Saturday, September 25, 2010

Islam in Medina(Part Two)|Islam The Straight Path| Islam Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as Islam in Medina (Part Two) on Blogcritics.

Previously we discussed Muhammed's (pbuh) implementation of a new political order in Medina, and his instructions to the Muhajireen (immigrant Arabs from Mecca) and the Ansar (local Arabs from Medina) to join in a pact of forming one brotherhood, and to align themselves to one another to effectively combat any connivance the 'Unbelievers' from the Aws and Al-Khazraj could devise against them.

We looked at how Muhammed (pbuh) endeavoured ceaselessly to bring cohesion amongst his followers and how the Aws and Al-Khazraj felt cheated at the emergence of the Prophet (pbuh) on the political scene— thwarting their ideals of claiming Medina for themselves to govern.

We spoke about the different tribes of Jews that existed in Medina, and their aspirations of winning the Prophet (pbuh) over to their side to fight against the Christians whom they hated for having expelled them from Palestine.

One can thus imagine the political powder-keg that must have existed at that time.

On the one side there were the Muslims who were now solely reliant on Muhammed (pbuh) for guidance and instruction; on the other hand there were the Jews, Christians, and Unbelievers, as well as those 'in-betweeners' who had reverted to Islam, but were not really Muslim. They were the ones who took pleasure in back-stabbing the Prophet (pbuh) at every turn! They were the ones who befriended those Jews and Christians who had it in for Muhammed (pbuh)— and together, they plotted with the 'Unbelievers' how to overthrow the Prophet (pbuh) and expel him from their city.

We learn about one incident where these hypocrites built their own mosque and endeavoured to cause a split between the Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) summarily burnt down that mosque and effectively stopped any further attempts at such deviant ideologies.

One point of note, though, is that Muhammed (pbuh), unlike any other Prophet before him, was politically motivated enough to understand the social implications of leaving any emerging subversiveness unattended. He knew that his presence in Medina was causing dissension amongst the different tribes of Arabs inhabiting the city, and he speedily instituted a strategy whereby all concerned parties had to swear fealty to him and abide by this new constitution. He instituted the 'Covenant of Medina' which to this day is hailed as a 'master-strategy' of political expedience.

Muhammed (pbuh), as has been said before and recorded through all the annals of history, could neither read nor write; he could not even spell his own name! But he understood and appreciated the power of the pen.

He therefore had this particular 'Covenant' reduced to writing— by one of his trusted scribes—and all concerned parties then had to abide by this constitution of Islam. Many of the Jews of Medina were also a part of it.

Below follows a brief synopsis of this 'Pax Islamica'. It also outlines the role of the Muslims regarding the socio-political infrastructure of Medina, as well as the role of the Jews who aligned themselves with the followers of Muhammed (pbuh):

In the name of Allah; The Compassionate;
Most Merciful.
This is a Covenant given by Muhammed (pbuh)
to the Muslims of Qureish, Medina, and all
Those who followed them, joined them, And,
Fought with them.

It is a Covenant for those who believe in Allah
Almighty and in the Last Day. Those who shall not
cause division amongst the People and neither

It is hereby agreed that no Believer shall leave
his fellow-believer in destitution, without giving
him in kindness what he needs by way of ransom or
blood wit.

All Believers shall rise, as one man, against
anyone causing harm or mischief, or, creates
division amongst the Believers—even though he be
a son or close relative.

No Believer shall slay another Believer as
retribution for an Unbeliever. And, neither shall
he assist an Unbeliever against a Believer.

Any Jew who follows us is entitled to our assistance
and shall enjoy equal rights and partnership as
any one of us, without injustice, nor partisanship.

The Document goes on to explain what happens in times of war and peace; about those who fall in battle and those who are left behind; about those committing murder and the punishment for it; and about peace-agreements—and who could transact these agreement and under what circumstances.

It was quite a lengthy Covenant, but all in all it bounded the Muhajireen, Ansar, Jews, as well as a group of the other denominations, who had recently accepted Islam, to an inviolable treaty that stretched far and wide across Medina.

The Arabs, being known for their wild and volatile nature, slowly began to respect one another—to fraternise with one another, as had never been done before! They could be seen hugging each other through mutual understanding and genuine concern, helping one another without expecting anything in return. Even those Jews who had not signed the initial 'Accord', like the Jews from the Banu al Nathir, Banu Qurayzah, and Banu Qaynuqah, entered into similar 'pacts' with the Prophet (pbuh) as time went on. Crime and corruption were being given a telling blow and Medina began to glow from a tranquility that to this day bears testimony to that transformation that took place when Muhammed (pbuh) instituted the Covenant of Medina.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Islam in Medina|Islam The Straight Path|Islamic Teachings|Quran Guidance

Article first published as Islam in Medina on Blogcritics.

We have thus far looked at Muhammed's (pbuh) entry into Medina, and we have briefly touched on the special relationship the Prophet (pbuh) had with that city. We discussed the mixed emotions that each one— those who witnessed this momentous occasion— grappled with as they watched him alighting from his camel and working his way through the crowd.

Young girls continued singing his praises, moving rhythmically from side to side, some with awe and admiration on their faces, others calling out his name and trying to touch him.

They could see his lips moving; they could hear him mutter words like: 'O Allah! You are the Greatest! You are the Greatest! Only You are worthy of all Praise! You are Exalted! Most High!'

Muhammed (pbuh) let his she-camel roam ahead while he himself followed sedately, muttering the praises of God continuously. And the animal proudly swung its head from side to side, sniffing the air, not looking at the throng, almost sensing that its master was no ordinary man, blowing haughtily through its nostrils as if to tell everyone present that she had been entrusted with the special task of finding a suitable abode for this very special person.

The camel finally came to a halt in the courtyard of Sahl and Suhail, the two twins from the Ansars, and the Prophet (pbuh) announced to all those who listened to him that that was where he was going to build the first mosque in Islam, as well as a living quarters for himself.

There were those, of course, who felt that with the coming of Muhammed (pbuh) a new political system was going to be inevitable, such as the Aus and Al-Khazraj, two tribes from the 'Unbelievers' whose sole purpose was to cause division between the Muslims and Jews, and who regarded Medina as a sort of free-for-all, ready for a strong takeover by themselves.

The Jews, on the other hand, had some sort of secret hope concerning the arrival of Muhammed (pbuh). They harbored the ideal that Muhammed (pbuh)— like Jesus, whom they had relied on to help them against the Romans— would join their ranks and bolster their resistance against the Christians whom they bore a grudge against for having expelled them from Palestine.

But before we can explore any sort of relationship Muhammed (pbuh) had with either the Jews or Christians, or with the Unbelievers, for that matter, we have to look at the social structure of Medina, per se.

There were the local Arabs of Medina, called the Ansars, and then there were the newcomers from Mecca, called the Muhajireen, loosely translated as immigrants.

The Jews, for their part, formed a large part of the indigenous community. There were the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayzah, and the Banu al-Nadir who lived in and around the City. And, to the North, were the Jews of Khaybar, who, as history tells us, stirred up a lot of problems for the Muslims.

Muhammed's (pbuh) first task was thus to strengthen whatever ties there existed between the Ansars and Muhajireen and establish some sort of council that could regulate the affairs of the Muslims in Medina. The dangers of previous enmities and prejudices were something not to be taken lightly and Muhammed (pbuh) knew that he had to strike the iron while it was still hot. Medina's new-found Islam could not be left to chance.

He thus called upon the Ansars and the Muhajireen to fraternize with one another, bind themselves in pairs, and form a brotherhood for the sake of God. He explained to them that like he and Ali ibn Abu Talib were brothers, Abu bakr and Kharijah ibn Zayd, Umar ibn Al Khattab and Itban ibn Malik al Khazraji, were brothers; so too he desired for each one of the Muhajireen to link himself to an Ansar and to perpetuate this brotherhood of Islam.

So effective proved this idea that as time progressed a genuine blood link developed amongst the Muslims, so that the enemies of Islam had their work cut out in trying to divide the Muslims over petty issues.
Medina then became known as Medina-tul-Rasool, or the City of the Prophet (pbuh).