Chapter 5: The conversion of Khalid
"Verily We have granted you a manifest Victory. That Allah may forgive you your faults of the past and those to follow, fulfil His Favour to you, and guide you on the Straight Path.
And that Allah may help you with powerful help. It is He who sent down Tranquillity into the hearts of the Believers, that they may add Faith to their Faith; for to Allah belong the Forces of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is full of Knowledge, full of Wisdom."
The Truce of Hudaibiya was signed in early April 628 (late Dhul Qad, 6 Hijri). The signing of such a truce was not the intention of the Prophet as he set out for Makkah in the middle of March. His intention was to perform the pilgrimage-the off?season pilgrimage known as Umra-and he took with him 1,400 fully armed Muslims and a large number of sacrificial animals.
The Quraish, however, feared that the Muslims were coming to fight a battle and subdue the Quraish in their home town, for the initiative had now passed to the Muslims. Consequently, the Quraish moved out of Makkah and concentrated in a camp nearby, from where Khalid was sent forward with 300 horsemen on the road to Madinah to intercept the Muslim army. Khalid did not see how he could stop such a large force with only 300 men, but he decided to do whatever was possible to delay the advance of the Muslims. He arrived at Kura?ul?Ghameem, 15 miles from Usfan, and took up a blocking position in a pass through which the road crossed this hilly region. 1 (See Map 4)
When the Muslims arrived at Usfan, their advance was preceded by a detachment of 20 horsemen who had been sent forward as a reconnaissance element. This detachment made contact with Khalid at Kura?ul?Ghameem, and informed the Prophet at Usfan of the position and strength of Khalid's force.
The Prophet decided that he would not waste time in fighting an action at this place. He was in any case anxious to avoid bloodshed, as his intention was the pilgrimage and not battle. He ordered his forward detachment to remain in contact with Khalid, and draw Khalid's attention to itself; and with Khalid so engaged, the Prophet moved his army from the right, travelling over little used tracks through difficult hilly country, which he crossed, not far from the coast through a pass known as Saniyat-ul-Marar 2 . The march proved a strenuous one, but it was successfully accomplished and Khalid's position bypassed. It was not till the outflanking movement was well under way that Khalid saw in the distance the dust of the Muslim column, and realising what had happened, hastily withdrew to Makkah. The Muslims continued the march until they had got to Hudaibiya, 13 miles west of Makkah, and pitched camp.
At Hudaibiya battle seemed imminent for some time in spite of the Prophet's wish to avoid bloodshed. Some skirmishes took place, but there were no casualties. After a few days, however, the Quraish realised that the Muslims had indeed come for pilgrimage and not for war. Thereafter envoys travelled back and forth between the two armies, and finally a truce was agreed upon, which became known as the Truce of Hudaibiya. It was signed on behalf of the Muslims by the Prophet and on behalf of the Quraish by Suhail bin Amr. Its terms were as follows:
a. For 10 years there would be no war, no raids, no military action of any sort between the Muslims and the Quraish.
b. The following year the Muslims would be permitted to perform the pilgrimage. They would be allowed three days in Makkah.
c. Any member of the Quraish who deserted to the Muslims would be returned; any Muslim who deserted to the Quraish would not be returned.
1. This Kura-ul-Ghameem is not the Kura marked on today's maps. The latter lies by an inlet of the Red Sea, while the former was in a hilly region with the hills extending westwards from it to the sea. It was southeast of Usfan.
2. This pass was also called Zat-ul-Hanzal (Abu Yusuf: p. 209).
Other tribes could join the truce on either side and would be bound by the same terms.
Some Muslims were incensed at the third clause, dealing with deserters, especially the hot?headed Umar who protested vehemently against it; but all protests were overruled by the Prophet. The truce actually gave certain distinct long?term and solid advantages to the Muslims, although these were not at the time apparent to everyone. It would be to the Muslims' advantage to be generous in their terms, as this would have a favourable psychological impact on the Arab tribes and would show the confidence that the Muslims enjoyed in their dealings with the infidels. Moreover, if some Muslims were not permitted to leave Makkah, they would act as the eyes and ears of the Muslims in the midst of the enemy, and could in certain ways influence the people in Makkah. Their presence within the Quraish camp would in fact be a source of strength to the Muslims. "Anyway", said the Prophet, "when anyone wishes to join us, Allah will devise means for him to do so." 1
As a result of the last clause of the truce, two tribes living in and around Makkah joined the main participants: the Khuza'a as allies of the Muslims and the Bani Bakr as allies of the Quraish. These two tribes were mutually hostile and had been feuding since the Ignorance.
After a stay of over two weeks at Hudaibiya, the Muslims returned to Madinah. The following year, in March 629 (Dhul Qad, 7 Hijri), the Muslims, led by the Prophet, performed the pilgrimage. The Quraish evacuated Makkah and lived in the surrounding countryside for three days, and did not return to their homes until after the Muslims had departed for Madinah.
For some time a change had been taking place in the mind of Khalid. At first he thought mainly of military matters and military objectives. Conscious of his own ability and military prowess, he felt that he was truly deserving of victory, but somehow victory always eluded him. At the Battle of Uhud, despite his masterly manoeuvre, the Muslims had been able to avoid a major defeat. He admired the Prophet's dispositions and the way the Prophet had forced battle on the Quraish with the odds in his favour. At the Battle of the Ditch again victory had eluded the Quraish. They had gone to battle after such careful preparations and in such strength that victory had seemed certain; yet the simple expedient of the ditch had snatched victory from their grasp. The Quraish army had gone forth like a lion and come back like a mouse. In the expedition of Hudaibiya, when he had tried to intercept the Muslims, the Prophet had neatly outmanoeuvred him while his attention was riveted to the small Muslim detachment in front of him. Khalid was looking for the Man, and he could not help admiring Muhammad-his generalship, his character, and his personality-qualities which he could find in no one else.
Above all Khalid wanted the clash of battle and the glory of victory. His martial spirit sought military adventure, and with the Quraish there was only misadventure. He could see no hope of fighting successful battles on the side of the Quraish. Perhaps he should join the Prophet, with whom there were unlimited prospects of victory and glory.
There was plenty of military activity at Madinah. Every now and then expeditions would be sent out against the unbelieving tribes, either to break up hostile concentrations before they became too large or to capture camels and other live?stock. Between the Battle of Uhud and the pilgrimage, 28 expeditions were taken out by the Muslims, some led by the Prophet in person and others by officers appointed by him. With very few exceptions these expeditions had ended in complete success for the Muslims. The greatest of these had been the Campaign of Khaibar, in which the last resistance of the Jews was crushed. These expeditions had not only enlarged the political boundaries of Islam, but had also resulted in a great increase in wealth. Whenever reports of Muslim military successes arrived at Makkah, Khalid would think wistfully of the 'fun' that the Muslims were having. Now and then he would wish that he were in Madinah, for that is 'where the action was'!
After the Prophet's pilgrimage serious doubt entered Khalid's mind regarding his religious beliefs. He had never been deeply religious and was not unduly drawn towards the gods of the Kabah. He had always kept an open mind. Now he began to ponder deeply on religious matters, but did not share his thoughts with anyone. And then suddenly it flashed across his mind that Islam was the true faith. This happened about two months after the Prophet's pilgrimage.
1. Waqidi: Maghazi, p. 310.
Having made up his mind about Islam, Khalid met Ikrimah and some others and said, "It is evident to the intelligent mind that Muhammad is neither a poet nor a sorcerer, as the Quraish allege. His message is truly divine. It is incumbent on all sensible men to follow him."
Ikrimah was stunned by the words of Khalid. "Are you abandoning our faith?" he asked incredulously.
"I have come to believe in the true Allah."
"It is strange that of all the Quraish you should say so."
"Because the Muslims have killed so many of your dear ones in battle. I for one shall certainly not accept Muhammad, nor shall I ever speak to you again unless you give up this absurd idea. Do you not see that the Quraish seek the blood of Muhammad?"
"That is a matter of Ignorance", replied Khalid.
When Abu Sufyan heard from Ikrimah of Khalid's change of heart, he sent for both the stalwarts. "Is it true what I hear?" he asked Khalid.
"And what do you hear?"
"That you wish to join Muhammad."
"Yes. And why not? After all Muhammad is one of us. He is a kinsman."
Abu Sufyan flew into a rage and threatened Khalid with dire consequences, but was restrained by Ikrimah. "Steady, O Abu Sufyan!" said Ikrimah. "Your anger may well lead me also to join Muhammad. Khalid is free to follow whatever religion he chooses." 1 Ikrimah, the nephew and bosom friend, had stood up for Khalid in spite of their religious differences.
That night Khalid took his armour, his weapons and his horse, and set out for Madinah. On the way he met two others travelling in the same direction: Amr bin Al Aas and Uthman bin Talha (son of the Quraish standard bearer at Uhud) and there was mutual astonishment when they found that each was travelling to Madinah with the same purpose, for each had regarded the other two as bitter enemies of Islam! The three seekers arrived at Madinah on May 31, 629 (the 1st of Safar, 8 Hijri), and went to the house of the Prophet. Khalid entered first and made his submission. He was followed by Amr and then Uthman. All three were warmly welcomed by the Prophet; their past hostility was forgiven, so that they could now start with a clean sheet. Khalid and Amr bin Al Aas were the finest military minds of the time and their entry into Islam would spell victory for Muslim arms in the following decades.
Khalid, now 43 and in the prime of life, was glad to be in Madinah. He met old friends and found that he was welcomed by all. The old feuds were forgotten. There was a new spirit in Madinah-the spirit of the pioneer. There was activity, anticipation, enthusiasm, optimism, and this atmosphere entered the heart of Khalid. He breathed the clear air of the new faith and was happy.
He also met Umar and they were friends again. There remained a little of the old rivalry between the two, but this existed as a subconscious undercurrent rather than a deliberate feeling or intention. Khalid now realised that in his rivalry with Umar he was at a disadvantage, for he was a new convert while Umar was an emigrant who had left his home in Makkah. Umar had been the fortieth person to become a Muslim. While the Muslims were at Makkah he could take no great pride in having this position, for then the Muslims were few in number; but now thousands had entered Islam and with this large number, being the fortieth amounted to having a very important position. Now Khalid was competing not only against a man of equal strength, will and ability, but also against Muslim No. 40!
1. Waqidi: Maghazi, p. 321.
Khalid took to visiting the Prophet frequently. He would listen for hours to the talks of the Prophet. He would drink at the fountain of wisdom and virtue that was Muhammad, Messenger of Allah. One day Khalid and Fadhl bin Abbas (cousin of the Prophet) visited him in the house of his wife, Maimuna, who was an aunt of Khalid. Just then a Bedouin friend had sent a cooked dish as a gift to the Prophet, and as was his custom, the Prophet asked the guests to stay and share his meal. A cloth was spread on the ground and around it they all sat-the Prophet, his wife, and the two guests.
As the Prophet extended his hand towards the dish, Maimuna asked, "O Messenger of Allah, do you know what this is?"
"This is roast lizard!"
The Prophet withdrew his hand. "This meat I shall not eat", he said.
"O Messenger of Allah", asked Khalid, "is it forbidden?"
"Can we eat it?"
"Yes, you may do so."
Maimuna also abstained from the food, but Khalid and Fadhl ate their fill of the dish. Roast lizard was a favourite among the desert Arabs. Apparently it was a favourite with Khalid too, for he ate heartily! 1
1. This little-known incident is taken from Ibn Sad: p. 381.