During his conveyance of Islam, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) made contact with members of various religions. Due to the fact that Islam is a religion of peace, the Prophet preferred the way of agreement in inviting peoples to Islam. In view of the fact that Arabian society was generally composed of mushriks (idol worshippers), it is observed that the Prophet mostly dealt with them during his prophethood. In lexical context, the word “mushrik” derives its meaning from the Arabic verb “shirka” which means “associate with”, and it is used as “one who is associating something/someone with Allah, the Creator, in worship and blaspheming against Him”. “Shirk” which means “partnership in estate and business” also means “hypocrisy, strife, giving oath to somebody else other than Allah, foreboding something, relating the occurrences to profane reasons”.
In the contextual meaning, “mushrik” means Arabs who expressly associate partners with Allah, believe in numerous gods, are not a member of the Muslim, Jewish, Sabians, Christian or Majus faiths, accept associations as a religion and worship idols.
In the Quran, when stating the existing religions in Arabia during the revelation of Islam, mushriks were accounted for as a separate group. When we look at the era of the Prophet, marrying Jews and Christians who are Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book) and eating from their food was considered halal (permissible). While jizya (the non-burdensome tax paid by non-Muslims residing in a state governed by Islam for the funding of their protection) was taken from Majus and Sabians, it was haram (forbidden) for Muslims to marry their women or eat from their food. On the contrary, no jizya was taken from Arab idolaters who were considered mushriks, and it was forbidden to marry their women and eat from their food. In this context, Arab mushriks were considered equal with murtads (apostates). In other words, battles could be fought against them without jizya privilege (the offer of paid-for protection in exchange for acceptance of Islam as the governing law of the state while being allowed to adhere to their own laws within their religious communities) when they didn’t become Muslim.
When the Prophet conveyed Islam to his people during his time in Mecca, he patiently endured all hardships and cruelties of the mushriks. The Prophet, who yearned for a peace treaty against the torturing of his people, always kept an open door to the hope of an agreement remembering the benefits of the al-Fudul covenant (an alliance made prior to the coming of Islam in Mecca to ensure justice in a time when it had greatly deteriorated during the Jahiliyya (Age of Ignorance)).
Since the first days of his hijrah (migration) to Medina, the Prophet established a brotherhood between the Ansar (residents of Medina) and Muhajirun (those who immigrated there to establish the first Islamic state). He prepared the first constitution in Islamic History and founded the state of Medina. Later on, he signed treaties for various reasons with neighboring mushrik tribes and other mushriks in Arabia.
THE AIMS OF THE TREATIES
The Prophet (pbuh) always honored the treaties signed in the Age of Ignorance to assure peace and concord. He stated that Islam would reinforce those treaties and asserted that he could join treaties regarding this issue. As a matter of fact, Prophet Muhammad signed treaties with the neighboring tribes in accordance with the context of the “If enemies incline to peace, incline you also to it, and trust in Allah” verse.
Especially before engaging in battle, Prophet Muhammad preferred to try to attain the following several aims through treaties:
a. Assuring Peace in the Stat
The treaty that the Prophet prepared during his first years in Medina stands as an example of this issue. According to this treaty, all people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim shall become a society under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, and they shall be considered as an ummah (community/nation).
In order to sign this treaty in the first year after migrating to Medina, the Prophet gathered the Aws tribe, Hazraj tribe and the Jews in the house of Anas, a resident of Medina. This treaty constituted the first constitution of the State of Medina as a written document. In this way, the Prophet formed a very different social structure (ummah), which had never been seen before in the Arabian Peninsula, from a city-society composed of various races, religions and tribes. As a political leader, the Prophet represented the highest governmental authority and held a presidential status from a judicial, military and legal perspective. In other words, thanks to this political move the Prophet represented the worldly authority, namely the presidency of Medina City-State along with the religious authority he had before. In this way, the legal, political, individual, financial and military statuses of Medina were defined. Again with this treaty, Prophet Muhammad formed a new order instead of the old, “Ignorance” order and managed to reunite the disintegrating Medina.
b. Establishing the Existence of the State and Preserving Its Prestige
The Prophet knew that all mushriks were enemies to the Islamic State he founded. Particularly the Quraishis actively opposed this State as the cause of the Muslims’ hijrah to Medina. In the treaty that Prophet Muhammad made in Medina, the following article was especially included to address this matter: “No mushrik shall safeguard the life and assets of a Quraishi and shall not prevent a believer in doing so.” According to this provision, the existence and protection of the Islamic State in Medina was approved by all residents, thus forming an alliance in Medina against the Quraishis who were the most important danger at that time. In other words, a society was gathered as a whole under a head of state. Moreover, the continuance of the existence of the State and the protection of its prestige were guaranteed with this treaty.
c. Ensuring Relations with Neighbors
The most important issue that threatens a state apart from the internal mingle is the condition of its neighbors. For that reason, every state wants to get along with its neighbors and maintain good relations with them. The Prophet knew that his neighbors were mushrik tribes when he founded the State of Medina. In order to prevent their hostile attitudes and indicate that he would strive to get along with them, he made treaties with the Banu Damrah, Mudlij, Gifar and Juhainah tribes. These treaties not only maintained good neighbor relations, but they also constituted an alliance against danger. Furthermore with these tribes, it became possible to be informed in advance of dangers directed at Medina. These treaties also held importance in the context of trade activities.
d. Preventing Wars
The Prophet preferred everything to be dealt with in peaceful ways. As a matter of fact, before the Battle of Badr, in order to prevent financial and moral damage to both sides, the Prophet sent Umar, one of his dearest companions, to Mecca asking the mushriks, who had come to demolish the State of Medina and to preserve their prestige in the idolater society, to back away. The Quran refers to Prophet Muhammad’s call for peace in this verse: “O Quraishis! If you sought a judgment, now the judgment has come unto you. And if you cease (from persecuting the believers), it will be better for you, but if you return (to the attack), we also shall return. And your host will avail you naught, however numerous it be, and (know) that Allah is with the believers (in His Guidance).”
e. Upon Peace Proposition
The Prophet proved with all his attitudes that he was open to the peace propositions of the mushrik and made an agreement whenever presented with this option. As a matter of fact, in the sixth year of the Hijrah, the Prophet set out on a journey to Mecca with the purpose of making umrah (the minor pilgrimage to the Kaaba), yet after having been informed that Meccan mushriks took up arms, he changed his course and went to Hudaybiyah with the hope of making a treaty. Despite diplomatic talks, it was not possible to visit Mecca that year, and a treatise was reached after the proposition of the mushriks. Eventually, after days of traveling a long distance, Muslims arrived in Hudaybiyah and returned back to Medina solely for the sake of peace.
The people of Ta’if arriving in Medina in the ninth year of the Hijrah wanted to be held exempt from salah, zakat, hijrah and jihad. Moreover, they wished that their idol Lat not be touched and prostitution, interest and alcoholic drinks not be prohibited. In order to conclude the process, the people of Taif even presented their wishes in writing and left a space only for the seal of Prophet Muhammad. However, the Prophet found an opportunity to make a treaty by changing those terms that were against the laws of Islam.
EXECUTION OF THE TREATY
The significant point in the treaties reached by the Prophet (pbuh) is that there exist no articles against Islam. As a matter of fact, the proposition of Ta’if people was turned down since it was in violation of Islam, and they could only be reached after the provisions were modified in accordance with Islam. Moreover, in order for the treaty to remain valid, it was stipulated that the seal of Prophet and the names of the witnesses be recorded at the end of the text.
The treaties made by Prophet Muhammad were signed at the tribe to which the agreement was to be contracted or in Medina before the delegate of the other party. Before the agreements were written, the conditions were mutually debated, and as the parties reached an agreement over the articles of the treaty, the issuing phase was put into effect. If a written proposition was brought, the articles were examined, and the sections that needed to be modified were edited after the parties approved them.
The Prophet ordered that the writing of the treaty be started with the phrase “in the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful” and subsequently had the phrase “Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah” added to the treaty. Upon this, in Hudaybiyah, Suhayl bin Amr raised an objection to the phrase “in the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful” and the phrase “Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah”, thus the wish of Suhayl bin Amr was fulfilled and these phrases were replaced with the phrases: “Oh Allah! In the name of You!” and “Muhammad, the son of Abd Allah”. After this incident, Umar became furious, and Ali, the scribe for this treaty and the Prophet’s nephew, abstained from changing these phrases.
The Prophet would dictate the text of the treaty to his clerks given that he knew not how to read or write. Generally Ali performed this duty. The treaty would be prepared in two copies: one copy for Prophet Muhammad and one copy for the other party. During the debate and writing of the treaty, the witnesses of the parties would attend and their names were also written at the end of the treaty. As a matter of fact, on the Hudaybiyah treaty, the witnesses from the Muslims were Abu Bakr, Abdurrahman bin Avf and others, and the witnesses of the mushriks were Mikraz bin Hafs and others. Furthermore, the treaty would be embossed with the seal of the head of the parties.
To ensure adherence to the treaties, the Prophet used expressions like “until there still remains a drop in the sea enough to wet a feather” or “as long as Mount Uhud exist”.
SOME EXCERPTS FROM THE TREATIES WITH THE MUSHRIKS
The Prophet (pbuh) made diplomatic treaties with the neighboring tribes one year after his hijrah to Medina. Some of these treaties are as follow:
Treaty with Banu Damrah
The Prophet went to Banu Damrah with 60 muhajirs, companions who had migrated to Medina, in the month of Safar in the second year after his arrival in Medina. He debated what the neighbor relations should be with their leader and dictated the following text:
“In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful;
The letter of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) written to Banu Damrah: their assets and lives shall be safe. They shall be aided when they are cruelly attacked. They shall also help the Prophet. This treaty shall remain in full force until there still remains a drop in the sea enough to wet a feather. Their conditions during battling in the name of Allah are exempt from this. They shall answer the call of the Prophet when he asks for their help. They shall have the guarantee of Allah and His messenger. Aid shall be given for those who abide their liabilities and who are afraid of the violation of this treaty.”
This treaty which was between the Prophet and Banu Damra holds provisions such as helping each other, maintaining good neighbor relations, allying in case of a potential attack, etc. It also gives responsibility to both sides. Due to the fact that the Banu Damrah tribe was not Muslim at that time, no provision was stipulated regarding cooperation or support for jihad (battling in the name of Allah and within the precisely defined limits of Islamic law).
Treaty Signed with the Banu Ghifar
The Prophet concluded a treaty with the Banu Ghifar tribe in the same year he made a treaty with the Banu Damra tribe. This treaty more or less bears resemblance to the treaty made with the Banu Damra:
“Banu Ghifar shall be deemed as a person who possesses the same rights and same liabilities as the Muslims. Moreover, the Prophet guarantees the protection of Allah and the protection of His Prophet over them and their possessions. If the Prophet calls for their help, they are obliged to honor his invitation, and they have a duty to help him. War for religion is to be held exempt from this record. This treaty will be valid until there still remains a drop in sea enough to wet a feather. This writing will not be used in the case of a murder.”
As such, the Prophet made an agreement with the Banu Ghifar to help and support each other and establish good neighbor relations.
The Treaty Signed with the Juhaynad Tribe
In the second year of the Hijrah in the lunar month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the Prophet headed to Buwat where the Juhaynads were living. The Prophet signed a treaty similar to that of the ones with Banu Damra and Banu Ghifar:
“To Banu Zur and Banu Rab from the Juhaynad Tribe: They and their possessions will be under protection. They will receive help against those who battle and tyrannize against them. The wars waged in the name of religion and their members will be held exempt from this record. Those nomadic members who fulfill their obligations and who are by no means in violation of anything have all the rights granted to natives. Allah is the helper.”
This treaty signed by the Prophet with the Juhaynad tribe formed a non-aggression pact between the two parties wherein aiding each other in all sorts of attack was concluded as an obligation.
Treaty of Hudaibiyah with the Quraishis
The Prophet set out for Mecca with his ashab (companions) of 1,400-1,500 people and 70 sacrificial animals in the lunar month Dhu al-Qa'dah in the sixth year of Hijrah. His purpose was to remove the hostility between them and the Quraishis, forget events of the past and maintain good relations and perform umrah. However, when Prophet Muhammad came within the reach of Mecca, they came across Busr bin Sufyan. When they learned from him that the people of Mecca were planning to treat the Muslims with hostility, Prophet Muhammad took his ashab to Hudaibiyah. Because of the fact that the Prophet had the intention to make peace with them when he approached Mecca, he did not retaliate against the Quraishis for preventing the Muslims access to Mecca. His sole purpose was to make a treaty and leave if not perform umrah. He tried to achieve this by diplomatic means. As result of the bilateral diplomatic relations, the Quraishis sent Suhayl bin Amr to make a treaty. The Prophet and Suhayl bin Amr debated on the text of the treaty, and the following articles were decided upon for inclusion:
- The Muslims shall go back this year without performing umrah. In the coming year, they may visit Mecca staying therein for three days bearing no arms except the arms of the traveler with swords remaining in their sheaths.
- Those Muslims of Medina who took refuge in Mecca shall not be returned, however Muhammad will return every Meccan person arriving in Medina if the master of such person wishes so.
- He will not deport anyone from the Meccan society along with himself and will not prevent the believers [in Islam] who wish to remain in Mecca.
- Those who wish to join Muhammad’s alliance will be able to do so. Those who wish for the solidarity and the alliance of the Quraish will be able to join them.
- Ten years of truce have been signed between the two states. The allies of the treaty signing parties are included within this truce. This truce necessitates that each of the parties provide safe passage through their lands for the people of the other party, and when one of the parties is at war with a third party, the other party is obliged to remain neutral.
Having signed this treaty, the Prophet had accepted it under very difficult conditions and terms. This was because they were not going to be able to visit Kaaba, the restitution of those taking refuge in Mecca was not going to be possible despite the restitution of those taking refuge in Medina, and not a single person from Mecca was going to be allowed to enter Medina. As it can be understood, all the articles of the treaty were to the disadvantage of Muslims. However, despite all these negativities, the Prophet signed a ten-year truce with his greatest enemy, the Quraish. This treaty consequently left the Muslims feeling hopeless. Yet, after revelations were received and some incidents occurred, it was understood that this was in fact a victory for the Muslims. Because while in the fifth year of Hijrah, Muslims numbered 3,000 at the Battle of Trench (Khandaq), after only two years 10,000 participated in the conquest of Mecca.
The Prophet always remained true to the treaties signed with the mushriks. During the debate and writing of the treaty, Abu Jandal, son of the Quraish delegate Suhayl bin Amr wished to take refuge as a Muslim under the Prophet’s protection and asked Prophet Muhammad to save him from the mushriks.
However, the Prophet did not accept Abu Jandal emphasizing that he was not able to deviate from the articles of the treaty and that they should remain true to it. Despite the objection of the Muslims: “How can Abu Jandal be returned to the mushriks when he is a Muslim?”, and although Abu Jandal cried out, “O Muslims! Though I came as a Muslim, will I be returned to the mushriks?” the Prophet did not violate the treaty and returned him.
Abu Basir, who was captured by the mushriks managing to flee to Medina, yet again in accordance with the articles of the treaty was handed over by the Prophet to the two agents that arrived in Medina. In concordance with the Hudaybiyah truce, the parties were to remain at peace for a period of 10 years and would not violate this even confidentially. However, the Banu Bakr tribe, ally of the Quraish tribe, acted against the truce by attacking the Huzaa tribe, ally of the Prophet. This violation eventually led to the conquest of Mecca.
THE RESULTS OF THE TREATIES SIGNED WITH MUSHRIKS:
Prophet made treaties with his adjacent and distant neighbors in order to fulfill various goals. The examination of the treaties of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) leads us to the following the results:
- The Prophet had assured peace in Medina and established it as a secure city. Muslims along with Jews and mushriks provided the defense of Medina mutually; thus the city became a location representing solidarity and unity against outside forces.
- Good neighbor relations and terms of mutual aid were adopted. The treaties, which were signed with the neighbors, provided Muslims with secure passage though their neighbors’ lands for the purposes of trade and battle.
- The treaties made with the neighbors opened the trade routes and provided an opportunity for the continuation of trade activities. On the other hand, the trade of Meccan mushriks was restricted.
- The treaties signed with mushrik tribes eliminated the polytheistic belief in Arabia and the authority of the Quraish tribe. Consequently, the treaties made by the Prophet with mushriks during the first years led Meccan mushriks in the sixth year of Hijrah to search for peace in Hudaybiyah.
- These treaties ensured peace in Arabia. The traditions of ignorance were eliminated and dangers to Muslims prevented. Friendship was assured, and the superiority of Islam laid the foundation for invitations.
Prophet Muhammad’s twenty-three years of peace attempts, the bad intentions of the mushriks against the goodwill of the Muslims, their denial of Allah and not observing the belief system of Islam and the ongoing risk of idolatry for the Muslims led to the revelation of Surah Al-Tawba. As a consequence, these revelations clearly declared the stand to be taken against mushriks. The following are the provisions announced to mushriks after this period.
- No mushrik shall ever enter the Kaaba from this year on.
- No one shall ever circumambulate the Kaaba nude.
- No one other than the believers shall enter heaven.
- The treaties between mushriks and Muslims shall continue until their durations are complete.
- A four month grace period shall be granted regarding the treaties lacking specific durations and for the mushriks who did not conclude a treaty.
In this context, Surah Al-Tawba signified an ultimatum ending the treaties signed with mushriks, and it was decided that by no means was an agreement to be made. The mushriks were either going to accept Islam or leave Arabia in four months, or else war would be waged against them. The ultimatum, which was announced to the mushriks, assured them that there was no other way than to accept the growth of Islam. As a result, a year later, the number of Muslims attending the Prophet’s Farewell Pilgrimage had reached hundreds of thousands.
“Remove mushriks from the Arabian Peninsula” was an order given by the Prophet just before his demise. It was fulfilled during the caliphate (period of Islamic ruling after the death of the Prophet) of Abu Bakr.