The Constitution of Medina
The life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions in Medina
The first thing the Prophet did upon arriving in Medina was to construct a mosque that served as the first community center for Muslims. It also served as the headquarters of leadership and a social center. He afterwards established the bond of brotherhood between the Muhajirun [immigrants from Mecca] and Ansar [the helpers from Medina].
The next challenge that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) faced was economic. Nearly half of the Muslim population back then was originally from Mecca. They had abandoned their wealth, trade, homes and property to escape the torture and oppression of the Quraysh in Mecca. It required great wisdom from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to address this issue. He decided to establish the bond of brotherhood between the Muhajirun and Ansar. The Ansar shared their trade and wealth with the Muhajirun. Ibn Is-haq narrated that when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) established the bond of brotherhood among his Companions, the Muhajirun and Ansar he told them: “Be brothers for the sake of God.”
The Covenant of Medina
The first to see and spread news of the Prophet’s arrival in Medina was a Jew. One of the Ansar was quoted as saying: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived when we were inside our houses, and the first to see him was a Jew who knew we were awaiting his arrival. [When he saw him], cried: ‘O people! He has arrived.’ So we came out to greet the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as he was hiding under palm leaves shielding himself from the sun and was accompanied by Abu Bakr (may God be pleased with him).”
The Covenant of Medina
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had to deal with a new reality in Medina. The city consisted of the tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj in addition to the Muslims, Jews, Christians, disbelievers, as well as a group of hypocrites. The Muslims themselves were divided into the Muhajirun and Ansar. Despite this diversity, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sought to establish a strong state on the basis of peace, solidarity, and harmony.
Thus the historic Covenant of Medina came into being. It is rightly considered the first constitution in the world and outlined the characteristics of the new state. It established the first constitutional principles on basis of equality without regard to religion, race or gender. The covenant stipulated that all citizens are duty-bound to protect the city, share the common responsibility of caring for and aiding one another, and enjoin what is good for the nation and ward off whatever may threaten it. The covenant stressed that securing the borders of the city was a common responsibility shared by all citizens of the city and laid strict emphasis on the values of equality, mutual care and peaceful coexistence.
Ibn Is-haq is reported to have said: “The Messenger of God concluded an agreement between the Muhajirun and Ansar in which he made a treaty with the Jews, confirmed them in their religion and possessions and gave them certain duties and rights.”
Objectives and Articles of the Covenant of Medina:
1- The Covenant of Medina is considered the first constitution organizing the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wrote in the covenant: “Whoever of the Jews follows us has the (same) help and support so long as they [the believers] are not wronged by him and he does not help [others] against them.” He
also said: “The Jews of Banu Auf are one community along with the believers.”
2- In this charter of human rights, the first of its kind in human history, the constitutional nucleus of a society and state, one finds that Islam has recognized non-Muslims, especially Jews and Christians living among Muslims, as full citizens with equal rights to protection, respect and freedom. The covenant stipulated: “The neighbor shall be treated as themselves as long as they perpetrate no crime and commit no harm. And no woman may be taken under protection without the consent of her family.”
3- This covenant is the first written constitution in human history to recognize all sectors of citizens forming one nation and sharing one homeland. Medina was the first among world countries and nations to establish a strong state that safeguarded and recognized the rights of citizenship and gave its people a sense of identity and belonging.
4- Medina set a good example of a strong state that respects and abides by moral values, refined manners, a just constitution, and rights of citizenship.
5- Considerable attention should be given to the fine selection of the word “safe” which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used repetitively throughout the text of the covenant. It is a general word that covers the protection of individuals as well as their dignity, honor, and equality, without any discrimination based on religion, origin, color, or gender. The word also covers the protection of the family, wealth, freedom of religion … etc.
6- There were instances when some like the tribe of Banu Nadhir violated some of the constitutional clauses. At first, Banu al-Nadhir accepted the covenant and agreed to commit to it. They agreed to live in peace and harmony with Muslims in Medina but later reneged on their word and withdrew their pledge. They refused to support the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and make a contribution toward the blood money of two men of Banu Aamir who were killed by Amr Ibn Umayya Al-Dumairi.
It is worthwhile to mention that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) signed a separate pact with the Jews of Banu Al-Nadhir and it stipulated that they should share and take part in making contributions needed to pay blood money. Reports tell us that there were several agreements and pacts between Banu Aamir and Banu Al-Nadhir to pay blood money.
This was a great phase in spreading Islam in Arabian Peninsula, many lessons can be deprived from it. We are lost now in how to solve the crises and sufferings taking place all over the world now, but since a long time the Prophet Muhammed show us a great example of how to unite a community consists of a different races. May Allah keep us on straight path and grant us guidance in this Dunia.
Written by Ustatha Sabrah Abbass
Please visit our website: www.jannatalquran.com