Hudaibiya: Political Foresight of the Prophet

Hudaibiya Well.

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Topics: History, Hudaibiya Treaty Views: 7935

• To be ice-cool in demeanor,
• To be fire-hot in determination,
• To be sponge-soft with issues at periphery, and
• To be steel-hard when it comes to principle

This is the art of diplomacy (rather politics itself) and in the history of mankind the treaty of Hudaibiya is one of the most perfect paradigm of this art. It was for a reason that Allah referred to it as a "manifest victory" and a "mighty help". In this article, we will look briefly at a few significant lessons related to the political foresight of the Prophet Muhammad (s) that can be directly derived from the text of the treaty in Hudaibiya. The treaty reads:

1. In your name, O God!
2. This is the treaty of peace between Muhammad ibn Abdullah and Suhail ibn Amr.
3. They have agreed to ceasefire for ten years. During this time each party shall be secure, and neither shall harm the other. No secret damage - theft or betrayal - shall be inflicted.
4. The people of Muhammad may visit Makkah for Haj, Umra or trade and their life and belongings shall be secure, likewise people of Qureysh may visit or pass through Medina to Egypt or Syria for trade and their life and belongings shall be secure.
5. And if a man from Qureysh comes, without the permission of his guardian, to Muhammad, he shall be returned to them; but if, on the other hand, one of Muhammad's people comes to the Qureysh, he shall not be returned.
6. Whoever in Arabia wishes to enter into a treaty or covenant with Muhammad can do so, and whoever wishes to enter into a treaty or covenant with the Qureysh can do so.
7. This year, Muhammad, with his companions, must retract from Makkah, but next year, he, with his companions, may come to Makkah and remain for three days, yet without their weapons except those of a traveler i.e. the swords remaining in their sheaths.

Translated from Dr. Mohammed Hamidullah's 
Al-Wasa’iq us Siyasia

 (p. 77-80) with some alterations in the sequence.

If we look at the political situation of the times we see that the persecuted Muslims at Makkah were now a political power to reckon with after establishing a state in Medina and braving the existential threats at Badr and Uhad triumphantly before foiling the ploy of Ahzab. Now they were at the doorsteps of Makkah which was a major blow to the psyche of Makkans and also their prestige in the whole of Arabia. There was a loss-loss situation for them. Either they allow Muslims to perform Umra and recognize them or else draw them away and give an impression that they blocked the innocuous pilgrims from performing rituals at Kaba which was supposed to be open for all. While it was not possible anymore to ignore the Muslims or shoo them away, nevertheless Qureysh were not in favor of letting Muslims perform their pilgrimage at Makkah - they considered it too much of a blow to their egos. However cutting the long story very short we are going to discuss specifically how the text of the treaty, as we read it today, came up and how that's an example of political foresightedness on the part of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s).

The first provision:

The treaty was discussed and finalised between Prophet Muhammad (s) on one hand and Suhail ibn Amr on the other. Ali ibn Abu Talib wrote the treaty. The Prophet Muhammad (s) asked him to write "In the name of Allah who is most Gracious and most Merciful." Suhail ibn Amr objected on this and disputed: Who is this most Gracious and most Merciful?  We don't know Him. Write instead, "In your name, O' God" as per the tradition of the Arabs. The Prophet conceded and asked Ali to write, "In your name, O' God". There was no problem in conceding on this, as what was being written was not wrong even according to the Islamic ideals.

The second provision:

The Prophet Muhammad asked Ali to write further that, "This is what Muhammad the messenger of Allah has agreed with Suhail ibn Amr." To the utter dismay of the Muslims, Suhail objected yet again and argued that, "If we belie!ed that you were Allah's messenger then we would not have fought you." He told, "Write your own name and the name of your father." And the Prophet obliged yet again saying, "Whether you believe it or not, I am the messenger of Allah." He then asked Ali to erase it out and when Ali, out of respect, said that, "I won't be the person to rub it out," the Prophet himself erased out the words - messenger of Allah. Yet again, what was being written was not wrong, and conceding on this matter only gratified the egos of Qureysh and was practically going to cause no harm to the cause of Muslims.

The third provision:

This was the major stroke - a cessation of hostilities for ten years. Neither the Qureyshi envoy nor the Qureysh understood what they did to themselves by signing for this truce. Medina State had two principal enemies 0 the Qureysh at Makkah and the Jews at Khaibar. Geographically and militarily it was not possible for Medina to take them down simultaneously. To deal with them one by one too was not viable option because, for example, if Muslims would take on Khaibar then Qureysh can either join forces with Jews in the battlefield or worse would attack the city of Medina which wouldn't be able to defend itself in absence of the larger chunk of its army. Jews would have done the same thing by opening up another front in circumstances of Muslim incursion over Qureysh. This truce secured the Makkan front for the Muslims and they, barely within two months of conclusion of the treaty, exterminated the Jewish threat at Khaibar. This boosted the military capability and political stature of the Muslims vis-a-vis Qureysh.

The fourth provision:

Qureysh had forced Muslims out of their homes in Makkah and with that hostilities between Muslims and Qureysh ensued. Muslims migrated to Medina and an Islamic state came into being. Passing through Medina to Egypt, Syria and other markets was vital for the trade interest of Qureysh. It is noteworthy that trade was most important (if not the only) means for the livelihood in Makkah.

But, as a result of hostilities, Muslims had more or else blocked this route and jeopardized the trade interests of Qureysh. Several skirmishes between trade caravans of Qureysh and Muslims are reported in history and all that made trade very insecure for the Qureysh. Besides, Prophet Muhammad (s) concluded treaties with other tribes. And with further alliances and military victories that resulted ingrowing influence of Medina, it threatened to close the Qureysh's caravan route to Iraq as well. Dr. Mohammed Hamidullah also notes that the "international trade between India and Europe, which is said to have passed through Mecca, was stopped. This deprived the Quraishites of their monopoly of providing escorts, which must have been a means of considerable income, not to speak of the direct gains of the northern traffic, which was reputed to bring them hundred percent profits." (The Battlefields of the Prophet Muhammad p. 80)

One of the major causes with which leaders like Abu Jahl could rally together Makkans against the nascent state of Medina was insecurity of their trade route. Earlier they tried to eliminate this threat through invasions. But after the battle of Trench they were forced to realize that a military solution to the Medina-problem might not be possible. Hence, this provision was in fulfillment of their primary interest -securing their trade route. What they didn't realize is the fact that they themselves were opposed to Muslims' access to Makkah and as a natural corollary were not allowed to pass through Medina. Muslims always wanted peaceful social and economic contacts with Makkah and Qureysh. This was vital for Dawah as well. And Qureysh were very apprehensive of the spread of Islam. During hostilities they were more or less immune from the 'Islamic virus' which they most feared. Readers would remember the fact that in Prophet's Makkan age they took pains to convince their folks (and outsiders) that Muhammad is a magician and his sorcery sows the seeds of discord between father & sons and brother & brothers etc. This provision not only secured the trade routes of Medina for Makkans but also opened the doors of Makkah for the Muslims. Qureysh could no longer bind their people from mingling with Muslims;  observing their behavior in daily life; talk to them about their religion ... and be impressed.

The fifth provision:

The earlier half of this provision that - if a man from Qureysh without the permission of his guardian comes to Muhammad, he shall be returned to them 0 was a big concern for Makkans. Their people, especially youths, were embracing Islam and leaving Makkah for Medina in considerable numbers. They wanted to check this trend and hence introduced the provision that if a man from Qureysh comes, without the permission of his guardian, to Prophet Muhammad (s), he shall be returned to them. But the later half of the provision was an utter nonsense which only served the purposes of fattening the egos of Qureysh. So, when this provision was objected to by the Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (s) explained to them that we do not need the apostate who, from our side, would return to Qureysh and their religion ... And after all both parties knew that it was not going to happen.

The earlier half of the provision was a political concession on the part of the Prophet Muhammad (s). It really seemed to jeopardize the Muslim interests. And Prophet Muhammad (s) explained to his companions that Allah would find a way for those who are stranded in Makkah as a result of this provision. Muslims abided by the treaty and handed over to Qureysh whoever came to them from Makkah, Abu Jandal (son of Suhail ibn Amr) and later Abu Baseer are a few names in this regard. But Abu Baseer, outside Medina, fought for his freedom and didn't return to Makkah. He camped on the trade routes of Makkah and attacked their trade caravans. Many fleeing Muslims including Abu Jandal joined forces with him and Qureysh, themselves, came to Prophet Muhammad (s) nullifying this provision.

The sixth provision:

With a very flimsy look at things someone may conclude that this provision was a mutual gain. But that's not the case. The point to be noted is the fact that there was no obstacle to tribes joining their hands with Qureysh as historically they were an established power in the region. To align with the Prophet Muhammad (s) - the challenger and enemy of the superpower 0 was however very risky and tricky. To improve their relationship with the nascent Islamic republic, no tribe would have desired to jeopardize their relations with Qureysh. So, the only way through which people would have aligned themselves to the Medina without provoking Makkah was a truce between Prophet Muhammad (s) and Qureysh. So,this provision was a major political gain for the Muslims. Through this treaty, not only Qureysh recognized Medina as a legitimate political force in the region but also the doors were opened for other tribes to align themselves with emerging political power of Medina.

The seventh provision:

It happened that Qureysh, like every decaying power, ended up emphasizing and fighting upon the most ephemeral and most useless provision of the treaty that served no purposes except satiation of their vanity. Prophet Muhammad (s) conceded to this because performing the pilgrimage that very year was not an objective in itself. Muslims had waited for six years and they could wait a year more especially if they were allowed to enter the city peacefully the next year. The major political gains that Muslims acquired from the treaty would not have been possible if Prophet Muhammad (s) would have insisted on performing the pilgrimage that very year.


n the political chessboard it happens that checks come from Queen or Rook or Knight but the ultimate defeat comes through unusual quarters of a petty pawn. There is nothing to deter an unbiased historian from concluding that a few hundred more wars may not have swept the Qureysh so emphatically and so thoroughly as the peace of Hudaibiya did ...In this brief article all the lessons that can be learnt from Prophet Muhammad (s) at Hudaibiya cannot be summarized. But besides the provisions discussed above, below are a few more honorable mentions. For example, there is a lesson in ...

• the route taken by the Prophet Muhammad (s) for Makkah;
• his arrangements for intelligence especially about the enemy movements;
• his sending and effective usage of the advance-scout to deceive the enemy about the whereabouts of the actual position of his caravan;
• the manner in which he ditched the enemy who were hell-bent to fight and not let Muslims enter the precincts of Harem of Makkah;
• the way in which he dealt with the envoys of Qureysh (as per to their individual and tribal psychology);
• the style in which he channelized the discontentment of his companions in The Pledge beneath the Tree and thereby also sent a strong message to Qureysh;
• the calm and composure with which he negotiated and dealt with the issue of Abu Jandal;
• the careful usage of the language in the treaty (for example the fifth provision was worded in a manner that excluded women from the return-clause);
• the ease with which he shared his problem with his wife Umm e Salma and listened to her advice; and
• the way he dealt with the discontentment of his companions especially Umar through gentle arguments (and later through instant and effective communication of the morale boosting initial verses of Surah Fat'h among the companions).

The most profound politics (especially diplomacy) lies in setting of the agenda. At Hudaibiya, the greatest political success of the Prophet Muhammad (s) was the success in shaping the agenda of the negotiations.

1. Muslims negotiated for entering Makkah and performing pilgrimage THAT VERY YEAR.
2. Qureysh negotiated for not letting Muslims enter and perform pilgrimage THAT VERY YEAR.

Head and tail both were in favor of Muslims (if earlier stand of Qureysh not letting Muslims into Makkah at all is taken into consideration). Conceding on the issue of performing pilgrimage that very year (which nevertheless was only a psychological concession and not a substantial one) and claiming other points of importance like ceasefire and peaceful contact with Makkans - an opportunity which was denied to Muslims ever since they left Makkah - was the greatest victory. Moreover tribes that were earlier apprehensive about concluding alliance with Medina due to the newness of the State freely aligned themselves with it afterwards.

Maulana Maududi in his exegesis Tafhim ul Quran, while explaining "clear victory" quotes a hadith with which we conclude this article:

Someone at Medina told the companions of the Prophet: What sort of a victory is it? We were debarred from the House of Allah; our sacrificial camels also could not go to their right places; the Messenger of Allah had to halt at Hudaibiya, and in consequence of this truce two of our oppressed brothers (Abu Dandal and Abu Baseer) were handed over to their oppressors.

When this thing reached the Prophet, he said: A very wrong thing has been uttered, it indeed is a great victory. You reached the very home of the polytheists, and they had to persuade you to go back by soliciting you to perform Umra the following year. They themselves expressed the desire to suspend hostilities and have peace with you, whereas their malice and enmity against you is too well known.

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society
  Topics: History, Hudaibiya Treaty
Views: 7935

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