Throughout the Middle East peace process, a number of people have claimed that Yasser Arafat only wishes to make peace with Israel as a ruse to later overwhelm the Israelis. His ploy, claim his accusers, is akin to that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be unto him) with his treaty with the Meccans, The Treaty of Hudaybiah in 628 CE. In 1996, U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mortimer Zuckerman claimed the Prophet Muhammad had a “doctrine” of deceit in making treaties with enemies while he was weak and violating them when he was strong. In 1999, Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) remarked that the Prophet Muhammad upheld terms of a treaty only when it was politically expedient to do so. Most recently, California Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) made similar remarks in a speech to the American Israel Political Action Committee. This is an old smear of the Prophet Muhammad that resurfaces from time to time. When the facts surrounding the treaty are studied, it becomes clear that this “doctrine of deceit” is nothing but a lie.
From the very beginning of his mission, Prophet Muhammad was violently opposed by his people. The Meccans turned to violent torture and repression of Muhammad and his companions, to try to muffle his message. Muhammad himself survived several assassination attempts. The Meccans finally expelled the Prophet to Medina, a city 250 miles to the north, in 622 C.E. While in Medina, the Meccan pagans did not relent their hostilities against the Muslims. Now, however, many surrounding tribes, who were already hostile to Islam, joined in the Meccans’ fight. Several battles were fought against the Muslims. Amidst this intractable hostility, the Prophet led his followers on a lesser pilgrimage (‘umra) to the holy city of Mecca in 628. This right was given to all Arabs, regardless of any enmity between tribes. The Meccans, in direct violation of their law, prevented the Muslims from making this pilgrimage. In the end, they agreed to a treaty, the famous Treaty of Hudaybiah, in which all hostilities would cease for ten years, in addition to other provisions. Any tribe that entered into an alliance with either the Meccans or the Muslims also became party to this treaty. Two years later, an ally of the Meccans secretly attacked their old rivals, who were allies of the Muslims, and killed a number of their tribesmen. This attack was supported by the Meccans, and they themselves participated in the assassinations. This constituted a clear-cut violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, and the Prophet marched on Mecca in 630. The conquest of Mecca was almost entirely bloodless, with only four Meccans killed, and a general amnesty was given to Muhammad’s previous enemies. Contrast this to the Crusaders’ conquest of Jerusalem in 1099: according to one of the Crusaders, the blood of Muslims and Jews reached the horses’ knees.
If Mr. Arafat makes peace with Israel “as a ruse” to overwhelm them later (I do not believe that is the case), it is not because he follows Prophet Muhammad’s lead. If he thinks he is doing so, then it behooves Mr. Arafat to study his Islamic history. As is clear, Prophet Muhammad did not violate the Treaty of Hudaybiah, the Meccans did. In the Koran, God commands Muslims to stay true to the covenants and treaties they make (16:91), and Prophet Muhammad did exactly that.
To be fair, all those who have claimed that Prophet Muhammad broke the Treaty of Hudaybiah have later retracted their remarks. In Newsweek magazine’s June 24, 1996, issue, the editors wrote: “…We deeply regret any ambiguity in the language; Mr. Zuckerman meant no insult. He was referring to Mr. Arafat’s reference to the Prophet and did not intend to state that this was the doctrine of the Prophet…it was the Meccans, not the prophet Muhammad, who broke the peace of Hudaybiah of 628.” In addition, both Representatives Saxton and Lantos clarified their remarks and apologized after receiving hundreds of faxes, emails and phone calls from concerned Muslims. As we continue to hope and pray for peace in the Middle East, I hope and pray that this age old smear of the Prophet Muhammad and the Treaty of Hudaybiah never again rears its ugly head.
Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa is a syndicated columnist with the Independent Writers Syndicate. He is a physician and resides in Chicago.