arrow out of his quiver, and placed it in the ditch. Water immediately gushed forth, and his followers drank to their fill. When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had rested, Budail bin Warqa’ Al-Khuza‘i with some celebrities of Khuza‘ah tribe, the Prophet’s confidants, came and asked him what he had come for. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied that it was not for war that he had come forth: "I have no other design," he said, "but to perform ‘Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) in the Holy Sanctuary. Should Quraish embrace the new religion, as some people have done, they are most welcome, but if they stand in my way or debar the Muslims from pilgrimage, I will surely fight them to the last man, and Allâh’s Order must be fulfilled." The envoy carried the message back to Quraish, who sent another one called Mikraz bin Hafs. On seeing him, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that that was a treacherous man. He was given the same message to communicate to his people. He was followed by another ambassador known as Al-Hulais bin ‘Alqamah. He was very much impressed by the spirit of devotion that the Muslims had for the Sacred Ka‘bah. He went back to his men and warned them against debarring Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions from doing honour to Allâh’s house on the peril of breaking his alliance with them. Hulais was succeeded by ‘Urwa bin Mas‘ud Ath-Thaqafi to negotiate with Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). In the course of discussion he said to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace): "Muhammad! Have you gathered around yourself mixed people and then brought them against your kith and kin in order to destroy them. By Allâh I think I see you deserted by these people tomorrow." At this point Abu Bakr stood up and expressed his resentment at this imputation. Al-Mugheerah bin Shu‘bah expressed the same attitude and reprovingly forbade him from touching the Prophet’s beard. Here, Quraish’s envoy remarked indignantly and alluded to the latter’s treacherous act of killing his companions and looting them before he embraced Islam. Meanwhile, ‘Urwah, during his stay in the Muslim camp, had been closely watching the unfathomable love and profound respect that the followers of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) showed him. He returned and conveyed to Quraish his impression that those people could not forsake the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) under any circumstances. He expressed his feelings in the following words: "I have been to Chosroes, Caesar and Negus in their kingdoms, but never have I seen a king among a people like Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) among his Companions. If he performs his ablution, they would not let the water thereof fall on the ground; if he expectorates, they would have the mucus to rub their faces with; if he speaks, they would lower their voices. They will not abandon him for anything in any case. He, now, offers you a reasonable plan, so do what you please."

Seeing an overwhelming tendency towards reconciliation among their chiefs, some reckless, fight-prone youngsters of Quraish devised a wicked plan that could hinder the peace treaty. They decided to infiltrate into the camp of the Muslims and produce intentional skirmishes that might trigger the fuse of war. Muhammad bin Maslamah, chief of the Muslim guards, took them captives, but in view of the far-reaching imminent results about to be achieved, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) set them free. In this context Allâh says:

"And He it is Who has withheld their hands from you and your hands from them in the midst of Makkah, after He had made you victors over them." [Al-Qur'an 48:24]

Time passed. Negotiations went on but with no results. Then the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) desired ‘Umar to see the nobles of Quraish on his behalf. ‘Umar excused himself on account of the personal enmity of Quraish; he had, moreover, no influential relatives in the city who could shield him from danger; and he pointed to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, who belonged to one of the most powerful families in Makkah, as the suitable envoy. ‘Uthman went to Abu Sufyan and other chiefs and told them that the Muslims had come only to visit and pay their homage to the Sacred House, to do worship there, and that they had no intention to fight. He was also asked to call them to Islam, and give glad tidings to the believers in Makkah, women and men, that the conquest was approaching and Islam was surely to prevail because Allâh would verily establish His religion in Makkah. ‘Uthman also assured them that after the performance of ceremonies they would soon depart peacefully, but the Quraishites were adamant and not prepared to grant them the permission to visit Al-Ka‘bah. They, however, offered ‘Uthman the permission to perform the pilgrimage, if he so desired in his individual capacity, but ‘Uthman declined the offer saying: "How is it possible that I avail myself of this opportunity, when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is denied of it?" The Muslims anxiously waited for the arrival of ‘Uthman with mingled feelings of fear and anxiety. But his arrival was considerably delayed and a foul play was suspected on the part of Quraish. The Muslims were greatly worried and took a solemn pledge at the hand of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that they would sacrifice their lives to avenge the death of their Companion and stand firmly by their master, Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), under all conditions. This pledge goes by the name of Bay‘at Ar-Ridwan (a covenant of fealty). The first men to take a pledge were Abu Sinan Al-Asadi and Salamah bin Al-Akwa‘, who gave a solemn promise to die in the cause of Truth three times, at the front of the army, in the middle and in the rear. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) caught his left hand on behalf of ‘Uthman. This fealty was sworn under a tree, with ‘Umar holding the Prophet’s hand and Ma‘qil bin Yasar holding a branch of the tree up. The Noble Qur’ân has referred to this pledge in the following words:

"Indeed, Allâh was pleased with the believers when they gave their Bai‘a (pledge) to you (O Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) ) under the tree." [Al-Qur'an 48:18]

When Quraish saw the firm determination of the Muslims to shed the last drop of blood for the defence of their Faith, they came to their senses and realized that Muhammad’s followers could not be cowed down by these tactics. After some further interchange of messages they agreed to conclude a treaty of reconciliation and peace with the Muslims. The clauses of the said treaty go as follows:

  1. The Muslims shall return this time and come back next year, but they shall not stay in Makkah for more than three days.
  2. They shall not come back armed but can bring with them swords only sheathed in scabbards and these shall be kept in bags.
  3. War activities shall be suspended for ten years, during which both parties will live in full security and neither will raise sword against the other.
  4. If anyone from Quraish goes over to Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) without his guardian’s permission, he should be sent back to Quraish, but should any of Muhammad’s followers return to Quraish, he shall not be sent back.
  5. Whosoever wishes to join Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), or enter into treaty with him, should have the liberty to do so; and likewise whosoever wishes to join Quraish, or enter into treaty with them, should be allowed to do so.

Some dispute arose with regard to the preamble. For example, when the agreement was to be committed to writing, ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, who acted as a scribe began with the words: Bismillâh ir-Rahman ir-Raheem, i.e., "In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful" but the Makkan plenipotentiary, Suhail bin ‘Amr declared that he knew nothing about Ar-Rahman and insisted upon the customary formula Bi-ismika Allâhumma, i.e., "In Your Name, O Allâh!" The Muslims grumbled with uneasiness but the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) agreed. He then went on to dictate, "This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allâh has agreed to with Suhail bin ‘Amr." Upon this Suhail again protested: "Had we acknowledged you as Prophet, we would not have debarred you from the Sacred House, nor fought against you. Write your own name and the name of your father." The Muslims grumbled as before and refused to consent to the change. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), however, in the larger interest of Islam, attached no importance to such an insignificant detail, erased the words himself, and dictated instead: "Muhammad, the son of ‘Abdullah." Soon after this treaty, Khuza‘a clan, a former ally of Banu Hashim, joined the ranks of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and Banu Bakr sided with Quraish.

It was during this time while the treaty was being written that Abu Jandal, Suhail’s son, appeared on the scene. He was brutally chained and was staggering with privation and fatigue. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions were moved to pity and tried to secure his release but Suhail was adamant and said: "To signify that you are faithful to your contract, an opportunity has just arrived." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "But the treaty was not signed when your son entered the camp." Upon this, he burst forth and said, "but the terms of the treaty were agreed upon." It was indeed an anxious moment. On the one hand, Abu Jandal was lamenting at the top of his voice, "Am I to be returned to the polytheists that they might entice me from my religion, O Muslims!" but, on the other hand, the faithful engagement was also considered to be necessary, above all other considerations. The Prophet’s heart welled up with sympathy, but he wanted to honour his word at all costs. He consoled Abu Jandal and said, "Be patient, resign yourself to the Will of Allâh. Allâh is going to provide for you and your helpless companions relief and means of escape. We have concluded a treaty of peace with them and we have taken the pledge in the Name of Allâh. We are, therefore, under no circumstances prepared to break it." ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab could not help giving vent to the deep-seated agony of his heart. He rose to his feet uttering words implying deep hatred and extreme indignation and requested Abu Jandal to take his sword and kill Suhail, but the son spared his father. However, in silent resignation was therefore, Abu Jandal borne away with his chains.

When the peace treaty had been concluded, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) ordered his Companions to slaughter their sacrificial animals, but they were too depressed to do that. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave instructions in this regard three times but with negative response. He told his wife Umm Salamah about this attitude of his Companions. She advised that he himself take the initiative, slaughter his animal and have his head shaved. Seeing that, the Muslims, with rended hearts, started to slaughter their animals and shave their heads. They even almost killed one another because of their distress. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) prayed three times for those who shaved their heads and once for those who cut their hair. A camel was sacrificed on behalf of seven men and a cow on behalf of the same number of people. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) sacrificed a camel which once belonged to Abu Jahl and which the Muslims had seized as booty at Badr, thus enraging the polytheists. During Al-Hudaibiyah campaign, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) permitted Ka‘b bin ‘Ujrah, who was in a state of Ihram (state of ritual consecration of the pilgrim) for ‘Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) to shave his head due to illness, on the condition that he will pay compensation by sacrificing a sheep, fasting for three days or feeding six needy persons. Concerning this, the following verse was revealed:

"And whosoever of you is ill or has an ailment in his scalp (necessitating shaving), he must pay a Fidyah (ransom) of either fasting (three days) or giving Sadaqa (feeding six poor persons) or offering sacrifice (one sheep)." [Al-Qur'an 2:196]

Meanwhile some believing women emigrated to Madinah and asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) for refuge which they were granted. When their families demanded their return, he would not hand them back because the following verse was revealed:

"O you who believe! When believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them, Allâh knows best as to their Faith, then if you know them for true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them. But give the disbelievers that (amount of money) which they have spent [as their Mahr] to them. And there will be no sin on you to marry them if you have paid their Mahr to them. Likewise hold not the disbelieving women as wives …" [Al-Qur'an 60:10]

The reason why the believing women were not handed back was either because they were not originally included in the terms of the treaty, which mentioned only men, or because the Qur’ân abrogated any terms dealing with women in the verse:

"O Prophet! When believing women come to you to give you the Bai‘a (Pledge), that they will not associate anything in worship with Allâh …" [Al-Qur'an 60:12]

This is the verse which forbade Muslim women from marrying disbelieving men. Likewise, Muslim men were commanded to terminate their marriages to disbelieving women. In compliance with this injunction, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab divorced two wives he had married before he embraced Islam; Mu‘awiyah married the first woman, and Safwan bin Omaiyah married the second.

Al-Hudaibiyah Treaty: Socio-political Impact

A series of events confirmed the profound wisdom and splendid results of the peace treaty which Allâh called "a manifest victory". How could it be otherwise when Quraish had recognized the legitimate Muslims’ existence on the scene of political life in Arabia, and began to deal with the believers on equal terms. Quraish in the light of the articles of the treaty, had indirectly relinquished its claim to religious leadership, and admitted that they were no longer interested in people other than Quraish, and washed their hands of any sort of intervention in the religious future of the Arabian Peninsula. The Muslims did not have in mind to seize people’s property or kill them through bloody wars, nor did they ever think of pursuing any coercive approaches in their endeavours to propagate Islam, on the contrary, their sole target was to provide an atmosphere of freedom as regards ideology or religion:

"Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve." [Al-Qur'an 18:29]

The Muslims, on the other hand, had the opportunity to spread Islam over areas not then explored. When there was armistice, war was abolished, and men met and consulted together, none talked about Islam intelligently without entering it; within the two years following the conclusion of the treaty double as many entered Islam as ever before. This is supported by the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) went out to Al-Hudaibiyah with only 1,400 men, but when he set out to liberate Makkah, two years later, he had 10,000 men with him.

The article of the treaty pertaining to cessation of hostilities for ten years points directly to the utter failure of political haughtiness exercised by Quraish and its allies, and functions as evidence of the collapse and impotence of the war instigator.

Quraish had been obliged to lose those advantages in return for one seemingly in its favour but does not actually bear any harm against the Muslims, i.e., the article that speaks of handing over believing men who seek refuge with the Muslims without their guardians’ consent to Quraish. At first glance, it was a most distressing clause and was considered objectionable in the Muslim camp. However, in the course of events, it proved to be a great blessing. The Muslims sent back to Makkah were not likely to renounce the blessings of Islam; contrariwise, those very Muslims turned out to be centres of influence for Islam. It was impossible to think that they would become apostates or renegades. The wisdom behind this truce assumed its full dimensions in some subsequent events. After the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had reached Madinah, Abu Baseer, who had escaped from Quraish, came to him as a Muslim; Quraish sent two men demanding his return, so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) handed him over to them. On the way to Makkah, Abu Baseer managed to kill one of them, and the other one fled to Madinah with Abu Baseer in pursuit. When he reached the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), he said, "Your obligation is over and Allâh has freed you from it. You duly handed me over to the men, and Allâh has rescued me from them." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Woe is his mother, he would have kindled a war if there had been others with him." When he heard that, he knew that he would be handed back to them, so he fled from Madinah and went as far as Saif Al-Bahr. The other Muslims who were oppressed in Makkah began to escape to Abu Baseer. He was joined by Abu Jandal and others until a fair-sized colony was formed and soon sought revenge on Quraish and started to intercept their caravans. The pagans of Makkah finding themselves unable to control those exiled colonists, begged the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to do away with the clause which governed the extradition. They implored him by Allâh and by their ties of kinship to send for the group, saying that whoever joined the Muslims in Madinah would be safe from them. So the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) sent for the group and they responded, as expected, positively.

These are the realities of the clauses of the truce treaty and as it seems they all function in favour of the nascent Islamic state. However, two points in the treaty made it distasteful to some Muslims, namely they were not given access to the Holy Sanctuary that year, and the seemingly humiliating attitude as regards reconciliation with the pagans of Quraish. ‘Umar, unable to contain himself for the distress taking full grasp of his heart, went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said: "Aren’t you the true Messenger of Allâh?" The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied calmly, "Why not?" ‘Umar again spoke and asked: "Aren’t we on the path of righteousness and our enemies in the wrong?" Without showing any resentment, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied that it was so. On getting this reply he further urged: "Then we should not suffer any humiliation in the matter of Faith." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was unruffled and with perfect confidence said: "I am the true Messenger of Allâh, I never disobey Him, He shall help me." "Did you not tell us," rejoined ‘Umar, "that we shall perform pilgrimage?" "But I have never told you," replied the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), "that we shall do so this very year." ‘Umar was silenced. But his mind was disturbed. He went to Abu Bakr and expressed his feelings before him. Abu Bakr who had never been in doubt as regards the Prophet’s truthfulness and veracity confirmed what the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had told him. In due course the Chapter of Victory (48th) was revealed saying:

"Verily, We have given you (O Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)) a manifest victory." [Al-Qur'an 48:1]

The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) summoned ‘Umar and imported to him the happy tidings. ‘Umar was overjoyed, and greatly regretted his former attitude. He used to spend in charity, observe fasting and prayer and free as many slaves as possible in expiation for that reckless attitude he had assumed. [Fath Al-Bari 7/439-458; Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/378-381]

The early part of the year 7 A.H. witnessed the Islamization of three prominent men of Makkah, ‘Amr bin Al-‘As, Khalid bin Al-Waleed and ‘Uthman bin Talhah. On their arrival and entrance into the fold of Islam, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Quraish has given us its own blood."