29.5 The March Towards Mecca
Mohamed ordered the troops he had been collecting on a quick march towards Mecca. He hoped he could take Mecca by surprise and avoid a long and protracted struggle, and he prayed and prayed that there would be no fighting inside the Sacred Precincts which had been for centuries immemorial a sanctuary to all men.
The army marched quickly forwards. It was an army so large that the Arabs had never seen one like it, and on its march many of the tribes who had entered into Islam joined it, so that it grew greater and greater as it approached Mecca.
Quraysh were yet unaware of what was approaching. They still sat arguing and bickering on what was to be done about Mohamed. Al-Abbas, the Prophet's uncle, left them in their endless talk and went out of Mecca to meet Mohamed. Two others, who were Mohamed's cousins from Banu Hashim also came, each separately. They had been too proud to listen to the truth before, now they begged permission to meet the Prophet. At first Mohamed refused, for they had spoken ill of him and persecuted Muslims for years. When one of them threatened to lose himself in the desert to die of hunger and thirst, Mohamed, always kind-hearted, relented and let them in. They professed their belief in him and entered into Islam.
Although Al-Abbas, the Prophet's uncle, was now a Muslim, he was appalled by the great armies that accompanied his nephew. Mecca was his city and he feared for it. He spoke of this to Mohamed who was glad to make Al-Abbas a means of entering Mecca in peace. It was agreed that Al-Abbas would go to Quraysh and relate what he had seen and convince them to accept the Muslims' entry into Mecca without resistance. So he rode the Prophet's white mule in order to pass unmolested amid the great hosts and headed towards Mecca.
As he got nearer to Mecca he heard two familiar voices speaking in the dark. They were the voices of Abu Sufyan and Budayl ibn Waraqa whom the Quraysh had sent to see if they could find out anything. Abu Sufyan was saying,
"I have never seen so many fires as I see today nor such a great camp."
"I think it is Khuzaa excited by war," said Budayl.
"Khuzaa are far too few and too humble to have such a camp."
Al-Abbas called out to them by the names they were known by inside their tribe so that they would realize he was not an enemy. In order to bring home to them what he had to say, he offered to take them and show them Mohamed's camp.
As they passed amid the ranks, the soldiers once again recognized Mohamed's mule and let them pass. They walked until they reached the Prophet's tent, and Mohamed asked Al-Abbas to bring them to him in the morning. They slept in the camp and in the morning Al-Abbas brought them before the Messenger. Abu Sufyan, the proud and powerful, declared his belief without reservation, saying that though he had believed in gods other than Allah he could see that they were of no use now. Then Al-Abbas asked a favor of the Prophet. He said,
"Abu Sufyan is a man who likes to boast, give him something to boast of."
"Certainly," said Mohamed.
"He who enters the house of Abu Sufyan is safe, he who enters his own house and shuts the door is safe, and he who enters the area of the Kaaba is safe."
In spite of all the years of persecution and injuries, the Messenger was willing to save the lives and the honor of his enemies. He bore no grudges, remembered no wrongs.
Mohamed divided the army into four contingents. Each was to enter Mecca from a different direction. They were given strict orders to march peacefully and not to fight unless it was forced upon them.