The Treaty of Hudaibiyah

The victory at Medina did not really solve anything for the Muslims. In fact, it may have left them more vulnerable than before. Many of the Jews Muhammad sent into exile found a new home in the Jewish oasis of Khaybar approximately 153 km north of Medina. Khaybar had a pact with Mecca whereby if either city was attacked, the other was to march on Medina.

Both cities also instituted the equivalent of an economic blockade of Medina. Not only were the Muslim caravans confined to Medina but so were their raiding parties. The believers could no longer depend on plunder to make ends meet. Something had to give. They had no choice: unless they broke the blockade by attacking either Khaybar or Mecca, many of the warriors who became Muslims for the booty would leave or join the Confederates, making the fall of Medina and the defeat of the believers inevitable.

Muhammad, to the astonishment of his companions, decided to go to Mecca, not to fight, but to perform the lesser pilgrimage, the Umrah. He invited all believers to accompany him on this 800-kilometre round-trip religious trek. The Bedouins among his supporters expected hostilities to break out, and not caring to take the war to the holy city of Mecca, refused to go. The majority of believers at Medina had no such qualms and looked forward to marching on the Meccan pagans. They believed the pilgrimage was just a ruse, and that if the Prophet was denied, he would enter Mecca by force.

The men who would accompany God’s Messenger were only allowed a sheathed sword as a weapon, and had to follow the ritual preparation, much of it borrowed from the pagans, such as fasting, shaving hair from the head and body, wearing a simple robe without decorations of any kind, and abstaining from sexual relations.

On February 628, Muhammad and an estimated fourteen-hundred male pilgrims left Medina for Mecca. The Meccans sent a small detachment of cavalry to intercept the pilgrims, and all were taken prisoner by the Muslims. The Prophet ordered they be released without conditions. The Meccans then sent a larger detachment to meet the believers. It arrived only to find the believers prostrated towards Mecca in prayer. Their leader Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahl, chose not to give the order to attack and simply turned back. Muhammad then sent an emissary to the Meccans explaining that they had only come to perform the pilgrimage. His envoy and retinue were intercepted by Ikrimah, who crippled their camels and left them to make their way back to the Prophet on foot.

Ikrimah and his troops then barred the main route into the sacred perimeter of the holy city. Muhammad avoided a confrontation by taking an alternate, dangerously rocky route among the hills overlooking Mecca. With the holy city spread out before him, his camel refused to go any further. The Prophet said that an angel barred its way. It was now obvious to God’s Messenger that God did not want them to go any further.

There was no water where the angel forced them to stop. Muhammad raised his arms towards the heavens imploring God for help. A short time later, he was joined by a pilgrim who said to dig beneath his feet and he would find water. He did.

God’s Messenger wanted to send another emissary to the Meccans. His companions would rather they simply marched on the city but Uthman, Muhammad’s son-in-law, accepted to go and talk to the Meccans. When he was late in returning, rumours started to circulate that he had been killed or was being tortured. The pilgrims were now determined to enter Mecca by force, with or without their Prophet’s approval, prompting God’s Messenger to demand their unquestioning allegiance at a meeting under one of the few trees. One after the other, the believers approach Muhammad and swore absolute obedience. Two revelations refer to that all-important gathering:

48:18 Allah was well-pleased with the believers, when they paid you homage under the tree; so He knew what was in their hearts and sent down the Serenity upon them and rewarded them with a victory near at hand,

48:19 And with many spoils for them to seize. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

A short time later, a delegation from Mecca arrived. A ten-year non-aggression treaty was signed, the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. Prior to the signing, Muhammad, the alleged illiterate, rewrote a section of the treaty to which the Meccans objected after his scribe refused to make the modification.

Narrated Al-Bara:

When the Prophet intended to perform Umra in the month of Dhul-Qada, the people of Mecca did not let him enter Mecca till he settled the matter with them by promising to stay in it for three days only.

When the document of treaty was written, the following was mentioned: "These are the terms on which Muhammad, Allah's Apostle agreed (to make peace)."

They said, "We will not agree to this, for if we believed that you are Allah's Apostle we would not prevent you, but you are Muhammad bin Abdullah."

The Prophet said, "I am Allah's Apostle and also Muhammad bin Abdullah."

Then he said to Ali, "Rub off (the words) 'Allah's Apostle' ", but Ali said, "No, by Allah, I will never rub off your name."

So, Allah's Apostle took the document and wrote, "This is what Muhammad bin Abdullah has agreed upon: No arms will be brought into Mecca except in their cases, and nobody from the people of Mecca will be allowed to go with him (i.e. the Prophet) even if he wished to follow him and he (the Prophet) will not prevent any of his companions from staying in Mecca if the latter wants to stay."

Bukhari 49.863

Under Hudaibiyah, Muslims would be allowed to perform the pilgrimage the following year and every year during which the treaty was in force. The Prophet’s followers were not happy about having to return to Medina without having performed the pilgrimage, and accused Muhammad of selling them out. God’s Messenger declared that they had achieved a great victory, and Allah added that He would give them an even greater victory.


48 Al-Fath

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

48:1 We have indeed given you a manifest victory,

48:2 That Allah may forgive you your former and your later sins, and complete His Blessing upon you and lead you onto a straight path;

48:3 And that Allah may give you a mighty victory.

God’s justification for not allowing the Muslims to take Mecca by force was the presence of believers among the Meccans. He could, of course, have given them a bloody victory (Revelation 48:22) instead of a paper one (Revelation 48:24); however, the guilt they would have felt if they unwittingly killed another Muslim was a price too high to pay. If only “they had stood apart” (Revelation 48:25), He “would have inflicted on those who disbelieved a painful punishment.”

48:22 Had the unbelievers fought you, they would certainly have turned their backs in flight; then they would have found no friend or supporter.

48:23 It is Allah’s Way which has gone before; and you will never find any alteration of Allah’s Way.

48:24 It is He Who held their hands back from you, and your hands from them in the valley of Mecca, after He gave you victory over them. Allah observed whatever you do.

48:25 It is they who disbelieved and barred you from the Sacred Mosque, and the offering was prevented from reaching its sacrificial site. Had it not been for some believing men and some believing women, whom you did not know, lest you should trample them and earn thereby the guilt unwittingly, that Allah might thereby admit into His Mercy whomever He wishes. Had they stood apart, We would have inflicted on those of them who disbelieved a painful punishment.

48:26 When the unbelievers instilled in their hearts fierceness, the fierceness of paganism, Allah then sent down His Serenity upon His Messenger and upon the believers, and imposed on them the word of piety, they being more deserving thereof and worthier. Allah has knowledge of everything.