The story of the Medina Constitution

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By Dr. Safi Kaskas

For all the Muslims who want an Islamic State, please read this document that I consider the first implementation of the Quranic teachings about a government system by our beloved Prophet ﷺ.

Here is the story as I usually tell it in various interviews. During Muhammad’s, last years in Mecca, a delegation from nearby Yathrib, from its twelve important clans invited him as a trustworthy neutral outsider to serve as the chief arbitrator for the entire community. There had been fighting in Yathrib involving mainly idol worshipers groups from the Aus and Khazraj for around 100 years. Sometimes the fighting expanded to involve the idol worshipers and their Jewish neighbors. The recurring slaughters and disagreements over the resulting claims, in which all the clans had been involved, made it obvious to them that the tribal conceptions of blood feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there was a leader, that they all respect, with the authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. The delegation from Yathrib pledged themselves and their fellow citizens to accept Muhammadﷺ into their community and to protect him physically as if he was one of them.

After emigrating to Yathrib, the notables of the city came to him to pledge allegiance and promise to obey him. Muhammad, however, objected and ask them on what basis are you pledging allegiance to me. My religion he said taught me to draw a contract for every important transaction between people. Marriage for us requires a contract, a trade deal requires a contract. Hence, I need to draft a contract between us, and based on that contract you either pledge to allow me to lead or not. Muhammad ﷺ drafted that Social Contract, specifying the rights and duties of all citizens and the relationship of the different communities in Yathrib, including that of the Muslim community to other communities: the Jews and the other “Peoples of the Book”. According to chroniclers such as Ibn Sa’d al-Baghdadi, the composition of the population of Yathrib at that time consisted of two supergroup local Arab tribes, the Aus and the Khazraj, with eight clans and 33 other smaller clans under them. Meanwhile, the Jewish tribes consisted of around 20 groups, with Qainuqa, Nadhir, and Qurayza being the most well-known tribes among them.

Here is some information I record for the first time. Most historians of the period didn’t pay much attention to something very important done by Muhammadﷺ, but because it was out of the ordinary people didn’t pay much attention to it. Immediately after getting to Yathrib, he ordered a census to be done for the city’s population. Here are the results:

45% of Idols worshippers

40% Jews

15% Muslims

After he presented his first social contract in history to the people of Yathrib, the people liked it very much because it was equitable and fair and came to Muhammadﷺ to pledge support and allegiance. Once the men were done, Muhammad ordered that they send the women to vote. This was the first time women in Arabia were asked to vote and were shown equal respect as men.

After the Constitution was approved, Muhammad ﷺ, suggested that they change the name of Yathrib to Medina, which means the place of civility, or the place governed by civil law.

The first social contract in Europe was authored by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1762. It helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France.

I will let you chew on this information for a while and we will then discuss it.

Download the PDF from here

Thank you.

Mike Ghouse,
President, Center for Pluralism 
Editor, Upcoming policy Maker’s Magazine – Pluralism Gazette
Director – World Muslim Congress
Wedding Officiant – Interfaith Marriages 
Personal Profile – The Ghouse Diary

Future – Shaping America’s Future

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