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The Founder of a Model Pluralist Society

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The Founder of a Model Pluralist Society

Post by Mohamed on Fri Feb 26, 2010 5:59 pm

M. Riaz Khan, Ph.D.

"O mankind, We have created you from one male and female, and then set
you up as nations and tribes so you may recognize (and cooperate with)
one another. The noblest among you with Allah is he who is the most
pious…" [Qur'an, 49: 13]

The state in Madina established by the Prophet Muhammad (peace
be upon him) was a model pluralistic society in practice. The
pluralistic environment that he had cultivated along with its
concomitant social values, civil rights and responsibilities,
individualism and diversity, freedom of speech and religion, community
building, elimination of prejudice, outreach initiatives, empowerment
of minorities, and governance through consultation and inclusiveness
was a glorious demonstration of the global view of Islam and its vision
of a just society. The guiding principle of such a society is the
universal perspective of humanity under One Creator and a harmonizing
character to be judged only by Him.

It is a known fact that the period in which the Prophet was born was
the darkest in human history. There was no moral code; ignorance was a
symbol of pride; slavery was commonly practiced; women, orphans and the
weak had no rights or human dignity; man could have unlimited number of
wives; young girls used to be buried alive; warfare and bloodshed was a
hobby; and idolatry was prevalent everywhere.

The Prophet began his mission as a Messenger of Allah in
Mecca. But all his efforts to reform the society were met with
resistance, hostility and increasing violence. After exhausting all his
efforts for thirteen years in the community of his birth, he migrate to
Madina. The environment in Madina was rather receptive to the message
of Islam. Prior to the Prophet's arrival, there was a complete anarchy
in Madina. But, in just a few weeks, the Prophet succeeded in rallying
all the inhabitants of Madina into order.

He constituted a city-state in which Muslims, Jews, pagan
Arabs, and Christians all entered into a state organism by means of a
social contract. Islam began to gain momentum in Madina and within
eight years the Prophet re-entered Mecca without any bloodshed. Rather
than settling old scores, he granted a general amnesty to his enemies
in Mecca and advised them to seek Allah's forgiveness and mercy
instead. To those Muslims who were overwhelmed by the victory and
wanted to seek revenge, his order was: We are returning from a minor
jihad (military campaign) to a major jihad (fighting the evil of
own-self) of reconciliation. Impressed by his magnanimity, the entire
population of Mecca embraced Islam forthwith.

With Mecca firmly under the banner of Islam, the Prophet
returned to Madina and concentrated more in the affairs of state. As
head of state and the chief executive by virtue of being a Prophet, he
made the pursuit of peace, justice and piety the directive principles
of his state policy. The fraternal relationship that he fostered
between the emigrants from Mecca and the residents of Madina and the
covenants of peace he worked out with non-Muslim communities were in
line with his statesmanship instincts for a pluralistic society. Making
equality of man the foundational principle of the Islamic state, the
Prophet endowed it with a written constitution. It was framed in
consultation with the representatives of both Muslims and non-Muslims
citizens and it recognized the freedom of religion for all.

The political system of Islam is based on its concept of the
universe itself. The authority to rule and make decisions belongs to
Allah; man must submit to his Creator: "…The authority rests with Allah
alone, Who has commanded you that you worship none but Him. This is the
right religion, but most people do not know." [12:40] With this role of
man in the universe, the Prophet delivered the Final Message of Allah
contained in the Qur'an. The life of the Prophet is an epitome of the
Qur'an. He was a divinely inspired reformist and disciplinarian. As
Prophet of Allah, he showed his kindness and compassion not only to
those who belonged to the Islamic fraternity but also to those outside
its fold. The morally pure, socially vibrant, racially and religiously
coherent, and economically prosperous society that the Prophet built
was a fulfillment of mission.

To the Prophet the entire human race was one extended family
as Islam views the children of Adam (see Q, 49: 13). He called himself
" a slave of Allah" and "a servant of humanity." Thus, he considered
discrimination in all its various forms as the most lethal enemy of the
human race and vigorously expunged it from the society. This Qur'anic
statement highlights three cardinal pieces of truth: our origin is one,
our natural distinctions are for cooperation in worldly affairs, and
the moral excellence is the only criterion for judging people. It is
then obvious that establishing peace, fairness, and human dignity by
galvanizing people of all shades and stripes as one body was high on
the Prophet's agenda as head of state.

The Prophet, as the writer James Michener points out, always
substantiated practically what he preached verbally. He freed his own
slave and adopted him as his son. He not only stood against racial
discrimination but appointed Bilal - a freed African slave - as the
first mu'azzin (caller to prayers) in the Prophet's Mosque in Madina
and always honored him as a distinguished companion. The status of
Bilal in Islam is an undeniable proof of Islam's universal vision of
brotherhood, equality of all races and opposition to slavery.

While the fires of religious intolerance howled savagely in most part
of the world, as Qutubuddin Aziz describes in his book, the Prophet
devised an enlightened and liberal code to govern the relations between
the Islamic state and its non-Muslim citizens. He made them equal
partners with their Muslim counter-part in contributing to the progress
of the State and in the enjoyment of the fruits of their collective
efforts. He fostered various institutions, Islamic laws and code of
conduct for governing an Islamic society in which the rights of
religious minorities were fully protected. The constitutional law of
the first Islamic State - which was a confederacy as sequence of the
multiplicity of the population groups - contains clauses such as: "To
Muslim their religion, and to Jews their religion," and "that there
would be benevolence and justice," or "The Jews… are a community (in
alliance) with the believers (Muslims)." According to this document,
autonomous Jewish villages were allowed to accede at will to the
confederal State, as most did. Further, the military defense was a duty
of all elements of the population, including the Jews.

In practice of statesmanship, the Prophet fashioned for the
Islamic state a dynamic foreign policy based on the ethical postulates
of Islam. All wars fought by Muslims under the command of the Prophet
were defensive in character. This was because of the Prophet's aversion
to unnecessary bloodshed. He laid stress on the virtue of maintaining
peace and respecting the sanctity of human life. Describing a decent
conduct in war, for example, the Prophet instructed his soldiers: In
avenging the injuries inflicted upon us, faithfully carry out all
covenants and agreements, avoid treachery, disturb not the inmates of
the shrines and monasteries, spare women and children, touch not the
suckling infant and the patients in bed. Do not destroy the dwellings
of the unresisting inhabitants and their means of subsistence and spare
the fruit trees. He said those oppressed by the society inherit the
earth, peace is better than war, and justice prevails.

Impressed by the deep rooted commitment of the Prophet to
humanity, the French historian, Alphonse de Lamartine, writes: "…Judged
by all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well
ask: Is there any man greater than he (Muhammad)?" It was this vision
of the Prophet and his demonstrated commitment to establishing and
sustaining a pluralistic society - a commitment also pursued by his
followers - that touched people from Morocco to Indonesia as a sign of
hope and dignity. Commenting on this phenomenon, John William Draper, a
British historian, describes the Prophet: "…of all men he (Muhammad)
exercised the greatest influence upon the human race…In a few years,
the Muslims conquered half of the world."

The Islamic concept of One Sovereign Allah, in particular,
provides an atmosphere suitable for better understanding among the
followers of monotheistic religions. The Prophet gave a practical
meaning to this universal concept to assimilate all members of humanity
into one natural unit. The Islamic concept of social justice and
security and its efforts to fight aggression in all its forms makes
Islam a pioneer system to adopt for tackling common problems and to
bring about universal peace through mutual understanding. The Prophet
was the first to allow the virtues of democracy to enrich the society
and advance the human civilization. Perhaps the most characteristic
feature of the pluralistic state founded by the Prophet is that he
granted social and judicial autonomy to every non-Muslim community to
run their own affairs. Notable Christians and Jews, thus, have been
among the highest dignitaries of the State.

In essence, there is much proof that the Prophet had hoped for the day
when all who shared a common belief in Allah would exist together in
peace with respect for one another. The world peace can be founded only
on tolerance and promoted through forbearance. Once a deputation of
Christians visited the Prophet in the mosque. When the time for
Christian prayers arrived and they started to leave, he insisted:
"conduct your prayers right here in the mosque. It is a place
consecrated to God."

On his deathbed, the Prophet issued a directive: "Observe
scrupulously the protection accorded by me to non-Muslim subjects."(cf.
al'Mawardi) The Prophet has expressed his utmost disapproval of any
mistreatment accorded to non-Muslims population in an Islamic state. He
says: "Whoever oppresses the non-Muslim subjects, shall find me to be
their advocate on the Day of Judgment (against the oppressing
Muslims)." (Abu Dawud) His inspiring last sermon, before passing away,
reflects the nobility and grace of the Prophet's thoughts and the
beauty of the language he spoke. He advised for the faith in Allah,
non-aggression and rising above the considerations of race, color and
origin. He made an impassioned plea for the observance of human rights
enjoined by Islam, a fair deal to women and the freeing of slaves.


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Location : Algeria

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