T he Treaty of Hodeibia is very significant. The Quran when mentioning its significance refers to it as the ‘victory’ because now Muhammad’s political status was recognised and he was seen as an equal independent power. It included a ten year truce which would afford opportunity and time for the new religion to expand, and in the following two years of the treaty Islam’s numbers greatly increased.
Improvement in relations with the Bedouin tribes
Steadily in the sixth year of the Hegira the influence of Muhammad increased partly through religious motives and partly from motives of booty and conquest. Some important advances were made in gaining over some of the Bedouin tribes towards the direction of Mecca. They had not yet made a profession of Islam, but they had entered into friendly relations and Muhammad could now count on their assistance or at least their neutrality in the event of any hostilities with Mecca.
Muhammad and his followers anxious to perform the pilgrimage in Mecca.
Six years had passed now since Muhammad and those who emigrated with him, had seen their native city; had worshipped at the Holy house, and the sacred palaces around it; or had joined the yearly pilgrimage, which from childhood they had grown up to regard as an essential part of their social and religious
life. They now longed to revisit these scenes and unite themselves in the solemn rites of the Ka’’aba. For the cause of Muhammad in particular it was of great importance that he should show practically his attachment to the ancient faith of Mecca. He had, indeed in the Quran, insisted upon the faith as an indispensable element of the new religion; he had upbraided the Qurraish for obstructing the approach of pious worshippers to the Temple of God; and had denounced them, because of their idolatrous practices, as not its rightful guardians. So he had threatened the citizens of Mecca:
> “And what have they to urge that God should not chastise them, seeing that they have hindered His servants from the sacred Temple; and they are not the Guardians thereof, verily, none are its Guardians but the pious. But the greater part of them do not consider. And their prayers at the Temple are nought but whistling through the fingers, and the clapping of the hands. Taste therefore, the punishment of your unbelief.” (Al-Anfal 8:34,35)
Yet something more than this was needed to exhibit his attachment to the ancestral creed and observances of the Qurraish. If he made no effort to visit the holy places, and fulfil the sacred rites, he would lay himself justly open to the charge of being lukewarm and neglectful. His precept must be supported by example.
Inducements for making the Lesser pilgrimage
While meditating on these things, Muhammad had a vision in the night. He dreamt that he entered Mecca followed by his people in peaceful security and that he made the circuit of the Ka’aba, slew the victims and completed all the ceremonies of the pilgrimage. The dream was communicated to his followers, and every one longed for its realisation. It foretold nothing of fighting or conquest; the entrance was to be quiet and unopposed.
Now the sacred month of Dzul Cada was at hand, in which the Umra or Lesser pilgrimage might with much propriety and merit be performed. There would be less chance of a collision with hostile tribes, than at the Greater pilgrimage in the succeeding month. Furthermore in the month of Dzul Cada, war was unlawful throughout Arabia, if Muhammad and his followers approached the Ka’aba in the peaceful garb of pilgrims, the Qurraish would be bound be every pledge of national faith to leave them unmolested. So as soon as this course was resolved upon, the people of Medina were invited to join the Prophet. To swell the camp and make it more imposing, the Arab tribes who had entered into friendly relations with Muhammad were also summoned. Few responded as there was little inducement on the score of booty and most alleged that their occupations and families prevented them from leaving home.
Departure and assembly at Hodeibia
Early in the month of Dzul Cada, in the sixth year of the Hegira, Muhammad entered his house, bathed himself, and put on the two pieces of cloth which constitute the pilgrim garb. He then mounted his camel, Al Caswa and led the cavalcade of fifteen hundred men on the first stage of their journey. At Dzul Huleifa s eventy camels were prepared for sacrifice, their heads were turned towards Mecca and customary ornaments were hung about their necks, and a mark fixed on their right sides. As they preceded a troop of twenty horsemen marched in advance to give notice of any danger. The pilgrims carried no arms but such as were allowed by custom to the traveller, namely each a sheathed sword, with perhaps a bow and quiver filled with arrows. The Prophet took one of his wives, Omm Salma, with him.
News of Muhammad’s approach reached Mecca which filled the Qurraish with apprehension. The citizens of Mecca, perhaps not without reason, suspected treachery and arming themselves occupied a position on the Medina road. One of Muhammad’s spies brought the news to the Prophet, and now that the main high road was blocked he turned off in the evening and entered a fatiguing march through rugged land until they reached the open space called Hodeibia, on the verge of the sacred territory which encircles Mecca. The wells were choked with sand and had little or no water Muhammad, therefore, taking an arrow from his quiver desired one of his followers to descend a well, and with it dig and scrape away the obstructing sand, soon an abundance of water accumulated. The Traditions magnify this event into a water miracle.
The Treaty of Hodeibia
The Qurraish no sooner learned that the pilgrims had taken this direction, then fell back on the city for its defence and began sending deputations to ascertain the real intentions of Muhammad. In the initial deputations the Prophet declared that he had only one design and that was ’to perform the pilgrimage of the Holy house, and whosoever hindereth us therefrom, we shall fight against them.’ Negotiations then began resulting in the treaty called ‘The Pledge of the Tree’. This settlement secured a ten year truce in which on the one hand the safety of the Syrian caravans was secured while on the other hand, free liberty was given to converts to pass over to the Muslim side. The treaty was ratified with witnesses and a copy of this important document was given to Soheil and his comrades while Muhammad kept the original.
The treaty is styled a ‘Victory’ in the Quran
Though unable to enter Mecca, Muhammad resolved to complete the required ceremonies of the pilgrimage so he sacrificed the victims and concluded the solemnities by shaving his head. His followers following his example either cut their hair of shaved it. The pilgrims were disappointed at the imperfect fulfilment of the pilgrimage and crestfallen at the abortive result of their long journey. But in truth a great step had been gained by Muhammad. His political status, as an equal and independent power, was acknowledged by the treaty: the ten year truce would afford opportunity and time for the new religion to expand, and to force its claims upon the conviction of the Qurraish. The treaty also most importantly accorded Muhammad and his people to visit Mecca in the following year, and then for three days to occupy the city undisturbed. A revelation was accordingly produced to raise the drooping spirits of the pilgrims. Standing on his camel Muhammad announced the words found in the Quran:
> “Verily We have given unto thee an evident Victory; That God may pardon thee the sin that is past and that which is to come, and fulfil His favour upon thee, and lead thee in the right way; And that God may assist thee with a glorious assistance. “(Al-Fath 48:1,2)
The consequences of the Victory
This victory has puzzled many of the commentators, who seek to apply it to other occasions; but their applications are far-fetched and untenable. The comments of the biographer Zohri, though somewhat exaggerated, are very much to the purpose. He says’ There was no previous victory in Islam, greater than this. On all other occasions there was fighting: but here war was laid aside, tranquillity and peace restored; the one party henceforward met and conversed freely with the other, and there was no man of sense or judgement amongst the idolaters who was not led thereby to join Islam. And truly in the two years that followed, as many persons entered the faith as there belonged to it altogether before, or even a greater number.’
‘The proof of this,’ adds Ibn Hisham ‘is that, whereas Muhammad went forth to Hodeibia with only fourteen hundred men, he was followed two years later, in the attack on Mecca by ten thousand.’
Muhammad went on to reprimand severely the Arab tribes which neglected the summons to the pilgrimage and they were forbidden to join the true believers in any marauding excursions whatever:
> “The Arabs who stayed behind will say to thee Our possessions and our families engaged us; wherefore ask thou pardon for us. They say that with their tongues which is not in their hearts ……. “ (Al-Fath 48:11)
Those who took the oath under the tree are then applauded for their faithfulness; victory and great spoil should be their reward:
>”Verily God was well pleased with the believers, when they pledged themselves to thee under the tree. He knew what was in their hearts, and He caused tranquillity to descend upon them, and granted them a speedy Victory’” (Al-Fath 48:18)
Muhammad’s dream of universal submission to Islam
Towards the close of the sixth year of the Hegira a new and singular project occupied Muhammad’s attention. It was nothing less than to summon the sovereigns of the surrounding states and embassies to his allegiance! It may seem chimerical and wild design in the Prophet of Medina that he should dream of supremacy, either spiritual or political, over Egypt, Abyssinia and Syria and even the Roman and Persian Empires. But it was so. The Prophet was a person sagacious and discerning who perceived in the signs of the times a grand opportunity of success. The Roman Empire was broken and wearied by successive shocks of barbarous invasion, and together with the Kingdom of Persia had been wasted by a long and devastating war. Schism had rent and paralysed the Christian Church. The Melchites and the Jacobites, the Monothites and the Nestorians, regarded each other with a deadly hatred, and were ready to welcome any intruder who would rid them of their adversaries. It was thus an opportune time for Muhammad to send embassies to the Kaiser, and the Chosroes, to Abyssinia, Egypt, Syria and Yemama.
It was suggested by one of his followers that the kings of the earth did not receive despatches, unless they were attested by a seal. Accordingly Muhammad had a seal made of silver and engraved it with the words MUHAMMAD THE APOSTLE OF GOD. Letters were written and sealed and six messengers were despatched. Wackidi’s secretary states that they all set off on the same day in Muharram A.H. 7 while other authorities state that they set off from Medina at different dates.
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