Charter of Medina: A blueprint for peaceful coexistence

Sabah-Uddin Aleem Ahmad, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya UK

Jerusalem ranks among the foremost cities in the world in terms of holding collective religious significance. It is home to the holy sites of the main three Abrahamic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. As a result, Jerusalem is home to a diverse, multi-faith society. However, in modern times, unfortunately, this diversity has done little else than affect violence and tensions within the city. The most recent attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan and subsequent violence in the region, have only added to these tensions.

The international community has called for the de-escalation of violence and for a solution to be found. The White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre said, “It is imperative now more than ever that Israelis and Palestinians work together to de-escalate tensions and restore calm.” ( However, these calls for peace have never really amounted to anything. The city and the state at large continue to be in dire need of an effective solution where the followers of every religion can co-exist peacefully in society.

The Charter of Medina, which was constituted by the Holy Prophetsa some 1400 years ago, offers us an already-tested and successful blueprint for establishing peace in a multi-faith society.

At the time of the Holy Prophetsa, the population of Medina was divided into four sections (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. II, p. 25):

1) The Muslims were divided into two groups:

(i) The Ansar (the pre-existing Muslim convert residents of Medina)

(ii) The Muhajirun (the Muslims who had migrated from Mecca)

2) The hypocrites (those who apparently had become Muslim but were disbelievers at heart)

3) The idolaters were divided into two tribes:

(i) The Aus

(ii) The Khazraj

4) The Jews, of which there were three tribes:

(i) Banu Qainuqa

(ii) Banu Nadir

(iii) Banu Quraizah

When the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa migrated from Mecca to Medina to escape their endless persecution, the aim was to establish an administration in Medina that would be accepted by all parties and bring an end to the violence. After the migration, the Holy Prophetsa emerged as the obvious candidate for the leadership role and was unanimously accepted as the leader of Medina.

With this new responsibility, the Messengersa of Allah was tasked with finding a practical solution to establish peace and harmony in Medina’s widely diverse and multi-faith society. To achieve this, he drafted a charter that guaranteed the safety of all citizens, regardless of their religion, and brought an end to internal conflicts.

One of the more salient points of this charter is the recognition of all people as “one community to the exclusion of all men.” (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, Alfred Guillaume, 1998, p. 231) This article, which is included at the very beginning of the charter, acts as an outline for the underlying message of the treaty. It marks the establishment of the new Republic of Medina and the newfound unity between tribes.

The charter also encouraged the believers to unite against “the rebellious or him who seeks to spread injustice, or sin or enmity, or corruption between believers”(Ibid.) and that they would be against such a person “even if he be a son of one of them.”(Ibid. p. 232)

The goal of the Holy Prophetsa was to create a society founded on high moral standards, and the constitution reflects this. If there was ever a hint of injustice, the people were expected to oppose it.

Religious freedom was essential to this charter, as tensions were bound to resurface without it. After establishing internal administrative rules in relation to the Muslims, attention was turned to the Jews. The charter guarantees that the Jews would have the same right to practice their religion as the Muslims did because “the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs.” (Ibid. p. 233)

This ensured that the Jews and Muslims could go about their own worship without fear. In addition, they were reassured that they would be treated equally and that no help would be given to their enemies. Rather, if the Jews or Muslims were to be attacked, each party was expected to help the other. Furthermore, if Medina were attacked, all parties were bound to defend it, regardless of the circumstances, and all parties were expected to “seek mutual advice and consultation” from each other. (Ibid.)

These were all exceptionally practical methods of instilling a sense of pluralism in Medina, which was key to establishing a society based on freedom, mutual respect, and trust. However, the most important thing was that the Holy Prophetsa, as the State Leader of Medina, led by example by upholding the articles of the charter himself and acting with the utmost sincerity and justice.

However, it should be borne in mind that the basis for this charter was the Holy Quran and its perfect teachings, which were continuously being revealed to the Holy Prophetsa . The success of this treaty is largely attributed to this, as the articles of this treaty are not merely man-made but rather derived from Divine teachings. The underlying message of the charter is reflected in the following verse of the Holy Quran:

يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اِنَّا خَلَقۡنٰكُمۡ مِّنۡ ذَكَرٍ وَّاُنۡثٰي وَجَعَلۡنٰكُمۡ شُعُوۡبًا وَّقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اَكۡرَمَكُمۡ عِنۡدَ اللّٰهِ اَتۡقٰكُمۡ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَلِيۡمٌ خَبِيۡرٌ

 “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.” (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V.14)

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper, while addressing UNESCO on 8 October 2019, expounded on the outstanding leadership qualities of the Holy Prophetsa in relation to the Charter of Medina and stated:

“The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was elected as the head of state and under his leadership, the covenant proved to be a magnificent charter of human rights and governance and it ensured peace between the different communities.

“For example, on one occasion, an affluent lady committed a crime and many people suggested that, given her high standing in society, it was better to turn a blind eye to her crimes. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) rejected their advice and made it clear that even if his daughter committed an offence, she too would be subject to the law and no favouritism or nepotism would occur.

“In addition, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) established an excellent education system, through which the intellectual standards of that society were raised. Literate and well-educated people were instructed to teach the illiterate. Special measures were put in place to provide education to orphans and other vulnerable members of society. This was all done so that the weak and powerless could stand on their own two feet and advance.

“A taxation system was established, whereby taxes were levied on wealthier members of society and the proceeds were used to provide financial aid for disadvantaged members of society. According to the teachings of the Holy Quran, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) established a code of business and financial ethics to ensure that trading was fair and honest.

“In an age when slavery was rampant and slave-owners treated their slaves mercilessly, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sought to bring about a revolution in society. Slave-owners were ordered to treat their slaves with compassion and respect and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) repeatedly urged them to free them.

“Also, under the leadership of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), a system of public sanitation was developed. A city cleaning programme was implemented and people were educated about the importance of personal hygiene and physical health. The roads of the city were expanded and improved. A census was conducted to collect data and to identify the needs of the citizens.

“Thus, during the 7th Century, under the government led by the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), astonishing progress was made in Madinah to advance the cause of individual and collective rights. Indeed, for the very first time amongst the Arabs, an orderly and civilised society was established.

“In many ways, it was a model society, in terms of infrastructure, services and more importantly, in terms of the unity and tolerance displayed in what was a multicultural society. The Muslims were immigrants, yet they integrated smoothly into the local society and contributed to its success and development. […]

“The reality is that the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) spent every moment of his life championing the rights of all people, and through the teachings of Islam, he established an incomparable and timeless charter of human rights. For example, he taught that people should respect the beliefs and feelings of one another. They should abstain from criticising what others held sacred.

“Once, a Jewish person came to him and complained about the conduct of one of his closest companions. The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) summoned him and asked what had transpired. He said that the Jew had claimed that Moses (peace be upon him) was superior in rank to the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he could not tolerate this. He had strongly refuted it and said that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was of a higher rank.

“Upon this, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) expressed his displeasure with his closest confidant and said that he should not have argued with the Jew and should instead have respected his religious sentiments. These were his peerless teachings, and in my view, it is deeply regrettable that the principle of mutual respect, which is the means of establishing love and unity, has been sacrificed in the modern world in the name of so-called freedom and even in the name of entertainment.

“In terms of fulfilling the rights of the weak and poor, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) established various schemes and projects to raise their standards of living and to ensure that they were not deprived of their dignity. He said that whilst most people afforded a high status to those who were wealthy and powerful, a poor person who was moral and considerate had far greater value, than a rich person who cared not for the feelings of others and merely lived off his name.

“Even in small matters, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) paid great attention to ensuring that the feelings of underprivileged people were protected. For example, he instructed Muslims to always invite the poor and needy to their dinner parties or social gatherings. If less affluent people were exploited by the rich or powerful, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) instructed his followers to help the weaker party attain justice.” (“Islamic Principles on Education and Serving Humanity”,

So, if the world really wants to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and for the rest of the world – and to “de-escalate tensions,” particularly in the holy city of Jerusalem, they will have to turn to the one instance in human history where peaceful co-existence between religious groups was effectively established.

They will have to recognise that the only way forward is to set aside their differences and do away with their vested interests by adopting the principles laid out in the Charter of Medina by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa in forming a society based on mutual respect and trust.

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