Islam, Democracy, Composite Nationalism and Misaq-e- Madina (Prophet’s covenant of Madina): Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani

Barbara Daly Metcalf, a specialist in the history of South Asia, especially the colonial period, and the history of the Indian Muslims, wrote that Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani (1879-1957) — an eminent Indian Islamic scholar and fervent campaigner for democracy and unity,made the most influential and significant intervention in religious thought of Muslims of twentieth century India. The importance of his writings lies in the fact that he laid down, in uncompromising terms, the Islamic sanction for Muslims to live with non-Muslims in a shared polity and specifically, to embrace the secular democracy of a state like India.

Maulana states: “The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the fourteenth year of his prophethood, formed a united front between the Companions and the resident Jews of Medinah based on a written constitution that brought them together as one nation against their common enemy. I will present here only relevant articles of the agreement:

“In the name of Allah, the Most Mericiful, the All Compassionate!

This is an agreement by Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, which will be enforcable amongst Muslims both Ansar and Quraysh and their allies.

All parties to the covenant (Ansar, Muhajir and Jew) shall be regarded as one nation against other non-Muslim and other non-signatories; It is incumbent upon Muslims to help and have sypathetic attitude towards Jews who are party to the covenant. Neither they (Jews) shall be subjected to any wrongdoings, nor any attrocity against them shall be abetted;

Bani ‘Awf (a Jewish tribe) is a party to the agreement and ally of the Muslims. Jews shall be free to practise thier religion, so shall the Muslims. Apart from religious differences, all other communal affairs Muslims and Bani ‘Awf shall be regarded as one nation. Anyone committing any breach of this contract or any wrongdoing shall be liable to appropriate punishment (by law).

Thereafter other tribes including Bani Najjar, Bani Harith, Bani Saida, Bani Jasham and Bani al-Aws were mentioned as they too had become party to the agreement and thus had the same rights as the Bani ‘Awf. (See Ibn Hisham’s Sirah for the whole Medinan Constitution; vol 1: 278)

The pertinent issue here is: if Muslims cannot form a nation with non-Muslims; if Islam does not permit it and Islam does not have the flexibility to form on any condition a common national identity then how was it that the Prophet—Allah bless him and give him peace—formed a common identity with the Jews of Medinah?

As far as I have delved into the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, Islam can coexist with non-Muslims (emphasis mine). . . Muslims can live and interact with them; they can share their happiness and sorrow; they can share the same plate and drink from the same cup. . . while being cognizant of the theological falsehood of their belief systems, Islam is ready to mingle with them; coexist with them and even establish reciprocal ties with them. (Madani, 2005:108-117)

Madani, H. M. 2005. Composite Nationalism. Delhi: Manohar Publishers

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