Treaty of Hudaibiyah: The Game Changer
By Mohammad Yacoob
Prophet Muhammad, who was sent down to this earth as a blessing for mankind, used his prophetic vision and farsightedness at the Hudaibiyah camp to transform the accepted rules of war and peace, and introduced new strategies that proved to be a game changer affecting the entire world - opening a new chapter in human relations among people around the world and enabling the world to witness Islamic values that changed the prevailing situation in Arabian Peninsula and the then known world forever.
Prophet Muhammad migrated to Madinah and established the first Islamic community. The pagans and the Quraysh of Makkah came to Madinah after the Prophet with swords, spears and other weapons to kill him and to destroy the newly established Muslim community. Their first action was to kill him while he was still living in Makkah. When he was on his way to Madinah they chased him and searched all roads leading to Madinah. Later, they made the decision to travel to Madinah to destroy the newly established Muslim community, ultimately suffering defeats at the hands of Muslims in Battle of Badr, Battle of Uhad, and other battles. The path of destruction was in one direction only, from Makkah to Madina. The game changer proved to be in the opposite direction from Madina to Makkah involving the Prophet and fourteen thousand Muslims travelling to Makkah without the intention of waging war on the Quraysh or the pagan but with the intention of entering Makkah for performing pilgrimage and umrah.
Prophet Muhammad’s intention to perform umrah infuriated and angered the pagans who made a decision to block entry of the Prophet and his entourage and followers in Makkah. Although, a state of war had existed between pagans of Makkah and the Muslim community for six years, the Muslims were coming to Makkah unarmed during the month of Dhul Qidah, one of the four sacred months, in which all warfare is forbidden. It was also a traditional practice that no one was stopped from entering Makkah. The pagans, while breaking the established law, decided to stop Prophet Mohammad by force of arms. They dispatched Khalid bin Walid who along with two hundred horsemen got ready to intercept the Muslim pilgrims. Even several thousand heavily-armed pagans remained in Makkah to make sure that the Muslims did not enter the city.
Prophet Muhammad had no intention of fighting, and by employing a new strategy, changed his route to Makkah and camped on the plain of Hudaibiyah. Uthman bin Affan was sent as the Muslim envoy to Makkah. Even the news reaching Hudaibiyah camp that Uthman bin Affan has been assassinated by the pagans and Quraysh did not shake the resolve of Prophet Muhammad who remained determined and continued to exhibit utmost patience. In the camp, he moved under the acacia tree, took a pledge from the Muslims that they would remain steadfast and fight for Islam in the face of provocations by the pagans and Quraysh. The news about the death of Uthman bin Affan later proved to be false. The Muslims were ready to face the greatest danger without fear or fight. This proved to be another situation that was a game changer, forcing the pagans to open negotiations with Prophet Muhammad.
Khalid bin Walid visited the Hudaibiyah camp, observed the discipline and order, display of Islamic values by the Muslims and their love of Islam. The good intentions of Muslims speeded up the negotiations process.
During the negotiations, Quraysh and the pagans refused to make any concessions or showed any leniency. The pagan representative Suhayl bin Amr raised objection twice to the wordings of the Treaty. The first time he refused to accept the attributes of Allah as the merciful and compassionate when it was written, “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” The second time on the words, “Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah”. When the words, “Following is the text of a pact reached by Muhammad, the Prophet of God and Suhayl bin Amr” were written, he objected to them by saying, “Stop it. If I had accepted you as a Prophet of God then I would not have been hostile to you.” The Prophet accepted both the objections, and the words were changed, demonstrating that there is no compulsion in Islam. Muhammad, the Prophet of merciful and compassionate God, continued to demonstrate the goodness and the human values that Islam wanted each and every pagan to embrace and follow.
Many other situations and solutions that became part of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah acted as catalysts in making the Islamic position strong and became part of the game changer. Among other provisions drawn up in the treaty a stipulation was made that all warfare between Makkah and Madinah should be suspended for ten years. That year, the Muslims were required to refrain from entering the city of Makkah, leave the camp of Hudaibiyah and return to Madinah. The next condition in the treaty required the Muslims to return a pagan or member of the Quraysh clan if he goes over to the Muslim community. On the other hand, if a Muslim goes over to the Quraysh side, he would not be sent back to the Muslim community. The last provision proved to be hard for the Muslims and created a very unsettling situation. Many followers showed resentment and dissatisfaction, however, Prophet Muhammad agreed to the provision.
The treaty of Hudaibiyah proved to be a genuine victory for the Muslims. Prophet Muhammad with his convictions and belief in Allah was not looking for a quick victory over the pagans but a long-term victory that would last forever. His strategy was a product of profound political wisdom and farsightedness. He commanded the Muslims to accept the treaty in the face of those who questioned the wisdom of the treaty. Historians say that many reluctantly accepted compliance to the treaty.
Prophet Muhammad’s vision turned the treaty of Hudaibiyah as a game changer in many ways. The pagans felt they accomplished more than they had bargained for and elevated themselves to higher levels of arrogance, however, they recognized that Prophet Muhammad was an equal partner rather than the follower of a new religion who was insisting them to accept Islam, his religion. Even though the treaty made the pagans more arrogant it put a constraint on their hostile attitude. The members of Quraysh and other clans of Makkah started thinking more about Islam, trying to understand it, rather than committing acts of aggression against its followers, the Muslims. Many pagans were impressed by the simple, straight forward and humanistic Islamic values displayed by Prophet Muhammad. And hearing from Khalid bin Walid, Makkan commander, and other Makkans who visited the Hudaibiyah camp, about the discipline, spirit and unity displayed by fourteen thousand followers of Islam made the pagans look at Islam with a new perspective. Many began to waiver in hostility towards the faith of Islam. This was a game changer.
The treaty proved the importance and future of Islam by putting an end to the perennial warfare between Makkah and Madinah, opened up ways to penetration of Islamic values into the heart of pagans, encouraging their inquisitive feelings to flourish and look at Islam favorably.
The treaty of Hudaibiyah also added a new point as a game changer because it gave the Muslims the peace and security needed without the fear of an invasion from Makkah. It should be noted that Prophet Muhammad had already established peace in Madinah and the surrounding areas by dealing with Christians and Jews before embarking on his journey to Makkah for umrah that ended in the signing of the treaty of Hudaibiyah. He along with the followers, fourteen thousand strong, returned to Madinah without entering the city of Makkah.
Prophet Muhammad was a man of truth and fidelity who spoke with sincerity. His treatment of the Christians, Jews, pagans and Quraysh created an atmosphere that ended up in the establishment of peace in the region and gave him time for the propagation of Islam. Within two months of his return to Madinah after signing the treaty of Hudiabiyah he began to address the kings of surrounding empires and chiefs of foreign states with the message of Islam to all men in all corners of the earth.
The judgment, wisdom and the strong belief in Allah, and the prophetic vision of Prophet Muhammad, in signing the treaty of Hudaibiyah, proved to be the game changer that changed the world forever.
(Mohammad Yacoob is a retired Industrial Engineer and Engineering Proposals Analyst who lives in Los Angeles, California)