The early history of Islam is important for Muslims even to the present day. The Prophet Muhammad’s life, especially, is considered to be an example for all believers. There are numerous events that exemplify the Prophet Muhammad’s struggles and his character. These events have played a defining role in the formation of the faith and the Muslim community. In earlier posts, I have written about several significant events that include: the Night of Power, the hijra (emigration from Mecca to Medina), the Battle of Badr, and the Farewell Sermon. In this post, the focus will be on the conquest of Mecca, when the Muslims took control of the city after being away from it for 8 years.
Before the conquest of Mecca, several events took place. In 628 C.E., the Prophet Muhammad set out with about 1400 Muslims from Medina to perform umrah, the minor pilgrimage. When they reached the outskirts of Mecca, the Prophet sent an emissary to the Meccans informing them that the Muslims were not coming to fight but coming to perform a ritual. The Muslims were not permitted to perform the pilgrimage that year, but an agreement was reached between the Muslims and Quraysh.
This agreement was called the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. According to the treaty, the Muslims would postpone their pilgrimage to the following year. When the Muslims returned for the pilgrimage, the Meccans would clear the city so that the Muslims could perform the ritual peacefully. Also, all the Arab tribes would choose to ally themselves with the Meccans or the Muslims and would defend the respective side should there be an attack. Finally, the treaty outlined a plan for 10 years of peace between the two sides, preventing any bloodshed.
Both sides adhered to the treaty initially. However, two years later there was a violation of the agreement. One of the tribes allied with the Meccans attacked and killed some members of a tribe allied with the Muslims. This incident dissolved the treaty.
By this time, the Muslims had become a formidable force and so in 630 C.E. the Prophet Muhammad decided to take an army of 10,000 towards Mecca. Once the Muslims had reached Mecca, the leaders of Quraysh surrendered. As a result the Prophet Muhammad announced:
Those who shelter in the Ka’ba are safe; those who shelter in the house of Abu Sufyan are safe, and those who remain confined to their houses are also safe.
Abu Sufayan was a leader of Quraysh and one of the ardent enemies of the Prophet Muhammad. The Meccans were afraid about the impending conquest of their city because the Arabs had lived by the law of retaliation and there was a fear that Muslims would take revenge for the persecution of the Muslims and the losses in subsequent battles. When the Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims entered the area of the Kaba, he announced clemency for everyone in Mecca who no longer wished to fight the Muslims:
This day no reproach shall be on you. God will forgive you; He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. You can go away!
Many of the Meccans, who were expecting some sort of punishment, were surprised by the Prophet’s statement and some decided to become Muslim. Thus, the conquest of Mecca was bloodless and ended years of warfare and violence between Quraysh and the Muslims.
This event is significant for Muslims because it demonstrates the character of the Prophet Muhammad. He could have exacted revenge, in accordance with the traditions of the Arabs, but instead he showed mercy on the Meccans. This is an important reminder for Muslims even to the present day about how conflict should be addressed. Finally, the conquest was a defining moment because it established Islam on the Arabian Peninsula, from there it spread to become a major world religion.
What is your reaction when your hear the story of the conquest of Mecca? What are other important events in the history of Islam? Are there events like the conquest of Mecca that have significance in other faith traditions? Why are they considered significant? Please share your comments below.