The unequivocally intrinsic yearning, search and will for the attainment of peace at any level can indubitably be traced as the subliminal, or discernible catalyst for the majority of our efforts. Whether it be personal, familial, financial, communal or societal; we all desire to live a life of peace. We do what we can to create an environment of peace around ourselves.
But we can only do so much. For the most part, our efforts can impact ourselves, our families, neighborhoods and communities; essentially our own circles of life. Of course this can subsequently have a ripple effect, but it would be in vain if the very fabric of our nations are not comprised of the same values and efforts at the national and international scale.
The concept of peace is oft mentioned by the likes of political and world leaders; the continuous lack of it at a world-scale necessitates the continuous conversation. But often times it seems to remain just that – a conversation, while turmoil and unrest in the world remain rampant.
The Fifth Caliph and current Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) succinctly encapsulates the matter when he says,
‘The pathetic situation of today’s world is that at one level, people speak of establishing peace, whilst at another level they are engulfed in their egotistical ways and wrapped by a shroud of pride and arrogance. In order to prove their superiority and might, every powerful government is ready to make all possible efforts.’[i]
The message is clear – the mere promulgation of peace simply isn’t enough. April 24th marks the United Nations’ International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, aimed to promote the three main pillars of the UN, ‘peace and security, development and human rights.’[ii] As the UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres puts it, ‘The United Nations Charter points the way, with its vision of people and countries living as good neighbours, defending universal values and recognizing our common future.’[iii]
The initiative is commendable, but cannot reach its true potential until the following words of His Holiness (aba) are heeded, ‘If the requirements of justice are not fulfilled, then no matter how many organizations are formed for the sake of peace, their efforts will prove fruitless.’[iv]
Clearly, justice for the sake of multilateral peace entails the consideration of all parties involved. 73% of Americans prefer the use of diplomacy for the establishment of world peace[v], but diplomacy cannot be synonymous with individual vested interests. Thus, justice for the sake of peace also entails that the leadership on the frontlines of its establishment be pure natured, free from vested interests of any kind and truly seek the attainment of a purpose greater than just themselves or even their own people; they must endeavor for the greater good in its true essence.
So as we look to commemorate a day for the establishment of peace in our own time, there must be a blueprint to look towards, some sort of successful endeavor which, if emulated, could bring about positive results not only for us, but for generations to come. Judging by the tumultuous state of the world to date, one would seemingly have to deduce that whatever we’ve been doing simply isn’t working. Perhaps we ought to consider the words of French writer Gustave Flaubert who said, ‘our ignorance of history makes us slander our own times.’[vi]
If we comb through history, it won’t take long to find an esteemed example of establishing not only multilateral peace but peace at all levels; bringing many a tribe and nation together at a single time, and that too, with great success. It’s an example having elapsed almost 1500 years, yet timeless as ever. It’s the example of a man who the Bible foretold to be the ‘Prince of Peace’[vii] – the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa).
Charter of Madinah
After suffering thirteen long years of brutal and merciless persecution, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), under Divine Command, migrated to the city of Madinah. Prior to his migration, a group of its inhabitants had pledged allegiance to him and had conferred upon him complete governance of the city. Even still, he was entering uncharted territory.
Prior to the arrival of the Holy Prophet (sa) in Madinah, there were two prevailing factions of society. There were the idolatrous people who were divided into two tribes – the Aus and Khazraj. Then there were the Jews, who were also divided into three subtribes – Banu Quraizah, Banu Nazir, and Banu Qainqah. Thus there were two nations divided further into a total of five tribes.
Now, with the arrival of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) came even more nations and groups of people. Of course there were the Muslims, who were identified as either Muhajirin (those who migrated from Makkah to Madinah) and the. Ansar (original inhabitants of Madinah who had accepted Islam). Along with the arrival of Muslims in Madinah however, also came another group of people, known as the Hypocrites. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra) writes in The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets, ‘the blessed person of the Holy Prophet (sa) was like that heavenly rainfall, by which all kinds of plantation, be it good or bad, begins to manifest itself.’[viii] Thus the hypocrites were those of the Aus and Khazraj who had apparently accepted Islam, while their hearts remained hardened against it, seeking to attack Islam from within.
This was the landscape upon the arrival of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) in Madinah. Four separate groups or nations, all presenting their own intricacies. In came a leader, never before having stood at the helm of any worldly governance, with the task of entering an entirely new city with four ideologically opposed groups. Not only were they opposed, but some were in open opposition to Islam and posed very real threats. The challenge was great – for a mere worldly leader that is. The manner in which he would proceed to handle this seemingly unsolvable puzzle proved that it was with Divine Succour that he lead even in his worldly governance.
The Hypocrites naturally had to maintain their cover; though their implicit threat was great, they expressed no physical threat as of yet. As for the idolaters, their numbers in Madinah were great at the time of migration, but with the passage of time they diminished as a result of accepting Islam. Even those who did not accept Islam accepted the political rule of the Holy Prophet (sa) under the influence of Arab culture. However the Jews were entirely independent, and so the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) deemed that the best way to ensure peace and harmony in Madinah was to establish a binding agreement.
The Holy Prophet (sa) gathered the Muslims, Aus and Khazraj on one side and Jewish leaders on the other, and explained the importance of establish a binding pact that would ensure peace and security. As a result, the following treaty was agreed upon:
- The Muslims and Jews would live together with sympathy and sincerity, and would not oppress or wrong each other.
- All people would enjoy religious freedom.
- The lives and wealth of all citizens would be honoured and safeguarded, except that an individual was guilty of oppression or criminality.
- All disputes and conflicts would be presented before the Messenger of Allah for his judgement, and all verdicts would be in accordance with Divine Command (i.e., the Sharī‘at [law] of every specific people).
- No party would set out for war without the permission of the Messenger of Allah.
- If another nation waged war against the Jews or Muslims, one would stand up in defense of the other.
- Similarly, if Madinah was attacked everyone would defend it collectively.
- The Jews would not provide any aid or protection to the Quraish of Makkah or their allies.
- Every community would bear their own expenses.
- This treaty would protect no tyrant, criminal, or wrongdoer from punishment or retribution.[ix]
The Holy Prophet (sa) established multilateral peace amongst tribes and nations who had otherwise been at odds with each other for as long as could be remembered; including those who posed open threats to him and his people. Although his numbers were increasing by the day, and had he so willed, other measures could have been taken to establish his leadership, but that was never his prerogative. He had been sent as a ‘mercy for all of mankind’ and thus immediately upon his arrival, he sought to establish peace.
This charter was immediately put to the test. The Quraish in Makkah came to know of the Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) growing numbers and success in Madinah and could not bear to see it further, so they incited the hypocrites and idolaters in Madinah to conspire against, and attack the Muslims. Of course the hypocrites had always harbored enmity against the Muslim, and thus saw an opportunity to act. The Holy Prophet (sa) came to know of this and said, ‘If you wage war against me, in fact it is you who shall suffer. For your own brethren and kindred would be your opponents,’[x] as there were many amongst the ‘Aus and Khazraj who would stand by the binding charter they had agreed to.
This charter was not based solely on the interests of one group or nation, rather it sought the protection and establishment of peace for all who dwelled in Madinah, no matter their views or beliefs. Thus was the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) successful in establishing multilateral peace in his first act of governance in Madinah.
Treaty of Hudaibiyah
True dedication to the establishment of peace, even within the confines of diplomacy, is to rid one’s self entirely of any personal interest, ego or pride. Perhaps what the world lacks today in the establishment of peace is pure dedication to its establishment in every sense, by the leaders who promulgate it. Yet, once again, we needn’t look anywhere other than the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) who, upon the ratification of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah exhibited the utmost dedication, desire and will for the true establishment of peace.
In the sixth year after migration, having been Divinely inspired to do so, the Holy Prophet (sa) set out from Madinah with about fifteen hundred Muslims towards Makkah with the intention of performing `Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage). On route to Makkah, the Holy Prophet (sa) came to know of the Makkans’ rage upon hearing of his intention to enter their city, due to which they began plotting attacks against the Muslim. In order to ensure the safety of his caravan, the Holy Prophet (sa) diverted from the usual path to Makkah and stopped nine miles away from the city at a place called Hudaibiyah. From here, the Holy Prophet (sa) sent word to the Makkans that his intentions were entirely pure and free from hostility. He wanted to maintain the sanctity of the sacred month they were currently in wherein it was understood that there would be no fighting or bloodshed. He made it very clear that he was ready and willing to come to an agreement, despite the hostility being shown by the Makkans. He said,
‘We have not come with the intention of war, rather, we have only come to perform the ‘Umrah. Alas, despite the fact that the fire of war has burnt them to dust, they still do not refrain from fighting. I am even prepared to settle a truce with them so that they may cease war against me, and leave me free for the others’[xi]
And so negotiations began – the Makkans sent a series of chieftains and noblemen to the Holy Prophet (sa) in order to negotiate the terms of an agreement between the two sides. As the Makkans came and went, some left with compelling impressions of the most Noble Prophet (sa). One such person was `Urwah bin Mas`ud, who, upon returning from his negotiations with the Holy Prophet (sa) said,
‘O Ye people! I have travelled far and wide, I have been to the royal courts of many a king and have been presented before Caesar and Chosroe and the Negus as a representative, but by God, the manner in which I have seen the companions of Muḥammad (sa) honour him, I have seen nowhere else.’[xii]
The establishment of peace cannot be through mere words; an example of true leadership must be exhibited to the very core in order to facilitate it. Thus was the pristine example of the Holy Prophet (sa) inclining those who sought nothing but to destroy him, to come to the table and negotiate terms of an agreement.
However, as negotiations were ongoing, an impetuous group of Makkans thought that this was the perfect time to attack a large number of Muslims and even began plotting to assassinate the Holy Prophet (sa). They sent 50 – according to some narrations 80 – men to Hudaibiyah with the orders of encircling the Muslim camp, and slowly drawing in while attacking the Muslims little by little until they reached the Prophet Muhammad (sa). However in no time, this plan was discovered and the parties involved were arrested.
Just imagine how such an incident would fare during any sort of negotiation in the modern world. It would be more than enough to end negotiations; rather, such an incident could be the spark for an outright war. But what was the response of the Holy Prophet (sa)? In yet another testament to his sheer desire for the establishment of peace and the avoidance of any sort of conflict, he forgave them entirely. The incident in mentioned in the Holy Qur’an,
‘It was God, Who by His special grace, withheld the hands of the infidels from you in the valley of Makkah and protected you; And when you became dominant and subjugated them, withheld your hands from them.’[xiii]
Finally, after many negotiations and various other incidents which could have entirely derailed any chance for an agreement but continued due to the forbearance and steady resolve of the Holy Prophet (sa) for the establishment of peace, the time came to deliberate the final terms of the agreement. Suhail bin `Amr was sent by the Makkans for this task, who sat with the Holy Prophet (sa) and thus the agreement was written.
First, the Holy Prophet (sa) instructed the scribe to write ‘in the Name of Allah, most Gracious, ever Merciful’ at the beginning of the document; a verse from the Holy Qur’an used to begin any matter. Suhail contended this, saying it was not customary for the Makkans to write this and instead said that ‘with thy name O Allah’ should be written as was customary for them. The Muslims present could not bear to see this, however the Holy Prophet (sa) said ‘No matter, there is no problem in this, write as Suhail says.’
Then the Holy Prophet instructed the scribe, Hazrat `Ali (ra), to write, ‘This is the treaty that Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah has concluded.’ Suhail once again disagreed and said that this should be erased, as the Makkans did not accept him to be the Messenger of God. Instead ‘Muhammad son of Abdullah’ should be written The Muslims could not bear to see their beloved Prophet (sa) disrespected in such a manner. Most of all, Hazrat `Ali (ra) could not bring himself to erase the words ‘Messenger of Allah.’ This was the man to whom they had pledged their lives, who was dearer to them than any relation of kith and kin. Seeing this state of the Muslims, remaining free from the dark clouds of ego and pride, knowing that he truly was the Messenger of Allah, but also realizing that the agreement for the establishment of peace would not move forward otherwise, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) took the parchment in his own blessed hands, erased ‘Messenger of Allah’ himself, and wrote in its place ‘Son of `Abdullah.’
Thus the deliberations continued, and thus did it seem that at every point the Prophet Muhammad (sa) would concede to the terms being stipulated by the Makkans. But he was unmarred by ego and the desire for personal gain. The driving force behind his thinking was the establishment of peace. And so, the following were the conditions of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah,
- The Holy Prophet (sa) and his companions would return (to Madinah) this year.
- Next year, they would be permitted to enter Makkah and fulfill the rite of ‘Umrah, but except for a sheathed sword, they would not be permitted to bring any arms. Furthermore, they would not remain in Makkah for more than 3 days.
- If any man from among the people of Makkah went to Madinah, even if he be a Muslim, the Holy Prophet (sa) should not grant him protection in Madinah and should return him.
- Among the tribes of Arabia, whichever tribe wished to ally with the Muslims could do so and whichever tribe wished to ally with the people of Makkah could do so.
- For the time being, this treaty would be for 10 years and during this period, war would be suspended between the Quraish and the Muslims. [xiv]
None made more sacrifices than the Holy Prophet (sa) himself, but in the end he achieved that which, for so long, seemed impossible. He had no personal gain or interest other than that of the establishment of peace. He did not desire to show might or strength for the short-term to establish his own position, instead he sought long-term success; long-term peace. And so, through these sacrifices and his diplomacy, Arabia saw a time of peace which it had never been seen before.
The Muslims were also worried, having seemingly conceded to the conditions stipulated by the Makkans. However it was the Divinely bestowed wisdom of the Holy Prophet (sa) which turned this into the ultimate victory for Islam. Through his diplomacy, the Holy Prophet (sa) was able to ensure peace. It was during this time of peace that Islam thrived the most. Whereas the Holy Prophet (sa) had fifteen hundred Muslims with him at Hudaibiyah, Islam so vastly flourished during this time of peace, that when the Holy Prophet (sa) eventually marched peacefully into Makkah at the time of its conquest, he was accompanied by ten thousand Muslims. It was perhaps the greatest, most peaceful conquest in the history of mankind, all stemming from his initial sacrifices for the establishment of peace. The British Historian Stanley Lane Poole writes, ‘Through all the annals of conquest, there is no triumphant entry like unto this one.’[xv] The Reverend Bosworth Smith writes, ‘Read the account of Muhammad’s entry into Makkah along with the account of Marius Sulla as he entered Rome, one would be in a position to recognize the magnanimity and moderation of the Prophet of Arabia.’[xvi] And Sir William Muir writes,
‘The long and obstinate struggle against his pretentions maintained by the inhabitants of Makkah might have induced its conqueror to mark his indignation in indelible traces of fire and blood. But Muhammad, excepting a few criminals, granted a universal pardon; and, nobly casting into oblivion the memory of the past, with all its mockery, its affronts and persecution, he treated even the foremost of his opponents with a gracious and even friendly consideration.’[xvii]
So as we look for answers in today’s day and age, let us not forget perhaps the greatest model for the establishment of multilateral peace through diplomacy. This example is absolutely timeless, and could truly revolutionize the modern world, as the great British playwright and author George Bernard Shaw writes,
‘He must be called the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness’[xviii]
By truly embodying it in all facets, remaining pure of any vested interests, ego, pride or anything of the sort; by truly exemplifying himself as the ‘mercy for all mankind,’ he became the ultimate champion for the establishment of peace; nay, he became the Prince of Peace.
[i]Address at the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington, 4thNovember 2013
[iv]Address at the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington, 4thNovember 2013
[viii]The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets by Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra) Volume II p. 25
[ix]Ibid p. 27
[x]Ibid p. 28
[xi]The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets by Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra) Volume III p. 126
[xii]Ibid p. 128-129
[xiii]The Holy Qur’an Chapter 48 Verse 25
[xiv]The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets by Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra) Volume III p. 141-142
[xv]Introduction to Higgins’ Apology for Mohammad pp ixxi
[xvi]Muhammad and Muhammadanism by R. Bosworth Smith
[xvii]Life of Mahomet by Sir William Muir p. 513
[xviii]‘The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936