“The Constitution of Medina also known as the Charter of Medina (“Covenant of Medina”), was drawn up on behalf of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shortly after his arrival at Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622AD (or 1 AH), following the Hijra from Mecca.”—Wikipedia
Many articles and news items are available on the dream of our incumbent prime minister of making Pakistan Riyasat-i-Medina with some considering it far-fetched while others commenting on the current state of affairs being totally unfavourable for its materialization. Whether this dream can or cannot come true, one should at least appreciate Imran Khan’s good intentions. Besides, unless there is an objective in view, how can anyone make efforts to achieve it? This goal can be accomplished provided the essential ingredients of that era are known and understood, one of which is the nomenclature. Although, it is all about Islamic principles, yet the word “Islam” does not appear in it elucidating the fact that it is not a narrow concept but extends to all those living within its realm, giving everyone, regardless of faith and ethnic origin, a comfortable sense of ownership—the first step towards nationalism and patriotism. Name does matter!
When Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) migrated to Medina, he gathered eight local tribes professing faith of the Holy Books as well as the Muslim migrants from Mecca and laid before them a constitution that contained their rights and duties and their relationships with each other. A British American historian, Bernard Lewis claims in “The Arabs in History” that this charter was interesting in the sense that it included Jewish tribes in the ummah.
In the “Encyclopedia of Islam”, Alford Welch writes: “The constitution reveals Muhammad‘s (PBUH) great diplomatic skills, for it allows the ideal that he cherished of an ummah (community) based clearly on a religious outlook to sink temporarily into the background and is shaped essentially by practical considerations.”
This clearly implies the importance of assimilating diversity before enforcing a code of conduct based on Islamic values. By opening one’s arms to all without harbouring prejudice, a pool of intellectual ideas can be created for the overall benefit of the society. Ousting a specific expert because of his faith, as done when forming an economic advisory committee, was definitely not a wise decision. At times one has to rise above one’s biases for achieving higher aims.
Appreciating this constitution, Tom Holland writes: “The Constitution of Medina is accepted by even the most suspicious of scholars as deriving from the time of Muhammad (PBUH). Here in these precious documents, it is possible to glimpse the authentic beginnings of a movement that would succeed, in barely two decades, in prostrating both the Roman and the Persian Empires”.
Establishment of peace with belligerent tribes was necessary to create a conducive environment for promoting socio-economic measures to raise the living standards of the denizens. There was a period when people would look for zakat donees but were unable to find them. Pakistan is both, surrounded by aggressive neighbours and suffers from disunity within its own people. In this situation, where the major chunk of the country’s revenue is used up for protecting its borders and maintenance of order, attention cannot be diverted to eradication of poverty, improving human resource and uplifting the common man. Presently there are scores of beggars, visible and hidden, in every nook and corner of the country.
Another very crucial characteristic of this constitution happens to be the idea of brotherhood, not mere blood relations but more profusely, on the grounds of sharing a common faith, a critical uniting feature. Family lineages, tribal affiliations, superiority and inferiority were left bare on the threshold of religion. The claim that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam gets its first blow, when one sect declares another sect as infidel. Apparently belief in one God and one Prophet were no longer the unifying force and where fraternity on account of this dogma should have resulted in a rock solid foundation of solidarity, brothers in faith are poised against each other in blood-thirsty vengeance. In this ideological state, where people are willing to lay their lives for the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), there are discriminations on the basis of family backgrounds, castes and creeds. Unless these deformities are corrected, the idea of Riyasat-i-Medina would remain just a wild dream
The most vibrant feature of the Constitution was securing the rights of non-Muslims by giving them the assurance of equality status. They were allowed complete freedom to profess their faith, enjoy autonomy and have the same political and cultural rights as Muslims. Above all, it was not obligatory on them to participate in the Muslim religious wars. There remains much to be desired for the present state of minorities in Pakistan. Over the last four decades members of the minority groups have been observed to migrate to other countries in significant numbers. The abode they used to call home became too stifling for them forcing this exodus. They are no longer comfortable in practicing their faith or way of life. There are terrorist attacks on their places of worship and their young girls are forcefully converted to Islam to be married off to Muslim boys. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the population comprising minorities that has contributed tremendously to the progress of this country is steadily declining.
To convert Pakistan into Riyasat-i-Medina is undoubtedly a noble dream and who would not want it to come true. The main stumbling block in accomplishing this Herculean objective will remain the quality and mindset of human beings. Anyone with this vision will have to invest whole-heartedly in improving the human resource of this country proportionate to its physical development then only there would appear any chance of a positive and revolutionary change.
In the end, one can only repeat what Jairam Ramesh said: “There never is a good time for tough decisions. There will always be an election or something else. One has to pick a lot of courage and do it. Governance is about taking tough, even unpopular decisions.” Not everyone has the capacity to actually take tough decisions. Those who do are remembered as revolutionists like our holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)