THE PEACE OF HUDEIBIYA
Six years had already elapsed since the Prophet and his Meccan followers fled from their birthplace. Their hearts began to year for their homes and for their temple of the Kaaba. The season of the pilgrimage approached. The Prophet announced his intention to visit he holy centre. Numerous voices of his disciples responded to the call. Preparations were soon made for the journey to Mecca. The Prophet accompanied by seven or eight hundred Moslems, refugees and helpers, all totally unarmed, set out on the pilgrimage. The Koreishites who were still full of animosity towards the Moslems gathered a large army to prevent the true believers from entering Mecca. They maltreated the envoy whom the Prophet had sent to ask their permission to visit the holy places. After much difficultly a treaty was concluded by which it was agreed that all hostilities should cease for ten years’ that any one coming from the Koreishites to the Prophet without the permission of the guardian or chief, should be given back to the idolaters; that any Moslem persons going over to the Meccans should not be surrendered; that any tribe desirous of entering into alliance, either with the Koreishites or with the Moslems should be at liberty to do so without disputes; that the Moslems should go back to Medina on the present occasion and stop advancing further; that they should be permitted in the following year to visit Mecca, and to remain therefore three days with the arms they used on journeys, namely, their scimitars in sheaths.
The treaty thus ended, the Prophet returned with his people to Medina.
About this time it was revealed to the Prophet that his mission should be universal. He dispatched several envoys to invite the neighbouring sovereigns to Islam. The embassy to the king of Persia. Chosroes Parvis, was received with disdain and contumely. He was haughtily amazed at the boldness of the Meccan fugitive in addressing him on terms of equality. He was so enraged that he tore into pieces the Prophet’s letter of invitation to Islam and dismissed the envoy from his presence with great contempt. When the Prophet received information of this treatment, he calmly observed; “Thus will the empire of Chosroes be torn to pieces.”
The embassy to Heraclius, the Emperor of the Romans was received much more politely and reverentially. He treated the ambassador with great respect and sent the Prophet a gracious reply to his message.
Another envoy was sent to an Arab prince of the Ghassanite tribe a Christian feudatory of Heraclius. This prince instead of receiving the envoy with any respect cruelly murder him. This act caused great consternation among the Moslems who considered it as an outrage of international obligations.
In the same year the Jews of Khaibar, a strongly fortified territory at a distance of four days’ journey from Medina, showed implacable hatred towards the Moslems. Several branches of the “Nadeer” and “Qoraiza” took refuge at Khaibar which contributed to increase the feeling of animosity on the part of their brethren towards the Prophet and his followers. United by alliance with the tribe of “Ghatfan” as well as with other cognate tribes, the Jews of Khaibar made serious attempts to form a coalition against the Moslems. The Prophet and his adherents were apprised of this movement. Immediate measures had to be taken in order to repress any new attack upon Medina. An expedition of 1400 men was soon prepared to march against Khaibar. The allies of the Jews left them to face the war with the Moslems all alone. The Jews firmly resisted the attacks of the Moslems but eventually all their fortresses had to be surrendered, one after the other to their enemies. They prayed for forgiveness, which was accorded them on certain conditions. Their lands and immovable property were secured to them, together with the free practice of their religion.
After subduing Khaibar, the Moslems returned to Medina in safety. Before the end of the year, it being the seventh year of the Hijra, the Prophet and his adherents availed themselves of their armistice with the Koreishites to accomplish their desire of visiting the holy Kaaba. The Prophet accompanied by 2000 Moslems went on his journey to Mecca to perform the rites of pilgrimage. On this occasion the Koreishites evacuated the city during the three days on which the ceremonies lasted.
Muir in his Life of Mohammed Vol III. Comments on the incident as follows: “It was surely a strange sight which at this time presented itself at the vale of Mecca, a sight unique in the history of the world. The ancient city is for three days evacuated by all its inhabitants, high and low, every house deserted, and, as they retire, the exiled converts, many years banished from their birth-place, approach in a great body accompanied by their allies, revisit the empty homes of their childhood, and within the short allotted space, fulfill the rites of pilgrimage. The outside inhabitants, climbing the heights around take refuge under tents or other shelter among the hills and glens; and clustering on the overhanging peak of Abu Quebeis, thence watch the movements of the visitors beneath, as with the Prophet at their head, they make the circuit of the Kaaba and the procession between Es-safa and Marwah, and anxiously scan every figure, if perchance they may recognise among the worshippers some long–lost friend or relative. It was a scene rendered possible only by the throes which gave birth to Islam.”
In accordance with the terms of the treaty, the Moslems left Mecca at the end of three days’ visit. This peaceful visit was followed by important conversions among the Koreishites. Khaled Ibn el-Walid, known as the Sword of God, who, before this, had been a bitter enemy of Islam and who commanded the Koreishites Cavalry at Ohod; and Amr Ibn el-Aas, another important character and warrior adopted the new faith.
When the Prophet and his followers returned to Medina, they arranged an expedition to exact retribution from the Ghassnite Prince who killed the Moslem envoy. A force of 3000 men, under the Prophet’s adopted son Zaid was sent to take reparation from the offending tribe, Khaled Ibn el-Walid was one of the generals chosen for the expedition. When they reached the neighbourhood of Muta, a village to the south–east of the Dead Sea, they met an overwhelming force of Arabs and Romans who were assembled to oppose them. The Moslems, however, resolved resolutely to push forward. Their courage was of no avail and they suffered great losses. In this battle Zaid and Jaafar, a cousin of the Prophet and several other notables were killed. Khaled Ibn el-Walid, by a series of manoeuvres, succeeded in drawing off the army, and conducting it without further losses to Medina. A month later however, Amr Ibn el-Aas marched unopposed through the lands of the hostile tribes, received their submission and restored the prestige of Islam on the Syrian frontier.