The Constitution of Medina
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
Soon after the prophet entered Medina, he drew up a treaty between all the tribes and groups of the city – including the pagans and the Jews – which determined the future constitution of Medina. Now at this point the number of Muslims in Medina was so great that they were actually the majority, and it was clearly understood that they wanted the prophet to be their leader. And this treaty solidified and made this official. And since everyone in Medina signed it, from this point onwards Muhammad ﷺ became the leader of the city.
Now a point needs to be mentioned in that the authenticity of this treaty has been a problem debated for a very long time. The main issue arises in that not a single narration of the whole treaty has a complete chain of narrators all the way back to the sahaba – not even in Ibn Ishaaq – although there are authentic mentions to the treaty in other books. However modern researchers do believe that the narration in Ibn Ishaaq is authentic, as the language used in the treaty is very archaic and so it would be very difficult for it be fabricated even by Ibn Ishaaq’s time who was only 150 years after the prophet. And as well as this the treaty mentions every single tribe of Medina – Jewish and Arab – and this is another sign of its authenticity as there were many many different sub-tribes inside the city, some of which we don’t even know of anymore.
There were many clauses in the treaty, and so we will break it down into four sections: the main requirements of the Muslims, the pagans, the Jews, and everyone in general.
The prophet declared that the Muslims from the Quraish and Yathrib (and this was one of the few times he called it Yathrib, and this was because not everyone knew of the name Medina yet) would be one ummah. And this ummah was its own group to the exclusion of the rest of mankind.
As well as this, every single sub-tribe was in charge of its own local responsibilities regarding the members of that sub-tribe. So they would have to take care of their own blood money disputes, their own prisoners of war and their own poor.
In addition, every Muslim had to unite against anyone who committed a crime, even if it was one from their own tribe. And any believer who helped a rebel would have the curse of the Allah and the curse of the angels and the curse of the entirety of mankind. And this goes back to the incident of the Hilf Al-Fudhul, which as we remember was a treaty that the prophet signed in Mecca when he was a young man, which declared that he would stand with the oppressed against the oppressor no matter his ethnicity or tribe.
And the final major clause for the Muslims was that the protection granted by every Muslim was the same, and that even the lowliest of the Muslims could give protection. Now remember, to be able to enter a city and stay there one needed protection from someone who lived inside, such as when the prophet recieved protection from Mut’im ibn Adi’ to stay in Mecca, after his own sub-tribe had revoked it. And so this clause stated that any Muslim could give protection, even if they weren’t free or if they were a child.
Just as the Muslims were made one ummah, the prophet declared that all the tribes of the Jews were one ummah. And he declared that their ummah was alongside the ummah of the Muslims, which shows the level of respect that he actually gave to them initially.
Also just like the Muslims, the prophet said that the Jews would be responsible for their own affairs, such as blood money and other internal affairs. That was, unless the issue involved the two ummahs together. So if there was murder or something between the two ummahs, then the issue would have to go to the prophet as he was the leader of the city and he would decide the dispute.
As well as this, the Jews would have to work with the Muslims against anyone who wanted to attack Medina or attack the treaty. And they would have to spend along with the Muslims to repel these enemies, showing us that in defence against any external threat everyone had the same responsibility.
Now no Jew was allowed to leave Yathrib – that is, move out of from Yathrib – without the permission of the prophet. Remember, at that time people did not just move easily, and so to leave was to change allegiances and to essentially change citizenship. And just like today, one cannot change his citizenship without alerting the authorities, and so the Jews had to inform the leader of the city which was the prophet.
The prophet also made it so that if any Jew wanted to convert to Islam, then he would be helped and protected by the Muslims and no injustice would be done to him.
No pagan was allowed to give protection to a member of the Quraish, even if it was in return for life or money. Nor were they allowed to defend the Quraish in any way. The pagans did not remain long after the prophet came to Medina, as they all converted after the Battle of Badr.
The prophet declared that the interior of Yathrib was a haram for the people of this treaty. And this interior stretched from Jabil Ayr in the south to Jabil Uhud in the north, and was between two volcanic planes in the east and west.
As well as this, any disagreement that occurred between the different peoples of the treaty would be decided by Allah and his messenger. And this shows the prophet’s status now as the leader of Medina.
And finally, whoever stayed in or left Yathrib would be safe, except for anyone who did an injustice or sin.
Now we can see from this treaty that the Jews of Medina were treated with the utmost respect and honour initially. They were given a status parallel to that of the believers, such that the prophet declared that they were an ummah alongside the ummah of the Muslims. And so later on when they were punished, we can see that that was not because they were Jews or any reason pertaining to their identity, but rather they were treated the way that they were treated due to what they had done. And there is a common complaint that the Muslims were intolerant of other religions, but we can clearly see that they allowed both pagans and Jews to practice their religions freely and live alongside the Muslims, although they were not allowed to convert people publically. And if we compare in history to the Christians or the Jews, we see that overall the Muslims were clearly much more religiously tolerant than other nations, and so this is quite an unfair complaint.
From this constitution we can see the baseline for how an Islamic State is supposed to be run. And we see that each tribe or group is semi-autonomous, in that they have to look after domestic affairs themselves. However when it comes to matters between these groups the affair is taken up to the leaders, who at the time was the prophet. As well as this, we can see a revolutionary new concept beginning to take shape, in that the prophet was now unifying the people not based on their tribe or lineage, but rather their theology. And he declared that the Muslims were one ummah to the exception of mankind, and these bonds between Muslims were meant to be that of the strongest bonds, which are the bonds of brothers. And this was a completely new concept for the Arabs, as before then tribal loyalty and lineage had been paramount. And such was the wisdom of the prophet and the blessings that he brought upon the world.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 033