President Obama hailed the Geneva agreement as the most "significant and tangible" progress to date toward ensuring that Iran "cannot build a nuclear weapon." Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said "There is no treaty and no pact." (It's a "letter of intent," say the Iranians.) For his part, the Iranian negotiator, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, exulted that the document explicitly recognized the inclusion of an Iranian enrichment program in the final deal (it does).
There's at least one major point of agreement, however, for both Americans and Iranians (although it's doubtful the U.S. negotiating team actually understands what it means). That single point of agreement is about the temporary nature of the pact/letter/Joint Plan of Action: first it was going to be for six months, then it would be for six months after a few more details were worked out, then the technical discussions in Vienna collapsed on 11 December, then Secretary Kerry said the talks would continue in a few days. And then Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini, formerly a political advisor to Iranian President Khatami and now a TV commentator, clarified everything.
"This is the Treaty of Hudaybiyya in Geneva," he said, speaking on Syrian News TV on 11 December 2013.
Although it is doubtful that any of Kerry's advisers is even remotely familiar with this key episode in the accounts about Muhammad and the early Muslims, the Center for Security Policy explained the story in its 2010 book, "Shariah: The Threat to America." The context is about situations in which Muslim forces might lawfully enter into a treaty or truce with the enemy. With troubling ramifications for current day negotiations, those situations demonstrate the centrality and importance of deceit in any agreement between Muslims and infidels. As it is recounted, in the year 628 CE, Muhammad (whose forces already controlled Medina) agreed to a 10-year truce with the pagan Quraysh tribe of Mecca, primarily because he realized that his forces were not strong enough to take the city at the time. Islamic doctrine in fact forbids Muslims from entering into a jihad or battle without the reasonable certainty of being able to prevail. In such cases, as with Muhammad, Muslims are permitted to enter into a temporary ceasefire or hudna, with the proviso that no such truce may exceed 10 years (because that's the length of the agreement Muhammad signed). And so, Muhammad agreed to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. But just two years later, in 630 CE, now with some 10,000 fighters under his command, Muhammad broke the treaty and marched into Mecca.
The authoritative ahadith of Bukhari provide context for Muhammad's actions: "War is deceit," is a saying Bukhari attributes to Muhammad (52:269). Another says "By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath." (Bukhari: V7B67N427) Yasser Arafat, head of the jihadist Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), provided one of the clearest examples in modern times for how this works. He understood his Islamic obligations well, as demonstrated by his repeated public references to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. And while Western political leaders missed the significance entirely, Arafat's Arabic-speaking audiences understood perfectly that his Camp David agreement meant nothing more than a temporary hudna or ceasefire that would give the PLO the time it needed to build up its forces to renew the jihad against Israel...which is exactly what happened.
The shariah (Islamic Law) in general discourages Muslim forces from making a truce, citing Qur'anic verse 47:35, which says, "So do not be fainthearted and call for peace, when it is you who are the uppermost." The main reason Islamic forces are to avoid ceasefires, treaties and the like is that "it entails the nonperformance of jihad, whether globally or in a given locality..." Of course, the Iranians know all of this doctrine and history very well. The country's constitution, in fact, dedicates its armed forces (the Army and the IRGC-Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) to "the ideological mission of jihad in the way of Allah..." So, when a senior political commentator such as Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini, who lives and works in Tehran, appears on an international TV broadcast interview and refers to the agreement (however tentative) reached by the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva as a "Treaty of Hudaybiyya," we may be sure that he has chosen his words carefully. We also may be fairly certain that the Iranian regime and its sly and smiling Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, at least tacitly agree with Al-Hosseini's characterization.