I am waiting to see when, where, how, in what column by what columnist, in what report by what reporter, in what editorial by what member of what editorial board, the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya will first be mentioned or discussed.
For these reporters, these columnists, these writers of scolding editorials who presume to inform and instruct their audiences, appear to believe, with what might be called, wickedly, a Eurocentric view of things, that everyone in the world accepts the principle of Pacta Sunt Servanda — the principle that “Treaties Are to Be Obeyed.” It isn’t true. That concept, which originates in the West, and which seems to people in the West as self-evident (for how, or why, would treaties have any value if one side or both could break them?), is not honored, and is not even discussed as worthy of being honored, in the Islamic world.
In that world, a different principle obtains. Treaties may be made with Infidel enemies. But those treaties do not bind the Muslim side. They can, whenever they wish, whenever they feel the time is right or ripe, break those treaties. There is no such thing as a permanent “peace” treaty with Infidels. All treaties that are called that in the West are merely “truce” treaties or hudnas. They are based on the model of the agreement that Muhammad made with his Meccan enemies (because they would not yield to his demands) in 628 A.D., at Hudaibiyya, just outside Mecca.
Muhammad is not merely the Messenger of Allah, the Seal of the Prophets. He is the center, he is the focus, of Islam. He is mentioned far more than Allah. He is the model for Muslims, in all things, and for all times. He is uswa hasana, the Model of Right Conduct, he is al-insan al-kamil, the Perfect Man. What he said, and what he did, as recorded in the Hadith, or retailed in the Sira, constitute the Sunnah, the essential gloss on the Qur’an, and not merely a gloss but something more, for the Sunnah is the guide to daily life, to what is prohibited and what commanded. (Some Muslims now talk about “reforming” Islam — see Mustafa Akyol — by returning to “the Qur’an alone.” They frequently employ the phrase “sola scriptura” — a phrase appropriated from the Protestant Reformation, for the Bright Young Reformers are still Muslims, and are consumed with an ill-concealed envy, and a desire to liken the Islamic world as much as possible to the West whose achievements and liberties confound and attract and scare and repel them.)
Those reporters, those columnists, those editorial writers so sure of themselves, without having spent the necessary hours in the library, need to be shamed into study — the study of Islam. They could, for example, be asked why they have not, in their failure to understand the meaning, and relevance, of the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya, read such a standard work as Majid Khadduri’s War and Peace in the Law of Islam. It’s readily obtained. It explains a lot. It explains, for example, the Treaty of Al Hudaibiyya. Shouldn’t they be asked, shouldn’t they be forced, to start showing that they are actually learning something, are trying to find out about Islam? And that they are not finding out about it from the usual apologists but possibly, at first, simply by reading the scholars — not espositos and armstrongs — who have written about Islam, or have written about Islam at a time and place when they did not need to worry, and could be truthful? (Khadduri himself later retreated into a more apologetic, less truthful mode about some aspects of Islam, but that is another story).
For example, when Muslims — when Hamas as one case — talks about a “truce” that will last ten years, shouldn’t those who report on this kind of thing ask themselves why “ten years” was chosen? Shouldn’t they inquire further, and realize that “ten years” is always the date given for a hudna? And shouldn’t they then ask themselves “why is that?” and then attempt to find out? If they did make the attempt, they would discover that the agreement that Muhammad made with the Meccans at Al-Hudaibiyya was to last for ten years, and so that has, ever since, become the appropriate length of time for a “hudna” with Infidels. It doesn’t mean it can’t be broken within those ten years; Muhammad broke the treaty within 18 months, even though, when they speak with Infidels, Muslims will attempt to deny this. They will say that it was all the fault of the Meccans. But the facts — and also all of the crowing delight taken in Muslim literature over the very cunning that Muhammad showed in making this treaty when he was weak and breaking it when he was strong — show that Muslims know what really caused that treaty to be broken, and by whom.
Yet none of this ever seems to appear, not in The New Duranty Times, not in The Bandar Beacon, not in the newsweeklies, with time on their hands. One wishes to ask: Why not? Why do these people who report from Muslim countries, or who report breathlessly on peace-processing between Israel and various subsets of their Arab and Muslim implacable enemies, not ever bother to find out about what treaty-making means? They have heard the complaints about non-compliance by the Arabs. Why don’t they not only take those complaints seriously, and discuss what, for example, Egypt has done to comply with its duty, under the Camp David Accords, to encourage friendly relations and an end to hostilities, at the level of peoples, with Israel? Not important? Too complicated to find out? Really?
And then, why should not journalists — those reporters, those columnists, those editorial writers — not be held to the duty to explain not only Egypt’s failure now, but the failure to honor other agreements, or the failure of other Arab states, or of the “Palestinians,” to honor their agreements? And why not ask them to find out when, and where, and why, for example, Yassir Arafat alluded for Muslim audiences to the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya — such as his speech made in Johannesburg before a Muslim audience soon after signing the Oslo Accords, a speech surreptitiously recorded, in which he clearly makes reference to Muhammad and his Treaty? And his audience knew exactly what he was saying.
When we read, for example, that Muslims in the southern Philippines, having reached and signed an agreement a year ago with the government, are now attacking non-Muslim Filipino farmers and forcing off their land, in direct violation of that agreement, we should not be surprised. But we deserve, we readers, to be told why what these Muslims are doing is not surprising, but fits into a repeated pattern of Muslim violations of agreements with Infidel nation-states. Of course the Muslims in the southern Philippines have no intention of honoring their agreement. Of course the “Palestinians” of Fatah’s Slow Jihad have no intention of honoring whatever agreement the Israelis might be foolish enough to make. Of course the government of the Muslim Arabs in Khartoum have no intention of honoring the peace agreement they made with the non-Muslims of the southern Sudan, or the commitments they have made with outside Infidels about not further harming the inferior, because non-Arab, Muslims in Darfur. And so on.
These are not unconnected, isolated examples. They are all the same example, or all examples of the same thing: the Muslim view, or even the Muslim Arab view, of treaties or agreements made with enemies who are Infidels. These are not agreements about “salaam” but about “sulh.” They are not peace treaties but hudnas, truce treaties.
It isn’t hard to find out all of this. This is not elementary particle physics or advanced mathematics beyond the ken of mere mortals. You don’t have to be P.E.M. Dirac or John von Neumann or Paul Erdos to understand, or make sense, of this stuff. You just have to decide to be a little less lazy, and to apply to yourself the standards that, before you entered journalism, you might have imposed on yourself, or at least learned about, when you were a graduate student, or in college. You have to do the appropriate amount of research. You have to not leave things unexplained. If you are going to report on Muslims on the world of Islam, you had damn well better start learning about Islam. And that includes what Muhammad said, and did, and what he did, in particular, in 628 at Hudaibiyya.
It’s not much to ask.