As we have seen Makkans and their allies failed to dislodge the Muslims in Madina despite several campaigns they had launched for the purpose. Their loss in the invasions was greater than they could inflict on the Muslims. Particularly during the Ahzab siege their loss was substantially more than the harm they could cause to Madina and its inhabitants. Muslims were gradually growing in numerical and material strength and in terms of influence even in the distant peripheries of Madina. It added to their confidence to venture out for pilgrimage into Ka’ba that had been adopted as their Kiblah in the second year of Hijrah, while it was still controlled by their arch enemies pagan Quresh. It was during the sixth year of Hijra (628 CE) when the Prophet (PBUH) along with 1400 of his companions arrived in Hudaybiya on the outskirts of Makka and sent an emissary seeking permission to enter the town in peace to perform pilgrimage. Instead of granting permission Makkans sent a delegation to push for a broader agreement with the Prophet (PBUH) whereby Muslims instead of visiting Makkah that year would be allowed to visit next year and that also only for three days. There were also some conditions of the treaty seeking a sort of unilateral advantage to Makkans on several issues of vital significance to Muslims. These were seen very unfavourable by the visiting Muslims. Therefore, they generally wanted to reject this and make a forced entry into the city that could potentially lead to bloodshed. Despite being disturbed by the agitation of his colleagues the Prophet overruled the objections and accepted the treaty with endorsement from the Divine Wisdom. The treaty (despite its unfavourable conditions) provided a degree of peace to Muslims, that they rarely had till then. By having neutralised the hanging threat from Makkans, even though temporarily, through the treaty, the Prophet focussed on the consolidation of his mission, expand its influence across the length and breadth of Arabia and gain more converts to his mission. He even targeted the world outside by sending his emissaries to the major capitals of the time, far beyond Arabia, inviting their rulers to accept Islam and surrender to the will of God. Thus, instead of causing a setback to Muslims signing of the treaty became a turning point in Islamic history after which there was no holding back in their march forward. Only divine wisdom could have anticipated the good that this peace treaty, which most Muslims were perceiving as humiliating for them, would bring Muslims and the cause of Islam.
The unprecedented successes of Muslims were naturally to send alarm bells to the Makkans and their arch anti-Muslim allies. Therefore, despite the treaty obligation they began to conspire along with some of their mischievous allies against the Muslims and their allies. (On both sides these were mostly Ahli-Kitab i.e. Jewish and Christen tribes. This necessitated a firm response from Muslims to assert their moral authority in commensuration with the influence and political position that they had by then gained within Arabia. This was the context in which the sternest verses on Jihad (for military action) were revealed warning pagans who were repeatedly violating their oath (treaty obligations) under Hudaibiya Peace treaty. These verses formed part of 9th chapter of Quran that is unique as it is only one of the 114 of its chapters that begins without invoking the mercy of God. It was because the sternness of message it wanted to convey to mischievous Makkans and their allied tribes. The gist of these verses broadly included the bar on the pagans from entering the Ka’aba (9:28), commandment to fight the People of the Book until they surrender (9:29), forbiddance to the Prophet against praying for the forgiveness of the hypocrites (9:80) and against praying for those who died as unbelievers (9:113). The reason for this stiff approach was indicated as whenever they (the hostile Arabs) came upon the Muslims, they defied the peace treaty (of Hudaibiya) and disregarded even blood ties (9:10). Further these (like 9:8) cautioned Muslims about duplicity in their character and therefore authorised to “kill such archetypes/prototypes of defiance (kufr) who broke their oaths (treaty obligations)… and defamed their religion (9:12) and who had done all they could to drive the Messenger away (from Makkah)…(9:13). In doing all this God assures them of help against their enemies, bring disgrace upon them and soothe the bosoms of those who believe (9:14).
The revelation gives an ultimatum of four months to the hostile pagans who were repeatedly breaking their treaty obligations (9:1-3). It commanded the Muslims to kill them wherever they come upon them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place (take all possible measures as advisable in warfare) after the expiry of the treaty period (9:5) unless they repented, kept up prayer and gave the Zakat (9:5, 9:11). However, the pagans who were honouring their treaty of peace and not helping anyone against the Muslims were to be given time until the treaty term expired (9:4). At the same time, those pagans who sought protection were to be given protection, until they heard the word of God and then to be delivered to a place of security (i.e. their tribal homelands) so that they were not harmed by any other victimized Muslim (9:6). Therefore, as per the divine command Muslims gave advance notice for the renunciation of the treaty & began preparation for effective offense to capturing the Makkah and securing Ka’ba exclusively for the worship of God.
But in spite of the severity of provocations from the Quresh and stern warnings from God, the Prophet, despite resolute march into Makkah (10-20 Ramadan, H. 8 ), once more set a great example of his composed grandeur, generosity, compassion, tolerance and unwavering commitment to peace, mercy and nonviolence towards its inhabitants. It was so despite the fact that they had oppressed him and his companions, forced them to leave their homes, conspired to kill him and not allowing him to live in peace in his new home in Madina, preventing Muslims from performing the pilgrimage of Ka’ba even unarmed and finally breaching the truce that they entered in with Muslims at Hudaibiya. Despite their unending hostility towards Muslims, the Prophet with ten thousand strong force on triumphant entry (Fathe Makkah, 8 H.) into the city issued strict orders to his commanders entering Makkah from different directions not to use their arms except in self-defence when attacked. There were loud declaration made across the city that: “Whoever remains shut in his house will be safe so also one who goes to the courtyard of the Ka’ba or deposes his arms, or takes refuge in the house of Abu-Sufyan (leader of Makkans)”. Thus, the town was overwhelmed and occupied without any bloodshed. After conquering, the Makkah was placed under the governorship of one Attab appointed by the Prophet before his departure from the city. The city under him continued with its multi religious character for worshipers of divergent faiths for about a year till the whole of its population gradually converted to Islam. Thereafter, the Prophet, during the final two years of his worldly life spent on attending to remaining trouble spots and challenges and thereby securing the whole Arabia for Islam and the faithful. In the 10th (H.) he, along with a large number of his followers, sets for final pilgrimage (Haj) despite his failing health. There at Arafat from the top of Hill of Mercy (Jabal ar-Rahma) he delivers his final sermon refreshing and outlining the fundamentals of his message for his followers to remain committed to, carry forward to other of the faithful and follow in the right spirit. The same day ((9 Dhulhaj, 10. H. i.e. March 6, 832 CE) comes final (the last related verse of Quran) announcing from behalf of Allah that;
“This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”
The wars that Muslims fought towards the latter part (last two years) of the Prophet’s life and continued during the Khulfai Rashidun were mainly to secure Islam and Muslims within the Arabian Peninsula and its surrounding regions. This eventful march of Muslims of a few decades transformed the whole known world of the time changing the whole structure of the old order with a new one with tremendous creative potential. It founded a new dynamic civilisation that remained at the centre of global political and cultural power for almost a millennium to come still leaves a number of lessons for us to be summed up of the distinctive contours of the striving (Jihad) that brought this major revolution in human history.
(Next part next week)