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Treaty of al-Hudaybiya

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Treaty of al-Hudaybiya
TypePeace Agreement
SignedMarch 628 C.E. (Dhu al-Qa'dah 6 A.H.)
Expiration10 January 630 C.E. (20 Ramadan 8 A.H.)

The Treaty of al-Hudaybiya (Arabic: صُلح الْحُدَيْبِيَة, romanizedṢulḥ al-Ḥudaybiya) was an event that took place during the lifetime of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was a pivotal treaty between Muhammad, representing the state of Medina, and the tribe of the Quraysh in Mecca in March 628 (corresponding to Dhu al-Qi'dah, AH 6). The treaty helped to decrease tension between the two cities, affirmed peace for a period of 10 years, and authorised Muhammad's followers to return the following year in a peaceful pilgrimage, which was later known as the First Pilgrimage.


As a result of the rejection of his message and the persecution of his followers, the Islamic prophet Muhammad left his hometown of Mecca in 622 and migrated with his followers to the oasis town of Medina.[1] There, he had more followers and founded a local power base. On three occasions, his forces battled with his Meccan opponents, led by his own tribe, the Quraysh.[2] Mecca was thus a no-go area for the Muslims,[3] with its old sanctuary of the Ka'ba. Although it had been a pilgrimage center from the pre-Islamic times, it seems that the Muslims were enjoined to perform pilgrimage to the Ka'ba only in the Medinan period.[4] The Muslims had so far prayed by facing toward Jerusalem,[5] but at some point in Medina, Muhammad reportedly received a divine revelation ordering him to face Mecca instead.[3]

Traditional account[edit]

In March 628, following a dream that he was circumambulating the Ka'ba, Muhammad decided to set out for pilgrimage.[6] Anticipating violent Meccan response, he invited his Bedouin and tribal allies in the outskirts of Medina to join him, but the majority declined, probably because they saw no prospect of booty or anticipating hostilities.[6][7] Muhammad with a group of some 1,500 Muslims of Medina, as well as some tribal allies, marched towards Mecca to perform the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage).[8][a] There are conflicting accounts as to whether the Muslims carried weapons.[10] They were dressed as pilgrims and had sacrificial animals with them.[11] On getting the news, the Meccans mistook the approach as an attack and sent a 200-strong cavalry force to stop it. Muhammad avoided the force by taking an unconventional route and pitched his tents at the place of Ḥudaybiya, on the border of the sacred territory of the Ka'ba.[8]

The Quraysh sent their emissaries to negotiate with him to whom he declared that he had come to perform the pilgrimage and had no hostile intentions. The Quraysh nevertheless considered it weakness and a declaration of defeat to let him enter the city unconditionally. They are reported to have said: "Even if he has come not wanting to fight, by God, he shall never enter [the sanctuary] by force against our will, nor shall the bedouin ever [have cause to] say that about us".[12] At one point, he sent his close aid Uthman to Mecca to carry out negotiations. A rumour spread that he had been slain. Muhammad vowed to avenge his death and took pledge of his followers to fight the Meccans to end. The pledge became known as the Pledge of the Tree (bay'at al-shajara). The rumour turned out to be false, and the Quraysh sent their emissary, Suhayl ibn Amr, to reach a settlement. After negotiations, the parties agreed to resolve the matter peacefully and a treaty was drawn up.[13][14] The main points stated:[15]

  • There will be a truce between both parties for ten years.
  • Whoever flees to Muhammad from the Quraysh without the permission of his guardian will be sent back to the Quraysh, but whoever comes to the Quraysh from the Muslims will not be sent back.
  • Whoever wishes to enter into a covenant with Muhammad will be allowed to do so, and whoever wishes to enter into a covenant with the Quraysh will be allowed to do so.
  • The Muslims will return to Medina without performing the pilgrimage but will be allowed the following year and would stay in Mecca for three days during which time the Quraysh will vacate the city. The Muslims will carry no weapons except sheathed swords.[15]

The document was written by Ali. As he was writing, "This is what Muhammad, the apostle of God, has agreed with Suhayl b. 'Amr",[16] Suhayl objected that he did not believe in his prophethood, hence he could write only his name, to which Muhammad consented.[16] After the document was written, Suhayl's son Abu Jandal converted to Islam and turned up to join the Muslims but was handed over to Suhayl in keeping with the treaty.[13] Umar and some other Muslims were unhappy about the truce with the people whom they regarded as the enemies of God.[17] Muhammad called his followers to shave their heads and sacrifice their animals. They were reluctant to do so but followed after he had set an example. While Muslims then returned to Medina, the Sura 48 of the Qur'an was revealed.[13]


Those converts who later escaped to Medina were returned in accordance with the treaty. Abu Basir, one of the returned, escaped to the sea coast and was later joined by some 70 others, including Abu Jandal. They formed a guerrilla band and started raiding Meccan caravans to Syria. The Meccans eventually asked Muhammad to take them back to Medina. An exception to the treaty was later created unilaterally by the Muslims when some Muslim women from Mecca escaped to Medina since the Qur'an forbade their return.[13]

During the treaty, the Banu Bakr aligned themselves with the Quraysh, while the Banu Khuza'ah aligned themselves with the Muslims.[18] They had maintained peace for a period of time; however, underlying motives stemming from the pre-Islamic era, exacerbated by a persistent desire for revenge, ultimately led to renewed hostilities.

The Banu Bakr launched an attack against the Banu Khuza'ah at Al-Wateer in Sha'ban, 8 A.H., disregarding the terms of the treaty. A group of the Quraysh, headed by Safwan ibn Umayya, Ikrima ibn Amr, and Suhayl ibn Amr, provided the Banu Bakr with men and weapons under the cover of darkness, without the awareness of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb.[19][18] Faced with aggression from their opponents, the members of the Banu Khuza'ah sought refuge in the Holy Sanctuary - the Kaaba. However, they were not spared and Nawfal, the leader of the Banu Bakr, killed twenty of them in violation of established customs. In response, the Banu Khuza'ah immediately dispatched a delegation to Medina to inform Muhammad of the breach of the truce and to request his assistance.[18]

This triggered the conquest of Mecca.

Assessment and legacy[edit]

In the long term, the treaty proved advantageous to the Muslims and is often regarded as an "important step" in Muhammad's consolidation of power.[20] By signing the treaty, the Quraysh implicitly acknowledged Muhammad as their equal,[21] and by gaining access to the pilgrimage at the Ka'ba, Muhammad was able to increase Islam's appeal to those tribes who held the Ka'ba in high regard.[20] The Muhammad biographer Ibn Hisham later wrote: "No previous victory in Islam was greater than this... when there was an armistice and war was abolished and men met in safety and consulted together none talked about Islam intelligently without entering it."[22] The truce enabled Muhammad to expand his dominion elsewhere in Arabia unhindered. The historian Fred Donner has suggested that the very purpose of the attempted pilgrimage was to secure a truce with the Meccans since Medina was trapped between two hostile cities (the Jewish stronghold of Khaybar to the north and Mecca to the south) and was very vulnerable. However, he could not simply beg the Meccans for a truce; by skillfully crafting the situation, he got it without asking. It was nevertheless a "desperate gamble", which could have ended in disaster had the Quraysh opted not to make peace.[23] Soon afterwards, he besieged and neutralized Khaybar.[24] Other tribes were then free to align to either side, and Muhammad was able to win over some of those formerly allied with the Quraysh.[25] According to Islamicist Montgomery Watt, the treaty, which meant lifting of the Medinan blockade of the Meccan trade with Syria and the granting to the Quraysh other concessions, was intended by Muhammad to foster better relations with the Quraysh and to attract them towards Islam.[26]


  1. ^ Different accounts report between 700 and 1,900 pilgrims.[9]


  1. ^ Donner 2010, pp. 42–43.
  2. ^ Donner 2010, pp. 43–44, 46–47.
  3. ^ a b Hawting 1986, p. 1.
  4. ^ Donner 2010, pp. 64–65.
  5. ^ Kennedy 2016, p. 35.
  6. ^ a b Watt 1971.
  7. ^ Guillaume 1998, p. 499.
  8. ^ a b Watt 1956, p. 46.
  9. ^ Fishbein 1997, pp. 68–70.
  10. ^ Donner 1979, p. 240 n.
  11. ^ Guillaume 1998, pp. 499–500.
  12. ^ Donner 1979, p. 240.
  13. ^ a b c d Goerke 2000, p. 241.
  14. ^ Ali 1981, p. 61.
  15. ^ a b Watt 1956, pp. 47–48.
  16. ^ a b Guillaume 1998, p. 504.
  17. ^ Ali 1981, pp. 61–62.
  18. ^ a b c Al-Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman (2008). The Sealed Nectar(Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum) (PDF). Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarrah, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam. p. 458. ISBN 978-9960899558. Retrieved 28 December 2021. Alternative URL
  19. ^ Muhammad ibn ‘Umar-al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi (Beirut: Muassassat al-‘Alami, 1989), Vol. 2, pp. 782-783.
  20. ^ a b Donner 1979, p. 241.
  21. ^ Watt 1956, p. 48.
  22. ^ Guillaume 1998, p. 507.
  23. ^ Donner 1979, pp. 242–244.
  24. ^ Donner 1979, p. 245.
  25. ^ Watt 1956, pp. 48–49.
  26. ^ Watt 1956, p. 49.


  • Hawting, Gerald R. (1986). "Al-Ḥudaybiyya and the Conquest of Mecca: A Reconsideration of the Tradition about the Muslim Takeover of the Sanctuary". Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 8: 1–24.