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The Unlettered Prophet (35)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Communications with the Quraysh

Some well wishers of the Muslims met the Prophet (sws) in the leadership of Badil ibn Warqa’, the leader of the Banu Khuza‘ah in Hudaybiyyah in order to inform him of the intentions of the Quraysh and obtain his views. The Prophet (sws) said that they wished only to perform the ‘umrah and would return to Madinah as soon as they completed all the necessary rituals. Badil told him that the Quraysh were determined not to let Muslims enter the Haram. For this, they were willing to kill and be killed. The Prophet (sws) answered that he was not planning to go to war; the Quraysh had suffered greatly because of their desire for confrontation. If they could settle upon a date by which they would agree not to intervene between himself and Arabia, he would be willing to compromise with them, for the sake of the bond of love between them and himself. But if they forced battle upon the Muslims, the latter would have no option but to take out their swords and for this too, they would find them to be ready.

Badil went to Makkah to inform the leaders of the Quraysh about the situation. He had just begun to relate his discussion when the former’s emotional leaders, ‘Ikramah ibn Abi Jahal and Hakam ibn al-‘As became angry and said that they had no need to listen to the news which he had brought; rather, he should just take their message back to the Muslims that they could not enter Makkah for as long as even one person among the Quraysh was alive. At this, a leader of the Thaqif, ‘Urwah ibn Mas‘ud reprimanded them, saying that a nation that makes such decisions based on emotions could never succeed. They should listen to Badil first; if they liked it, they could accept it; otherwise, they were free to reject it. The other leaders then listened to what Badil had to say. ‘Urwah’s advice was that Muhammad (sws) had given a sound suggestion and they should accept it. The leaders of the Quraysh assumed that the offer for a compromise was based on the weakness of the Muslims and decided to adopt a policy to frighten them and put pressure upon them to take advantage of this presumed weakness, as will become obvious from subsequent events.

To assess the situation clearly, Hali ibn ‘Alqamah, the leader of the most skilled tribe in swordsmanship, Ahabish, decided to go to Hudaybiyyah. He found all Muslims to be in a state of ahram. Sacrificial animals, wearing collars around their necks to enable recognition stood in rows upon rows. There was not even any minor evidence of preparation for battle. Halis was convinced of the intention of the Muslims to go to Makkah only for ‘umrah. His religiosity did not allow him to stop 1,500 individuals from the rituals and a large number of animals from being sacrificed in the name of the House of God. When, upon returning to Makkah, he informed the Quraysh leaders of his perception, they thought he was being merely simple minded and ridiculed him. At this, he was furious and told them that he had not made an agreement with them to become a constraint to those who wished to honour the House of God. They should allow Muhammad (sws) to offer ‘umrah, otherwise he would leave them along with everyone of his soldiers. The Quraysh became worried at seeing such differences develop within their ranks, calmed down Halis and promised him that they would try to find a way to dialogue with Muhammad (sws) and make a comprise with him on conditions which would be mutually acceptable.

‘Urwah ibn Mas‘ud Thaqafi was selected to begin discussions with the Prophet (sws). He started off with an attempt to intimidate and ridicule them as per the agreed policy of the Quraysh. He mentioned the battle preparations and the united front of all tribes of the Quraysh. He mocked the Companions by saying that people from such a medley of backgrounds would be likely to desert the Prophet (sws) under difficult circumstances. ‘Urwah also made reference of the national and filial relationship of the Prophet (sws) with the Quraysh and suggested that he send his representative to the Quraysh in order to convince them of the peaceful nature of his proposed visit to Makkah.1

The Companions were irate at ‘Urwah’s attitude and responded with scorn. The Prophet (sws) gave the same explanation to him as he had given to Badil. ‘Urwah was highly impressed at the extraordinary esteem and loyalty shown by the Companions to the Prophet (sws). He advised the Prophet (sws) to send a representative to Makkah to present his points of view to the Quraysh. Upon return, he gave a detailed briefing to the Quraysh and asked them not to take the matter lightly but to consider all pros and cons before they decided to confront the Muslims. The offer for truce from Muhammad (sws) was worth thinking about and it would not be prudent to reject it.

Following advice from ‘Urwah, the Prophet (sws) sent Khirash ibn Umayyah al-Khuza‘i as his representative to the Quraysh. When he reached Makkah, young men driven by their emotions cut off the legs of his camel and also attacked him. The tribe of Ahabish intervened to save him and he returned to his camp. The Prophet (sws) decided that to calm the enraged Quraysh, it might be better to give responsibility for ambassadorship to one of their own people. According to the old and traditional distribution of responsibilities, the Banu ‘Adi were usually selected for roles of ambassadorship. Following this tradition, the Prophet (sws) instructed ‘Umar (rta), who belonged to the Banu ‘Adi to go to Makkah. He suggested that the Quraysh had many complaints against him and hence they would be prejudiced while speaking with him. Additionally, considering that the Quraysh were in an excitable mood, a person whose tribe was present in Makkah should be sent to negotiate with them. There was no one strong enough from the Banu ‘Adi in Makkah who could provide him with any protection. This advice was very sound. Hence, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan (rta) was chosen for the purpose. He belonged to the Banu Umayyah which was leading the Quraysh. ‘Uthman (rta) left for Makkah. On the way, he met Aban ibn Sa‘id ibn al-‘As who was one of his well wishers and also from his tribe. He took him under his protection and arranged meetings with the leaders of the Quraysh. The Quraysh responded by saying that they would not allow the Muslims to perform ‘umrah that year at any cost, but there was no barrier for ‘Uthman (rta). He could proceed to offer ‘umrah. ‘Uthman (rta) rejected this offer by saying that since the Prophet (sws) was being stopped from ‘umrah, he would not do it without him.   

The Pledge of Ridwan

To give an even more serious visage to their threat to the Muslims which they had initiated by cutting off the legs of Khirash’s she-camel and attacking him, the Quraysh took advantage of ‘Uthman’s visit. They delayed their negotiations with him unnecessarily and spread the rumour within his camp that he had been killed in Makkah. Biographers do not assign specific responsibility for the spread of this rumour, but indications are that the Quraysh were responsible. It is obvious that such a rumour could not have spread among Muslims by itself. Firstly, they were in a situation of siege themselves and were not even allowed to move freely, let alone be aware of the situation of the Quraysh. Also, the people of faith had been trained on such lines that every person adopted a highly responsible attitude and sought guidance from the Prophet (sws) in every matter. Secondly, the hypocrites who were experts in rumour mongering were not part of this journey; this group was entirely made up of true Muslims. Thirdly, the Quraysh had assigned people to hover around the Muslims to keep a watch, jeer at them and make fun of them. It was very easy to spread any rumors through them and considering the hostile attitude of the Quraysh, such actions were expected. It seems therefore, that conspirators within the Quraysh had spread this rumour and as soon as the Muslims came to know of it, they were sure of its authenticity.

The Quraysh had spread this rumour so that the Muslims might become even more frightened. But its impact was opposite to their expectations. Instead of Muslims running away from the place which held danger for them, every individual became livid with anger and wanted to take revenge. To control the anger of the Companions, the Prophet (sws) sat down under a cactus tree and began to take an oath from every Muslim, that he would not rest without avenging the murder of ‘Uthman (rta) and for this, would not desist from sacrificing his own life. All Companions took this oath with great passion and religious fervour. This turn of situation caused the Quraysh to adopt a more reasonable attitude. Instead of further delay in the negotiations, they decided to send ‘Uthman (rta) back to his camp and promised him that they would send their representative to discuss and finalise an agreement with the Prophet (sws).

When the oath-taking process was over, and ‘Uthman (rta) returned to the camp of the Muslims, everyone realized that the rumour was false. Thus, it was no longer necessary to carry out any action according to the oath. However, the success which the Companions had achieved remained their hallmark forever.

The unique feature of the oath taken by the Prophet (sws) in Hudaybiyyah was that it had occurred under conditions of poverty and being away from home, in the centre surrounded by enemies and when Muslims had imposed the conditions of the ahram upon themselves. They possessed only swords; they had neither shields, nor archery equipment, nor spears. On the other hand, the enemy was giving continuous signals that it would use every possible weapon of oppression and cruelty. While taking the oath, the assets of the faithful was the power they gained by submission to and focus on God; faith and belief, pride in their religion and belief in help from God. God Almighty accepted this fealty; gave satisfaction and a sense of calm to the hearts of the Companions; bestowed His blessings and gave tidings of continuing success in the near future. The Qur’an mentions this in the following words: 

Allah’s Good Pleasure was on the Believers when they swore Fealty to thee under the Tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down Tranquillity to them; and He rewarded them with a speedy Victory; And many gains will they acquire [besides]: and Allah is Exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom. Allah has promised you many gains that ye shall acquire, and He has given you these beforehand; and He has restrained the hands of men from you; that it may be a Sign for the Believers, and that He may guide you to a Straight Path; And other gains [there are], which are not within your power, but which Allah has compassed: and Allah has power over all things. (48:18-21) 

In the history of Islam, this oath became known as the Pledge of Ridwan, and all those Companions who took this oath and demonstrated an exceptional example to sacrifice their lives in the way of faith assumed a special status in Muslim society. The verse says that God Almighty Himself motivated these Companions. This motivation is the real strength that cannot be defeated by the strongest of enemies. The faithful were rewarded with many successes as a result of this oath; although these were still hidden in the future but had been decided upon in the divine Court. Success in the near future meant the victory of Khyber which Muslims attained soon after return from Hudaybiyyah and where they also gained war booty in plenty. The victory which was to be defined by God Almighty refers to the victory of Makkah which was gained after two years. 


Agreement for Peace

Before the oath, the Quraysh were satisfied that they had forced the Muslims to stop advancing towards Makkah by threatening them and that their policy had been successful as per their expectations. Hence, the signals and messages they sent out became harder and more non flexible. Suddenly, they saw their plan go awry as the environment for revenge became stronger within the Muslim camp and unforeseen circumstances arose due to the latter’s passion to sacrifice their lives. At this stage, any counter revenge actions could have been disastrous for the Quraysh themselves. It may have produced the danger of a battle within the boundaries of the Haram in which one party would have been those who had come to offer the ‘umrah and who wished to abide by the sanctity of the Haram, and the other party would have been the custodians of the Haram and their allies. The blame for such a battle would have lain solely upon the Quraysh because the leaders of the three powerful tribes: Ahabish, the Banu Khuda‘ah and the Banu Thaqif had observed with their own eyes that the Muslims had no intention of starting a war and that they had come only with the passion to pay tribute and perform the actions as prescribed by God. They had gone to the extent of offering a compromise in order to convince the Quraysh to adopt an attitude of reason, but the Quraysh were adamant not to do so. If such a war had been fought, it would have been a clear proof of their egotism, rigidity and unfair use of their status, which would have greatly harmed their reputation and they would not have been able to compensate for it ever. In this completely changed situation, the Quraysh had no option but to extend their hand to calm the enraged Muslims, so that the danger of a war could be averted and they did not lose face. This was the same solution which had been suggested by the Prophet (sws) earlier. The Quraysh accepted it now, but only after considerable loss. They sent one of their leaders, Suhayl ibn ‘Amr to the Muslim camp for negotiations on a compromise. On seeing him coming, the Prophet (sws) said that God had made matters easy for them. This was a signal to the fact that the Quraysh had given up their insistence and adopted the advice which he had been giving to them and that an opportunity for a compromise was evident.

A question arises here that, when the Quraysh were denying the Prophet (sws) and that the confrontation with them till then was due to the fact that it was not possible to arrive at a peaceful agreement with them because they were deniers of the Prophet (sws), why was there a change in the approach adopted by the Muslims? In our view, the answer is that in spite of condemning the leadership of Quraysh and declaring them to be liable to divine punishment, the Quran had never, at any stage, announced that their people would not be given time to correct themselves. In Surah Anfal, after commenting upon the Battle of Badr, while very strong and strict language has been used against the Quraysh, more time was given to them to reform themselves and the following instruction was given:  

But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah. For He is One that heareth and knoweth [all things]. (8:61) 

In the light of this guidance, the Prophet (sws) brought the possibility of a truce to their attention, but the Quraysh gave this a wrong meaning altogether, and thought that this change in the attitude of Muslims was due to their weakness. They insisted upon confrontation, but the Pledge of Ridwan was enough to open their eyes. In order to escape from this predicament, it became necessary for them to accept the offer of a truce. When they expressed their agreement for this, the Prophet (sws) had already been assigned to agree to such an agreement according to God’s above instruction. He, therefore, welcomed Suhayl ibn ‘Amr and began negotiations.

The Quraysh created unnecessary problems in agreeing to the terms of the agreement and tried to gain the upper hand on every point. Although they satisfied their ego through this approach, they were unable to obtain any political benefit in the future.

Biography books and narratives and Ahadith tell us that the wording of this agreement was somewhat as follows:

“These are the points on which Mohammed bin Abdullah has agreed with Suhayl ibn ‘Amr.


· That the two have agreed to remove the danger of war from people for a period of 10 years. During this period, the people will live in peace and both parties will refrain from attacking each other.

· That any person from the Quraysh who goes to Muhammad (sws) without permission from his guardian will be returned and any person from the Companions of Muhammad (sws) who goes to the Quraysh will not be returned.

· That between us, all kinds of hostile activities will remain suspended. Neither will go against the other either openly or in secret.

· That anyone else who wishes to side with Muhammad (sws) and to enter into this agreement can do so, and anyone who wishes to side with the Quraysh and to enter the agreement can do so.

· That you (the Prophet) shall return this year and shall not enter Makkah, but next year, we (Quraysh) will retire and you will be able to enter Makkah with your Companions. You will stay there for three days and you will possess the arms of the soldier (swords in their sheaths). You will not carry any other arms into the city.  

The witnesses to this agreement were Abu Bakr (rta), ‘Umar (rta), ‘Uthman (rta), Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas (rta) and Muhammad ibn Maslamah (rta) from the side of Muslims and Huwaytab ibn ‘Abd al-‘Uzza and Makraz ibn Hafs from the side of the Quraysh.


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)     





1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Sirah al-nabawiyyah, vol. 2, 228.


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