Sunnah Hudaybiyyah

After the Prophet of Islam received prophethood he worked to propagate the message of monotheism for the initial period of thirteen years in Makkah. Makkah was his hometown, but the Makkans turned his direst enemies. They inflicted all sorts of persecution upon him and ultimately they decided to kill him in order to remove him from their path. At this juncture the Prophet and his companions left Makkah for Madinah at the command of God. This amounted to being exiled, for, apparently, there was no hope of the Makkan people ever letting him enter Makkah again. It was under such difficult circumstances that the Prophet had a dream in Madinah that he, along with his companions, was entering Makkah peacefully and was freely performing umrah (minor pilgrimage) sacrifices.

In accordance with this dream the Prophet and his 1500 companions set off for Makkah from Madinah on the first of Dhu Al-Qada in 6 A.H. As this caravan headed towards Makkah everyone felt great excitement. But when it reached a place known as Hudaybiya near Makkah, the Makkans stopped them from going forward. They said that at all costs they would prevent the Muslims from entering Makkah.

The Prophet and his companions stayed at Hudaybiya for two weeks. During this period negotiations went on and, finally it was settled that the Prophet and his companions would not enter Makkah that year. Instead they were to return from Hudaybiya to Madinah, and come the following year for a stay of only three days, during which they were to quietly perform umra and then go back without delay. According to this treaty the Prophet and his companions, in spite of the Prophet's dream, left Hudaybiya for Madinah. The following year they came again and performed umra as stipulated by the treaty of Hudaybiya.

This incident of Hudaybiya tells us a special sunnah of the Prophet, that is, not clashing with others unnecessarily; refraining scrupulously from turning any difficult situation into a prestige issue; rather taking the problem as it is and keeping oneself free, from any complexes; attempting to understand matters by rising above sentiments and emotions, and solving problems wisely by giving concessions to the other party.

This policy can also be termed status quoism. This does not simply mean accepting the status quo without attempting to change it. Status quoism is not passivity or inaction, but rather the highest form of action. Whenever a confrontational situation builds up between two parties, the controversy comes to a standstill at a certain point. Now apparently there is only one way to proceed for both the parties, and that is, to break the status quo and find a way to go ahead.

On such occasions, the foolish turn such matters into a prestige issue. They believe that accepting the status quo would amount to losing face. To protect their egos they take to the path of confrontation. But one who is God-fearing never turns anything into a prestige issue. Taqwa for him becomes a guarantee of keeping himself away from any such confrontation as will result in nothing but destruction.

When the individual refrains from making a controversial matter into one of prestige, this gives rise to serious thinking. This non-emotional thinking helps him to understand that if he were to walk out of the point of controversy he would find all other paths open to him.

The same was the case in Hudaybiya. The Prophet of Islam wanted to enter Makkah but the Quraysh did not allow him to do so. Yet the Prophet did not let the obstructiveness of the Quraysh become a matter of prestige. His own positive approach enabled him to lead Muslims away from the field of war to the field of dawah, a far vaster arena for their struggle in the cause of Islam.

By unilaterally accepting all the conditions of the opponents of Islam, the Prophet of Islam made a no-war pact called the Hudaybiya Peace Treaty in 6 A.H. On account of his unconditional acceptance of the enemy's terms, some Muslims held it to be a humiliating pact (Seerah ibn Hisham, 3/365). But after this treaty was finalized, the chapter in the Qur'an, called 'Victory' (Al-Fath) was revealed, in which this peace treaty was called 'a clear victory.' (48:1)

The reason for this difference in assessment was that human beings looked at it from the angle of the present, while God looked at it from the angle of the future. It is this reality, which has been pointed out in the Qur'an in these words:

God knew what you did not know (48:27)

At its beginning, the Hudaybiya peace treaty appeared to mean nothing but surrender and humiliation. But God saw it from the point of view of its practical result in the future. That is why the Qur'an called it a clear victory.

"The well known taabii, a disciple of the companions, Ibn Shihab Az Zuhri says:

''Never before in Islam had there been such a great victory before Hudaybiya. Whenever Muslims and non-Muslims met one another, before Hudaybiya they came to the point of confrontation. But when peace prevailed and war was stopped under the treaty, people became safe from one another. In this peaceful atmosphere, they interacted with one another and began exchanging their thoughts. Then whoever had an occasion to hear about Islam, and had sound judgement, entered its fold. After the peace treaty, within a period of two years, as many people or even more accepted Islam as had done so before, only over a much longer period of time."

Ibn Hisham, the Prophet's biographer, says that Zuhri's observation is proved true by the fact that, according to the tradition narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah, there were only 1400 men with the Prophet on his journey to Hudaybiya. But two years after that, when the Prophet set out for the conquest of Makkah, he was accompanied by ten thousand companions.

The Hudaybiya sunnah is the sum total of the actions of the Prophet of Islam which resulted in the ‘clear victory' as recorded in the Qur'an, which, led the Islamic movement to the age of revolution and ultimate ascendancy. Consequently, such opportunities were opened up for Islam as had never hitherto presented themselves.

What is Sunnah Hudaybiya? It is, to put it briefly, to ignore the problems in order to buy time in which to avail of the opportunities or simply put – Status Quoism.