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5. The conquest of Makka
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5. The conquest of Makka

The Quraish now lost all hope of being able to crush the Muslims. About a year after this, the Prophet with about 1400 companions (Islam was gaining ground in spite of the wars) undertook a journey to Makka to perform the lesser pilgrimage, but finding that the Quraish were prepared to offer armed resistance to his entry into Makka, even though it was simply with the object of performing a religious obligation, he had to stop at about nine miles from the sacred city, at a place called Hudaibiya. Emissaries were sent to find a peaceful solution, but they were maltreated, and at last a man of the high position of Uthman, deputed to negotiate, was arrested by the Quraish. The situation was critical; the Muslim envoy had been taken into custody and there was a rumour that he had been murdered. The Muslims were unarmed except for sheathed swords, which they carried as a necessity when journeying in a country like Arabia, but they, were determined not to turn their backs. The Prophet took pledge from them, and they pledged afresh one and all, that they would fight to the last man in defence of the Prophet, whom the enemy wanted to put to death. This pledge is known as Bai'a al-Ridzwan (Pledge of Divine Pleasure) in the history of Islam.

This resolve on the part of the Muslims brought the Quraish to their senses and a truce was at last drawn up to last for a period of ten years, with the following conditions among others:

  • 1. The Muslims shall return without performing a pilgrimage, for which they may come back the following year.

  • 2. Should any of the Makkans go over to Madina, the Muslims shall hand him over to the Makkans, but if any of the Muslims go over to Makka, the Quraish are under no obligation to return him to the Muslims,

  • 3. The Arab tribes are at liberty to enter into alliance with which ever party they choose.

It can easily be seen what a heavy price the Prophet was willing to pay for the sake of peace; he had agreed not to give shelter to those who were persecuted for accepting Islam, while his own men were free to join the unbelievers and find shelter in Makka. The moral force drawing the people to Islam was so great that while not a single Muslim went back to Makka where he could find a sure shelter, scores of Makkans embraced Islam, and finding the doors of Madina closed to them, settled themselves at Is, a place subject neither to the authority of the Prophet, nor to that of the Quraish. Islam was spreading in spite of the sword.

After returning from Hudaibiya, the Prophet made arrangements to send the message of Islam to all people, Christians as well as Magians, living on the borders of Arabia. He wrote letters to the sovereigns of the neighbouring kingdoms, the Emperor of Rome, Chosroes II of Persia, the king of Egypt, the Negus of Abyssinia and certain Arab chiefs, inviting them to Islam. The letter to the Roman Emperor was worded as follows:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful From Muhammad, the servant of Allah and His Messenger, to Heracleus, the chief of the Romans.

Peace be with him who follows the guidance.

After this, I invite thee with invitation to Islam. Become a Muslim and thou wilt be in peace -- Allah will give thee a double reward; but if thou turnest away, on thee will be the sin of thy subjects.

And, O followers of the Book ! Come to an equitable proposition between us and you that we shall not serve any but Allah, and that we shall not associate aught with Him and that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah; but if they turn back, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims. [Bukhari 1:1]

Of the rulers addressed the Negus accepted Islam; the king of Egypt sent some presents in reply; the Roman Emperor was impressed but his generals were averse; while Chosroes tore up the letter and sent orders to the governor of Yemen to arrest the Prophet. When the governor's soldiers reached Madina for the execution of the orders, the Prophet told them that Chosroes was himself dead and no more the king of Persia. They went back with this report to the governor of Yemen, and it was found that Chosroes II had actually been murdered by his own son on the very night indicated by the Prophet. This event led to the governor's conversion to Islam, and ultimately to Yemen's throwing off the yoke of Persia.

The truce of Hudaibiya had hardly been in force for two years when the Banu Bakr, an ally of the Quraish, attacked the Khuza'a, an ally of the Muslims, with the help of the Quraish. The Prophet thereupon sent word to the Quraish that they should either pay blood-money for those slain from among the Khuza'a or dissociate themselves from the Banu Bakr, or, in the last resort, declare the truce of Hudaibiya to be null and void. The Quraish did not agree to either of the first two proposals, and the result was the annulment of the truce. The Prophet thereupon ordered an attack on Makka in the closing months of the eighth year of the Plight.

The two years during which the truce remained in force had brought such large numbers over to Islam that the Prophet now marched on Makka with 10,000 men under his flag. The Makkans were unable to make any preparations to meet the attack. At Marr al-Zahran, a day's journey from Makka, the Quraish leader, Abu Sufyan, sued for pardon, and though he was the arch-offender who had left no stone unturned to annihilate Islam, free pardon was granted to him by the Prophet.

The conquest of Makka was practically bloodless. The Quraish were unable to meet this force and the Prophet declared a general amnesty, guaranteeing safety to all those who entered Abu Sufyan's house, or closed the doors of their own houses or entered the sacred precincts of the Ka'ba. Conversion to Islam formed no part of the conditions which guaranteed security of life and property. There were strict orders to the advancing army that there should be no bloodshed. There were only about a score of casualties due to Ikrima, son of Abu Jabl, attacking a party of the Muslim forces under Khalid, who was now a Muslim.

Makka having thus been entered, the first thing that the Prophet did was to clear the Ka'ba of the idols. He then addressed the assembled Quraish who had been guilty of most heinous offences against the Muslims. They were standing before him now as culprits who had persecuted Muslims, inflicted on them the severest tortures, put many of them to death and ultimately expelled them from Makka. They had not even allowed the Muslims to live a peaceful life at their new home in Madina, but had attacked that city thrice with large forces which they knew the Muslims had no means to meet.

It was these men who were now at the Prophet's mercy, and addressing them, he put to them the question:

"What treatment do you expect from me?"
They knew al-Amin of old; they knew Muhammad had a generous heart within his breast. "Thou art a noble brother, the son of a noble brother, " was their unhesitating reply. But the treatment Muhammad accorded them exceeded even their own expectations "This day," he said in the words of Joseph to his brothers, "there is no reproof against you."[12:92]

They were yet unbelievers, but mark the magnanimity of that great soul who would not even reproach them for their evil deeds, who let them go even without taking a pledge from them for the future. Here was a practical proof of that laudable precept Love thine enemy. Not only was Makka conquered, but with it were conquered also the hearts of the bitterest foes of Islam.

They now saw with their own eyes how the combined forces of opposition offered by the whole country had proved an utter failure against the mighty truth which came from the lips of a man who had stood alone in the midst of all opposition. The righteousness of the cause was now only too clear to them and men and women came forward spontaneously to embrace the faith. There was not a single instance of conversion by force.

Those that still adhered to the old religion were treated in the same spirit of friendliness as the members of the brotherhood. Even a hostile critic has to admit:

"Although the city had cheerfully accepted his authority, all its inhabitants had not yet embraced the new religion nor formally acknowledged his prophetical claim. Perhaps he intended to follow the course he had pursued at Madina and leave the conversion of the people to be gradually accomplished without compulsion. ... [Sir William Muir]

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