Treaty of Hudaibia

In 6/628, Muhammad marched from Medina with 1400 Muslims for the purpose of performing pilgrimage in Mecca. They went unarmed, clad in the ritual dresses. When this peaceful caravan approached its destination, tidings came that the Meccans were bent on mischief, and might stop their entry into the town by force. So, Muhammad halted his followers at a place, called Hudaibia, and his men encamped round a well. From here he sent a message to the Qoraish of Mecca, saying that, "We have come on a peaceful and religious mission. We have come only to perform the sacred pilgrimage. We desire neither bloodshed nor war, and we shall be glad if the Meccans agree to a truce for a limited period." When the Muslim messenger was sent to Qoraish, he failed to return, so another was dispatched. The enemies killed his mount and he did not return either. Finally, Muhammad sent one of his companions, Uthman to negotiate with the Qoraish. He too was detained and to provoke the Muslims, the Qoraish engineered a rumour that he had been slain.

So Muhammad collected all his followers and asked them to swear that if God demanded of them the supreme sacrifice they would lay down their lives without demur. One by one they came and touched his hand and swore, to die willingly, if such was the will of God. This oath or pledge became famous in the annals of Islam as the Bai'at-ur- Ridwan (the pledge of God's pleasure). The Meccans heard of this and were afraid. Instead of directly attacking the pilgrim party as they originally intended, they now sent a messenger, a man named Suhail, to negotiate with Muhammad. He presented him with four demands on behalf of the Qoraish, as follows:- (a) The Muslims should return to Medina without performing pilgrimage. (b) They would be permitted to perform pilgrimage in the following year, but would not be allowed to stay in Mecca beyond three days with their traveller-arms, namely, their swords in sheathes. (c) They would not take any Muslim resident of Mecca with them to Medina nor forbid any Muslim from taking up his residence in Mecca, if he so desired. (d) If any Meccan went to Medina, then Muslims would return him to Mecca, but if any Muslim went to Mecca, he would not be returned to Medina.

The Meccans deliberately made their terms as rigorous and provocative as they could, but Muhammad refused to be provoked. As always he wanted peace not bloodshed, therefore he accepted all the terms with all the hardships and all the humiliation they implied. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Hudaibia. It was one of the most outstanding events in the life of Muhammad. According to R.V.C. Bodley in "The Messenger" (London, 1946, p. 257), "In point of fact, that the treaty was Mohammad's masterpiece of diplomacy. It was a triumph." Tor Andrae writes in "Mohammed the Man and his Faith" (London, 1936, p. 229) that, "The self-control which Mohammed revealed at Hodaibiya, his ability to bear occasional humiliation in unimportant issues, in order to achieve an exalted goal, shows that he was a person of unique ability."

This pact was the product of profound political wisdom and farsightedness. It was the first time after several wars that the Meccans acknowledged that Muhammad was an equal rather than a mere rebel or a runaway tribsman. It was the first time that Mecca recognised the Islamic state that was rising in Arabia. With it was terminated the struggle between the Muslims of Medina and the Qoraish of Mecca, which had extended over nineteen years, and had, after the migration, assumed the character of an armed conflict. By virtue of the truce, peace had at last been established, and the major difficulty in the way of peaceful propagation of Islam had been removed. Henceforward, Islam began to spread rapidly in the greater part of Arabia. Some estimate of the rate of this progress might be made on the basis of the number of Muslims who were present with Muhammad at Hudaibia, which was just short of 1400, and the number that accompanied him two years later during the conquest of Mecca, which was 10,000. This is eloquent testimony that the attraction of Islam lie in its spiritual power and not in armed conflict.

As soon as this pact was solemnly concluded by the two parties, the tribe of Khazao entered an alliance with Medina and that of Banu Bakr with the Meccans.

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