Treaty of Hudaybiya, a manifest victory

Home Contents Search About us


Why does The Qur'an describe the treaty of Hudaybiya as a manifest victory?

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was a man of action. He never hung back in putting his plans or decisions into action. Any hesitation in the leader causes his followers to falter. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, always acted with deliberation, never neglected to consult, but once he had come to a decision or planned something, he did not show any hesitation in carrying it out.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, never repented of what he had, or had not, done, nor regretted any lost opportunity for doing something. Before starting something, he used to take all the necessary precautions, consider all the probabilities, and take counsel with those who could give expert advice on the matter, and once he made up his mind, he never faltered in carrying out his decision. This is one of the important reasons why he carried all his attempts to victory and why his Companions followed him in every step he took.

One of the events worthy of elaboration to understand how God’s Messenger solved problems easily is the Treaty of Hudaybiya.

In the sixth year of the Hijra, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, informed his Companions that he had had a dream that they would shortly enter the Holy Mosque in Makka in security, with their heads shaved or their hair cut short. This delighted the Companions, particularly the Emigrants, very much. In March of 628, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, set out to perform pilgrimage at Makka with a party of about fifteen hundred men, unarmed and in pilgrim dress (ihram).

Informed of the coming of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the Quraysh armed themselves and the neighbouring tribes. They were determined not to allow the Muslims to enter Makka. They despatched troops of two hundred men under the command of Khalid ibn Walid and Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl, who marched as far as Qura’u l-Ghamim and, seeing that Muslims were coming towards them, returned to Makka in order to inform the Makkans. When the Muslims reached Hudaybiya, a place on the road from Jeddah, about twelve miles from Makka, God’s Messenger gave the order to stop.

When the Muslims suffered from shortage of water, God’s Messenger threw an arrow down the only well at Hudaybiya. Water began to gush and rose to fill the well. This was a manifest miracle. Everyone drank from that water, did wudu’ with it, and filled their bags.19

In the face of the Makkans’ refusal to allow the Muslims to enter Makka, God’s Messenger sent Budayl ibn Warqa, a man from the tribe of Khuda‘a, with whom the Muslims were in alliance, to the Quraysh to inform them that they had come with the intention of pilgrimage and therefore bore no arms. The Quraysh listened to Budayl, and reciprocated by sending ‘Urwa ibn Mas‘ud al-Thaqafi. While talking to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, ‘Urwa attempted to take the beard of God’s Messenger by way of jesting. However, Mughira ibn Shu’ba struck his hand, saying: ‘Do not touch the pure beard of God’s Messenger with your impure hand! If you repeat your attempt, I will cut off your hand!’

Mughira was the cousin of ‘Urwa and it was hardly two months since he had accepted Islam. Indeed, it was ‘Urwa himself who had paid, a few months before, the blood money for a crime Mughira had committed. How Islam had changed Mughira! The commitment of the Companions to their cause and their devotion to God’s Messenger shocked ‘Urwa, who returned to the Quraysh and said to them:

I have visited Chosroes, Caesar and the Negus. None of their subjects are so devoted to their rulers as his Companions are to Muhammad. So, I advise you not to struggle with that man.20

The Quraysh did not heed the advice of ‘Urwa. Nor did they give a warm welcome to Kharash ibn Umayya, whom God’s Messenger sent after ‘Urwa. Kharash was followed by ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, who had powerful relatives among the Quraysh. ‘Uthman came to negotiate with the Makkans. However, the Makkans imprisoned ‘Uthman. When he did not return at the expected time, rumours had it that ‘Uthman had been killed. It was then that the Prophet, sitting under a tree, took from his Companions the oath that they would hold together and fight to the death. The Prophet himself represented the absent ‘Uthman by proxy in this oath;21 one man, Jadd ibn Qays refrained from taking it, hiding behind a camel. The revelation which came on this occasion reads:

God was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing allegiance to you under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down peace of reassurance on them and has rewarded them with a near victory. (al-Fath, 48.18)

In that moment of tension, a cloud of dust appeared from afar.

The Makkans had sent a delegation headed by Suhayl ibn ‘Amr. When God’s Messenger learned that the Makkan delegation was headed by Suhayl, he took a good omen from his name, which means easiness, and told his Companions: The situation has eased off.

The Quraysh agreed to a truce, and the Treaty of Hudaybiya was drawn up.

Under the terms of this treaty the Prophet would be allowed to make the pilgrimage, not then, but in the following year. Makka would be emptied for three days for the Muslim pilgrims. The Treaty also stipulated a truce for ten years; that any tribe or person would be free to join either party or make an alliance with it; and that those who were not free but subjects or dependents of the Quraysh and who defected from paganism to Islam would be returned to the Quraysh by the Muslims.

This last condition was not reciprocal. It was objected to in the Muslim camp. It shocked some among them such as ‘Umar, who went so far as to question God’s Messenger about it. However, it really was of little importance. Muslims, sent back to Makka, were not likely to renounce the blessings of Islam; on the contrary, they would be a focus of influence in Makka for Islam.

It was just before the treaty was signed that Abu Jandal, the son of Suhayl, the head of the Makkan delegation, came, trailing his chains, in order to join the Muslims. God’s Messenger had to return him to his father in tears. However, he whispered to him: God will shortly save you and those of your like.22

Shortly after the Treaty of Hudaybiya was signed, ‘Utba ibn Asid, known as Abu Basir, defected to Madina. However, the Quraysh sent two men to demand his return. On their way back to Makka, Abu Basir escaped, killing one of the two men, and wounding the other. God’s Messenger did not admit him to Madina, in observing the terms of the Treaty. Abu Basir chose to settle at Iyss, a place on the road from Makka to Syria.

The Muslims held in Makka began to escape and join Abu Basir. The trade route of the Makkans was now under threat. This forced the Quraysh to apply to God’s Messenger to annul the relevant term of the treaty and requested him to admit the defecting Makkans to Madina.23

The Qur’an called the Treaty of Hudaybiya ‘a manifest victory’:

Surely We have given you a manifest victory. (al-Fath, 48.1)

It proved to be indeed a victory because:

• By this Treaty, the Quraysh, after many years of unrelenting conflict with Islam, at length recognized Islam as (what they thought) an equal power with themselves. In effect, they had given up their struggle without admitting it to themselves. Having seen the Makkans dealing with the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, as an equal, and as a ruler, a rising tide of converts flowed towards Madina from all quarters of Arabia.

• There were many among the Quraysh themselves, who would benefit from reflecting on the call of God’s Messenger in a peaceful atmosphere. The Treaty of Hudaybiya gave them this opportunity and, as a result, some leading figures of the Quraysh such as Khalid ibn Walid, ‘Amr ibn al-‘As and ‘Uthman ibn Talha, who were famous for their military and political skills, accepted Islam. ‘Uthman ibn Talha used to keep the keys of the Ka’ba, and after the conquest of Makka, God’s Messenger honoured him with the same task.

• The Quraysh used to regard the Ka‘ba as belonging to themselves exclusively and no one except them was allowed to visit it without paying tribute. By not stipulating that the Muslims must pay tribute for their deferred pilgrimage the following year, the Quraysh unwittingly breached their monopoly of the Ka‘ba. This awakened desert tribes to the fact that the Quraysh had no right to claim the exclusive ownership of the Ka‘ba.

• There were at the time in Makka believing Muslims, men and women, and the faith of some of them was unknown to their brothers from Madina. Some of them were employed by God’s Messenger as spies. Had a fight taken place in Makka, even though the Muslims had been successful, they might unwittingly have killed some of those Muslims, not known to them as Muslims, and thus suffered the anguish of shedding Muslim blood, and caused either the martyrdom or disclosure of the Prophet’s spies. This was prevented by the Treaty. The Qur’an points to this fact:

It is He who restrained their hands from you, and your hands from them, in the hollow of Makka, after He made you victors over them. God sees the things you do. They are the ones who unbelieved, and banned you from the Holy Mosque, and hindered the sacrificial animals from reaching their place of sacrifice. If it had not been for certain believing men and believing women (in Makka) whom you knew not – lest you should trample them and thus incur guilt for them unknowingly; that God may admit into His Mercy whom He will – (if the believers and unbelievers) had been clearly separated, then We would have chastised the unbelievers among them with a painful chastisement. (Al-Fath, 48.24–5)

• The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, performed the minor pilgrimage the following year. The testimony of faith, declaring that there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, rang out in the valley of Makka. The Quraysh, camped on the Hill of Abu Qubays, heard it, a portent of the coming triumph of Islam. This was, in fact, God’s fulfilling of the vision He vouchsafed to His Messenger, as pointed out in the Qur’an:

God has indeed fulfilled the vision He vouchsafed to His Messenger truly: You shall enter the Holy Mosque, if God wills, in security, your heads shaved, your hair cut short, not fearing. He knew what you knew not, and, granted, besides this, a nigh victory. (al-Fath, 48.27)

• The Treaty of Hudaybiya freed God’s Messenger to deal with others. In the expeditions which followed the Treaty, the Muslims conquered the redoubtable citadels of the Jews of Khaybar, giving the Jews the choice of entering Islam or accepting the rule of Islam by paying a tribute in lieu of protection (jizya), thereby impressing their neighbors and the Arabs of the Peninsula with the growing strength of the Islamic state.

The Muslims faithfully observed the terms of the Treaty. But the Makkans later on broke the terms in the attack which one of their allied tribes (the Banu Bakr) made on the Banu Khuda‘a (who were in alliance with the Prophet). So, in January 630, two years after the Treaty of Hudaybiya, at the head of an army of 10,000, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, marched upon Makka and conquered it, meeting almost no resistance. The Ka’ba was purified of idols and in the course of the following days, the Makkans accepted Islam. This was due to happen because,

It is He who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may uplift it above every religion. God suffices as a witness. Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful to one another. You see them bowing, prostrating, seeking grace from God and (His) good pleasure. Their mark is on their faces, the trace of prostration. That is their likeness in the Torah, and their likeliness in the Gospel: as a seed that puts forth its shoot, and strengthens it, and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, pleasing the sowers, that through them He may enrage the unbelievers. God has promised those of them who believe and do deeds of righteousness forgiveness and a mighty wage. (al-Fath, 48.28–9)

19. Muslim, Hadith No.1834; Bukhari, 4.256.

20. Bukhari, 3.180; I. Hanbal, 4.324; Tabari, 3.75.

21. I. Hisham, 3.330.

22. I. Hisham, 3.321–333; I. Kathir, 4.188-193.

23. I. Hisham, 3.337–8.


Back | Home | Up | Next