Seerah
Seerah - Life of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
 

29 - The Treaty of Hudaybiya

Prophet Muhammad and the Emigrants greatly missed the homeland which they were forced to leave five years prior in order to protect their religion and their lives, and they fervently desired to visit the Ka’ba – emphasized in various Qur’anic verses as the sancutary on Earth of the Divine religion based on monotheism. When Prophet Muhammad eventually saw a dream in which he was circumambulating the Ka’ba, he decided upon going to Makka and performing the minor pilgrimage (‘umra). He directed his Companions to begin preparations for pilgrimage. Assigning 'Abd Allah ibn Umm Maktum to lead the prayers and appointing Numayla ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Laysi as his deputy to govern the city of Madina, he set out for Makka with 1400-1500 Companions on 6 Dhu al-Qa'dah (March 628). Making their intention for pilgrimage, the Muslims donned their pilgrim dress (ihram) and took along with them seventy camels for sacrifice. As they had peaceful intentions, they did not carry any military equipment and were unarmed save the sheathed swords particular to travelers which were a necessity for wayfarers in Arabia. The Prophet and his Companions camped at Hudaybiya, seventeen kilometers from Makka. Informed of the Muslims’ arrival, the Quraysh dispatched a cavalry force of 200 to the region under the command of Khalid ibn Walid despite knowing that the Muslims’ intention was pilgrimage, not conflict. The Prophet sent Kharash ibn Umayya as his envoy to explain to the Quraysh the reason behind their arrival. However, they did not welcome the envoy, and even wanted to kill him. The Prophet then sent ‘Uthman, who had many relatives in the Quraysh, first and foremost Abu Sufyan. Entering Makka under the protection of Aban ibn Sa'id ibn ‘As, ‘Uthman informed them that their intention was to perform the minor pilgrimage, not to fight. The Quraysh told ‘Uthman that they would not allow the Muslims to enter Makka, but that he himself could visit the Ka’ba if he so wished. When ‘Uthman responded with the declaration that he would not circumambulate the Ka’ba if the Prophet did not do so, they arrested and imprisoned him. This incident reached the Prophet in the form of a rumor that ‘Uthman had been killed. Deeply distressed and aggrieved by this news, Prophet Muhammad took an oath from his Companions that they would hold fast and fight to the death. As indicated in the Qur’anic chapter entitled Al-Fath (The Victory, 48:18) this oath of allegiance came to be known as bayat al-ridwan, given that it was one that God was well-pleased with and as bayat al-shajara because it was taken under the desert tree known as samura; the Companions taking the oath also thus became known as the Companions of the Tree (Ashab al-Shajara). When the Quraysh saw the commitment of the Companions to Prophet Muhammad and their risking even death at his single command, their anxiety increased and they began to panic. They first released ‘Uthman and then sent a delegation led by Suhayl ibn 'Amr by way of making peace. After the ensuing negotiations, the text of the peace treaty penned by ‘Ali was signed by Prophet Muhammad and Suhayl ibn 'Amr. The treaty was witnessed by Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-'Awf, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, Abu 'Ubayda ibn Jarrah, and Muhammad ibn Maslama from the Muslims and Mikraz ibn Hafs and Huwaytib ibn ‘Abd al-‘Uzza – both accompanying Suhayl ibn 'Amr – from the Makkan side. According to the treaty whereby many of the Quraysh’s conditions were accepted, the Muslims would return to Madina that year without performing the pilgrimage, return the next year to do so, staying in Makka for three days. In the event that a Makkan escaped to Madina, they would be sent back, while one fleeing from Madina to Makka would not be returned. There was to be a ten-year truce and if one party were to enter into war with any party not signatory to this treaty, the other side would remain neutral; in addition, both sides were to ensure the safety and security of the land at their disposal for trade caravan passage as well as for the major and minor pilgrimages. They would be free to form alliances with other Arab tribes and the conditions of the treaty were to be observed by allied tribes in addition to the treaty’s main parties. While some Companions, particularly ‘Umar, expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the treaty which initially appeared to be against the interests of the Muslims, when the Prophet stated that he had accepted the terms of the treaty, everyone affirmed their commitment. After signing the treaty, the Prophet and his Companions, remaining in Hudaybiya for ten or twelve days, sacrificed the camels they brought along for this purpose and returned to Madina.

Prophet Muhammad took great pains to comply with the terms of the treaty. For instance, because Suhayl ibn 'Amr’s son Abu Jandal had accepted Islam, he was enchained by his father and imprisoned for several years. During the time at which the negotiations at Hudaybiya were completed and the written document was ready for signing, Abu Jandal managed to escape from Makka and came to Hudaybiya in chains, seeking refuge in the Muslims. Even if the Prophet insisted that the treaty had not yet been signed in response to Suhayl ibn 'Amr’s demand for his son’s return, Suhayl vowed that he would not sign the treaty unless his son was returned. The Prophet was thus forced to return Abu Jandal. Although Suhayl promised that he would not torture his son, his dragging Abu Jandal in front of the Muslims when taking him away was extremely difficult for the Prophet and the Muslims to bear. This horrendous incident became etched in memories with the name Abu Jandal Day. On the other hand, during this time the Prophet did not return two women who took shelter with the Muslims on the basis that the treaty made mention of male refugees only and the Quraysh thus had no other option but to accept. After the Prophet returned to Madina, Abu Basir defected to Madina, fleeing imprisonment in Makka due to his having become Muslim, and sought refuge therein. Sending two wardens, the Quraysh asked that Abu Basir be returned in accordance with the treaty. Even if Abu Basir put up a resistance so as not to be handed over to the Quraysh, the Prophet told him that he was forced to return him, advised him to be patient and assured him that God would shortly save him and those in his position. Managing to evade the wardens on the journey back to Makka, Abu Basir retuned to Madina; however, fearing that he would again be returned to the Quraysh, he left Madina to settle in the Sif al-Bahr region along the Makka-Syria trade route. Other new Muslims who, like him, fled from Makka and could not enter Madina, first and foremost Abu Jandal, also joined him there. In time, numbering up to seventy or three hundred, these Muslims began to threaten trade caravans belonging to the Quraysh. As a result, the Quraysh wanted the stipulation regarding the Makkans seeking refuge in Madina lifted. The Prophet sent a letter to Abu Basir and his friends, ordering them to come to Madina; however, when the letter reached Abu Basir, he was on his deathbed and passed away a short time later. Abu Jandal and the others buried Abu Basir and built a mosque adjacent to his grave. They then went to Madina.

The Treaty of Hudaybiya constitutes a turning point in Islamic history. The Prophet’s aim was to break the enemy alliance that had besieged Madina during the Battle of the Trench. And so with this treaty, the Quraysh tribe’s neutrality towards the Khaybar Jews and the Ghatafan tribe had been ensured and the opportunity to advance upon Khaybar on the return from Hudaybiya had arisen. On the other hand, the physical hostility of the Quraysh towards the Muslims came to an end and from that day forth the Quraysh, hitherto refusing to accept the Muslims as counterparts, with this treaty came to accept them as their equals. This result facilitated both the polytheistic and Muslim tribes’ making contact with Prophet Muhammad and enabled the message of Islam to reach them with ease and freedom. In actual fact, Islam spread rapidly throughout the Arabian Peninsula after this date, so much so that the number of people becoming Muslim in the period from the Treaty of Hudaybiya up until the conquest of Makka exceeded the total number of people who had accepted Islam in the previous eighteen years. Moreover, it became possible to send letters to neighboring heads of state, inviting them to Islam. The Treaty of Hudaybiya, initially not viewed as favorable for the Muslims, was in actual fact the greatest political success of Prophet Muhammad, and was confirmed by the Qur’an as such. The forty-eighth chapter of the Qur’an, revealed in relation to this treaty, was entitled The Victory and the truce in question was described as a Manifest Victory (fath al-mubin) and a Mighty Achievement (nasr al-aziz) (Al-Fath, 48:1; 3). Coming to Makka one year later, Prophet Muhammad together with his Companions performed the minor pilgrimage; this came to be known as the Missed ‘Umra (umrat al-qaza’).

 

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