The problem of the Jews of Madina
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
The second problem was that of the Jews of Madina. They lived within and outside Madina and had assumed control of the economy and trade of the city.
The Prophet was fully aware that until the internal affairs were settled and he had obtained the co-operation of the Jews and consequently created a political unity in the seat of his government, the sapling of Islam would not grow up and he would not be able to think about any measures with regard to the idol-worshippers of the Peninsula, especially Quraysh (i.e. the first difficulty). He also knew that until peace and tranquillity prevailed within the seat of government it would not be possible to defend it from external enemies.
In the early days of the arrival of the Prophet in Madina an understanding existed between the Muslims and the Jews in some respects, because both the communities worshipped Allah and were opposed to idolatry and the Jews thought that if Islam gained strength they themselves might become immune from the attacks of the Byzantine Christians. Furthermore, old relations and pacts existed between them on the one hand and between Bani Aws and Bani Khazraj on the other.
On these accounts the Prophet wrote an agreement for the establishment of unity between the Muhajirs and the Ansar, and the Jews of Madina (of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj) also signed it and the Prophet agreed to respect their religion and property on mutually settled conditions. The biographers of the Prophet have recorded complete text of this agreement.[Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. II, page 501]
Since this agreement is a living historical document and clearly shows how the Prophet respected the principles of freedom, order, and justice in life, and created by means of this agreement a united front against external attacks, we mention here some of its essential points as an evidence of the political victory in that age of the newly-formed Government of Islam.
THE GREATEST DOCUMENTARY AGREEMENT OF HISTORY
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
This is the agreement which has been concluded by Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah between the Muslims of Quraysh and of Yathrib and those persons who have followed them and risen up along with them for jihad.
1. The signatories to the agreement form one nation. In the matter of blood-money the Qurayshite Muhajirs are allowed to follow their old custom which prevailed before Islam. If one of them kills someone else or becomes a captive, they should pay the blood-money by mutual help and purchase the captive.
2. Bani 'Awf (a tribe of Ansar) can also safeguard their ways of life like the Qurayshite Muhajirs and can pay collectively the ransom for the release of their men who have been captured. Thereafter other tribes of Ansar namely Bani Sa'idah, Bani Harth, Bani Jasham, Bani Najjar, Bani 'Amr bin 'Awf, Bani Nabit and Bani Aws, have been reminded and made incumbent on everyone of them that they should collectively pay the blood-money and get their captives released on payment of ransom.
3. Muslims should support indigent persons and should help a believer in the matter of heavy expenses to be incurred by him on account of payment of blood-money or for the release of a captive.
4. Pious Muslims should unite against a person who rebels or commits cruelty and injustice, even though the offender is the son of one of them.
5. No one is authorized to conclude an agreement with a Muslim slave or a Muslim child without the permission of his master and father respectively.
6. A believer does not have a right to kill another believer, who has killed an unbeliever. He is also not at all entitled to assist an unbeliever against a Muslim.
7. Allah's agreement and promise with all the Muslims is one. As such even the lowest of them is entitled to take responsibility for an agreement with the unbelievers.
8. The Muslims are the friends and supporters of one another.
9. Everyone from amongst the Jews who follows us and embraces Islam shall be entitled to our help and assistance and there will be no difference between him and other Muslims and none shall be entitled to oppress him or to instigate anyone else to oppress him, or to help his enemy.
10. The Muslims should be united in concluding a peace agreement and no Muslim can conclude peace without consulting another Muslim except on the basis of justice and equality.
11. Groups of the Muslims should go for jihad alternately so that their blood which is shed in the path of Allah is divided equally.
12. The Muslims possess the best religion and the most firm law.
13. None of the polytheists (of Madina) has a right to protect the lives and property of the polytheists of Quraysh or to conclude an agreement with them or to prevent a Muslim from overpowering them.
14. If a Muslim kills another Muslim without a just cause and his crime is proved legally, he shall be executed, unless the heirs of the murdered person forgive him, and in either case it is the duty of the Muslims to be united against the murderer.
15. Whoever acknowledges the contents of this agreement and believes in Allah and in His Prophet is not entitled to assist a heretic or a criminal or to give him asylum, and whoever assists him or provides him asylum shall become subjected to the wrath of Allah, and compensation and damages shall not be acceptable from him.
16. The authority for resolving the differences shall always rest with Allah and Muhammad.
17. When the Muslims fight for the defence of Madina the Jews must pay the former's share of the expenses of war.
18. The Jews of Bani 'Awf (a tribe of Ansar) are allies of the Muslims and they are tantamount to one nation. The Muslims and the Jews are free in the matter of their law and religion. Their slaves are not exempt from this clause i.e. they too are free in the matter of their law, except the sinners and the oppressors who only ruin themselves and the members of their family (because usually the members of the family of a tyrant follow him). (The intention of this exemption is that relations and unity exist between those Jews and Muslims who are not tyrants and oppressors).
19. The Jews of Bani Najjar, Bani Harith, Bani Sa'adah, Bani Jasham, Bani Aws, Bani Tha'labah and Bani Shatibah are like the Jews of Bani 'Awf and there is no distinction between them in the matter of rights and privileges. The tribe of Jafnah is a branch of the tribe of Tha'labah and the orders applicable to the Jews of Bani 'Awf are also applicable to the branch of Bani Shatibah.
20. The signatories to this agreements should make their virtues triumph over their sins.
21. Those who have made agreements with Bani Tha'labah are at par with them.
22. Those who are on friendly terms with, and confidants of, the Jews are at par with them.
23. No one enjoys the right to abandon this agreement without the permission of Muhammad.
24. From amongst these persons the blood of everyone who is wounded (not to speak of one who is killed) is respectable. Whoever kills anyone is liable to pay blood-money and eventually ruins himself and the members of his family, except when the murderer happens to be an oppressed person.
25. The respective expenses of wars which are fought by the Jews and the Muslims jointly are the responsibility of each one of them and when anyone else fights against the parties to this agreement, it is their duty to fight with him jointly.
26. The relations of the parties of the agreement are based on goodness and it is necessary that they should refrain from evil.
27. None should oppress anyone who has made the agreement with him, otherwise the oppressed one should be helped.
28. The interior of Madina is declared to be 'haram' for the signatories of the agreement.
29. Lives of neighbours and of those who have been granted asylum are like our own lives and should not be molested.
30. No woman can be granted asylum without the permission of her people.
31. Muhammad is the arbiter to decide the differences between the signatories of the agreement -whether they be Muslims or non-Muslims. Allah is with him who accords more respect to this agreement.
32. Asylum shall not be granted to Quraysh and to those with whom they have concluded pacts.
33. The signatories to this agreement take joint responsibility for the defence of Yathrib.
34. When the Muslims invite the Jews to conclude peace with the enemy they should accept the proposal and the Muslims should also accept any such proposal made by the Jews except the fact that the enemy is opposed to the religion of Islam and its propagation.
35. The Jews of Aws, whether slaves or masters, are also covered by this agreement.
36. This agreement does not support a tyrant or a criminal.
37. Whoever remains in Madina is protected and whoever leaves it is protected provided that he is not an oppressor and a criminal.
This agreement was concluded with the following sentence: "Allah is the Protector of the good and the pious and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah''.[Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, pp. 503-504 and al-Amwal, pp. 125 & 202].
This political agreement and the basic law of Islam of that time, briefly mentioned, is a perfect specimen of the spirit of freedom of faith, social welfare and necessity of co-operation in collective matters in Islam, and has, above all things, clarified the limits and the authority of the leader and the responsibilities of all its signatories.
The Jews of the tribes of Bani Qurayzah, Bani Nuzayr and Bani Qaynqa' did not participate in the conclusion of this agreement, and only the Jews of Aws and Khazraj tribes became parties to it. However, these people concluded agreements with the Prophet later and the following sentences have been taken from the contents of those agreements: "The Prophet makes this agreement with the three groups to the effect that they will not harm him and his friends with their tongues and hands, and will not supply arms and mounts to his enemies. In case they act against the contents of this agreement the Prophet would be at liberty to shed their blood, confiscate their properties and make their women and children captives. Then Hay bin Akhtab signed on behalf of Bani Nuzayr, Ka'b bin Asad on behalf of Bani Qurayzah and Mukhayriq on behalf of Bani Qaynqa'.[Biharul Anwar, vol. XIX, pp. 110 - 111]
By this means Yathrib and the dependencies lying near it were declared to be an area of peace and security and a 'sanctuary'. Now the time had arrived that the Prophet should consider ways and means of tackling the first problem viz. that of Quraysh, because, so long as this enemy stood in his way, he could not succeed in spreading Islam and enforcing its laws.