11 January AD 630: Muhammad conquers Mecca

The Muslim prophet returns home with an army of 10,000


At the beginning of January AD 630, the Prophet Muhammad was preparing to return to his home town. He had been born some 60 years earlier in the Arabian trading city of Mecca and, according to the Qur’an, started receiving divine visions and angelic visitations in about AD 610. After provoking hostility from some locals, he had moved to the rival city of Medina for his own safety. But after eight years away, having converted thousands to his cause, Muhammad was back, with 10,000 armed supporters.

At first the local ruling tribe, the Quraysh, were determined to block his return. But as the Muslim army approached, it became obvious that his strength was simply too great. After days of negotiations, the Quraysh leader, Abu Sufyan, agreed to cede the city to Muhammad and his troops.

So when the Muslim army finally entered the city, there was remarkably little bloodshed. Only a few locals tried to resist, and those who weren’t killed, quickly surrendered. When Muhammad took control, he ordered virtually no reprisals. Only 10 of his leading opponents were arrested, and not all were killed. “He who lays down arms will be safe. He who locks his door will be safe,” he told the people of Mecca. “There is no reproof against you. Go your way, for you are free.”

Accompanied by advisors, Muhammad now visited Mecca’s holiest sanctuary, the Kaaba. There he removed the existing religious images, though some accounts say he spared those of Abraham, Jesus and Mary. “Allah has made Mecca a sanctuary since the day he created the heavens and the earth,” he told his followers, “and it will remain a sanctuary by virtue of the sanctity Allah has bestowed on it until the Day of Resurrection.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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