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Those who enter into a treaty with the Muslims and then break their treaty are the worst creatures. The Muslims should, therefore, teach them a lesson that strikes fear in their hearts and in the hearts of those who follow them, contemplating a similar breach of their own treaty or thinking of launching a treacherous attack on the Muslim community.
At this point, the unbelievers were divided into three categories with regard to their relationship with the Prophet (peace be upon him). In the first category were those with whom he concluded a peace treaty. The second category included those who were at war with the Prophet, while the third were those who had submitted to his authority and were under his protection. The Prophet was ordered to fulfil his obligations under any peace treaty as long as the other party fulfilled their obligations. Should he fear that they may resort to treachery, he should give them notice of the termination of their treaty. He must not fight them until he had informed them of such termination. He was also ordered to fight any parry which violated their peace treaty with him.
However, the people who held peace treaties with the Prophet were divided into three groups. The first were those who had been unfaithful to their treaties and were in clear violation of them: these he was ordered to fight. He actually fought them and was victorious. The second group included those with a treaty lasting for a specific time. If these had honoured their obligations under the treaty and did not aid others against the Prophet and the Muslim community, the Prophet was ordered to honour their treaty for as long as it lasted. The third group included those who had no treaty with the Prophet but had not fought with him and also those who had an open treaty specifying no time. He was ordered to give all these groups four months’ notice, after which he could fight them.