The `Umrah or Lesser Pilgrimage

The Muslims' March to Makkah

A full year had passed since the Treaty of al Hudaybiyah. Muhammad and his companions were accordingly free to enter Makkah and to visit the Ka'bah under the terms of that treaty. The Prophet, therefore, proclaimed to the people that they might now prepare themselves to go to Makkah for performance of the lesser pilgrimage. It is easy to appreciate the enthusiasm of the Muslims in response to Muhammad's call. Many among them, the Muhajirun, were emigrants from Makkah who had left their hometown seven years ago. Others, the Ansar, conducted wide trade with Makkah and felt great love and loyalty to the holy sanctuary which they longed to visit. Those who responded to Muhammad's call exceeded two thousand in number. Hence, there were six hundred or more than in the previous year. In compliance with the terms of the Hudaybiyah Treaty, none of them carried any arms except his sword which he kept in its scabbard. Muhammad feared treachery. He therefore equipped a hundred cavalrymen and assigned them to Muhammad ibn Maslamah. He instructed them to reconnoiter the fields ahead of the procession of Muslims but not to tread on the holy, ground surrounding Makkah. His order was that they should turn to a nearby valley as soon as they reached the canyon of al Zahran. The Muslims herded before them the sacrificial animals; the entire procession was led by Muhammad riding his she-camel, al Qaswa. They set out from Madinah in the direction of Makkah moved by the strongest emotion to circumambulate the House of God and to see the places where they were born. Each longed to visit the house and quarter where he had grown up and played as a child. They were quite anxious to visit their old friends whom they had had no opportunity to see during those long years, and, in short, to breathe the air of their dear homeland. The non-Makkan Muslims were equally anxious to see and touch this blessed holy city which had brought out the Prophet of God and in which the revelation of God was first heard. One can imagine this great procession of Muslims numbering over two thousand, pushing forward toward Makkah with their hearts practically leaping out of their breasts in exaltation and reverence. At every opportunity, a pilgrim would tell his companion what he knew of Makkah and would recall nostalgically the days of his childhood or youth in that city. He would tell about his friends that were still there and the wealth and property which he had abandoned for the sake of God when he left it. One can imagine this unique procession animated by faith, indeed bursting with religious enthusiasm, pulling forward toward the universally revered sanctuary. The reader may well imagine the jubilation of this procession of men who for the last seven years had been prevented from performing this sacred duty but who were now certain they could enter Makkah in peace, with shaven head or cut hair, for an opportunity to re-express their loyalty to God.


The Quraysh Evacuate the City

The Quraysh learned of the arrival of Muhammad and his companions, and they evacuated the whole town as the treaty demanded. They removed themselves with their families to the hills surrounding Makkah where they erected tents for this purpose. Those who could not afford tents spent the time in the shade of trees. From the mountains of Abu Qubays and Hira' as well as from every mound or hill surrounding Makkah , the Makkans looked down upon their city which appeared to be invaded by this "refugee" and his companions. The Muslims entered the city without resistance, indeed without meeting any Makkans at all, and they poured into the sanctuary. They entered from the north led by Muhammad on the back of al Qaswa' whose reins were held by `Abdullah ibn Rawahah. The Prophet was surrounded by his elder companions, and behind him followed the rank and file of Muslims, whether mounted or on foot. When the Holy house came into view, every Muslim tongue was loosened with a single call: "At Your command, O Lord! At Your command, O Lord!" Their hearts and souls were totally turned to God, the Lord of Majesty.


Circumambulation of the Sacred House

In surrounding the Prophet the multitudes expressed their hope and reverence to the man whom God had sent to convey His guidance and true religion and whom He promised to vindicate against the adherents of all other religions. In truth, it must have been a unique and truly great spectacle, defying history itself. Upon witnessing it, even those most obstinate in their paganism or hostility to Islam were softened and even attracted to the new faith. Such a spectacle simply mesmerized the Makkans. The voice of the Muslims calling, "At your command, O Lord!" rocked the horizon as well as their ears and hearts. When the Prophet reached the Ka'bah he wrapped his mantle under his right arm, baring his shoulder and praying, "O God, have mercy on anyone performing this rite today and showing the enemy a side of his spiritual strength!" He then stopped near the black stone to begin circumambulation of the House. Followed by his companions and going at a trotting pace, Muhammad circumambulated the holy shrine three times, pausing whenever he reached the black stone at each turn. The Muslims, all two thousand of them, followed Muhammad in every move while the Quraysh were looking upon them from the height of Abu Qubays. Undoubtedly, the Quraysh were stupefied by what they saw. Every notion they previously entertained of the Muslims' weakness, exhaustion, and moral bankruptcy was shattered. In the enthusiasm of the moment, `Abdullah ibn Rawahah wanted to challenge the Quraysh by shouting a war cry at them. But he was stopped by `Umar. The Prophet then advised him to recite the following prayer instead: "There is no God but God alone. He is always true to His word. He it is Who gave victory to His servant, Who reinforced His army, Who defeated all the allies assembled against His people." Ibn Rawahah recited this prayer at the top of his voice, and the Muslims, in repeating these words after him rocked the horizons thereby and inspired terror in the hearts of all the spectators of this ritual.


The Muslims' Sojourn in Makkah

When the Muslims completed their circumambulation of the Ka'bah, Muhammad led them toward al Safa and al Marwah [Two hills outside of Makkah, between which Hagar ran a number of times to and fro in search of water for her thirsty son, Isma'il. It was part of the pre-Islamic pilgrimage as well as the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah to reenact this anxious running between these two hills and thereby pay tribute to Isma'il, the common ancestor, founder of Makkah and co-builder of the Ka'bah with his father, Ibrahim. -Tr.]. There, he covered the distance between the two hills seven times mounted on his camel, just as the Arabs used to do, and then proceeded to slaughter the sacrificial animals at al Marwah. He then shaved his head and thereby completed the duty of the `umrah or lesser pilgrimage. On the morrow, Muhammad entered into the Ka'bah and there remained until noon. Despite the fact that the Ka'bah was still full of idols, Bilal ascended to its top, gave the call to the noon prayer and, led by the Prophet, the two thousand Muslims held the noon prayer around the Holy House. It should be remembered that for seven years the Muslims had been prevented from performing their religious functions in the sanctuary. The Muslims remained in Makkah three whole days as the Treaty of Hudaybiyah prescribed, and during these days, not a Makkan remained in town or came to it. The Muslims roamed throught the city without suffering any harm or being obstructed by anyone. The Muhajirun among them visited their old houses, showing them to their Madinese companions, the Ansar, and generally behaving as if they were the real hosts to them. Everyone, by complying with every function Islam prescribed for the day, deepened his Islamic awareness and effaced every trace of pre-Islamic vanity. The Muslims were charitable to one another, the strong among them helping the weak, the rich giving to the poor, and the Prophet moving among them as a loving and beloved father, meeting the smile of the one, reconciling the other, and teaching the truth to all. The Quraysh and all other Makkans, looking down from their tents on the mountains, pondered the behavior of the Muslims. They observed that the Muslims were extremely good to one another, that they displayed exemplary nobility and morality, never touching intoxicating drink, neither doing evil nor allowing food, drink, or treasure ever to tempt them. They could not be seen disobeying God's commandments even once. What effect did such a spectacle have on the Makkans? What could they think of this new religion which raised man to the greatest heights of spirituality and virtue possible? It is easy for the reader to appreciate the awe and admiration for Islam all this inspired. Only a few months later, Muhammad returned at the head of an army of ten thousand Muslims; but Makkah opened its gates without a struggle.


Muhammad's Marriage to Maymunah

Umm al Fadl, the wife of al `Abbas ibn `Abd al Muttalib, the uncle of the Prophet, had been asked by her sister Maymunah to be her agent in seeking a husband. Maymunah was twenty-six years old, and she was the aunt of Khalid ibn al Walid. Umm al Fadl delegated her function to her husband al `Abbas. When Maymunah saw the Muslims performing the `umrah, she was attracted to Islam and permitted al 'Abbas to talk to Muhammad, his nephew, on the subject of marrying her. Muhammad agreed and offered her four hundred Dirhams in dowry. In the meantime, the three days prescribed by the pact of al Hudaybiyah had passed. Muhammad sought to make of his marriage to Maymanah an occasion to consolidate the mutual understanding between him and the Quraysh which the Hudaybiyah Treaty had brought about. When Suhayl ibn `Amr and Huwaytib ibn `Abd al `Uzza, delegates of the Quraysh, came to Muhammad and asked him to leave the city because the time allowed by the treaty had expired, Muhammad asked them that his marriage be performed in Makkah, and invited Quraysh to attend both the ceremony and the banquet which the Muslims would prepare for the occasion. Muhammad issued this invitation to them knowing very well the powerful reconciliatory effect his performance of the pilgrimage ritual had had on the hearts of the Quraysh. The Prophet sought to further this feeling by having them participate in a joyous occasion, one which would undoubtedly furnish the Makkans with further evidence of Muhammad's sincerity and love of peace. He had hoped that if he could talk to them leisurely and in an atmosphere such as a wedding ceremony and banquet would provide, he could further allay their fears and, perhaps, Makkah would then open its gate and heart freely to its Muslim children. That was precisely what Suhayl and Huwaytib feared in Muhammad's invitation. Hence, they answered: "No, we do not need your food. Please evacuate our city forthwith." Muhammad did not hesitate to comply with their request because it complied with the terms of the Treaty, and he called his men to prepare for withdrawal to Madinah. He led the exodus of the Muslims out of Makkah, leaving behind him his client Abu Rafi` to take care of Maymunah and to accompany her on her trip northwards. Maymunah joined the Muslim group at Sarif outside of Makkah, where Muhammad married her. Maymunah hence became a "Mother of the Believers," and the last wife of the Prophet. She survived him by fifty years, and before she died she asked to be buried at the site of her wedding. Muhammad took under his care the two sisters of Maymunah, namely Salma, widow of his uncle Hamzah, and `Imarah al Bikr, who never married.


Conversion of Khalid ibn al Walid and Others

The Muslims returned to their residence in Madinah. Muhammad did not doubt that the pilgrimage which he and his companions had just performed had made the greatest possible favorable effect upon the Quraysh and all the Makkans. The subsequent days proved Muhammad's expectations. Indeed, as soon as the Muslims had left Makkah, Khalid ibn al Walid, the greatest soldier of the Quraysh and the hero of the Battle of Uhud, said to his fellow Makkans : "It has become absolutely clear to any person with the least intelligence that Muhammad is neither a poet possessed nor a magician inspired. His words are truly the words of God, of the Lord of the Universe. It follows then that every man with common sense ought to follow him." `Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl was alarmed when he heard Khalid say this and said to him in reply: "O Khalid, you have been brainwashed." Khalid answered, "Neither brainwashed nor intoxicated, but simply Islamized." `Ikrimah said: "By God, if any man in Quraysh ought not to say what you have just said, it is you." Khalid asked, "Why?" and `Ikrimah answered: "Because Muhammad stained your father's honor when he wounded him and when he killed your uncle and his son in the Battle of Badr. By God, I will never allow myself to be Islamized, nor will I ever allow myself to say such words as you did. Don't you see that the Quraysh are all ready to fight Muhammad?" To this Khalid replied: "All you say is ignorant, tribalistic, and shows only the prejudices of pre-Islam. But now I am a Muslim and the whole truth lies clear before my eyes." Khalid sent to the Prophet his own mares together with a message that he had accepted Islam and acknowledged Muhammad as the Prophet of God. When Abu Sufyan learned of the conversion of Khalid, he sent for him enquiring whether or not it was true. When Khalid answered in the affirmative, Abu Sufyan flew into a rage and said: "By al Lat and al `Uzza, if I were certain I heard you right, I would kill you before I kill Muhammad." To which Khalid replied, "By God it is the truth, and you have heard right. Let the consequences be what they may!" Abu Sufyan rushed toward him but was stopped by `Ikrimah who witnessed the conversation. The latter said to Abu Sufyan : "Slowly! By God I, too, would have said exactly what Khalid has just said, and would have joined his faith, had I not feared the crumbling of the Quraysh. Now, you seek to kill Khalid because of a view he has just adopted while the whole of Quraysh has invested him with leadership. I fear that hardly a season will pass before the whole of Makkah will follow their leader in his new faith." Khalid left Makkah and came to Madinah where he joined the ranks of the Muslims.

After Khalid, `Amr ibn al `As and `Uthman ibn Talhah, the guardian of the Ka'bah, converted to Islam. Many Makkans followed them after hearing of their conversion to the religion of truth. With their entry, the power of Islam grew considerably and the conquest of Makkah by Muhammad became a future certainty.