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    During the sixth year of Hijra, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wished to perform umrah (lesser hajj) and called upon any who would like to join him to make the necessary preparations. Seventy camels were purchased to be sacrificed in the holy precinct of Makkah and the men set out unarmed, except for what might be needed for hunting along the way. The lot fell to the Prophet's (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wife Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) to accompany him on the pilgrimage and several other women were also among the pilgrims.

    When the Quraish learned of the Prophet's (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) intention to perform the pilgrimage, they were upset. There was a large group of pilgrims approaching the town of Makkah, with the intention of visiting the holy Ka'bah. The Quraish, as guardians of the Ka'bah, would be disregarding their duty by blocking the approach of any Arab wishing to perform pilgrimage. Yet, these were not just any Arabs who were nearing the city; these were bitter and longtime enemies. It would be a moral victory for the Muslims if they were allowed to enter Makkah in peace, especially after the recent failure of the  Quraish at the Battle of the Trench. The  Quraish would be lending the new religion respectability and acceptance by allowing the Muslims to visit the house of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). An assembly was quickly called, and hard feelings against the Muslims clearly outweighed any sense of civic duty. Khalid, the leader of the cavalry, was quickly dispatched with a group of horsemen to block the path of the pilgrims. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), however, received word of the Quraishi plans and took a different approach to the city. By the time Khalid realized that they had outwitted him, it was too late for him to head them off and he had to return to Makkah.

    The pilgrims, meanwhile, reached an area of land outside the town of Makkah which was known as Hudaibiyah and which marked the boundary of the holy precinct. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gave orders to pitch camp just outside the boundary at Hudaibiyah after his favorite camel, Qaswaa, refused to advance any further. He knew that Qaswaa was not being stubborn but was being held back by the power of Allah.

    Several scouts were sent by the Quraish to the camp to find out what the pilgrims were up to. But the messengers returned with news that the Quraish did not want to hear. The messengers all confirmed to the Quraish the peaceful intent of the pilgrims and their willingness to give the Quraish time to arrange for their entry into the city. One scout who spent considerable time at the Muslim camp on a fact-finding mission returned in awe and told the Quraish of the great honor and respect with which the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) regarded him.

    The Prophet  also sent several envoys to the Quraish, including his son-in-law, Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him). Although the Quraish offered to allow Uthman  (may Allah be pleased with him) and several others to perform the umrah individually, they would not agree to allow the pilgrims as a whole to proceed. And none of the pilgrims, not even the hypocrite Ibn Ubaiy, agreed to perform the pilgrimage without the rest of the group.

    Finally envoys were sent by the Quraish to the Muslims' camp to draw up a treaty. After hours of discussion, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Quraish came to an agreement on the terms of the treaty. According to this treaty, there was to be an end to all hostilities for a period of ten years. It was also agreed that anyone who tried to join the Muslims without the permission of his guardian would be sent back to the Quraish, but anyone who wanted to join the Quraish would be free to do so. Both sides would also be free to form pacts with other tribes. The Muslims agreed to leave without performing the umrah for the moment, but the following year the Quraish would arrange to leave Makkah, and during their absence the Muslims would be allowed to enter Makkah and remain there for three days to perform their pilgrimage.

    The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was satisfied with the treaty, and foresaw that it was the beginning of the end of Quraishi resistance to the Muslims. But his companions were completely disheartened. They had traveled all that distance, confident that their goal would be accomplished, but they would now have to turn back without having set foot in Makkah. And to make matters worse, a young man, who had been imprisoned by his guardian to prevent him from joining the Muslims, made his way to the camp, but according to the terms of the treaty, he was returned in tears to his guardian by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

    Before their departure, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went to his companions and told them to sacrifice their animals and shave their heads. But although he repeated the command three times, they just sat dumbfounded, for according to tradition, the sacrifice had to be performed within the sacred territory. They were not rebelling; they just could not grasp the idea of breaking with a longtime tradition. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), being troubled by their apparent disobedience, retired to his tent and told Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) what was happening. She advised him to go out and do the sacrifice of his own camel, without saying a word to anyone. Sure enough, as soon as he had taken the camel that he had selected and sacrificed it, his men sprang into action, nearly falling over each other in their eagerness to slaughter their animals. And when he called on someone to shave his head, they fell to shaving each others' heads with great enthusiasm. A sudden gust of wind came up and blew the pilgrims' hair, which lay strewn about the camp, across the boundary into the sacred territory and towards Makkah. In this way the companions understood why the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had ordered them to perform the sacrifices. Their sacrifices had been made acceptable to Allah by the good intentions of the pilgrims, even though they had not been performed within the sacred precinct.

Bonnie L. Hamid

Published: April 2005

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