Friday, September 13, 2013

Covenant Of Madinah: A Road Map For Coexistence

By Dr. Ali Gomaa

Islam has not only spread its teachings about human behavior and noble manners among its followers, but it has rather taught Muslims practical adherence to it and persistence in acting upon it. The Prophet (peace and blessings be uponhim) was the first to undertake practical application of the principles of tolerance toward non-Muslims as stated in the Glorious Qur'an.
The earliest application of such a principle of tolerance occurred in Madinah since the Prophet's arrival to it in immigration from Makkah. Since his early stay there, the Prophet worked toward the establishment of the Islamic State, concluding in the first year of Hegira a covenant between Muslims and Madinah citizens of other religions.
The covenant was the first political document ever concluded, and it included 47 articles regulating the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to it, the scope of Muslims' interaction withhe reign of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), on the basis of the principle of tolerance, which is elaborated on in many verses of the Glorious Qur'an and illustrated in the Prophet's biography, in word and deed. non-Muslims increased during the reign of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), on the basis of the principle of tolerance, which is elaborated on in many verses of the Glorious Qur'an and illustrated in the Prophet's biography, in word and deed.
This covenant is considered the first document that contained articles maintaining rights of citizenship. Reviewing this constitutional document, we find that it recognized citizens' rights and duties, from the political, military, economic, and social perspectives. So, suchbases can be perceived throughhe most important terms in the covenant, which run as follows:
  1. The Prophet's saying that they "are one nation distinguished from all other people" establishes the principles of national unity among the citizens of the one state, being the subjects or the people of the state at that time.
  2. His saying that "anyone from among the Jews who joins us shall have our support and shall share equal rights with us and shall suffer no oppression and shall fear no alliance against them" states the necessity of supporting non-Muslim fellow citizens and taking sides with them in affirmation of their right to that support, being due on the part of Muslims, against any assault on them.
  3. His saying "The Jews of Banu `Awf shall be treated along with the believers as one community, with the Jews having their own religion and the Muslimshaving their own religion; this shall apply to them and their freedmen [i.e., allies], with the exception of those who act unjustly or sinfully. By so doing, they wrong themselves and their families" is a clear declaration of national unity among the different sects in society, with justice — not injustice — set as its governing law and with the unjust bearing the consequences of their misdeeds.
  4. His saying that "the Jews shall share expenses with the believers as long as they are at war [with others]" lays down the principle of equality among citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims, in economically supporting the state at times of war against enemies. It also accentuates the necessity of mutual support and assistance between the two parties against the enemy.
  5. His saying that "the Jews shall bear their expenses and Muslims shall bear theirs" asserts the principle of economic solidarity when distributing economic responsibilities among the different groups in society.
  6. His saying "The Jewish allies of the clans of An-Najjar, Al-Harith, Sa`idah, Jusham, Al-Aws, and Tha`labah shall enjoy the same rights as the Jewishallies of `Awf" involves a recognition of the principle of equality in rights and duties among Muslims and the rest of denominations in the territories under the rule of the Islamic State.
  7. Prophet Muhammad championed everything that is related to protection of lives, honor, or property.
    Also, his sayings "They shall render support against anyone who fights any party to this pact" and "They shall owe it to each other to give mutual sincere counsel. Fulfillment of the articles of this pact shall prevent any violation of it. No one shall be held responsible for a sinful action perpetrated by his of her ally" establish the priorities of mutual support among the parties to the covenant against the enemies fighting them, which is a military defense concept. It also illustrates the necessity of cooperation in mutual exchange of view, advice, and consultation, being an essential social concept of citizenship.
  8. His saying "No unbeliever may take the property of Quraysh [the enemy] under his or her protection. Enemy’s property shall be surrendered to the State, and he may not be protected against a believer" prevents any cooperation between any group in society and the enemies of that society, be that related to protection of lives, honor, or property.
  9. His saying "No one shall be held responsible for a sinful action perpetrated by his or her ally" explains the principle of personal accountability and recognizes the rights of both the individual and society alike. Every person is responsible only for what hhas committed, and this is one of the principles of tolerance in Islam. Thus, society is not punished or held accountable for the misdeeds of an individual. This principle springs from Allah's (Exalted be He) Sayings, (And no bearer of a burden shall bear the burden of another) (Al-An`am 6: 164),{Every person is a pledge for that which hhas earned) (At-Tur 52: 21), and (Every soul is a pledge for what it has earned}(Al-Muddaththir 74: 38), and thus, it constitutes the perfect form of equality.
  10. 10.  His saying that "Yathrib [i.e., Madinah] shall be an inviolable [sanctuary] for the parties to this pact" is a clear-cut proof from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) regarding delimitation of the concept of geographical citizenship and the citizen's belonging to his or her homeland.
    11.  His saying that "neither Quraysh nor their allies shall be given protection" indubitably interdicts any military cooperation with the enemies ofhomeland or their allies who assist them in their injustice.
    Rights of citizenship is as early as the lifetime of the Prophet ,They promulgated that all citizens are to be treated on a clear basis of equality.
    12.  Finally, his sayings "The parties to this pact are bound to help each other in the event of an attack on Yathrib" and "This document shall not [be employed to] protect one who is unjust or who commits a crime [against other parties to the pact]" represent a manifest declaration by the Prophet of an essential principle of citizenship, namely, the inevitability of defending homeland. These words also state that assistance is incumbent only in case of justice and equity and not in case of injustice or oppression. Hence, the right of citizenship does not give a free pardon to a citizen in case he or she commits an injustice or sin, because the religion of Islam maintains and takes sides with the right and forbids and encounters falsehood.
    These are some of the provisions and articles established in the pact regarding rights of citizenship, as early as the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be uponhim). They promulgated that all citizens (Muslims and non-Muslims) are to be treated on a clear basis of equality, as there is no first-class, second-class, or third-class citizens. Favoritism on the basis of the citizen's faith was nonexistent, and all citizens were equal before Shari`ah and the rule of law, and they were all fairly alike as regards duties, with no discrimination whatsoever.
    This pact constitutes an ideal example of citizenship, recognizing the rights of all citizens in the same homeland and indicating that there should be no difference among them regarding responsibilities. Under it, no one was granted any distinction at the expense of another on a racial or denominational basis. Islam maintains that the only criterion for distinction and honoring is doing good deeds, serving society, and preserving its safety and security.

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