In this part, we will see how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) tried to avoid bloodshed as far as possible upon the Conquest of Mecca though its people drove him out and conspired to assassinate him. We will also see how Prophet Muhammad returned the Ka`bah key to its doorkeeper though the latter had refused to let Prophet Muhammad in the Ka`bah and abused him before his migration to Medina.
We will also notice how Prophet Muhammad did not follow the then military convention by refusing to kill, enslave or confiscate the property of the people of Mecca. He rather released them all.
The Conquest of Mecca
Quraysh sided with its ally, Ad-Du’al Clan from Bakr Tribe, in their hostilities against Prophet Muhammad’s ally, Khuza`ah Tribe. Thus, Quraysh broke the truce with Prophet Muhammad declared upon concluding Al-Hudaybiyah Peace Agreement.
Khuza`ah Tribe sought Prophet Muhammad’s help against aggression. Then, Prophet Muhammad asked Quraysh to break off their alliance with Bakr Tribe and give blood money to Khuza`ah for their casualties; otherwise, he would declare war against them.
Quraysh told Prophet Muhammad that they would neither break off their alliance with Bakr Tribe nor pay blood money and they were also about to declare war against him.
Thereupon, Prophet Muhammad decided to march on Mecca. Prophet Muhammad did not declare his intention of conquering Quraysh except when he approached it. Even then, he ordered his army to avoid fighting as far as possible and told them that they could only fight those who would fight them. He wanted to take Quraysh by surprise to avoid bloodshed.
When Prophet Muhammad became near enough to Mecca, he ordered his 10000-troop army to light torches as large as its number to frighten and dissuade Quraysh from fighting Muslims and so they would be able to conquer Mecca without bloodshed.
The standard of the Ansaris (people of Medina) was borne by Sa`d ibn `Ubadah. Passing by Abu Sufyan (a Qurayshi elder who has just converted to Islam at the time), Sa`d intimated: “Today is a day of carnage! Today, sacred places will be desecrated. Today, God will dishonor Quraysh.”
When Prophet Muhammad passed by Abu Sufyan, the latter wondered: “O Messenger of God, Have you heard what Sa`d has just said?” He wondered: “What has he said?” Abu Sufyan replied: “He said such and such.” Then, `Uthman and `Abdul-Rahman `Awf commented: “O Messenger of God, we fear that he (Sa`d) should attack Quraysh.” Then, Prophet Muhammad said: “No, today will be a day on which the Ka`bah will be dignified. Today will be a day on which God will honor Quraysh.” Then, Prophet Muhammad took the standard from Sa`d and gave it to his son, Qays ibn Sa`d ibn `Ubadah. It is said that the standard was rather given to Al-Zubayr.
Prophet Muhammad entered Mecca, bowing his head out of modesty. His chin was about to touch the front part of the camel. He was reciting the Chapter of Al-Fath.
The Ka`bah key had been kept by `Uthman ibn Talhah before his conversion to Islam. Companion `Ali wanted to keep the Ka`bah key along with supplying water for pilgrims. However, Prophet Muhammad gave it back to `Uthman after he had gone out of the Ka`bah, saying: “Today is a day of dutifulness and faithfulness.”
It is worth noting that Prophet Muhammad had asked `Uthman ibn Talhah for the Ka`bah key before he migrated to Medina. However, `Uthman talked to him coarsely and abused him. But, Prophet Muhammad kept patient with him and foretold: “O `Uthman, you may see this key one day in my hand and I will then put it wherever I want.” `Uthman then replied: “Quraysh will be then destroyed and degraded.” Then, Prophet Muhammad retorted: “No, it will then flourish and be honored.”
Bearing this situation in mind, `Uthman thought that Prophet Muhammad would give the key to somebody else to keep it. Yet, Prophet Muhammad gave the key back to him. It is reported that Prophet Muhammad said: “Here is your key, `Uthman! Today is a day of dutifulness and faithfulness. Take it forever! It will not be taken from you except by an oppressor.”
Prophet Muhammad refused to give the key to any member of Hashim Tribe (to which Prophet Muhammad belonged) though some of them actually asked for it.
Prophet Muhammad was keen on avoiding bloodshed in Mecca as far as possible. On the day of the Conquest of Mecca, Prophet Muhammad came to know that his ally, Khuza`ah Tribe, killed a polytheistic man from Hudhayl in retaliation for a man killed during the pre-Islamic era. Then, Prophet Muhammad became angry and preached a sermon to people, in which he said:
“O people, indeed, God declared Mecca sacred the day He created skies and the earth. So it will remain sacred till the Day of Judgment. A person who believes in God and the Last Day is not allowed to shed blood or cut down trees therein. It was not made vulnerable to anybody before me. It will not be made vulnerable after me. It was made vulnerable to me only for this hour out of anger with its people. But, it has returned to its past sanctity. Let the present inform the absent out of you. Should somebody say to you that the Messenger of God has fought in it, then say that God has made it vulnerable only to his Messenger rather than you, Khuza`ah Tribe. So stop killing … You have killed a man and I will surely pay his blood money. Should somebody kill somebody else from this time on, his family may have the best of the following two choices: if they like, he (the killer) may be killed; if they like, they may receive his blood money.”
The people of Mecca were given amnesty despite the harm they caused to Prophet Muhammad and the ability of the Muslim army to annihilate them. They were granted amnesty while they were gathering near to the Ka`bah, waiting for Prophet Muhammad’s judgment about them.
Prophet Muhammad wondered: “What do you expect me to do to you?” They replied: “We expect goodness. You are a good brother and the son of a good brother.” He then said: “No blame will be on you today. May God forgive you!”
Though it was customary that the conquering army could kill, enslave, or loot the property of the conquered people, or at least impose tribute on them, Mecca was not treated like any other place given its holiness and sanctity in the sight of Muslims, who believe that it accommodates the sacred places, the universal place of worship and the holy sanctuary of God.
During the Conquest of Mecca, Prophet Muhammad accepted the conversion of many Qurayshi people and allowed some other Qurayshi people to stay in Mecca even without conversion to Islam. Such people are historically referred to as “Al-Tulaqa’” (“Released People” in English).
1- As-Sirah An-Nabawiyah, by Ibn Ishaq