Islamic Skinheads and Hudaybiya

November 2, 2010
Sirat p. 505

When the peace was concluded, Muhammad slaughtered his victims and sat down and shaved his head. When the men saw what Muhammad had done, they leapt up and did the same. Shaving the head was part of the traditional pagan pilgrimage rituals. We saw this shaving in connection with the raid on Nakhla, where the Muslims laying in wait had shaved their heads in order to look like pilgrims and make the caravan guides relax. One may wonder why Muhammad had not done this earlier. But at least he gets it in order now. The Muslims, as always, follow the example of their leader. Some men shaved their heads on the day of al-Hudaybiya, while others cut their hair. Muhammad said: “May Allah have mercy on the shavers.” They said: “The cutters, too, Oh messenger?” Three times they had to put this question until finally he added: “and the cutters.” When they asked him why he had repeatedly confined the invocation of Allah’s mercy to the shavers, he replied: “Because they did not doubt.” While this story may seem odd at first glance, Muhammad has an important point to make: Doubt about himself or Islam is wrong. Doubt will keep the mercy of Allah from reaching you. Related: Quran 5:101: O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if you ask about them while the Qur’ân is being revealed, they will be made plain to you. Allâh has forgiven that, and Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Forbearing.
Quran 5:102: Before you, a community asked such questions, then on that account they became disbelievers. That’s clear enough. Those who questioned the Quran lost their faith. Therefore, don’t do this.

The perpetual nature of jihad is highlighted by the fact that, based on the 10-year treaty of Hudaybiya (628), ratified between Muhammad and his Quraysh opponents in Mecca, most jurists are agreed that ten years is the maximum amount of time Muslims can be at peace with infidels; once the treaty has expired, the situation needs to be reappraised. Based on Muhammad’s example of breaking the treaty after two years (by claiming a Quraysh infraction), the sole function of the truce is to buy weakened Muslims time to regroup before renewing the offensive:[33] “By their very nature, treaties must be of temporary duration, for in Muslim legal theory, the normal relations between Muslim and non-Muslim territories are not peaceful, but warlike.”[34] Hence “the fuqaha [jurists] are agreed that open-ended truces are illegitimate if Muslims have the strength to renew the war against them [non-Muslims].”[35]
Even though Shari’a mandates Muslims to abide by treaties, they have a way out, one open to abuse: If Muslims believe—even without solid evidence—that their opponents are about to break the treaty, they can preempt by breaking it first. Moreover, some Islamic schools of law, such as the Hanafi, assert that Muslim leaders may abrogate treaties merely if it seems advantageous for Islam.[36] This is reminiscent of the following canonical hadith: “If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then you should expiate your oath and do what is better.”[37] And what is better, what is more altruistic, than to make God’s word supreme by launching the jihad anew whenever possible? Traditionally, Muslim rulers held to a commitment to launch a jihad at least once every year. This ritual is most noted with the Ottoman sultans, who spent half their lives in the field.[38] So important was the duty of jihad that the sultans were not permitted to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, an individual duty for each Muslim. Their leadership of the jihad allowed this communal duty to continue; without them, it would have fallen into desuetude.[39]
In short, the prerequisite for peace or reconciliation is Muslim advantage. This is made clear in an authoritative Sunni legal text, Umdat as-Salik, written by a fourteenth-century Egyptian scholar, Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri: “There must be some benefit [maslaha] served in making a truce other than the status quo: ‘So do not be fainthearted and call for peace when it is you who are uppermost [Qur’an 47:35].'”[40]
More recently, and of great significance for Western leaders advocating cooperation with Islamists, Yasser Arafat, soon after negotiating a peace treaty criticized as conceding too much to Israel, addressed an assembly of Muslims in a mosque in Johannesburg where he justified his actions: “I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh in Mecca.”[41] In other words, like Muhammad, Arafat gave his word only to annul it once “something better” came along—that is, once the Palestinians became strong enough to renew the offensive and continue on the road to Jerusalem. Elsewhere, Hudaybiya has appeared as a keyword for radical Islamists. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front had three training camps within the Camp Abu Bakar complex in the Philippines, one of which was named Camp Hudaybiya.[42]