The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is a role model for the mankind in all fields of life. He set the most perfect standards for the conduct of diplomats as well. All through his life, he was always conscious of maintaining cordial relations between Muslims and other communities. The Holy Prophet (PBUH), for the first time, came into contact with foreign world during his teenage when he went on a trade journey to Syria along with his uncle Hazrat Abu Talib. Then, during his youth he again went to Syria as a trade agent of Hazrat Khudaija (RA). The Holy Prophet (PBUH) showed great attributes during these journeys. Hazrat Khudaija (RA), a rich and highly influential businesswoman of that time, was so much impressed that she sent proposal for marriage to the Prophet (PBUH) that was accepted. This marriage had great impact on the life of the Prophet (PBUH) as it stabilized his financial status which enabled him to fully concentrate on propagation of Islam.
In 610 AD, at the age of 40, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) started preaching Islam. The Makkans not only rejected his message but also started persecuting the early converts to Islam. In 615 AD, when persecution of Muslims reached beyond bearable, the Prophet (PBUH) allowed a group of 15 Muslims, under the leadership of Hazrat Jafar Tayyar (RA) to migrate to Abyssinia. The ruler of Abyssinia “Negus” provided safety and refuge to the Muslim migrants. Encouraged by that, one year later a larger group of Muslims consisting of 101 men and women migrated to Abyssinia. The infidels of Makkah sent a deputation to persuade Negus to expel Muslims from his kingdom but the selected ambassador of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Hazrat Jafar Tayyar (RA), exhibited great diplomatic skills in negotiations with Negus and proved himself worthy to the task. He recited initial verses of Surah Maryam (Mary) in the court of Negus. Upon hearing those verses, Negus said, “Certainly this and what Jesus (Isa) had brought come out of one niche”. From diplomatic point of view, selection of Abyssinia for migration was an excellent choice as the Muslims not only got refuge there but were also able to find a sincere friend in Negus.
In 622 AD, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) migrated to Medina and founded Islam’s first city-state in Medina. A large number of Jews and idolaters were already living in Medina. Soon after establishing the city-state the Holy Prophet (PBUH) concluded the Charter of Medina. It was a written agreement that comprised 52 articles. The Muslims, Jews and idolaters were signatories to it. Charter of Medina is a great diplomatic success of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), as apart from ensuring fundamental rights of all the communities, it also included clauses for joint/collective security and defence of Medina. It declared that safety/defence of city-state of Medina in case of foreign aggression would be joint responsibility of all communities residing in Medina irrespective of their religion, cast and creed.
Even in Medina, the Muslims were not left to live in peace; the Makkan infidels continued creating problems for them. During 624-627 AD, Medina was attacked three times by the infidels and their allies. But the Prophet (PBUH) used his great diplomatic acumen and military genius for successfully defending Medina. In 628 AD, the Prophet (PBUH) left Medina for Makkah along with 1400 companions for performing Umrah. But, when they reached ‘Hudaibiya’— a place near Makkah — they came to know that the Makkans were coming out of city for a war. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) stopped there and sent Hazrat Usman-e-Ghani as his envoy for holding parleys with the Makkans. After hectic deliberations and diplomatic manoeuvring a written agreement was signed between Muslims and infidels that the history knows from the name of the Treaty of Hudaibiya. Although many clauses of that agreement were, apparently, not favourable to Muslims and some companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) even showed concerns over those, but on account of their diplomatic viability, the Prophet (PBUH) went on to conclude that agreement. During his return from Hudaibiya, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) received revelation of initial verses of Surah Al-Fath (Victory), where Muslims were given good tiding of clear victory. It states:
Although many clauses of that agreement were, apparently, not favourable to Muslims and some companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) even showed concerns over those, but on account of their diplomatic viability, the Prophet (PBUH) went on to conclude the agreement.
“Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory” (48:1)
It was the diplomatic foresight of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the Charter of Hudaibya proved to be the bedrock of the conquest of Makkah that came two years later in 630 AD. Banu Khuza’a was a tribe that was an ally of the Muslims whereas Banu Bakr was in alliance with the Quraish of Makkah. Banu Bakr killed a member of Banu Khaza’a within the premises of Holy Haram, breaking the treaty and covenant that existed between them and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH).
Being an ally, Banu Khaza’a sought support from Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) considered the Banu Bakr attack a breach of the treaty, citing one of the clauses of the treaty: “an attack on an ally of the party will be considered an attack on the party itself,” and offered the Quraish three alternatives:
- Dissolve their alliance with the Banu Bakr
- Compensate by paying money
- Dissolve the treaty
The Quraish chose the third alternative and due to that, the Muslims attacked Makkah and captured it without bloodshed on account of effective diplomacy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
We see another glorifying example of Prophet’s (PBUH) great diplomatic skills in his letters that he sent to the rulers of important empires and kingdoms of that time. These letters were sent in 629 AD i.e. one year prior to the Conquest of Makkah, to the rulers of Rome, Persia, Egypt, Abyssinia, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. These properly stamped and sealed letters were sent though special emissaries who knew the language of the area where they were sent to — a fundamental principle of diplomacy. Those letters had far-reaching effects on the subsequent relations of Muslims with foreign powers.
Firstly, through those letters message of Islam spread to foreign lands.
Secondly, the influential rulers of world came to know about emergence of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and some of them like rulers of Abyssinia and Yemen embraced Islam.
Thirdly, through these letters, foreign powers realized that Arabia was no more a pasture of warring Bedouins but a settled land under a strong central government.
In 630 AD, Muslims conquered Makkah under the leadership of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in a peaceful manner. After that triumph, the whole of Arabia came under the sway of Islam. After consolidating the Muslim state, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sent deputations to foreign lands for propagating the message of Islam and for e.stablishing cordial diplomatic relations with them. Under the directives of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), some companions learnt foreign languages in order to pursue meaningful diplomacy with those states where they were sent. It is instructive to mention here that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) also deputed non-Muslims as envoys owing to their talent and suitability for the job. Amr ibn Umayyah Al-Dumri was sent to Abyssinia as envoy prior to embracing Islam because he had personal acquaintance with Negus and was fully conversant of the situation prevailing there. So as a statesman, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) exhibited excellent diplomatic skills that went a long way in establishing good and friendly relations between nascent Islamic state and foreign countries.