Precedence: Goal comes first before personal preferences
For the leader the biggest test often is to see which he gives precedence to; his personal likes and dislikes, friendships and enmities or the ultimate success of the goal? The reason this is a tough test is because often it becomes necessary to put your own preferences aside and work with people who you may not like and would prefer not to work with.
Rasoolullah(SAW) demonstrated the example of this to a level of excellence. Khalid bin Waleed(RA), the famous military
commander had been an enemy of Rasoolullah(SAW) and Islam all his life. He was responsible for the debacle in the Battle of Uhud which resulted in the Shahada of 70 Sahaba including the uncle of Rasoolullah(SAW), Al Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib(RA). Hamza was about the same age as Muhammad(SAW) and was a childhood friend and one of the earliest supporters of Islam. He was a source of great support and strength to Rasoolullah(SAW). His death caused him immense grief. Yet when Khalid bin Waleed(RA) and Amr ibn Al-A’as(RA) decided to go to Madina to accept Islam, Rasoolullah(SAW) welcomed them and forgave their enmity against himself.
Amr bin Al A’as(RA) said, ‘I fought against Muhammad(SAW) in Badr and Allah(SWT) saved me. I fought against Muhammad(SAW) in Uhud and Allah(SWT) saved me. I fought against Muhammad(SAW) in Khandaq and Allah(SWT) saved me. I was beginning to feel that no matter what, Muhammad(SAW) is going to win. His army is getting better and better and his Da’awa is getting stronger and we are getting more and more restricted. So my heart was heavier and heavier.’ So he decided to leave Makkah and go and live alone. He took his wealth and family and lived for a while until the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, when the Quraysh were forced to acknowledge Rasoolullah(SAW) and signed a treaty with him. I have mentioned this famous treaty in detail later as there are many critical leadership lessons to be learnt from it. Amr bin A’as(RA) knew that it was inevitable that Rasoolullah(SAW) would conquor Makkah. He ruled out living in Makkah and At-Ta’aif as these two cities would fall to Muhammad(SAW) . So he called some people who trusted him and said, ‘This affair of Muhammad(SAW) is rising in a horrible way and will overcome Quraysh. Therefore I don’t think it is a good idea for us to stay in Makkah so let us go and stay with An-Najashi, the Christian King of Abyssinia. If Muhammad(SAW) is victorious we are away from him and if the Quraysh win then they know our position with them.’ He used to say, ‘Even if all Quraysh become Muslim, I will not become Muslim.’
So they all decided to leave Makkah and go to Abyssinia. They took leather handicrafts as gifts for An-Najashi, the King of Abyssinia, which he used to like very much and they took a boat and sailed to Abyssinia. When they reached there, they saw Amr bin Umayya Al Damari(RA) coming out of the court of An- Najashi. Rasoolullah(SAW) had sent him as his Messenger to marry Umm Habeeba the daughter of Abu Sufyan who had emigtrated to Abyssinia where her husband died; to Rasoolullah(SAW) and An- Najashi performed this marriage and was the representative of Rasoolullah(SAW).
Amr ibn Al A’as entered the court of An-Najashi, who was a friend of his. He entered the court and made Sajda to An-Najashi as was the custom. An-Najashi welcomed him very warmly and asked him if he had brought any gift for him. Amr ibn Al A’as presented the leather items he had brought and the king was very pleased and distributed some to his courtiers and sent the rest to his treasury. Amr ibn Al A’as got carried away with the reception and said to the king, ‘O King I have seen a man leave your court just now who is from our enemy who has killed the noble among us. Would you hand him over to me so that we can kill him?’ An- Najashi was so angered by this statement that he hit Amr ibn Al A’as in the face so hard that he fell down bleeding profusely from his nose which he thought had been broken. He didn’t know what to do. He was in the court of the king and had been publicly humiliated but obviously couldn’t retaliate. He said, ‘I wished the earth would swallow me for the embarrassment and fear I felt.’
To try to salvage his dignity he said, ‘O King, if I knew that you disliked what I said, I wouldn’t have said it.’ Then An-Najashi said, ‘Ya Amr you are asking me to hand over to you the Messenger of the man who receives Al Mamoos al Akbar?’
Amr ibn Al A’as said, ‘I felt my heart change. I thought to myself – all the Arabs and non-Arabs recognize this and I don’t?’ So he asked An-Najashi , ‘Is this your testimony?’ An-Najashi said, ‘That is my testimony before Allah(SWT).’ Then An-Najashi said, ‘O Amr, listen to me and follow him. Because in the name of Allah(SWT) he will prevail against all his enemies as Musa prevailed against Firaun.’ It is amazing to realise in this story that here was the King of Abyssinia An-Najashi who had never met Rasoolullah(SAW) but who believed in him and had become Muslim even though his kingdom was officially Christian; giving Da’awa to Amr ibn Al A’as who lived with Rasoolullah(SAW) for 13 years and fought him all those years. Da’awa has no logic. Amr ibn Al A’as gave his Baya’a to An-Najashi to obey Rasoolullah(SAW) and to accept Islam and An-Najashi accepted his Baya’a. An-Najashi ordered some new clothes for Amr ibn Al A’as as his clothes were covered with blood. Amr ibn Al A’as then left the court of An-Najashi and went to his camp.
His friends saw him in the new clothes and were very happy. They asked him if An-Najashi had agreed to hand over Amr bin Umayya Al Damari (RA). Amr ibn Al A’as (RA) said, ‘I did not ask him this time as it is the first time. I will ask him when I meet him again tomorrow.’ His companions thought that was a good strategy. Then he told them that he had to attend to some business and took a boat and left for Madina. He simply abandoned his friends in Abyssinia without any explanation or even telling them where he was going.
When he reached Marradh Dahran, he saw two men – one in a tent and another was tying the camels. They were Khalid ibn Al Waleed and Osman ibn Talha. He went to them and asked them where they were going. So Khalid ibn Al Waleed said, ‘Nobody worth anything is left among us anymore. Muhammad(SAW) is prevailing and so I thought we should join him.’ Amr ibn Al A’as said, ‘That is what I was also thinking.’ So they decided to travel together. Someone saw them coming and said to Rasoolullah(SAW), ‘Makkah has handed over its reins to you after these two men.’ These men were the cream of leadership of the enemies of Islam. They inherited from their fathers – Al Waleed bin Mughayrah, Utbah bin Rabiyya, Umayyah bin Khalaf, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab and others were all killed. Abu Sufyan was the only one left of that generation because he was not in Badr. So the second generation was now in the lead.
Rasoolullah(SAW) was extremely happy to see them. He had a beaming smile on his face as he saw them coming. He forgave them all the evil they had done to him. He recognized the benefit of having these young leaders with him and the good they could do to the Da’awa of Islam. Amr ibn Al A’as said, ‘Ya Rasoolullah(SAW) I accept Islam on condition that you ask Allah(SWT) to forgive all my past sins. I forgot to ask him to ask Allah(SWT) for forgiveness of my future sins.’
Rasoolullah(SAW) said, ‘Ya Amr, don’t you know that Islam erases everything (sins) before it, and Hijra erases everything (sins) before it and Hajj erases everything (sins) before it?’ Amr said, ‘Rasoolullah(SAW) used to take great care of us all through his life and so did Abu Bakr and Umar. Umar’s relationship with Khalid was not the same as he disapproved of some of the things that Khalid did.’
Rasoolullah(SAW) was entering Makkah after 8 years. They’d spent 13 years suffering all kinds of torture, physical and mental in Makkah before being driven out altogether and their wealth confiscated. But when he entered it now, he entered with humbleness reciting Sura Al Fatha, his head lowered so far down that his beard was almost touching the saddle of the camel. He was wearing a black turban and had a white banner.
He made Tawâf of Al Ka’aba and then called on Othman bin Talha(RA) to bring the key of the Ka’aba. Othman bin Talha(RA)’s family Banu Abdid Da’ar are the keepers of the key, to this day. Othman’s mother refused at first but then later she gave it to him. He brought it to Rasoolullah(SAW) who opened the Ka’aba. There was an image of a pigeon made of wood which he destroyed. There were pictures of angels and one supposed to be of Ibrahim(AS) using divining arrows. Rasoolullah(SAW) said, ‘May Allah(SWT) kill them, they have shown our elder doing something which he would never have done.’
Then he ordered Omar ibn Al Khattab(RA) to wipe out all the paintings which were done. Then he came out and stood on in the doorway which is high up. This time they all came respectfully to listen to him – a far cry from their arrogance when he called them the first time when he received the first Revelation. When he went to Zamzam to make Wudhu the Sahaba with him rushed to take the water dripping from his arms as Baraka. The people of Makkah saw this and said, ‘We have never seen such a king before.’ Rasoolullah(SAW) was the same person but today because he had power they all came to listen to him.
Rasoolullah(SAW) spoke to the people: ‘Alhamdulillah, Sadaqa W’ada, Nasara Abdah, Wa hazamal Ahzaaba wahda. Families of anyone killed accidentally will be paid blood money of 100 camels. All privilege of ancestry and pride that existed in Jahiliyya are finished. All these privileges are beneath my feet.’ Rasoolullah(SAW) had the key of the Ka’aba in his hand. Ali bin Abi Talib(RA) said, ‘Ya Rasoolullah(SAW) combine for us the honors of feeding the Hujjaj and the key of the Ka’aba.’ But Rasoolullah(SAW) called Othman(RA) and said, ‘Take it and keep it forever and nobody will take it from you except a tyrant.’ To this day it is the same family which holds the key of the Ka’aba and it is from them that the Ruler of Saudi Arabia receives it to wash the Ka’aba at the annual ceremony and it is returned to them. Rasoolullah(SAW) then went around the Ka’aba on his camel and pointed with his bow at the idols around the Ka’aba and they would fall down. He did this with the 360 idols surrounding the Ka’aba. He would recite: Qul ja’al haqqa wa zahaqal baatil innal baatila kaana zahooqa (Say the Truth has come and falsehood has disappeared. Verily it is the nature of falsehood to disappear).
Then he asked the Quraysh, ‘What do you think I will do with you?’ They said, ‘Anta Akhil Kareem wa ibnul Akhil Kareem.’ (You are our honorable brother, the son of our honorable brother). So he said, ‘Idh-habu fa antumul tulaqaa.’ (Go for you are the Released Ones.) They were the captives of Rasoolullah(SAW) and he could have executed them all but he released them and made them free without taking any ransom in return. So the people who became Muslim after the conquest of Makkah are called At-Tulaqa.
Rasoolullah(SAW) chose Bilal bin Rabah(RA) to give Adhaan and ordered him to stand on top of the Ka’aba to do it. One of the Muhadditheen said, ‘He did it to enrage the Mushrikeen.’ Rasoolullah(SAW) did it to destroy all the systems of caste and creed and to establish the fact that only those who have piety are the highest.
Sayed bin Musayyib(RA) said, ‘The night of the conquest was not a night of celebration in the normal sense. The Sahaba were making Tawâf around the Ka’aba, and making Takbeer and Tahleel all night. Abu Sufyan went to his wife Hinda and asked her, ‘Do you think this is from Allah(SWT)?’ She replied, ‘Yes, this is from Allah(SWT).’ Later Abu Sufyan met Rasoolullah(SAW) and he said to him, ‘You asked Hind if this is from Allah(SWT) and she told you that it was.’ Abu Sufyan said, ‘Ash haduallaailaha illAllahu wa Ash hadunna Muhammadar Rasoolullah(SAW).’
Rasoolullah(SAW) then declared Makkah as Al Haraam (a sanctuary) in which fighting, hunting game and cutting trees is prohibited. The same applies to Madina in the area around Al Masjid An Nabawi.
In the time of Muawiyya(RA) one of the Tabiyeen wanted to invite Abu Hurairah(RA) to his place. (Abu Hurairah(RA) used to invite people the most and this Tabiyee wanted to invite Abu Hurairah(RA)). So he prepared the food and invited Abu Hurairah(RA). Abu Hurairah(RA) told him, ‘Sabaqtani (you beat me to it – meaning, ‘you invited me before I could invite you).’
When he came in the evening for the meal, he said, ‘Shall I tell you, O Ansaar, a Hadith that belongs to you?’ They all invited him to do so. He said, ‘When Rasoolullah(SAW) came to Makkah, Zubayr(RA) commanded one wing, Khalid bin Waleed(RA) the other and Abu Ubaidah(RA) commanded the foot soldiers. Rasoolullah(SAW) was in his battalion. He saw me and said, ‘O Abu Hurairah call the Ansaar to me and nobody but the Ansaar should come to me.’ So I called Al Ansaar and they surrounded Rasoolullah(SAW) from every direction. Rasoolullah(SAW) said, ‘Whoever enters into the house of Abu Sufyan is safe. Whoever enters his own house is safe.’ Then he said, ‘Did you say that I will leave you and stay in Makkah?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘I am a slave of Allah(SWT). I made Hijra to Allah(SWT) and to you. My life is with you and my death is with you.’ They came crying to him and said, ‘We only said this because we love Allah(SWT) and His Rasool.’ He said, ‘Allah(SWT) and His Messenger(SAW) bear witness that you speak the truth.’
To forgive those who persecuted you is perhaps the most difficult thing to do, especially when you have power. In the case of Rasoolullah(SAW) who had been persecuted and driven out of his home, Allah(SWT) gave him power over the same people. He would have been fully within his rights if he had chosen to take revenge. But he didn’t. Instead by forgiving them he put them in his debt. They were fully aware of the precarious situation that they were in when he conquered Makkah and they were in his power and so were extremely grateful to him for his mercy.
Another huge benefit of this action of Rasoolullah(SAW) unilaterally forgiving his enemies was also to put an end to all potential feuds which would have resulted from any revenge that he may have taken. In a society given to feuding over the smallest excuse imagine the disruptive effect of any killings of his enemies. By forgiving them all he cemented them into the Muslim Ummah and secured his own home forever. Forgiveness is a balm for the soul, not only of the one forgiven but even more importantly for the one who forgives. But it takes a big heart to forgive and whose heart is bigger than the heart of the Nabi of Allah(SWT)?
Memories can be empowering or debilitating. Memories of evil done to us can stay with us all our lives and plague us and our relationships – if we allow them to do so. Forgiveness is the salve that heals the wound and Allah(SWT) in His mercy gave it into the hands of the one who was wronged. Only he can forgive. And if he does, then he heals himself as well as the one who wronged him. It may seem difficult to forgive someone who wrongs us until we reflect on how much more difficult it is to live, our life blighted by memories of the wrong. How much easier to forgive and shed that burden and move on to a new dawn? And that is what Rasoolullah(SAW) did.
Forgiving his erstwhile enemies also took the wind out of the sails of anyone who may have been tempted to plot a coup against him but putting him on the high moral ground. Who would support someone who wants to do ill to the one who just did good to you? At one stroke Rasoolullah(SAW) secured his rule, won new friends and supporters and opened the doors for the entry of Islam in his own motherland. The result of this was so profound that Makkah was almost the only place that didn’t rebel when he passed away and Abu Bakr(RA) had no worries from there when he had to deal with rebellion from elsewhere.