The Medina Charter, written and promulgated by Prophet Muhammad for the multi-religious ten thousand-strong citizens of the city-state of Medina in 622 A.D is truly a remarkable political-constitutional document. The claim made by Professor M. Hamidullah that it was the first written constitution (FN1) in the world is not without basis. It is modern in the sense that it was promulgated for a plural society, giving equal rights to every citizen as well as giving them a say in governmental matters,
According to Professor M. Hamidullah It should be noted that this loyalty to the State by its plural citizenry constituted nationalism, or more exactly a patriotism, that is approved by Islam, contrary to what some modern Muslim ideologues assert. It is in line with the teaching in the Quranic verse, "O people, We created you from the same male and female and rendered you into distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The best of you in the sight of God is the most righteous." (FN8)
There were twenty districts each with a chief (naqib) and deputy chiefs (`arif) and its meeting place (saqifah). The city at this time had a population of about ten thousand. Of these, the Muslims made up only a few hundred; half of it were monotheist Jews, the rest being polytheists. (FN9)
It is noteworthy that the Charter ordained equality to its members and protected them against oppression. (Clause 16). The State proclaimed the brotherhood of believers and gave each one a right and support to give protection to any individual, excepting an enemy. (Clause 15). It also extended help to its members in debt or in financial difficulties in regard to payment of ransom or blood-money. (Clause 12). It prohibited help or refuge to be given to a murderer. (Clause 22).
A very important human right is given in Clause 25 where freedom was guaranteed for each community to practice its own religion. The implication of this clause is that each individual was also free to choose his or her religion, in line with the clear teachings of the Quran. (FN10)
The Medina Charter reflects pluralism both in the content and in the history of the document. F. E. Peters explains that "the contracting parties, although they did not embrace Islam, did recognize the Prophet's authority, accepting him as the community leader and abiding by his political judgments" (Peters 1994, 199). As there is no account of an uprising in history books and because the Prophet was there at the suggestion of the tribes, we know that he was never rejected. Because of the laws he introduced, the existing groups clearly did not feel threatened by his new presence or his new governance. The society was pluralistic, and it was not repressive. The Prophet - as clause 25 shows - never imposed Islam upon the people of Medina, which meant that they could still practice without disruption their religions and customs, aspects of life that were important to them. He did not create an ummah through denouncing all ways of life except for Islam or by recognizing Islam as the singular religion; instead he united all inhabitants of the city under one banner of ethical living and moral principles - commonalities between all humans and all religions.
The Prophet drew upon the essence of unity, respect, tolerance, and love to combine and create a pluralistic community. Clause 40 exemplifies this: "The 'protected neighbor' (jar) is as the man himself so long as he does no harm and does not act treacherously" (Sajoo 2009, 97). People were safe and respected and free to exert their beliefs and would be protected in doing so. This protection, however, could not shield them from treachery or wrong doing.
In contemporary times, an analysis of the Medina Charter can give us insight into Islam and religious pluralism (Sachedina 2001). Medina marked the first real occurrence of coexistence between religions and groups in Islam and mirrors the Quran which "in its entirety provides ample material for extrapolating a pluralistic and inclusive theology of religions" (Sachedina 2001, 26). The Quran is the unquestionable and the absolute; therefore, it is the key to understanding religious pluralism in Islam. Clause 39 of the Medina Charter says, "The valley of Yathrib is sacred for the people of this document" (Sajoo 2009, 97). And so too is the universe, which is sacred to all of humanity. The Quran reveals that "the people are one community" (2:213), so if we are one (which we are) in the world, in the universe, then regardless of religion, it is God's mercy and compassion which will save us. By differentiating between beliefs, we neglect that under one sun we all pray to a greater entity, a greater being. We were all created by God, so unity seems imperative and practical.
Peace was achieved in Medina, not through the might of arms or the scale of wealth, but through the unyielding principles of Islam - tolerance, love, reason, and a belief in God - whether the God in the Bible, the Quran, or the Torah. The Medina Charter, arguably the first charter ever written, shows that Islam rejects the use of compulsion in religion and violence and that over centuries of human existence, the most effective way to resolve conflicts comes through mediation. The Medina Charter is an example that should be discussed and referred to in current conflicts. The creation of a community, or ummah, offers pluralism to everyone. For people are not judged on their beliefs, but on their actions. Persecution is the instigator of all tensions, and reason and tolerance is the essence of all peace. Just as in the streets of Medina, through tolerance and respect, we too may one day have a world-wide ummah, where a passing Christian will say, "Peace be upon you" to a Muslim, who will reply, "Peace be upon you too."
Rights of non-Muslims
The non-Muslims included in the ummah had the following rights:
1. The security of God is equal for all groups,
2. Non-Muslim members have equal political and cultural rights as Muslims. They will have autonomy and freedom of religion.
3. Non-Muslims will take up arms against the enemy of the Ummah and share the cost of war. There is to be no treachery between the two.
4. Non-Muslims will not be obliged to take part in religious wars of the Muslims.
Ibn Ishaq says: The Prophet then wrote a contract between the muhajirun and the ansar with which he concluded a covenant and a truce with the Jews, confirmed them in their religion and their property, and imposed obligations on them and guaranteed them certain rights.
In the name of Allah, the compassionate Rahman. This is a writing of Muhammad, the Prophet, between the believers and the Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib and those who follow them and are attached to them, and who fight together with them in war.
1. They are one community to the exclusion of [other] people.
2. The muhajirun of Quraysh [remain] in their condition. They pay jointly blood-wite and ransom their captives. [This is carried out] in an upright and just [manner] among the believers.
3. Banu ‘Awf [remain] in their condition; they pay jointly their previous blood-wite. Every group ransoms their captives. [This is carried out] in an upright and just [manner] among the believers.
4. Banu al-Harith [remain] in their condition, etc. as section 3.
5. Banu Sa‘idah ….(as section 3).
6. Banu Jusham …(as section 3).
7. Banu al-Najjar…(as section 3).
8. Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf…(as section 3).
9. Banu al-Nabit… (as section 3).
10. And Banu al-Aws … (as section 3).
11. The believers shall not fail to give just assistance to a debtor among them for redemption money or blood-wite.
12. No believer shall enter into alliance with the client of a believer without the latter’s consent.
13. The God-fearing believers act [act] against those of them who cause an act of injustice or fraud or hostility or harm among the believers. Their hands are all against him even if he is the son of one of them.
14. No believer shall kill a believer on account of an unbeliever; neither shall he help an unbeliever against a believer.
15. The protection of Allah is one; the protection granted by the least of them is binding on all. The believers protect each other to the exclusion of [other] people.
16. Whoever of the Jews follow us [receive] help and support without being wronged and without the one helping the other against them.
17. The peace of the believers is one. No peace shall be made with a believer apart from an[other] believer when there is fighting in the way of Allah. However, [peace must be concluded] on the basis of mutual equality and justice.
18. In every expedition made with us the parties shall take turns with one another.
19. The believers exact vengeance for the blood of one another [that is shed] in the way of Allah.
20. The God-fearing believers are under the best and most correct guidance. No polytheist may grant protection to the property or person of Quraysh; neither shall he protect him against a believer.
21. When evidence has been given that someone killed a believer then he is killed in retaliation for him unless the person entitled to revenge is satisfied [with blood-wite]. The believers are against him as one man. They must take action only against him.
22. No believer who understands what is said in this document and who believes in Allah and the last day shall give assistance to a wrongdoer or to give him shelter. If anyone helps him or shelters such a person, upon him be the curse and wrath of Allah on the day of resurrection. No price or substitute shall be accepted from him.
23. Whenever you differ about anything it is to be referred to Allah and Muhammad.
24. The Jews pay a share of the expenses of the believers so long as they are at war. [Same as section 38]
25. The Jews of the Banu ‘Awf are one community with the believers. To the Jews their religion and to the Muslims their religion. [This applies] to their clients and to themselves with the exception of anyone who has done wrong or committed treachery, for he harms only himself and his family.
26. To the Jews of Banu al-Najjar [applies] the like of what does to the Jews of Banu ‘Awf.
27. To the Jews of Banu al-Harith … (as section 26).
28. To the Jews of Banu Sa’idah … (as section 26).
29. To the Jews of Banu Jusham … ( as section 26).
30. To the Jews of Banu al-Aws … (as section 26).
31. To the Jews of Banu Tha’labah … (as section 26). With the exception of anyone who has done wrong or committed treachery, he harms only himself and his family.
32. Jafnah are a subdivision of Tha‘labah. They are like them.
33. To Banu al-shutbah [applies] the like of what does to the Jews of Banu ‘Awf. Honesty without treachery [is demanded].
34. The clients of the Tha‘labah are like them.
35. The friends of the Jews are like them.
36. No one of them shall go out [to war] without Muhammad’s consent. But no one shall be prevented from taking vengeance for wounds. Whoever acts on his own account [involves] himself and his family, except him who has been wronged. Allah is the truest [fulfiller] of this [document].
37. The Jews must bear their expense and the Muslims must bear their expenses. They help one another against those who make war against the people of this document. Between them is good understanding, honourable dealing, and honesty, not treachery. No one is responsible for his confederate. Help [is to be given] to whoever is wronged.
38. The Jews pay a share of the expenses of the believers so long as they are at war. (A repeat of 24)
39. The Valley of Yathrib is sacred for the people of this document.
40. The guest is as his host except he who causes harm or acts treacherously.
41. No woman can be treated as a guest except with the consent of her family.
42. Whenever there is disagreement among the people of this document and trouble to t be anticipated, the matter is to be referred to Allah and Muhammad. Allah is the most scrupulous and truest [fulfiller] of this document.
43. No protection is to be given to the Quraysh or to those who help them.
44. They help one another against those who attack Yathrib.
45. Whenever they are summoned to conclude and to accept a peace treaty, then they shall conclude and accept it. And whenever they [the believers] summon to the like of that, then they have the right for this vis-à-vis the believers except whoever makes war on account of religion. Everyone has his share from their side which is directed towards him.
46. The Jews of al-Aws, their clients and they themselves, have the same rights as the people of this document, in pure honesty on the part of the people of this document. Honesty without treachery [is demanded].
47. Every person who becomes guilty loads the guilt only upon himself. Allah is the most just and truest [fulfiller] of the contents of this document. This writing does not protect him who practices evil or treachery. He who goes out as well as he who remains is safe in the city except he who does wrong or acts treacherously. Allah is a protector of whoever is good and faithful, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
There was not any discrimination with anyone in the state of Madina. They were all equal citizens of the same state. On the other hand Pakistan is an Islamic state but it is against the charter of Madina.
If Pakistan has to be declared as an Islamic state then it must be established on the basis of the Charter of Madina otherwise it has no right to be declared as an Islamic state. Quaid-i-Azam wanted to make Pakistan according to the charter of madina which was obvious in his speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11,1947 when he said ,” You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” but Liaquat Ali Khan the first prime Minister of Pakistan damaged the characteristics of the plural society and thus caused a serious damage to the Charter of Madina when he presented the Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on March 9, 1949.
I have certain recommendations before the rulers and people of the majority religion of Pakistan.
All citizens must be treated equally and without any bias.
All discriminatory articles must be abolished from the Constitution of Pakistan.
All discriminatory laws must be abolished from the Pakistan Penal Code.
Serious measures must be taken to promote the culture of interfaith harmony among the people of different faiths.
Hate based material must be excluded from the textbooks of Pakistan and teachings on peace, tolerance, love and acceptance must be included.
There must be need based and value based curriculum.
A SHORT NOTE ON THE MEDINA CHARTER By: Kassim Ahmad
Medina Charter of Prophet Muhammad and Pluralism By Sean William White