Lessons From The Liberation Of Makkah

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Ramadan 22, 1445 2024-04-01

Main Stories

by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 54, No. 2, Ramadan, 1445)

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

Many important events in Islamic history occurred in the month of Ramadan. The noble Qur’an was sent from the Lawhun Mahfooz (the well-guarded Tablet) into its earthly form in this month and then the first few ayats were revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) in the Cave of Hira.

Among other major events, the liberation of Makkah from the clutches of the mushrikeen also took place in the month of Ramadan. It was the 20th of Ramadan in 8AH (hijri year) when a 10,000-strong Muslim contingent entered Makkah. We will discuss the circumstances leading to this development shortly but first let us highlight some other events that also occurred in Ramadan.

The Battle of Badr, the first military encounter between Muslims and their traditional Makkan foes, took place in Ramadan in the second year of the hijrah (migration) from Makkah to Madinah. Fasting had just been ordained for Muslims and it was a major test of their endurance and commitment. The battle took place on Ramadan 17, at a place called Badr, some 100 miles east of Madinah.

The trench as a defence mechanism was also dug in the month of Ramadan in preparation for the Battle of Ahzab. This was in the fifth year of the hijrah. Muslims were fasting yet they, together with the noble Messenger (pbuh), were involved in digging a trench that was several miles long, nearly 20 feet wide and 12 to 15 feet deep. It was extremely arduous work that lasted the entire month.

Finally, we come to the liberation of Makkah that was followed by the Battle of Hunayn. Muslims marched from Madinah to Makkah, some 300 kms, on horses, camels and on foot.

What led to the Muslims marching on Makkah? We must turn to the Treaty of Hudaybiyah that was signed in the sixth year of the hijrah to understand the background. One of the terms of the treaty stipulated that Muslims will not perform the Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) that year but could return the following year. This was deeply disappointing for the Muslims, as were a number of other provisions that on surface appeared detrimental to them.

One positive provision, however, was that there would be peace between the Muslims and their Makkan foes for a period of 10 years. Tribes were free to align themselves with whichever party they liked. This was a major breakthrough for Muslims. Hitherto, tribes did not make an alliance with the Muslims for fear of antagonizing the Quraysh, the predominant tribe in Makkah, to which the Prophet (pbuh) also belonged.

Following the treaty, the Banu Khuza‘ah tribe aligned itself with the Muslims. Another tribe, the Banu Bakr were allies of the mushriks. Both tribes resided in and around Makkah.

In 8 AH, the Banu Bakr attacked the Banu Khuza‘ah and killed several of its members. One of the victims was even killed inside the Haram of the Ka‘aba. Banu Bakr’s attack was not only a clear violation of the treaty but an even greater sin was to kill someone in the Haram.

Naturally, members of the Banu Khuza‘ah came to Madinah and sought the Prophet’s (pbuh) help to seek restitution from the Banu Bakr who had violated the terms of the treaty. The Prophet (pbuh) told them that he will look into it and take appropriate action.

As members of the Banu Khuza‘ah returned to Makkah, the Prophet (pbuh) sent a message to the Makkan chiefs with three options. 1) Punish the Banu Bakr for violating the terms of the treaty; if not, then 2) withdraw your protection from them so that Muslims can deal with them directly. If none of these options is acceptable, then 3) consider the treaty to be null and void.

In their arrogance, the Makkan chiefs rejected the first two conditions, telling the Muslims to do what they liked. As these messages were being communicated, Abu Sufyan, the leading Makkan chief, was away with a trade caravan. When he returned to Makkah and learned about what had transpired, he realized the gravity of the situation. He immediately set out for Madinah to try and renegotiate the treaty.

The Prophet (pbuh) refused to see him. Abu Sufyan then approached Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra), a close companion of the Prophet (pbuh), to intercede on his behalf. Abu Bakr refused, so did Um Habiba, the Prophet’s wife and daughter of Abu Sufyan. There could be no restoration of the treaty in the face of such brazen violation.

The Prophet (pbuh) assembled an army of 10,000 but did not disclose its destination. Setting out on the 10th of Ramadan, it took the Muslims seven days to reach the outskirts of Makkah. Along the way, some Muslims broke their fast; others kept it including the Prophet (pbuh). Closer to Makkah, the Prophet publicly broke his fast and told others to do likewise.

At night, he ordered his companions to climb the hills overlooking Makkah and light fires—four or five per person—so that it appeared to the Makkan mushriks that there was an army of some 50,000-armed men. It was futile to resist such a force since the total population of Makkah was around 10,000, including women and children.

The Makkans were already psychologically defeated before the Muslims entered Makkah. On the day of their entry—the 20th day of Ramadan—the Prophet (pbuh) sent a message that every Makkan should stay inside their house and lock the door. If anyone took refuge in the Haram (near the Ka‘aba), he would also be safe. This was akin to putting Makkah under lockdown. Anyone resisting would face punishment although the Prophet (pbuh) did not want any bloodshed in Makkah, especially within the boundaries of the Haram.

With Makkah subdued, the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions smashed all 360 idols in the Ka‘aba while reciting, “And say, Truth and justice have come and injustice has been eliminated: by its nature lies and injustice are bound to be eliminated.” (The Ascendant Qur’an: 17:81).

Following the cleansing of the Ka‘aba, the Prophet (pbuh) gathered the people and asked them what he should do with them. The Makkan mushriks, trembling in fear, appealed to the Prophet’s (pbuh) noble lineage and noble character and sought mercy.

It would have been perfectly acceptable to have executed them for torturing Muslims for more than 10 years. Some were tortured to death (Sumayah and her husband, Yasir, for instance). Even after Muslims fled Makkah and sought refuge in Madinah, the Makkans’ hostility did not end. They waged numerous battles against the Muslims. Only after the treaty of Hudaybiyah in 6AH did hostilities end but an allied tribe of the Quraysh violated it. The latter refused to punish the offenders.

Reflecting his quality of mercy, the Prophet (pbuh) told them that he amnesties them. The word he used was ‘tulaqa’, meaning that while they are offenders (or prisoners), he sets them free. Unfortunately, it was people from among the tulaqa who not only subverted the khilafah but also massacred the family of the Prophet (pbuh) led by Imam Husain (ra) in Karbala.

Some lessons must be drawn from the liberation of Makkah. First, that violation of a treaty is an unforgiveable offence. This was the reason why the Prophet (pbuh) refused to receive Abu Sufyan in Madinah. Second, that before amnesty can be granted, the enemy must surrender. There can be no amnesty while the enemy is fully armed and only seeks amnesty to escape punishment.

Unfortunately, some Muslims have adopted a simplistic understanding of the liberation of Makkah. It has caused immense suffering to Muslims as a consequence.

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