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Hudaibiyah: A turning point in the history of Islam

By Abu Tariq Hijazi | 15 Nov 2012

The incident of Hudaibiyah reserves in history a significant phase of Islam when Muslims got an opportunity to unexpectedly notch gains from the jaws of an apparent defeat.

It was the sixth year of Hijrah since the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his supporters had left the beloved city of Makkah. They were eager to visit the holy Kaaba and perform tawaf (circumambulation).

The pagans of Makkah had meanwhile confronted Muslims three times in the Battle of Badr, Battle of Uhud, and the Battle of Trench. And despite winning in at least two of the battles (in Uhud, they had to retreat), Muslims were still not strong enough to dare counter attack on the large force of the Makkan pagans.

The Hudaibiyah encounter occurred meanwhile that not only gave Muslims courage to go ahead with the mission, but it also tested their courage and faith in Islam.

Six years after Hijrah, in 628 CE, the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) dreamt that he and his followers were entering Makkah and performing tawaf. It was a good sign and hence he declared his plan to visit Makkah to perform Umrah.

Over 1,400 Muslims donned ihram with him from Madinah. They took 70 camels with them for sacrifice. As per the established practice, the Makkans were bound to allow pilgrims coming — but without arms — to perform Umrah. But, alarmed by the huge Muslim presence, the Quraish leaders decided not to allow them from entering the city and sent Khaled Bin Walid with 200 fighters to stop them defying the centuries-old Arab tradition.

The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) changed the route of Taneem to avoid confrontation and came to a lesser-known place called Hudaibiyah on the western edge of the city.

Determined not to allow Muslims enter the city, Makkans sent Urwah bin Masud to negotiate with the Prophet. Highly impressed with the scenes of Prophet’s love among his followers, Urwah said, “I have visited the royal courts of the Persians, Roman and Ethiopian kingdoms, but I have never seen the kind of respect and high esteem as the followers of Mohammad have for him. They have come only for worship. Let them enter the holy city.” But the Makkan leaders were bent upon preventing the Muslims.

The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) later sent Uthman bin Affan who had good contacts in Makkah but they detained him and spread a rumor to upset the Muslims that Uthman has been killed. This was a great challenge. Though 400 km away from his city and having no proper arms to fight, he prepared for a war like situation and called his followers to prepare for fight unto death. The people rushed to take an oath of allegiance on his pious hand and within short time the news reached Makkah that 1400 volunteers were ready to fight unto death. This broke their morale and Makkans agreed to discuss terms of peace with him.

They released Uthman and sent Sohayl bin Amr Al-Thaqafi to negotiate the terms of peace with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Sohayl (later embraced Islam) was very tough in dealings. He reached the following terms:
In the name of Almighty Allah.

These are the conditions of peace between Muhammad, son of Abdullah, and Suhayl Ibn Amr the envoy of Makkah:

1. There will be an armistice between the two parties and no fighting for the next 10 years.

2. Any person or tribe who wishes to join Muhammad and to enter into any agreement with him is free to do so. Likewise any person or tribe who wishes to join the Quraish and to enter into any agreement with them is free to do so.

3. If any Makkan went to Madinah, then Muslims would return him to Makkah, but if any Muslim from Madinah went to Makkah, he would not be returned.

4. If any young man, or one whose father is alive, goes to Muhammad without permission from his father or guardian, will be returned to his father or guardian. But if anyone goes to the Quraish of Makkah, will not be returned.

5. This year the Muslims will go back without entering Makkah. But next year Muhammad and his followers can enter Makkah, spend three days and perform the Umrah.

Apparently, it was an agreement that went against the wishes of the Muslims, but later it turned out to be a great victory for Muslims.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) showed extreme patience by accepting all these terms as dictated. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. It was one of the most outstanding events and proved to be a turning point in the Islamic history.

Few of those present there could visualize the victory of the treaty based on the Prophet’s farsightedness. The first gain of the Treaty was that hostile Makkan leadership recognized Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as a leader of the Madinah state. Secondly, the Treaty terminated the hostile behavior of Quraish against Muslims. Now they were allowed to move freely and talk openly about Islam.

Thirdly, Muslims were equally allowed to make alliances with other tribes. Fourthly, 10 years armistice with Quraish provided a unique opportunity to preach Islam and to deal with their rivals in other parts of the peninsula. Very soon they conquered the Jewish stronghold of Khyber.

The most irritating conditions of the treaty were the clause Nos. 3 & 5; but the Prophet (peace be upon him) simplified them by saying that if a Muslim flees from us to Makkah we don’t need him and if a Makkan Muslim comes to us in Madinah we shall return him and he will preach Islam there. Regarding performing Umrah this year, Muslims received a written guarantee to perform it next year peacefully. The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was determined to avoid bloodshed in the holy city and he succeeded fully in establishing it. Commenters have viewed the treaty as a masterpiece of his wisdom and farsightedness.

It was really a great triumph of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). After the peaceful armistice at Hudaibiyah, Islam increased in leap and bounds. Muslims had full liberty to preach Islam. Three battles of Quraish against Muslims were lost.

The people realized the eventual triumph of Islam. They entered the fold of Islam in thousands. The following year when the holy Prophet returned to perform Umrah, there were 2,000 pilgrims with him instead of 1400 earlier.

When the Prophet returned from Hudaibiya, he received the Divine revelation that Almighty Allah had put a seal of honor on this treaty and called it "Fatah Al-Mubeen" (Manifest Victory) in the Qur'an. (48:01) He also rewarded His pleasure to those who took oath of allegiance under a tree, which is called Bait Ridwan and termed that Allah’s protection was upon the hand of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

After concluding the treaty, the holy Prophet told the followers to slaughter sacrificial animals at the same place and get their head shaved to come out of ihram. But the people were so dejected that they delayed the compliance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) felt it and entered the tent and told his accompanying wife, Umm Salma, about people’s reluctance.

She politely advised, “The people are in shock to lose their Umrah and entry to the holy city. You do as planned. They will follow you.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) came out, slaughtered his camels and got his head shaved. Subsequently, the people followed him and they all set out towards Madinah. Thus the wisdom of Ummul Momenin, Umm Salma, solved a tedious problem.

When Sohail was signing the treaty, a young Muslim in chains appeared in the Muslim camp and cried for help and his release. Sohail recognized him. It was his own son known as Abu Jandal. Sohail cried, “Here is the test of this treaty you cannot take this man as per clause no. 4. You have to return it to me.” The holy Prophet agreed and consoled Abu Jandal, “We have just concluded a treaty with Quraish in the name of Allah and we honor it. Be patient and resign yourself to the will of Allah. He will provide you relief.” Abu Jandal was handed over to his father but he escaped from Makkah and after some time and stayed in desert.

Another Muslim, Utba, known as Abul Baseer, fled from Makkah and made his hiding in the Red Sea coast. Abu Jandal and many other runaways joined him and posed a threat to the passing trade caravans of the Quraish.

Ultimately the Quraish requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) to abrogate this clause and call these brave Muslims back to Madinah. The Prophet sent a letter to Abul Baseer, who was much delighted to receive it but he was on death bed and died there. However Abu Jandal and other 70 mujahedeen returned to Madinah praying for Abul Baseer who had provided a shelter to them.

The Hudaibiyah Treaty proved to be a prelude to the Conquest of Makkah. As per the agreement, Banu Bakr tribe joined Al-Quraish and Banu Khaza’a entered into alliance with the Prophet. But they both had long history of enmity between them. Just after 20 months, Banu Bakr attacked Banu Khaza’a in Sha'ban, 8AH. They killed many persons and their chief, Nofel, did not spare them even inside the holy city. The Quraish also supported them with men and arms. Amr bin Salem of Banu Khaza’a with 20 men rushed to Madinah and advised the holy Prophet with real situation. The Prophet (peace be upon him) again rose high to the challenge.

He sent a word to Quraish, pay ransom for the persons killed or terminate your alliance with Banu Bakr or treat the Hudaibiyah Treaty as abrogated. The Quraish arrogantly replied we shall neither pay ransom nor terminate our alliance with Banu Bakr but are ready to abrogate the treaty with you. The holy Prophet stood to the challenge. But he wanted to avoid bloodshed in Harem territory at every cost. He made a secret plan to surround Makkah in surprise with a large force so that Makkans could surrender without a fight. It was a super strategy. He declared war preparations without naming the destination. Muslim tribes rushed to Madinahh in Ramadhan (8AH). Various northern tribes had entered the fold of Islam in these 20 months after the conquest of Khyber and Taima. Muslim volunteers came in thousands. The famous tribes of Aslam, Sulaim, Ghifar, Muzaina, Ashjaa, and Juhaina joined the Islamic force. Muslim forces marched towards Makkah and camped at Marr Zahran. They surrounded the holy city on 7 Ramadhan. The Quraish were perplexed with this sudden attack. Muslims also sealed all the routes of escape. The holy Prophet declared a general amnesty and the whole city surrendered to him on 10 Ramadhan (6AH) without bloodshed (except a few by Khalid bin Waleed) This was a great gift of Hudaibiyah Treaty.

It was also a matter of great significance that great warriors and arch enemies of Islam realized the situation and embraced Islam after Hudaibiyah treaty and before the conquest of Makkah. These included Prophet's uncle Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib; Abu Sufyan the CNC of Quraish; Khalid bin Waleed, the great conqueror; and Amr ibn al Aas, the later conqueror of Egypt. Later, Ikrema bin Abu Jehal, Uteba bin Abi Lahab, Safwan bin Umayyah, Kaab bin Zuhair, Sohail bin Amr, Hakim bin Hizam, Wahshi the killer of Hamza and Hindah bint Rabia, the cruel lady embraced Islam. Practically there remained no enemy of Islam in Makkah. The Makkan leadership which banned his entry to the city in 6 AH welcomed him as their head within 22 months. This was a great achievement of Hudaibiyah.

Thus were the important events connected with an unknown place called Hudaibiyah near Makkah Al-Mukarramah. Later people visited this historical place and a mosque was erected at the place where holy Prophet (peace be upon him) offered prayers during his stay. This mosque near Shumaisi lies about 20 km away from Makkah on the old road leading to Jeddah. When you visit this place, think about the people who took an oath under an acacia tree to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Islam and pray for them.