While I would like the above version of the Islamic worldview to be the only one, there are Islamic groups, though not all of them, who do not subscribe to a paradigm of convivencia. Their worldview would ensure a continuation of conflicts with the rest of the world, not that the world is leaving us alone, either.
In order that we know and engage each other for the good of humanity, international relations should be regulated. In this context, international law and treaties become imperative. Ultimately, to sustain international peace and order, international laws and treaties require a combination of just conditions on the ground, good intentions, and a democratic (e.g., no veto rights) international body that has the mandate to stop the violators without discrimination. If not, conflicts might continue to erupt.
The Islamic worldview advocates respect for treaties signed with other states or parties. In fact, the Qur'an makes it a religious obligation to fulfill them:
Successful indeed are the believers…who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants(Qur'an 23:1-8).
The Qur'an considers any covenant, including that with the other, as if it is concluded with God Himself, as long as it is done without violating Islamic principles:
And fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have made a covenant, and do not break the oaths after making them fast, and you have indeed made Allah a surety for you; surely Allah knows what you do (Qur'an, 16:91).
The traditions and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) confirm the Qur'anic dictum vis-à-vis the fulfillment of covenants, treaties, and promises. It is reported in two independent compendia of Hadith1 that the Messenger of God said:
The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks he lies; when he makes an oath he breaks it; and when he is entrusted with something he betrays that trust.
The Prophet emphasized that fulfilling covenants is imperative; he said:
I do not renege on a covenant and I do not imprison envoys.2
Moreover, whenever the Prophet concluded a treaty he used to say:
We fulfill the covenant for them, and we seek help from God against them [if they have ill intentions!]3
The relationship with the other is based on respect. Unless there is a declared act of war or hostility, Muslims are required to be humane and caring:
God does not forbid you [to respect] those who have not made war against you on account of [your] religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely God loves the doers of justice.
God only forbids you [to respect] those who made war upon you on account of [your] religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up [others] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.
In the case of a potential or an actual armed conflict, Muslims should be looking for signs that the enemy is looking for a political solution, an inclination to peace:
And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in God (Qur'an, 8:61).
Classical Muslim scholars of the philosophy of law (Usul Al-Fiqh) found that the aims of Islamic Law (Maqasid al-Shari'a) are five: life, religion, intellect, progeny, and property. Modern Muslim scholars included "freedom" and "justice" among the aims of the shari'a. About 10 years ago, I added "protection of the environment" to the list. It is obvious that a state of peace is directly related to the fulfillment of Maqasid al-Shari'a.
The Treaty of Hudaybiyya
In the year 6 AH (628 C.E.), a group of around 1,400 Muslims embarked on a trip to Mecca in order to perform the minor pilgrimage ('umrah). They reached al-Hudaybiyya, which lies at the edge of the Haram [sacred territory of Mecca].
The Muslims were dressed for the performance of the 'umrah, and they brought along with them sacrificial animals, as they hoped that the Meccans would allow them to enter the city. The Meccans, however, made it clear to the Muslims that they were not welcome that year. Prophet Muhammad wanted to avoid bloodshed. Therefore, the two parties decided to resolve the matter through diplomacy rather than warfare. Before the negotiations even began, Prophet Muhammad declared that he would accept whatever condition the tribe of Quraysh makes, for the Prophet wanted to show kindness to his kindred.
It should be noted that the original word in Arabic used to describe the Hudaybiyya agreement is "sulh," rather than "treaty." The root of the word is the same for that which is good and conciliatory. Sulh itself could be translated as a "conciliatory agreement." The message that "sulh" sends in Arabic is not the same as the neutral "treaty."
The Text of Sulh al-Hudaybiyya
In the name of Allah
These are the conditions of peace between Muhammad, son of Abdullah, and Suhail, son of 'Amr [the envoy of Mecca].
There will be no fighting for 10 years in which people will be safe and stop from attacking one another. And amongst us what is vice should be prevented, and there shall be no theft or treachery.
He who goes to Muhammad from those of Quraysh without permission from his guardian will be returned to them [i.e., Quraysh]. But if anyone from amongst those with Muhammad goes to Quraysh, he will not be returned [to the Muslims].
Anyone who wishes to join Muhammad and to enter into any agreement [and become an ally] with him is free to do so. Anyone who wishes to join Quraysh and to enter into any agreement [and become an ally] with them is free to do so.
This year, you [i.e., Muhammad] will go back without entering Mecca. But next year, we [i.e., Quraysh] will evacuate Mecca so that you [Muhammad] and your companions can enter and stay for three days [to perform the minor pilgrimage]. [The Muslims] will be unarmed except for sheathed swords which wayfarers have with them.
Quraysh and Its Allies Breach the Treaty
Towards the end of the year 7 AH (November 629 C.E.), Quraysh and the tribe of Banu Bakr attacked the Banu Khuza'ah tribe, who were allies of the Muslims. It was a totally unprovoked attack and the Khuza'ah took refuge in the precincts of the Ka'bah, but their enemies pursued them even there, and killed a number of them.
This incident directly violated the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, and Banu Khuza'ah appealed to the Prophet for help and protection. Even then, the Prophet did not act in haste. Instead, he sent a letter to Quraysh demanding payment of blood money for those killed, and a disbandment of their alliance with the Banu Bakr. Otherwise, the Prophet said, the treaty would be declared null and void.
Quraysh sent an envoy to Medina to announce that they themselves considered the Treaty of Hudaybiyya null and void, but then they immediately regretted it, and their leader, Abu Sufyan, traveled to Medina to reinstate the treaty. Despite being the greatest enemy and persecutor of the Muslims, he was permitted to enter the Prophet's mosque unharmed and announce that he was restoring the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. His tardy announcement, however, went unheeded by the Muslims and Abu Sufyan returned to Mecca.
It was only after the Muslims had honored a treaty that was largely disadvantageous to them, and after they had refused to respond to Quraysh's breach of the contract and its subsequent nullification, that the Prophet prepared to retake Mecca.
Islamophobic Misconceptions about the Treaty of Hudaybiyya
The following are only representative examples of a plethora of misconceptions about the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. They are used to undermine Muslims' attempts to conclude cease-fires, truces, and peace treaties. They all base their positions on the misconception that Prophet Muhammad breached the treaty. Since the only original historical sources that documented the Treaty of Hudaybiyya and its aftermath are Islamic ones, and all of them show how the Muslims fulfilled their part without exception, the motives behind these misconceptions can only be viewed as questionable:
1. Mordechai Kedar
In an article entitled "I Believe Arafat," Dr. Kedar wrote about Yasser Arafat's address to the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah (May 15, 2002) on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba. Dr. Kedar had this to say about Arafat's position:
I do indeed believe Arafat's message: He does wish to come to an agreement with the Israelis, but, as he points out to his followers, any agreement with non-Muslims… is simply a modern version of Hudaybiyya. As such, in accordance with Islamic principles which form the basis of the political culture in the Arab sphere, such a commitment may (or must) be broken at the right time.4
This is a very disturbing position, since it could not have been a problem of mistranslation on Dr. Kedar's part, as it is a well-known fact that he has mastered the Arabic language.
2. Asaf Maliach
In an article entitled "Hamas' Post-Election Strategy," Asaf Maliach had the following take on the Treaty of Hudaybiyya and its perceived implications for the modern scene:
…The Hudaybiyya Treaty allowed Muhammad and the Muslims to strengthen their ranks without needing to worry about a confrontation with the Quraysh tribe. After only two years (630 C.E.) the Muslims annulled the agreement and conquered Mecca. This agreement has since been exploited more than once by radical Muslim organizations that seek to justify the annulment of agreements signed with those characterized as "enemies."5
3. John F. Schmidt
In his article "Islamic Peace Treaties," John F. Schmidt argued that a Muslim "makes a peace treaty with an opponent with the sole purpose of suddenly destroying his treaty partner in an overwhelming surprise attack." Schmidt sees al-Hudaybiyya through the lens of Joseph Farah, a neo-con Arab-American commentator:
Recently, a chilling description of Mohammed's model of diplomacy appeared in an article "The Lesson of al-Hudaybiya" by Joseph Farah, editor of Worldnetdaily. Al-Hudaybiya was the name of the town where a peace treaty was signed between Mohammed and some tribes that ruled his hometown of Mecca. He wanted to rule Mecca but was too weak militarily to do so. So he signed a peace treaty with them for ten years.
Yet after less than two years, and after he had built up his military strength to the point where he was confident he could now conquer his opponents, he found his chance in a slight Meccan infraction of the treaty. Seizing this opportunity, he spurned all attempts by his rivals to make peaceful compensation and instead marched on Mecca. Caught by surprise, and unprepared, they capitulated. He conquered them because they trusted him to observe the spirit of his "Peace Treaty." But he betrayed them.
Most fair-minded people would call Mohammed's actions, first and last, "treachery," since his "peace" treaty is easily seen in retrospect to have been a sham. He never intended peace - he only used the treaty to buy time to prepare for the "final solution."6
Like Kedar, Schmidt draws the conclusion that Arafat's reference to al-Hudaybiyya is intended to rally Muslims behind the Oslo Accords, only to betray them later on:
Yet treachery is the expressed goal of Yasser Arafat, and the Palestinian Authority. Arafat has made numerous public references to "al-Hudaybiyya" in explaining himself to his Islamic supporters as recently as May 15 of this year. This was also the same justification he provided to his Islamic supporters just after signing the Oslo Accords several years ago.
Schmidt argued that Arafat's "announced rationale for engaging the hated Israelis in any kind of peace diplomacy is that it is actually intended to be a ruse to buy time until the Israelis are ripe for the plucking. Then the Palestinians will implement their real 'final solution' for the Jews - total extermination."
This is why Schmidt reached the "conclusion" that "the only prudent thing to do - for Israel or the U.S. - is treat the Islamics [sic] as untrustworthy in war or in peace."
4. Daniel Pipes
In "Lessons from the Prophet Muhammad's Diplomacy," Dr. Pipes "analyzes" the Hudaybiyya Treaty, but not before discrediting the Islamic sources altogether. Pipes dismisses the importance of the Hudaybiyya Treaty itself; he states that "the issue is not really what happened in the seventh century but what the Arabic written sources tell about those events and how Muslims today understand them."7
It is true that contemporary Islamic narratives are important to understand in what direction a treaty based on the same principles could go. But to discredit and dismiss the importance of a formative Prophetic political model is counterproductive, if one is trying to understand Islamic political discourse. Pipes provides a long list of quotations by well-known Orientalists whose input is nothing but "creative" personal conjectures that interpret Quraysh's violation of the Hudaybiyya Treaty. The list includes Bernard Lewis, who reduced the violation to "the murder of a Muslim by a Meccan for what appears to have been a purely private difference of opinion." The truth of the matter is that it was not a Muslim, it was not a Meccan, and it was not an intellectual discourse that went sour! It was a classical story of tribal feud that predates Islam, and an act of revenge taken by the tribe of Banu Bakr, with assistance from Quraysh, from the Banu Khuza'ah, who were in alliance with the Muslims. Nowhere does Dr. Pipes recognize the fact that, even after the attack, no bloody revenge took place against those who broke the treaty. In fact, when the ten thousand-strong Muslim army entered Mecca, no war took place and the Prophet declared a general amnesty that was granted to nearly all non-Muslims.
The Islamophobic literature that addresses the Hudaybiyya Treaty cannot be addressed in toto here. These previous examples have the following traits:
* Discrediting the Islamic sources.
* Discrediting Prophet Muhammad's intentions for concluding the treaty.
* Discrediting the narrative about Quraysh's violation of the treaty.
* Discrediting modern Muslim leaders and Islamic movements who make reference to this treaty as a needed legal precedent.
What Can Be Learned from This Treaty?
1) Despite the dissatisfaction of the Prophet's Companions with the treaty, the Qur'an described it as a great victory or fath:
Surely We have given to you a clear victory(Qur'an, 48:1).2) The hudna is a matter of shura (consultation), concluded by the leader of the faithful.
3) Regardless of who the other party (signatory to the treaty) is, their request should be answered positively, as long as it does not violate the shari'a.
4) It is permissible for the Muslim leader to initiate the request for the hudna, as long as it is in the interest of Muslims.
5) The property of the non-Muslim signatories to the treaty is protected.
6) The treaty is not binding to Muslims who are not living under the jurisdiction of the Imam (i.e., if the Muslim head of a state signs a political treaty, it becomes legally binding to all the citizens of that state. The treaty is not binding to those Muslims who fall under the jurisdiction of a different state. This is especially true today because the Muslim world is divided into many states).
Duration of the Hudna
While the original time limit of the Hudaybiyya Treaty was 10 years. This number was "arbitrary"; it was not considered a revealed time limit, and therefore Muslim scholars could set the legal ground for political leaders to consider a higher number of years if and when the need arose.
The Maliki school of jurisprudence does not specify a time limit, and they leave this matter to the jurisdiction of the head of state.
The Shafi'i school of jurisprudence sets the limit of the hudna at 10 years, following the original stated duration of the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. If the treaty does not specify the time limit, it is considered invalid according to this school. Of course, this discussion of the duration of the hudna is only a glimpse of what's available in the books of jurisprudence.
I would like to conclude by stating that the temporary nature of the hudna allows the signatories to reconsider its terms when it expires; this, I would hope, prevents injustices from becoming permanent. Even when there are treaties that reflect de jure recognition of the warring parties, this formality does not prevent old conflicts from erupting in new forms. Therefore, addressing the source of the conflict and a mutual bona fide respect for the terms of the hudna could potentially lead to renewals equivalent to a "permanent" treaty. While this might not sound like a tremendous achievement, the very idea that there is a cessation of hostilities creates healthier conditions that provide each party with opportunities to contemplate solutions.
1 The corpus of authenticated sayings by the Prophet Muhammad.
2 Narrated by Abu Dawud, Al-Nissa'i and rendered "sound" by Ibn Hayyan.
3 Narrated by Muslim.
7 Daniel Pipes, "Lessons from the Prophet Muhammad Diplomacy," Middle East Quarterly, September 1999.