The Conquest of Makkah: a Day of Mercy

What would you do to someone who had taken the life of members from your family, tortured your friends or made your life tremendously intolerable? What would happen to that person when his life was at your mercy? How many of us can actually believe that we can forgive such a person in such a situation. It would be hard. Many and many of us may fall weak unable to forgive. Not all of us are strong as Tariq Jahan who only after hours of losing his son in the riots Birmingham 2011 gave a message of peace and to stop such rioting and havoc. A brave man and there is a lot we can learn from his efforts. But it was amazing to see to him keep himself together after such a loss.

We can look back at when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) conquered Makkah, his beloved homeland, and notice the surprising extent of his mercy and forgiveness. Even though he was exiled from his homeland, hated and despised by his non-believing enemies in Makkah. Not forgetting that they did kill members of his family, tortured his friends and companions, making his life painful, it is hard to think that the Prophet (pbuh) would forgive such people. And yet he did. He had them put together before him and he forgave them. How many Muslims today numbering around 1.6 billion in the world, how many are willing to forgive like Muhammad (pbuh) did. They were completely vulnerable at his disposal and he had every right to seek revenge on these non-Muslims for what they did to him, for near enough two decades. From this part of Muhammad’s (pbuh) life there are crucial vital lessons and teachings, wisdom to understand and better to implement to build a peaceful united society and environment. The story is both beneficial for Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

From most traditions it is reported; Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions entered into Makkah on the 20th or 21st of Ramadan of the eighth year of hijrah (630 CE), making their way towards the Kaba which was controlled by the Quraysh tribe.  At the moment of entering Makkah, he separated his army into divisions to march in surrounding the city meeting in the centre near the Kaba. A few groups of the Quraysh tribe led by Suhayl, Ikrimah and Safwan, sought to resist the Muslim army and set up on the hills to retaliate. But after first confrontation they realised that opposing the massive Muslim army was useless. So Suhayl saw refuge in his own home while Ikrimah and Safwan fled.

The Prophet (pbuh) wanted to conquer Makkah in a peaceful way with no or very little conflict. For this to be possible he decided that the disbelievers of Makkah have to be aware of what they would be facing. So on the way to Makkah, while camping at Marr az-Zahran (which could be seen from Makkah), Muhammad (pbuh) asked his soldiers to light fires for the purposes of cooking. So this gave the impression of a massive army on its way to the people of Makkah. By doing this, Muhammad (pbuh) gave his enemies in Makkah time to measure the situation properly so they should not be surprised and endanger themselves and their women and children blindly by jumping into battle. The Prophet (pbuh) saw it unfit to take them by surprise. He commanded that “no conflict or battle can take place on that day” and he named it ‘the day of mercy’. It was vital that Makkah be conquered in this approach. Islam was now set on becoming a recognisable religion on a global scale, and the Muslims needed to show to people that this religion was not about revenge and punishment, but of love, respect, honour and dignity, a religion of forgiveness. It was an occasion to also enlighten Muslims themselves to soften their hearts. If your enemy is weak then be merciful to him, for he may well repent and seek forgiveness. It teaches not to let emotions blind you from what is spiritually better.

It was a period of eight years before when Muhammad (pbuh) secretly left Makkah to save his own life. He had left then with his dignity intact and with the firm intention to return to his homeland one day, victorious in his mission. The Prophet (pbuh) was now returning fulfilling his intention in the brightness of daylight in front of all to see. But this time he came returning in humility. It is recorded, when entering his beloved city; his head was so low while riding his mount; that his beard was touching the back of his mount in complete humbleness and humility. In praise and respectfulness of his Creator, to thank Him for this peaceful victory. And he recited a verse from the holy Qur’an, “Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest that Allah may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete His favor upon you and guide you to a straight path, and [that] Allah may aid you with a mighty victory. It is He who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise.”[1][2] Muhammad’s (pbuh) humility here is something to notice and remember. This was victory for the Muslims and for himself, yet he showed no pride or joy of his triumph. Rather he reminded himself reciting from the Qur’an of who the giver of victory is. This is something every Muslim needs to understand,  that it is the all Mighty that gives victory and defeat, none can overcome defeat if it is God’s will, and none can defeat you if He wills victory. Muslims should remember their Creator at all times whether good or bad.

While entering Makkah the Prophet (pbuh) made sure to request that the non-Muslims or former enemies of the Muslims be shown kindness, they should not be harmed. And he went on to perform an act of Salah (prayer), after which he took a few moments to rest. He then made his way to the Kaba sanctuary, where he performed seven rounds of circumambulation after destroying the idols within or surrounding the sacred building, while repeating a passage from the Qur’an, “Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood (by nature), ever bound to depart”[3][4]. And so he had the keys of the Kaba bought to him[5] and required that all religious images be permanently rid of, to reconcile the house of the Creator back to true monotheism; which was taught by the all Knowing to Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all the other prophets before them, peace be with them all. It was a reclaiming of its first and rightful identity, a sign of the oneness and domination of Allah.

After Muhammad’s (pbuh) act of ridding the idols and exclaiming the glory and oneness of the Creator, the people of Quraysh started to leave their houses and gather in front of the Kaba and Muhammad (pbuh), waiting to hear him talk to them. He started off by teaching them about Islam and that God all Mighty saw it fit to do away with their pride and arrogance of the pre-Islamic era, because all are descended from Adam (pbuh) and he is from dust. And he quoted from the Qur’an, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”[6], thus teaching the sacredness of human life.

He asked the people of Quraysh how they thought he was going to deal with them, now that he had easy charge over Makkah. They replied “as a noble brother” that they expected nothing but goodness from him and he would deal with them kindly. The Prophet (pbuh) spoke telling them “I speak to you in the same words of the prophet Yusuf (Joseph) peace be with him, who spoke to his brothers” and Muhammad (pbuh) recited a passage from a chapter of the Qur’an relating to the story of Yusuf (pbuh):No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful”[7]. Then he announced to them that they are free now and they may go where they please. And like this the Prophet (pbuh) granted his forgiveness to his former enemies, those who wanted to destroy his belief, his reputation, his life and his associates not long ago. He forgave them all men and women that came to him or his companions. So here we see his mercy for mankind, which Muslims can only describe as a gift from the Giver of all things. As we read in from the Qur’an “We sent thee (Muhammad) not, but as a Mercy for all creatures”[8]. It was destined already in the Prophet’s (pbuh) heart to forgive in this way. All can learn from this act of selflessness by Muhammad (pbuh). It exposed the true aim of his mission as a messenger of God, which was to establish Islam (literally meaning ‘peace’ and ‘submission’), for mankind. A religion not based on vengefulness and war and confusion, but of freedom from strife, God awareness and submission to the One. It teaches that for a society to flourish and achieve the best of its ability, forgiveness must be a main concern.

Muhammad (pbuh) even forgave such people like Wahshi ibn Harb. Wahshi ibn Harb was the one who was responsible for killing Hamzah ibn Abdul-Muttalib, beloved uncle of the Prophet (pbuh), during the battle of Uhud. He killed him on the order of enemy Hind bint Utbah wife of Abu Sufyan, to become a free man. The Prophet (pbuh) requested that Wahshi should keep clear of his presence in the future; as his presence may remind the Messenger (pbuh) memories of his uncle, or that Muhammad (pbuh) didn’t want Wahshi to interpret a look on his face as a look of anger towards him.

Many Muslims who were former enemies of Muhammad (pbuh) before conquering Makkah now approached him for help and support and forgiveness, including Ikrimah son of Abu Jahl. Abu Jahl was known for his hostility against Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions, and was killed during the battle of Badr. The Prophet (pbuh) made sure to remind his companions that Ikrimah was now coming as a believer, none should insult his farther, and he said “for insulting the dead hurts the living without reaching the dead”. This teaches not only to forgive but to remember that none can be responsible of the crimes of others, not even be it their father’s. As he taught from the Qur’an, “No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another[9]. One must be judged purely on his actions and deeds, not according to his lineage.

Though Muhammad (pbuh) forgave the people of Makkah and released them from any obligation towards him except for the act of peace and understanding, he had a blacklist of nine or ten individual criminals which were made lawful for execution. It is recorded, only four on this blacklist were actually put to death. The four were: Abdul Uzza bin Khatal who after converting to Islam killed his helper’s slave and was unrepentant of what he had committed and became an apostate. Miqyas bin Sababa, after accepting blood money from Muhammad (pbuh), and forgiveness to the person who had killed his brother Hisham, still took vengeful action and became a murderer and an apostate. Likewise, Huwairith and a female singer were put to death as well. Among the rest that were pardoned from the blacklist were: Ikrimah, Wahshi, Hind and a chief of Quraish Safwan bin Omaiyah who converted, as well as Habar who had been responsible for Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter’s death; and Fudalah bin Umair another chief who once sought to assassinate the Prophet (pbuh) but later became a Muslim[10].

During the following months of the great conquest, things began to settle down in Makkah. Muhammad (pbuh) had been sending his companions on expeditions to nearby tribes to strengthen any alliances he had and make sure that those who had become Muslims had given up idol worshiping. On one such expedition in the same year (8th A.H), prophet Muhammad (pbuh) entrusted his close companions Khalid bin Al-Waleed and Abdur Rahman bin Awf and other helpers, to see to a neaby tribe, the Bani Jadhimah. Muhammad (pbuh) only saw this expedition to spread the message of Islam, rid idol worship and required that it be done kindly and out of concern. But after hearing that Khalid bin Al-Waleed had ordered and committed bloodshed of in the tribe against the advice of Abdur Rahman bin Awf and others, the Prophet (pbuh) became very angry and exclaimed “O God I am innocent of what Khalid has done!”[11]. Muhammad (pbuh) was obviously repentant of what Khalid had done, and never expected of him to act in this way. It was a result of Khalid bin Al-Waleed’s poor judgement of the situation and maybe other motives than faith in the One. It was never the case or intention of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to frighten people into becoming Muslims at the point of the sword. “There shall be no compulsion in (acceptance of) the religion”[12] The Prophet (pbuh) at once paid blood money to the people who were wronged by Khalid and did whatever possible to alleviate their suffering. He ordered that Khalid and Abdur Rahman bin Awf stop arguing, that it did not suit them as of their high rank as his companions.

Even after Muhammad (pbuh) succeeded in returning to Makkah with Islam now a successfully established religion, some of its followers were still of a mind set of bloodshed and war and fighting and bad practices deeply embedded in their characters, from the pagan age not long before. It was apparent that the Muslims needed time, to slowly grow out of the habits which they have acquired from the environment they have been brought up in. It was a case of education now and deep reminding of the Creator, a long but required process for the Muslims. There were no more major enemies of Islam. And so it was much easier for Muhammad (pbuh) to focus on educating his Muslim community. Education has always been a core part of the religion, the Prophet (pbuh) recognised the value of acquiring knowledge through his own lifetime of experience, and therefore always expressed his concerns of its importance. Many Muslims know the famous saying of the Prophet (pbuh), Seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim”, and what it meant in the sight of the all Knowing, “He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the cause of Allah until he returns”[13]. Also, there were far more new converts to the religion, now that Makkah was conquered and so much greater were the efforts taken by Muhammad (pbuh) to educate the new Muslims. He appointed it a priority to teach the new Muslims the standards and rules and principles of their new found faith.

Muhammad (pbuh) had struggled about a decade just to return back to his beloved home town Makkah, the starting point of his mission. While away from Makkah he suffered persecution and exile and then war by the Makkans, he still had firm faith in the Protector; God, that he would return back one day and be accepted by his people once again. It was a great journey for him as he let go of everything he had just for the sake of his belief he saw to establish. To bring to his people something that was alien to them, equality and social justice etc and belief and faith in one Creator. He was threatened his life for this but he stood firm, a grand example of God consciousness, as he put his trust in Allah alone. His forgiveness of the people who had hated him so much and saw for him to be dead is unparalleled. A forgiving character and personality and hard to believe, this event in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) is just one of many examples of how merciful Muhammad (pbuh) was towards mankind.

Ibn Al-Qaiyim, a well known classical Muslim scholar, described the conquest of Makkah as the greatest one by which Allah honoured His religion, Messenger, soldiers and honest party. He thereby rescued the Sacred House (Kaba), whose guidance all people seek. It was the greatest propitious event in heaven and on earth. It was the most significant prelude to a new era that was to witness the great march of Islamization and the entry of people into the fold of Islam in huge hosts. It provided an ever shining face and a most glowing source of inspiration to the whole earth.[14]

Today it is regrettable that there are those who like to paint Muhammad (pbuh) as a hateful individual. And speak and write so much against him, teaching the idea that Islam was spread at that point of the sword. Brainwashing and being brainwashed themselves about Muslims and their faith. De Lacy O’Leary, a famous historian wrote in his book, “History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myth that historians have ever repeated.”[15].

The conquest of Makkah is a magnificent part of Muhammad’s (pbuh) life and history, to be greatly reflected upon. It is for both Muslims and non-Muslims to understand it and recognise what it teaches to a community in this age. The reality of life as human beings, that people can change. One of the greatest qualities Muhammad (pbuh) had was that he could change the heart of his enemies towards him to love him, a quality of character lacking in society today. It teaches Muslims to always be faithful to the One and be aware that the all Mighty is the one who can give victory and loss, so one should remember his Creator in all humility like the Prophet (pbuh) did. The greatest lesson we can learn from this story is forgiveness; that it needs to be remembered, forgiveness is a valuable means of achieving peace, whether it be in our humanity or at home or social environment. This is a story we can all relate to one way or another, and it is important that we seek the invaluable lessons in it to better ourselves and our environment around us.

Read the full detailed event with pre-conquest events by Ar-Raqeeh Al Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar) here.

References 

[1]Qur’an 48:1-4

[2] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 6, Book 61, Hadith 553 (English reference)

[3] Qur’an 17:81

[4] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 5, Book 59, Hadith 583 (English reference)

[5] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 4, Book 53, Hadith 231 (English reference)

[6] Qur’an 49:13

[7] Qur’an 12:92

[8] Qur’an 21:107

[9] Qur’an 17:15

[11] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 9, Book 89, Hadith 299 (English reference)

[12] Qur’an 2:256

[13] Riyad as Salihin Book 13 Hadith 1385 (English/Arabic reference)

[14] Za’d Al-Ma’ad 2:160

[15] Islam at the Cross Road page 8

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