At the Battle of Badr, when Suhayl fell into the hands of the Muslims
as a prisoner, Umar ibn al-Khattab came up to the Prophet and said: "Messenger
of God! Let me pull out the two middle incisors of Suhayl ibn Amr so that
he would not stand up and be able to speak out against you after this
"Certainly not, Umar," cautioned the Prophet. "I would not mutilate anyone
lest God mutilate me even though I am a Prophet." And calling Umar closer
to him, the blessed Prophet said:
"Umar, perhaps Suhayl will do something in the future which will please
Suhayl ibn Amr was a prominent person among the Quraysh. 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 Quraysh. He was to
play a major role in concluding the famous truce of Hudaybiyyah.
Towards the end of the sixth year after the Hijrah, the Prophet 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 travellers swords. They also took
with them animals for sacrifice to let it be known that they were really
coming on pilgrimage.
The Quraysh learnt of their approach and immediately prepared to do battle
with them. They vowed to themselves that they would never allow the Muslims
to enter Makkah. Khalid ibn al-Walid was despatched at the head of a Quraysh
cavalry force to cut off the approaching Muslims. Khalids army stood waiting
for them at a place called Kara al-Ghamim.
The Prophet 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 Quraysh forces. He asked: "Is there any man who could take us
(to Makkah) on a different route to avoid the Quraysh?"
A man from the Aslam tribe 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 Prophet camped near Hudaybiyyah and indicated that if the Quraysh
would give any hint of a truce out of veneration for the sacred time and
place, he would respond. The Quraysh sent Badil ibn Warqa with a group
of men from the Khuzaah tribe to find out why the Muslims had come. Badil
met the Prophet and when he returned to the Quraysh and informed them
of the peaceful intentions of the Prophet and his companions, they did
not believe him because they said he was from the Khuzaah who were 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 Quraysh then sent Halis ibn Alqamah, the chieftain of the Ahabish
who were allies of the Quraysh. When the Prophet, peace be on him, 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 talbiyyah: "Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk." 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 alMuttaIib (Muhammad) be prevented from (visiting) the House of
God? By the Lord of the Kabah, may the Quraysh be destroyed. These people
have come to perform Umrah."
When the Quraysh 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 Thaqafi chieftain from Tail, was then sent out to
assess the situation. He said to the Prophet: "O Muhammad! You have gathered
all these people and have come back to your birthplace. The Quraysh 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
Bakr went up to Urwah and said with disdain: "We desert him (Muhammad)?
Woe to you."
As Urwah was speaking, he touched the Prophet's
beard and Mughirah ibn Shubah rapped his hand saying, "Take away your
hand," and Urwah retorted: "Woe to you! How crude and coarse you are."
The Prophet smiled. "Who is this man, O Muhammad?" asked Urwah. "This
is your cousin, Al-Mughirah ibn Shubah." "What perfidy!" Urwah hissed
at Al-Mughirah and continued to insult him.
Urwah then surveyed the companions of the Prophet. He saw that whenever
he gave them an order, they hastened to carry 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.
Back with the Quraysh, Urwah showed that he was obviously impressed:
"By God, O people of the Quraysh, 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."
"Don't speak like that," said the Quraysh. "We will have him go back
this year and he can return in the future." Meanwhile, the Prophet summoned
Uthman ibn Allan and sent him to the Quraysh leaders to inform them of
his purpose in coming to Makkah and to ask their permission for the MusIims
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 Quraysh and they repeated
their determination not to allow the Prophet to enter Makkah. They suggested
that Uthman could make tawaf around the Kabah 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.
"We shall not depart," he said, "until we fight." He summoned the Muslims
to take bayah, an oath of allegiance, to fight. The herald cried out:
"O people, al-bayah, al-bayah." They flocked to the Prophet as he sat
under a tree and swore allegiance to him that they would fight. Soon after
however, the Prophet ascertained that the rumor was false.
It was at this point that the Quraysh sent Suhayl ibn Amr to the Messenger
of God with the brief to negotiate and persuade the Prophet to return
to Madinah without entering Makkah. Suhayl was chosen no doubt because
of his persuasiveness, his toughness and his alertness major qualities
of a good negotiator. When the Prophet saw Suhayl approaching, he immediately
guessed the change in the position of the Quraysh. "The people want reconciliation.
That's why they have sent this man."
The talks between the Prophet and Suhayl continued for long until finally
agreement was reached in principle. Umar 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 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: Bismillahi-r Rahmani-r
Rahim." "I don't know this (phrase)", interjected Suhayl. "Write instead
'Bismika Allahumma - In Your name, O Allah."
The Prophet 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 Suhayl ibn Amr..." Suhayl 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 Suhayl 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 Quraysh 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 Quraysh, they would not send him
back to him.
Suhayl had managed to save the Makkans face. He had attempted to and
got as much as possible for the Quraysh in the negotiations. Of course
he was assisted in this by the noble tolerance of the Prophet.
Two years of the Hudaybiyyah treaty elapsed during which the Muslims
enjoyed a respite from the Quraysh and were freed to concentrate on other
matters. In the eighth year after the Hijrah however the Quraysh broke
the terms of the treaty by supporting the Banu Bakr in a bloody aggression
against the Khuzaah who had chosen to be allies of the Prophet.
The Prophet 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 Ramadan. The Quraysh realized that there was no hope of resisting
let alone of defeating the Muslim forces. They were completely at the
mercy of the Prophet. 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
The city surrendered to the Prophet. He received the leaders of the Quraysh
in a spirit of tolerance and magnanimity. In a voice full of compassion
and tenderness he asked: "O people of the Quraysh! What do you think I
will do with you?" Thereupon, the adversary of Islam of yesterday, Suhayl
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
At this moment of unsurpassed compassion, nobility and greatness, all
the emotions of Suhayl ibn Amr were shaken and he announced his Islam
or 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 Suhayl ibn Amr.
Islam moulded him anew. Ali 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 Salat, fasting, recitation of the Quran, weeping for the fear
of God. This was the greatness of Suhayl. In spite of his late acceptance
of Islam, he was transformed into a selfless worshipper and a fighting
fidai in the path of God.
When the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, passed away,
the news quickly reached Makkah, where Suhayl was still resident. The
Muslims were plunged into a state of confusion and dismay just as in Madinah.
In Madinah, Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, 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 Suhayl 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.
On this day more than others, the prophetic words of the Messenger shone
forth. Did not the Prophet say to Umar when the latter sought permission
to pull out Suhayls teeth at Badr: "Leave them, for one day perhaps they
would bring you joy"?
When the news of Suhayl'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. The day had come when Islam benefitted from the two middle incisors
of Suhayl which Umar had wanted to pull out.
When Suhayl 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
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.
Suhayl was someone who loved his birthplace dearly. In spite of that,
he refused to return to Makkah after the victory of the MusIims 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.' "He 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, Suhayl remained true to his pledge. He died
in Palestine in the small village of 'Amawas near Jerusalem.