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Muhammad Signs a Treaty with the Jews of Medina MUHAMMAD, The Constitution of Medina (ca.
MUHAMMAD, The Constitution of Medina (ca. 625)
The Messenger of God [Muhammad] wrote a document, concerning the emigrants from Mecca and the helpers of Medina, in which he reconciled the Jews and covenanted with them, letting them act freely in the religion and possessions which they had, and stated reciprocal obligations.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
This document is from Muhammad the Prophet, governing relations among the Believers and the Muslims of Quraysh [Mecca] and Yathrib (Medina) and those who followed them and joined with them and struggled with them.
- They are one Community (umma) to the exclusion of all other men. . . .
- The Believers shall not desert any poor person among them, but shall pay his redemption or blood-money, as is proper.
- No Believer shall seek to turn the auxiliary of another Believer against him.
- God-fearing Believers will be against whoever among them is rebellious or whoever seeks to sow injustice or sin or enmity among the Believers; every man's hand shall be against him, though he were the son of one of them.
- No Believer shall kill a Believer for the sake of an unbeliever, or aid an unbeliever against a Believer.
- The protection of God is one: even the least of them may extend it to a stranger. The Believers are friends to each other, to the exclusion of all other men.
- The Jews who follow us shall have aid and equality, except those who do wrong or aid the enemies of the Muslims.
- The peace of the Believers is one: no Believer shall make peace separately where there is fighting for God's sake. Conditions (of peace) must be just and equitable to all.
- In every raid, the riders shall ride close together.
- And the Believers shall avenge one another's blood, if shed for God's sake, for the God-fearing have the best and strongest guidance.
- No idolator [polytheist] (of Medina) shall take Qurayshi property or persons under his protection, nor shall he turn anyone against a Believer.
- Whoever kills a Believer shall also be killed, unless the next of kin of the slain man is otherwise satisfied, and the Believers shall be against him altogether; no one is permitted to act otherwise.
- No Believer who accepts this document and believes in God and Judgment is permitted to aid a criminal or give him shelter. The curse of God and His wrath on the Day of Judgment shall fall upon whoever aids or shelters him, and no repentance or compensation shall be accepted from him if he does.
- Whenever you differ about a case, it shall be referred to God and to Muhammad.
- The Jews shall bear expenses with the Muslims as long as they fight along with them.
- The Jews of the Banu 'Awf [one Jewish tribe] are one community with the Believers; the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs. This is so for them and their clients, except for one who does wrong or treachery; he hurts only himself and his family. . . .
- Everyone shall have his portion from the side to which he belongs; the Jews of al-Aws [another Jewish tribe], their clients and themselves, are in the same position as the people of this document. Honorable dealing is without treachery.
- Whoever acquires any (guilt) does not acquire it for any but himself. God is the most just and loyal fulfiller of what is in this document. This writing will not protect a wrongdoer or a traitor. Whoever goes out is safe, and he who stays at home is safe in the town, unless he has done wrong or treachery. God is the protecting neighbor (jar) of whoever does good and fears Him, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Verily God is wrathful when His covenant is broken. Peace be upon you.
J. A. Williams, Themes in Islamic Civilization (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971), 11-15.
- How is God (Allah) described in these passages? What Muslim religious practices do they reveal?
- What is the fate for believers and unbelievers? In what ways does this contradict or support the idea of a compassionate, merciful God?
- What does this selection say about religious violence? What about nonreligious violence?
- How does the Qur'an describe Jews and Christians? How does this selection criticize their beliefs? How is Islam connected to Judaism and Christianity? What is the role of religion in administering justice for Muhammad and the tribes of Medina?
- How is the relationship between Jews and Muslims defined here? What could negatively affect that relationship?
- Muhammad, unlike Jesus, was a secular ruler in addition to being a religious teacher. How may this have affected his teachings? How do Muslims understand their relationship to God? How do their views on this subject compare to those of Jews and Christians?
- Drawing on the documents in this chapter, what evidence is there to explain the success of Islam? What factors might have influenced people to convert to Islam?