Madinat’un-Nabi and the Contract of Medina

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What is contract of Medina? What does contract of medina means?

Madinat’un-Nabi and the Contract of Medina

Falling to the north of Medina and enclosed by mountains on three sides and a plain in the south, Medina is beautiful town with luscious greenery provided by an abundance of date gardens, arable land and pleasant climate.

Residing in the town at the time of the Hegira were two Arab tribes, Aws and Khazraj, in addition to three Jewish tribes, in Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayza. The Arabs had come to Medina from Yemen following the great Sayl’ul-Arim flood, while the Jews were originally refugees from Jerusalem, having fled Roman oppression following their incursion into the city.

Over time, tension prevailed between the Arabs and Jews, as a result of which the Jews were defeated by the Arabs who gained the upper hand in Medina. But with the Jews sowing the seeds of enmity between the Arabs, soon Aws and Khazraj found themselves in recurring war with each other, the last of which was the Battle of Buath. Casualties on both fronts, however, in a war that sporadically spanned over a hundred-and-twenty years and came to an end only five years prior to the Hegira, had decimated both tribes. Especially at the time of the Hegira, the Jews had therefore a financially commanding position in the town.

The graceful arrival of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in Medina therefore meant, with the blessings of the Almighty, the end of spite and enmity between the two kindred tribes.

Allah, glory unto Him, declares:

“And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited, and remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it, thus does Allah make clear to you His communications that you may follow the right way.” (Al Imran, 103)

Briefly after the Hegira, the Meccan idolaters wrote intimidating and provoking letters to both the idolaters and Jews of Medina, in hope of preventing the Muslims from settling and gaining power in the town. The threats in one of these letters directed at Abdullah bin Ubayy and the idolaters from Aws and Khazraj flanked by his side, is loud and clear:

“You have one of our men with you. Either you kill him or drive him out of your town, or else we will march on you with all the tribes of Arabia, put your men to our swords and take your wives for our amusement!”

Abdullah ibn Ubayy, backed by the Madinan idolaters then made a move to confront the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace-. Informed of the situation from beforehand, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- acted first and went to them before they did.

“It seems the threats hurled by the Quraysh have gotten to you. Know that the harm they may inflict on you is no greater than the harm you may incur by fighting us! Or are you intent on fighting your own sons and brothers and killing them?”

They eventually dispersed. (Abu Dawud, Kharaj, 22-23/3004; Abdurrazzaq, V, 358-359)

The intimidations and provocations hailing from Mecca had proven futile. But then again, it was well within possibility that the frustrated Quraysh would strike Medina when least expected and massacre all the Muslims, Jews and idolaters indiscriminately. This common threat resulted in the crowding together of the non-Muslim community of Medina around the leadership of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

On a side note, since times old, Aws, Khazraj and the Jews were contesting each other to be the sole authority in the town. The Khazraj, for instance, were getting prepared to declare their leader Abdullah ibn Ubayy the ruler of Medina, despite the well known fact that Aws -or Khazraj for that matter- could never stomach a leader from a rival tribe. In that respect, the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- proved to be a uniting figure for all the dwellers of Medina.

Under these circumstances, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- assumed leadership of the town. Having already established brotherhood between Aws and Khazraj and thus the social order amongst Believers through the muahat, the Blessed Prophet  -upon him blessings and peace- , without further ado, also inducted the local Jews as citizens of Medina with a written document, establishing certain principles that could virtually be regarded as the constitution of the City State of Medina. Some of the principles contained in the document known as the Contract of Medina, an official registration of the founding of the Islamic State, were as follows:

Bismillahi’r-Rahmani’r-Rahim,

  1. Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib (Medina), their dependants and those who struggle with them are an ummah distinct from other communities.
  2. There is not to be any mischief and harm. Pious Believers will rally against one who transgresses, seeks to oppress and violate rights, who sins, cultivates enmity and incites malice between Believers. Even if he be one of their own, they will rise against him as one.
  3. Murder is not to be committed. Given it has been committed, both the Muhajirun and each family of Medina shall pay their blood money mutually to each other, as determined by custom. Each side shall pay the ransom of their captives mutually, in line with the principles of justice evident amongst Muslims.
  4. The Believers are not to leave those with large families or the indebted to deal with their troubles on their own and will pay their ransom or blood money, within the principles of justice apparent to both sides.
  5. Security is to be reinforced within Medina and without. Both inhabitants and foreigners shall feel safe and sound. Excepted are those who oppress or commit a crime.
  6. Jews shall enjoy a freedom of faith and freely remain in their religion, just as Muslims shall remain in theirs. Our subjects among the Jews shall receive aid free of injustice and joint opposition against them. If a war breaks out, then all sides are to assist each other. As long as they continue fighting alongside Muslims, Jews are to share the expenses of warfare.
  7. Neither side is to take idolaters under their wings. Neither Quraysh nor their allies shall be provided refuge in any way whatsoever.
  8. Warfare in Medina is prohibited. Inner Yathrib Valley is a safe haven for all who are obliged under these clauses. In case of a foreign incursion, each side is then to protect its own area. A peace accepted by one side is a peace accepted by all. Throughout the battle, Jews are to cover their own expenses and Muslims their own; though they are to aid one another and do what is right against the assailants and let goodness prevail in their mutual aid. No side shall do any harm to each other and must aid the oppressed under all circumstances.
  9. If a disagreement should arise, then the case is to be presented to Allah and His Messenger, whose verdict is to be considered binding.
  10. Allah’s pledge and assurance are on equal par and they cover even the most despised; for Muslims are distinct from others in being comrades and companions of each other.
  11. No Jew is to embark on a military expedition without the consent of Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace-.

There is no doubt that Allah, the Almighty, will be pleased with those who are sensitive to abstain from infringing the clauses specified in this page, who embody the good and the right. These clauses will certainly not prevent the exacting of punishment to the oppressor or the guilty.

Allah, glory unto Him, will provide protection for those who thrive in goodness and desist evil. Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- is the Messenger of Allah.” (Ibn Hisham, II, 119-123; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 263-264; Hamidullah, al-Wasaiq, p. 57-64)

It is evident that the clauses are of necessity in implementing Islamic rules in society. The Contract of Medina, a pact of citizenship, is the most decisive answer to the false allegations that Islam is a religion lacking legislative functions and a social drive, merely making do with regulating worship.

A multifaceted agreement carrying political, economical, social and religious import, the Contract of Medina places accent on Islam as the sole element providing unity amongst Muslims, who in turn must imperatively provide mutual aid for each other, uphold justice and impartiality in all their dealings and seek the arbitration of Allah and His Messenger, should a disagreement arise.

The Contract limits and regulates the purely tribal solidarity prevalent among Arabs with the principle of justice, commanding the punishment of the guilty even if they be of kin. By virtue of giving Jews the rights of property and religious belief, the Contract also bears witness to the incredible depth of justice upheld by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Had the Jews not violated the Contract of their own doing, it would have continued to hold sway for a while to come.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect II, Erkam Publications

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