Sometimes, we encounter rare life-changing events or situations at critical points in our lives which God decrees for a pre-ordained purpose.
At first, this purpose might not be discernible or obvious at the time these events occur, but it might become apparent in the long-term, perhaps after the passage of many years, when the outcomes of the events shed more light upon why God caused them to happen in the first place.
God, in His Supreme wisdom, sometimes hides from us the subtle nuances and long-term outcomes of things that have been written in our fate, until His Divine decree comes to pass, and after several years, when we analyze these life-events in retrospect, we realize in awe why God made them happen, and how beneficial they were for us.
The Quran describes the event of the drawing up of the treaty of Hudaibiyah as a “clear victory”, in the first verse of chapter Al-Fath. However, ironically, or shall we say a bit paradoxically, when this event was actually taking place as a key milestone in the history of Islam, the Muslims who were part of it in the companionship of Prophet Muhammad, considered it anything but a victory.
In fact, they were rather mortified and angry at the way things were turning out, and some of them even went so far as to question the Prophet (peace be upon him) about why he was letting things evolve in what seemed to be a manner completely against the favor, interests and benefit of Islam and the Muslims.
Events Leading up to the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyah
Prophet Muhammad had a dream in which he saw himself performing `Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage) in Makkah along with his companions. Prophetic dreams are true prophecies, hence, much to his companions’ joy, he decided to set off with them from Madinah towards Makkah on a peaceful pilgrimage journey, in the sacred state of ihram without weapons, sacrificial animals in tow, despite the ongoing daggers-drawn air of hostility that prevailed between them and the Quraysh of Makkah.
When the Quraysh heard of the approaching Muslim congregation, a flurry ensued. Investigations revealed to them the Muslims’ true, non-violent intent of just performing `Umrah in and around the precincts of Al-Masjid Al-Haram, a pilgrimage that was considered a sacred ritual even in the pagan Arab religion.
This information eventually paved the way for peace negotiations between the Quraysh and Prophet Muhammad, which led to the establishment of a truce between both parties. There are several points to highlight about the wisdom and restraint that Prophet Muhammad displayed during the treaty of Al-Hudaibiyah in order to ensure that Islam could flourish through this gateway to peace:
Not Reprimanding His Demoralized, Unresponsive and Angry Followers
The conditions of Al-Hudaibiyah treaty posed a novel leadership challenge for Prophet Muhammad, because it was the first time that he encountered resentment and dissatisfaction among his followers regarding the way he was agreeing to the biased demands and stipulations of the disbelievers.
Hitherto, the Muslims had always submitted instantly to the commands of Prophet Muhammad, and had always provided him unflinching support. This was not the case during this historic incident that took place at Al-Hudaibiyah.
Prophet Muhammad undertook negotiations with the Quraysh and consequently a peace treaty was drawn up between them, which would curtail fighting for ten years. The Quraysh included some stipulations in this treaty that – at the outset – went glaringly against the interest of the Muslims, and blatantly in favor of the Quraysh. A few of these conditions were:
– The Muslims would return to Madinah that year and return the next year to perform `Umrah, but only for three days
– That they would return to the Quraysh any Muslim who fled to Madinah from Makkah;
– Any Muslim who came to the Quraysh from Madinah would not be returned.
The final, most coveted, condition was that there would be no fighting for ten years.
When the Prophet agreed to the conditions, his loyal followers were flabbergasted, not to mention enraged. For the first time since he began his mission, Prophet Muhammad watched them experience and express feelings of anger, denial and indignation at his acquiescence and agreement with the unfair demands of the Quraysh. Most of all, they found it practically impossible to accept that they would be returning to Madinah without performing `Umrah that year. This became apparent when he asked them to exit their state of ihram and sacrifice their animals thrice, but none of them moved.
Farsightedness in Goal Achievement
Wisdom grants immense farsightedness, discernment and good judgment to whoever possesses it. Prophet Muhammad displayed these traits at Al-Hudaibiyah when he displayed tact, forbearance and restraint with the Quraysh and their apparently prejudiced and unjust demands. The Prophet’s goal was to spread the message of Islam far and wide. His vision was to see Islam grow, prosper and get established not just within, but beyond, the boundaries of Arabia.
In order to accomplish his long-term vision, he was wise enough to let the Quraysh assume that they had “won” over him, by agreeing to their demands. In the short-term, yes, the apparent ‘victory’ did appear to be theirs. But being the wise, far-sighted leader that he was, Prophet Muhammad knew that his conceding to their selfish stipulations was just the beginning of the turning point that was to become the stepping-stone for the conquest of Islam in not just Makkah, but the entire Arabian Peninsula.
Tactful Negotiation with Acrimonious Enemies
Is it not a common sight nowadays to see leaders of different political, religious or other factions make derogatory remarks about each other, even during peace talks, civil meetings, or ceasefire negotiations?
They dish out threats, either veiled or open, lose their cool at the slightest provocation, and start to trade insults and tirades at the drop of a hat!
Prophet Muhammad displayed exemplary patience when negotiating the peace treaty at Al-Hudaibiyah with the Quraysh delegates who came to talk to him. For example, when the rather impudent `Urwa ibn Mas’ud, a main leader of the Quraysh, was talking to him, he became disrespectful towards the Prophet, and tried to pull at his beard. The Prophet did not retaliate.
The Prophet had the bigger picture in mind – that of the welfare and success of Islam – which is why he displayed forbearance, and overlooked all personal attacks the Quraysh made against him. He wanted to facilitate a truce, and culminate a treaty that would allow Muslims to regain entry into the central, sacred city of Makkah, thus enabling Islam to spread and grow according to his mission.
Compromising on Trivialities, Crushing His Ego
When the treaty of Al-Hudaibiyah was being drawn up, the Prophet instructed Ali ibn Abi Talib to write his name down in it as “Muhammad the Messenger of Allah”, to which the Quraysh objected, giving the reason that they did not believe that he was God’s messenger, so how could they sign a treaty that said he was so? They insisted that his name instead be penned down as “Muhammad ibn Abdullah”.
Prophet Muhammad readily agreed to this request, despite it being an open rejection of his status as God’s Prophet. There are few men who can allow their ego to be crushed in such a manner, and their personal honor to be thus undermined, all for the sake of the preservation or propagation of Islam.
Consulting the Wise Wife
Dealing with a demoralized crowd of sad and unresponsive followers for the first time, who did not do as he was telling them to do (i.e. to exit ihram and slaughter their animals), the Prophet withdrew to his wife, Umm Salamah, and confided in her about this novel predicament. Umm Salamah said:
“O Prophet of Allah, is that what you want? Go out and do not speak a word to any one of them until you have slaughtered your sacrifice and called your barber to shave your head.”
When he did that, they got up and offered their sacrifices. Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar said: “This points to the virtue of consultation, and that it is permissible to consult a virtuous wife.”
A wise leader consults his wife in matters regarding the successful “human resource management” of his subordinates or followers, especially if she is virtuous, knowledgeable and wise herself. Any Muslim man who finds himself in a leadership position should, therefore, never consider it beneath his dignity, or a blow to his ego, to go to his wife and ask her what he should do if he faces a dilemma and cannot figure out what to do.
If the divinely-guided Prophet can consult his wife about how to inspire more than a thousand men to obey him, Muslim men nowadays should also follow his example, and not undermine consulting their wives, even in matters related to corporate governance or the management of their company’s employees. Another point to note is that the Prophet even took along a wife on the arduous journey from Madinah to Makkah! This indicates how a man should try to keep his wife in his company as much as he can, even during strenuous travels undertaken to perform pilgrimage in the state of ihram.
The True Victory
Narrated Abu Wail:
We were in Siffin and Sahl ibn Hunaif got up and said, “O people! Blame yourselves! We were with the Prophet on the day of Hudaibiyah, and if we had been called to fight, we would have fought. But Umar ibn Al Khattab came and said:
“O Allah’s Messenger! Aren’t we in the right and our opponents in the wrong?”
The Prophet said, “Yes.”
Umar said, “Aren’t our killed persons in Paradise and theirs in Hell?”
He said, “Yes.”
Umar said, “Then why should we accept hard terms in matters concerning our religion? Shall we return before Allah judges between us and them?”
Allah’s Messenger said, “O Ibn Al-Khattab! I am the messenger of Allah, and Allah will never degrade me.” Then Umar went to Abu Bakr and told him the same as he had told the Prophet.
On that, Abu Bakr said (to Umar), “He is the messenger of Allah and Allah will never degrade him.” Then chapter Al-Fath was revealed and the Prophet recited it to the end in front of Umar.
On that Umar asked: “O Allah’s Messenger! Was it a victory?”
Prophet Muhammad said: “Yes”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
As I said at the start of this article, some “victories” in life start out as apparent setbacks or defeats, with anger, denial and pain as the initial reaction to turns of events.
The mills grind slowly, but as the years pass and more things happen, one realizes how God favors His sincere slaves over His enemies and makes them come out unanimously victorious in the end.