The Reconciliation at al-Hudaybiyah
How the Swords were Returned to their Sheaths
& Minds were Conquered Instead
Al-Hudaybiyah was the name of a well that lay one mile’s distance from Mecca, and the settlement near the well bore the same name. A most important treaty between the Muslims and the Quraysh was signed here, which is known as the Reconciliation of Hudaybiyah. Outwardly, it might have looked like defeat and surrender for the Muslims, but in reality this reconciliation was a clear triumph, which won over hearts and minds, a remarkable success, and far-reaching victory for the Muslims.
The Muslims were emigrants from their original hometown of Mecca and they were always homesick and longing for the place of their earlier years. Moreover, the Kaba was not the property of the Quraysh, but belonged to the whole Arab nation; the Quraysh were only the guardians and caretakers. Even an enemy, who came to town with the intention of performing a pilgrimage to this holy site, was permitted entry. The Muslims were now eager to perform the pilgrimage to the site where Prophet Ibrahim had erected a temple on command of the Lord. The Prophet Muhammad’s r mission involved bringing back to life the religious faith and practices of his ancestor and prophetic predecessor Khalil Ibrahim. The Kaba was the Qibla, that is to say the Lodging of the Divine. Allah Almighty, who is beyond all direction of time and space, commanded the entire Creation of dependent Beings to turn towards this Qibla and to make supplication to Him Almighty.
Although the Holy Prophet r was a great exception in that he, on account of his spiritual nobility, had never veered from the revealed religion of Ibrahim, most of the Arabs had turned into pagans. Despite this, the Arabs all held the Kaba in great esteem, and during the designated months came streaming towards Mecca to perform their pilgrimage. All warfare was prohibited, during the holy months (Ashhur-al-Haram). The same tribesmen, who thirsted for each other’s blood, then refrained from fighting and united around the Kaba. This was well known to the Muslims, who were in their rights to say, “Although the visit to the House of the Lord is our ancient right, we have never yet performed the pilgrimage. For six long years we have been deprived.”
The Hajj being one of the five pillars of Islam, the Holy Prophet r at last decided to go to Mecca to visit the Holy House. He informed his Companions and they prepared and donned the Ihram, the pilgrims’ garb, in order to perform ‘Umra, (the lesser pilgrimage), and selected the camels for the sacrifice. The Prophet told his Sahaba not to go outfitted for war, so that the Quraysh might know they were coming with peaceful intentions and only to take with them their swords to protect them on the journey. Some of the Ansar also begged for permission to come along and the Prophet r granted it to them. Altogether with Muhajirin and Ansar, 1500 Muslims set out for Mecca.
When they had reached Dhul-Hulayfa, the Prophet r told them to separate the camels intended for the sacrifice. He also sent a man of the Khuza’a ahead to the Quraysh who was not known to them as a Muslim to learn of their reaction to the approaching Muslims. This man of Khuza’a whose name was Khirash bin Umayya came as far as Asfal (a quarter of Mecca). He went around among the people, listening to their conversations and opinions on the Muslims’ approach, seeking to learn whether they would agree to their entering the town, or not. He found that they were unanimously against the Muslims and intent on going against them by force. They would not permit them to come near the Kaba. He also learned that an armed band of Quraysh had encamped at Dhu Tuwa, and that one of their foremost commanders, Khalid ibn-al-Walid was with them. He, along with Abu Jahl’s son Ikrima had each come with an armed battalion and advanced as far as Kura’ul- Ghamim which lies between Rabi’ and Hajfar, about eight miles from where the Muslims had halted.
Khirash bin Umayya of the Bani Khuza’a had barely escaped from the hands of the Quraysh. Had it not been for Hulays bin ‘Alqama, who was the chief of the Ahabish, and had a reputation for being a fierce warrior, he would not have escaped alive. He brought to the Holy Prophet r all he had learned of the movements of the Arabs in that area. The Prophet r then said to his Companions, “Since Khalid ibn al-Walid has already reached Kura’ul Ghamim, we shall change our course and pass on further to the right.”
When the commander of the Quraysh cavalry, Khalid ibn al-Walid saw the dust arising from the Muslims’ horses, he instantly spurred his horse and sprinted back to Mecca to inform the Quraysh. “The Muslims have reached Ghamim by way of the pass of al-Murar,” he told them.
The Holy Prophet r was riding his camel Qaswa. When he had reached the pass, the camel knelt and nothing would move her to continue on her way. The Companions thought the animal had tired of the journey, but the Holy Prophet r said, “No, it is not because she is tired that Qaswa has stopped in her tracks. That is not her nature. The One who restrained the elephant from entering Mecca has kept Qaswa back as well.”
The Prophet r considered it inappropriate to enter the holy city of Mecca in a martial manner. All the more so, as by virtue of his prophetic vision he foresaw many Quraysh soon entering the fold of Islam. The news Khirash had brought them forced the Muslims to gird their swords, but the Prophet Muhammad r said, “Leave your swords in their sheaths, I will win over their hearts and minds.” And he turned to ‘Umar, saying to him, “Will you go to them and explain that we haven’t come with the intention to make war but for the purpose of peace?”
To this ‘Umar replied, “Oh my Prophet r! My life and soul belong to you, there is nothing I wish for myself, but that my soul would continue in your service a while longer. My hope is not to depart from this life before having completed my service to you. The leaders of the Quraysh know of my violent anger against them. Therefore, they will very probably seek to avail themselves of this opportunity to murder me. Moreover, I have no close clansmen in Mecca whose protection I could claim. Perhaps you might send ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan instead? His tribe is strongly represented in Mecca, and many of his relatives live there. However, if you command me to go, so be it. I will set out this very instant.”
The Prophet r replied, “Yes, what you say is more suitable,” and turning to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, he said, “Rise, ‘Uthman, and go to the Quraysh. Tell them in engaging words that we have not come for war. Go also and find our brothers in Mecca who are forced to conceal their Islam. Give them our Salams and comfort to their hearts.”
When ‘Uthman approached Mecca, the chiefs of the Quraysh were pleased and received him well. They offered him to go round the Holy House and to make Tawaf. But he declined, saying, “As long as the Imam of the Prophets r cannot perform Tawaf, I too will not perform it.” Hearing this, they detained ‘Uthman.
The Muslims meanwhile had reached the well of al-Hudaybiyah, and the Prophet r ordered them to encamp at this place. They drew water from the well once only, then it went dry. Here the Prophet r manifested another miracle and made the water of the place well up again, so that no one suffered any thirst. The tribe of Khuza’a, which lived in this area had not yet accepted Islam, but the tribesmen inclined towards Muhammad r and were allies of the Muslims. They informed the Muslims of the situation in Mecca and the movements of the Quraysh. When Budayl ibn Waraqa heard of the Blessed Prophet’s r presence at Hudaybiyah, he came with a deputation of his people to visit him.
He too told of the Quraysh’s intention to block the Prophet’s progress into Mecca. The Holy Prophet r sent Budayl into Mecca to tell the Quraysh that the Muslims had only come to perform a pilgrimage, and to venerate the Holy House, intending to return to Madinah as soon as they had completed their ‘Umra. But when Ikrima and his band of ruffians heard his request, they rejected it straightaway, saying, “Don’t speak to us of Muhammad!” ‘Urwa bin Mas’ud al-Thaqafi however said, “This one time, let us hear what he has to say. If it suits us we can agree, if it doesn’t, we can always turn him down.” Harith ibn Hisham and Safwan ibn Umayya agreed and said, “Speak then, if you must.” Budayl told them all the words the Holy Prophet r had spoken, and they listened attentively. At last ‘Urwa rose and addressed the Quraysh, asking them, “What do you think of me? Do you trust in me? Am I not as your father, and are you not as my children?” The Quraysh answered, “We trust you in every respect.” “In that case,” he said, “I see it fit to accept Muhammad’s r offer. I find his suggestion agreeable. Therefore I will go to him at once and speak to him about this matter between you.”
The Quraysh agreed to ‘Urwa’s going to speak to Muhammad r. When he came into the presence of the Messenger of Allah r, he explained that he had come on behalf of the Quraysh and began to speak, “Oh Muhammad r! Know that the Quraysh are fully prepared and expecting you. All the Bedouin tribes here are under the sway of the Quraysh. You will understand that your hastily put together troop here is as nothing compared to the strength of the fully equipped force awaiting you. Apart from that, let us assume for a moment that you would vanquish the Quraysh: you would have then destroyed your own people – a wrong unheard of in the history of mankind! Similarly, if the force gathered around the Quraysh were to be set in motion, it would crush you and those with you like specks of dust.”
Thus ‘Urwa spoke biting words to the gathering of Sahaba whose hearts were bound to the Holy Prophet r in utter sincerity. At long last, Abu Bakr could stand no more and spoke to ‘Urwa in a hostile manner, saying, “Be careful, ‘Urwa, these men here belong to the Messenger of Allah r, none of us has any self-interest left within. As you have failed to grasp this, you cannot see that the power of faith follows the pursuit of truth.”
‘Urwa was dumbfounded by these words. Who was the speaker, he wondered, and looking around, he recognized Abu Bakr. He then said to him, “I would reply to this, oh Abu Bakr, but as I remember the good I have seen from you in the past, I will desist.” With that he turned once more and addressed the Holy Prophet r. When he paused in his speech, he reached over in the manner of the Arabs to stroke the Prophet’s r beard, in an overly familiar fashion. Aware that this act signified a lack of respectful remove, Mughira bin Shu’ba al-Thaqafi who attended to the Holy Prophet r cried out in an state of eagerness inspired by love, “Beware, oh ‘Urwa! Take your hand away from the face of the Messenger of Allah r before you lose it!” Mughira spoke these harsh words even though ‘Urwa was his maternal uncle.
‘Urwa looked about to see who was insulting him in this way, and when he recognized his brother’s child, he was dumbfounded and thought to himself, “So the love this Messenger of Allah r inspires in his followers knows not the ties of blood nor does it bow before force.” This was indeed the case; these souls fluttered about the Holy Prophet r, fitted with the wings of the attestation of Eternal Unity and the Divine Sending of the Holy Prophet r, like moths around the lamp. If as much as a single hair fell from the head of the Beloved of Allah r, they would dive to pick up this hair and it was more precious to them than all the riches of the world. ‘Urwa realized this very clearly now, and he also understood, that there was no way to extinguish the blaze that had been ignited on Mount Hira when Muhammad r had taken up the cause of “La ilaha illAllah” single-handedly.
Then the Heavenly Prophet r began to speak, “Know that we have come only to perform the rites of our pilgrimage. We are willing to conclude a ceasefire with the Quraysh. But if they insist on making trouble, we will be forced to use our arms and we shall fight to the very end.”
‘Urwa returned to Mecca and explained all he had seen and heard to the Quraysh. He said, “I have seen the palaces of Khosroes, I have been at the court of the Emperor of Byzantium and at the royal residence of the Negus. I have seen and spoken to a great many high and mighty kings in my time. But, by God, never have I seen a king among his people like Muhammad r among his companions. When Muhammad r prepares to speak, a silence settles on the assembly, a hush befalls both Heaven and earth as if they were straining to hear his words. Not one of them even lifts his gaze from the ground. It will not be easy to do away with this band, for they will never abandon him for any reason. Therefore, we must tread the path of concession and reconciliation.”
The chief of the Ahabish, Hulays who had followed this discussion from its outset was very intrigued by all this. He decided to go and see for himself, so he hastened to the Muslim camp. There he beheld a great many camels being prepared for the sacrifice, decorated in festive ribbons and colorful ornaments. The Sahaba were reciting “Labbayk” in loud, ringing voices, which means “Command us, oh Lord, we are at your beck and call.” (Labbayk Allahumma labbayk, la sharika laka labbayk.)
The leader of the Ahabish was astounded by this display of pious reverence and sincere devotion by the Prophet’s followers. He immediately went to the Quraysh and told them, “If you are counting on us to support you against the Muslims of Muhammad r, forget it. How can you think of preventing a group of pilgrims from visiting the House of Allah? Indeed, you are our allies, but in this matter, count us out. Surely the Arab tribes will not approve of your blocking these pilgrims from their visit to the Holy House.”
The Quraysh thought about what he had said and in the end they were forced to admit that they had to agree to a truce. They sent Suhayl bin ‘Amr who was a well-spoken and eloquent man as a go-between to the Messenger of Allah r. Suhayl was one of the fiery orators of the Quraysh. When he met with the Permanent Pride of All Mankind, he said to him, “Oh Muhammad r! If you would accept what the Quraysh are suggesting, we will make peace with you. Our first stipulation is this: you may enter Mecca this year, but not to make Tawaf. You will return to Madinah without having made Tawaf for this reason: if you were to complete your visit of the Holy House this year, we would have forfeited all honor and dignity. The Arab tribesmen would assume that Muhammad r and his companions entered Mecca by force and defeated the mighty Quraysh. You may return next year to make your Tawaf.”
After they had discussed all these points in detail, the Holy Prophet r accepted the postponement of their pilgrimage until the following year. He then ordered Ali to write down the treaty. Then Ali ‑ who was ever close to the Prophet r, who enjoyed his complete confidence ‑ made to write down the contract. He began by writing the momentous words, which are pronounced at the outset of every undertaking to ensure its success: Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim. Suhayl, however objected to this formula, and insisted that he should write the words ‘Bismika Allahumma’ (In Thy Name, oh God), deeming the treaty to be deficient if this phrase were not employed. Though some of the companions demurred, the Holy Prophet r ordered Ali to write “Bismika Allahumma.”
After these words, he continued to write: “Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah r agrees to the terms of the truce” but Suhayl raised objections. “If we had accepted you as ‘Rasulullah’,” he said, “there would have been no fighting, nor would it this truce have been necessary. There would be no cause for contention between us, nor would we have barred you from visiting the Holy House.” Thereupon, the Holy Prophet r changed the wording of the text and ordered Ali to write ‘Muhammad ibn Abdullah’. At this, the Companions were very distressed and trembled with rage. But Muhammad r himself never lost his solemnity and composure and said, “Oh Ali, cross out what you have written and write instead ‘Muhammad ibn Abdullah’. For their denial of my prophethood changes nothing at all, I am indeed Rasulullah, the Messenger of Allah Almighty. His confirmation is all that matters; His acceptance suffices me.”
For Allah declares in His Glorious Quran, which will remain fresh and alive until the end of time and contains all that is needful for the whole Muslim community:
It is He who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may uplift it above every religion, though the unbelievers may be averse.
With this Divine Appellation ‘Muhammad ar-Rasulullah,’ He Almighty affirmed His Beloved Prophet r, saying to him, “My Beloved, I have equipped you with Divine inspiration.”
Therefore, the Prophet r in whom were manifested the qualities of this verse of glory said to Ali, “No harm, oh Ali! Cross it out and write ‘ibn Abdullah’.” Ali who up to this time had not once opposed the wish or will of the Holy Prophet r, and who had not once hesitated to fulfill the slightest indication of any wish he expressed, this great Imam now paused. His hand refused to erase the words he had written, “Muhammad ar-Rasulullah.” Tears burning in his eyes, he said, “Oh my Prophet r, I cannot erase these words.” Upon this the Holy Prophet r said to him, “Know, oh Ali, that one day a similar thing will happen to you.” This referred to an event in the future.
Through miraculous vision, the Holy Prophet r informed of Ali’s actions after the Battle of Siffin: When Ali was signing an agreement of truce with the governor of Sham, Mu’awiya, the latter in his rebelliousness objected to the use of the term ‘Amir-al-Mu’minin’, the Commander of the Faithful, saying, “Were I to accept you as Commander of the Faithful, I would be your follower and this fighting would not have taken place. Therefore, cross out this title ‘Amir-al-Mu’minin’, and simply write ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib’.”
Of this event the Holy Prophet r informed Ali many years before it took place by means of prophetic vision. When the time came and Ali saw confirmed the Prophet’s r vision and his words to him at Hudaybiyah, he said, “You have spoken truly, oh Rasulullah,” and he crossed out the term ‘Commander of the Faithful’ and simply wrote, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib’.
Oh Seeker of the Truth! The mention of this great Imam who never once hesitated or wavered at any request the Holy Prophet r made of him, brings to mind another story, precisely illustrating this point, which we commend to the worthy reader’s regard.
One day in Ramadan, the Holy Prophet r pointed to a melon atop a high shelf and asked the Companions assembled in his blessed presence to kindly cut it up for him, as he was much in the mood of eating a melon. Each one he asked replied, “Oh Rasulullah r, perhaps you have forgotten that we are fasting today.” At last Ali chanced to stop by and the Prophet r said to him, “Oh Ali, I have an appetite for this melon, won’t you cut it up for us so we may eat it?” Ali immediately rose to get the melon from the shelf and began to cut it up. The Companions present at the time said to him, “Oh Ali, you must have forgotten that it is Ramadan.” Ali, the mirror of the Holy Prophet r, the gate to the citadel of wisdom replied, “It is from his Holiness that I learned about the fast of Ramadan; if he says, ‘Eat!’ I eat, and if he says, ‘Fast!’ I fast. That is all.”
The Holy Prophet r, Imam of all Prophets, then smiled and said to the Companions, “We shall all eat of it, for just now the angel Jibra’il has come to tell me that today is the ‘Id of Ramadan. But take heed, all of you, and try to be a bit like Ali.”
Only once did Ali oppose the Holy Prophet r, saying, “I will not cross out the words I have written, Muhammad Rasulullah.” Therefore the Holy Prophet r said, “Give it to me, I will write it myself.” With his own blessed hand, he crossed out these words in the contract and wrote in their stead, ‘Muhammad ibn Abdullah’. Later this incident gave rise to some dispute. Some people asked, “How could the Prophet who was purportedly unlettered, and unversed in the art of reading or writing, how could he have written his name with his own hand?” This is a very crude and base way of thinking. It is true that the Holy Prophet r did not read or write books as we do, but if he wished to do so, he was able to read or write whatever he wished. Nothing is more inappropriate than to look for the Prophet’s r ‘school teacher’ for the Prophet r was called ‘unlettered’ (ummi) because in reality he is the mother (umm) of all knowledge. Otherwise, how could he have left behind such an ocean of knowledge, since he had no formal schooling?
It is actually more than futile to speak of his miraculous deeds to a person who does not regard the mere existence of the Prophet Muhammad r as a miracle. Allah is the teacher of all prophets. The Holy Prophet Muhammad r was taught by Allah Almighty. The first Scripture He created were the Preserved Tablets; the last was the book containing Eternal Knowledge, the Ultimate Word that took the shape of Mercy. The Holy Prophet r, the Canon of Truth, should he need to read or write in the sense that you understand? But even for those who cannot comprehend the real inner meaning of the Prophet’s existence, those who only view his outward form, there is no need to engage in dispute concerning the ability of the Holy Prophet r to write his name and patronymic. For even an ignorant simpleton can learn to write his own name by imitation. To proceed in our story: The ceasefire was designed to last for ten years, thus it was written down. The conditions of this treaty were very hard, and outwardly, it looked as if the Muslims were at a disadvantage.
These were the articles of the treaty:
- For the afore-mentioned reasons the followers of Muhammad shall this year turn back without having made Tawaf of the Kaba.
- They may return to Mecca in the following year to make their visit, but they may stay no longer than three days and the Quraysh will leave the town for the duration of their visit.
- The Muslims will not enter the town with their weapons and war gear at the ready, but will leave their swords in their scabbards.
- Whoever comes to the Muslims from the Quraysh without leave will be returned to the Quraysh. However, any Muslims coming to the Quraysh will be surrendered to Quraysh. Should a Muslim come to Mecca, he will not be returned to the Muslims. The followers of Muhammad r are not to have any contact with any believers who might be living in Mecca. However, if any of the emigrants to Madinah wish to remain in Mecca, there will be no interference, they will be left in peace.
- All tribes other than Quraysh will be left to choose for themselves. If they wish, they may enter into a pact of safety with Muhammad r, or if they wish, they may conclude such an agreement with the Quraysh.
The Companions of the Holy Prophet r thought all the conditions of this treaty were exceedingly harsh. In particular, they found it very hard to accept that anyone coming to the Quraysh from Muhammad’s r side was not to be returned, whereas anyone coming from the Quraysh to Muhammad r, and be he a Muslim, must be returned to the Quraysh. With ‘Umar as their spokesman, they asked the Holy Prophet r how he could possibly accept such a treaty, how he could consider delivering a Muslim into the hands of the idolaters? They maintained that he ought to reject this one condition at the very least, and if necessary cancel the whole agreement. But Suhayl vehemently insisted on this clause, saying that their refusal to accept it would invalidate the whole contract.
In the end, the Holy Prophet r smiled and said, “Oh ‘Umar, assuming one of them came to us as a Muslim, and we returned him to them; in that case the blood wit for the injustice and mistreatment he suffered at their hands would be paid by the Almighty. No greater blessing can be imagined for that person. As for those who would desert us and join the unbelievers, all connection with them would be severed in any case.”
All these points were written down. Just as they were about to sign and witness the contract in the presence of elders from both sides, the son of the Qurayshi delegate Suhayl came running up, having escaped his captors. His name was Abu Jandal and he was a dedicated believer, imprisoned by his own father. The fetters on his feet clanked in rhythm with his loud shouts of “Allahu Akbar” as he ran up to them. He threw himself at the Prophet’s blessed feet, utterly exhausted, kissing them and pleading, “Oh my Prophet r, save me! For the love of you I have fled from the torment these heathens are inflicting on me. Just look at me!” With these words he exposed to view the wounds and injuries all over his body, such as no man should be made to suffer. In reality, the Lord Almighty was showing them an example of a believer who, though entangled in the drama of this worldly life, was replete with religious passion.
The Sahaba were overcome with emotions of pity and compassion. But the Qurayshi delegate Suhayl was only further enraged by the deep feelings his son Abu Jandal exhibited towards the Holy Prophet r and the noble religion of Islam. “This incident will immediately prove whether you intend to honor the treaty we are about to sign, or not,” he declared. “You will instantly surrender to me my son, Abu Jandal!”
The Prophet r answered, “We have decided to sign the contract, but we will make an exception for Abu Jandal. Whoever comes after this, him we will return to you.” Suhayl replied, “In that case the treaty is pointless.” The Prophet r then said, “Alright, we will leave Abu Jandal at Hudaybiyah.” But Suhayl insisted obstinately and refused to accept this. Outwardly this treaty was very harsh indeed, but seen with the eye of Muhammad r, it contained great good. Therefore, the Holy Prophet r finally consented to return Abu Jandal to his father’s hands. This decision completely unsettled the Companions and they became quite agitated. Abu Jandal pleaded with Muhammad r, saying, “I throw myself upon your mercy! Will you really deliver me into the hands of the unbelievers although I am a Muslim, oh Rasulullah r? Can you permit them to torment me even worse than before, oh my Prophet r?”
The Holy Prophet r then made Abu Jandal sit by his side and asked him, “Oh Abu Jandal, is there any love that you feel for me?” “Of course, my Prophet r,” answered the man. “And what of your love for this religion of Islam?” “For it I would sacrifice everything,” replied Abu Jandal. “It is therefore that I am surrendering you to them, Abu Jandal,” replied the Prophet r, “for you will be made to suffer just a little more in the name of Allah for my sake and for the love of Islam, but your Lord has heard your supplication and your soul will no longer feel any of their mistreatment, only your heart will feel some pain. You must know that Allah Almighty has given you great merit for that your tribulation is great.
“The reward for your patience will be vast stations in the Divine Realm. For the Lord Almighty has linked with your destiny the coming to Islam of hundreds of thousands of non-believers. In a very short time, you will come to understand the underlying wisdom. This treaty will enable us to freely contact a great many people. The sun of Islam will rise and become visible. Whoever sees this sun will become enamored of Islam. At this time, the enemy does not permit us any contacts and we cannot approach the Arab tribesmen because of the false propaganda they have spread about us, but you will be the means for reversing this evil.” Thereupon Abu Jandal answered, “Oh Rasulullah r, for your sake, for the sake of this way I am content, even were they to cut me to pieces, bit by bit. As you wish, so let it be,” he said. He was then returned to his father Suhayl, the delegate of Quraysh, and the contract was signed.
Of course, the Companions did not perceive the situation as their Prophet r did. ‘Umar, in particular, who was of a very violent nature, could not come to terms with this contract. When Abu Jandal was delivered back into the hands of his enemies, ‘Umar could not keep his composure any longer. He approached the Holy Prophet r in a state of blunt rage and asked him these questions, “Are you not the true Prophet of Allah?” “Yes,” Muhammad r replied, “I am in truth the Prophet of Allah.” “Is our religion not based on the Truth? Is the path we follow not a true path?” “Yes, it is the Truth,” answered the Prophet r. “If that is the case, why then do we acquiesce to so much abasement and humiliation?” The Holy Prophet r then said, “Be careful, oh ‘Umar! For I am the Prophet of Allah r, and I cannot disobey my Lord!” With these words the Holy Prophet r uttered a warning to ‘Umar, though he expressed this with the characteristic delicacy that was his mark.
He indicated to him indirectly that he was just short of rebelling against the Lord Almighty, thereby preserving him. Had he simply said, “‘Umar, you are on the verge of rebellion”, ‘Umar would have been devastated. ‘Umar went on to say, “Oh my Prophet r, did you not say we would reach the Kaba and make Tawaf there, and did you not tell us that Allah would support us?” Rasulullah r replied to this, “Yes, indeed, I did say we would make Tawaf, but I did not say that it would be in this year. We will come again.” ‘Umar then left the presence of the Holy Prophet r, went to Abu Bakr and said to him, “Oh Abu Bakr, what kind of a treaty is this, which imposes such rigid conditions on us!” Abu Bakr thereupon said, “Oh ‘Umar, there is no need to be upset, for Muhammad r is an exalted Prophet. He does aught but what Allah Almighty commands him to do. There is doubtless wisdom in everything he does; only we cannot yet understand it. Be patient.”
The Holy Prophet r ordered the Sahaba to begin the sacrifice of the camels they had brought with them. But although the Pride of the Worlds repeated his order thrice, not a single man moved to act on his command, except Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and Ali. All the noble Companions were thinking to themselves, “Perhaps the Holy Prophet r will take pity on us and make changes to this treaty.”
These thoughts disturbed the Holy Prophet r greatly. In a vexed frame of mind, he proceeded to the camp of his retinue where his estimable wife Umm Salama was staying. When she perceived his state, Umm Salama was quite upset and said to him, “Oh Prophet of Allah r! Never before have I seen you in such a condition! What has happened?” The Holy Prophet answered her, “Oh Umm Salama, the companions who yesterday were ready to die for me, today will not heed my words!”
Umm-al-Mu’minin, the Mother of the Believers Umm Salama then said, with the intention of defending the Sahaba, “Oh no, Rasulullah r, it is not because of their unwillingness, it is only because of their inability to understand the true wisdom of this treaty. In particular, that they act as they do because of their sincerity towards you. They are thinking, ‘Now the enemy has prevailed over our noble Prophet r and imposed their will on him’. This thought makes them deaf and dumb with anger. They are thinking that perhaps the Prophet r will take into account their disapproval and make changes to the treaty. But then, your actions and doings speak louder than your words. Go out to them now and begin to sacrifice the camels, and shave your head. You will see them following suit.”
The Holy Prophet r was very pleased with these words of Umm Salama and said, “Do you really think so, Umm Salama?” “Yes, oh my Prophet r,” she said, and the Holy Prophet r thereupon arose and went out to the camels. Umm Salama then prayed fervently, “Oh my Lord, do not embarrass me now!” And truly, when the Holy Prophet r began to slaughter his camels, all the Companions followed his example and slaughtered their sacrifices as well, thereby emerging from their state of Ihram.
The Pledge of Allegiance, Baiyat-i-Ridwan
Oh Seeker of the Truth! On the occasion of the Truce of Hudaybiyah a very important and deeply meaningful event took place, which became known as the Bi’at-i-Ridwan, the Pledge of Allegiance.
It has already been told how the Holy Prophet r had sent ‘Uthman into Mecca to inform the Muslims living there in concealment of their faith of the negotiations which the Holy Prophet r was conducting with the Quraysh in the name of Islam. He was to tell them that before long Islam would openly shine forth in Mecca, giving them glad tidings of the Conquest of Mecca. The reasons for the delay have also been related. Now that the contract was signed, everyone waited for ‘Uthman’s return. A rumor began coursing the camp that ‘Uthman had been martyred. The Holy Prophet r was sitting beneath a mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) when this rumor reached his ears. He said, “If this is true, I cannot turn back without punishing Quraysh, we will then be obliged to fight them.” He sent a crier to call for all the Muslims to hear: “The Holy Prophet r wants all those to come forth who are willing to pledge their lives for the sake of Islam!”
The Sahaba who heard this call all came running to the presence of the Prophet r, saying, “Oh Rasulullah r! We have accepted the God you taught us, we have placed you on our heads as the crown of joy, we are enamored of the religion you have brought us, we are ready to sacrifice our whole existence for Islam! Are you yet in doubt about us?” “No,” replied the Prophet r, “it is for another reason: on account of this particular pledge, very special blessings will manifest. I have called on all that will remain steadfast and faithful to come to me now. So, who will stand by me till this affair is ended, who is prepared to give his very life and soul?”
Men and women then gathered in the presence of the Holy Prophet r in a spirit of utter love and devotion, and placing their hands beneath the blessed hand of the King of Prophets r, they pledged themselves to him: “Oh Rasulullah, we solemnly pledge to die for you and not to turn back. Our whole being belongs to you.” There was only one man among them, the hypocrite Jadd ibn Qays who hid behind his camel in order not to commit himself by this pledge. The Holy Prophet r who knew how hugely important this pledge was in the Divine Presence, wished that ‘Uthman might not be deprived of the unfathomable blessings because of his absence. Therefore, he called to his Companions to be his witnesses and said, “Oh my Lord! My left hand shall stand for that of ‘Uthman,” placing his left hand below his right hand. In this way, he let ‘Uthman partake of this pledge of allegiance and of its inherent blessings.
The Eternal Lord speaks of this event, which took place on the worldly stage between His Beloved and his Companions in the revelation of the Holy Quran:
Those who swear fealty to thee swear fealty in truth to God; God’s hand is over their hands. Then whosoever breaks his oath breaks it but to his own hurt; and whoso fulfils his covenant made with God, God will give him a mighty wage.
If one reads attentively, it will appear that the Lord here indicates to His servants that there will remain no trace of deficient existence in His Beloved, but rather that he will become completely immersed in the Lord and established in permanence. However, this interpretation relates to those who have tasted of real faith; as for believers who are yet on the level of imitative faith, they may glean this meaning from this verse: Allah’s Might is above and beyond their powers.
Allah indicates the great good tidings of Divine Pleasure contained in this pledge of Hudaybiyah in this verse:
God was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing fealty to thee under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down the Sakina (inner peace) upon them, and rewarded them with a nigh victory and many spoils to take; and God is ever All-Mighty, all-Wise. (Victory, 18)
There is yet another subtle lesson to be learnt by the Nation of Muhammad from the Truce of Hudaybiyah. First of all, this treaty teaches us composure in the face of adversity; next, it counsels us to look ahead to the consequences of an action, and finally it indicates that mental power will certainly overcome physical force. As an example, let us say we see something bad. If we go and try to crush it right away it, that may not be very efficient, but if we contain our impulse and are patient, and wait for the right time to deal with the matter, it will be much more effective. All these lessons are contained in the events at Hudaybiyah.
The outcome was as follows:
Gradually, results began to appear from this treaty which outwardly seemed to be a defeat for the Muslims, but which in reality was a victory. For the radiance of the Holy Prophet’s r inspired countenance, his prophetic refinement, the compassion and support he dispensed upon all, the unbeliever not excepted, the mercy he showed to his foes, the freedom Islam preached, the abhorrence and banning of idol worship – most of the pagans who witnessed these signs began to direct their hearts towards Islam, and even the ones who were not honored with the destiny of becoming Muslims, became less hopelessly entrenched in their enmity.
In a short while, this peace treaty became a major cause for the spread of Islam, as the unbelievers were now free to mingle with the Muslims. This social intercourse won over people’s minds, so that people came in great numbers and melted down their coarseness in the crucible of the Prophet Muhammad’s r gentle radiance, so that it was turned into subtlety and delicacy. The leaders of the idolaters found themselves increasingly isolated.
This verse was then revealed:
Surely, We have given thee a manifest victory…. (Victory, 1)
The unbelievers who came to visit their relatives who had become followers of the Prophet r saw that their condition was excellent and that they did not wish to return. In a very short time, the Muslim ranks swelled and many more accepted Islam than in the year before the treaty of Hudaybiyah.
Khalid ibn-al Walid, the staff general and cavalry commander of the pagan Arab army then turned to Islam. The man who was to become the future conqueror of Syria and to gain the title of “Sayfullah,” the Sword of Allah, became Muslim, and he was a great boon for the Muslims. The leaders of the unbelievers were plunged into despair. Only then did ‘Umar begin to understand the wisdom of the Truce of Hudaybiyah.
One day the Prophet r had ‘Umar called and said to him, “‘Umar, once you wished to speak to me in private. Now I wish to see you privately.” ‘Umar then realized his mistake. “Yes, oh my Prophet,” he said, “I have opposed you in many matters, but I always rely on your magnanimity, for you have always answered my roughness with gentle pardon. You wish to remind me of the Truce of Hudaybiyah, is it not so? On that day I railed against you and was insolent, but it was because of my strong faith in you. Yes, I complained to you of you – to whom else could I have taken my complaint? Please forgive my failings, we are people whom you saved but yesterday from the age of ignorance.” The Holy Prophet r smiled at ‘Umar’s words and answered him in courteous terms and treated him kindly.
The clause in the treaty of Hudaybiyah concerning the return of those who fled to Madinah applied only to the men, not to the women. On their account the following verse was revealed:
Oh believers! when believing women come to you as emigrants, test them, God knows very well their belief. Then, if you know them to be believers, return them not to the unbelievers. They are not permitted to the unbelievers, nor are the unbelievers permitted to them. Give the unbelievers what they have expended; and there is no fault in you to marry them when you have given them their wages. Do not hold fast to the ties of unbelieving women, and ask what you have expended, and let them ask what they have expended. That is God’s judgment; He judges between you; and God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (The Woman Tested, 10)
During this period ‘Utba bin Asid became Muslim in Mecca, and when the mistreatment he suffered from the unbelievers exceeded all limits, he decided to flee from Mecca to Madinah. The Quraysh sent after him two men with the mission of bringing ‘Utba back to Mecca. ‘Utba cried out and pleaded, “Oh Rasulullah r! Do not deliver me into their hands, for I cannot I bear to be among the unbelievers again!” But the Holy Prophet r replied, “We cannot break our pact with the Quraysh. You will return for the sake of Islam. Be patient. Allah will surely open a path for you and those like you. For this noble religion you must endure a bit of hardship.” And he prayed to the Lord Almighty, “Oh my Lord God! Make it easy for them and show them a path for salvation!” Then he returned ‘Utba to the envoys of the Quraysh.
On the road, ‘Utba said to the men who were taking him back, “Why is it that you want to inflict cruelty on me? Why don’t you just let me go?” They answered, “You are one of the Muslims. It is a pleasure for us to torment you and cause you to suffer.” They traveled up to the place called Dhul-Hulayfa. ‘Utba thought of ways to free himself from the hands of his merciless captors. He was a very strong man. At a certain point he managed to wrest the sword from the hand of the man who was guarding him, and with a single stroke he severed his head from his trunk, shouting, “Just deserts for him who intended to torment one who only desires to follow the Path of Truth and who bows before no one but Allah!”
The unbeliever’s head rolled in the sand and his friend took to flight. He barely managed to escape from ‘Utba. Somewhat later, ‘Utba came again into the presence of the Holy Prophet r, defending himself thus, “Oh my Prophet r! You accorded to the letter of the articles in the treaty you have concluded. I fled to Madinah, they sent men after me to bring me back; they demanded me from you, you delivered me in to their hands, they took me away. Therefore, you are blameless; you have not broken the truce. As for me, after I was handed over, I defended myself and with Divine Help and Succor, I was spared. This has no more to do with the treaty of Hudaybiyah. Will you now not grant me permission to stay in Madinah?”
The Holy Prophet r replied, “The treaty stipulates as a necessary requirement that you be returned whenever they demand it. Therefore, I cannot keep you here in Madinah. Go wherever you wish, as long as you leave the city of Madinah.”
‘Utba immediately left the city when the Prophet r ordered him to do so, and settled near the coast at a place called al-‘Is. The Muslims remaining in Mecca heard of this, and one by one they began to move north toward al-‘Is. In a short while quite a number of Muslims were gathered at al-‘Is. Even Abu Jandal managed once more to escape from the prison his father kept him in, and he, too, joined ‘Utba at al-‘Is. Before Abu Jandal’s arrival, ‘Utba had been the leader and Imam of the group, but when Abu Jandal arrived, he took over as Imam.
One day they decided that they had sufficient numbers to find a way of joining the Holy Prophet r. For in the treaty, the unbelievers had demanded that all fugitives to Madinah must be returned to Mecca. “Now Allah has given us the means for doing away with this clause. We are now a group of some strength, comprising seventy men. Let us therefore resort to harassing the passing caravans of the Quraysh. They will then go to Muhammad r of their own accord and beg for this condition to be annulled.” They put their decision into action and began to waylay the Quraysh caravans. It was not long before a delegation of Quraysh came to the Holy Prophet r, asking him to cancel the condition concerning the return of the fugitives to the Quraysh. After this, the Prophet r wrote ‘Utba a letter, inviting him and his companions to come and stay with him at Madinah.
When this letter arrived, ‘Utba was already very ill, nearly at the point of death. When they told him that the Prophet r had sent him a letter, he seemed to come back to life in spite of his grave condition. “Read it to me!” he demanded. The Prophet’s r letter was read to him: “The Quraysh have requested that the clause for the return of the fugitives from Mecca to Madinah be annulled. We now invite you and your companions to come and stay with us at Madinah.” ‘Utba thanked Allah and pronounced blessings upon the Holy Prophet r, then he said, “Allah has made me the instrument for relieving the Muslims of the worst and heaviest demand of the treaty of Hudaybiyah. Thanks to Him and unending Praise and Glory.” Then, turning to his friends, he said, “Go to the Prophet r and give him my Salams, with the expression of my veneration. You have heard for yourselves that he is pleased with me, so be my witnesses in the Presence of Allah Almighty and hurry to Madinah at once.” With that he pressed the letter to his eyes and forehead and passed from this world of woe to the Eternal Abode. Abu Jandal prayed the funeral prayer over him, and after they had buried him at al-‘Is, they departed for Madinah.
After this, the caravan routes of the Quraysh were opened again and caravans traveled along them unmolested.
As mentioned before, this term of the agreement did not apply to the women. There was nothing in the treaty that demanded their return to the unbelievers. In these days Umm Kulthum, the daughter of ‘Uqba, one of the leading Quraysh, became Muslim. Her brothers al-Walid and ‘Umara came and demanded her extradition. The Holy Prophet r refused to comply with their demand. Thereafter, the Sahaba who had unbelieving wives who had remained in Mecca divorced themselves from them.
In this way, they evaded the treaty of Hudaybiyah. Some time after this, the Holy Prophet r said, “The time has come for the disclosure and spreading of Islam.” For the religion of Islam was never meant to be restricted to one people, one community, or one continent. It was meant as a universal religion, to be spread from one end of the world to the other, and the Imam of Prophets r was sent as a messenger of glad tidings and as a Warner, to teach and to make known his message far and wide.
For indeed Islam is a religion of Unity, its monotheism balancing the excesses of idolatrous similitude with Allah’s absolute incomparability. It proclaims the Oneness of Divinity. It values the mind’s reason. Judged by a sound mind, every revealed law proves to have a rational basis. Islam disapproves of idolatry, injustice, hypocrisy, and unbelief, and whoever is inclined towards these things is considered an unbeliever. It forbids the worship of any feeble human creature and discourages men from becoming a tyrant’s knaves. It prevents people from trampling under foot the natural morality of mankind. The observance of the rights of all sentient beings is the most eminent of all God-pleasing acts.
The most preferential status in the community is due to the most reverent towards the Lord Almighty and the most compassionate towards His Creation.
He shall not be questioned as to what He does, but they shall be questioned.
(The Prophets, 23)
This signifies that everyone but Allah Almighty is to be held responsible, whether he is the president or a sheikh, a religious teacher, a scholar or a man of virtue. Everyone will be called to account, according to the teaching of Islam.
Islam rules that the ruler be judged by the same criteria as the slave. All worldly activity is to be hallowed by the intention to strive for the world as if one was never to die, and to work for the afterlife as if one were to die tomorrow. Islam values all knowledge; it prefers the corrupt man of learning to the ignorantly devout worshipper.
Islam demands the Remembrance of Allah (Dhikrullah) to be pronounced not only in words, but demands that the Dhikr be contained in all deeds and states of mind, and its application to all circumstances.
Wealth is acceptable as long as it does no harm to another man. Islam has made the poor man to be the brother of the rich man. Islam teaches us that if a person is amenable to a tyrant, his name will be erased from the slate of Islam. This religion being the religion of love, his name will be written in the book of those who busied themselves with the love of other than Islam, and who were ruled by the opinions of their lower soul. The foundation of disbelief is the exaltation of the base, and the abasement of the high and noble.