Mohammed wrote the 1st Constitution??


#1

Was just listening to a Q&A the President had with a group of Johns Hopkins students. One gal stood up and “asked a question” in which she expounded upon how Mohammed wrote the first known constitution for the city of Medina! She said that it included freedom of religion, women’s rights (probably a womans right to “choose” too no doubt), etc. Made Mohammed sound like a Bedouin John Adams.

I’ve read A LOT of history and never heard that one. Aside from not being able to write I know that he had a thing about impaling enemies, e.g. a female poet, his uncle, etc.

Anyone know whether there’s a shred of truth in this, or do you have to twist facts into a Coney Island pretzel to arrive at this conclusion? My understanding is that the first constitutions (where the word “constitution” is actually coherent) were drawn up for certain monastic communities.

Sounds like ultra-mega Revisionism to me.


#2

Do you define constitution as being some kind of a written law for a society? In that case, I think the Ten Commandments and even before that, the Code of Hammurabi would have qualified as some kind of a constitution, wouldn’t they?


#3

constitution.org/cons/medina/macharter.htm

There’s the actual text of the document she was referring to.


#4

Well it’s hard to call that a ‘Constitution’. It’s written and enforced by a conqueror, without votes from the conqured people to approve or deny it.

It certainly isn’t a constitution like the US Constitution is.

I’d say it more closely resembles Hammurabi’s laws, which predate it by centuries.


#5

I saw the link and it seems kind of fishy. For one thing the standard “May blessings and peace be upon him” in reference to Muhammed seems to refer to him in the past tense and didn’t come about until after his death. Secondly, it doesn’t mention Christians who Muhammed considered to be “People of the Book” along with the Jews. That Christians aren’t mentioned implies to me that it was written at a time when Muslims were in conflict with Christians. This didn’t occur until after his death to my knowledge. He unified Arabia (brutally). The conquests came later.

Did Jews fight for Muhammed while he was alive? To my knowledge, some Jews fought with the Muslims during their conquest of Spain many years after he had died, and a few during the Crusades. Both events happened long after Islam’s exposure to Christianity and Byzantium in particular.

BTW, what about Justinian’s Code which was written in 529 AD??

This sounds a little like the “Donation of Constantine”- something that “turned up” one day and was attributed to him falsely.

I could be wrong!


#6

[quote=MarkR] “May blessings and peace be upon him” in reference to Muhammed seems to refer to him in the past tense and didn’t come about until after his death.
[/quote]

That’s not true, it was also said about him while he was alive.


#7

To my knowledge they didn’t fight for him, but there was an agreement between the Muslims and Jews of Medina that if any outsider invaded Medina they would fight side by side to defend Medina. I believe there are authentic hadith that say this, I will look for them.


#8

Hola everyone,
The Medinah Charter is not mentioned in any of the sahih hadiths or Tabari’s history. It is only mentioned in Guillaume’s Ibn Ishaq.

Chau,
Rodrigo


#9

Found this from the book The Sealed Nectar

A Cooperation and Non-Aggression Pact with the Jews
Soon after emigrating to Madinah and making sure that the pillars of the new Islamic community were well established on strong bases of administrative, political and ideological unity, the Prophet [pbuh] commenced to establish regular and clearly-defined relations with non-Muslims. All of these efforts were exerted solely to provide peace, security, and prosperity to all mankind at large, and to bring about a spirit of rapport and harmony within his region, in particular.

Geographically, the closest people to Madinah were the Jews. Whilst harbouring evil intentions, and nursing bitter grudge, they showed not the least resistance nor the slightest animosity. The Prophet decided to ratify a treaty with them with clauses that provided full freedom in faith and wealth. He had no intention whatsoever of following severe policies involving banishment, seizure of wealth and land or hostility.

The treaty came within the context of another one of a larger framework relating to inter-Muslim relationships.

The most important provisions of the treaty are the following:

The Jews of Bani ‘Awf are one community with the believers. The Jews will profess their religion, and the Muslims theirs.

The Jews shall be responsible for their expenditure, and the Muslims for theirs.

If attacked by a third party, each shall come to the assistance of the other.

Each party shall hold counsel with the other. Mutual relation shall be founded on righteousness; sin is totally excluded.

Neither shall commit sins to the prejudice of the other.

The wronged party shall be aided.

The Jews shall contribute to the cost of war so long as they are fighting alongside the believers.

Madinah shall remain sacred and inviolable for all that join this treaty.

Should any disagreement arise between the signatories to this treaty, then Allâh, the All-High and His Messenger shall settle the dispute.

The signatories to this treaty shall boycott Quraish commercially; they shall also abstain from extending any support to them.

Each shall contribute to defending Madinah, in case of a foreign attack, in its respective area.

This treaty shall not hinder either party from seeking lawful revenge.[Ibn Hisham 1/503,504]


#10

Aristotle referred to a Constitution of Athens and it definitely predated Islam.


#11

I do find it very strange that the ‘Medina Charter’ or Treaty is not mentioned at all in the sahih hadiths.

Also, the claim that the Medina Charter is the earliest constitution flies in the face of earlier constitutions - the Greeks had at least two. Aristotle even wrote about different forms of constitutions.

The Japanese Prince Shotoku created a constitution in 604AD and that is definitely before Islam too.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution

Chau,
Rodrigo


#12

[quote=Rodrigo Bivar]I do find it very strange that the ‘Medina Charter’ or Treaty is not mentioned at all in the sahih hadiths.

Also, the claim that the Medina Charter is the earliest constitution flies in the face of earlier constitutions - the Greeks had at least two. Aristotle even wrote about different forms of constitutions.

The Japanese Prince Shotoku created a constitution in 604AD and that is definitely before Islam too.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution

Chau,
Rodrigo
[/quote]

I don’t know why either, but usually hadith are direct sayings of the Prophet peace be upon him and not letters or contracts.


#13

On a side note wikipedia is not a good source, none of my professors in college accept it for papers. Anyone can submit anything.


#14

The hadiths also recorded Muhammad’s actions and one would think something as important as the Medina Charter would be referenced many times. In fact, the sirat directly contradicts the existence of the Medina Charter.

[T]hey spoke disparagingly of the apostle, saying, Who is the apostle of God? We have no agreement or undertaking with Muhammad.' Sad b. Muadh reviled them and they reviled him. He (Sad) was a man of hasty temper and Sad b.Ubada said to him, ‘Stop insulting them, for the dispute between us is too serious for recrimination.’ Then the two Sa`ds returned to the apostle … [Sirat, p. 453]

How can the Jews have no agreement or undertaking with Muhammad if the Medina Charter really existed?

Chau,
Rodrigo


#15

[quote=Emad]On a side note wikipedia is not a good source, none of my professors in college accept it for papers. Anyone can submit anything.
[/quote]

If you disagree with what is written in wikipedia you can check elsewhere.

For instance it is easy to check whether the constitution of Solon existed or not.

It is easy to check the Constitution of Athens and the Pseudo-Xenophon.

It is easy to check Aristotle’s writings on the Greek constitutions. It is reported that he examined 150 constitutions of various Greek states when he wrote his book on the Constitution.

It is easy to check if Prince Shotoku really did write a Japanese constitution.

The wikipedia is just an easy reference source. I agree that it is not authoritative but its veracity can be easily checked.

Do you have any specific complaints about what is written in wikipedia about pre-Islamic constitutions? Or are you dismissing everything in there just because they’re in wikipedia?

Chau,
Rodrigo


#16

BTW, what about Justinian’s Code which was written in 529 AD??

Roman law was not a constitution. It was a comprehensive code for dealing with all manner of situations that grew over time, and it rested on whatever decisions the executives of the Society happened to make.

Rodrigo,

How can the Jews have no agreement or undertaking with Muhammad if the Medina Charter really existed?

Given that your hadith doesn’t mention the word “Jew”, doesn’t say which Jews, doesn’t spell out a time or context, I’m going to make the not-so-controversial observation that it really doesn’t detract from Emad’s point in any way.

As for who has the first “constitution”, the problem is in defining a constitution. No one has offered one on this thread, so until specific criteria are laid out for what is or isnt’ a constitution, any discussion in that direction is moot.

What the agreement does show is acute administrative ability on the part of Muhammad, along with a healthy dose of tolerance for Judaism and basic principles of fairness. I see nothing objectionable in it, especially given the time and context. Documents like that, not half-baked “he killed everyone!” theories, explain why Muhammad rose to power so quickly and widely. The man was an extremely skilled political leader, period.


#17

I’m glad that others who know much more about this subject than I do have contributed.

I agree that “constitution” has to be defined more clearly, however in my opinion the Medina document reads more like a treaty or a modus vivendi during a time of conflict or dissent than a constitution.

The absence of any mention of Christians still makes me wonder about it’s authenticity (other things including those brought up by Rodrigo do as well). Muhammed felt even more of an affinity towards Christianity than he did toward Judaism (Jesus being the greatest Prophet, Mary, etc.) and he tried to win the relatively few Christians with whom he came in contact over to his cause.

My very unprofessional opinion (gut feeling) is that it was written long after Muhammed’s death at a time when Islam was in conflict with and had been exposed to Christianity for quite a while. The two times that come to mind where Muslims and Jews were “allied” or involved in a joint venture are the conquest of North Africa/Spain and the Crusades. If this “constitution” was “written” or inspired by Muhammed himself during his lifetime he certainly violated it with impunity.

Great subject to look into!


#18

[quote=pro_universal]Rodrigo,

Given that your hadith doesn’t mention the word “Jew”, doesn’t say which Jews, doesn’t spell out a time or context, I’m going to make the not-so-controversial observation that it really doesn’t detract from Emad’s point in any way.
[/quote]

I should have mentioned that the sirat referred to the B. Qurayza just before the Battle of the Trench. These Jews were supposedly party to the Medinah Charter, being Jews of Medinah.

[quote=pro_universal]As for who has the first “constitution”, the problem is in defining a constitution. No one has offered one on this thread, so until specific criteria are laid out for what is or isnt’ a constitution, any discussion in that direction is moot.
[/quote]

How about applying that same standard to the Medinah Charter. Is it okay for Muslims to claim that it is the first constitution while ignoring the Greek and Japanese constitutions pre-dating it? How about Aristotle’s discussion on constitutions?

[quote=pro_universal]What the agreement does show is acute administrative ability on the part of Muhammad, along with a healthy dose of tolerance for Judaism and basic principles of fairness. I see nothing objectionable in it, especially given the time and context. Documents like that, not half-baked “he killed everyone!” theories, explain why Muhammad rose to power so quickly and widely. The man was an extremely skilled political leader, period.
[/quote]

Then explain why he committed ethnic-cleansing on the Nadir and Qaynuqa and genocide on the Qurayza.

Explain why this supremely moral man beheaded all the Qurayza males and enslaved all the innocent non-combatant women and children.

Do you think enslaving children is moral for anyone, let alone a supposed prophet of God?

Did Jesus behead anyone and enslave their children?

I seriously doubt the historicity of the Medina Charter for the following reasons:

  1. It is not mentioned at all in earlier and more authoritative historical sources such as the sahih hadiths and Tabari’s history. It is only mentioned in Ibn Hisham.

  2. The Qurayza expressly denied having any understanding or agreement with Muhammad. Thus contradicting the existence of any Medina Charter.

  3. Muhammad tried to force treaties on the Nadir and Qurayza. Why would he do that if there was a Medina Charter?

  4. The Jews would never agree to a charter written in the name of Allah and the Apostle of God. That would be against their religion.

Chau,
Rodrigo


#19

[quote=Rodrigo Bivar]I should have mentioned that the sirat referred to the B. Qurayza just before the Battle of the Trench. These Jews were supposedly party to the Medinah Charter, being Jews of Medinah.

Then explain why he committed ethnic-cleansing on the Nadir and Qaynuqa and genocide on the Qurayza.

Explain why this supremely moral man beheaded all the Qurayza males and enslaved all the innocent non-combatant women and children.

Do you think enslaving children is moral for anyone, let alone a supposed prophet of God?

Did Jesus behead anyone and enslave their children?

I seriously doubt the historicity of the Medina Charter for the following reasons:

  1. It is not mentioned at all in earlier and more authoritative historical sources such as the sahih hadiths and Tabari’s history. It is only mentioned in Ibn Hisham.

  2. The Qurayza expressly denied having any understanding or agreement with Muhammad. Thus contradicting the existence of any Medina Charter.

  3. Muhammad tried to force treaties on the Nadir and Qurayza. Why would he do that if there was a Medina Charter?

  4. The Jews would never agree to a charter written in the name of Allah and the Apostle of God. That would be against their religion.

Chau,
Rodrigo
[/quote]

I was wondering what your source/sources are for points 1 through 4 Rodrigo. I’ve always wanted to learn more about this period but finding unbiased sources is very difficult. When was Ibn Hisham written?

As to what precedes these four points, they’re among the other things that contribute to my “gut feeling” as to the document being written at a much later date.

Thanks


#20

ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/documentview.cfm?ID=12

Here’s a source listing it as the first constitution, and also listing it to Ibn Ishaq.

Bivar’s history above is odd, since he seems to be demanding that a historian who died before the others mentioned were around should’ve cited their works? (Ibn Hisham and tabari)

[quote=MarkR]I was wondering what your source/sources are for points 1 through 4 Rodrigo. I’ve always wanted to learn more about this period but finding unbiased sources is very difficult. When was Ibn Hisham written?

As to what precedes these four points, they’re among the other things that contribute to my “gut feeling” as to the document being written at a much later date.

Thanks
[/quote]


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