Arab Culture/Culture


QUESTION: Arab leaders often mention the Treaty of Hudaybiyya when they are signing treaties, especially with nonmuslims. What does this mean within the Arab culture. I am not asking about what the Treaty of Hudaybiyya is. I am asking how it is conceived in modern language.  Is this something that is meant to point out that agreements with nonmuslims are acceptable, since even the prophet conducted one. Or does it mean that the agreement is just a tool to achieve practical goals, and that it is meant to be broken shortly after, when the opportunity arrives?

ANSWER: Hello Mark,

Regarding the Al Hudaybiya Treaty which was named after the location where it took place , this treaty was a truce treaty and not a peace treaty which gives both parties a grace period of ceasefire based on a mutual agreement so it is during conflict. Meanwhile, peace treaties are stronger binding. This treaty was not broken by any of the Muslim or non-Muslim parties , rather the true reason was triggered by a conflict between two tribes of different faiths. So it can't logically symbolize ethical values like treason or honesty.

As for Arab leaders to say they often mention this treaty is too much of a generalization and I doubt they all mean the same by this mention. Would you kindly state a certain Leader and where/when he used it?

As for Modern language there is no specific or accurate indication of this mention to be directly symbolic of anything.

As for Muslims and Arabs the two are not the same , just as a Jew and an Israeli are not the same.
If you are asking whether Muslim faith introduces dishonesty , no God-central faith introduces such low grade values by default.

If you are asking whether Arab culture is built on distrust and evil, as an expert in culture I can tell you there is no such thing , because even values,laws and ethics are relative to the source they derived from.

I hope this was helpful



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you Sirine. My question is not suggesting any judgement of the Arab culture and I am fully aware of the difference between Arabs and Muslims. A known example of a leader referring to the Hudaybiya Treaty is that of Yasser Arafat after signing a peace treaty with the Israelis in 1993. He mentioned the Hudaybiya Treaty in his speech to an Arab audience. This comparison was debated in the media and a number of interpretations have been suggested.

Some interpreters argued that by comparing the peace agreement with Israel with the Hudaybiya Treaty Arafat disclosed his "true" intention which was that the agreement is signed only as an interim stage, or a truce, as you put it, and not as an agreement that is expected to last.

Others even interpreted the comparison as a proof that Arafat's intention was to take advantage of the agreement in order to attack Israel at a later stage.

Another group suggested that Arafat drew this comparison only in order to point out that peace with non-Muslims was a legitimate thing, as it had roots in the Qur'an.

I was curious how such a comparison is conceived by Muslims. From what you wrote it appears that there is no general answer to that, but the first interpretation seems most plausible in what concerns the above example.

Hi again Mark,

As you said Arafat't real reason for mentioning this treaty was interpreted differently by different people. The man is a politician in the end there is no sure way of telling what he meant.

As for Muslims today, I believe Hudaybiya has story morals and lessons for them rather than symbols, especially that it was initiated by Prophet Muhamad himself whose actions and words were supposed to be the pillars of Islam and examples for Muslims to follow.  This treaty is meant to teach Muslims -in my opinion, how to do politics, how to negotiate and most importantly that you don't always win and get what you want with war, It talks about compromising and opening dialogues. At that time, Arabs in the Arab peninsula lived more like Barbarians had numerous issues with values , ethics , laws , civic conduct so it is very logical to see this as a lesson for people to follow, especially people who had no other means to solve their problems but war or mutual agreements (which are usually difficult to reach), you are talking about tribes and clans that got involved in wars for 40 and 50 years for stupid reasons not to mention conceit and arrogance.

All this can be especially true because during the treaty , more people were willingly converting to Islam then those who converted in invasions and Muslims had time to reorganize themselves, teach the ignorant and plan better. A short while after this treaty broke Muhammad and the Muslims returned to Mecca and established a new era, law and rules without spilling any blood among civilians because they simply represented the strong "civil" majority.

This is the best I can help you with.



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Sirine Malas


I can answer almost any question pertaining to Arabic culture. Especially middle eastern / Levant cultures. You can ask about language, dialect, customs, foods etc...


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Local Newspapers, Internet website like BBC Arabic, Arabic Short Story website

B.A. in Marketing

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