Al-Madinah Charter: Pride of Islamic Civilization
after prophet muhammad (saws) emigrated to al-madinah in 623 c.e., he drew a historical charter. many historians praised it and considered it one of the prides of islamic civilization and a hallmark of its political and humane glory. this charter aimed mainly to organize the relationship among all the sects and groups living in al-madinah at the time, especially the emigrants, ansar, and jewish parties, in order for all of them to defend their town against ant external invasion or assault.
by drawing this charter, all parties concerned approved that al-madinah would be a collective state whose president is prophet muhammad (saws) and whose main reference is islamic shari’ah. all human rights became guaranteed, such as belief, rites, equality, and justice.
roman historian gorgio wrote that “this charter contained fifty-two articles formulated by prophet muhammad (saws) himself: twenty-five were related to muslims’ affairs and twenty-seven were related the relation between muslims and others, especially the jews and idolaters. this charter was drawn in such a way that provided the chance for all beliefs to live together along with muslims in a peaceful way and gave them the freedom to observe their rites provided that no other is annoyed. it also stated the need for unity against any outsider who may attack al-madinah.”
let us take a look at the main points in this charter.
first: ummah is above tribalism
“they are one community (ummah) to the exclusion of all men.”
this was the second article by which the whole ummah was merged and belonging to islam prevailed over any other tribal belonging or bias. prophet muhammad (saws) raised arab from the tribal level to the ummah level.
second: social solidarity among all
“quraysh emigrants according to their present custom shall pay the bloodwit within their number and shall redeem their prisoners with the kindness and justice common among believers.”
“banu ‘auf according to their present custom shall pay the bloodwit they paid in heathenism; every section shall redeem its prisoners with the kindness and justice common among believers.”
“banu sa’ida, the b. ‘l-harith, and the b. jusham, and the b. al-najjar likewise.”
“banu ‘amr bin ‘auf, banu an-nabit and banu al-‘aus likewise.”
third: deterrence of traitors
“allah-fearing believers shall be against the rebellious or him who seeks to spread injustice, or sin or animosity, or corruption among believers; the hand of every man shall be against him even if he is a son of one of them.”
this is a provision for using arms against any sect inside al-madinah if it attacks muslims. therefore, banu qurayzah’s treason after al-ahzab battle was punished because they cooperated with the attacking armies and betrayed their hometown.
fourth: respect of muslim’s protection
“allah’s protection is one, the least of them may give protection to a stranger on their behalf. believers are friends one to the other to the exclusion of outsiders.”
therefore, it was the right of any muslim to provide protection to any person and the others should respect this and protect the same person even if the provider of this protection is the lowest person among them, men and women included.
fifth: protection of non-muslims and minorities
“to the jew who follows us belong help and equality. he shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided.”
it is a text that should be deeply praised as uniquely fair and just. muslim state protects all its citizens regardless their beliefs as long as they do their duties and fulfill their promises.
sixth: social security and blood-money
“whoever is convicted of killing a believer without good reason shall be subject to retaliation unless the next of kin is satisfied (with blood-money), and the believers shall be against him as one man, and they are bound to take action against him.”
therefore, the charter guaranteed justice and compensation and put an end to the pre-islamic vendetta. this resulted in prevalent stability and security.
seventh: shari’ah is the main reference
“whenever you differ about a matter it must be referred to allah (swt) and to muhammad.”
"if any dispute or controversy likely to cause trouble should arise it must be referred to god and to muhammad the messenger of allah. allah accepts what is nearest to piety and goodness in this document.”
eighth: freedom of worship is guaranteed for all
“the jews of the banu ‘auf are one community with the believers (the jews have their religion and the muslims have theirs), their freedmen and their persons except those who behave unjustly and sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and their families.”
ninth: financial support to defend state is the responsibility of all
“the jews shall contribute to the cost of war so long as they are fighting alongside the believers.”
tenth: financial independent of each sect
“the jews must bear their expenses and the muslims their expenses.”
eleventh: joint defence against any aggression
“the contracting parties are bound to help one another against any attack on yathrib.”
“each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people of this document.”
this clearly indicates the necessity of joint defence against any attack.
twelfth: advice and good dealings between muslims and people of the scriptures
“the parties of this document shall advise and consult each other without any bad intention.”
thirteenth: freedom of each party to enter into unharmful alliances
“neither party shall pay for the wrongs of its allies.”
fourteenth: support of the wronged
“the wronged shall be supported until they get their rights.”
fifteenth: security is the right for all
“this deed will not protect the unjust and the sinner. the man who goes forth to fight and the man who stays at home in the city are safe unless he has been unjust and sinned. allah is the protector of the good and allah-fearing man and muhammad is the messenger of allah.”
islam really is always a pioneer in many aspects. this charter is just one example of real equality and fraternity that was realized on the ground and not only ideally preached.
_______________________________________1-salla allah alayhe wa salam [all prayers and peace of allah be upon him] 2-suhanahu wa ta'ala [glorified and exalted be he]. 3-the original name of al-madinah.