Thursday, November 8, 2007

Suhail Ibn Amr

Prologue: At the Battle of Badar, when Suhail Ibn Amr fell into the hands of the Muslims as a prisoner, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab came up to the Prophet SAW and said: "Messenger of God! Let me pull out the two middle incisors of Suhail Ibn Amr so that he would not stand up and be able to speak out against you after this day." "Certainly not, Umar," cautioned the Prophet SAW. "I would not mutilate anyone lest God mutilate me even though I am a Prophet." And calling Umar closer to him, the blessed Prophet SAW said: "Umar, perhaps Suhail will do something in the future which will please you."

Suhail Ibn Amr was a prominent person among the Quraish. He was clever and articulate and his opinion carried weight among his people. He was known as the khatib or spokesman and orator of the Quraish. He was to play a major role in concluding the famous truce of Hudaibiyah.

The year of the sixth Hijrah

Towards the end of the sixth year of Hijrah, the Prophet SAW and about fifteen hundred of his Sahabah left Madinah for Makkah to perform Umrah. To make it known that they were coming in peace, the Muslims were not armed for battle and carried only their travelers swords. They also took with them animals for sacrifice to let it be known that they were really coming on pilgrimage.

The Quraish learnt of their approach and immediately prepared to take battle with them. They vowed to themselves that they would never allow the Muslims to enter Makkah. Khalid Ibn Al-Walid was dispatched at the head of a Quraish cavalry force to cut off the approaching Muslims. Khalid’s army stood waiting for them at a place called Kara Al-Ghamim.

The Prophet SAW learnt in advance of Khalid's position. Although committed to the struggle against them, he was keen not to have any encounter then with the Quraish forces. He asked: "Is there any man who could take us (to Makkah) on a different route to avoid the Quraish?"

A man from the tribe of Aslam said he could and took the Muslims through the difficult terrain of Warah and then on fairly easy marches, finally approaching Makkah from the south.

Khalid realized what the Muslims had done and returned frustrated to Makkah.

The Truth of Hudaibiyah

The Prophet SAW camped near Hudaibiyah and indicated that if the Quraish would give any hint of a truce out of veneration for the sacred time and place, he would respond.

The Quraish sent Badil Ibn Warqa with a group of men from the tribe of Khuza’ah to find out why the Muslims had come. Badil met the Prophet SAW and when he returned to the Quraish and informed them of the peaceful intentions of the Prophet SAW and his companions, they did not believe him because they said he was from the Khuza’ah who was allies of Muhammad. "Does Muhammad intend," they asked, "to come upon us with his soldiers (in the guise of) performing Umrah? The Arabs would hear that he moved against us and entered Makkah by force white a state of war existed between us. By God this will never happen with our approval."

The Quraish then sent Halis Ibn Alqamah, the Chieftain of the Ahabish who was allies of the Quraish. When the Prophet SAW, saw Halis he said, "This man is from a people who think greatly of animal sacrifice. Drive the sacrificial animals in full view of him so that he can see them.” This was done and Halis was greeted by the Muslims chanting the talbiyah: "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik."

On his return, Halis exclaimed: "Subhana Allah - Glory be to God. These people should not be prevented from entering Makkah. Can lepers and donkeys perform the Hajj while the son of Al-Muttalib (Muhammad) be prevented from (visiting) the House of God? By the Lord of the Kaba’ah, may the Quraish be destroyed? These people have come to perform Umrah."

When the Quraish heard these words, they scoffed at him: "Sit down! You are only a nomad Arab. You have no knowledge of plots and intrigues."

Urwah Ibn Masud, the chieftain of Thaqafi from Tail, was then sent out to assess the situation. He met and said to the Prophet SAW: "O Muhammad! You have gathered all these people and have come back to your birthplace. The Quraish have come out and pledged to God that you would not enter Makkah against them by force. By God, all these people might well desert you."

At that Abu Bakar As-Siddiq went up to Urwah Ibn Masud and with disdain said: "We desert him (Muhammad)? Woe to you."

As Urwah Ibn Masud was speaking to the Prophet's he touched his beard which Mughirah Ibn Shu’bah instantaneously rapped him and removed his hand saying, "Take away your hand". Urwah retorted: "Woe to you! How crude and coarse you are." The Prophet SAW smiled. Urwah asked "Who is this man, O Muhammad?" which the Prophet said "This is your cousin, Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah." "What treachery!" Urwah hissed at Al-Mughirah and continued to insult him.

Urwah Ibn Masud then took to observe the companions of the Prophet SAW. He noticed that whenever he gave them an order, they promptly carried it out. When he made ablutions they vied with one another to help him. When they spoke in his presence, they lowered their voices, and they did not look him in the eye out of respect for him.

Urwah Ibn Masud returned to Quraish and he was obviously impressed with what he saw that he said: "By God, O people of the Quraish, I have been to Chosroes in his kingdom and I have seen Caesar the Byzantine emperor in the plenitude of his power, but never have I seen a king among his people like Muhammad among his companions. I have seen a people who would not abandon him for anything. Reconsider your position. He is presenting you with right guidance. Accept what he has presented to you. I advise you sincerely... I fear that you will never gain victory over him."

The Quraish said "Don't speak like that. We will have him go back this year and he can return in the future."

Meanwhile, the Prophet SAW summoned Uthman ibn Affan and sent him to the Quraish leaders to inform them of his purpose in coming to Makkah and to ask their permission for the Muslims to visit their relatives. Uthman was also to cheer up the Mustadafin among the Muslims who still lived in Makkah and inform them that liberation would not be long in coming.

Uthman delivered the Prophet's message to the Quraish and they repeated their determination not to allow the Prophet SAW to enter Makkah. They suggested that Uthman could make Tawaf around the Ka’abah. But he replied that he would not make Tawaf while the Messenger of God was prevented from doing so. They then took Uthman into custody and a rumor spread that he was killed. When the Prophet heard this, his attitude changed.

The Prophet SAW said "We shall not depart, "until we fight." He summoned the Muslims to take Bai’ah, An Oath of Allegiance to Fight. The herald cried out: "O people, Al-Bai’ah, Al-Bai’ah." They flocked to the Prophet SAW as he sat under a tree and swore allegiance to him that they would fight. Soon after however, the Prophet SAW ascertained that the rumor was false.

It was at this point that the Quraish sent Suhail Ibn Amr to the Messenger of God with the brief to negotiate and persuade the Prophet SAW to return to Madinah without entering Makkah. Suhail was chosen no doubt because of his persuasiveness, his toughness and his alertness as major qualities of a good negotiator. When the Prophet saw Suhail approaching, he immediately guessed the change in the position of the Quraish. "The people want reconciliation. That's why they have sent this man."

The talks between the Prophet SAW and Suhail went for some time until finally an agreement was reached in principle.

Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and others were very upset with the terms of the agreement which they considered to be harmful to the cause of Islam and a defeat for the Muslims.

The Prophet SAW assured them that this was not the case and that he would never go against the command of God and that God would not neglect him. He then called Ali ibn Abi Talib to write down the terms of the treaty:

"Write: Bismillahir- Rahmanir- Rahim."

"I don't know this (phrase)", interjected Suhail. "Write instead 'Bismika Allahumma - In Your name, O Allah."

The Prophet SAW conceded and instructed Ali to write 'Bismika Allahumma.'

He then said: "Write: 'This is what has been agreed between Muhammad the Messenger of God and Suhail ibn Amr..."

Suhail objected: "If I had testified that you were indeed the Messenger of God, I would not be fighting you. Write instead you name and the name of your father."

So the Prophet again conceded this and instructed Ali to write: 'This is what has been agreed upon by Muhammad the son of Abdullah and Suhail Ibn Amr.

They have agreed to suspend war for ten years in which people would enjoy security and would refrain from (harming) one another. Also, that whoever from among the Quraish should come to Muhammad without the permission of his wali (legal guardian), Muhammad would send him back to them and that if any who is with Muhammad should come to the Quraish, they would not send him back to him.

Suhail Ibn Amr had managed to save the Makkans face. He had attempted to and got as much as possible for the Quraish in the negotiations. Of course he was assisted in this by the noble tolerance of the Prophet SAW.

The Breach of Hudaibiyah by the Quraish

Two years of the Hudaibiyah treaty elapsed during which the Muslims enjoyed a respite from the Quraish and were freed to concentrate on other matters. In the eighth year of Hijrah however the Quraish broke the terms of the treaty by supporting the Banu Bakar in a bloody aggression against the Khuza’ah who had chosen to be allies of the Prophet SAW.

Suhail accepted Islam during the Liberation of Makkah

The Prophet SAW took the opportunity to march on Makkah but his object was not revenge. Ten thousand Muslims converged on Makkah reaching there in the month of Ramadhan.The Quraish realized that there was no hope of resisting let alone of defeating the Muslim forces. They were completely at the mercy of the Prophet SAW. What was to be their fate, they who had harried and persecuted the Muslims, tortured and boycotted them, driven them out of their hearths and homes, stirred up others against them, made war on them?

The city was surrendered to the Prophet SAW. He received the leaders of the Quraish in a spirit of tolerance and magnanimity. In a voice full of compassion and tenderness the Prophet SAW asked: "O people of the Quraish! What do you think I will do with you?" Thereupon, the adversary of Islam of yesterday, Suhail Ibn Amr replied: "We think (you will treat us) well, noble brother, son of a noble brother. “ A radiant smile flashed across the lips of the beloved of God as he said: "Idhhabu... wa antum at-tulaqaa. --- Go, for you are free."

At this moment of unsurpassed compassion, nobility and greatness, all the emotions of Suhail Ibn Amr were shaken and he announced his submission to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. His acceptance of Islam at that particular time was not the Islam of a defeated man passively giving himself up to his fate. It was instead, as his later life was to demonstrate, the Islam of a man whom the greatness of Muhammad and the greatness of the religion he proclaimed had captivated.

Those who became Muslims on the day Makkah was liberated were given the name "At-Tulaqaa" or The Free Ones. They realized how fortunate they were and many dedicated themselves in sincere worship and sacrifice to the service of the religion which they had resisted for years. Among the most prominent of these was Suhail Ibn Amr.

Islam molded him anew. His earlier talents were now burnished to a fine excellence. To these he added new talents and placed them all in the service of truth, goodness and faith. The qualities and practices for which he became known can be described in a few words: kindness, generosity, frequent Solat, fasting, recitation of the Quran, weeping for the fear of God. This was the greatness of Suhail.

In spite of his late acceptance of Islam, he was transformed into a selfless worshipper and a fighting infidel in the path of God.

When the Prophet SAW passed away, the news quickly reached Makkah, where Suhail Ibn Amr was still resident. The Muslims were plunged into a state of confusion and dismay just as in Madinah. In Madinah, Abu Bakar As-Siddiq RA quelled the confusion with his decisive words: "Whoever worships Muhammad, Muhammad is dead. And whoever worships Allah; Allah is indeed living and will never die."

In Makkah, Suhail Ibn Amr performed the same role in dispelling the vain ideas some Muslims may have had and directing them to the eternal truths of Islam. He called the Muslims together and in his brilliant and salutary style, he affirmed to them that Muhammad was indeed the Messenger of Allah and that he did not die until he had discharged his trust and propagated the message and that it was the duty of all believers after his death to apply themselves assiduously to following his example and way of life.

The prophetic words of the Messenger shone forth. Did not the Prophet SAW say to Umar Ibn Al-Khattab when the latter sought permission to pull out Suhail teeth at Badar: "Leave them, for one day perhaps they would bring you joy"? When the news of Suhail's stand in Makkah reached the Muslims of Madinah and they heard of his persuasive speech strengthening the faith in the hearts of the believers, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab remembered the words of the Prophet SAW. The day had come when Islam benefitted from the two middle incisors of Suhail which Umar had wanted to pull out.

When Suhail Ibn Amr became a Muslim he made a vow to himself which could be summarized in these words: to exert himself and spend in the cause of Islam at least in the same measure as he had done for the mushrikin. With the mushrikin, he had spent long hours before their idols. Now he stood for long periods with the believers in the presence of the one and only God, praying and fasting. Before he had stood by the mushrikin and participated in many acts of aggression and war against Islam. Now he took his place in the ranks of the Muslim army, fighting courageously, pitting himself against the fire of Persia and the injustice and oppression of the Byzantine Empire.

In this spirit he left for Syria with the Muslim armies and participated in the Battle of Yarmuk against the Byzantines, a battle that was singularly ferocious in its intensity.

Suhail Ibn Amr was someone who loved his birthplace dearly. In spite of that, he refused to return to Makkah after the victory of the Muslims in Syria. He said: "I heard the Messenger of God, peace be on him, say: 'The going forth of anyone of you in the path of God for an hour is better for him than his life's works in his household.'

Suhail Ibn Amr vowed: "I shall be a murabit in the path of God till I die and I shall not return to Makkah." For the rest of his life, Suhail Ibn Amr remained true to his pledge. He died in Palestine in the small village of 'Amawas near Jerusalem.


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